Meron Taul is a single scenario, a RPG, a city tour. Meron Taul was the submission to the Pretty Town Contest 2002 by Dark_Warrior_1_, where it became runner-up out of 17 entries with 35/40 points. The contest's rules were made by Thunder, who organized the contest. The contest's objective was not really to create a town, as it could have been also a village, a collection of buildings, but outstandingly pretty, because the most breathtaking creation would win. There should be a unit to explore the map, but only for the parts the designer wants to be minded. The maps were judged solely on what was seen. Instructions like "Follow the paved road" or flags and signs were possible. Cut-scenes were not allowed, no music, no bitmap and no mod pack. Simple triggers as well as simple AI files were optional. The map could be any size, small and any size town, which doesn't have to be the whole map. You could enter a town as a team, but you could enter only once. The playable part would be reduced to exploring a map with no enemies, which had as only object the creation of a pretty town.
The city of Meron Taul was for most of its history divided into the Northern and Southern Empire and still today the Southern and Northern Islands are ruled by two different Kings. Meron Taul is the edited version of the original tour where you control a light cavalry, Krintash, your tour guide.
PLAYABILITY: The tour was well guided; in game messages let you take the shortest way to see all sites. Also the choice of a fast unit added to the great experience exploring the fantastic map. Other than that there were no playable aspects apart from a boat trip. Still this would have been a four if it was bug free. Arriving at the trips' first destination, I got stuck to the right between a villager, a turkey and a house and had to change diplomacy to continue, as saved games are not really necessary for city tours. At the final destination all units of the red player were "hiding" behind a house due to trigger malfunction, which looked odd. 3+
BALANCE: The scenarios goal is to take you on a city tour and it is in the intention of the author that there will be no fighting. From the review tutorial: “One important item to note about scoring the balance category for scenarios where no fighting takes place, such as cut-scene scenarios, some puzzle scenarios and some rpg style scenarios, is that just because the player cannot die in such scenarios, that doesn't mean the scenario isn't balanced. You also need to take the author's original intent into account, giving the author some benefit of the doubt. If the author never intended the player to face a struggle to survive, then there's no reason to knock down the balance score if there isn't any fighting. So keep in mind that you do need to take the intent and goals of the scenario into account when scoring the balance category, especially for those scenarios where fighting is not included.” 5
CREATIVITY: All aspects are rated in this category, the design of Meron Taul is outstanding and creative, yet not flawless in its' creative approach. Reading the history of the kingdoms of Meron Taul I would have expected military districts, at least ruins or in game information what happened to them, where they were and what got constructed on the sites. The economic bases are hogs, horses, sheep, farming, orchards, and mining and there is a fish farm on one island. There is a lot of fish on land, every pond has plenty, even the harbour-basin, only the sea is lifeless, which leaves us with four islands in the Asian sea without fishing boats, no fishing village. I also missed renaming of units and buildings, as a result the university is situated on the island of the lower class people. Regarding game play, there was a lack of creativity with triggers apart from ship and unit movements. A creative history section about the city and kingdoms of Meron Taul, but the story is reduced to Krintash, a tour guide, who shows AoK players a pretty town. 3
MAP DESIGN: The map design is astounding, a feast for your eyes, perfect blending, and good terrain mix, realistic in the use of elevations and Gaia, like the different crops for farming areas, orchards, mining area and ponds. The towns and villages were lively, gorgeous, with beautiful sites. 5
STORY/INSTRUCTIONS: Perfect organized tour with in game information where to go, what to see next. The total lack of story was compensated by an interesting, well written history section about the towns and a bmp to make this an above average rating. 4
OVERALL: A good city tour on a great map with clear directions.
OBSERVATION: Meron Taul improved from the submission to the pretty town contest, but not enough effort was put into the adaptation to the blacksmith. A scenario done for a contest does not automatically suit as a blacksmith submission. Other than the first contest, where story/instructions, creativity and playability were supposed to have an influence together with the map design of a pretty town by the contest rules, the contest of 2002 determined the winner solely by the design of towns and landscape, asking more effort to adapt these submissions to the blacksmith and the review tutorial in operation.
SUGGESTIONS: Avoid getting stuck for player 1. Get the triggers of the red player to work properly. They move from the graveyard, gate and monument behind a house. Actually they all start to slide with Yogurt's skate trick the moment player 1 arrives after the second boat trip at the docks. Telling the "story" of towns over centuries is considered history, try a story about Krintash, have him talk to people to develop it in game, he could be a spy, on a quest or on a diplomatic mission.
IN CLOSING: I assure you this fantastic design is not a waste of time, download now. I also recommend Wrath of the Dark Lord by the same author.