ACSC07 - Shadows After Sunset - Ominous Silence
(Updated on 10/28/07
For the ACSC...
It seems I've been working on this campaign on and off (heavy on the off, to tell the truth) since I got here, and apart from one unbelievably shoddy scenario, this is the only thing I've ever managed to actually release. Needless to say, it's the sort of prologue-y type effort that abounds these days. However it can at least serve as an entry to Mashek's highly successful A Cut-Scene Contest, so hopefully it's at least a little worth it. I should probably mention that those who dislike high fantasy even more than I do, or dislike all the fancy new bells and whistles that are now available, would do well to just keep on walking by without stopping. For everyone else however, I hope you find this entertaining.
Twenty years before, a mysterious army of Demons rose from the shadows of an obscure Northern valley. It was just everyone's luck that they were met by the grim determination of Lord Dankarton who, against all the odds, banished them back to the depths from which they came before they could get up to strength. Unfortunately, he has since grown old, and now he has finally passed on, hopped the twig, crossed over and any other euphenism you feel suitable. After twenty long years the demons have at last gained another chance to conquer this mortal realm, and this time there is no one to stop them. As village after village falls beneath their hooves there is only one dim hope for the country, for, as all heroes do, Lord Dankarton has a son. Can he repeat the feats of his late father and save the land of Faralon from total destruction?
This is a twelve minute long fantasy genre cut-scene (not playable) that requires a modified data file to run (I warn you, I don't know what the result will be if you don't use it). Full instructions on how to get this to work are included.
Comments and reviews are welcome.
If you haven't already I recommend you watch the other entries for this year's and last's competitions.
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‘Shadows after Sunset – Ominous Silence’ is a single-scenario cut-scene featuring the dark tale and prologue of the ‘Shadows after Sunset’ series. The Lord of Drangnar, Lord Dankarton, has died of old age, and with it, the courage that had sapped the strength of the Shadows and their king of evil twenty years earlier. Now the darkness of their malice has returned once more and this time there is no one to stop them in their devouring wake. The cut-scene runs for twelve minutes.
The cut-scene was phenomenal. Dark scenes of evil unstoppable across a doomed kingdom trouble the eyes and mind, and the funeral of a dead hero is hauntingly moving. Villages burning and forts soaking in blood leaves an ominous stir to the viewing, and a battle futilely fought is an exhausting experience. The atmosphere resonates memorably with classical tunes by Dvorak, Viveldi and Holt, which were timed perfectly to suit each scene of the cut-scene. Well-written dialogue added to the experience, as well as sound effects, which were implored to good effect. I liked in particular the flow and structure of the overall cut-scene, and the characters who seem real, belonging to the story and whose paralleled fates affect the future to come. Twists of an unknown traveller watching the events dooming Faralon before disappearing to the world and of the promise of hope, the rising son of a fallen lord, leaves the viewer satisfied and the cut-scene well rounded off with questions still needing answering. I eagerly await the sequel.
Balance in this category is usually rated according to the player’s struggle to survive, whether the scenario was too hard or too easy to complete for him or if it was well balanced all around. This is a cut-scene, and as we are asked to take the author’s intent in mind, the scenes of fighting and bloodshed, which do not face the player with the struggle to survive, is nonetheless perfectly balanced and helps the story to progress. According to the review guidelines, the author’s intention of fighting was well balanced and thus there is no reason to deduct.
While this cut-scene is certainly one not for its novelties and tricks like other cut-scenes, by means that it employs rather subtle creative devices, it is still very much vibrant in all areas. The story is obvious here, with its wonderful attention to detail, covering everything from the reasons for the impending doom to a character’s thoughts at the end, as well as exemplary descriptions on characters and countries. The classical music really added taste here too and a deep, much-needed sense of originality, which I have not yet experienced in a cut-scene such as this before. The resulting atmosphere leaves a feeling of European Romanticism, which resonates beautifully with the viewer’s experience. Other things like marching peasants, preparing for war, a massive battle, villages being attacked and a general killing himself and falling into a ravine of water, conveyed by a sound effect, works very nicely. In particular, the ghostly patrol of soldiers disappearing from the battlements of a fort to the sound of the chill wind was incredibly well done and was a very nice touch of originality.
