The Bretwalda Chronicles Chapter 1: Northumbria
This is the first chapter in The Bretwalda series of maps. The scenario is an 'eco-vasion' with the focus on establishing your settlement and meeting various win criteria. There are also a few puzzles to solve, which will allow you to 'unlock' areas of the landscape as you progress. The invasions are pretty low-key, and are designed to disrupt your progress.
Included within the zip file are:
-Historical Article Part 1: Introduction to Bretwalda, an introduction to Anglo Saxon history and the key events, a historical snapshot of the Kingdom of Northumbria
-Author's Notes, including hints and tips.
Please note that there is no story to accompany this scenario, the reasons for which are explained within the notes in the zip file. Please take time to read the notes carefully, they will help you and will provide background information on how the Bretwalda series is developed. The historical article is written to appeal to all ages and all levels of interest.
Constructive reviews are welcome.
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Sulis is back and proves that designing is like swimming: once you've mastered it you'll never forget how to do it. This little map is quite a handful and not for the faint of heart.
I won't lie: this map is frustrating at times, always presenting new problems and setbacks. But I enjoy a map that is not easily beaten and requires a lot of thought and planning before you'll see the victory screen. Still, food and popularity are too much of a hassle. The only way to work around the food problem is to move the granary at some point, which is a bit drastic. The plague, bandits, fire, and wolf attacks are also problematic. Especially because there are no events to temporarily boost your popularity, and it will take until at least the second half of the scenario to get a religion bonus.
Apart from the problems described above it is also very hard to get enough gold in to build the required chapels. The only way to get in gold is to provide extra rations but often I found myself low on food. There are however also lots of strong points. The wolves are many and hard to eradicate but when you are careful it is doable with few losses. The economic goals are well balanced too, so well infact that it seems nearly impossible to beat the map at very hard. (I've tried a dozen times or so.) The invasions are a bother but never a substantial threat and this is exactly what Sulis intended.
The map design is quite original in some aspects, although clearly inspired by Sir Prise's Castaways series. This idea of having areas of the map be temporarily inaccesible is used to great effect here. It is vital to unlock these areas quickly and one of the ways in which this has to be done is new. One of the resources has also been 'blocked' in a novel way. The history and info accompanying this map also shows creativity in layout and in writing such an extensive historical file.
Map Design: 5
The landscape is very beautiful and it is a delight to build your settlement on it. It flows naturally from coast to mountains and narrow pathways snake their way through it. Resources, animals and farmland have clearly all been placed in a careful way. While there is no apparent eye-candy, all parts of the map look equally detailed and inviting.
While technically is no story here the rest of the files more than make up for that. I read most of the detailed history file, which was interesting and a great help to anyone who might want to make a map similar in theme. I also found the design notes and read-me well written and mostly useful. What could perhaps be improved is the hints part, most of it was pretty obvious I thought. For less experienced players it might be nice to actually include some spoilers.
A great map that has me looking forward to the rest of the campaign even more. It might not be for the novice and is a test of anyone's abilities, but so well designed and addictive that you'll eventually see the victory screen no matter.
Bretwalda - Northumbria announces Sulis’s triumphant return to Stronghold Heaven. With this submission, Sulis undertakes a mammoth project. Any true fan of Stronghold would be well advised to jump on board for the ride now. Northumbria shows the down loader what a true master of design can create with the original Stronghold editor. Chapter 1 in the Bretwalda series does not disappoint.
Played at the Normal level of difficulty as pursuant to the author’s instructions. Rarely does one find that gem of a map that just offers you so many different options to start. You are positively spoiled with options on how to go about starting your settlement. As one plays on, they realize that all those choices can be a dangerous freedom. Some restarts are probably in order to get your priorities straight for what you really need to survive in this imposing place. Focusing on what order is needed to successfully fulfill the many objectives is also a surmounting task. I found myself grasping to find anything I could take control of early on. I settled on culling the herds of wild forest creatures. I than thoroughly enjoyed exploring Northumbria, finding its many secrets and unlocking them. Many times during the game play, just as you feel you are getting the upper hand, the map literally spits in your face with some devastating event scripting. Plague is one that comes to mind here. Sometimes events just devastated you for months afterwards. Truly a marvel in the level of realistic game play created. Mention of the perfect AI performance must also be made. Stronghold undeniably likes the maps design. Sulis has painstakingly directed the attacking human enemies behavior very well. So much to do has been offered within. Difficult at times to the point of maddening. Such a map experience is not to be missed.
