|Al_Kharn the Great
Posted on 11/25/21 @ 01:26 AM (updated 12/07/21
As legendary Viking king Ragnar Lothbrok, raid and conquer to become a legend of the sagas!
||Age of Empires II: DE
||Build and Destroy
Rise from a petty jarl through raids and plunder to become King of the North and master of the Great Heathen Army in the largest and most ambitious custom scenario ever. Ragnar, your warbands await your command!
An all-new re-imagining of the custom scenario classic, Ragnar's Raids
Explore and raid from Iceland to Russia on a titanic Ludicrous-sized map (260K tiles!)
Be a Viking king and decide your path in a unique "open world" with 50 objectives to discover and complete
Recruit powerful Viking heroes like Hrolf the Ganger, Olaf the White, and Rurik the Troublemaker
Feel the might and power of the Northmen as you command Berserks, Huskarls, Throwing Axemen, and other units with totally overpowered technologies
About the Author:
Filthydelphia (xbox: PhillySouljah) is the award-winning designer of historical custom campaigns and official content for the Age of Empires franchise. Formerly part of the Forgotten Empires campaign team, his works include the Portuguese, Burmese, Bulgarian, Italian, Indian, and Sicilian campaigns featured in Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition as well as several campaigns in Age of Empires: Definitive Edition. Outside of Age of Empires, he is a captain in the United States Marine Corps Reserve and has an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
|Author||Reviews ( All | Comments Only | Reviews Only )|
This is a superb scenario which expands and improves on the concept of the creator's previous scenario Ragnar's Raids.
Posted on 12/28/21 @ 09:38 AM
This scenario delivers on its promise of being able to explore and raid and fight and conquer to your heart's content. There is a lot of fun to be had in the progression from small-scale raids burning down cottages in Scotland to rampaging around Britain and Europe with fearsome armies. Happily, the creator has improved on previous works in ensuring that there is a decently quick tempo right from the start, and there are a number of quality-of-life adjustments such as speeding up all ships so that traversing the enormous map is not painfully slow. Some praise is also due to the diversity of enemies faced, which prevents the combat getting too repetitive despite the overwhelming bulk of the gameplay being going from place to place killing and burning.
I played this scenario on Hard difficulty. The main pitfalls are the risk of having irreplaceable villagers killed off (which can cause progress to grind to a halt) and wasting too much gold on fighting in Scandinavia which does not generate any gold income (this could be fatal at a time before the player has acquired the ability to train worthwhile troops without spending gold). If you can manage the first risk and avoid the second, it is probably only a question of time until you wipe out all the enemies and complete all the objectives. However, I still consider the scenario worthy of the highest rating here because, even once you reach a stage where there is no longer any real risk of ultimately losing, some of the enemies continue to put up a stiff resistance.
The gameplay is an ingenious combination of finding and settling foreign lands to develop economically, capturing and recapturing Scandinavian settlements to allow the creation of bigger armies and navies, and finding and attacking targets of increasing difficulty to gain gold and the occasional captive. These various accomplishments are recognised as the completion of objectives which are organised into different 'sagas'. Some further variety is injected into the combat side of things by not only being able to train a range of units, but also to improve their effectiveness with a wide range of technologies that can be unlocked gradually. There are other things that could be mentioned too, but they are best discovered as you go along.
Map Design: 5
The most striking thing about the map is its sheer size. This enables much of Scandinavia, the British Isles, and a big slice of continental Europe to be depicted without feeling excessively cramped. Inevitably there are some distortions with geography, but a sense of realism is preserved by the effort that has been put into making the landscape of different regions more or less true to life. The rugged islands of the Faroes, Orkneys, Shetlands and Hebrides and the fenlands of East Anglia were especially appealing in my opinion.
As is characteristic with the creator's scenarios, explicit story-telling takes a back-seat, and this scenario doubles down on that approach. The somewhat more linear progression of Ragnar's Raids has been discarded, with Ragnar's rise to king of all the Scandinavian realms abstracted into killing all the enemy units that hold the territory. However, the messages that appear when new Viking heroes are found and when objectives are completed do provide some welcome flavour. The instructions are very clear, as they need to be given the use of some unique mechanics, but the emphasis is on the player to go out and explore and find things to do. Fortunately, the fairly basic nature of the objectives means there is never any frustration in figuring out what needs to be done. The system of objectives does helpfully give some indication of when there are more things still to be done in a particular area.
