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HIM: The Wolf at the Door

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HIM: The Wolf at the Door

Mac/Windows

 

Author: Thralni

Levels: 23-27

Version: 1.1.3

 

[composite=eyJ0aXRsZSI6IkhJTTogVGhlIFdvbGYgYXQgdGhlIERvb3IiLCJ0aWQiOiIxMjMxNiIsInRhZ3MiOltdLCJiZ2FzcCI6eyI1IjoxLCI0Ijo0LCIzIjozLCIyIjowLCIxIjowfX0=]

Composite Score: 3.8/5.0

 

Best: 12.50% (1/8)

Good: 50.00% (4/8)

Average: 37.50% (3/8)

Substandard: 0.00% (0/8)

Poor: 0.00% (0/8)

[encouragenecro]

 

[/composite]

 

Keywords:

Edited by SylaeBot
Automated Sybot edit; worker IPB::csrThread/vanadium

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Ephesos   

(ported from SV)

 

I really liked The Wolf at the Door, and felt it was a substantial improvement over HIM. Allow me to explain.

 

Most of HIM's first installment was just aimlessly wandering around the mines and piecing together plot, which I did enjoy. But when it came right down to it, the party had very little input on how the plot proceeded. Arguably, little has changed, as the story is still flat-out linear (like most recent scenarios), but the party actually gets to do a bit more.

 

This seems like a good enough time to talk about design elements. The little things, like the openable containers, were nice, even though I don't see why my PCs would've bothered closing them, and the creaking sound got annoying after a while. Also, like Nioca, I was mildly irritated by the repeated cough, but I was fine with it in the long run. If anything, it helped to break the silence in the quieter towns. The towns themselves were interesting, even if our good friend linearity does rear his ugly head again... I feel like it wouldn't have been too much extra effort to let you go through the ruins a little more freely.

 

The real substance of the scenario appears when you discover that...

 

 

...the miners somehow carried a zombifying virus out with them. When I first saw this, I groaned. Undead? Zombies? No. Just no. But then I realized a few things:

 

1. This was way more zombies than usual, and the prospect of an entire town rising up in unlife around me was legitimately frightening.

2. These zombies were not just going down in one hit.

3. They were respawning.

 

 

 

This, combined with the scenario's urging me to get out of town, spurred me onward and saved this review. I've maintained that I'm not so much against the presence of undead as how they're usually implemented, and I'm impressed that Thralni did such a good job of implementing survival horror in BoA. The roof-jumping puzzle, which is something I've wanted to see implemented for a while, was wonderful. My two objections are that it depended on the rather arbitrary 'energy point', and that you couldn't go and get yourself horribly lost and screwed. tongueold.gif

 

Next, the church. OMG CUSTOM MUSIC! It was a wonderful touch on a wonderful plot point. No other scenario is going to care whether you leave the doors open or not, and that's just the kind of detail work I want to see. And the door-bashing was a good touch, even though my 2-handed spear from Emerald Mountain wasn't properly recognized.

 

I mean, the big twist (omg you're gonna be zombies too) is a slight letdown, and makes me really wonder about the sequel. But I liked the flight from the town. And that's all the spoilerificness needed...

 

Anyway, I see it as a marked improvement from the first installment, and I look forward to seeing this kind of quality from Thralni in the future. A job well done indeed.

 

Rating: [rating]Good[/rating]

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Smoo   

HIM: The Wolf at the Door starts off where HIM number one ended; that is when spoiler is spoilered and spoiler spoiler. Seriously, do not play this scenario if you have not played the first installment of the trilogy. Yes, trilogy. I'm spinning in my grave already. I hope Thralni plans to combine the three scenarios into one when he is done with them. Anyway, HIM-1 was a nice small atmospheric adventure and HIM-2 two is even more so, on both counts it would seem.

