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On a Ship to Algiers

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On a Ship to Algiers is a short but bumpy ride.


I just played this one for the first time. Maybe as a designer I'm harder on scenarios than the others. Or maybe it was good in it's day. But I found it to be a standard, monster on the lose tale. I had no interest in the characters, as they were basically there just to be monster food.


And the mage who helped me and lead me to the monster just made me feel like a pawn and not like I was doing or discovering anything on my own.


This was a linear adventure with virtually no role-playing elements as I was given few choices to make. I was offered some basic equipment, allowed training only when the author saw fit, and shops and services were dangled in front of me and then taken away when I most needed them.


On the positive side, the aboved mentioned limitations DID offer some challenging combat sequences and forced the player to use some tactics that he might not normally use. It was bug free and quite polished, though a little on the short side.


In closing, if you want a quick BoE fix with a couple of nice combat sequences, you'll probably enjoy this one.


My score is Average

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As always, it is good to notice that some of the following informations can be considered as SPOILERS.


Alcritas is now a prolific designer, but this was his first successful attempt. First successful, in the way that he began some bigger scenarios before, but let them down and decided to make Algiers, a smaller and more easily designable scenario. So, he had some designing skills before he did this one, and this is obvious since the beginning.


You awake on a beach, without any memory, and you soon discover that you will only have some skills left. Slowly, memories will come throughout the game. The island you’ve landed at is inhabited by hostile goblins and a few former human slaves that managed to escape their miserable condition. But another force begins to act, breaking death and havoc on the isle. Of course, it will be your part to stop it. But this won’t be easy, for sure.


Some parts of the plot are rather weak and not totally clear, in my opinion. Why the goblins would destroy all coastal settlements and not destroy Piraeus? Why was it necessary to come to such a tragic end to destroy the enemy, as you’re told at the end (no, I won’t tell you exactly what happens; I’m not so sadistic)?


Though, the plot is most of the time well-designed and well-written, and the dialogs and messages are rather verbose, in a good style (as far as a non English-speaking person can judge) that makes it intrinsically a good scenario (in opposition to scenarios where people answer monosyllabically to your questions, which is very obnoxious to me, being inclined to like literature).


What is really interesting is that it is a very dark plot, and enemies won’t be the only dead bodies you will find in your quest. This isn’t a happy story, and you will face many disappointments and sad moments. In fact, I’m even wondering if Alcritas didn’t make too much of it, only for the sake of creating a dark atmosphere.


As I said, you have limited skills at the beginning. In fact, you won’t find any trainer on the island. All you can do is find some people that will reward you by enhancing some of your skills. This feature (reminding some aspects of Tatterdemalion) brings an interesting aspect to the plot, as all your enhancements will be allowed by the designer, at the end. Magic will be very limited, and most of your tactics will need considerable changes. This is a somewhat challenging side of the game that I liked much. Plus, it is far more realistic.


To balance my praises, I have to mention the fact that Alcritas made a huge use of the multiple town entry nodes. Sure this is good from time to time, and shows some knowledge of the editor, but I doubt it was absolutely necessary to use it 6 times (in fact, so many that I’m not anymore sure of the number) for the same town! I found this annoying, as nearly each time I came back to Piraeus, the city was black, and I had to visit it entirely to see what has changed since I went away. Of course, this is another very realistic feature: when you come back in a town, you can rely only to your memory and cannot be sure places are the same and people’s situation has not changed. But this is used too many times for me, sorry.


I don’t want to be too critical with this special node, though. Algiers shows what is bad with a too extensive use, but also what is really cool with it. The events have an effect on the NPCs, and their attitude and dialogs change with time and the curse of actions.


To end this review, I’ll say that Algiers is a good and promising scenario. It’s a short one (compare to Rubacus, for example), not as good as Fog or Truffle Days, but good enough — after all, Fog and Truffle Days weren’t the first released scenarios of their respective designers. It isn’t the best I’ve played, but it gave me sufficient pleasure to have big expectations about Alcritas’ following scenarios (Of Good And Evil, Redemption). And this scenario is truly worth playing for itself, despite some small annoying features I above-mentioned.


