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I didn't really enjoy it. A couple of ideas in it seemed interesting (like the sword maybe) and the plot wasn't very overused, I think, but it didn't provide as much motivation for me to play as the destruction-will-come-if-you-don't-act scenarios... smile I recall there was no real atmosphere and I also found some of the "jokes" (?) tasteless or boring.

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There are the pieces of a decent scenario hiding in this work. The exploring is okay, as is the difficulty/challenge level of the puzzles, plus towards the endgame there are several different ways things can progress.


The biggest problem is the puzzles -- they belong in a Dell Pencil Puzzles magazine rather than as an integral part of the dungeon. The most flagrant case was a game of Simon Says on a cartesian coordinate grid. Or the instance where it tells you that you automatically assume to convert the alphabet into numbers. (A=1, B=2, ...) The inclusion of the puzzles made no sense at all.


As for the plot, well at one point you're forced to do something stupid (releasing the mad/evil/psychotic prisoners) in order for the plot to progress. There's some interesting possibilities with the idea of nobody being completely pure, but it isn't executed well.


The writing has issues. It's technically fine, but sometimes the comments are just there for attempted cynical gallows humor. (Not verbatim, but one message was roughly "You killed mommy. You feel bad about it for oh, about a second.") The profanity is gratuitous. Think South-Parkesque without the humor.


Until the very end I didn't find a polearm (outside of shops) beyond the almighty Bronze Spear. Unique magic items were mildly overpowered, but somewhat interesting.


Also of note is the battle with the lich mastermind. Since he doesn't turn hostile till after you attack him, you can buff up, cast antimagic, surround him with your fighters, and then launch the attack. Then there''s the route where you help him and he leaves -- yet he's still there to talk to.


Bad bits disrupt the good bits.



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The gameplay is crisp and fast-paced, the battles and puzzles are challenging, and the plot is mostly well-strung. The small size of the outdoors proved to be no impediment to quality. All in all, the scenario is a fine piece of work. But it could be better.


The threads of the plot unwind rather slowly at the beginning. The premise, the exploration of an architectural relic, is a familiar one, and does not appear to be special due to a lack of set mood. This is further damaged by the inclusion of a thin goblin sideplot that only distracts from the task at hand, even if it is a good place to sharpen the party’s skills. The exploitable fact that other adventurers have been traveling into the main dungeon serves as only a minor point instead of a useful plot device as in Islands of the Wheel.


But the story picks up fairly well after going deeper into the dungeon. The past and present history of the dungeon is available to the inquisitive, although some of the finer points might be missed by those who work their way through quickly.


The uniqueness of many usable items aids the scenario greatly. The story centers on a major artifact, but the party comes upon quite a number of them over the month or so of game-time that the scenario takes. The novelty factor is not dimmed, and the rewards are balanced for the difficulty of the journey.


Dialogue is fine for the most part, but nothing spectacular. Characters’ responses are generally very long (causing a few minor overloads on the Mac version — e.g. Ali-Azad fails to pronounce the word ‘armada’). A better handling would have been to spread them out over more responses. As it stands, the player is likely to receive a barrage of information at a time about many topics, but the conversations almost never continue on.


To the scenario’s credit, there is a general lack of good resting areas both indoors and outdoors, which forces the party to ration firepower. There are places where clever maneuvering can and should be used to avoid combats. Both attrition and raw power warfare are waged successfully. (Keep in mind that the reviewer had a character with Chronic Disease, which made resting even more difficult.)


Logical puzzles are scattered throughout. Some make more sense than others. There are a few places where puzzles seem to be there for their own sake, but generally they are woven successfully into the storyline. Most are solvable with a little patience. One of the most mind-wracking problems, namely the Phoenix (Number) Riddle, is trivial for non-purists by the guess-and-check method, especially as the solution set can be narrowed down from seven to three immediately.


The custom graphics are successfully implemented. A few seem extraneous (e.g. Fallen Angel), but the usage of visible stairways enhances the general experience. The amount of graphics designated to the goblins, though, seems a little extreme given that they do not play a major part in the story.


As far as an exciting, have-a-good-time adventure, this scenario succeeds. But if it sought to establish a haunting, mysterious atmosphere of intrigue, it fails. Despite its shortcomings, though, it’s still a highly enjoyable ride.


Score: Good

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