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Downloads Home » Stronghold Crusader: Invasions » Dark Skies over Al'Shareed

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Dark Skies over Al'Shareed

Author File Description
File Details
Map Size: 400x400 (Large)
Difficulty: Hard
Made with version: 1.1
Dark Skies over Al'Shareed
version 1.0
by Heroesflorian
Scenario created for the SHH 2nd Fantasy Scenario Competition

Important Notes
- The included file is actually no .map-file, but a .sav-file, so put it into your "saves" folder (not the "maps" folder!).

- I recommend you to play this with Stronghold Crusader: Extreme, if you can. The high amount of players (8) and the masses of (starting) troops don't fit too well with the 2000 unit limit in (normal) Stronghold Crusader, and could cause a lack of peasants/workers. As SHC-E has a unit limit of 10000, this is no problem here. As in SHC-E no other maps than skirmishes are "allowed", I made this scenario into a savegame that can also be loaded with SHC-E.

- I don't want to spoil too much of the gameplay, but one important hint here: Kill Richard after the Abbot, and kill Sheriff after Richard, otherwise you may get into some troubles ;)

Story (extract)
So there you were. A homeless refugee. Gone was your once flourishing city, left not much more than some crumbling ruins, streams of blood slowly seeping away in dust and sand.
A few weeks later, you and Salah-ad-Din were currently sitting at the map desk, making plans for defending Al’Shareed, when one of his scouts messaged us that the first hostile troops had been seen around the river Ammon in the north and westwards of the Lum.
Wave after wave they approached between the northern hills, hitting their shields with swords and pike shafts every two seconds. The noise grew louder and louder as they got closer. Your soldiers got nervous. Countless flags and banners with the hated cross sign flapped in the wind, polished blades and chain mails sparkling in the bright sun. You hesitated. Would you be up to the hardest challenge of your life? Or would the sky over Al’Shareed turn black from arrows, when the storm began?

The full story, along with some additional info and hints, is included in the .zip file.

The mission
Basically, your task is easy: Defend Saladin's city of Al'Shareed and smash the castles of your foes. Basically.
But you lack both gold and soldiers, with your enemies having six strongholds, while you start with barely more than a handful of troops and a wall, trying to hide in the small valley between your ally and the closest Crusaders' fortresses.

So, take a deep breath, and start the battle!

I hope you have a lot of fun, and a good challenge with this map.

AuthorComments & Reviews   ( All | Comments Only | Reviews Only )
File Author
Any comments or similar?
Krarilotus Hey Florian, can i ask you just one question?
It appears to me, that this map is very easy in defending. I see how long you worked on that map, and it got pritty cool. but one thing: how often did you or someone else test this map? Because i think, you just did that stuff with the killing order of the enemies without enough testing. I wont write a review yet, because i havn't finished the map, but i will do so when i ge to the end and that for i need to know if you realy think this map is balanced the way you uploadet it.


PS: This map reminds me of a Starcraft II map, called Night spezial forces....
peter2008 I am playing this map in these days.
Learning the circumstances step by step.
Brought down an enemy tower using mangonels. Wondered why the AI would not replace the tower. Then shot the last man there on the ground, and voila, the tower was up again - with multiple siege engines on it.
Also lost my market and noticed I could not rebuild it - after an hour of gameplay.
But as reviews have been promised to the submitters to our Fantasy competition, I'm bound to fight my way through the scenario.

Edit: the green castle complex, the Wolf, Frederick and the Marshall are down. Making progress. :)

The "killing order" (Krarilotus) depends on some "features" which belong to the different AI castles. Like steps leading downwards, it's necessary to kill the lowest AI first.

[Edited on 05/07/13 @ 11:01 AM]

File Author

> It appears to me, that this map is very easy in defending

It may be very well doable for a veteran player, but at the same time difficult enough (and potentially very annoying, #mangonelsToTheKeep) to be decent a challenge for intermediate players. In addition to that, it may (or may not) take players some tries to gain relevant knowledge such as *SPOILER ALERT* "oh my trading post is gone... and I cannot rebuild it... uuuuugh, damn!".
Also, the player was given an ally for a reason - to have some spectacular action and besieging and a bunch of opponents without it being too overwhelming for most players to stand a chance.
Last but not least, the map has been finished with some time pressure to make it into the contest, during another period of uni exams, so I tended to err a bit more on the "less difficult than possible" rather than making it "impossible" without using glitches and exploits.

Besides, part of the overall difficulty is the offense, especially cracking up the bunker system of Marshall, Frederick and Wolf with reinforcements from 3 other AIs coming in constantly, and limited options for economy, space and military.

> but one thing: how often did you or someone else test this map?

Zero times. Time pressure, contest rules, and a lack of knowledgeable testers known to me that did not themselves participate in the contest either as map makers or even as judges.

> i think, you just did that stuff with the killing order of the enemies without enough testing

Well, the killing order of the enemies is meant to be an interesting twist - in pretty much every SHC match you have to "conquer" an opponent castle by killing its Lord, making it crumble to dust immediately. Here, in contrast, you need to actually imprison the enemy Lords on their own keeps without killing them, occupying their castles for real.

