Finished the campaign last night. A few thoughts:
- One of the hallmarks of a good campaign is how cohesive the story is, and Scroll does that quite well. I completed a playthrough of FS2 earlier this week. I hadn't played the game from start to finish in years (there were several missions that I couldn't even remember, so it was like playing the whole game fresh), and I was struck by how many missions seemed nonsensical or poorly designed (although this may be a side-effect of playing on a game engine that is significantly different from the 1999 retail version). In contrast, most of Scroll's missions are tight and clean, and the story never seems to drag. There are a couple of exceptions, but I'll get to those.
- I love little touches and small details that show how much care and polish have gone into a project. Scroll is Vasudan-centric and written from a Vasudan perspective, and it shows: they call the Alliance the GVTA rather than the GTVA, and I believe there's also mention of the "Vasudan-Terran War." The tech room entries are rewritten from a Vasudan point of view. It's interesting to get a detailed look at things from the other side, and it goes a long way toward helping see the Vasudans as real characters with their own sense of morality and justice as opposed to generic aliens. Because everyone is Vasudan, this allows the campaign to get away with entirely synthesized voice acting, which is kind of a cheat but never feels like it (although some of the synthesized voices used are the same ones in those "Xtranormal" videos on YouTube, which will provide you with a whole other level of entertainment). Also, the briefings use absolutely gorgeous, retail-quality CBanims. Mjn.maxael is to be commended.
- There are a bunch of other little things that I'm sure I'm forgetting. How some missions end with actually returning to your mothership rather than just jumping out, the custom Vasudan comm channel animations, etc. The use of non-standard cockpit controls like the proximity sensor and the "calculating current location" thingy are great touches that show what can be done with the game engine.
- It's refreshing to see the Alliance kick some ass, for once. The Shivans take a beating throughout the campaign and never really give one back, although this may not mesh well with canon, as both FS1 and FS2 involve overwhelmingly large Shivan fleets; the Shivan forces in Scroll seem to be spread pretty thin, and that never really changes throughout the campaign except for the last couple of missions. (Also, I don't think there's a canon example of Shivan ships ever retreating from battle, although they may depart if their target manages to escape.)
- The soundtrack is good, but the quality is a little uneven. The calm, atmospheric music that plays the first time you jump into Marnakh, for example, is a gorgeous track, but I'm not sure you ever hear it again. I think I would have preferred more of that over the OMINOUS LATIN CHANTING that plays during "Irkalla Passes."
- All that being said...
- Scroll appears to be ignoring my resolution settings in Knossos; I have huge HUD icons and message windows, some of which overlap with each other, and when there's a special effect going on (like the location finder), it blocks some of my text. This may be a problem with the 4.0 MVPs, as the FS2 main campaign is also doing this, but none of my other campaigns are.
- Certain missions feel "gimmicky" or are difficult for the wrong reasons. You might be penalized for selecting a loadout that excludes weapons you don't know you'll need, or you'll have to take a "trial-and-error" approach and replay a mission several times because you don't know what specific thing the game wants you to do in order to proceed. (This is especially true of "Arachnaphobia," which has to be played in one very specific way in order to succeed.) All of the stealth/infiltration missions play out this way, requiring you to scan something (or several somethings) in a specific order (but you don't know which), or go to a specific location (but you don't know where) while avoiding a dozen sentry guns and patrolling fighters. The checkpoint system helps to alleviate this somewhat, but sometimes you have to just throw up your hands and replay the mission (or the previous
mission!) from scratch in order to get a better outcome. There's something to be said for innovative mission design, but there's a difference between "innovative" and "frustrating."
- FS1 and FS2 usually required you to fully perform a task (blow up x targets, scan x objects, etc.) before an objective or mission was considered "complete." Scroll is less consistent about this, with new tasks popping up before you complete the old ones, and you may receive orders to jump out while you still have things to do. This may be more realistic (or more subversive) mission design, but it leaves you with the sense that you've left things unfinished.
- Some missions are very "chatty" and contain a lot of exposition; you may simply sit around for five minutes or longer just listening to people talk to each other before getting to the action. Time compression is your friend.
- Other missions are short and end kind of abruptly. "Thor's Hammer," for example, is very brief for a warship blockade mission; the whole thing is over in a few minutes.
- The new Vasudan fighters simply aren't needed. I played through the entire campaign using Taurets and Seths and was better off for it; every time my wingmen were assigned Shus, without exception, the AI wiped them out. (The ship selection art for the Shu also looks out-of-place, as it lacks the detail of the other fighters; one glance at it immediately tells you, "I AM A FAN-MADE SHIP.")
- The Vasudans have a very muted reaction to both the Shivans' return and the appearance of a certain destroyer. No one seems to make a big deal out of it, and considering the kind of existential threat that the Shivans have posed in the past, you would think they'd show more concern.
A number of plot points are left unexplained, presumably to be addressed in Part II. What were the Shivans running from in Alpha Nareasi? Where did that Shivan debris field come from? Why did the Shivans attempt to steal that Vasudan cargo? Why were their freighters carrying "organic material"?
Overall, however, I enjoyed this campaign, and it left me wanting more, which I guess is the whole point. My compliments to the entire project team. I eagerly await Part II!
A couple of other things I noticed:
- In the tech room, at the bottom of the list, there are five craft with a "PT" prefix. One of these, the Herc, has an actual description; the others simply read, "Tech description. Write me!"
- There doesn't appear to be an entry for the SD Demon, even though one appears in the campaign. (This may be because I played through the "GVTA" half of the campaign last.)
- There's some non-regulation behavior going on aboard that Ra...