Author Topic: InsaneBaron's Reviews: Operation Templar (minireview, for new guys and dev team)  (Read 3283 times)

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Offline InsaneBaron

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InsaneBaron's Reviews: Operation Templar (minireview, for new guys and dev team)
Welcome to InsaneBaron Review 2.5: OPERATION TEMPLAR. Today I'll be writing my first “mini-review”, that is, a short review of a short campaign.

First, a little about me and my reviews. I'm a decently experienced pilot, but I haven’t been on HLP for very long. Hence,     these reviews are gonna be tailored for two groups of people. First, other new-ish people who, to quote General Battuta, are looking for their “...First (or Next!) Campaign.” Not that I'm making n00b reviews, I'm just not making 1337 reviews. Second, hopefully my reviews will be helpful to the campaign makers themselves, by way of feedback, encouragement, and a bit of constructive criticism. If you're a new recruit trying to decide if a campaign is for you, or a designer wondering how new recruits will react to your campaign, then these reviews are for you.

I'm going to organize these reviews into four categories. First, PLOT. Characters, story, scary or funny moments, et cetera. Second, GAMEPLAY. Balance, fun-factor. Quality of any new ships and weapons. Clarity of mission goals. Challenge. Third, AESTHETICS. This will barely apply to some simpler campaigns, but this includes cutscene quality, the artistic appearance of new ships/weapons, voice acting, music... the “look and sound” of the campaign. Finally, TECHNICAL STUFF. Was it easy to set up? Did I run into bugs? That sort of thing. This last section will naturally be incomplete, because I'm no beta tester. I didn't try to break any missions (“really, I wasn't TRYING to break it! It just happened!”). So the only bugs I'll catch are ones that will come up in a casual playthrough- but those are probably the most dangerous type.

Anyway, here goes...

OPERATION TEMPLAR was originally a set of four Volition-made multiplayer missions. The only known multiplayer missions to be confirmed as canon, they bridged the gap between Silent Threat and FreeSpace 2 by covering an important bit of FreeSpace history: the last days of the Hammer of Light. The player(s) were sent a a series of cooperative missions as the spearhead of “Operation Templar”, a decisive assault against the HoL. Unfortunately, they were multiplayer missions, and FS multiplayer is by this time mostly dead  :( (although, “there's a big difference between Mostly Dead and All The Way Dead”, especially thanks to the BP team.) The result is, most of us never would have had a decent opportunity to play these missions if something hadn't been done.

Now, :v: converted Operation Templar into a four-mission single-player campaign. Unfortunately, all they really did was stick the four missions together into a campaign file. The result? You had to play solo on missions designed for four-player co-op. Major balance failure. :mad:

That's when the FSPort team got involved. Much like they had done with Silent Threat: Reborn, they remade OT into a viable single-player campaign. They followed the original much more closely than they did with ST:R, preserving the original mission structure, briefings, and even voice acting, but rebalancing the missions for single-player enjoyment.

And now.... OPERATION TEMPLAR

PLOT: The plot is 90% :v: canon. If you don't count having fewer enemy wings and more friendly ones, there are only three real changes.

First, since it's a between-games campaign, G&G (Goober5000 and Galemp, see my last review :P ) gave you a cross-era equipment pool, combining gear from both games. Your ship supply is still FS1-era, but the weapons are more complicated. From FS1, you still have Flails, Leech Cannons, S-Breakers, and a limited supply of Banshees, plus all FS1 secondaries except the Harbinger and I think the MX-50. From FS2, you have the Akheton SDG and Prometheus R. I'll discuss the implications under Gameplay.

Second, G&G added a whole new CB to the first mission, complete with one bit of original Voice Acting, which explains what Operation Templar is all about, why the HoL is still around, and why the weapon pool is so weird.

The third change comes in on the last mission, see gameplay.

All in all, the plot is logical and reasonably interesting, if short. Missions lead to eachother in a sensible flow of events as you pursue the HoL's strike teams back to their hideout. In fact, the plot makes more sense than the original Silent Threat. The Canonity of the story adds to its value (many campaigns, including Blue Planet, take the FSPort remake as canon material, much like they often do with Silent Threat: Reborn). And while it's not an epic anti-Shivan struggle, it will definitely keep you interested enough to play the four missions.

