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Bandits II: Ballad of the Red Star

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An enjoyable scenario.


The plot was rather confusing, since it draws on the same stuff as the Echoes series, which seemed like TM was making things up on the spot with no planning and then displaying it all in huge sequences of large dialog boxes with no chance to go back and read it again. I think Bandits I benefited from being more self-contained and not including TM as a god-like character.


How about publishing a plot summary of the whole series for confused people like me?


That aside, there was a lot of action, and a lot of impressive sequences. It was more open-ended than most of TM's stuff, with actual sidequests.

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This scenario is very enjoyable. It has an amazing plot, and so many interesting techinques in it. Node work was brilliant, and the NPCs were pretty helpful, except that at the near the end of the scenario, they all were struck down. The Ultimate Weapon at the end was a real killer, and I had to frequently had to switch between the Scenario and the Character Editor. I was playing with a God Party and I still got nearly beaten up by Rakshasi, Undead, Rogue Warriors, and many other types of creatures. Honestly, I had to keep looking at Hint File to find out what I should do. Anyway, combat is the main challenge this scenario provides.


At the end the reward was tremendous, but after the Aftermath movie part, I recieved a "General Protection Fault" message. That might be a bug that needs some attention.

As for everything else, the scenario was excellent.


Rating: Good

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I mostly concur with Khoth on this one, except I have lower standards.


TM is among the most adept scenario designers in the history of Blades of Exile; whether or not you like his stories or his personality, his dedication to designing and his encyclopedic knowledge of the editor are impressive.

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First, I will say that I was quite impressed with the scenario overall and the level of nodework was splendid. The programming was excellent despite the fact that most of this had been done before.


I thought it was really good, but I probably will not play it again. The main reason for this is the combat. As the programmer of Spy's Quest, I tend to be a little more sensitive to that horror and see some aspects repeated here, although not nearly as bad.


There were lots of NPCs fighting lots and lots of monsters. The only problem is that there are too many of both. Although TM spares us from mindless combat such as fighting twenty zombies in one room and six vampires in the next and leaves it to the big fights, I would have rather these been scaled down. The major fights had these problems:


1) Too often I found myself trapped by my own NPCs and their summoned creatures. Although the designer cannot directly control this, he/she can limit the abilities of the NPCs so this is not a major issue.

2) There were lots and lots of monsters just to serve as cannon fodder in these fights that more or less just lengthened the fights. 3) Finally, I found most of the creatures in these fights to be quite uninspired. Anyone can go in and make super-high stats and some of the fights (save the parts with the nodework) felt a bit newbieish.


It is a pity the advances in nodework could have not been applied to the combat more. I would have preferred the combat been more node based rather than the traditional combat. It would have made these fights a lot more interesting.


The plot is still somewhat confusing by its nature. TM does a good job of fleshing things out. However, all of these names, places, and factions are really difficult to remember at times and I often feel the need to take notes on just who is who to keep things straight. I'm not sure how to improve this other than rewritting the plot. Perhaps a book as a special item that explains some of the important details to serve as a reminder??? I wish I could be more helpful here, but unfortunately I am out of ideas on this.


Now for the score...


Well, to be honest I am not sure. TM put up a very, very superb effort and put a good amount of work in this. As I said, the nodework was excellent, but not revolutionary. And although very good, I really do not have the energy to play through it again -- the combat (which was fortunately restricted) took too long and there really wasn't anything I had not seen before.


So this puts it somewhere in between an 8.0 (typical solid adventure) and a 9.0 (boarderline masterpiece) on my scale. I noticed a few small errors such as graphics in the dialog pics seeming weird and the text was cutoff in at least one space. Also, some of the graphics were...well, not exactly esthetically pleasing. Now these are not big things, but little things like these (that could be eliminated) tend to shape my score. So I think when I weigh the excellent but not revolutionary nodework versus the icky but not excessive combat scenes, I find myself right in the middle. I'll give it an extra 0.1 point for the nuclear reactor and weapon.



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Definitely TM's best, but far from being one of my favorites.


Pros: Great nodework, mostly nice graphics, good pacing.


Cons: Where do I start?


