Author Topic: [RELEASE] Shepherds  (Read 6694 times)

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Offline Colt

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Darkness looms on the horizon. The apocalypse approaches. A desperate struggle for survival begins.
As allied forces begin their last retreat from the nebula, the GTVA Security Council has authorized the deployment of the GTD Ionia to cover the allied fleet's withdrawal. Join the 78th Silverbacks in a battle against time as the Shivan invasion leaves both them and thousands of allied survivors trapped behind enemy lines, all while hunted by a ruthless adversary.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Features:
-Ten mission campaign and two cutscenes.
-Cross-mission events: Saving a cruiser in one mission will lead to them assisting you in another. Destroying enemy gas miners will cause them to divert forces from a later mission to protect their supply lines. Etc.
-Custom CBAnims by Mjn.Mixael.
-Soundtracks by ShadowOfLight's Freespace Soundtrack Expansion Project.
-FuryAI.
-Checkpoints!
-User-made assets, optional HUD and more!


FSO Version: 21.5.0-20220128 or newer

Words from the author:
After over two years of development, I am finally ready to release my second campaign. I want to thank everyone who has been following the development of this campaign. I also want to highlight several individuals in particular:

Spart_n, Woutersmits and Goober5000, who have provided critical feedback while beta testing this campaign. Furthermore, thank you Goober for your behind-the-scenes assistance and helping me get scripts such as the checkpoint script to function. :yes:

Mjn.Mixael, who made five awesome new command briefing animations specifically for this campaign.

ShadowsOfLight, whose Freespace-themed music provides nearly all of the in-game soundtracks.

Thank you all so much.  :)

Shepherds should be on Knossos launcher as of this posting, as well as the link below. It requires the most recent nightly (Jan.28) or newer, but I will set it to require the next stable version of FSO once that is released. I've left the command line settings blank so you can use whatever settings  you want, but I'll also include my personal settings above the download link. If you haven't, give Walls Closing a try, as Shepherds serves as a sequel to that campaign. Have fun!

Personal Command Line Settings:
Hidden Text: Show
Code: [Select]
-enable_shadows -fb_thrusters -fb_explosions -aa -soft_particles -3dshockwave -ballistic_gauge -rearm_timer -orbradar -targetinfo -dualscanlines -warp_flash -3dwarp -weapon_choice_3d -ship_choice_3d -stretch_menu -smaa -post_process -ambient_factor 80 -bloom_intensity 20

Download:


Screenshots:











« Last Edit: January 30, 2022, 09:18:02 pm by Colt »

 

Offline spart_n

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Congrats on the release!

 

Offline Goober5000

  • HLP Loremaster
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Congratulations!  Highlighted. :yes:

 

Offline starlord

  • 210
Congrats.

 

Offline Dilmah G

  • Failed juggling
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  • Do try it.
Just finished the first mission. That was some BIG cutscene energy, huge fan! Legitimately one of the most well put together cutscenes I've come across in quite a while. Super keen for the rest of it.  :cool:

 

Offline Colt

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Just finished the first mission. That was some BIG cutscene energy, huge fan! Legitimately one of the most well put together cutscenes I've come across in quite a while. Super keen for the rest of it.  :cool:
Thanks! I hope you have fun with the rest of the campaign.  :D

 
Beat the campaign.  Very fun, but quite hard, especially at the end.  I think it is worth a replay

 

Offline 0rph3u5

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  • Oceans rise. Empires fall.

-Cross-mission events: Saving a cruiser in one mission will lead to them assisting you in another. Destroying enemy gas miners will cause them to divert forces from a later mission to protect their supply lines. Etc.


Now, this has me interested :)

Too bad it will be some time until I can give it a try... adding it to my to-play list anyway :)
"When you work with water, you have to know and respect it. When you labour to subdue it, you have to understand that one day it may rise up and turn all your labours into nothing. For what is water, which seeks to make all things level, which has no taste or colour of its own, but a liquid form of Nothing?" - Graham Swift, Waterland

==================

"I am Curiosity, and I've always wondered what would become of you, here at the end of the world." - The Guide/The Curious Other, Othercide

"As you sought to steal a kingdom for yourself, so must you do again, a thousand times over. For a theft, a true theft, must be practiced to be earned." - The terms of Nyrissa's curse, Pathfinder: Kingmaker

"...because they are not Dragons."

