ESCC Finalist - Charlemagne's Destiny
Charlemagne's Destiny is a decent attempt overviewing the life and campaigns of Charlemagne. This scenario was played in both 1.0c and UP1.4 and similar issues persisted in both. Unfortunately the scenario shows many signs that it was rushed out the door with inadequate playtesting and balancing.
The game jumped into a B&D with reasonable bases to build up your eco. Along the way you will need to fulfill objectives using your starting troops, bringing Charlemagne to key points. Unfortunately this rather conflicts with the 75 pop AoK limit as the troops you receive along the way sometimes exceed 100 men even though you start in the dark ages and need tons of resources to level up and have a hard time making villagers. The player is having many bases spread over the map and it gets to be a bit much honestly. The map is quite hard to wall off with enemy columns pouring into your kingdom from many directions.
The diplomacy seemed to depend on the games default AI, which sometimes demanded resources to stay neutral all the while sending in columns of 40 men to attack my TCs. It simply wasnt functioning as i imagine the author was expecting. Neutral and allies attacked long before any objectives about them came up, in both 1.0c and UP1.4. Another diplomacy quirk, the author relied on the player killing some enemy units at the start to trigger a war, but the player can ignore everything and ninja-ram a castle down in the enemies midst, which breaks the scenarios diplomacy triggers. There are numerous instances of events creating a war between you and so-and-so but leaving you as allied with your new enemies, giving them plenty of cheap shots at your clueless units.
The biggest problem with playability is that you are tasked with missions to subjugate areas and collect crowns with the Charlemagne unit, but the deadline for these missions are so tight you basically must send your hero out ASAP. This is where i suspect the author had no playtesters helping him, and being so familiar with the situation himself, didnt realize how it would play for a newcomer. There is a system of years but they flash past and i didnt see a way to see what year it was now or how much time remained. And failing a single one of these missions, even if its just a silly and useless fishing village, is an automatic loss condition. One of the final objectives was extremely annoying, as about an hour into the game i was required to make 9 universities in only 1 game year in the 9 provinces marked with flags;by this time much terrain had changed with buildings and such blocking the creation of these flags placed by triggers.
There was even another issue, which is during an event in which a papal emissary visits your town, instead of allowing the players Charlemagne to walk to the meeting, it is deleted and replaced with a fresh Charlemagne, and if a unit or building happens to be on that random spot in your base at the time, you get a instant game over. Its the final nail in the coffin that convinced me a 1\5 was warranted.
ON EASIEST:The scenario has a difficulty scaling mechanic to its credit, but it does nothing to alleviate the crazy timed missions penalty. This maps idea of easy is most scenarios hardest mode. The player started in the feudal age on easy and received many extra units, including some advanced siege equipment, but this actually conflicts in a way with the AoK 75 pop limit and again makes it harder to eco up. I found myself deleting subpar units right from the start to make room for villagers.
ON HARD:The scenario sets a virtually impossible challenge. You are given missions in which Charlemagne must reach a certain point and subjugate a kingdom, some of which would and should be optional in a normal map. The other problem is that you are under massive attack from many AI kingdoms, some of which clearly are marked as neutral or allies. This was no different in 1.0c so the 1.4UP AI cannot be blamed here. Although you have enough castles and resources to hold them off, you will also be tasked with mandatory objectives that give you a defeat if not met, and the timelimits for these objectives were ridiculously tight while fending off 3, even 4 factions assaulting you across a broad kingdom. Im not normally one to give up but i really cant see a way forward to win.
A good amount of effort was put into giving the scenario some varied gameplay and throwing various curves at the player, although these did fall into the range you would normally expect. A system was implemented akin to a primitive risk system where controlling forums would give control of a kingdom to a player. From what i saw only the player could gain control of these bases however. To be honest i was so busy trying to fight off hoards of enemies and fulfill the objectives i could barely have time to appreciate just what was there. Some of the missions were just not done well at all, like building universities in 9 provinces in just a few minutes.
Map Design 3
At first glance you might think this category is an easy 4\5. The map is well customized and has the eyecandy and terrain detail you would expect from a normal, good scenario. Unfortunately if you keep looking you find shockingly poor areas, and these are not small but seriously huge portions of the map. It seems clear to me that the map had to be rushed out for either a deadline or simply that the author couldnt allocate more personal time to polish it up. Infact there is a chunk in the center which represents nearly 1\4th of the total map space which has no tree placed, anywhere at all within that zone. I cant accept that as an intentional design choice unless the author said so himself, and it certainly has little appeal aesthetically in this region. The ground is blank as well, and i dont really see this as an attempt to portray a bleak, rocky zone, especially seeing as how it mostly green terrain. It surely must be an unfinished mapping job.
The game presents a timeline presentation in gameplay of charlamagnes ascent, as he gains various titles and adds to his kingdom. However the explanation behind events are somewhat lacking and if i hadnt gotten a clue about these events by having played so many other charlamagne scenarios recently, i wouldnt have any idea why we were getting attacked by our neighbors so often and randomly.
The scenario has a nice bitmap which is good to see.
While its unfortunate much of the text is in broken english, im thankful a translation was attempted at all, for the instructions are readily understandable and the authors intent behind the sentences is understandable.
Final thoughts: Charlemagne's Destiny is an unfinished work that probably is the victim of a contest deadline. Its unbalanced, the timing of the years mechanic is way too fast, the AI diplomacy doesnt function, there are trigger errors and oversights that will get you random losses, and the map has a large area that seems incomplete. Its just not playable.
[Edited on 02/12/17 @ 12:24 PM]