As stated in Playability, my lack of skill in invasions may have led to this score in Balance. My skill level probably makes me an average invasion player and because of this, I felt reason to deduct a point. Balance is simply too much in the enemies favor in my opinion. Mind you, any human enemies are not an issue, it’s the land who is your mortal enemy here. Old mother Earth has just to much of an advantage. Lesser experienced players will have an extremely difficult time making a living in Northumbria. I fear many may become too frustrated and capitulate which would be a real shame. Playing Northumbria through virtually guarantees that you will come away with some new mapmaking insights. Positively evil, the land will simply beat you down and erase all signs that you ever existed. I am already dreading Anglia.
An astounding piece of work is offered here. Overall, the concept of applying the Stronghold configuration to a post Roman Briton setting is masterfully done. This is also quite an original idea in the scope and size of the project. The author professes to have stripped down game play to the forgotten essentials. Sulis does do this admirably. However, there is nothing old-school or bare bones about the map. The massive hallowed halls now built by many are no more impressive than Sulis’s ability to forge the land. Astounding ingenuity and talent must be present to make the maps terrain seem to be a living and somewhat spiteful being as Sulis has done here. Northumbria is a cruel, bleak, merciless place. One can barely consider much of it even habitable in many respects. Thriving in this desolate land would be nearly impossible. Just surviving is challenging enough, at least for an average invasion player such as I. Many scientists now think that this time period was somewhat of a mini ice age. They theorize that these colder than average centuries had some profound effects on livestock, game and agriculture. That the loss of productivity and scarcity of food may have helped lead to the abandonment of many larger settlements which were naturally harder to sustain. Forgive the tangent. Once you read the wealth of information provided you can’t help but think about the era this map series is set in. From Sulis’s interpretation, the map certainly conveys cold in my opinion. I personally got the feeling of long gone, advanced civilizations now all but forgotten. Hints of past inhabitants can be found everywhere in Northumbria. Do not think that much of these ruins can be used to benefit you. In fact, messing with the graves of the ancients might make you sorry. Sulis has left no stone unturned, no pun intended.
Map Design: 5
I would be surprised if a single tile has not been sculpted in this map. Sulis’s devotion to every design aspect has never been duplicated, not to the intricate lengths he goes to. Northumbria literally fights you tooth and nail. Sulis’s ability for detail in the design is second to none, this makes the map seem to simply ooze creativity. I personally feel the bar has been raised here. Nothing in the terrain is accidental. Everywhere there is purpose, Terrain aspects to impede or confuse the player. Eye candy that conveys a sense of history to the land. A faithfulness to realistic looking terrain definitely evoking the area of England that Sulis apparently grew up. I felt a few details were conveying terrain forms that I just didn’t see. Notably some of the smaller raised areas. I thought the edge tiles nearest the larger elevation changes were a little raw. Keep in mind, this is obviously supposed to be a raw place and the attention to detail shows these features are intended to look this way as pursuant to the authors personal opinion. That doesn’t mean I have to like them all and its ok if I feel one or two were downright ugly. However, the authors attention to each and every detail not to mention his perfect execution of said detail and sculpting is impeccable. I would be a fool to deduct a point simply because not every detail appeals to my liking or are designed the way I would design them. His execution is perfect.
If you like action and hate romance. Don’t choose to review a romance and say “it was well done but I like action and there was none so, I couldn’t possibly give 5's.”
Story /Instructions: 20
Alas, I can only give a five friend. No one enriches their maps in such a way. Quite far and away the best story and instructions ever written to accompany a Stronghold map in ANY category. One should download this simply for the education and insight into the period it provides. Sulis has written a F***ing masterpiece here. This could, in all respects, be a final thesis for someone’s masters degree on ‘Life in post Roman Britain during the early medieval period’. Complete are pictures of people associated with the documents subject matter as well as maps and other visual fare. That was just the ‘Overview and History’ We than move to the ‘Authors Notes.’ Here another in depth summary includes the purpose of the series as well as this particular map’s function and place in the total picture and what the map is designed to represent. A study into why the author chose the units he did and what they are supposed to interpret. A lengthy list of hints and tips is also included in this file. Finishing it off are some nice screen saves of the map itself. Finally, we come to the third text file labeled ‘Instructions’. This is a quick summary of mission objectives and a brief overview of the situation and what type of action is to be expected. I highly recommend one reads all throughly. You will learn something, you will fully understand the maps purpose, and you will be prepared to play the scenario as it was designed to be. This will greatly increase your enjoyment of this phenomenal map.
Bretwalda - Northumbria is sensational, truly a masterpiece in all categories. This map is not for the impatient or inexperienced. However, if you wish to become a better player of Stronghold and don’t mind dying a few times in the process. This map beats dying in a ditch in Gaul any day. At the very least, upon leaving the Bretwalda experience, you will be a far more educated human being in respects to history and what Stronghold can still offer when in the hands of a master.
[Edited on 04/09/07 @ 07:17 PM]