|The Mind Trick
Disillusioned by the horrors he has experienced, hardened to the sufferings of men, the Scottish mercenary Malcolm Dunforth embarks from Sicily with a hefty commission from the pope. Having been ordered by the Papal See to lead a contingent of Crusaders into the Holy Land, the Mercenary sails across the vast expanse of the Mediterranean towards the coast of the Middle East with his band of seasoned Scottish soldiers in loyal attendance. However, these plans are soon interrupted as a colossal tempest falls upon the small flotilla, wrecking every single ship except that of the Mercenary himself, leaving Dunforth the sole survivor of the cataclysm. Now, direly wounded and bereft of supplies, the Mercenary finds himself drifting aboard his gradually sinking ship, clutching onto the slim hope that he will somehow find his way ashore.
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N.B. This is my first campaign, so I am receptive to all types of criticism, positive and even negative. It should be noted that the AI files used in this campaign are my feeble imitations of others I have downloaded; therefore, while they may not seem as polished or professional as those employed by other designers, they will do the job. Also, some of the triggers may seem rough at a few places, despite my attempts to streamline their performance. Overall, though, I think this is a fairly good campaign. Enjoy.
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Playability: Probably the weakest area. There are a few bugs that occasionally pop up during the first and fourth scenarios. My computer managed to get past them most of the time without crashing, but others may not be so lucky. I still had a whole lot of fun in this campaign though, and it was a blast to play and to read. And it was challenging enough to get you to play for hours while still having a really good time. Overall, it deserves a fairly low 4.
Balance: There's a good solid balance throughout this campaign, but only enough to get a low 5. The difficulty level is hard enough to keep skilled veterans interested, but low enough so that beginners don't committ suicide in their frustration. The mission where you had to destroy the twin fortresses Castor and Pollux was especially challenging; I played it twice just because. In short, it is just hard enough to keep players of all skill levels in the game, and, after all, isn't that the point of balance?
Creativity: I had to deduct a little bit from this category since most of the victory conditions dealt with destroying enemy buildings; more variety would be needed to earn a 5, I'm afraid. However, the creativity of this entire imaginative campaign, the uniqueness of the twin fortresses Castor and Pollux scenario, and the originality of the covert rescue mission of the star enemy general all kept this campaign from sinking to a 3. A very high 4 is deserved here.
Map Design: Wow. The map design on this campaign is truly incredible. The arid desert beach at the opening, the prosperous but foreboding Byzantine metropolis (which, by the way, has a wall design much more innovative than the usual boring square plan most people use), the mossy forest paths, the rocky traitors' canyon, the ancient Roman university, the hidden Japanese camp... I could ramble on all day giving examples of the beauty and attractiveness of this map. I even used Marco Polo just so I could see everything on the map, and, man, was I impressed. This one's a 5, and what a 5 it is.
Story/ Instructions: If last time was "Wow," this time it's "Wow Squared." This guy Mind Trick is really an incredible writer, and his storyline is one you could probably find in a great novel or a top-notch, Braveheart-esque, "Freedom!"-type movie. All of the characters, especially The Mercenary and General Grautus, are surprisingly complex, and the villains are ones you can imagine vividly in all their evil nastiness. There are also some really complex themes in this campaign (such as the sinner-to-saint thing, probably the most obvious one.) Plus, the scenario instructions featuring the brooding narrations of The Mercenary are entertaining and really well-written. If I could rate this area a 10 out of 5, I certainly would, but I guess it will have to settle with a 5.99999999999.
Overall, I wish I could just give this campaign a perfect 5.0, but in truth there really are some things Mind Trick could work on, notably the glitches that might ruin the entire campaign for some. If an update fixing these flaws comes out, though, I'm sure it will deserve a perfect 5.0. Until then, a 4.8 should suffice. Bravo, Mind Trick.
This is a re-review that expresses my opinions about this campaign. To me, the other reviewers is WAY too lenient.
This campaign is good, but there were tonnes of places where a lot of improvements are required to receive the mark it received.
Here are some glowing parts of the campaign that got its mark down. First of which, the playability definitely doesn't deserve a 4 because they talk for half the game! There is only 5 minutes of actual gaming in the 2nd scenario. Spineman said that a scenario shouldn't be marked down because it's short but we are talking no quantity OR quality. So a 3 will have to suffice. Second of which, the balance is only mediocore, since the two scenarios in the middle are extremely easy and the first and last scenario are pretty hard. But a 3 will have to be enough. Last of which is the creativity. How can anybody get a 4 for that? There just isn't anything that's unique and special (other than the long boring talks). Other than that, it's just minor disagreements.
Playability: To be truthful, I actually felt like I was an actor in a movie, manipulating the character and watching the story unfold. This was probably one of the most playable and most fun AOK experiences ever, a rare gem in a field of rotten oranges. I stayed glued to my monitor for at least a day playing and replaying The Mercenary. Seriously, you absolutely will not be able to stop playing this campaign until you reach its conclusion--you won't be able to wait to find out the fate of Malcolm and his revolutionaries. This is a must-play and a must-finish, unlike many other campaigns these days.
