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At the Gallows

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This the ultra-marathon, the Ironman of BoE scenarios. Massive - so much so that it can be too much, thus lessening the overall enjoyment. You need a lot of time and patience to complete it. Few or no unusual items to find/buy. Beware of the industrial ooze slime! Highly recommended epic. Good

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Ah, AtG. While the combat is mostly not *too* unreasonable at the right levels, it's far too easy to stray into places you have no business being early on and get yourself killed. The plot was good overall, although the last part felt tacked-on to add extra length to the scenario; I would have much preferred to see a little further development of the Morbane plotline. And yes, the last dungeon is as close to pure evil as anything in a Blades scenario can be (although it's possible to take, uh, shortcuts by going in and out of combat mode at certain places). If you like well-written epics with challenging combat, this may well be the best scenario you ever play; if you can't stand combat, it might be best to stay away from this one. Best

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Very Long!


This is a great scenario. Everything I can say about it has really been said by other people. I guess my only real complaint was that I found it a bit TOO long, I was actually looking forward to finishing it, near the end. Other than that, it was a great scenario, one of the best I've played. Best

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I'm afraid I've never liked big, exploration-based scenarios. Putting that aside, there were a bunch of things I didn't enjoy about the scenario. A lot of Stareye's villians have a serious need to visit www.eviloverlord.com for some advice. I really didn't think Odix (I betrayed my friends into having their souls eaten for love!) was a consistent character, with his rapid deathbed conversion. Combat was frequent and usually boring. Worse, it often had no justification within the plot. While the scenario is by no means bad, I don't think it's nearly as good as most people do. Good

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This Isn't My Favorite Scenario


But mostly because I don't like lots of combat and lots of dungeons and lots of puzzles. For what it does, there's none better.


Alcritas’ Review




Stareye’s first scenario, Spy’s Quest, has unfortunately and unfairly become the punchline to too many jokes. It wasn’t a perfect scenario, to be sure, but it was an incredibly innovative and technically impressive scenario, and the amount of work put into it promised great things from the author. That was quite awhile ago. In fact, to put things in perspective, the first scenario to be released after Spy’s Quest was On A Ship To Algiers.


So, finally, the long anticipated second scenario from Stareye, At the Gallows, was released, and into the scenario folder it went. After finishing, I determined such a work certainly deserved a review, and so I began writing this.


Unfortunately, for a long period of time, I had a great deal of difficulty articulating just what I felt about the scenario, until it hit me! At the Gallows isn’t a scenario! What it was, exactly, was a bit more difficult to determine. At first, I thought At the Gallows might be a movie — a Jerry Bruckheimer movie to be specific. Gallows seemed to be some sort of cross between Armageddon and Die Hard. In fact, I determined that “At the Gallows” was a terrible name for the work, whatever it was. Around this time, I personally renamed the work, Spy Hard.


But then it occurred to me, “No, Spy Hard is too good for a Jerry Bruckheimer movie. It’s got to be something else, instead.” That’s when I realized what Spy Hard really was — a whole other game. In fact, you wouldn’t go wrong referring to it as “Exile IV.”


To the game itself — Spy Hard is incredibly long. The game is divided into quite a few chapters, most of which are the length of a medium scenario by themselves. It would be impossible to adequately deal with the scenario holistically, instead I shall break down each of the segments of the game as I perceived them.


The Presentation


Spy Hard builds its world a bit differently than any Blades scenario played before. Outdoor sections, rather than keeping towns represented as single (or in the case of castles/forts two or three) squares, radically expand the towns on the outdoor maps. Towns themselves may take up 4x4 or 5x5 blocks, surrounded by walls, in order to restrict the entrance points. It’s an interesting idea, but its repeated throughout the scenario, and just becomes part of the background quickly.


The outdoor world is built into connection 2x2 sections. Each section has a dominant theme — there’s the “Imperial” section, with all of the bureaucracy, the “Mage” section, with all of the magic schools, the “Industrial” section, the “Nephil” section, the “Troglodyte” section, and so forth. It’s a weakness of the scenario that everything is segregated into nicely, convenient packages as such.


World development works well from a sort of tour-guide perspective, in that you get to see (or at least, told that you got to see) a lot of different places. Most of this occurs from the outdoor perspective, however. This was probably inevitable, given the 100 town bug, as plot-necessary towns take up, well, all of the 100.