MAP DESIGN: (5.0)
The map design was incredible. The look and feel of grassy plains, well-designed forts and villages, churches and roads, goes well with the music and sound effects. The author’s personal style is very evident here with grassy knolls, use of hedging and a deep sense of springtime and / or summertime fauna. I liked the design of military camps, ancient forts and the sense of doom and gloom. Farms were nice with flowers and haystacks and the flowing landscape with its feel of vastness and elevation is very much appreciated.
STORY/ INSTRUCTIONS: (4.0) +
The story was so pleasingly detailed with effort and energy poured into every crack and crevice that I felt it suffered hardly from an unfinished aftertaste, which is usually always ripe in a cut-scene prologue. The bitmap was dark and gloomy, and everything, from history to instructions to hints and the victory condition, had something in it to read, which I thoroughly enjoyed going over. Hints were pleasing and helpful and the dialogue, which was fervently written, was composed with such care that we might feel for the characters and the events transpiring around them. In addition the detailed descriptions of characters and places were an excellent and well-rounded touch to the overall cut-scene. Very professionally done. It is necessary that the cut-scene falls short of a perfect rating in this category because the story is unfinished, a prologue, yet to conclude. We still await the rest of the story to be told.
‘Shadows after Sunset – Ominous Silence’ is truly an awesome cut-scene, one that will undoubtedly lead to an excellent sequel. The music and sound effects are well chosen and are implemented throughout the cut-scene to excellent effect – we feel for the characters and the story being told. The flow and style are also other major aspects of this cut-scene, leading to an incredibly strange, yet wonderful atmosphere. The loss of so many knights, noblemen and heroes is chilling and leads the story to a place in the earth gutted of all hope, which sets the stage for a sequel perfectly. I highly recommend this cut-scene. ‘Shadows after Sunset – Ominous Silence’ is a must download.
In a word – Haunting.
In closing – A must download.
[Edited on 07/02/08 @ 10:58 PM]
‘Shadows after Sunset – Ominious Silence’ was Julius’ entry to the ACSC07, Age of Kings Heaven Cut-Scene Contest of year 2007. It came in a split third place, alongside Andanu T’s ‘Eternal Moon’, both with 119 points out of 165 possible. The following review is not based on the judging scores.
Ominious Silence is a well made, intriguing and often pure awesome cut-scene. The lush green fields and other ecellent map design is a tease for the eyes and boost the enjoyment a lot. The music and sound effects add to a great atmosphere together with the story’s style and the creative tricks. There is some replayvalue as well, you can watch it two-three times in a row without getting tired, and every time you see a trick or other thing that you missed before.
There are but two downsides in this cut-scene and those are; One, the occasional lag that comes. In the begninning, as the view shifts to the burial caravan, the whole cut-scene freezes and the music restarts. After a few seconds it continues as it should, but it’s still very irritating. And two, the pace of the text. At several times I couldn’t read of all the information before a new text appeared or the old one withered away.
‘Shadows after Sunset – Ominious Silence’ is a cut-scene with no interactive elements at all. Normally Balance rates if the scenario was too difficult or too easy to complete, but for scenarios without fitghing, such as some RPG, puzzles, cut-scenes etc. the review guidelines provide an extra paragraph. This cut-scene does show fighting scenes, taking the intent and goals of the scenario into account, these scenes serve solely to bring the story forward, look balanced and thus there is no reason to deduct.
‘Ominious Silence’ has a load of creative tricks. For starters, the .dat file included adds/changes a unit into a common hunter that can walk in lines and ranks. This adds a good feeling of peasant soldiers with little armour and cheap weapons. Then there are all the tricks and aspects to count, such as the fort. The cliffs are packed tight to give a steeper look to them, there are bridges to symbolise the paths behind the walls and even dust blowing around inside the fort.
Then at one point, where I thought the game was about to crash, two whole armies had been freezed to give a stop-time experiense. This was the first time I’ve seen this beeing used a scenario, as far as I can remember.
Lastly there’s the sound effects. As for the general’s suicide, one of my favourite scenes, sounds have been used instead of tricks and effects. You only hear him hit the water and this whole idea is not oftenly used in scenarios.
Overall, this cut-scene is very creative, both with a well used .dat file and other creative tricks and aspects, and it certainlt deserves its five here.
