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Changing Faces


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DRIZZT

 

One of my favorite lines in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s oft-maligned “The Last Action Hero” is the spoof advertisement for his alter-ego’s take on Hamlet. “To be, or not to be?” he ponders. “Not to be.” is his answer, followed a tossed grenade and gunfire, explosions and presumably much destruction and dying. It’s not Shakespeare, but I laughed.

 

Hamlet, you see, is a tragedy. Most everyone dies at the end, and those that don’t are probably unhappy with life. Another one of the Bard’s works, King Lear, is also a tragedy, and, like Hamlet, most everyone dies at the end. While usually that’s a joking response for those who ask how a story turns out, there is a genre, believe it or not, that people enjoy reading or experiencing despite the fact that the story usually ends with death and unhappiness.

 

And Blades is now no longer devoid of this genre, for Changing Faces, by Ryan Phelps, is also a tragedy. Not in the same sense as the plays mentioned above, as while Shakespeare’s works paint tragedy with a fine brush, exploring tragic character flaws of the human condition or showing the consequences of betrayal, Changing Faces thrusts tragedy upon the player with a truckload of despair without any hope or resolution.

 

Perhaps I’m being a bit poetic, as Blades is not Shakespeare, but no other scenario has effected me quite quite like Changing Faces. It is an interesting scenario, to be sure, with a dark atmosphere not unlike Redemption. However, where Redemption realizes a creepy picture with subtle hues, Changing Faces clumsily hits you over the head with the creepy stick. I’m not sure I can put that any better.

 

Enough with the analogies, you say? Very well. Changing Faces begins rather blandly when a dragon asks your party, for no explained reason, to enter the proverbial portal to a new land for him and explore. After a short mission you’re allowed to do this, and off you go. You quickly find out that you can’t return, and besides something is slightly wrong about this new place, and the convenient appearance of adventurers (that’s you) gives the locals someone to ask to help them out.

 

This new land is actually very well done. There are many towns to explore and places to visit, although it’s easy to miss the underground market in the main town. There is an interesting zoo, a fishing contest, an archery contest, and many other rather clever places to find, which give this place the feeling of being a real place. The author obviously spent a lot of time on this, and it shows. You even get a pet to accompany you early on in the scenario, and it will periodically ask to be fed, eventually growing into something that will help you. This was a particularly unique addition to the scenario.

 

Eventually, your adventurers will lead to an asylum, which is where the creepy stick first rears its ugly head. This building and the adventure through it is extremely well done, with some good special node sequences. This place, though, is accurate to a fault, as if the author actually had some idea of what an asylum is like. There are patients with all sorts of strange mental problems, like (almost) summoning demons, obsessively burning things, or suffering from paranoia. This is all well done, but in such a way that the people here are presented in a static sort of way, without any sort of humanity. I left that place feeling like I’d been in a zoo almost, but with people. Perhaps this is what asylums are really like, but it left me feeling unsettled all the same.

 

Things quickly go downhill for this new land from there. Once you gain access to a giant spiraling mountain, you find the source of the trouble, and are offered a choice to finish (leave) the scenario. If you choose to stick around and help this place, you emerge from the mountain and find that the land has drastically changed. And not for the better.

 

This change is also done extremely well. The new place is an accurate reproduction of its former self, but the author uses custom graphics to give this place a barren feel. Towns have been destroyed, lots of people killed, just about everything has changed. The rest of the scenario is basically wandering this land picking up some scattered items and returning to the mountain, where the scenario abruptly and unsatisfactorily ends.

 

Again, though, there are parts of these missions that are very well done. Although buggy, the author created a nice chase sequence early on in this part. There is a haunted house which is amusing and creative and custom graphics are also well used throughout this part. Some of the puzzles are a bit cryptic and don’t make much sense, but nothing too impossible.

 

Like the asylum, though, much of the dialogue and some themes in this wounded land are rather clumsily done. There is a rather disturbing encounter with a slaver which really does not belong in this (or any) scenario. <Many whacks of the creepy stick> This scenario should really be rated R for this meeting alone, even if its true nature is not explicitly stated. Enough said.

 

I had a hard time deciding on a rating for this scenario, but settled on Average

 

The scenario has many unique aspects, and the transformation from happy place to destroyed land is exceptional. There are lots of well done points in many towns and missions, but much of the dialogue and dark themes are, as mentioned before, clumsily handled, as if the author was attempting more than he could handle. This effort wasn’t wasted, to be sure, but it still comes off as a less than whole work, less than the author intended and certainly less than the author is capable of. And that, fellow Blades players, is a tragedy.

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THE CREATOR

 

I'm afraid I like this one much more than it deserves. I love Freddy. I love the way Ryan made a peaceful, beautiful world actually fun. I ADORE that feeling you get when step out of Crystalmight and are left to explore the world. Few scenarios have inspired me as deeply as this one. Yes, I know that it has a bad ending... and a somewhat incoherent plot... and some suspect coding... but I just love it. But I'll rein myself in and give it Good

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ROSYCAT

 

Creator likes beautiful, peaceful worlds? Kurnis, anyone?

 

Ah. Changing Faces. When I registered Blades a few months ago, I played the 3 scenarios by Jeff, then Bandit Busywork (urgh), Compositus (pfft), Avalon (agh). Then I played CF. At last! Something I could make a coherent sound about (good)! I liked, I liked a lot. People on Spidweb kept asking me what all the fuss I made over this scenario was. THEN I played The Forsaken. THEN I realized CF wasn't so great after all.

 

I think that CF is in a strange category, a category which encompasses The Orb of Hauyne and Demon, scenarios which aren't quite as good as the next rung up, almost-greats like Nightfall or AC2,not quite as bad as Compositus or Bandit Busywork. Mediocrity though it may be in comparison with the works of Alcritas and Drizzt, it stands well on its own and is a welcome addition to the BoE community. CF was a promising debut for what turned out to be another almost-great.

 

Good

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Simple, but moving

 

I didn't finish it entirely, because I got stuck and no one helped me. However, I was very close to the end of the scenario, so I've decided that in truth, I've got enough to rate it on. I was short by one special item or something, and I heard the ending isn't more than, what, one text box. (Warning: spoilers follow!)

 

Anyway, this scenario had a very interesting premise. The graphics were good, although for me the monsters and items had white backgrounds. However, I won't penalize for this unless I hear other people complaining about this.

 

I loved the asylum adventure, but the real highlight of the scenario was the changing of the land. Not only was it interesting to reexplore a land that you already have before to see different stuff, but it was also a horrific moment too.

 

As I said, it seemed too easy to get stuck. I also can't say that I liked the spider cave. It just seemed obnoxious for no particular reason, as did the undead fort. This scenario seemed to be a bit buggy too. Been a few months since I played to give any examples, though.

 

Good scenario overall, felt a bit amateurish at parts in terms of technicality, but it was mostly fun (except for obnoxious puzzles!), and the story was good and actually had some emotional impact. Didn't see how it ends, but I hear the ending is quite lame.

 

I also got a kick out of the undead walk thing for no real reason.

 

Good

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