The Macro-Mechanics


It’s actually a bit surprising, given Spy’s Hard immense length, how linear the scenario is. Essentially, the game proceeds as thus:


1. Initial Mission


2. Do whatever you want for awhile


3. Run into the Trogs and defeat them


4. Get mission from the Prime Director


5. Complete mission from Prime Director


6. Go back to 4


It’s difficult to generalize the missions, but typically each mission will require you to acquire X number of plot coupons before proceeding. Typically, you can acquire the plot coupons for each mission in any order you want, but you’ll need all of them to go forward. After completing the mission, you head back to the Prime Director, who more-or-less tells you (vaguely, of course) what to do next. (Actually, that’s not quite accurate. You never actually manage to talk to the Prime Director. Rather, you’ll develop quite an involved relationship with the Prime Director’s door.)


The Micro-Mechanics


Well, let’s see... Given that there are roughly 80(!!!!) dungeons you have to finish to complete the scenario, it might be a bit difficult to describe them all. It is possible, however, to make a few broad generalizations. First, Stareye clearly has either not read Drizzt’s The Evolving Role of Dungeons, or believes it to be blasphemy. Just about every single dungeon is required, just about every single dungeon is packed full of monsters, tricks, traps, and puzzles.


Individually, the dungeons range from good to excellent. During chapter four (I think, the Wizard chapter), there are quite a few truly exceptional programming sequences, notably the communication device, and the interface with the android.


It’s amazing, and a testament to Stareye, given the sheer scope of the scenario, that redundancy isn’t an overwhelming problem. But to say things never get a tad repetitive wouldn’t be fair either. (Relatively) early on, you’ll run across a very neat “puzzle potion” (hard to describe, you’ll figure it out when you get there). It’s very clever.... the first time you see it. With slight variations, it comes up several more time, each less interesting than the first. The Pentagram puzzle is very similar (although far more interesting, at least the first time.)


Of course, traditional puzzles (or, if not specifically traditional, then puzzles we’ve seen before) appear as well, and in spades. Spy Ha... (alright, alright, I’ll stop that now..) At the Gallows, much to its credit, always avoids the complete absurdity of these obstacles that many scenarios run into, but often the explanations are very strained (more on this below).


The Plot, Summing Up


Strictly speaking, there isn’t a single plot in At the Gallows, but rather two plots, whose connection is tangential at best. Basically, after you complete the first plot (which, by itself, might just have been the longest scenario ever), you’ll run smack dab into another plot, and start anew investigating that one. The second plot is tacked to the end of the first, it would seem, simply to extend the game, and give the party 35 more dungeons to vanquish.


I don’t know that I loved either plot, but then again, I don’t think that really matters. Gallows isn’t about plot. Fundamentally, Gallows is an action/adventure above all else, make no mistake. The dungeons, the quests, the puzzles do not serve to advance the plot. Rather, the plot serves as a justification to get the party to go to one dungeon after another.


To be fair, there are two places, just before the ends of each of the plots not incidentally, where this paradigm shifts, and the dungeons serve to advance the plot. These are exceptions — they are the five minutes of heart to heart between the buddy cops before they burst into the arch villains lair in one final, bloody battle — they do not invalidate the theme of this scenario.


Is there anything wrong with this paradigm? I shall leave that determination to you. What I will say is, that, as an action game, within the BOE framework, Gallows is perfect, or at least as close to perfect as is achievable within Blades.


Will you enjoy this scenario? Imagine a spectrum, from 1 to 10, representing your personal preference in scenarios. Let the higher numbers represent a preference for combat and puzzle solving as ends in themselves, intrinsic goals. Let the lower numbers represent a disdain for combat and puzzle solving as intrinsic goals, and a preference that the aforementioned should serve the extrinsic goal of plot development.


The higher on the scale you place yourself, the more you will love Gallows. If you’re a 10, you will almost certainly find Gallows to be your favorite Blades work of all time.


If you consider yourself to be a “1” on this scale... Okay, maybe you shouldn’t play Gallows. But if you’re even a 2, I strongly urge you to play this work, with the full expectation that you will enjoy it (for a good long while, I might add).


My Score — Best

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Perhaps a bit too long...