MAP DESIGN: 5
As I said before, the map design in ‘Ominious Silence’ was astounding. The realism of the fort, blowing dust, lush green fields etc. all brought this up to a top score. The eye candy ammount and the elevations were perfect and I couldn’t find any downsides. The only thing I could suspect people to complain about would be the blank inner of the fort, but I know from experiense how hard it is to create indoor scenes or paved ground that looks both realistic and detailed. If there’d be any more eye candy or elevations than there is, it wouldn’t have looked realistic. Therefor I dont deduct any points.
STORY & INSTRUCTIONS: 4+
The story might be a little cliché in the beginning and some parts definately are cliché-ish, but most of the story is unique to me and both very intriguing and seat-gluing. The story unfolds first slowly, then faster as it goes on. Combined with the awesome map design and atmospheric music and sounds, Julius’ storytelling technique makes this cut-scene marvelous. I dont want to spoil the fun for new watchers so I wont be telling anything from the actual story, but I can assure you all that it’s definately worth the while.
Except for the ingame story there are loads of pregame information so that you can understand the story to a whole, if you haven’t played the prequel. The hints are good and comical as well and the bitmap included looks very well.
The thing that brings this down is the fact that the story isn’t finished. There’s still a lot, and more, to unravel and a lot to long for and the cut-scene in itself cant please the watcher to full extent.
IN CLOSING: It has a few downsides but it’s certainly worth the download. It’s a very atmospheric story with great music and design to bring this to a high score.
[Edited on 12/19/07 @ 04:41 AM]
Shadows after Sunset is a fantasy story that has spanned a few of the authors scenarios. This cutscene is a very fine installment, setting a good foundation for future additions.
I thooroughly enjoyed this cutscene's somber feeling and growing anticipation. The very oppenning, a funeral procession, is riveting. The music does a great job of being atmospheric while remaining in the background.
One problem cutscenes can encounter is good scenes, but with choppy transitions. This one does a superb job of flowing together well.
The use of the data file also adds a few effects to increase the quality of the viewing experience. Small things like pausing the view just before a battle clash help the cinimatics of the scenario.
In a cutscene, it is always far better to show more and describe less; the more you can actually do so the viewer can visualize and not have to imagine the better. This is done pretty well throughout.
The only point where a deduction was considered was for incompleteness of story. Yet no point was deducted as I feel the cutscene has a complete feel, despite not giving full story closure.
As it is a cut-scene, the balance is almost always a 5, unless the fighting in the cut-scene looks unbalanced and does not work as the author intended. This cut-scene is no exception, and gets the perfect score here.
If there was one catagory I was least certain of the score in, it was this one. It goes without much argueing the scenario is very creative, but there is a lot of typical feel to the design. In the end, however, there is enough creativity in the map design and presentation that, combined with the DAT editing tricks, it is far closer to a 5 than a 4.
That said, the downloader should fully understand this is a very creative scenario, with enough "tricks" to compete with most and with superior creativity being shown in stoy layout and scene creation.
Map Design: 5
The map design is well done, but much more than that it conveys the mood and feelings of the story perfectly. The lush green in many areas adds to the whole fantastical feel, and in every way the scenery "looks the part." Unit choices and eye candy are all done to satisfy the high standards we have today. I could find no complaints about the map design whatsoever.
I hate awarding 4's for story, as it fails to then set apart a good story like this from the rest. Still this story isn't perfect, as it has some flaws. The major one is the fact that the story is terribly cliche; it is your standard humans fighting nonhuman evil fantasy. This doesn't have to be bad, and it isn't all bad in this story either. Traditional can be good, but it always needs some sort of fresh twist, a new angle that isn't as tired. This storyline seems too tied to the standard script, with little deviation from the run of the mill fantasy tale. Perhaps the story has a more deep twist in it, but that is the disadvantage of releasing your work in pieces I guess.
The other problem is the story is very, very confusing. Combined with the other scenario, and what little I know of your future work, I have real trouble figuring out what is going on. Assumedly this will all get sorted out eventually, and as it isn't specific to just this scenario it isn't my real reason for deducting a point, but it is something to point out. It is important to remember that you may know what will happen, but we don't. And if you plan to add a twist in there, a lack of understanding of the basics may damper the effect it has on the viewer.
Definitely a great cutscene, and a fine chapter in the Shadows after Sunset story. I will be looking for more chapters in the series with anticipation. Good luck with the continuation of the story.
[Edited on 05/28/08 @ 05:06 AM]