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River and Leaf

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Loved the dialogue (shows less is more!). You definitely get a different feel while playing this... I guess the word I'm looking for is atmospheric? The entire time I played it I got the feeling that Akhronath had the plot and details all written in his head, and assumed that everyone who played it would as well. Ouch.

I have to say, however, that of the non-super designers (Alcritas, Brett Bixler, Stareye, etcetera), Akhronath is one of my favourites. He really knowshow to generate a mood.


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“Time is a river, they say. It has turbulent twists and turns when heroes are made. It has its flowing calms, when lands and waters taste peace. And it has its cascades, when peace turns to sudden violence, then pours back in a tranquil stream....”



So begins Akhronath’s scenario River and Leaf. To be perfectly honest and straightforward, when I thought of a scenario from someone as renowned and intelligent as Akhronath, I expected a lot more. Not that it was a poor scenario; far from it. But there were certain parts that I feel could have been beefed up a whole lot. I’ll start with the criticisms, and get it over with.


First off, the plot. While creative and addictive, it was very unclear at times. Honestly, I didn’t understand the ending at all. A lot of the most important things were very subtle, and very hard to comprehend or catch onto. This wasn’t anything huge, but I would say it definitely detracted from the gameplay.


Second, the outdoor dialogue. When Akhronath can write as beautifully and poetically as the above excerpt, why are there various outdoor encounters where the only the explanation “You are spotted by some bandit watchouts” offered? Had there been more description — unnecessary, maybe, but a pleasure to read, definitely — I would have cranked up the score by about three-tenths of a point.


Finally, and most importantly, the difficulty of the puzzles. Some of the puzzles were very well done. However, there was a very, VERY big downfall in the Realm of Mists. All of the riddles were very well written. The more riddles you solved, the more teleporters you could enter. The final one, however, was very annoying. I didn’t see what was riddle about it, until a “You reply” screen pops up in my face. Having no idea what to do, I left it blank, and was attacked by some mystical creatures. Fine, I said. I found out later that the answer was “coin.”


However, this is a big problem because


1) You had absolutely NO way of knowing that the answer was coin and


2) The encounter was a one-time event — I could never try it again. So I was stuck there forever, and had to go back to an earlier backup file of the save.


Unfortunately, along with an equally incomprehensible riddle on the Dacgban, almost pushes this scenario to the “Unfinishable” rating. However, parts of it were too well done to be so harsh. Where the dialogue was present, it was flowing and uniformly excellent — a major plus for the scenario. One of the biggest pluses for the scenario was the mysterious atmosphere, a concept that was perfectly done — even moreso, perhaps, than Rubacus and Tatterdemalion, two of my favorites. Like in Rubacus, it was great fun in the beginning to work “undercover.”


Unfortunately, after your last encounter with Aeschere, the plot eventually degraded into a very strange time-sequence thing that I couldn’t understand — more description was necessary. The fact that no specific recommended starting party level was provided didn’t help things — and it wasn’t exactly evident from the combat, which was frequently erratic. The hints file was minimal, addressing all of my main questions but answering none.


Overall, I give River and Leaf Average, which seems to be the universal score for a scenario that could have been great but had too many downfalls.. Some may argue that I was too critical in this review, some that I wasn’t enough. Of course, some of the faults probably came from the time restraints of the contest, but they were there nonetheless. I recommend playing this scenario, but a walkthrough is absolutely essential. Currently, I’m playing Akhronath’s next effort, Justice, which seems much more solid.

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