Balance: Wonderful balance. The Mercenary manages to combine impeccable cutscenes, easy "breather" missions (the defeat of Atorian), intriguing style twists (like the rescue of Grautus), and challenging levels (the invasion of the city) like few other campaigns. Although destroying buildings is a common objective, the paths that must be taken and the opposition that must be overcome require unique planning for each mission, and, besides, any such imbalances are also evened out by the rich diversity of styles incorporated within each scenario. Overall, The Mercenary has something for novices, something for experienced skilled players, and something for experienced unskilled players; in other words, it has great balance.
Creativity: As one player commented earlier, The Mercenary actually manages to transform Age of Kings into a whole new type of game. Part RPG, part strategy game, and part complex adventure epic, this campaign incorporates so many genres it is nearly impossible to cite them all. There are also a great deal of other original touches, such as the opening shipwreck, the supply camp, and the rescue mission. The Mind Trick is truly an innovative designer, and thus his campaign earns a shining 5 in this category, although it is the weakest area for the campaign.
Map Design: Next to story, this is where The Mercenary excels the most. The Byzantine city is flawlessly designed to look exactly like a bustling Anatolian metropolis, a shining center of wealth in the middle of grassland and desert. The rebel camp behind the cliff face is also original, with a sense of majesty about it befitting a former Roman temple. Also, the well-used elevation and terrain changes that this campaign offers are utilized with such mastery that its map is by far the most realistic I've ever seen. A stellar job, to be sure.
Story: This should really be a 7 or something, but I am restricted by AOK Heaven to settle for a 5. From Malcolm's very first monologue, you have a sense that The Mind Trick really knows how to write. And he does. The writing, the dialogue, in this campaign are truly special, as are the plot twists and story nuances that make the storyline so enjoyable. The characters, especially Malcolm, Grautus, and Basil, are multifaceted, deep, and complex, and the entire campaign reads like a prize-winning novel with great themes and writing devices. I know I speak for all those who have also played The Mercenary when I say this campaign has the greatest story I have ever seen in a campaign. I tip my hat to the master.
The Mercenary is a classic campaign, and the best one I have ever played. I decide to add another review in (despite there being 3 already), because I believe this ‘ace’ campaign deserves a much more higher score. In this campaign, you play a mercenary who tried to find a job to earn enough money to return to his homeland. You have to follow his journey through many obstacles and treacheries before you can win. The creator, Mind Trick, is so superior with words that you can notice the change throughout the campaign in the mercenary’s character from the cold and “money-hunter” to the wise and considerate man.
Despite the claims of many, I did not find any bugs whatsoever when I played through The Mercenary. The intriguing story flows very smoothly, and it should, since story is the biggest and most important element in Mind Trick’s campaign. Therefore, the combination of captivating storylines, the characters’ completely individualized personalities, and bug-free gameplay, construct a very much deserved perfect score of ‘5’, for Playability.
In my opinion, The Mercenary’s difficulty is the weakest area of the campaign. Two or three scenarios are quite easy to beat, because you basically have to kill three leaders that are hanging around on the desert with some troops. On a lighter note, the rest of the scenarios are more difficult to defeat, since your enemy towns’ defenses are quite solid. I will therefore grant a ‘4’ for this area.
Mind Trick is very creative in every aspect of whatever he had put into The Mercenary. We can easily spot that from heart-taking rescue mission to the amazingly camouflaged rebel camp. Even though some people have complained about the repetitive objectives of destroying buildings, I found them to be acceptable, however. This is because most of those ‘destroy’ objectives are not given to you right at the beginning of each scenario, which would be boring. You are first given some sub-objectives such as the “job-seeking” in the first scenario and the “rescue mission” in the last scenario, before the ultimate objective of “destroy” is finally specified. Even more, Mind Trick uses story to draw the atmosphere of “hatred” towards your enemies, so that there is a sense of purpose for the objectives.
The Mercenary’s map design unquestionably deserves a perfect score, hands down. The unique thing about the map design is that different locations (or towns) have completely different terrain layouts. As you travel through your missions, you will feel the sudden transition in locations, similar to when you travel from US to India’s jungles in real life. For example, the strong and powerful impressions the Byzantine kingdom gives, is different from the camouflaged rebel camp with its main path hidden almost completely by trees. Overall, The Mercenary’s layout is beautiful and captivating to look at, and definitely deserves a perfect score for it.
As I have already mentioned above, Mind Trick put his gifted talent in words to create an intriguing storyline that will make many players addicted to it all the way until the end. Since I do not want to spoil you of the important plots of The Mercenary, I will stop here concerning the story. Just believe me that The Mercenary has, arguably, the best storyline among all of the existing campaigns out there in the blacksmith. All objectives’ instructions are crystal clear and easy to read. Much useful information is also available in the hints and scouts section. Very precisely written.