TM is the one and only scenario designer who makes his stories too complex. In nearly all of his previous scenarios he's made this worse by refusing to give us all the information. Bandits 2, thank TM, doesn't suffer this flaw, but is still very confusing. It's maddening to try and remember who is who and who they're allied with and who their fighting against and who their alternate identity is and who they're allied with and fighting against and who the other half of themselves is and is allied with, and well, you get the idea.


The best way to sum up this complaint is in the character Katothen. Now, he's a major character himself, but he also has the ability to split into two different people. These guys are Sathoj and Billeck, who are rivals with each other for the Imperial throne. Plus, each also has another identity as a Mysterious Figure (MF1 not to be confused with MF2, though they are in some way the same person). The purpose of these characters is beyond me at this point.


Plus, TM likes to make his subject matter as big as possible. We have huge wars and utter genocide "For a greater good," whatever that is. In Bandits 2, he adds an interplanetary aspect. I can't say much other than SOMETIMES, LESS IS MORE!


Having the author included in the scenario as the originator of all civilization on Ermarian was a bit of a drawback, too. Not to mention that the sequel has nearly nothing to do with the original. And that the huge plethora of overpowered characters (including one who can shatter mountains with a single stroke of his axe) makes your party look a little bit unnecessary.


But, in spite of all this, the scenario is actually quite good. If you completely ignore the storyline and settle back to have fun, it's not bad at all. Not unlike some Hollywood action films - good dumb fun. Good

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It's just not good enough. It has all the plot problems as any Echoes scenario (and, for all intents and purposes, it's Echoes: Bandits 2) and there's some things about it that rub me the wrong way.


Let me start off with the characters - allusions are fine. But blatant use of names and trying to be 'clever' with them annoys me. Manifesto is Marx's son? Please. And, in my view, there's not nearly enough character development - everything is just building on what we were supposed to have learned in Bandits.


Town design is another sore point. Then again, it is with most scenarios, IMO. Towns seemed designed to specifically hinder the player, and use of magical doors and custom barriers just makes it worse. To top it off, some people don't talk, and one character's 'look' description is 'This man is' without anything else.


Custom graphics were plentiful, but that doesn't mean that they were used well. Some of the graphics were ugly, some didn't make sense, and in some places (Fort Tituania) a juxtaposition of floor styles smacks of an amateur scenario.


Still, the nodework was good, the story was well thought out, and most importantly, it was fun to play even as it had me sighing on the side. Combat was a little difficult for a singleton just coming out of Quintessence, but I managed. Another important note - the scenario moved along swiftly and smoothly, and it certainly had me caring about the characters and involved in the plot, despite its flaws.

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To date, Terror's Martyr, Last Son of Krypton, has desigend roughly 87 scenarios. Bandits II is his best work.


B2's narrative progresses well, from start to finish, with no real hiccups to speak of. The only problem is, I can't quite figure out what the hell the narrative is. The dialogue is akward to say the least, and it doesn't that this is easily the most confusing scenario, plotwise, among the finalists. It has something to do with Terror's Martyr, Ithids(sp?), badass Raksashi, various SuperFriends, and communism. I think.



I took a class in speed reading once. Read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It involves Russia.


The technology here is state-of-the-art, but often gets in the way of itself. (E.g., in many main battles, my NPC "allies" did more damage to me, and got in my way more often, than they actually helped.) The Reading nodes, (not invented here

) are extremely well done.


Graphics are a mixed bag, I think the "skirt" look on a lot of the uberNPCs is a little silly, but hey. (Ever try to fight in a skirt? Doesn't work so well.)


In the end, it's a very fun scenario to play, but narrative confusion brings it down.



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TM, the people's beloved chairman and renowned scenario designer of unparalleled talent, claims this is not an Echoes scenario and no foreknowledge of Echoes is required to play it. He's right about the second bit.


From the moment they begin the first mission the party is thrust into typical Echoes fare, in which the party is taken on a guided, combat-filled tour of the power struggles between godlike beings. Fortunately, the scenario takes care to give the player at least a working knowledge of what's going on at all times, and frequently goes over and above that in detailing the characters' histories (although their motivations seem shallow at times).


One thing the party can be assured of is that they'll never lack direction; even if the party finds itself wandering aimlessly at some point (hard to do, given the sheer density of plot in the scenario -- run around for long enough and you're bound to run into a quest), there's a Current Quests list in Special Items as a reminder of what they're supposed to be doing.