 

We begin by wandering through some spooky woods, encountering grizzly sights while we're there, and notice that there is a town nearby. So we head on there and encounter even more grizzly sights - to be more precise the party encounters a devastated town with blood everywhere, but no bodies. So the first half of the scenario is spent pondering who or what could have destroyed the town. Eventually, the enemies show up and up to this point I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Not that the latter part is bad in any way, for example I enjoyed the church with its slightly more creative door-bashing puzzle. And I heard no custom music, since I own no Macintosh.

 

The problems started when I found the particular clue that said something about toxic gas infecting miners. I responded to that info with a chuckle and "infected" people? What is this a modern zombie story?"

 

 

Turns out I was right which is a shame since I really have no interest in zombies.

 

 

But a bigger issue occurred when the enemies finally revealed themselves, the party is expected, actually outright forced, to retreat to the rooftops. But here's what happened in detail:

 

I was running towards the rooftop access when two baddies emerge from the alleys! "Oh noes", I exclaimed, and proceeded towards my goal in a straight line. Yet they caught me and started gnawing my rear guy's buttocks. "Alright", sez I. Time to fight! However, every time I kill a baddie another pops up inches from my party! I hate it when games do this! It does not make any kind of sense. There cannot possibly be an unlimited amount of enemies in town! Maybe I would have avoided this problem by entering combat mode earlier, but I did not even consider it because (I had read the Readme) I knew the combat wasn't real combat.

 

Then there is the rooftop sequence. It is an imaginative an rather well-executed sequence, but the whole energy thing is a bit silly. How long, exactly is the party going to rest? If it is no longer than a few minutes then implementing a specific rest option is completely unnecessary. If it is an hour or more than there really ought to be more severe consequences from it, apart from the hypothetical time running out. Speaking of time, apparently HIM-2 has a custom difficulty setting that shrinks/stretches the time limit of the scenario which might add to the replay value for some players.

 

My biggest complaint about HIM: TWatD is the size: like the original HIM, HIM-2 is ridiculously short. It did not bother me much in the first part, but here it slapped me across the face. Right when I thought I was getting somewhere the scenario was over. So what we have here is not exactly the beginning of the story and nowhere near the end of it. This is why I am conflicted about the score.

 

What is here is certainly good, but it is only one third of the story and thus I am unsure if it deserves to be called "good". But in the end, I suppose it does, since what little there is is certainly good enough.

 

Rating: [rating]GOOD[/rating]

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nikki.   

I can't really say anything that hasn't already been said about the scenario, but I'll still add my own slant on things.

 

HIM2 is a much better scenario than the first, and, in my opinion, sets up the final instalment brilliantly. At times, the scenario felt a little as if it were nothing more than a bridge between the first and last parts, dealing with the journey from the HMC to Harson, but it was much more.

 

Firstly, the aesthetics of the thing were brilliant. The level of gore was just right for me - any less and the dread that the scenario builds wouldn't be as strong or effective. The cemetery and paths leading up to town were, for me, the best-looking part of the scenario, but that's not to say the rest was ugly. My main problem with the layout of the town was that it wasn't always immediately obvious where to go. Also, another path around town would've been nice, but not entirely necessary, and from a design point, I can see why it is the way it is.

 

 

 

The zombie thing. I actually liked this. Whilst undead do tend to typically be overused, underpowered, and have a terrible reason for existing, I thought that HIM handled them well. Not as well as, say, Shades, but dammit, they were strong, and this made them genuinely terrifying. I beta'd this, and tried to fight them. And, watching your mana and hp slowly dwindle as more and more of them appeared was alarming.

 

 

The rooftops were very pretty, but I question the use of the resting feature. It's a very nice idea, but a nice twist would've been the baddies climbing upto the roofs if you stayed up there too long.

 

As said previously, the plot wasn't particularly strong here. Well, okay, it was, but it was never the reason for this particular instalment. HIM2 is a horror story. That should be first-and-foremost on any player's mind. I personally think Thralni managed to get this spot-on - it was exactly subtle enough for me. Throw in the disease, and, you get a really nice sense of panic - especially as the disease gets worse. I for one, loved the insta-death. If the townspeople could get sick and do so quickly, then the party definitely should be able to do so, too. And, there's nothing more terrifying than having one of your characters go down whilst you're trying to find off other attackers, and have to retreat to stop them tearing through you.