Additional Comments: This scenario is a virtually perfect realisation of Filthydelphia's concept of raiding and free-roaming scenarios, with some weaknesses of previous versions ironed out to present a more seamlessly enjoyable experience. There are limitations to the concept, in that most of the objectives simply involve killing and destroying everything in sight and there is no room for much narrative story-telling, but embracing those limitations means that this scenario does what it does about as well as it possibly could do.
Ragnar's Saga is an epic sandbox style scenario by Al_Kharn the Great. The scenario acts as a complete overhaul of his popular scenario Ragnar's Raids but upgrades everything into an epic scale. This includes expanding the map into ludicrous size, adding a complete free-roam gameplay style and perfecting the author's signature raiding gameplay mechanics.
Posted on 01/06/22 @ 07:46 AM
Having played both the HD & DE versions of Ragnar's Raids I was curious to see how this scenario was different, and boy was I surprised. The author has put so much time improving the scenario to make it infinitely better. There is so much more to do in the scenario - more Mead Halls to capture, more heroes to find and more enemies to plunder. The objectives and storytelliong is also drastically improved and expanded as well.
As I stated in my introduction Ragnar's Saga is a sandbox style scenario. This means that the game is completely free-roam. The player is not guides by a set storyline or set of objectives, instead they have the ability to freely roam around the map and do as they please - in this scenarios case, they get the raid the lands of Europe to their hearts content. Starting as a young and ambitious Jarl, you aim is to take Ragnar Logthbrok across the known world to pillage, plunder and destroy all in his path. Become the king of all Norway or the Scourge of Europe.
The scenario and its epic scale will not disappoint and is highly, highly enjoyable. What's best about it is the replayability factor. Every playthrough will be different because you will do things differently and complete objectives in different orders. Despite its huge scale there is nothing wrong with the scenario. Not once did I encounter a bug or any form of lag, which surprised me due the use of the ludicrous map size which is infamous for causing severe lag.
Balance is always the hardest part of any scenario to get right, and that becomes and even greater challenge when the game you are creating is completely unique, but Al_Kharn as triumphed here. The scenario provides dynamics to cater to players of all abilities to create an equal playing field throughout. There is plenty of challenge in the game with a very limited set of resources, and villagers which can be capture and earned through battle, but are irreplaceable is killed. Gold can only be gained by plunder monasteries which require a warband to destroy. You have to chose your soldiers and your targets wisely, protecting them so you don't lose too many and waste your valuable resources. Population can grown by capturing Mead Halls in Scandinavia but don;'t do this too early or you'll lose all your soldiers without having the resources to rebuild at all. Once you do capture them you have to defend them from regular rebellions from the loyal Norse Raiders. There is always alot going on in the scenario so you have to micromanage your units, settlements and resources at all times a chose your next move in the game wisely. Never try to do too much at once or it'll all come crashing down on you.
The creativity of this scenario knows no bounds. It's amazing and highly original. Whilst the raid gameplay mechanic is now nothing new, it is original to this author who has used it multiple times in his various Viking scenarios (check out the original Ragnar's Raids, Ironside and Valhalla's Edge), here however, it has been expanded, developed and perfected. There have also been other attempts at sandbox style scenarios in AOK as well (for example check out the Grand Theft Horse series or RISK scenarios). What is original is incorporating this unique style of gameplay into a sandbox style scenario and making an entirely original game. This scenario is almost like a brand new game in itself, with endless possibilities, and a vast replayability factor. The use of the Definitive Edition's editor has required the author to completely edit the game's mechanics to create new technologies and change the cost of soldiers to match the scenarios requirements. The ability to constantly change the players population cap depending on how many Jarldoms they own is also very clever as is the ability to train all your required soldiers in one building. I think you would really struggling to find another scenario like this anywhere.
Map Design: 5
Set on a geographically accurate representation of Northern Europe, this ludicrous sized map contains the British Isles, Western Scandinavia and Northern mainland Europe. The attention to detail in the map is exceptional, every single part of the map is gorgeous to look at with beautiful artistry in the terrain mixing, eye candy and layout of buildings and objects in the towns and settlements. There is a vast diversity in the map with the snowy landscapes of Scandinavia and the woodlands of Germany and the grassy plains Britain. There is plenty of water covering the map and even this is beautifully detailed with water mixing done excellently. The towns and settlements are very nicely designed and allow for a pretty and realistic layout which allows does not detract from the gameplay and pathfinding of units. I think what is most impressive about the map is its sheer size and the fact that it allows for an immersive experience allowing the player to feel like they are in the world without feeling cramped.