 
Congrats~ :yes:

 

Offline Nyctaeus

  • The Slavic Engineer
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Congtatulations, Dude :]. I'm anticipating this release from a long time, counting on all the awesomeness your crazy mind can produce :]. Gonna give it a shot at first possible free moment I find.

[wrong thread lel]
Exile | Shadow Genesis | Inferno | Series Resurrecta  | DA Profile | P3D Profile

Proud owner of NyctiShipyards. Remember - Nyx will fix it!

All of my assets including models, textures, skyboxes, effects may be used under standard CC BY-NC 4.0 license.

 

Offline Colt

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Beat the campaign.  Very fun, but quite hard, especially at the end.  I think it is worth a replay
Awesome! Glad you enjoyed it.  :)

 

Offline Iain Baker

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Sweet, congrats on the release.  I'll add it to the list of campaigns to play. Walls closing is on the list of campaigns to play again  :nod:
Wanna check out my video games, technology and media website? If so, visit; https://www.nomadsreviews.co.uk/

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Offline z64555

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So uh, it appears this mod uses a nightly with Controls5 in it.  We're still ironing out compatibility issues with it since it changes the pilot .json file and .csg versions, so anybody seeking to play this mod needs to be warned about the possibility of not being able to play other mods/campaigns that use a 21.4 or older version of FSO.
Secure the Source, Contain the Code, Protect the Project
chief1983

------------
funtapaz: Hunchon University biologists prove mankind is evolving to new, higher form of life, known as Homopithecus Juche.
z64555: s/J/Do
BotenAlfred: <funtapaz> Hunchon University biologists prove mankind is evolving to new, higher form of life, known as Homopithecus Douche.

 
Looking forward to this, Walls Closing was a great side-campaign that's made a regular addition to my FS2 replays.

 

Offline Dilmah G

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  • Do try it.
Just finished Shepherds! That was a good campaign with some awesome gameplay mechanics, interesting perspective on some FS2 events, an absolute BANGER of a soundtrack, and some very good worldbuilding. Full review below:

Spoiler:
Coming into this, I hadn't played Walls Closing and so had literally zero expectations coming into it, but man, that intro cutscene was a hell of a hook. What made it good, and what I think was a real strong point for Shepherds overall is its world-building. There are a lot of campaigns out there set amongst the events of the FS2 campaign that we all know so well, but Shepherds did one of the best jobs we've seen recently of making you really appreciate that there was a fleet around you, a war going on, and a whole universe happening around you. Between the cutscenes, the command briefings (I saw on the WC release thread that apparently military jargon/military culture wasn't as strong there - I was actually very impressed by the command of the jargon in Shepherds), the briefings that used icons liberally to actually depict a system-wide battle going on, and the general focus on life in the Vasudan Battlegroup, Shepherds did an excellent job of building its universe and had me appreciating the OG FS2 "nameless cog in a big machine" vibes in a way I haven't experienced in a while. Having wings and transports etc always floating around the Memphis and going about their own missions was a great touch too.

And while I found I took a few missions to really get into the story, I was really engrossed by the very end, and the final cutscene had me super keen for the next instalment. The last few missions especially I think were very good story-wise, and I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the journey out of the nebula, missing the rendezvous window, and having to full send it through a Shivan blockade to get home. I am extremely partial to "**** this Shivan thing is hopeless, we're basically running away at the enemy at full speed and we have to nail this next thing or we're all going to die out here" stories set in the Freespace universe, and I think this was one of the better done ones for sure.

The second highlight for me was the gameplay. Between Axem's turret script, liberal use of checkpoints (so ****ing glad this has now become standard in the community), and actually having wings to command, I really appreciated being tested as a veteran FS2 player, and seeing some old things done in a new way. The little things like in-mission subspace jumps that feature actual subspace mission background, and even having to make a few decisions here and there was really cool, and made the experience of playing it actually fun. And I don't think any review of Shepherds can skip mentioning the ****ing amazing soundtrack! ShadowOfLight's tracks were ****ing awesome, and made the process of being bounced around space by hordes of Shivans whilst trying to disarm a Ravana all the more enjoyable.