 

So, a score. As it stands, I'm rating this [rating]BEST[/rating]. It's certainly better than HIM, and I for one can't wait for the story to be resolved.

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From Nioca on SV:

 

SUMMARY - Part 2 of the HIM trilogy. In very short, this sequel suffers the way most sequels do: they just don't quite add up to the original. The beginning and middle were excellent, but the end wound up dying. It also seemed to have very little to do with the previous installment; a couple of references and the same party were pretty much it. It's a decent scenario, but I definitely think the original was better. That said, the town design was, for the most part, commendable, and there were a few interesting features built into the scenario via scripting.

 

Enjoyment - 5

Don't let the score fool you; I enjoyed the beginning part very much. Every moment had me hooked, exploring and trying to figure out what's going on. Unlike the original HIM, there was far less confusion, but still the same air of mystery. I didn't have a clue what exactly was going on, but it didn't feel like I was completely lost, either.

 

However the end wound up bottoming out and tarnishing the scenario for a variety of reasons (the main one being the plot, which is explained under the Plot section of the review). Among the non-spoilers was the time limit, which wound up being annoying due to the things it inflicts. Another, which was really an annoyance from the beginning to end, was this: at a certain point, the party starts coughing. This is represented by the cough sound being played. Not so bad, right? It's just played occasionally. Except it increases in frequency, meaning that it keeps happening. Over and over and over and oh dear God can someone get the party some lozenges? Sheesh. To make a long rant on abusing sounds short, the constant coughing was a massive annoyance, and sounds should be used in moderation.

 

Also, at another point, you're told to reach a certain location. Problem is, there are only a set number of routes without many visual clues to them, resulting in a lot of, "Don't/Can't go this way!" It took multiple attempts just to figure out where the heck I was even going.

 

Still, the exploration part and build up was fun.

 

 

 

We start where HIM 1 left off. There's still a little of that nutty-babble from HIM 1 in the intro, but thankfully, Thralni decided to steer away from that once the scenario gets started. Mostly. Anyway, it starts off with a mystery, and then keeps building it. An entire town seemingly vacated and slaughtered at the same time. Blood everywhere but no bodies, broken buildings, barricades, so on. Thralni outdid himself when it came to exploring the ruins and discovering what was going on. The same air of mystery in HIM 1, without the confusion. He also kept building the suspense and upping the stakes as the party starts to fall ill. This is the first scenario where the suspense was literally holding me on the edge of my seat, as guesses kept flying about the antagonist. Is it a beast? Something fierce tore through the town, and some of the barricades have teeth marks. But then, where are the bodies? Is it human bandits? It'd explain why nobody is here now. But why is there so much carnage, and how could a human rip through buildings like butter? It kept getting more suspenseful, with the party getting sicker and the carnage increasing right up until the big reveal...

 

...which is quite possibly one of the biggest disappointments in BoA's history. I don't mean to be harsh, but the entire scenario came crashing down as Thralni revealed that the antagonist wasn't some sort of special original foe that's strongly connected to the original HIM, but your average, practically brainless horde of zombies, turned by the disease your party is suffering from that came, almost trivially, from the HMC (the location of the original HIM). I was ready to scream at this point. Why, after such an excellent build-up, would Thralni go and use such a cliched and underwhelming monster? WHY???

 

Unfortunately, the scenario doesn't recover from this. Nor does it even seem to try; the rest of the scenario consists of running from the mob of zombies now after you with little probing further. You escape the horde and run towards the next nearest city. The end. There's a slight teaser at the end, if you look for it, but other than that, the big reveal winds up being the end of the plot.