In conclusion, The Mercenary is an ‘ace’. Everything about it is of the highest standard, and I am sure most, if not all, players will enjoy Mind Trick’s first creation. I would also like to encourage other reviewers to post their own reviews, if they have not done so. The Mercenary undoubtedly deserves a higher score than a mere 4.3. Overall, this ‘ace’ (there I go, using that word again =) ) campaign will be of a great addition to your custom campaigns.
“The Mercenary” is without a doubt one of the most controversial campaign when it comes down to giving a review to this game. On the one hand this game has received the ultimate prize of a 5.0 which is a formidable score, but this campaign also received a 3.4 meaning that it is a mere average game. Now, the range in reviews is significant and problematic, so without further notice I will join the struggle and share my review.
In the playability area, the campaign starts very strong as the player are easily drawn into this epic story. However, the fun factor begins to dissipate as the campaign progresses. The middle part wasn’t very intriguing and could have used more work. This campaign is also for the most part a one way ticket without tons of goodies to lure the players for more. Moreover, the playability is also hurt because the messages are often displayed too fast, so it’s hard to actually read the dialogues at times.
The balance in this game was actually pretty good, but it was nonetheless inconsistent. The hero was perhaps too strong and if the player focused on him, the campaign was easily beaten. For instance, in the second scenario using the heroes makes the game too easy. Overall, the balance deserves a 4.0 because if we look at the great pictures some of the scenarios are challenging and if we average them all then we may find some sort of challenge.
The creativity in this campaign was pretty nice. As an illustration, sneaking into towns and the twist in the plot added to the creativity. The map design was also fairly creative but there is a catch. All the scenarios take place on the same map, which is regrettable.
The map design as I mentioned in the previous paragraph was indeed very nice to look at, but the draw back was to play over and over on the same map. When I see how details the map was, I can’t help to wonder why the author didn’t bother create more of it because he obviously has a lot of talents. I hope that in the future the author will keep in mind to make different maps for the pleasure of everyone.
The storyline is definitely intriguing and captivating. I think the author did a great job on creating a link between the player and the heroes, so that we actually care for them. The story also has a good amount of mystery and surprises, which is something that everyone will enjoy. The instructions were very good and helpful.
In the end, this campaign is a treat to everyone and a must download. This game deserves its place among the other great campaign found at AoK Heaven. Now, does this game deserve a 5.0 or a 3.4? No, the game is by no means on the same level as “The Quest” or “Tamerlane” so it shouldn’t have received such high marks. A 3.4 in my opinion clearly isn’t fair because this game is clearly above your average campaign. Well, this was my review and my sincere opinion, so I advice you to download this magnificent campaign and draw your own conclusion.
The Mercenary has an interesting theme: you're a cold-blooded villain who is stranded in a foreign land and will do literally anything to get back home. While journeying to a nearby city to look for work, he encounters a monk who is actually...no, I won't say anymore.
PLAYABILITY: fun, but "Mercenary" definitely isn't the type of campaign you want to play twice. Gameplay is mostly RPS and B&D, which is fine in itself, except the RPS portions require extremely long walks from place to place with few or no enemies to fight and nothing at all to do along the way. The B&D parts all revolve around sieging massive cities with multiple layers of walls and towers, which I happen to resent. Mercenary is easy, and it takes a lot of fun out of the game once you realise that your reward for walking from point A to point B is to kill a few hussars and camels with your 300HP and 30 attack hero. It's possible to play the campaign out of order: for instance in the Transgression scenario you can go to the farms instead of the market first and all the triggers will activate out of order. On a more positive note, Mercenary has a that "keep playing just to see what happens next" quality that few campaigns have got, and there were no genuine bugs that I could find. 4
BALANCE: the campaign's weakest point. Your hero is so overpowered I never even had to worry about his health. The RPS parts were all extremely easy. The B&D parts weren't total pushovers, but I noticed they were still mostly a case of surviving the enemy's attack with his initial troops, and then you could build up at your leisure as he wouldn't rebuild his army. Some parts were moderately tough, but they were few and far between and there were never any moments where I was really in danger of losing a battle. 3
CREATIVITY: no trigger tricks, innovative concepts or anything of the sort, but an outstanding story that developes well, a great map, a bmp, and some unusual objectives (such as trying to kidnap someone while disguised as an olive merchant). 4
MAP DESIGN: the same map is used for all four scenarios, and it struck me as being superb. Every detail is placed with care, there's enough eye-candy to make the map look convincing without overcrowding it, and terrain is mixed well. I'm not qualified to say whether the likeness of Anatolia is topographically accurate, but it's certainly sufficient from a visual point of view. 5
STORY/INSTRUCTIONS: a well told and well written story, I liked it how you play as an anti-hero. Excusing all the playability issues, the story alone is worth playing this campaign. (Ok, I thought the ending was a bit flat, but that's a minor complaint considering the story you get in many campaigns is "your country is being invaded, you are the defender, let the repetitive and pointless battles commence!"). The campaign also has adequate hints and a bmp.
SUMMARY: it's easy, and its playability has some obvious shortcomings, but Mercenary has a captivating story and some fun and memorable moments. I think CerberusXXL has got the best review for this campaign, it's certainly not the best, but it's still great anyway.