The third part about it that really hooked me in was the Vasudan perspective. I think this is probably the first campaign I've played (at least that I remember) from their perspective, but the attention to detail with Vasudan names, some cultural norms, and some of the other conversations the player sits in on go a long way to building immersion. I think it can be hard to do well, and honestly I expect most takes on it to be a bit cheesy, but I was pleasantly surprised, and quite invested in life on the Memphis by the end. Always being surrounded by a Vasudan fleet was pretty cool as well.

What has me sitting on a "good to very good" as opposed to a "very good to excellent" for Shepherds is fundamentally its polish, and its writing. Some aspects of Shepherds were extremely well polished in my opinion, such as the cutscenes and the briefing slides - but I found that typos were a general theme throughout, and the nebula mission that involves making a decision about where to go after discovering the wiped-out supply depot has a miscued dialogue event that means booting from one of the later checkpoints means sitting through a bunch of dialogue that's meant to play much earlier in the mission before being able to do anything. I can forgive a few typos (none of us are perfect, or are being paid to produce Freespace mods), and I know from experience that it can be hard to get some of the more finnicky dialogue strings to time correctly with multiple checkpoints, but I think unfortunately these things cropped up just a bit too often for me to forget. The good news is that we have guys like Iain Baker in the community who seem to just live to proofread (hopefully he finds this funny if he's reading it!) so getting that sorted in quick-time should be easy enough!

In terms of the writing, I really, really enjoyed the overall direction and major muscle movements of the narrative in Shepherds. As I said before, I think writing from the Vasudan perspective, and the whole meta-narrative about the SuperRavana chasing down the Memphis into a sick final battle was awesome, and some great things were done to build the world around the player so you don't just feel like #alpha1 as the centre of the universe the entire time. What sticks out to me as I type this after finishing the campaign is the wingman dialogue and some of the Vasudan dialogue - I was pretty across my three faithful wingmen by the end and really appreciated their distinct personalities, and Nehebu's (sic?) royal background, but I found some of their actual lines were slightly on the cheesy side, and I think maybe 5-15% of the Vasudan dialogue fell into this camp as well for me. Vasudan dialogue can be quite hard to do well, and the Vasudan-ness feel that one gets from hearing voices put through the GTVA Vasudan to Terran translator isn't there when you don't have voice-acting, and so I understand the pressures to ham it up a little so it reads Vasudan, but I think at times it got a bit jarringly cheesy. I think that the average player would potentially receive more naturally-reading dialogue that's a bit less Vasudan a bit better than dialogue that reads so Vasudan but is kinda hard to read and comes off with a bit of ham and cheese.

The other aspect of the writing that didn't land right on target for me was the fiction viewer content. Diary entries can be a really powerful tool when it comes to character development, and I think we have a good few examples now in the community of how that works - but like all narrative writing, it can be hard to do well, and I think in the same vein as the in-mission wingman dialogue, I found these to be just a bit too hammed up and cliched for my liking. I think the other reason they didn't resonate so well for me is that often when games try and do this - especially first person shooters that are thematically similar to Freespace - it can feel a bit contrived because there's not much actual development of those characters within the levels. All the mushy exposition occurs via text, but once we get in-game, we just see Soap from Call of Duty saying the same canned dialogue (GET SOME LEAD ON THAT GUN NEST) as before, and it's almost like you have two characters going on that share the same name. While that's very CoD specific and not a 1:1 application to Shepherds, I think the reason it didn't land for me is because it suffered from the same thing principally. If anything, I was actually quite receptive to Nehebu's diary entry because he probably actually has the most character development of all of the wingmen. It was cool from a narrative perspective to find out that his previous Wing had died essentially defending him because he was low-key royalty, and we'd just found that out in the previous mission. Old mate writing a letter to his Mum came off a little flat because it was like seeing a third dimension to a shape that we only saw in two 99% of the time, a la Soap in Call of Duty.