 

Another complaint I have about it is that, despite its title, it really doesn't seem like a sequel to HIM 1. In fact, if Thralni had removed the references of the party's involvement in HIM 1, this could very easily be a stand-alone scenario. It doesn't seem to advance an over-arching plot in any way, and the title character gets a grand total of two mentions in the entire scenario. Quite frankly, it felt like the scenario had the HIM title slapped on like some sort of franchise.

 

Combat - 4

 

As Thralni points out in the Readme, there is no real (winnable) combat. And from the nature of the scenario, I think it ought to have at least a little. I mean, you're getting attacked by the antagonists, and they're supposedly ahead of you. Why shouldn't the party have to take a few whacks at them, thus furthering the menace of the foe by showing the player their strength? As it was, it was just running, which wasn't even all that difficult.

 

Design - 7

 

The town layouts were excellent. There was no mistaking it, the town was designed excellently, and was even complete with outlying huts. There was no outdoors, as per the growing trend, but they weren';t necessary. However, it was, at times, a bit too easy to get lost or turned around. Additionally, some of the things implemented in the scenario were made in such a way that anyone that didn't find just the right thing previously, lacked the designer's knowledge, wasn't following the walkthrough step-for-step, or was just down on their luck wound up royally screwed over (much venom sent towards the stairway chase sequence).

 

No major glitches as far as I can tell. Or, in fact, any minor ones either. In fact, the worst error in the entire scenario seems to be a mild case of uncapitalized-itis (no pun intended). So that's a plus. Though I have to say that a Content Rating of "E" is definitely not appropriate, due to the amount of blood and gore combined with the occasional profanity. It didn't bother me at all, but it's definitely misleading.

 

Graphics - 9

 

While not exactly what someone might call beautiful (what with the blood and all), it was realistically done and pleasing to the eye. The amount of blood wasn't overdone, though there was a lot of it. Wreckage was made convincingly, the rooftops were fantastic, and the church was beautiful. The custom graphics complemented the scenario, adding personal touches here and there. There was a slight little anomaly in the crypts with the lighting, but that's about it.

 

Scripting - 8

 

The very first thing that caught my eye with this scenario (aside from the title being uncapitalized) was the scripting. Right when you start it, you're presented with a difficulty option, allowing you to play it on Easy, Medium, or Hard. Doing so changes the difficulty of the scenario by reducing the amount of time you have to complete it. So I was already impressed in this department. It also includes a resting ability similar to the one you can use outdoors. However, I feel that having the final stage of the disease be a semi-random instant-kill was rather irresponsible. Additionally, as mentioned earlier, the coughing really should have been scaled back quite a bit.

 

The rooftop sequence was an interesting use of scripting as well, along with the monster placement in the final stretch of the scenario. Energy levels was a good concept, though it also was a little confusing.

 

Finally, the scenario has custom music in it. I'll give it the benefit of the doubt here, since us happy PC users can't get custom sounds on BoA, but I still appreciate the effort there.

 

 

[rating]AVERAGE[/rating]

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From Excalibur on SV:

 

Combat - Good: While the combat is challenging (and not too hard), it's a grind sometimes. I think the combat would have been better without the constant respawning during the party's first encounter with zombies. It did like the necessity to think; however, as I had to recall the quickest path to the barracks and execute everything in the way.

 

Indoor Design - Best: The design is excellent. The towns are realistic (despite the fact that zombies are totally fictional) and seemingly well thought out. The rooftops and church, in particular, are well-done.

 

Plot - Average: The plot managed to hold itself together, but it was as if I was dragged through the story unwillingly. When I finished the scenario I felt a bit left out, as I was a bit disappointed by the lack of mention regarding the aftermath of the disease and HIM in the province. I'm hoping he'll include more of that in the next chapter.

 

Technical - Average: Sometimes I had to bump into the roof's edge several times in order to jump onto the next building. The use of the door creaking noise for much of the custom terrain was a bit annoying.

 

Writing - Average: I think the writing is worse than that of the first one. There are some instances in which it is boring, such as the doctor's notes on the disease, and the unusual point of view did not tie into the story as well as that of the first one.

