The Persian Wars #4: Blood at Thermopylae
The challenge of recapturing the conflict at Thermopylae is an intriguing one. My goal here is to really give a sense of the brutal struggle that went on day after day over the same fifty feet of ground. To do this I broke the battle down into a day-by-day and even hour-by-hour set of missions. The storyline picks up after the end of my Persian Wars #3, and will be continued with #5. Enjoy! And feel free to e mail me with comments!
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Ho Hum just another sensational campaign from Gordon Farrell. I loved the debate between the priests. I love the way Gordon manipulates AOE to deliver real historical outcomes. He does not stint. The detail from the maps to the instructions is spot on. Just stop mucking around and download this now!
Well, I played this and was quite exited for it, but it had a fair share of issues. Thought I'd write a review.
Playability: 2.3 average
Scn 1 & 2: 3.5
These scenario basically just involve rushing your units to places on the map before your allies take too many losses. It's nothing particularly exciting, but it works.
Scn 3 & 4: 1
I don't really see much of a choice but to give these ones the lowest possible score. Why? Simple, they're bugged. You just can't win (without typing "home run"). I have no idea how this slipped past the designer, I'm guessing perhaps an update broke these. Either way, I tried several times, and while I met the conditions outlined in the instructions, nothing happened. The scenarios keep going on until eventually you run out of units and lose.
Balance: 2.5 average
Scn 1 & 2: 2.5
The difficulty in these missions consist of completing the objectives before your allies are slaughtered. Obviously the amount of time you have to accomplish this in is very luck-based, as the Persians may not attack the allied position as quickly or powerfully in each play-through, and the Allied units might not make the best decisions either. Furthermore, it's a matter of knowing exactly where to go, once you figure that out, the scenarios devolve to crossing your fingers and hoping that you get there before your allies die. This might make the first playthrough impossible (you can not afford to explore the wrong path). Once you do figure out where to go, there is no real challenge left in the missions, ruining replayability.
Scn 3: 3.5
Again, you might not know exactly where to go the first time, and that will cost you. Once you do, though, you can have fun microing composite bowmen against the Persian onslaught. There's no penalty for losing your allies, making this scenario much more about just managing your troops correctly while you rack up 50 Persian kills. A tough but doable challenge. Unfortunately the victory condition is broken, if it weren't for that this mission would actually be balanced quite nicely.
Scn 4: 2
This one's just a bit of a mess. You start out swarmed by enemies and must somehow forge a path through them to the artifact and then escort it back. Meanwhile, you must keep defending the spot you started at, since some of the units there mustn't die. All in all, I'd say this requires massive amounts of luck, wrestling an artifact from enemy control while so thoroughly outnumbered will just have you cross your fingers and hope the enemy units haven't cluttered up at the artifact. Again, the victory conditions seem broken and/or very unclear.
Obviously, this campaign is a retelling of history and therefore it focuses less on eye candy, cool tricks and other flashy stuff and more on geographical accuracy and historicity. That said, there is nothing truly original going on. The victory conditions are also quite simple, (build a wall and a barracks, kill a specific enemy unit, kill 50 enemies, retrieve artifact) with the added pressure of doing these things before the Persians win the battle.
For some reason, half of the Persian infantry units are as good as your Spartan hoplites, and even better than the Thespians and Thebans. Obviously, the Greeks' superiority at close quarters infantry combat was the sole reason the Battle of Thermopylae is the stuff of legend. This kind of ruined some of the immersion, and seemed inconsistent with the historical and geogrpahical accuracy of other design areas.
All in all, the campaign gets the job done and the point across, but won't be winning any prizes for originality.
Map Design: 4.5
All 4 missions take place on the same map. While the map isn't particularly flashy and spectacular, it is clear that the designer went for a different approach and focused on geographical accuracy, and the amount of time and effort invested in achieving just that is quite apparent. The missions are too short and stressful to enjoy eye-candy anyway.
Obviously, the designer can hardly claim credit for the story, since it is historical. Even so, everything is superbly written and the designer's knowledge of the subject is extensive. The instructions and historical notes are informative and entertaining. It is nothing short of superb.
The campaign is great in terms of historical and geographical accuracy, and it is obvious that these areas received the most attention. In contrast, gameplay and balance seem rushed, luck-based and buggy.
Still, a considerable amount of effort must have been put in this to make it so accurate and informative. Only perhaps it serves a better purpose as a history lesson than a game.