Being a sandbox scenario there is no set story to guide the player through the scenario, instead the player must make their own story by completing a massive set of objectives in which ever order they chose. As the author put it himself responding to a review of this scenario - "Sometimes people wonder why I don't do explicit story-telling in most of my scenarios but your post shows why I believe that's the best narrative design approach for Age of Empires and many games. You wrote your own story that is uniquely yours and a better, more immersive tale than any I could have written!"
In order to complete the scenario the player must complete a list of 50 objectives. New objectives appear throughout the game as you complete old ones or explore new areas of the world. The story is told through these events with narrative dialogue appearing after major battles and objectives are completed and through random events that happen, such as the coming of age of one of Ragnar's sons who joins your warband. As a sandbox scenario you complete the scenario at the completion of 50 objectives but there is still more you can do and you can continue to play long after you've complete the main missions.
Overall this is probably the Definitive Scenario for the Definitive Edition of the Definitive Game. One of the best scenarios ever made for our beloved game and definitely worth checking out and playing for as long a possible, and then a hundred times over again.
Posted on 05/14/22 @ 08:52 PM
I beat it on HARD, and the most challenging part was the opening section, because I wanted to gradually explore and conquer eastwards, whereas the mission design seems to want you to begin by raiding the northern Scottish islands. The second most challenging part was conquering York because it seems to churn out an ongoing stream of enemy Teutonic knights and cavaliers on HARD, and because I was keeping units at my Mead Halls in case the enemies raided them, which lowered the size of my invasion force.
The biggest problem was that I couldn't figure out one of the 50 objectives, so I had to open it in the Editor in order to find out what the uncompleted objective was (I needed to build a Mead Hall in England). It would be helpful to give the player the list of Objectives in the form of a text Help file in case the player can't figure them all out.
Otherwise, I was able to explore the map and meet objectives with good ease.
The balance was good because I beat it on HARD, I consider myself an above average Single Player gamer, and it was challenging when it came to fighting Northumbria in York. Fighting Jomsburg felt a little intimidating too because I didn't know ahead of time how strongly they would fight and how many units they would spawn.
The first time that I tried on Hard, I stupidly paid 425 gold for an upgrade in the opening stage of the game, thereby using up all my gold. I gave up because without gold, I couldn't train more soldiers, and I figured that if I explored to find gold, I could run into enemy viking ships that would sink my transports. Plus, I needed a home defense force against enemy raids.
So I restarted on HARD and I went first for the Swedish coast gold with a transport. Then I built a longship for costal fighting support and got the Sword on Bornholm island east of Denmark. Next I captured the two western Swedish coastal cities by using a raiding tactic. Then I captured Jutland and Ribe in north Germany. Soon afterward a viking raid marched against Jutland, but I defeated it because my troops were fairly close by in transport ships. Then I took Vastergotland and Smaland. In the case of the latter, their defenders followed me far from their home base as I retreated and then I came back and captured it while the defenders were sitting far away. I reunited Sweden and "the Thing" (assembly) recognized me.
After getting all the Mead halls and having a population limit of 130, I just had England (Light Blue and Yellow) and France left to capture. I took out the southeastern French city (Aachen) by attacking from the east, and that city was fairly easy. However, Northumbria (light blue) seems very difficult on HARD. I had been keeping about 1 soldier at each mead hall for protection from raids, and only lost 1 out of about 24 villagers and maybe 1 out of 10 hero units that I've gotten, so I have an army size limit of about 50 disposable units for attacking. Northumbria however seems to just send out a constant stream of enemies when I attack it. I don't know if it has a constant production rate or why it has so many enemies. It churns out cavaliers and Teutonic knights, along with a few priests. My army of about 50 units is enough to get through the first big wave of enemies after I've knocked some of their standing enemies with a little trick- when their enemies are near the water, they don't attack my longboats, but I can attack them. So by the time that they blew through my first assembled attacking army (almost 50 units), I had broken through their walls and destroyed 1 light blue monastery and their stable. Next I assembled another 50 unit army and it was not very hard at that point, since I had been whittling down the Light Blue units in the outskirts of the Light Blue city (York).
After beating Northumbria, and with the only remaining enemies being Yellow and Purple northeast of the French Seine river (I took Aachen and the northern French coast), I beat Jomsburg, which gave me the Victory option at the Meadhall. I actually found beating Jomsburg, which I thought might be the biggest battle, easier than beating York (Light Blue city).