On a Ship to Algiers is rated PG-13 (for clear reasons) and is for Low Level parties.

My score: Good — Caligula

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Lew Titterton’s Review


Caligula nailed this one with his review, and his score, Good


I will begin my own review with the most apparent thing in Algiers next to the plot: Variable town entry. This is indeed one of the hardest-to-master, and, potentially, one of the most rewarding programming aspects in all of the editor. Ian certainly did master it — to a fault, in fact. There were times when the same version of the town could have been used, with VTE replaced by simply called various specials, like place town encounter. Unnecessary VTE creates needlessly large .exs files and also requires lots of tedious remapping.


The plot itself is extremely structured, also at times to a fault. The linearity is confining and creates some plot holes. For example, one is certainly left wondering how the cockroach found at the goblin fort knows all that he does, or why the player must meet three random requisites before completion. The excuse is that without these pieces of evidence, the player wouldn’t have believed that Anytus — the villain — is the creature he turns out to be (I won’t give away what). This is a weak justification, especially since the three things leave it perfectly possible for Anytus to be what he is NOT (which again, I won’t reveal). Besides, the plot hinges upon the fact that the player is protected from Anytus by a gradually-declining magical residue. Given that Xenophon knows this, it would make more sense for him not to send you on a quest of explanation and instead just say, “I won’t bother explaining, just trust me and fight this thing as soon as possible.”


Graphically, Algiers is without any custom work, but it does a fine job of exploiting default Blades graphics. Rarely, if ever, was I left wanting for original art work. Indoors and out, this is a nice-looking piece of work, if a scenario filled with blood, bones, and dismembered carcasses can be said to look nice.


Of course, no review of this scenario would be complete without mentioning its famous (infamous?) opening feature: being stripped of stats. This annoyed me at first, but it later really grew on me. It forces very creative, careful gameplay, and gives Algiers a true originality. It will piss off some players, but don’t let it turn you away — you’ll get by it and have fun. I must say that the stat-stripping feature leant itself strongly to a 1PC party, because fewer total stats are stripped, and the skill potions could be combined, creating one reasonably strong beginning character as opposed to six basically helpless ones. I happen to prefer 1PC parties in most scenarios, but in Algiers they work especially well.


Ultimately, Algiers is a strongly-written, unremittingly dark scenario that falls just a little flat due to a plot that just doesn’t quite ring true. The care, creativity, and gloom put forth in its design are harbingers to Mr. Klinkhamer’s magnum opus, Redemption.

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On A Ship To Algiers is by Ian Klinkhamer. It is for Low level parties and is rated PG-13 (R in Blades).


Like Tatterdemalion, On A Ship To Algiers provides you with skill potions in the beginning of the scenario — also like Tatterdemalion, it strips you of skills in the beginning. However, unlike Tatterdemalion, it strips you of everything but your strength, dexterity, intelligence, hp, and spell points.


Of course, as soon as I realized this, I made a new party and didn’t spend any skill points on those skills which would be stripped. Waste not... perhaps Ian would consider it cheating, but he never mentioned it. Plus, playing with a 1-PC party made for an almost perfect combination.


This scenario is renowned to force you to play in a new way — because, having been stripped of your skills, you lack any weapon OR magic skills, thus leaving you very vulnerable. That, and the complete lack of trainers available, thus leaving you entirely at the designer’s mercy. Fortunately, in this case, Ian wasn’t sadistically evil. Just mildly nasty.


Opposed by goblins and lacking priest skills is very nasty. When they hit you, you are poisoned, and the only way to cure it is WEAK potions bought off Elaine. That definitely forced me to play in a new way — I hid behind the tables and occasionally leaped out to knock one of them over the head.


In fact, I would even go so far as to say you need those potions to win — I certainly needed the strength potions in the goblin camp.


Nearing the end, you talk to Xenophon and he asks if you trust him — if you say no, I can’t remember what happens, but I’m pretty damn sure it wasn’t supposed to happen. The final battle was one of the toughest I’ve ever been through — I had to go into the character editor to give myself some spell points to utilise what Xenophon gave me.


