Adventure Series I Southern France
|Jas the Mace1
Posted on 06/09/06 @ 03:08 PM (updated 07/12/06
This is an invasion of Southern France during year 58 of the hundred-years war. It is a B+D with RPG and FF wound up in one. You have four Hero Knights of your own as well as an established town/settlement. Lots of action and challange keeping up with defense/offense and keeping up with resources....Good Luck...you'll need it..play on moderate..
Updated 12July06 Better playability..
Jas the Mace
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Whew! Finished at last. My review:
This is a harsh-ish scoring. In this scenario, you play with a population limit of 41, an extremely restrictive tax system, four easily slain heroes (who I tried to bring with me wherever I went, more fun) whose death kills you off, and the burden of defeating vastly, vastly superior forces opposite you.
The biggest problem in my view is the speed of creating an army. I hear above that the game should basically be fixed force once you're past the bridge - well, I didn't find that, maybe I misunderstood something, but I had to make more armies than that, and in total lost about 600 troops in the game. I admit that I resorted to robin hood a few times - not to make it easier as such, just to hasten the pace of waiting for enough gold to stock up to replenish my forces.
The game has very few bugs at all. It plays much better if you do bring the heroes with you when you fight, as I did mostly; one signpost says "Bererac" rather than Bergerac, three Alexander Nevski's haven't been renamed - but really there's very little that's broken.
The one word to sum up the scenario is "gruelling". This is a long and arduous scenario requring stamina and determination. But when you finally assemble a full and strong army of longbowmen and knights for the first time, the elation almost does make up for it. It's a good scenario, but I just felt that some of the things I found problematic with it were best covered on playability - chiefly, the speed of unit creation - when you're finally on your last siege, it's frustrating having to wait for troops to march all the way down from your settlement to Bergerac, and back up again, and it breaks the excitement.
You need to save a lot in the early stages, mostly because your heroes are crucial at that stage, they have to be thrown into combat, and sometimes they die.
Despite finding the scenario very challenging, it is balanced - very much possible to win, but not without sustained effort.
There is very little variation between difficulty levels in this scenario. I normally play on moderate, and would say that this scenario is a little harder than an average game on moderate, for myself. I do hate judging balance.
Creativity...well, a lot of this is covered in the following two categories. I haven't played a game in this style before, and the manner in which it works...yes, I find creative.
Some attempts at creativity miss the mark. The sacrilegous building on the ruins seems like an excuse to vary the terrain a little and stick in those Roman ruins which appear in so many scenarios.
There are some nice touches here and there though. I especially commend the speaking figures which you can entertain yourself with whilst waiting for troops to create. Especially the beach girls. :)
Map Design: 5
I've seen better maps, but it seemed rather churlish to give this map less than a 5, given that it complements the scenario extremely well. I was worried at first that I was on an island; this is not the case; a very realistic and interesting map emerges slowly through the game. This is a fully 'created' map, and a lot of detail and attention has been put into it. The sea rocks are placed carefully for variety, and the terrain brings up only one bug in gameplay - it is possible to cut your way through the woods to the town near the bottom of the map, which I did, and thereby bypass the road down to it.
I don't really know what the wasteland before Royan is supposed to be though. And I think the 'rock' feature appeared too much. But, especially for a game orientated rather than story orientated scenario, the map is on the flawless side of things.
The concept is good and entertaining - lots of people have done hundred years war scenarios, but I don't object to more.
The characters, though, have names like "Duke of England", which is somewhat silly. Why not Lancaster..Bristol..Scarborough..somewhere someone could actually be a Duke of. The dialogue was for the most part fine; some of the jokes didn't work, and the characters sound kinda childish, which makes the scenario more 'fun' in feel, so no problem there really.
The basic objective instructions are..adequate. I do wish they were listed in the order in which you would probably achieve them though. I would've preferred if the locations of Bergerac and Royan were a little clearer from the start personally, but it's ok.
The hints section is less good. The standard of written english is..well, generously I would say it looks rushed. The hints on how to survive early on are useful, but clearer hints on what strategies *won't* work in this scenario would be good, and I would say again that "save frequently" should be inserted.
I don't know why there were elephants on the map. Nor woad raiders. Nor throwing axemen, by this stage in history. The elephant that stands near the palm trees (some sort of...lords garden? I don't know) is ok, but suddenly being attacked by elephants from the south was odd.
On the whole however, it's no historic abomination, and as mentioned earlier, diversions of side script are well executed. 3 is a slightly harsh score.
After well over 1000 kills, achieving victory in this scenario is satisfying, though inevitable by the end. I recommend this scenario to anyone who has a good 12 hours+ (by the clock, obviously its faster on fast speed) to play one scenario, slowly grinding away at a resilient and occasionally aggressive foe.
In this respect, it's not a bad reflection of a proper war. There are also areas of the map you don't have to go into - so you can give yourself more or less challenge as you wish.
