Characters of Ancient India
This campaign provides a small insight into the history of India. It spans about 3000 years, and provides a historical overview in each scenario, while having a largely fiction based plot.
India’s history goes back as far as any country and it is unique for its ability to stay independent for most of that time. Even the greatest conquerors, like Alexander and the Mongols left India largely alone. They are known not only for their independence, but for the way their influences have spread. India has spread the Hindu and Buddhism religions across the globe, and has settled a large part of Indonesia. It has traded with great empires, like Ancient Egypt and Rome, and its rare commodities have made it very rich. The one thing that stands out is that India never had to use violence to make its impact on the world like other civilizations did. Even in its struggle to overthrow British rule in this century India used non-violent resistance.
The campaign contains 3 scenarios.
The first is in around 1500BC, where you play as the Aryans: invaders from the North West. This mission contains a fixed force element of gameplay in one area, and a build and destroy element in the main area. There is a strong link between these two sides of the map. Most people and places are made up here, but the map is accurate geographically despite the tribes being largely fictional. The only true tribe was the city of Harappa, which was a little north east of its present location.
The second scenario is about Ashoka, a Mauryan king. It begins with a fixed force challenge, which will require lots of thought and patience, then allows you to build up your base after that. The enemy will not attack you until you bring the war to them, so the difficulty is left largely up to the player. Once you have completed the first part, the story carries on and you are left with an open ended city building type challenge, with many optional objectives to improve the grandeur of your empire. There are also two very different naval missions, separated in the middle by an optional puzzle mission (which is very hard IMO)
The third mission is a timed build and destroy mission (so aptly named!), where you are in the middle ages. It is centered on the sea, as opposed the previous missions. You must gain control of Indonesia as Rajendra Chola, another historical character. This mission requires timing and planning.
I recommend medium to hardest difficulty, so hard would be a good setting for an average player. For extra challenges play the optional objectives, and in the second mission let the yellow player attack you by luring the red guards away from the gate.
Now get playing!
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Playability - Lots of fun, fast paced so the game never slows down. All the objectives are enjoyable - even if some are too similar to others - adding up to a great gaming experience. 4.8
Creativity - Creativity really stands out in this campaign, from map design to gameplay. There are always a good mix of objectives (although maybe too many straight battles) and there are the secondary objectives that really add to it. There are also nice features such as the long forgotten "two part story" - not seen for some years as well as unique objectives such as raising pillars to convert villages and the like. Great stuff. 4.5
Balance - The scenarios are hard, but not overly - you can have the impression you are winning, but it's never a case of being able to sit back while your men slaughter the enemy. Also, if finding it too easy, you can do the "Optional Objectives" which are usually harder than the primary. Good work here. 4.5
Map Design - Richard's map design has meticulous care - every square has something on it and it looks like trees were placed individually. However, there is an impression that it's a bit overdone - any more and the map could turn from beautiful eye candy into an ugly mess. Going easy on the eye candy would benefit the overall look. 4
Story/Instructions - The story is excellent and very compelling, there are excellent instruction maps with use of Empire Earth/Age of Kings units, useful hints and nice, bite sized pieces of history. There is also a nice feature of "secondary objectives" - objectives not necessary to complete the game but to make it harder and more enjoyable. 4.8
Overview - I've never seen any of Richards work before, but I've heard good things and wasn't disappointed. An excellent campaign from a relatively new designer. Excellent work, and well worth the download. 4.5
I would recommend playing this over and over again just for the brilliant map design. I know that there are definitely multiple ways to beat it, so that also gains the replaying value of this campaign.
Usually I would say that quest campaigns would take a lot of thought and creativity to make. Richard has done a great job making this campaign original. A lot of the things had me noticed in it, such as the the Dharma research in the second scenario(the flag of India).
This will be a gretly balanced campaign--hard, but not too hard. It took me a lot of time of thinking, planning(as well as saving, loading, resaving, reloading, etc) to successfully just to defeat the first scenario. This campaign also has a relatively large enemy army/navy to keep the great micro-managers out there to have interest in it.
You will notice traces of beutiful map design everywhere you go in the three scenarios. From truly realistic swamps to gaia trees nicely added to buildings, to an academy being laid on top of a circle of nicely placed bones, this is one of the best map-designed scenario I have seen.
The story will take some time to read(hey, it's not like you don't have 5 minutes to spare, eh?). However,it will be a good read. The scenario maps are nothing short of incredible. Richard has included some AoK buildings/units in the bitmaps, which actually makes it better-looking(can you do that to AoE bitmaps?).
Richard has put effort to both adding some fictional details to the story to make it better as well as not forgetting to remind the players that it is based on an actual, true, event that happend roughly 1,000 years ago.
One of the best campaigns of 2005, and I would expect this campaign to make it to be number one.
Oh boys, here we have one jewel of a campaign. I don't know what the other judges are thinking while I'm reviewing "Characters Of Ancient India", but this is the entry which impressed me much.
This campaign is not straightforward, which is good for experienced players. You must always use your head to reach your goal, and exploring every bit of fog may be essential to fulfill your mission, but the most important thing is to take your decisions quickly, thus playing at slow speed will be a must in certain situations. Nothing is for free in this campaign, and you'll have to work hard for every objective.
Boys, we are under pressure here! For an expert player the balance will result very good, while many others will surrender before never ending attacks. None of the enemies will give up without a bloody struggle. You can be defeated quickly (or late) in each scenario. Richard created enemies who never rest and react with huge counter attacks, so forget the hide and buildup approach to win, you'll be called to be very aggressive in this hardcore campaign. Perhaps it might have been better if it was a little (very little) easier, but nevertheless, fun as hell.
Very creative campaign. The second scenario is divided in two "chapters", while during the last level I relived a part of one of my campaigns, the naval battles in Indochina, from the Indian point of view. These "links" among different campaigns are really cool, and point out that AoE fanatics really like to go beyond from just playing a game. All the objectives are varied, and often they are used in an original way; for example at some point you are called to have a spiritual enlightment by researching three different technologies that you must figure out.
Map Design: 5
Wonderful. Every graphical trick is used in a clever manner, along with an expert approach at real world mapping. The terrain is extraordinary, and the landscape around you includes thousands of cool touches. Every tree, rock and berry bush is placed in order to create a convincing environment, while the cities really made me to think. Someone may say Richard's style it's a bit overdone and gets confusing, but I'm not that one. I look forward to steal all of those nice eye candies and use them in my next campaigns. I'm joking? No.
At first I thought the title was rather uninspired, then I had to change my idea. You will meet really many characters during this campaign, and their deeds are described greatly. I love it, while many other players may get confused by all those exotic names. Alas, that's the deal if you want to enjoy a big epic adventure like this one. And what to say about those monumental bitmaps? The word 'paintings' would be more appropriated, especially for the first one. Great job, Richard.
Historical Rating: 5
The massive historical section leaves no doubts about the research done by the author. The campaign spans roughly 3000 years of Indian history and even leave you in the mood for researching more informations by yourself. Each scenario is based on an important period of ancient India, depicting it clearly. You'll witness the dawn of the Indian civilizations, then you'll visit the Mauryan Empire during Asoka's reign, finally you will sail eastward to expand into the Malaysian archipelago. All of this in three wonderful scenarios packed in this unforgettable campaign. Hats off.