GAMEPLAY:

Operation Templar has an interesting combination of Volition solidness and FSPort creativity.

One unique aspect of the campaign is the unusual loadouts, as mentioned above. Cross-game mashups are possible; you can put Akheton SDGs on an Apollo, for instance. One of the hard parts is the lack of straightforward dogfight primaries. Lack of Earth materials has exhausted the stock of Avengers and original Prometheus cannons, but the HL-7 family has yet to be developed. You have to either make do with the low-powered Prometheus R, or the shield-centric Banshee. I flew the first three missions in a Hercules mainly for the quad Banshee.

Note that Capships still operate on the FS1 rules: no beams yet, and primaries/missiles still work on them if you're patient enough.

Each of the missions poses an interesting challenge. Operation Templar is not a mindless Blast-em-up campaign. Due to the HoL's tactics of taking hostages, care must be used to prevent blue-on-blue losses. Therefore, strategy is the key. Sometimes you can't shoot back.

“Bringing the Hammer Down” is a pretty straightforward Capship Assault scenario, requiring you to take out a destroyer (The captured PVD Anhur) before it escapes. Sets a good start for the campaign, as the following missions are essentially a pursuit of the HoL escapees.  :yes:

“Chasing the Threat” is a creative “hostage situation” mission, where you have to ID the enemy transports before attacking. Follows with a nice big furball skirmish. :yes:

“Tightening the Noose” is an intense, multi-objective mission. :nervous: You need to destroy an HoL destroyer (the HLD Tanis) while assisting in a rescue op for the hostages on board two transports trying to rendezvous with the destroyer. Transports must be disabled, but not destroyed, before reaching the destroyer. Friendly marine transports must be escorted. The Tanis must die :mad2:. It takes some strategy. Here's how I did it: have all the bombers dogpile the Tanis while you slow down (but not full disable) the first transport. Once the Tanis is down, the HoL won't have any reinforcement wings left, so it's safe to disable the transports and trigger the arrival of the marines. Have some fighters protect the marines while the bombers finish off the Tanis's escort cruisers, then go home.

“Final Outpost” was a fitting end to the HoL (although according to War in Heaven, which I'm in the middle of, they're still out there somewhere). This was the third major plot change G&G made: changing the HoL's outpost Nagada from an Arcadia to a fan-made PVI Cheops (which makes more sense, if you think about it). This mission takes a LOT of strategy, as you have to gain space superiority without destroying the outpost, call in an escort the marine transport, protect them while they rescue one last hostage from Nagada, then blow the place and pull out. Worth a couple of tries.

Side note: on Final Outpost there's an Isis that flees the base, apparently containing the HoL's leaders. You get a secondary objective for killing it, but unfortunately it warps out once its hul gets to 30% or so, making it FRUSTRATING to kill  :banghead:. And I'm a maximalist; I don't leave objectives incomplete :nod:. Finally I found a solution: camp the fighterbay till it launches, soften in up a bit, then feed the leaders of the HoL a pair of Serkrs, killing them in one swift blow before they could bug out.  :lol:

Anyway, gameplay was quite satisfying overall.

AESTHETICS:

Essentially retail. No new music, only one new ship (the Cheops-class Vasudan asteroid base). Fully voice-acted, but all the voices were re-used from the original multiplayer missions or the main retail campaigns. The exception would be the intro CBAni, which was a new addition by G&G and was specially voice acted (perfectly well) by someone from FSPort.

TECHNICAL STUFF:

Easy to install. I only encountered two bugs, both merely annoying. First, during the debriefing for the first mission, the second half of the debrief (both text and voice) was doubled; the commander gave the speech about “finishing the threat once and for all” twice :p . Second, on the last mission, the flare of the explosion of Outpost Nagada froze and remained floating there even after the outpost was gone. :confused: I think the problem wasn't with Operation Templar but with my MediaVPs: my secondhand jury-rigged Windows Vista machine :ick: has so much trouble with the Advanced Effects that Age of Aquarius was unplayable until I deleted the MV_Advance file.