I apologise if I've been too harsh, since I think I've just rated this just below 4, and I am told above that a previous and slightly inferior scenario in this style got a 4. It is good, just, very frustrating on occasion, and I think that a scenario that really pressures you toward cheating (I have never cheated in any scenario before, just RM/DM for amusement on occasion) has probably pushed the frustration lever too far. However, this really could be down to personal taste and my lack of patience.
Thanks to the creator for this scenario - a lot of triggers in there, and well done to him for making them all work well before the scenario has gone up on the blacksmith! You could eleborate still further on triggers, but it would get laggy.
I think it would be good if you could get elite longbowmen - free imperial age upgrade at some stage, just banning most of the units from then? It would be nice. It's also impossible to invade over the river with a single capacity 5 transport ship, but perhaps the intention was only to scout anyway. I think for myself that the characters are just a little too fragile, but heart in mouth stuff is cool you know, so maybe not.
Hope that review is useful to...anyone. I'm off to celebrate my final victory with a lunch of sausages.
[Edited on 07/12/06 @ 07:34 AM]
Adventure Series I Southern France is a mix of B&D and FF with RPS elements, the story is fiction staged in year 58 of the Hundred Years' War. You play the English side under the lead of Lord Haden and the Dukes of England, Scotland and Wales, your objectives, to conquer Bergerac, to destroy the strength of Bordeaux and to raze Royan to the ground.
PLAYABILITY: The beginning was fun, you start on a well defendable peninsula, but the moment you venture out it becomes tedious, annoying, frustrating, not much playability, no fun. I will refer to the reasons under balance. Here it also lowers the score because it has long boring moments, long repetitive walks to bring new troops, long healing periods with one monk only, and repetitive razing of towers without strong siege weapons. As if not all of this would be enough, it has lag, one reason, too many flowers to substitute for the lack of terrain mix. On the other hand, there are lucky bugs that enhance game play. Other than intended, the player can build fortified walls and train crossbowmen. After you raze one of the towers in front of the bridge your resource consumption increases, I found game play even more frustrating as it deducted also 900 stone. I loaded a saved game to sell stone. Knowing the starting side of the river, I ignored 'The strength of Bordeaux' and anything aside the main road heading the bridge, no increase of food consumption this time. In addition, I received the sweet victory signal with only one fulfilled objective out of three. 2
BALANCE: Some efforts to balance are promising, show the right idea but the mix spoils, does not fit together and instead of a challenge, you get boredom and frustration. Your pop limit is 41, you have 8 villagers (you cannot create more), two fishing ships (you cannot create any boat at your dock), one monk (you cannot create more) which leaves 30 military units out of which 4 may not die or you loose. You face four computer players uniting over thousand military units to start, a combined pop limit of 251 and in game created enemies, some with looping triggers. You play a giant map and have long walks to replace casualties because barracks, archery range and stable disable together with other buildings techs and units. With 171 tributes of food and 80 of wood, and a looped timer 135 the build up is a nuisance. After the bridge, it replaces with a looped timer of 151 and tributes of food 1000, wood 1000, gold 100 and stone 900. A single monk is a good challenge for RPS scenarios, to protect him, for parties of thirty units it is a failed attempt, it simply takes too much time to heal. The author wishes "Good Luck...you'll need it...", but I wished you could win this game with skill, micromanagement and a good choice of counter units. However, either I had not enough longbows or pikes limited with 30 military, reduced later to 28 if you do not train trade carts; you find a trade cog and a transport. Anyway, even though I got lucky you need more time and patience to win than luck. Honestly played like intended, without luck, the lucky bugs mentioned under playability, I would have given up. In addition, there is hardly any difference plying standard, moderate or hard exception to the LOS of the enemy character with immobile units. I consider the scenario as unbalanced, the usual five difficulty levels reduced to one, which did not suit me. I close my balance critique here and to make my point clear, quote Greg "DeathShrimp" Street head designer for The Conquerors Expansion from his third commandment for scenario design under Observations. 2
CREATIVITY: There were some creative attempts to balance the scenario which failed all together, a good idea to set a fictitious plot in the time of the Hundred Years' War playing the British against the French, which was spoiled by the appearance of war elephants on the French side, the misplacement of Bergerac and palm trees in that region. I liked the enemy AI characters, two 'aggressive', one 'immobile units' and one set to 'none', the good starting position on a peninsula, funny talks like the beach girls to reduce boredom waiting for your troops and two ideas, which I probably would consider to be funny in any other scenario. Here, on low resources, the stone avalanche and two disappearing items leave a bitter after taste, the feeling that somebody tries to pull your legs. 4
MAP DESIGN: The map created from scratch is certainly better than any random map but not without flaws. Situated in the year 58 of the Hundred Years' War the main occupation of the French seemed to be road repairs, unrealistic even for middle age peace times the author used only 'Road', no 'Road, Fungus' near water or any 'Road, Broken' as a witness of war. Unrealistic the few palm-trees to give kind of a 'natural habitat' to elephants near the Atlantic Coast, unrealistic mix of Bergerac and Bordeaux, unrealistic forests added with a big brush, unrealistic overuse of rocks and flowers. The later appeared in layers causing lag together with rocks partly over the edges and elevated edges. Overall, a lack of terrain mix and blending on a war map whose predominant color is editor and flower green. 4
STORY/INSTRUCTIONS: The author provided a small story in the history section, insufficient hints and at first glance clear objectives. Missing a clear scout section explaining roughly where to go I clicked the revealed areas. The player starts opposite Royan on the 'Pointe de Grave' at the Gironde river, knowing the region going south means to take the objectives in the sequence, Bordeaux at the Garonne, Bergerac at the Dordogne and Royan going north. To my surprise, I entered Bergerac first, here at the Atlantic Ocean. I destroyed the usual buildings of Bergerac then razed the 'strength of Bordeaux', objective fulfilled but not for Bergerac. Confused believing that the bridge crosses the Dordogne to go north direction Royan I returned to level everything to the ground. The scout section should explain the fictitious locations of real places. In addition, hints mention food, wood and gold for resource consumption but not the 900 stone. 3
OVERALL: It is an almost impossible scenario.