The point of that not being that it wasn't good, and not a good narrative device - because it was good, and it is a good narrative device in Shepherds - but that these things can be 500% more effective when they build upon character development that's already occurring in the missions, and just show us development that really can't physically happen in-game.

But overall, as I said, I really, really enjoyed the experience of playing Shepherds. I thoroughly enjoyed the gameplay, loved the world-building, really got into the story and cared about the Memphis and breaking through the Shivan blockade into Capella, and ****ing loved that soundtrack. There was just a few polish things and writing aspects I have some words about, but playing it was otherwise a great use of a week's free time.

Overall verdict: Good time, would play again.  :yes:

 

Offline mjn.mixael

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Agreed. I gave Colt all my reactions in PM and was going to type something more review-y up here. Suffice to say this one is well worth a playthrough at least once. Maybe even twice. There's a lot of fun to be had. It's got an engaging story with varied missions. A++
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Offline Colt

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Thanks for the very detailed feedbacks, guys! Also happy that you both had fun. I've got a nice list of things to fix up for the next update thanks to these.  :p

 

Offline Antares

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  • Author of The Shivan Manifesto
Just finished my first playthrough. A few thoughts.

The good:

- An intriguing story that keeps you interested and has lots of little callbacks to the canon, although it takes place within a brief span of time; the window between the appearance of the second Sathanas and the SOC mission to the second Knossos is only four missions in the FS2 campaign, but Shepherds is more than twice that length.

- Quality writing. The interplay between squadmates is great, particularly after you pick up your Vasudan wingman, and the letters and journal entries presented through the fiction viewer are genuinely touching, providing a good look at how the characters have been affected by the war they're fighting. This is a campaign that would really benefit from voice acting, to help drive the point home. (This isn't a complaint about the lack of voice acting, which most campaigns don't have anyway; I just think Shepherds deserves it.)

- The tone is serious and consistent, which is a problem for some campaigns that try too hard to be funny or don't know how to handle drama. Shepherds reads like good military sci-fi, which is helped by the little extra-canonical touches like "shock-jumping."

- Kick-ass soundtrack. Dan Wentz will forever be the king of Freespace music, but it's refreshing to hear something different now and then.

- Most missions are action-packed, with plenty of explosions and adrenaline to go around, but...

The bad:

- If you hate escort missions, then you'll hate Shepherds, because it is Escort Missions: The Campaign. It may be thematically appropriate and might even make sense given that the Alliance is making a fighting retreat from the Shivans, but that doesn't make it any more fun. There's a sense of a lack of variety because, although the specific events in each mission are different, every mission plays more or less the same way, with the player running bomber intercept, disabling beam cannons, or both. In practice, this means that you're loading up on double trebuchets in every mission because there's no other practical strategy; what's the point of loading up with harpoons or tornadoes if you have to take out multiple wings of nephilim or another beam turret on a Lilith? You only do something different when the campaign forces it on you, like the stealth mission or having your loadout pre-assigned. The campaign tries to switch things up by occasionally asking you to destroy a convoy or cargo depot, but the attempt rings hollow when you have to wipe out ten bomber wings in the same mission.

- The intense furball dogfights are admittedly exciting, but they also feel unbalanced. You typically only have one or two wings of fighters at your disposal--sometimes not even full wings--and if you have any capship support, they've usually been shot to pieces by the time they get to you. The Shivans badly outnumber you in almost every engagement. Again, this is something that makes sense given the state of the Alliance at this point in the story, but the end result is missions that are very busy, with the player too occupied with dogfighting to pay attention to any snippets of (unvoiced) dialogue that are scrolling by; in any given mission, you can expect to rack up 20 kills or more, because there are so many enemies to go around. In Shepherds, you always, always feel overwhelmed.

- Compounding the above problem is the Fury AI. Enemies aren't simply more aggressive, but manipulate game mechanics and shield strength so that they take less damage. I can't tell you how many times I had a fighter or bomber survive a missile strike with 1% of their health remaining. Fury is also shorthand for "your wingmen all die," and if any survive, it's only because they've been flagged as invulnerable and can't be killed. This isn't more challenging, it's just irritating, and if anything, makes me want to reduce the difficulty so I can make some progress.