Anyway, I don't give percentages to Minicampaigns (too much “Apples and Oranges” effect). But, Operation Templar is a solidly made campaign, worth playing both for its enjoyable missions and for its significance to the FreeSpace Saga. Highly recommended. Thumbs up, G&G!  :yes2::yes:
« Last Edit: July 17, 2013, 06:31:23 pm by InsaneBaron »
Doesn't matter what the press says. Doesn't matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn't matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right. This nation was founded on one principle above all else: the requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world — "No, you move." - Captain America

InsaneBaron's Fun-to-Read Reviews!
Blue Planet: Age of Aquarius - Silent Threat: Reborn - Operation Templar - Sync, Transcend, Windmills - The Antagonist - Inferno, Inferno: Alliance

 

Offline Luis Dias

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Re: InsaneBaron's Reviews: Operation Templar (minireview, for new guys and dev team)
"mini review". ahah. :yes:

 

Offline Arpit

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Re: InsaneBaron's Reviews: Operation Templar (minireview, for new guys and dev team)
:yes2:  Nice Review  :yes:

 

Offline Goober5000

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Re: InsaneBaron's Reviews: Operation Templar (minireview, for new guys and dev team)
Credit where credit is due, the rebalanced Operation Templar is almost entirely Galemp's work.  I offered a small amount of advice and polishing, but he took care of the rebalancing, the mission ordering, the fixup of the PVI Cheops, the new directives, and the objectives.  He even voiced the new command briefing. :yes:
« Last Edit: July 15, 2013, 03:08:42 pm by Goober5000 »

 

Offline InsaneBaron

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Re: InsaneBaron's Reviews: Operation Templar (minireview, for new guys and dev team)
Credit where credit is due, the rebalanced Operation Templar is almost entirely Galemp's work.  I offered a small amount of advice and polishing, but he took care of the rebalancing, the mission ordering, the fixup of the PVI Cheops, the new directives, and the objectives.  He even voiced the new command briefing. :yes:

Interesting, I didn't know that. So we now have the Galactic Emperor's voice in a briefing...

Anyway, the Cheops was a clever move. It seems a little weird for the GTA to build an Arcadia in an asteroid field, abandon it, and have to HoL somehow think that the GTA would never find them in a former GTA base.

@Luis Dias: "Mini-review" is relative to my normal reviews, which are pretty in-depth, as you can see if you check my sig. I didn't realize how long this was till I posted it,  :P since I typed it in OpenOffice and then pasted it in here.
Doesn't matter what the press says. Doesn't matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn't matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right. This nation was founded on one principle above all else: the requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world — "No, you move." - Captain America

InsaneBaron's Fun-to-Read Reviews!
Blue Planet: Age of Aquarius - Silent Threat: Reborn - Operation Templar - Sync, Transcend, Windmills - The Antagonist - Inferno, Inferno: Alliance

 

Offline Arpit

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Re: InsaneBaron's Reviews: Operation Templar (minireview, for new guys and dev team)
Credit where credit is due, the rebalanced Operation Templar is almost entirely Galemp's work.  I offered a small amount of advice and polishing, but he took care of the rebalancing, the mission ordering, the fixup of the PVI Cheops, the new directives, and the objectives.  He even voiced the new command briefing. :yes:

Yeah, this Operation Templar is quite good, thanks to his efforts. But now there is no campaign left using the Monolith music track.  :(
Or there is ?  :eek:

 

Offline Goober5000

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Re: InsaneBaron's Reviews: Operation Templar (minireview, for new guys and dev team)
ST:R uses Monolith...

Interestingly, based on Dan Wentz's original file names for the music tracks, Monolith may have been intended as the soundtrack for the final mission in FS1 (the attack on the Lucifer).  As it stands, the released version of FS1 uses no music track at all in that mission.

 

Offline Arpit

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Re: InsaneBaron's Reviews: Operation Templar (minireview, for new guys and dev team)
ST:R uses Monolith...

Interestingly, based on Dan Wentz's original file names for the music tracks, Monolith may have been intended as the soundtrack for the final mission in FS1 (the attack on the Lucifer).  As it stands, the released version of FS1 uses no music track at all in that mission.