SUGGESTIONS: For bug fix, add Condition 11, 12 and 13 'Destroy Object' to trigger 226 and select the three buildings for Bergerac and Bordeaux or add 'optional' to the two objectives. For an increase of resource consumption, edit trigger 263, condition 'object in area' source player 1 and Set Area across the bridge. Add '900 stone' to message of trigger 264 effect 2. To disable fortified walls you have to disable the tech not the building. For reasons why you cannot disable crossbowman in the editor read observations. A simple solution to disable unit upgrades in game by Ingo van Thiel: Write in the hints "You cannot research crossbowman". Add a new trigger: Starting State 'On' Looping 'Yes', Condition 0: Researching Tech Crossbowman, Source Player 1, Effect 0: Change Ownership Archery Range, Source Player 1, Target Player 1, Effect 1: Display Instructions "You cannot research crossbowman". NOTE: It must be the 'Researching Tech' not the 'Research Technology' condition. For map design, terrain mix and blending instead of flowers, less rocks, more dirt instead of grass 1. For playability and balance, maybe some ideas from the third commandment for scenario design. For story/instructions, name the resources the player tributes, try a better, informative hint and scout section.
OBSERVATIONS: A crossbowman is not a unit it is an upgraded archer and a fortified wall is not a building it is an upgraded Stone Wall. If the first unit is available, all upgrades are available. You have to disable techs not units, that works for university, blacksmith, monastery techs etc. but ES forgot the possibility to disable the unit upgrades of barracks, archery range and stable in the editor.
Greg Street's third commandment for scenario design:
"3. Your Scenario Is Too Hard.
It just is. Designers (including myself) tend to root for the computer players, because that means we have done our jobs making them challenging opponents. Players like a challenge, but they also really like to win. Think about how many games you have actually finished from beginning to end. Now of the ones you didn’t finish, how many did you eventually put down because the missions were too hard?
As I said before, as the scenario designer you know the map like the back of your hand. You know the Orange player is going to attack at 16 minutes with Knights, so when testing, you probably train Camels without even thinking about it. Players don’t know anything about the scenario except what you tell them and players always tend to assume the worst. In a Random Map game, players have some idea of how the CP is doing since everyone starts with 3 villagers and a Town Center (well, except for the Chinese). In scenarios, players assume that all of that dark space on the map is filled with Bombard Towers and Siege Onagers. They won’t leave their town until you make them.
Scenarios should be fun because of the situations you put players in. They will never be fun just because the CP is so relentless and thorough in its attacks. If they wanted that, they would just play against 7 CPs on Hardest in a Random Map game.
How can you make scenarios easier? Give the player more resources or villagers. Allow him or her to advance to Imperial. Keep the CP from researching Murder Holes and other powerful technologies. A really nice thing you can do is keep the CP from constantly rebuilding his town. How many times have you invaded a CP town and knocked down a Barracks or even the Town Center only to lose all of your troops and find that the CP has rebuilt everything by the time you have come back? That’s not fun; it’s just tedious. Sieging gigantic CP cities just is not all that fun. If you want to make a siege, try and make it fast and furious. Historically, sieges lasted for months until one side was starved out. Personally, I would much rather be fighting an enemy than starving them."
In the past I deducted rather from the balance score for scenarios being too easy, I was not a fan of the above, saw me pointing my finger towards ES for the overall lack of challenge at the blacksmith. All of this changed after playing 'Adventure Series I Southern France', thanks to the author I am now a supporter of the third commandment of scenario design.
IN CLOSING: If you have much time, like luring enemies of a superior force, long healing periods to do other things in between and have the ambition to beat a difficult scenario, this download is for you.