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Falling Stars


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  • 4 weeks later...

Falling Stars was the most hyped BoE Scenario of all time. At least the one that actually finished. The plot is rich, offering so much to do. My one issue is that much of the combat on the main plotline felt rather bland. While I don't fault Redemption for this because of it being older, Falling Stars had a couple of years by which to improve on this.

 

Nonetheless, still one of the best scenarios of all time.

 

BEST

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  • 2 weeks later...

THE CREATOR

 

Very cool in places and no bad flaws, but I wish so much of the quality wasn't hidden away from the main plotline. See my review.

 

Generally speaking, I think it unfair to judge a scenario without playing through it completely at least once. In Falling Stars, I deviate from this. It’s unfair to judge this scenario without playing through several times.

 

This is a scenario with HUGE replay value. There is just so much in it that you won’t find in your first playthrough that it’s impossible to form an accurate opinion of it. My only beef here is that because of this, during the first playthrough some aspects may feel somewhat lacking.

 

The programming in the scenario is impressive, to say the least. Aside from extensive use of special spells, special NPCs and his trademark cinematic sequences, Alcritas produces a couple of very nice technical innovations.

 

The Debug Check. This simply prevents the player from exploiting the “Debug bug” (as I like to call it) by stopping him from entering the scenario in debug mode. It functions in very similar fashion to the level check in An Apology. Unlike the Apology level check, it is not melded smoothly into the scenario. The player is certain to notice it, even if he is unable to figure out what it is or why it’s there.

 

The Reputation System. This, I assume, is a very much enhanced version of the Of Good And Evil karma system. It comes off very well indeed. Your reputation affects nearly every aspect of the scenario, and nearly everything you do affects your reputation. Don’t go breaking into people’s homes!

 

The combat is pretty unbalanced, in my opinion. Too many dungeons are too easy. Rokig Kodar (orc version) only has two spellcasters in the entire dungeon, and neither are particularly good. I can (and have) easily beat it with a level 1 party. Many places are similar. On the other hand, that final fight... ouch.

 

Speaking of the final fight, this is easily the most criticized aspect of the scenario. I understand that Alcritas’ reason behind making it so difficult was to encourage the player to search out additional firepower throughout the scenario. I just don’t think it works very well. The first time through, you won’t know it’s coming, and won’t know you need to find help. In fact, the deteriorating conditions make a player want to go through to the end as quickly as possible, where he is promptly hammered. Subsequent playthroughs will be much easier, as you’ll know to prepare and you’ll have a better idea of where to find NPCs, Legendary Artifacts and suchlike.

 

I can forgive the author for the difficulty of the final fight. The idea behind it is good, even if it doesn’t really work. What I can’t forgive is the fact that all there is to it is a big empty room with monsters in it. Not only is it long and hard, it’s very boring. The “final fight” immediately previous is much, much better. The cramped space forces the player to adapt his tactics, and those wraiths are a very nice touch. Not to mention that it’s plenty tough enough itself.

 

Another part that becomes much easier in later playthroughs is the Under Ground Library (UGLI). Quite frankly, it ought to called the Everlasting Infernal Library (EVIL). When I first went in there it took me no less than three days (game time) of searching to find those books. There is a map provided, but it is almost as confusing as the UGLI itself until you begin to get a feel of the layout. After the Ancient Library in Redemption, I feel strongly inclined to wonder if Alcritas just has a thing for big, confusing libraries. It’s much easier to find your way after going through it a couple of times, but I found that first time to be little short of torture.

 

The plot is best described as more of the same. If you like the storyline of Alcritas’ previous scenarios, you’ll probably love this one. If you aren’t so keen on them you’ll probably still enjoy it, but not as much. I have one minor complaint here that several parts of the scenario assume the player doesn’t know what’s going to happen next. In most scenarios I would have no problems with this at all, but most scenarios are not as reliant on replay value as Falling Stars. The plot is the one aspect of the scenario that does not improve with repeated playthroughs. Still, it’s plenty good to start with so it’s not a big problem.

 

The custom graphics file for this scenario is something massive, and of good overall quality. Graphically it’s not the best scenario out there, but it’s certainly one of the better ones.

 

Special NPCs are used to a great degree. They are pretty hard to find at first, but if you explore thoroughly (much harder than it sounds) you’ll find them. I would have liked them to talk after battles like in Doom Moon II, but I’ll let it slide.

 

I highly recommend that you download this scenario and play it twice at least. I wouldn’t have chosen it to win the Fourth Scenario Design Contest, but it is a very good scenario and is worthy of the honor. I give it a score of Good.

 

Falling Stars is rated R and is designed for high level parties.

