You are hired by merchants to recover their goods looted from caravans thru the desert, and deliver them to the port at Aqaba. The Nabateans, operating from their famed base at Petra, are suspected. Multiplayer also : No
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This is a neat scenario using many different styles in one. You must recapture stolen treasures from all over the map, which proves quite a big task. A solid all round scenario from Grex, one of the best early designers for AoE.
The scenario begins with a small party, and in quest style you head off to find the arifacts. With conversions and discoveries your party will grow larger, and the mission will become more of a fixed force style. Finding some of the treasure will require you to explore all of the map thoroughly, while other treasures are well guarded in an enemy fort and you must think out the best plan to get in, take the loot and get out. Finally you must build a wonder to establish yourself as Shiek.
The mix of styles is great, and once you arrive in the right area the mission allows you to build up your army. This is done very gradually in fact. Right from the start you can gain food and use it to build up your equipment, making your soldiers much more effective in combat. Then you reach the next point and can develop towers, then mine gold, and finally train troops and advance in Age.
The resources are laid out nicely so that even the large mine will be depleted a lot by the time you get the wonder up. Finding the treasure is a real challenge, I couldn't even find the last one, so I must say to explore the map thoroughly, once again. Use achievements to see who owns the artifacts, but remember there are 3, and Gaia does not have its own section under religion.
The mission itself sounds fairly unappealing, "get some artifacts, build a wonder", but its the map making that the creativity is in. The map is like a giant maze with unique paths and blockages throughout the desert. Exploration is handled well, with units cleverly hidden.
Map Design: 4
The map is lacking a little in some areas by todays standards, but for a big map it is quite impressive. I found some of the path finding issues a little frustrating, and the last artifact will be hard to find. The map is what makes this mission so much more than it sounds though, and you'll have to tame it to win.
The story is short but solid, with a little history that you should read as well. It's a nice break from the popular themes of more well known civilizations, instead you play as a small army hired by merchants to recover stolen trade goods. Plundering caravans was quite common along the trade routes near the Red Sea, and it's a subject few designers would use to make a campaign.
Well, fours all round it is. A solid mission, and one much better than its downloads meter will ever show.