One trick or exploit that I found helpful to deal with huge masses of tough units was to send Rognvald near the enemy city with some galleys, and then the enemies would come out, and surround and attack him while my galleys attacked the enemies. Since Rognvald has like 25 million HP, the only way that the enemies can overpower him is by mobbing him so that he can't move and by killing any of my units near him. But since land enemies don't attack my galleys, the galleys are able to whittle down the enemies.
Combined with the "Story" element, this was the best part of the mission. It felt adventuresome to explore the map and try to meet objectives, as I wondered what new part of the "Saga" would open up. For example, exploring Russia led to the eastern steppes and to nomadic tribes there.
Map Design: 4
The map design was a lot of fun because of how much the Designer packed into this big map.
Rognvald, a unit who you can find, has over 25 million HP. I don't know if this is intentional.
When the enemies stand by the shores and practically let themselves get targeted by my arrow ships and only move away bit by bit when they get hit, it feels like they are mannequins or stuffed animals that don't react. It's alittle bit of a glitchy weird feeling. The owner might work out the bumps in his map by fixing Rognvald's huge HP and making it so that enemies run from galleys faster. But if he did that, it would make the map even harder, and it's hard enough even with these potential exploits.
It's not a big deal, but in the mead hall and in Kiev's stable, there is an option to upgrade my units, and the price is in food, stone/runes, and gold. It costs hundreds of gold that I don't have (like 750), yet the option to research the upgrade isn't grade out, and I was able to research the elite boyars even though I don't have enough gold. Maybe the runes count for gold, but I don't know.
I like this mission a lot. I became king of Denmark and then started exploring the NW edge of the map. the vikings' exploration of North America is a neat historical note. I got to the pretty Saxon monastery southwest of Hedeby and would rather capture it somehow, but I guess that I have to destroy it in order to meet one of Hrorek's Saga objectives, although to win the mission per se, all you need to do is defeat Jomsburg.
One of the tricks is figuring out the mission's special mechanics. Not only can you capture viking villages ("mead halls"), you can also lose them, and there are enemy viking raids against your bases. When you lose a viking village, it's not clear if enemies automatically spawn there, or if the ones at their newly-captured mead hall are the ones from the enemy raid.
I don't know how you are supposed to perform the "prayer" action that one of the Designer's comments mentions, if you are supposed to research something or move an object somewhere, or if this feature has been disabled.
On HARD, I met all the objectives except for one: It's in the Saga of Ragnar's Sons, which has 7 objectives. I succeeded in:
-Raising the Great Heathen Army
I checked the Editor and it turns out that the missing goal that I didn't meet is to build a Mead Hall for a "Jarldom" in England. This makes sense because one of the stated goals is to Settle England. However, it's not fully obvious because "settling" would normally mean to put a town center or "longhouse" someplace because they can make villagers. Plus, I already met the objective of "Settling" England.
The Editor also mentions a Trigger where you use a hero who you find in the southern section of the map by the French coast to kill the French knight Robert, one of the enemy heroes. But in my gameplay, I killed Robert before finding that playable hero.
There was no Outro. When I don't see one in AOE2 DE, I get worried that a glitch blocked it, because sometimes that happens in AOE2DE, and the only way to see the outro seems to be to use the victory cheat.
On one hand, it's neat to have an unspecified "achievement" pop up surprisingly during game play, but it's also a problem if you try unsuccessfully to figure out what you need to do in order to meet the 50 Saga goals. So I suggest that the Creator provide a list of all the objectives, like in a Help text file or Readme.
After an hour and 25 minutes of play, I notice that the I numeral for my Age at the top of the screen is blinking. I guess it means that I have enough resources that if I had a town center, I could age up there. But the mission doesn't let you build one- it's not part of the Scenario. I don't consider this a bug.
One way to help protect yourself against raids is to keep a little defensive force at the Hedeby or Jutland area that the enemies seem to focus on targeting.
When I got to Jomsburg (near Wolin in the NW corner of Poland today), it says that the place is dangerous, but there is no explanation on how to interact with it, and my units can't attack it. I figured that I need to explore or capture other things first. Eventually a message appeared saying that I could choose to fight Jomsburg by clicking an option in my Mead Halls. I am not sure what triggered that message, but building my forces and exploring elsewhere may have contributed.