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BOOTS

 

Good

 

Who doesn't know Alcritas is a genius? Maybe only Alcritas. His scenarios do sometimes force a player to engage in mind-numbing labor for no other purpose than verifying how intricately-conceived and inventive are their devices. And Falling Stars, more than the other scenarios, does fall into stretches where one has little to do besides dutifully horde and kill, kill and horde. The fascinating elements of FS -- and there are many -- tend to be things you marvel at from the outside while pausing at scenic overlooks along the plot's slaughtering way (unlike the better Redemption, where you are immersed in imaginative scene after imaginative scene). Everything you could ask for, and plenty that nobody ever thought to imagine, is here and working spectacularly well: it just has a clinical feel.

 

 

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DRIZZT

 

See the review. There are things I might do differently, but nothing I could improve upon.

 

Warning! Spoilers abound!

 

Still here? Haven’t turned and run because of the spoiler warning? Then you must be one of the many who have played and enjoyed the latest scenario by Alcritas, the ninth (gasp!) in a line of fine works and winner of the 4th Scenario Design Contest. Either that, or you’re just stubborn enough to stick around despite the presence of a few minor spoilers. Don’t worry, nothing important will be revealed, but all the same . . .

 

It should be said, for those who don’t know it already, that this scenario is a continuation of the storyline that brilliantly ties through all, although some certainly more than others,of Al’s other scenarios. There is a short summary of what has gone before, but you will only be cheating yourself if you let this serve as a replacement for playing through On A Ship To Algiers, Of Good And Evil, Redemption, An Apology, and Lamentations.

 

Falling Stars is a monstrously huge scenario of epic ambitions and proportions. You are thrust back into the Nordakar — UNL conflict of previous scenarios, a part of the Nordakar army and are tasked with a few typical BoE missions. Of course, it’s not quite that simple. but Alcritas has created an amazingly rich world to be explored, and the flow of the plot takes you quite nicely along.

 

What first sticks out is the sheer massiveness of the world that has been created to be discovered, and how well Al has realized a war between nations, complete with cities that are destroyed, friendly patrols, roaming bands of bad guys, among other things. I was a bit overwhelmed by everything at first, but once you get used to the size and learn where everything is, then it is not so bad at all. I really got the feeling I was involved in an actual war, and the missions my party was sent on fit nicely into the story. The last is exceptionally done, a very long journey into enemy territory where the atmosphere is_extremely_ well done. One nice touch was the enemy uniforms that can be bought (or found by the observant), and then my party could change between these and our standard ones (via Special Items) as the situation warranted. Very nice.

 

The last mission really could almost be a scenario in of itself, and standing alone would still be highly rated. The final battle(s) have been critized by some as too difficult, but I found them winnable with my non-cheater party, the first time I played through, without help (this will be explained later). True, I did resort to the Character Editor a few times, but only to heal and restore spell points, things I could have done with potions had I been better prepared. The strategy I used wasn’t anything revolutionary, just lots of anti-magic, blessing, but you need to intelligently choose your targets. My party was successful when they left alone those that could be left alone, flailing aimlessly because of said AM clouds or my highly blessed party.

 

Fortunately enough for us, Alcritas was not content to merely extend his storyline a bit with a highly competent scenario. One thing that I really enjoyed was the volume of new items to be found. New stuff was everywhere! From healthy armor to books chock full o’ bats, this was a fun addition. I like keeping souvenior items from good scenarios I’ve played, so needless to say Feodoric will be wearing those Hot Pants again in scenarios to come.

 

Custom graphics also abound, most of the monster variety. Just like the items, Al gives the Blades party many new monsters to fight, all of these balanced and not too difficult. Perhaps that new addition to the UNL forces was difficult, but an AM cloud and Protection spell usually were all that was required.

 

Enough already, you say? But there’s more. I would estimate that a good half of the towns in the scenario are fully optional, part of side quests not related to the main story. You see, Alcritas has created NPCs that, as Special Items, can join your party, and will on many occasions join the battle to fight in your defense. Al is not the first to do this, but he certainly extends their use. What’s more, not all who you find will join you right away. There is also something Al calls the Reputation Flag, which keeps track of your good and bad deeds, and people respond to you based on how good your reputation is. This is subtle but VERY important for the NPCs and side quests, and also the only gripe with the scenario that I have. Perhaps this applies only to this reviewer, but I would have liked to see the following text in the hint file or somewhere in the scenario: DON’T BREAK INTO PEOPLES’ HOUSES! AL IS WATCHING! Those of you who do such things for the purpose of map completion, beware, this may not be the perfect scenario for you. I worked myself into a corner the first time I played this, not entirely realizing what I had done, and before long, no one would join my party, or even send me on side quests, and I finished the scenario with a whopping zero NPCs.

