Modding, Mission Design, and Coding > FRED Contest 2005

Review: Axem's Aftermath



Description : Set after the Sathanas decimates the Gamma Draconis blockade, GTVA desperately scramble to try and save as many of the survivors of the battle as possible.

Storyline : 4.5

Rather than try to flesh out a completely new storyline for a single mission the creator has decided to expand on an event we all know quite well and expand on it. This has the advantage giving the player all the backstory he could possibly want immediately. The player knows immediately knows that he is going to be fighing a tough battle in the mission even if the Sathanas has already jumped out and the briefing (Set up as if it was a red alert) reinforces that tone.
 There are some nice touches in the mission such as the fact that although it never engages the Beleth is sighted. There is a rather major plot hole though. The battle between the GTVA fleet and the Sathanas was supposed to have taken place at the Capella jump node in Gamma Draconis. Once the fleet is demolished the Sathanas then carries on towards the node Command scrambles Alpha 1 in Bahka bombers to take out the beam cannons on the Sathanas and the events of Bearbaiting take place. Which means that it's hard to understand when exactly this mission was supposed to have taken place as none of the ships present in the mision were also present in Bearbaiting
 If however you assume that the battle took place at some staging point between the Knossos and the Capella node then the mission setting is very effective and manages to convey the horror of the GTVA pilots who feel that they have been abandoned by Command.
 Unfortunately the mission doesn't capitalise on this start. I would have liked to have seen the tension ratcheted up as the capships became more and more aware that Command was too busy with the Sathanas to help them.
 The debriefings also felt a little lackluster in comparison to the way the mission started.

Balance : 4

The player is certainly facing an uphill battle when it comes to their loadout in this mission. Double Subachs, Harpoons and Hornets are a tough loadout for a mission like this especially when you don't have the back up of a support ship to help you. Since the player is flying bomber intercept this means that player has to keep shooting for a very long period of time to take down enemy bombers (Time which the player doesn't have to spare as he's got a lot to do).
 The mission however compensates for this by not requiring the successful completion of all goals for victory. It is possible for the player to successfully save both of the ships he is tasked with defending but it isn't an easy task. This adds replayability to the mission as there is a challenge to the mission beyond simply completing a list of goals.  
 The goals themselves are attainable but not easy. If the player allows himself to get distracted from his tasks to persue enemy fighters it is very easy to lose the mission.
 The enemy were hard without being overwhelming. There are a lot of enemy fighters flying about so on the higher skill levels that may be a different matter. They neither pile on you all at once nor give you long periods when there are no fighters around.

Design : 4

Overall I found the mission to be pretty well designed but I did have a couple of little niggles with it.
 The biggest problem I had was that on two seperate occassions I never recieved the RTB directive and only realised that I was alone due to my wingmen having jumped rather than being destroyed when I got a few spare seconds to look at the wings indicator and saw the gray circles.
 At one point in the mission I did recieve a message from Command that was obviously meant to have come from a ship that had been destroyed though.
 A more minor problem is that the player isn't aware of what forces are under his control at the start of the mission. I actually though epsilon wing must be a wing of bombers since they were sent in to disarm the Moloch. Upon opening the mission in FRED and spotting that they were Serapis fighters my earlier decisions to send them in to take out turrets on several capships looks less smart. A simple message at the start of the mission might have helped identify Delta wing as the only bombers left without forcing the player to cycle thougth friendlies to see what was out there.
 An effort has been made to make sure the player is warned when Delta or Epsilon wing are killed before the beams on the Moloch or Cain are gone which is very useful information for the player to have.
The mission is also rather flat. Although it seems reasonable for the GTVA ships to be oriented on the same plane more or less the shivans also seem to jump in on the same plane. There is also very little warning of the arrival of enemy bomber wings beyond the default enemy arriving comments from wingmen which makes it harder to prioritise enemy targets.
 Overall though the mission is well designed.

