There isn't much of a storyline here. The accompanying readme states that the mission was intended to be part of a larger campaign, and indeed it feels very much like one of the early anti-pirate missions in Derelict. But the storyline is more effective for what it hints at rather than what it actually delivers. There's no explanation for what the gas miner is doing here, why the pirates want to capture it, why the situation is so urgent that it requires a scramble mission, or why it's so important to warrant deploying "the largest and most powerful ship available to the Outer Defense Force" (according to the readme) to reinforce you. The briefing would have lost nothing and gained much by being retooled into a standard multi-page briefing with better descriptions. And more in-mission messages could have been used to elaborate on what was happening beyond the obvious.
I did laugh out loud at an unexpected phrase in the debriefing, "The pirates are not stopping until they get the last of our pants."Balance: 2
The balance in this mission was ... awkward, in that the mission was at the same time too hard and too easy for the task at hand. On one hand, you have a Deimos and five fighters versus a Fenris and a swarm of AI fighters and bombers; and not only that, Alpha wing is inexplicably armed with Kaysers. On paper, this should be a cakewalk -- and so it is, because the fighters and bombers drop like flies against the Deimos's flak and your wingmates' barrage. But on the other hand, the gas-miner's hull is so paper-thin
that only a few shots from the bombers are enough to reduce it to scrap metal. You basically have to fly the mission perfectly, not letting any volleys through. It doesn't help that the gas miner's hull is reduced to around 50% by the explosion of the docked Argo, nor that the bombers are launching Infyrnos. The Infryno is actually an excellent balance choice in that its projectile is shootable, like a bomb, but is lower-yield than the Cyclops. Unfortunately, I kept blowing myself up when I tried to shoot them down at point-blank range. Design: 5
The design of this mission is actually really solid, despite its other weaknesses. The author clearly knows his way around FRED, and uses its features to great effect while avoiding the classic FRED pitfalls. The ships are well-placed on all three axes, there's a passive asteroid field to make things interesting, and the debriefing stages cover all the possible scenarios, including AWOL. Directives and send-message-list are used when appropriate. The ships and IFFs are all used correctly, and using the Derelict naming convention for the pirate wings was a nice touch. Not only are all the technicalities correct, the mission events adjust themselves according to the player's performance, with changed dialogue or changed sequencing as appropriate. There are even events to change the balance according to the difficulty level! This category definitely merits a top score.
(Footnote: I should add that there were a lot of spelling and grammar errors, as well as odd constructions like "Destroy the transport. We are preparing a transport for you." I may be getting soft in my old age, but this was actually an area that could use some polishing. I would probably have dinged a native English speaker for these errors; as it is, I think a good proofreading would go a long way toward helping the author spruce up his text.)Gameplay: 3
Despite the balance problems, I had fun playing this mission -- though that may have been due to gleefully "blowing up any pirate threats" (per the briefing) with my Kayser and Tempests. It's long enough to make things interesting but short enough that it doesn't become tedious.
That being said, there isn't much to recommend picking up and playing this mission out of the blue; it's much better suited to be part of a campaign. It also doesn't have much replay value.Overall: 3
The author is very technically proficient, but suffers from some weaknesses that hamper the overall mission. The weak areas can be improved with practice, but in the meantime, I bet this author would do very well in a campaign team. Paired with a good story writer and a good beta tester, the trio would probably be capable of regularly churning out missions that score 5's in every category.