 

With a solid plot, and the myriad of extras to be found (I didn’t even mention the five Legendary Artifacts quests) this is, in my opinion, the most expansive and complete world Alcritas has created to date. Just when many of us expected to find some resolution or identities of some of the major characters running through Al’s storyline (and didn’t Al lead us to believe just that, at least when FS was first announced?), Falling Stars has upped the ante to another level. An oft-used analogy in literature is that of the onion, whose many layers are peeled off to reveal other layers, just like a well-layered and filled out story. Well, Falling Stars is the biggest, fattest onion yet, just when many of us thought we were getting to the middle.

 

When thinking about a rating, 10 being perfect and 1 being the worst, I think many critics often confuse aspects of a scenario that could have been done differently, and aspects that could have been done better. In Falling Stars, there are certainly things I would have done differently, but these don’t necessarily deserve to detract from the score, as things that could be done better definitely do. Al’s town design is distinctively spartan at times, many dungeons and some of the towns have _just_ enough in them to keep them from becoming a rather boring wander-fest. This is, I think, more of a scenario design philosophy issue, where many of us fill every town to the brim with special nodes and fun stuff, Al generally keeps his towns light enough to keep the story (and his design effort) moving along at a brisk pace. Pylos and Xancrest (in places) come to mind as good examples of this, but they certainly serve their main purpose, to advance the storyline or function as the capital city, without detracting from the story’s telling. Perhaps the final quest is a rather long and difficult gauntlet, but would making it shorter or easier improve the scenario in any way? I don’t believe so.

 

Some will certainly disagree, but while I can find things I would do differently in Falling Stars, none can be found upon which I could improve. I recommend it to everyone, well, perhaps everyone except the burglars among you. You will find that something worse than Kendrick’s exploding plants awaits, a scenario that cannot be completed to its fullest.

 

Therefore, I do believe this scenario deserves a rating of a perfect 10. It is technically more advanced than Redemption, has a story more original and better told than Of Good And Evil, more fun to play than Tatterdemalion, and has more to discover than all of my scenarios put together. This is the best scenario I have played, and perhaps the best I will ever play.

 

BEST

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ROSYCAT

 

Good

Call me a nitpicker, but I deducted points because I thought that that friendly cockroach completely wrecked the atmosphere. It was like in Avernum 3, where you're walking around in the Pit of the Wyrm, and it's completely dark, and you hear these dripping noises... when suddenly, a text box pops up with "Nooooooo, espresso hasn't been invented yet!" Admittedly, the roach had a place in the scenario, and the Xian Skull was just an easter egg, but I would have appreciated it if the folksy attitude of the insect had been dropped.

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ZIPPY THE PINHEAD

 

Good

 

Very good scenario. My only gripes are:

 

a) Some of the tasks are too... erm... basic. Not original or interesting enough.

 

B) The larger gripe: not enough is done with the NPCs. No friendships among them, no character development, nothing, really. They were all either flat (Krug) or very vague (Raven), and played too small a role. I would have preferred them to be handled a la Shadow of the Stranger - an integral part of the scenario.

 

Also, some item weights didn't compute. Armor af Wizardry - made from a ~20-pound bar of mithral - weighing a single pound? The one-handed Mithral Blade weighing 45 pounds?

 

Now for what is, in my opinion, the scenario's best feature: the old, boring items are almost totally replaced by new ones. Staves that provide magical shielding, rings that blast foes with electricity... There's no end to the cool stuff you can find.

 

Again, a great scenario, even though it has a few flaws.

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S.M. ADVENTURER

 

Nearly perfect...

 

This scenario is a purely excellent adventure. First of all the custom graphics were nice, and the reputation system was ingenius too. Also all those NPCs, but I could only find 3 of them. Finding your way through that Underground Library was rather annoying however, even with the map of it included with the scenario.

 

It had many interesting quests and I loved how things changed over time. The towns that get destroyed if you wait too long. It also had an amazing movie sequence.

 

Overall I enjoyed playing it.

 

My Rating: Best

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LAZARUS

 

A massive epic that somehow puts you in the middle of a nationwide war without losing focus or forcing you to wander aimlessly. Great atmosphere what with the changing world. Tons of side quests. The complaint that much of its content is easily missed is a legitimate one; that and the subpar combat are just about the only things holding this scenario back.

 

It's still great. My all time favorite, and unlikely to ever be surpassed. Best

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This is the Scenario of Scenarios, the ultimate BoE epic. I have to say, it was a very good scenario. It encompasses the reality of war, and has lots of cool innovations, such as the NPC system, the reputation system, lots of new monsters to fight, artifacts, the RuneSword, and more. I wasn't a huge fan of the final mission (it was both too hard and dull), and there were lots of areas that could be improved (e.g. The NPCs could be better as characters), but it is still a very good scenario. Best

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