Although I actually like large scenarios, I think the towns and quests started to look a bit too similar. I never finished it but still, it seemed very balanced and polished. Maybe I'll start over someday because it had many interesting things in it, especially details.



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I'll write a review for this one, but for here, all I'll say is this: 232 saved games.


This is the epic of epics, and I am amazed that Stareye finished this one. A quality work throughout that slips a bit in a few places, but this is more than made up for by the vast and yet detailed world that is presented here. Definitely one of the best and not to be missed. Good

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I'm with the Creator on this one - Good


I'm one of those people who needs really above-average writing to LOVE a scenario, and with a scenario the size of AtG, it was impossible to make every description, every NPC (by that I mean talking personality) memorable. The dialogue reminded me of Exile 3, but without Jeff's goofy dare-I-call-it wit. You know:

Look: 'You see a cranky old wizard sitting at his desk, poring over some ancient scraps of vellum.'

Name: '"I'm Cyrus. What do you want?" he demands in a hoarse voice.

Job: '"Well, I'm a wizard. I can sell you a few spells, if you like."' The rest of the scenario took a similar pattern.

Too much wandering, too many RPG cliches, not enough originality. It needed more *sparkle*.

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I finally completed this epic scenario today. May I just say that it was very enjoyable to play. There were numerous node tricks and excellent town and dungeon design. It was one large scenario though, divided into eight chapters.


As it as been said, each chapter was like a medium size scenario on it's own. The plot of each chapter was pretty interesting, my favorite being the mages' disappearance chapter, I think it might have been chapter 3 or 4.


Dialogue was supreme, each NPC had plenty to say about the plot and the areas they reside in. The outdoors was designed very well too. Like in Spears, in At the Gallows made the towns appear in rectangular form, instead of the boring single square. It was very good.


But the one thing got really got me was the length of the scenario and how that if you drop a critical item (say, Alchemy ingredients) needed for a recipe or to open a door, you may have to restart the scenario. It happened to me twice. Fortunately the third playthrough I made it through with no error.


I liked the invoking and banishing elements puzzle in the Sanctuary of Gynai, it was really well done.


But what really stands out is the difficulty of the final dungeon. I swear, I don't know how Stareye designed and solved this puzzle himself, and he made it two levels! Not to mention that the monsters regenerate very rapidly, and to make things even more interested, he threw in an invulnerable monster that summoned Ur-Basilisks! It was suprising that I made it through that thing, and I was playing with a God party. Boy, what a challenge that dungeon was. Still, as irritating that dungeon was, it was well designed.


The ending was pretty basic though, and it made me wonder if I could have done something else and maybe get a better ending. But I'm satsified with the ending I got. This scenario is definitely worth a replay, as the story is awesome, and I think I missed some side quests. So therefore I will.


Overall this epic scenario was very well designed, and it must of taken Stareye months, or maybe even years to develop. He worked on it very well, and it is definitely an excellent scenario.


My Rating: Best

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  • 10 months later...
  • 8 years later...

Well..  I'm finally getting around to reviewing the scenario. Played it several months ago. For me, AtG was sort of a mixed bag. I wasn't overly impressed with the storyline or towns, and didn't think the scenario has much atmosphere (despite some attempts). The storyline seemed to change after every mission: at first, it's about some evil cultists, and soon enough, it's about a vampire, and so on. Furthermore, towns often felt completely indistinguishable from one another - right down to the characters and services that are provided. The differences only felt a few lines of text away (one is a magic town, the other is a mining town, etc).


It's not all bad, though. There was some combat that really frustrated me, but there were also some good fights and puzzles as well (some seem to possibly be an inspiration for AC2?) As frustrating as some of it is, there's definitely stuff worth checking out in AtG, and it would be a shame to miss the good stuff as a result of the not-so-good stuff. And for all my complaining about the towns, there's still more meat to it than many other newbie scenarios. 


That being said, I recommend it: there's plenty of good parts if you can deal with the bad parts. But I can't imagine AtG being a scenario being one I'll go back to over and over. Maybe part of that is I felt the "epic-sized scenario where you start with a level 1 party and work your way up to a strong party" was done better in AC1, AC3, and even Stareye's own "Spears."


Average (for clarification, 7.9/10 on the old scale, so just a point away from "Good").

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