The theme for this RMS as the name aptly suggests is New Zealand, with either a snowy setting, or green setting that loads randomly. New Zealand has known human habitation for less than a thousand years. Before then, it was a land of forests, mountains, and beaches. Fourteen spectacular national parks now preserve a huge variety of landscapes, with snow-capped mountains, volcanic hills, lush green vegetation and wildlife. Other than an increased number of sheep, I found little to differentiate the setting for this script, and even less that depicts this as New Zealand. It could well have been Scandinavia without the coastline, or Arena without the walls. However I feel it is a bold undertaking on the Authors part, and not ever actually been to New Zealand myself, I have gave the benefit of the doubt. One observation, on the description page it says one map type is “some snow, surrounded by water”. I have played this script several times, and loaded the maps for viewing over 30 times, and I have yet to encounter any map that is surrounded by water.
Visual Appeal 3-
The author has included three terrain variants that load randomly which offer variety in both visual appeal and playability. Some settings are predominantly land based with snow, and the occasional small lake. Others are an Arena type setting, with open grassy plains, and the maps are bordered by trees. There is little is the way of terrain blending, and some of the maps can, and do, look very stark and plain. With no use of eye candy, and each map only using a very limited amount of terrains, the visual appeal is somewhat lacking. There is use of elevation to improve things slightly, but I feel this could have been implemented far more to depict the setting better, and lift visual appeal in open areas, especially on the grassy maps.
The varying terrain types offer replay value, and a sense of anticipation. You are never quite sure of what you are going to be facing terrain wise, and as such the strategy employed can vary quite dramatically. On some maps (mainly snowy ones) you’ll find a good defensible starting location, on others (mainly grassy ones) you’ll be faced with a sort of Arena setting, although in a more open position, and without any protection from walls. All this offers quite different game play, and as such makes it difficult to give any direct comparison to standard scripts to help explain game style. There are a reasonable amount of resources without going overboard, apart from sheep. Indeed there can be quite a high number of sheep, and in one game I was still gathering from sheep late in the Feudal age. This gives Brits a clear advantage as they get a bonus from gathering from sheep, and as such Brits often get a head start over other civs. I have yet to see any Relics on the maps, even though the script does allow for 2 relics with each map. This is a little disappointing, as collecting relics can offer an exiting “side challenge” to any game in my opinion. On snowy maps there are the occasional small lake that contain fish, and this can aid food gathering in the early ages.
Rating playability for New Zealand proved itself to be very difficult indeed, to quote the tutorial “This is meant to combine the elements of playability, balance, and the most important aspect of any Random Map Script, Fun.” Fun is the difficult part; the snowy maps can be good fun to play, with good strategic opportunities, and defensible positions. Other games, (notably grassy maps) are quite the opposite, with little strategic opportunities, and no defensible locations, becoming more of an economy race, with the player who attacks first usually gaining the upper hand. As such I feel compelled to give a rating of 3, but in all fairness to the author this rating does not depict all games and would be higher for the snowy maps.
New Zealand offers variety in game play, which can be either great fun, or the complete opposite. Visual appeal is somewhat lacking with any off the maps, and the theme of New Zealand is not being portrayed as well as it could have been. If you are looking for a game that offers variety in both setting and playability then New Zealand is worth a try. I look forward to seeing more from the author, and perhaps even an update that addresses the issues outlined below.
Notes to the author
The three maps types are a great way to ensure variety, but it also means you need to do more testing, and allow for the different base terrains. Many parts of the script seemed to have failed, or been overlooked. The “Green” maps have GRASS3 defined for the lands, and yet the forest terrains are placed on “GRASS”, this ensures the forests are only placed around the edges of the map. This in turn makes for a very plain Arena type game, that doesn’t have any resemblance to New Zealand at all IMO. The map that is “surrounded by water” never materialized for me, and I think it's due to the percent size of the players lands. Creating other lands and reducing the percent for player’s lands would help here. The relic placement has also failed, and this takes away an important part of game play for me. Try to use more terrains for each map type, and blend the terrains. Snow maps can be hard with regard to visual appeal due to the limited amount of snow terrains available, but snow dirt, ice, snow grass etc have all been overlooked in this case. The use of eye candy, and perhaps even mountains might also improve the New Zealand setting. I feel with a little more effort and lots of testing this script could be improved greatly. If you choose to update the script, I will update this review with pleasure.
[Edited on 03/07/05 @ 01:50 PM]