 

Replay Value - Best: Despite it's flaws, I still thought the scenario was enjoyable, and I think I'll play it again on a higher difficulty level sometime in the future.

 

Overall: [rating]GOOD[/rating]

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From Nicothodes on SV:

 

I had a lot of fun with this scenario. I liked the suspense as you first discover the town, and, being a huge fan of horror movies, when I discovered there were zombies I was really, really happy. Finally a horror movie where my shouts of "Don't do that!" are listened to.

Also, the zombie growls really startled me when they first started up, and they added tension. I second Ephesos's love of the custom music. It was so awesome! (I also agree that the coughing was slightly annoying, but as I was sick at the time of playing, there was going to be coughing anyway.)

I did run into a few problems technically, fortunately I was talking to Thralni as I played the scenario, so he was able to help me out. First, searching the desk didn't trigger the zombie attack, which turned out to be an error in the script, which Thralni very nicely fixed for me. Second, when I tried to go into the graveyard, I somehow managed to go into the outdoors. Thralni couldn't find a bug, and when I reopened my saved game and tried again, I went where I was supposed to go.

So yeah, enjoyable scenario, great one to come back to BoA for.

 

[rating]GOOD[/rating]

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From Jemand on SV:

 

HIM: Wolf at the Door is a solid Scenario. It is easily apparent that a great deal of work went into its production. I will rate it based on several applicable topics.

 

Gameplay/combat: Normally I would separate these, but in the case of HWatT (Now there's an abbreviation) the combat plays a fairly small part, and is most closely related to the gameplay. Throughout the first half or so of the scenario, you blunder through a ruined town. There are approximately 10 billion empty barrels to search (all with an overt creaking noise). Fortunately, there are a good number of text boxes to keep you entertained. Eventually, after taking a route that earns the Jemand Circuitous Path Award, you get attacked by the undead. There aren't too many zombies, but they are rather powerful. I was sort of unimpressed with the combat because it is, to be honest, rather lackluster. The zombies do nothing special. They are just tough. Some challenge comes from the unbelievably constricted space you are fighting in. I generally prefer to fight many weak things with varied abilities than a few identical tough things.

Another problem is that in the entire second half of the scenario, you are told to run from point A to point B. The town is a bit of a hazard, but also, the BoA engine does not lend itself to retreating. Monsters get to attack when you step away, and the zombies have as much AP as you do under normal circumstances. My method for surviving was to get ahead and then clog the alleyways by casting create illusions. Another problem that I had, is that once you are out of the town area that you have already explored, you are still told to run from point A to point B as though the four Horsemen of the Apocolypse are right behind you. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing where point B is, so this lead to much frustration. The advantage is that there isn't nearly as much of a threat behind you at any given time as the text boxes would like you to believe. I thought doom would approach if I lost any time at all. In fact I was usually able to beat off the two or three zombies behind me.

I will devote a paragraph to the roof scene, because it is rather unique. I appreciate it primarily for its aesthetic qualities, as it does look quite impressive. Unfortunately, I thought the way that "energy" worked was rather pointless. Every time you jump, you lose some energy. This has no detriment other than not being able to jump as much. When you run out, you must rest, which does nothing visible. This part also rather suffered from not being given good directions for where to go. I spent considerable time leaping and bounding across roads and alleys, going nowhere useful. When you jump, the view isn't reset to match the party's location, which annoyed me a little.

Throughout the scenario, you are becoming ill. I played on one of the easier settings, so that I would live longer. The coughing becomes annoying rather quickly. Unfortunately, in a scenarion as linear as this, there isn't really anything you can do to save time, so the higher difficulties settings just seem like a bad idea to me.

 

Plot: You arrive and find town empty. Where is everyone? Why is there more blood than at a vampire convention in a blood bank? How did you guess? The Undead have come to be pestilent! Apparently, the evil computer system, which is so reminiscent of HAL or GladOS, has created some chemical which turned the miners into Zombies! The miners then came home and turned everyone else into zombies! D'oh! But if the entire town is zombified, why weren't there all sorts of zombies at the mine? Why do they all hide until you read a book?