On to a side quest, I found the Foreboding Tower very difficult — too difficult, in fact. Whatever hints it gave, didn’t make the least bit of sense to me. I will point out that I didn’t finish it — any mental puzzle too hard is one I immediately hate.


I agree with Lew entirely that variable town entry was overused — a couple less uses could easily have been achieved. I found the three prerequisites to seeing Xenophon not pointless, but they certainly felt like busywork. On a final point, I will point out that I would find it hard to believe any vampire would have the faintest chance of defeating Xenophon.


All that considered, I give it Good. A good scenario, but don’t play it if you don’t like losing your skills.

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Algiers was a good scenario, but had some problems, I thought. There was a building where you had to search for secret passages, out of all the places there could be secret passages. The atmosphere of not knowing who you are is good, but pointless as you're just told everything at the end anyway. Still, had challenging fights and was fun to play. Good

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Just replayed this one.


Losing most of your stats and getting some back was an interesting idea, I thought (I created a new 1pc "party" for this one). The in-game reason for this, the amnesia, wasn't really used that much. The concept has alot of potential which wasn't used...it doesn't have to be the usual "flashbacks at unexpected moments that gives clues about the story" thing (although there was a solitary example of that), but I would have liked the scenario to try bringing this bit to life a bit more.


The other thing this scenario is known for is the over-use of Variable Town Entry. Of course there's no particular reason why this is a bad thing (although I like my maps), it's just very noticeable, and gets a bit tiresome after a bit. On the other hand, it did allow people's dialogue to change every time anything happened at all in the scenario. I quite liked how the cost of weapons increases once the murders start, it brings the people to life. Unfortunately, nothing much else did, although this isn't unusual for BoE scenarios.


The way important people got killed off could also have done with some jazzing up. There was one or two mentions of the deeper implications of this (along the lines of "not much, but the best the island had, so it's important to you" sort of things), but I think this was an area that could, and probably should, have been developed more. Also, since your stats are zero in many areas, you are reliant on NPCs for some things you'd normally be able to do yourself, and when they start dying, it gets a bit awkward.


The combat in this scenario was very hard in parts (though that could just be me). On the other hand, being helpless in the face of mere goblins did make the game more exciting and realistic, it brought you down towards ordinary NPC levels so you could appreciate the danger alot more. Though, being poisoned without any priest spells stops being an annoyance and forced me to use the editor more than once.


The monster didn't really convince me. I do like the idea of the clues about what it was, only they didn't really prove it was what it was.


In general, I'd say that the scenario had some really great and novel ideas, but that it generally dealt with them in a superficial way. On the other hand, this meant that there was nothing massively frustrating, no maddening puzzles to get stuck in and so forth, which tend to really annoy me.


I'm torn between Good and average on this one. I think I'll go for




but only just.

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  • 1 year later...

This scenario was recommended to me as a good one for a newcomer to BoE to start with. I must respectfully disagree. There are no training wheels on this one. I redid the final fight about a dozen times before beating it; if I'd had access to a functioning character editor, I certainly would have used it. I also got repeatedly killed by goblins.


Having said that, it was an interesting concept, challenging, well-written, fast-paced, and polished. The plot is a bit sketchy, and personally I prefer not to be railroaded into playing in one particular way, but I can understand why a designer might want to do that. I might even play it again someday.



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  • 5 years later...

(I'm assuming this is the correct way of doing this. Literally no one has posted in this forum in the past 2 or so years... Also, does the scenario review page on Spiderweb's website actually get checked? I originally sent a review that way, but then I remembered this subforum plus I wanted to write my review differently than how I submitted it there.)


Good Things

- Great Concept

- A captivating story (at least at the beginning)


Bad Things

- One place where you literally have to bash your head against every wall looking for a secret door without any reasonable indicator where the secret door is. (Oh, did I mention that it was a 64x64 town too? (Or at least it really felt like it was...)

- Balance; in my opinion, the game was generally too easy for the majority of the game up until the last two fights where it then got insanely tough. Part of this has to do with losing stuff at the beginning, but I still think a bit more consistency would've helped.

- Lack of a person to identify items.

- A very vague clue as to what you lose at the beginning that most people are not going to pick up on.


Still, for me, I give this a GOOD (3.52/5.00) rating.

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