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Restless Souls

Mac/Windows

 

Author: Excalibur

Difficulty: 1-4

Version: 1.0

 

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Composite Score: 3.5/5.0

 

Best: 0.00% (0/2)

Good: 50.00% (1/2)

Average: 50.00% (1/2)

Substandard: 0.00% (0/2)

Poor: 0.00% (0/2)

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Keywords: Avernum Universe, Beginner, Short

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

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Playing Restless Souls was an interesting experience. I found it a sort of dreamlike experience, and messy like a dream too. The ultimate plot is pretty standard meat and potatoes for a BoA scenario. Monsters are killing people you go find out what is causing it and kill them dead. The mayors daughter is missing and everything. What makes Restless Souls unique is the writing style and town/outdoor design.

 

The writing will either make or break this scenario for the player. Its filled with metaphors and attempts to give a bit of meaning and poetry to every little description no matter how important. It reminds me of reading Something Wicked this Way Comes back in middle school. For me most of the individual metaphors fell flat, either not making sense of just not working poetically. Some of them were so nonsensical they just made me laugh. However! That said, as a whole work I actually enjoyed it. It creates an unusual atmosphere, and while I wouldn't want it in every scenario I appreciated it was going for something different.

 

The town/outdoor contributes to the atmosphere in strange interesting ways too. The outdoor sections supposed to be set in a relatively wild area and there is crap everywhere. It's the opposite of the empty beginner outdoor syndrome. It seems like almost every single tile has some sort of terrain on it. The towns and dungeons definitely show the piecemeal eight year design. The first dungeon feels very claustrophobic with tight hallways and all the rooms practically folded on top of each other. The main town was like the outdoors, seems like you wouldn't be able to walk anywhere without tripping over five different bushes. The final dungeon begun with annoying portal puzzles and ended with big empty hallways. But like the writing, while it was clunky and messy it contributed to the atmosphere and I ended up liking it.

 

For the actual storyline I don't have much positive to say. Like I mentioned earlier it's pretty standard issue, just with some guilt tripping about the empire wiping out a bunch American Indian stand-ins. It was nice that the villain offers a chance to help her instead of immediately killing her outright, but I didn't find her case compelling in the slightest. So there might be a bit replayability there for some players.

 

I can't say too much about the combat. I actually played this as a level 78 singleton only wanting to experience the story, but was quite surprised to find the 1-4 level recommendation is not quite accurate. I actually died in combat once and by the end of the scenario had picked up 4 levels! There is certain demon that changes its stats based on your character's. At first it seemed like a monster out of Exodus with a gigantic health bar, and I wondered what was going on until I started remembering what a homunculus is. Pretty cool monster design there.

 

One small nitpick I have is that there are a lot of floor tiles left over in areas the player can't access. As an over leveled character I was using far sight a lot looking for secret areas and kept seeing this leftover junk. It was confusing and ugly and should have been cleaned up.

 

So all and all despite its flaws I enjoyed my time with Restless Souls and think it's worth experiencing. I hope Excalibur will consider taking another stab at designing.

 

Rating: [rating]Good[/rating]

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Restless Souls was a good start, but there were some areas the could have been improved. The conflict was interesting if underdeveloped. There were a few grammatical errors here and there, and I had mixed feelings about the outdoors - it looked nice, but it was very hard to navigate. There were some good tactical challenges, but a lot of combat seemed too easy. Finally, I wish that there was a portal that went straight to the town after meeting the woman, it seemed annoying to have to solve the puzzles twice just to deliver a message.

 

Other than that, it was fine. A promising start.

 

[rating]Average[/rating]

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Having never played Restless Souls until now, I figured that this was as good a scenario as any to get my scenario-reviewing feet wet, so to speak.

 

Story:
I wouldn't say that the story itself is anything to write home about. Aside from a somewhat interesting underlying tale involving a long-dead tribe, it progressed like your standard "kill big bad dead to end plague" story with an added twist should you feel sympathetic. What I DO feel warrants mentioning, however, is the writing itself. As a sucker for well-detailed, descriptive text in scenarios, I enjoyed the writing in Restless Souls. I concede that it did get a bit excessive at times, such as most conversations with the mayor. In these cases, less would have been definitely more.

 

Combat:
My view will be a bit skewed here since I was admittedly too lazy to whip up a new party for this scenario, instead using a level 10 party that I had naturally ran through a couple other low-level scenarios. To help make up for that, I cranked the difficulty up to Torment. Combat was manageable for the most part, though the groups of Homologous Imps encounters throughout the scenario were fairly difficult to deal with even with my inflated health pools: fast, fairly durable, could debuff party members with curse and weakening, and had access to the dreaded Ice Lances spell. I count myself very lucky that I only ever got hit with two Ice Lances at a time despite the groups of imps often numbering around four or five per fight.

 

Design:
First and foremost, the level design was all laid out very, very interestingly. From the first town and onward, I was extra diligent in my headbanging for secret walls, and my efforts were often rewarded. Very little space in this scenario was wasted. I also loved how you rewarded especially curious players with a level of Far Sight just as the amount of headbanging was starting to get tiresome. My adventurers were no doubt nursing sore craniums by the time they made their leave from Charon. As for the environments, it was shocking just how much detail was stuffed into every nook and cranny of every map. It seemed to give everything an "untamed" feel to an extent that I don't think I've seen in any other scenario. Alas, said detail did border on overly noisy in quite a few places; difficulty navigating the terrain was a common problem in the outdoors, especially in the trek between more civilized lands and the actual wilds. Some kind of shortcut being unlocked if you decide to help the source of the plague would have also been very appreciated, and the scenario kinda dragged along at that point without one. Finally, I think each Homologous Imp giving the entire party an extra 100 experience on death may have been a bit overkill even after taking their strength into account. A smaller amount, like 50 experience, probably would have been a bit more balanced.

 

Scripting:
While not necessarily impressive in their own right, I very much liked the small cutscenes that took place throughout the brigand lair early on in the scenario. They kept the dungeon from feeling like a standard hack n' slash, instead breathing a little life into them and reminding the player that the brigands are people, too. The puzzle involving raising and lowering sections of floor to get by was also a pretty cool one. I liked how the level shifting also applied to the stairs that you needed to climb to get to the exit portal; a detail that wasn't necessary, yet was added anyways.

 

Bugs/Errors:
At one point in the outdoors, I was able to walk through a slope and into/out of what was supposed to be a solid wall. Early on in the final dungeon, entering an ambush in combat mode resulted in a graphical error involving some Haste-like particle effects persisting on the room's statues. Shortly afterwards, I seemed to be able to enter a portal through a wall, letting me skip a large portion of what was intended to be a portal maze; I didn't even notice that there was one until my second pass through it. While it may have been intentional, the wording of the text involved in killing the final boss after helping her leads me to suspect that it was not. Even from a story point of view, it wouldn't make sense to carry out your original mission and expect a reward from your original employer after betraying them.

 

Overall, I give this scenario a rating of GOOD. It was a very enjoyable experience, and I'm glad that I managed to catch wind of it.

 

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