Yes I know... Return to Ross 128 uses Monolith. How can I forget that?   :doubt:

Monolith was intended for the final mission and then discarded. That's for sure I remember too.

 

Offline Yarn

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Re: InsaneBaron's Reviews: Operation Templar (minireview, for new guys and dev team)
First, during the debriefing for the first mission, the second half of the debrief (both text and voice) was doubled; the commander gave the speech about “finishing the threat once and for all” twice :p .
Which build did this happen on? I tried that debriefing in 3.7.0 RC2 and it played only once.
"Your fighter is running out of oil.  Please check under the hood and add more if necessary"
--strings.tbl, entry 177

"Freespace is very tired.  It is shutting down to get some rest."
--strings.tbl, entry 178

 

Offline InsaneBaron

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Re: InsaneBaron's Reviews: Operation Templar (minireview, for new guys and dev team)
First, during the debriefing for the first mission, the second half of the debrief (both text and voice) was doubled; the commander gave the speech about “finishing the threat once and for all” twice :p .
Which build did this happen on? I tried that debriefing in 3.7.0 RC2 and it played only once.

I used 3.6.18
Doesn't matter what the press says. Doesn't matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn't matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right. This nation was founded on one principle above all else: the requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world — "No, you move." - Captain America

InsaneBaron's Fun-to-Read Reviews!
Blue Planet: Age of Aquarius - Silent Threat: Reborn - Operation Templar - Sync, Transcend, Windmills - The Antagonist - Inferno, Inferno: Alliance

 

Offline Yarn

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Re: InsaneBaron's Reviews: Operation Templar (minireview, for new guys and dev team)
I used 3.6.18
I tried that build and still couldn't reproduce that problem. Could you try getting the debriefing again and see whether it's still doubled?
"Your fighter is running out of oil.  Please check under the hood and add more if necessary"
--strings.tbl, entry 177

"Freespace is very tired.  It is shutting down to get some rest."
--strings.tbl, entry 178

 

Offline Lorric

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Re: InsaneBaron's Reviews: Operation Templar (minireview, for new guys and dev team)
Alright, I got sidetracked, but I finally read your review as promised.

I don't really have much to say, I liked reading it, I liked reading about the changes that "G+G" made to the original. You could have some fun with that, G+G = GG = Good Game. G+G = Good Games.

The weapons selection is interesting also.

Of particular interest to me was you talking about the Arcadia being replaced with the Cheops, so I had something I could check to find out if I was running this version of the campaign. And I do have the correct campaign. It's set up with a pilot, it looks like I just haven't played it yet, so it sounds like fun awaits me if I try it. I used Shift+Ctrl+S to get a sneak peak at the 4th mission and saw the Cheops. I actually used FSport instead of FSport mediavps by mistake, so ended up looking at it twice, and the difference between the two Cheops' is absolutely astonishing. It's like comparing a mud encrusted rock to a diamond.

Anyway, thanks for that, because not only did you give me an insight into the campaign, but also the tool for the job of checking if it was the correct campaign, which it is.

 

Offline Lorric

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Re: InsaneBaron's Reviews: Operation Templar (minireview, for new guys and dev team)
And now the campaign is won :)

Had a tense finish on the last mission with my hull strength down to (I think) 18%, me the only one left taking on two enemy fighters.

 

Offline Galemp

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Re: InsaneBaron's Reviews: Operation Templar (minireview, for new guys and dev team)
Funny that nobody's mentioned the flak guns.
"Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn't the work he's supposed to be doing at that moment." -- Robert Benchley

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Offline Vidmaster

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Re: InsaneBaron's Reviews: Operation Templar (minireview, for new guys and dev team)
Found a small bug in Mission 2, after failing to destroy the Hathor and protecting our own Cruiser, I decided to randomly jumped out. I got the "deserter, you will court-martialled" ending but still progressed to the next mission.
Devoted member of the Official Karajorma Fan Club (Founded and Led by Mobius).

Does crazy Software Engineering for a living, until he finally musters the courage to start building games for real. Might never happen.