On the other hand, Bandits 2 is far from perfect. Several bugs and frequent typos detract from the playing experience. Combat is sometimes excellent (Shadow), sometimes a little unfair (Phyreus), sometimes merely tedious (Steroid Imps) and occasionally downright surreal (the final battle).


The NPCs, as mentioned by others, occasionally do more harm than good, especially the spellcasters and Burning Walls; in some fights, my NPCs killed me more often than my opponents. The scenario has plenty of hidden items and optional quests, but the way to solve some of them (and indeed, sometimes their very existence) is so obscure that a few can feel more like easter eggs.


Not only is Bandits 2 one of TM's best scenarios in its own right, it serves as a far better introduction to the Echoes franchise than Echoes itself. Play it if you're at all interested in TM's scenarios. Good

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Not that bad, really.


Though a little bit absurd at points. Sometimes even a bit.. well... dumb.


Example: The Baleful Fasces weighs 60 pounds. It is a 1-handed weapon. This is a minor gripe, but I still think it isn't realistic. Even with a whopping big ax-head on it, I'd guess that a fasces would weigh 20 pounds at most.


Example: I won't go into it here, but one "joke" in the Universal Church was pretty crude. I think that's all I need to say. I didn't find the Church offensive, but I didn't think it was that funny either. Also, referring to the Universals as group they are a parody of (Catholics) was a very stupid idea. (Note: I am assuming that TM is a Catholic - people of a given religion generally tend to poke fun at their own religion.)


Example: The NPCs are simply absurd. Marx dishes out more damage, on average, than DM2's Amber, and has paralysis touch to boot. Doctor Wu breaths darkness for 50+ damage. Simba (the lion) is capable of killing most ordinary monsters with one hit. Katrina (the wolf) does more damage per turn than Ralkan in Falling Stars. Wasazore and Olindbar II dish out more damage per round than my PC. (Which says quite a bit - duel level 5 Runeswords do a hell of a lot of damage, and Cornell's Ring gives 21 AP hasted.) The exception is Manny, who is almost useless.


Example: TM's appearence as the originator of civilization was egotistical and - I'll put it bluntly here - just plain stupid. Even in a humerous scenario, that really does not fly well. I had trouble keeping my lunch down when I read that text message.


On a related note, having characters shout out the names of the spells they were casting kind of vexxed me. Not only does it just sound dumb, it is a dumb thing for a wizard to do.


And finally...


Example: The bad guy has no obvious motives at all. He just seemed to be a distillation of pure evil, all the way down to his (completely ineffectual) "Beam of Hate" spell. Also, Katothen's motives for... well, just about everything... are totally unexplained, if they even exist. No matter what everyone says about him being such a great guy, he acts in such a blatantly insane fashion that I'm really not inclined to trust him.


A good lot better than TM's other scenarios - at least the few that I've played - but it still needs some work.




EDIT: Sorry, I forgot to add that the book-reading thing is simply great. It should be included in every scenario. (Shame on Jeff for not giving us enough nodes!:b )

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Hah, finally found one where my rating was deleted. Anyway, I played this under time constraints due to the fact that I was judging for the sixth contest. I used a party that had just beaten Falling Stars, and I just barely managed to win this. It was interesting but nonsensical at times. Still, it was a fun experience. Good

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Although I have not played many scenarios, TM remains consistent as one of my favorite designers. This scenario, Ballad of the Red Star, is unquestionably my favorite scenario that I have played as of yet. I love the way he managed to make it a huge long scenario using only the one-section outdoors from the original Bandits.


The special items, quests, and NPCs were very nicely done and, despite my having an old version where Myron was impossible to get, I had a great time with this scenario. I really like TM's style, it was a lot of fun, and I found the technical quality to be excellent. Recommended!



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I enjoyed this scenario, but sometimes (well, more than sometimes) it was hard to take seriously. It features TM as the creator of the entire Empire as well as being the most powerful man alive. It features silly dialogue ("PREPARE TO FEEL THE WRATH OF COSMIC SIEGE!"),absurdly powerful items and monsters, and plenty of bad language (to think it's rated G...).


That being said, the scenario was still very enjoyable. I liked looking for NPC's and other cool stuff, and there were some good fights (such as Elben-Ka). A very fun, if silly, experience.



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