This comes with a number of further consequences of which I was and am aware, including the fact you can use the AI's defenses to your advantage for guarding your further progress but have to be careful not to accidentally shoot the imprisoned Lord. You also have to make sure the imprisoned AI does not "regenerate" and expel you again. You also may need to keep an eye on your ally Saladin, so he does not do anything stupid in that regard... and you can watch in action how the AI will send each other gold (10% at once) when in fear - which also has the effect of occupied AIs boosting their allies in order to try and push you back out, or at least helping those further down the line to stand up against your attacks for a bit longer.

Either way, the killing order is mandated by means of AIV design, and is definitely not just an arbitrary soft-rule the player could ignore.

Hope this clears up some of the points you wondered about. #epicLateReply
Map Design5.0
Creativity: 5
The amount of work and thought process that must have gone into this map is immense. Not only do i really enjoy crushing your custom castles, they also function very well and look amazing. Besides that, the Story is really drawing you in and letting you feel the battle even before it begins. Apart from that, the division of the territory by the AI building bridges, which you then must keep alive, keeping the AI's hostage is a cool and unique design idea. Unfortunately, it did not work out as well as expected, but might inspire other map creators in the future.

Overall, all the ideas really show and the full rating of 5 points is well deserved!

Map Design: 5
If i could rate more i would. But yes, the map design is in my eyes outstanding. All the custom terrain made to fit the custom AI's works well and looks amazing. When you play this map and go through the process of capturing siege engine spot by siege engine spot, finding out about all the little traps and hidden vantage points, you really learn the value of having the design thought out.

Besides that, the beauty of the map is great. I love how the river has all these lively spots around it, even after the terrain has been overtaken by the AI's farms, it still looks visually pleasing and the villages of the AI's themselves look like they could be actual castles.

There is always something to find in between battles and market trades that you have not seen yet!

Story/Instructions: 5
The story is all well written and draws the player right in. The little AI flavour texts really give them some extra character.

The instructions were also clear and helped me understand why I had to play the game as a save and how things are going. Some of the hints I found not getting useful, but that might have been because I would have done them already.
It's good thought to note, that you won’t get another market, or that you have to kill the AI's in a certain order, as otherwise you might get stuck!

Playability: 2.5
This is unfortunately the weak spot of the map. It's good and all to make a map challenging. It's also good if you want to use Crusader Extreme to do so. But i felt like the limitations that you set out for the player were not really helpful in having fun with the siege.

At first the game is coming along well, when you start out with your little village and try to defend it. But at some point, you realize that it makes absolutely no sense to fight back the stone throwing war, and you move everything back. As Saladin has an abundance of resources, you can just cyphon some off him and get along with that just fine.
As soon as you defend your back and have Saladin safe, the long grind begins, and that is where the game just is not fun. If you must manage to get gold by only having access to bread economy without even negative fear factor to get a decent boost, you are waiting ages. And as your units are very limited by the story of course, to just Arabian basic and light units, it becomes very repetitive. And then you ask yourself, why would i continue this? It’s clear how to win the game from there on but the turning point leaves you to wait for a long time. Taking small advantages like shooting the enemy castles from the little hill in front of your base just didn't do enough good to outweigh the fact, that you would be better off with mass spamming horse archers and getting on to the enemy castles that way. Heck, if you would at least allow some slight maundering for siege towers and siege rams, but everything is protected with moat, requiring you to use the super light slaves to dig. And because of the layout it is just a pain to get through, and finally attacking the walls. With what? You do not even have any units that are good at attacking walls besides the siege equipment. Maybe other people enjoy these kinds of super micro intensive tasks, but i would have hoped for some more tactical and strategical manoeuvring around the map. Or at least give more possibilities to climb the castles with assassins to open the gates, to get in that way.
But yeah, this isn't the point, the point is mostly the grinding time, that feels not fun and is caused by wasted opportunities to give the player more progression with income or a way to do something non repetitive while stacking up troops, like little victories along the way.

Just because the map takes way too long without really any benefit for dragging the game out like that, i have to cut the points short to 2.5

I would hope you keep your maps at the fun stages for the whole time instead, which would be in this case the early game and after you have finally broken the Wolf's castle. But everything in between is just a grind. It could also help, if the own defence would be harder, but because Saladin leaves a gap in behind his castle open, you are basically safe after closing off the front entrance to your base, when all AI's will either attack Saladin or walk around his castle to get to you.

Balance: 4.5
The balance is pretty good, I would say it’s perfect, until the point comes, where there isn't much to do but grind.

For me to give this a five points score, it would have to be better thought out on the defensive side of things and allowing for more player choice or at least keeping the battle a bit more interesting, without the easy option to just close off the front wall.

Other than that, all the functionality for the AI is well designed and it is a nice challenge to capture any of the parties that hold the green fortress. I also liked how the path for the other AI's was laid out to be going through each other’s castles. They were also all able to siege my wall and Saladin’s castle well.
I did not find the map too easy or too difficult, it was fun for the fun part of it!

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Size:1.36 MB