The theme for Smapla@Many_Isles is an Island theme as the title aptly suggests. The author has taken the usual Island theme and extended it to include many smaller unoccupied islands. While overall this is basically a rehashing of the ES island theme, it does offer variation to this popular map style. A downside though is there is little variation each time you play, and the number of Islands often means you are very close, or even connected to an enemy’s island. Playing on larger than recommended maps eases the problem with connected Islands.
Visual Appeal: 2
As already mention there is little variation each time you play, and with only forest, bamboo, grass, and water terrains used, the visual appeal is somewhat lacking. There is no terrain mixing, elevation or eye candy, and even the blending of water terrains seems very uniform and unrealistic. One thing that really detracted from visual appeal is the complete lack of Gaia wildlife, with the exception of abundant fish, there are no birds, deer, boar, wolves, etc and this makes for very static looking islands.
The maps play surprising well, with the use of unoccupied islands, it can be great fun destroying your foes, only to find they have relocated elsewhere. As with all island maps, you are offered some protection in the early ages, but with the occasional connection of islands, you are never entirely sure if you are safe from a Dark Age attack. This added to my enjoyment, but players looking for a level of safety in the early ages could be rather surprised to see a band of Militia marching in to attack while still in the Dark Age. Often the size of the islands can be rather small, restricting the player with much needed room for building. In a most games, my enemy’s islands were small enough that I was able to defeat them with my navy alone, without ever having to land a single soldier on enemy soil, making the choice of a good naval civ even more important. I personally found this fun as it offered a refreshing change of the military tactics, and without the need for an army, made for some large and exiting Naval battles. The lack of wildlife means there will be no hunting, this is compensated by the high number of fish on the map, and Dark Age fishing really speeds food gathering. The amounts of gold on the map are quite low, and the only gold available on the map is the 9 pieces close to your starting position. There is always more stone than gold, and many of the islands contain extra stone also, making them of strategic importance. There are a high number of relics on the map (approx 20), and these are always located on the unoccupied islands, fortunately this alleviates the scarce gold problem to some degree.
Smapla@Many_Isles is a fun variation to the ES islands theme, visual appeal is rather lacking, and there are a few playability issues, but if you are a fan of Island maps then this is definitely worth trying. I look forward to seeing more from the author.
Try to use more terrain variants, blending the terrain and forests, and adding elevation and eye candy will greatly improve visual appeal. The complete lack of wildlife (fish excused) really detracts from visual appeal, and takes away some of the playability for the hunting fans, and no sheep on the player islands is a loss also. There are no straggler trees, and this too detracts for those who like to drop off at the TC to start wood gathering. The amounts of gold are quite low, also stone, berries and gold are rather close to your starting position, try to increase the distances, and increase the amounts of gold slightly. There is a lot of potential to improve this script, and with a little more effort it could be very good indeed. If you choose to update, I will update my review with pleasure.
[Edited on 04/24/05 @ 07:03 AM]