- Missions tend to be long, so if you screw up and fail and/or die, you'll have to wait for a while to get back to where you were. This is partly ameliorated by the use of checkpoints, but you're still looking at spending 20 or 30 minutes on a single mission.

- Half the campaign takes place in the nebula. That's more of a personal gripe than anything else (especially since my system doesn't render nebula missions very well), but I've always felt that the nebula effect and its attendant handicaps is something that works best in small doses; after several consecutive missions in the nebula, I was afraid I'd be spending the whole campaign in there.

The ugly:

- Some missions are definitely in need of rebalancing. Ironically, "Shepherds" itself was one of the rare circumstances where my squad held an advantage; we destroyed the Demon's entire fighter compliment and could have saved the Goose Green if the destroyer hadn't flagged as invulnerable at 25%.

- Fighter wings in Wake of Reprisal (except for Gamma wing) don't appear to follow orders and are always set to guard Alpha 1.

- At least one medal isn't awarding properly; I think I was supposed to pick up a Distinguished Flying Cross for Fatal Prognostication, but didn't.

- The large number of capital ships in Thirty-Six Legions (especially the
Spoiler:
two hi-poly Ravanas
) froze FSO a couple of times; if it weren't for checkpoints, I wouldn't have been able to finish the mission. This is probably the fault of my low-end graphics, but I could grab some wild screenshots of destroyers that have their textures replaced with TV static.
« Last Edit: February 10, 2022, 03:24:38 pm by Antares »
We have returned to continue our purification of this galaxy. It is again your turn to be crushed beneath the great force that is the Antaran army. All your petty squabbling with the other beings in this galaxy is meaningless. The Antaran fleet will destroy you all, one by one. You may not surrender. You cannot win. Your only option is death.

 

Offline Colt

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Thanks for taking the time to make the review.

I've been thinking about trying to get it VA'd, and it would benefit a lot because of the intensity of the action making it hard to read at the same time as you've mentioned. Mjn wrote a guide on getting campaigns VA'd, so when I find the time to do it I'll see what I can do.

Should have an update out by this time next week with fixes for the bugs that you, Mjn and Dilmah have raised.  :yes:

- The intense furball dogfights are admittedly exciting, but they also feel unbalanced. You typically only have one or two wings of fighters at your disposal--sometimes not even full wings--and if you have any capship support, they've usually been shot to pieces by the time they get to you. The Shivans badly outnumber you in almost every engagement. Again, this is something that makes sense given the state of the Alliance at this point in the story, but the end result is missions that are very busy, with the player too occupied with dogfighting to pay attention to any snippets of (unvoiced) dialogue that are scrolling by; in any given mission, you can expect to rack up 20 kills or more, because there are so many enemies to go around. In Shepherds, you always, always feel overwhelmed.
Working as intended! (mostly, but more reason for me to get this VA'd  :D)

 
- The intense furball dogfights are admittedly exciting, but they also feel unbalanced. You typically only have one or two wings of fighters at your disposal--sometimes not even full wings--and if you have any capship support, they've usually been shot to pieces by the time they get to you. The Shivans badly outnumber you in almost every engagement. Again, this is something that makes sense given the state of the Alliance at this point in the story, but the end result is missions that are very busy, with the player too occupied with dogfighting to pay attention to any snippets of (unvoiced) dialogue that are scrolling by; in any given mission, you can expect to rack up 20 kills or more, because there are so many enemies to go around. In Shepherds, you always, always feel overwhelmed.
Working as intended! (mostly, but more reason for me to get this VA'd  :D)
[/quote]

This campaign does get pretty intense, but it is nothing compared to Herkie's Freespace 2 The Aftermath Reboot where you regularly deal with multiple enemy squadrons and heavy capital ships all bearing down on you and your allies, often while you are in charge of multiple fleet assets and your wingmates.
« Last Edit: February 11, 2022, 10:22:43 pm by ShivanSlayer »