A new dawn
Recently the number of high quality skirmish maps vastly reduced. Luckily, Roshko shared his magnificent work with us to enjoy the so called “island hopping”.
Playability – 4,5
The idea of the whole map is quite rare these days – very limited building space, lots of narrow, hardly noticeable paths, small amounts of resources, oases. Yes, it’s a very challenging map, but I’m more a warfare player who likes developing the economy fast, rather than searching for a suitable place to construct a building. However, what I liked about the playability is the feeling that you really are on the archipelago, the buildings are spread throughout the small, or larger islands, people traveling from on coast to another, using bridges, etc. You were right about the fact that playing on the islands is much more fun, but it’s really harder in my opinion. When playing on the mainland, I had more starting space to build (Again, the castle extended throughout the whole part of the mainland (from South to North), running the economy was more rapidly, and attacking the enemy is a bit easier, as you can really demolish his economy using the fiords, however my fortress was safe due to the single fiord connected with the archipelago. An interesting feature – you don’t have time or a geographical opportunity to build a castle here, players only have to defend the fiords, which can be very tricky. Overall, the map is really challenging and interesting, which keeps the player busy all the time thinking about whether food or army, players can’t have much troops, a strong castle or high populations – every man counts, and that man has to conquer the islands.
Balance – 4.5
In my opinion, the two positions have both advantages and disadvantages, so the balance is quite tricky, you can’t say it’s unbalanced, but you can’t say it’s balanced either. Firstly, the archipelago position has less starting building space, the main resources (iron and boulders) are far away, and the people must use the fiords (which slow them). You have to fight against the quickly growing trees for the farmland, and perhaps, the player on the archipelago must also do the other objective to survive – cutting the trees and achieving space and farmland. Defending the castle (or should I say village) can be a headache, your opponent can terrorize you with siege equipment, repeating hordes of horse archers, etc. The bridges and fiords must be guarded strongly as the opponent might tear down your economy. The mainland’s position is easier in my opinion – there’s a single path the enemy can come from, and if the player defends that site well – he can be calm and continue preparing for a siege. The second big advantage is the resources – boulders and iron are near the keep, this helps to develop, but still the farmland can be the problem, as the main building space IS the farmland, so the player is forced to seek a way to feed his people – the islands.
To sum up, balancing such a map is really hard, and I think you’ve done a terrific job, however I would like to see some building disabled – siege equipment, possibly some towers, big gates etc.
Creativity - 5.
Well the idea of the map was the archipelago and I must say, it’s the best archipelago I have seen on Crusader! And a great interpretation of the idea as well! When looking at the whole map, it’s obvious that the author knew precisely what he was doing, possibly using a pre-made plan or picture: every feature or detail was placed in the exact place. The islands’ shapes, curves look very eye-catching as well as the small objects like bridges. It seems that empty water spaces might look plain, but actually the deep blue color contrasts with those small green isles very sharply! The fiords were spread out with a thought as well – people can’t simply reach the specific island – they have to travel through other isles, fiords. An interesting feature was in the North West corner of the map – the fertile part of the mainland seems to continue further, what I mean it creates an impression that the land doesn’t end, while the map does. Maybe it’s a hardly describable aspect, however I really like it.
Map design – 5.
Absolutely stunning! Not only you showed your skills with creating various sized and shaped islands and isles, you’ve managed to combine them into a realistic archipelago. The island layout is just fantastic, creating sort of a path between two parts of the mainland. A great work was done with the coasts: a clever usage of beach tiles, rocks, fiord creates an impression of a real, realistic feature. The islands, with all of their curves, bays, seem to be different as well: some of them are fertile, others rocky, etc. The farmland looked great as well – mixed with trees, shrub, small boulders and other features. The mainland had rocky hills, filled with resources (iron and boulders), small features like the lake in the North East corner revealed your hard and long work. Overall – the map looked fabulous, eye-catching and, what is most important, geographically accurate. Lots of small features is always a pleasure for player’s eyes.
Story – 5.
The story wasn’t long, but as always, skirmishes don’t require compositions or novels – there are fewer features in these maps. However you’ve explained the main idea used a popular and well known theme about the search of The Holy Grail. The short narration explained where and for what reason the player is situated there, the Malchika Archipelago is mentioned in the map story section as well. A small note was also added, flagging this map as “multiplayer” only. Possibly a longer story would preferable, but still, I won’t drag the score down.
To sum up, it’s a very original, fascinating and eye-catching skirmish map. Player should expect challenges when running the economy, or fighting.
Suggestions – I’d offer disabling some features (as I mentioned), possibly a bit more farmland is needed. A few tiny islands (with ruins for example, which should reveal the previous searches of the Holy Grail) in the ocean would look great as well.
[Edited on 07/06/08 @ 04:43 PM]