The Story of Shaphat
Shaphat woke up to the sweet aroma of the Sepia bloom. His hands were stained with blood and he was standing next to the grave of his brother. He could hear the alligators fighting in the river and see the gold glistenning in the forrest below. He looked away from his brothers grave and walked away knowing that many more battles are still yet to come.
Help free the slaves of Machir and repel the Machirites from the Sumerian's most sacred sites. Take controll of our hero Shaphat as he advances through the ranks of the Sumerian Foot forces.
This entry got sixth place the Microscopic Map Contest. Only contest reviews will be allowed and any other reviews made will be changed to comments by the Granary moderators. This will be moved to a permanent section when it is created.
Note: To play this entry you need the Tribalism Teaser modpack. You can get this at: http://aoe.heavengames.com/dl-php/showfile.php?fileid=2003
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Official Review and Scoring
Helelix's "The Story of Shaphat"
First Thoughts: Once seeing the title, the first question that pops to your mind is: Who the hell is Shaphat? Well, answering that question is exactly what the job of this campaign is - and it will not remain unanswered. The Story of Shaphat is a five-scenario campaign taking us back to the Sumerian era approximately around 4000 BC. Yes, you heard, it correctly, FIVE scenarios! (To be honest, actually - it is just four.)
Quality over quantity as they always say - I feared the maps are going to be rushed, empty, or incomplete. Judging by the name of the protagonist, I feared a twisted, impossible-to-follow storyline. Well, I was terribly wrong. Five scenarios, four maps, and lots of micromanagement is exactly what this campaign about. Micromasters, put the sunglasses on and start cooking!
1: Playability (4.6)
I was struck by the playability of the campaign. Very nice. I didn't even have problems with pathfinding! I do not know how the author managed to construct his scenarios to be compatible with the ragtag pathfinding engine of the game, but it sure worked. The author can take that as my personal congratulations.
So, if we have a campaign that has a high playability rate, why not give this a five? The lack of beta-testing from the author! Yes, yes, it is important. The very last scenario, the fifth one - the loss condition is actually a victory condition! If Shaphat, the hero, falls, the player wins - so, the only way to lose that scenario is via the menu's quit game button. Not too nice. Without this so pitiful mistake, this campaign would get a far higher score for playability.
I really had no other problems. I tried; I really tried to find something that hinders playability - but nothing else does. A well-deserved four-point-six for this one.
2: Balance (4.9)
This is a campaign about micromanaging your units, I soon got to realize that. If we take that into consideration, we have to rate this campaign accordingly. All five scenarios contain cutting edge micromanagement problems that are up to the player to be solved. Your enemies will most often be short swordsmen, cavalry, or hoplites - but then again, their placement ensures that you get a somewhat different situation every time you ambush a pack of these baddies.
I did miss an introductory part. No, not a tutorial or anything - the second scenario (the first real one) could be a slight bit easier. Do not get me wrong, I have no problems with difficulty - even managed to tackle the last one, which involved a full cargo hold of thinking - but it is always nice to have the difficulty of a campaign circle upwards, from easier bits, towards harder bits. This continuous increase in difficulty was what I missed at a point; but still, it's just a minor thing that bugs me - and to be honest, ONE: it isn't even that important, and TWO: the first active scenario (the 2nd one) is actually not -that- hard.
3: Creativity (3.7)
I wanted to give this a four. The whole campaign is so nice. But this is not a four. Nice use of Blind Lame Priests, nice use of gaia units, nice use of hidden pathways in the forest - something that's not too common these days - so yeah. This campaign has potential, even when it comes to creativity.
But why, why always Short Swordsmen? And Hoplites? And Cavalry? There are oh, so many units in the scenario editor. Why not add some archers? Computer player archers are noted for their most irritating retreating micro-strategy. The computer players can safely micromanage the hell out of those units, literally, why not utilise them as well? Or some siege weapons to make your army dance around a bit? Of course, don't make them dominate the field - just have them blend in with the armies, to serve as an auxiliary force; much like it's been throughout history.
A good micromanagement campaign needs various scenarios to put your abilities to the test. This campaign does not include these. Of course, you will be an expert at managing a hand-to-hand clash by the time you finish this campaign; but aside from a couple of bowmen, you won't get to see any ranged units.