"Well boss, can we attack the pesky adventurers yet?"

"No, lackey #542, they haven't found the plot device yet! Keep hiding behind your pile of trash!"

The Undead are rapidly becoming hackneyed out of existence. The illness you have acquired is somewhat new to Blades of Avernum, but not much else. The constant fixation with blood left me a bit annoyed. Throughout the scenario, much is done to develop the atmosphere. Unfortunately, it is often done slightly amateurishly. "Oh No! Everyone is dead! That's weird."

 

Town Design: Pretty, if not functional. The ruined town has many custom graphics, some of which work better than others. The actual layout, for the heart of the scenario is a grid, with 95% of the paths blocked off, leaving you with a confusing maze. It isn't hard to make two paths around a given building, this level of linearity is wholly unnecessary. Once out of the town, things improve, there is a nice church, and a forest, and the stereotypical pointlessly windy road. The terrain is frilly and captivating, and on the whole, quite acceptable.

 

HIM: Wolf at the Door has a great deal of polish to it. There is the much vaunted custom music, although I would like to point out that this isn't the first use of custom music. There are also the assorted custom graphics, and the door you need to bash open with something. However, in my opinion there isn't enough actual scenario to go with the various features. All the superfluities in the world won't make something worth playing if it lacks substance. Toward that end, HIM: Wold at the Door, has little replay value. There are no custom items, you don't get much XP. I enjoyed playing it once, but I see no reason to return very often.

 

Still, the bottom line is that HIM: Wolf at the Door is an interesting scenario. It is definitely worth playing.

 

[rating]AVERAGE[/rating]

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From Lazarus on SV:

 

The second installment in the HIM trilogy is only tangentially linked to the first, at least plot-wise. Theme and atmosphere wise, it certainly belongs in the same series. While HIM played on the party's insanity and the HIM's mind tricks to set the mood, HIM2 relies more on visuals and descriptions of the surroundings. I suppose it worked, the town design was very well done, but as has been pointed out before Thralni was perhaps a bit too ham handed in pointing out how spooky the surroundings are. I get it, they're all dead... And it was bloody.... I personally thought the town design was good enough to speak for itself.

 

There's no real combat that you're supposed to fight, and the puzzles are rather pointless. The rooftop run, while very cool, didn't turn out to be as "puzzly" as it was billed. There's only one correct path, and it's as much guesswork to find it as anything else. Occasionally you reach a fork, and you try the wrong direction, then immediately reload when you realize you've wasted energy. That's it. Oh, and the specials ought to be called when you attempt to step off the roof, not when you approach the edge. It made navigating rather annoying. The illness timer, again while a rather cool concept, just turned out annoying. By the end, between the coughing sound and the spawning sound I was having to listen to about a sound per step. Yeah, annoying.

 

The plot was next to nonexistent. There are only three points where plot was dispensed, one of those three was a recap of the events of HIM, the second was a vague description pointing you in the direction of the third. That leaves the atmosphere as its selling point, and honestly is that enough reason to play a scenario?

 

It's good for what it is, but it really doesn't seem to be ANYTHING. There's no resolution, and no apparent reason for Thralni to choose to end where he did. Presumably the sequel will pick up where it left off, but I have to ask why he split it into two scenarios in the first place. The entire run through Pilgrim's Rest was a setup for SOMETHING, but that something just never came. He warmed us up with HIM2, and had me in the mood for some zombie ass kicking, or whatever the hell. Then it came to a screeching halt and we get to enter HIM3 with cold feet. I really don't get it.

 

My reaction after playing this was actually rather positive, but as I wrote this review the flaws of the scenario started gnawing at me. I give it a rating of [rating]AVERAGE[/rating], but that's almost completely contingent on a sequel that ties things up and makes this worth playing (This score could be higher with a good sequel, or much lower with a shitty or nonexistent one.) The quality is certainly there, but without a sequel I have to say "Why bother?"

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