This is predominantly an invasion map, with minimal input required to manage the castle and the settlement. That said, there is a need to ensure a good food chain to feed your people and ensure you can recruit troops from the barracks. The scenario has a fairly quiet start, with initial invasions from the Rat, followed by much more significant invasions from the Snake, Pig and Wolf. Once your settlement is established, the main thrust of the map is to defend against the invading forces. The map plays well generally speaking, with sufficient involvement to keep you on your toes at the start. The main concern I have here relates to balance issues, which ultimately affected the playability aspect of the map. There wasn't quite enough to do to warrant a higher score, but what the designer has offered is sufficient in my eyes to justify an average score.
Be prepared to face some pretty big invasions! Combined with the almost continual invading forces of the Rat, the scenario is clearly about combat. The idea of repeated invasions is something that can either work extremely well or be your greatest undoing. This is the case here, with only one signpost being used by the AI and the invading troops having a significant march to get to your keep. In addition, a great number of the Rat's troops (archers, engineers) never left the signpost and even when the game had finished, they were still there. I have my own thoughts about why this was the case, which I will detail at the end of the review as further guidance for the designer.
As you never really feel the full force of the large invasions due to sporadic attacking methods by the AI, the scenario wasn't overly difficult to beat. By moving the bulk of your archers and crossbowmen to the walls and towers of your castle, you can easily pick off the spearmen, pikemen, macemen and swordsmen with no real damage to your castle. Playing on hard and very hard settings improved things a little. In adition, the AI only used one route to the castle (moving east towards the wolved and then down the eastern side of the map). This erratic behaviour isn't really the fault of the designer, but there are some measures that can be used to help to eradicate this.
The concept of using the terrain to affect playability and balance is something I personally think is vastly underrated. The landscaping here is, in theory, addressing this idea and it does work, to some extent. Multiple channels to the keep are available, even though the AI didn't use them. Limiting the buildings you can place helps to improve creativity (my first instinct here was to place woodcutters.. but you must suffice with those already placed, as you can't build more). Having only one weapons storage building worried me at first, the vulnerability was plainly there to see! The score here is given for a good attempt at some pretty complex ideas, plus the challenge of multiple, repeating invasions. Good effort.
Map Design: 3
The landscaping and use of the terrain tools is okay, some areas are better than others. The impression of scale is very good; this is a 400x400 map, but it looks far bigger than this. Some areas are a little crude, with low plain sticking out and looking a little crude. Stone and rock placement also needs some work as the map is screaming out for a much more natural appearance. A good effort though, with some areas working very well.
My biggest concern here isn't so much the 'prettiness' of the map, but the fact that the complexity of the scenario is let down by the terrain modelling. Following on from my comments above, the AI didn't attack in the way it should, and I think that this is because it was confused by the terrain. The AI will naturally look to the easiest way to the keep, so the first few invasions saw spearmen taking down walls and gatehouses trashed by macemen. Then.. nothing. The AI decided to switch to a long walk around the map, avoiding all the built structures which should have been destroyed. There is no easy fix to this, but a few recommendations at the end may help you in future scenarios.
The story and instructions element of this scenario has been updated, and a vast improvement made! The designer has done extremely well with a thorough attempt at a story that reads like the script of a play (different, and it works well). Not only that, the zip file contains a very well designed map od this ficticious area, with even a key to describe the different landscape effects, such as forest, grassland, etc. Whilst the download description page is a little on the vague side and could do with more content, the reference to the zip file for all information has been made. The effort by the designer, including the content provided, fully deserves a full 5/5 score. Well done!
This map has a few problems and small glitches, but this should not distract the potential downloader as the scenario has a lot to offer. There is enough to do to amuse most players. This review is based on the 'normal' setting as indicated by the designer on the download description page, but could easily (and probably works better) playing on hard or very hard. A good effort at a complex scenario, worthy of a recommendation! I truly hope that you continue to design new scenarios, as you clearly have the potential to offer a great deal! Well done, and my very best wishes to you in your future maps :)
ADVICE TO THE DESIGNER
-Try to improve the natural look and feel of the landscape for future missions. This takes time, effort and commitment, but the results are spectacular.
-Try to use the 'equalise' tool much more, on a small brush size. You can still create the cliff effect limiting where troops can and can't walk.
-Look at rock and stone placement in comparison to the natural world: rock weathers by various processes, so a good start would be a large boulder with smaller stones and rocks placed randomly around the base. A few shrubs dotted around the foot of the boulder looks good.
-If you intend on having areas of completely flat terrain, try to improve the appearance by using the smallest brush size and 'spotting' dirt or grass to break up the appearance of the default thick grass appearance.
Multiple keep/settlement access points
-Don't make these too complex. Avoid areas of walling to bridge gaps unless you are absolutely sure the AI will walk across them.
-Don't make the layout too complex at first. Decide where the access points could be, place your gatehouse or wall, ensuring the AI can attack these without any problems, and then introduce more structures, such as moat, swamp, rocks, areas of high cliff, etc.
-Check each signpost works. Place one signpost, play the map. Delete it, place another signpost in another area, play the map. See if there are any differences. You may have better success with five or six working signposts with complex and multiple invasions such as this.
-If you intend having multiple invasions, try a smaller invading force with a good spread of troops, then repeat it the next month, and so on. Be wary about the overuse of archers.
-Makre sure you specify in the editor the siege equipment your engineers need to build. Test this thoroughly to see if the AI is confused about any issues in terms of design or structures you have placed.