My other great concern is the victory conditions. Kill the enemy. Eradicate the enemy. Nullify, exterminate, destroy. I beg for some difference - well, at least when it comes to the last scenario, your objective is to take out the Ziggurat and not eliminate the hostile army.
4: Map Design (4.5)
Hats off! Not a four, not a five, exactly inbetween. The first scenario is marvellous. I do not mind that it is reused once, who cares? After all, you have three other maps as well; and the first, "explore this" scenario only has a real meaning if it is duplicated. The Golden Forest, the bridge, even the battlefield clearing, seamlessly executed - with narrow passages among the trees, and, better yet, AoE's pathfinding can even handle it all. I enjoyed playing on that map, it should be a fine example for many scenario designers. Finally a bridge with (some) depth to it. Refine that technique a bit, and you are there. That's the second best bridge I have ever seen.
So the first map gets a map design rating of five. It is a clean five. As we progress through the campaign, however, the seamless execution of map design slowly deteriorates, and by the time you reach the fifth scenario, you get a lot of terrain-brush painted land, which is good for a start, but it needs some variety - decoration, whatever. The last scenario, I would personally rate it a 3.9. The other two maps were exactly inbetween the nice detail of the first one and the (little tiny bit) neglected last one, so in the end it is a 4.5 for this one. Would actually be a 4.3, but I take into consideration the work put into all these maps - after all, there are four of them, and neither of them are bad.
5: Story/Instructions (4.4)
Instructions are clearly given. You don't have to check back to know what your goal is, because your objective is always linked to the story, which makes it easy for you to remember. On the other hand, the author could have come up with something more varied than "Destroy the enemy" - but that is for the creativity section.
The campaign includes scenario instruction bitmaps. Not necessarily of superb quality, and they are usually of little to no help, but at least they are there, alive and kicking - which is the absolute minimum one would expect from a serious competition entry, nope?
The story, well, I first feared it is going to be twisted; but it turned out to be a far better construction than I expected. The scenarios build up nicely, one on top of the other, and so does the story develop. Win and loss messages are, well not necessarily too deep, but are at least descriptive. The author has a nice talent for building up his thoughts and then putting them down on paper (screen). Nice.
-- Overall (4.42)
Overall, not a five-star campaign, but is well on the way. The fact that multiple scenarios and multiple instruction bitmaps are incorporated do have a nice drag on the score, at least in my opinion; but I will not alter it now. It is a 4.4, and it deserves it. On the other hand, I would like to ask the author to correct at least some of the mistakes I mentioned here, it would definately be vital. Once done, we will get a campaign that is definately going to be worthy.
I always say if I see potential in people. I usually do, it just depends on them if they want to improve and polish their knowledge - in this case, we have a knowledge that's already somewhat polished; but there are still some things to improve. Go ahead, correct these; go for perfection. You -can- do it.
Oh, and as a sidenote: Correct that losing-winning bug in the last scenario or I will start thinking about taking away from this score. :P
Playability: 4.5 The Story of Shapat is a nice campaign, most scenarios are FF/puzzle style, but the first is just… A scenario without enemies… an exploring scenario or something… Shapat is sometimes shifting appearance, making him difficult to recognize at some times. The TT mod has not been widely used, only for flames on the building rubble, at least some goats would have been nice.
Balance: 4.2 The balance works, but at some points it feels a little bit easy. You’ve got enough time to do whatever you want, as the enemy is often set to passive. Often the key to winning is to stay out of fighting at the start. Gaia units you find will often make a big part of your army, and you quickly learn to search everywhere for new recruits.
Creativity: 3.7 Having all the Scenarios FF style gets boring after some time. You mostly win by destroying a player or a specific object and the only way to lose is if Shapat is killed. You’ll always control a small group of warriors, almost always weaker than Shapat. Your allies and enemies are also similar, cavalry and shorties, sadly adding a repeating introduction battle to every scenario…
Map design: 4.0 At first it seems like a very nice map designing skill, but as the leaves disappear, the maps become a little bit disappointing. Paths are just desert on the ground and some areas are just empty grass plains, beaches have some shallow areas but not much work done to them either, but those maps aren’t terrible either.
Story/Instructions: 4.7 An excellent story, once again I play as some kind of Sumerians, But the world is all different. With the Introduction scenario being a dream I get a little confused… So… I just wake up and now I’m Shapat, fighting the Red player because…? I would like to see a little bit more background for this war…