Gameplay : 4

I enjoyed the mission a lot. Although this is a missions with several capships in it the creator has managed to prevent the mission falling into any of the pitfalls such missions can have. At all times the player knows what he is supposed to be doing and always feels that his actions are having an effect on the battle.
 There are no major twists in the mission but to be fair it didn't need them. The player knows what he is up against, a flood of shivans and that is exactly what he faces.

Overall rating : 4

A very good polished defence mission. Lots of fun to play with only a couple of minor flaws in it. More explaination is needed of where exactly the battle was meant to take place though.

Blaise Russel:
Sorry about lateness, but university is taking its toll on my free time. :(

I'll try to avoid repeating karajorma's review, so I'll more highlight specific points rather than attempt a comprehensive review.

Storyline - 3.0

As said, the mission story setup is very well done, aptly conveying the chaos and confusion of a blitzkrieg'd front line. Slight fudging is necessary to slot the mission into the existing FS2 plot, but it is ultimately a plausible, possible mission. Unfortunately, it's not perfect: the story does tail off towards the end, and a marvellous opportunity to tie the events of Bearbaiting/High Noon into the mission outcome (where saving the Arche and Neith gives the Colossus a resounding success against the Sathanas, and losing both ships results in the Colossus' destruction or near destruction) is missed. The debriefings ought to have consisted of more than a summary of your performance - if not an update of the wider situation, then at least some musings on the death and destructon witnessed during the battle. Additionally, the lack of a 'proper' briefing means that the player is unaware of what forces he has under his command and what ships he must protect. This can be forgiven, though, as the current briefing setup is just hella cool.

Balance - 4.0

This mission is, to an extent, quite hard - while I can, with effort, save the Arche, defending the Neith from multiple fighters and bombers and an incoming destroyer is beyond my abilities. That said, the debriefing doesn't bawl you out for failing objectives, so it's not really a problem. One suggestion I would make is that the player is given a better gun - even a simple Prom-S attached to his Subach would improve matters greatly. I make this suggestion because I believe it would better serve the 'feel' of the mission, which I shall cover below; it is not really so much of a negative or mark against the mission. On the other hand, I did find myself being massively overwhelmed by Shivan fighters and bombers when the time came for me to jump out, meaning that I rarely made it back to base. It would be best if the player could have some breathing room in order to jump out, especially since the mission ends with Shivans controlling the entire battlefield and few to no allies remaining to help the player.

Design - 4.0

As mentioned, there are a few minor flaws, like a missing RTB directive and 'ghost ship messaging,' and design decisions that should perhaps have gone the other way, relating to awareness of starting forces. Also, the theatre is fairly flat, and while I understand and sympathise with not wanting to have spaceships every-crazy-which-way even though it'd be like that in 'real life,' the remains of a battlefield should have had some more chaotically placed vessels thrown out of the main plane of battle, up as well as along. The Beleth, at least, could have been placed above or below the battlefield in order to provide some variation to the flatness. It is, though, not a critical issue.

Gameplay - 4.5

Firstly, the mission does a good job of creating a large battle without screwing it up, if by having it before the mission starts. Secondly, and more importantly, I thoroughly enjoyed the 'puzzle' feel of the mission and found it quite different to most other missions that I've played. As the player takes command (of sorts) in the post-battle confusion, he is forced to analyse the battle and figure out what to do, and when to do it, in order to save the Arche and the Neith. If a player runs around chasing fighters, the Shivan capital ships destroy the Arche. If he sends everyone to destroy the Shivan beams, bombers destroy his corvette. If he focuses solely on the corvette, a fighter wing destroys a repair transport, preventing the Neith's escape. The player must retain situational awareness at all times, and must go beyond simply 'shooting Shivans;' he must engage his brain if he is to come through victorious.

(This is why I suggest the player is given slightly better fighter armanent - if the player doesn't have to spend so much time pounding on Astaroths and Taurvis with Subach HLs, he can spend more time organising the defence of the allied corvette and destroyer.)

Overall Rating - 4.0

Oh, and I'm still not sure as to how I can save the GVD Neith.


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