I made it. Like it, but sadly, not as much as I liked the first act.
The best part of this campaign is the isolationist arc and entering desolated GTVA space. Narrative, mission style, music and chatters executes gloomy, post-apocalyptic mood that I dived hard into. Mission with desolated civilian station in Ross 128 is excellent, and the moment of shivan arrival perfectly sells "we're ****ed!" vibe. Isolationist efforts in the newly-discovered systems portrays bureaucratic inertia, that should follow potential Shivan invasion. FS universe in the first half of the campaign is eerie, mysterious, opressive and... Appropiately dying. It's one of the rare pieces of FS post-apo that sells the mood right.
Unfortunately the campaign takes different direction after our reunion with the GTVA, and offers no detailed writing and interesting plottwists. We just counterattack the Shivans. Fortunately it still offers entertaining gameplay that I know this campaign from. The mission with rescuing Formidable is interesting challenge that requires player to figure out the mission flow, but fortunately does that well. Operating drone wing is crucial, as they are the most powerful asset at player's disposal, so carreful and considered deployment of this wing nicely defines balance of that mission. Seeing our drones crushing swarms of shivan bombers before they die is hella satisfying. Go, my AI bois! Get 'em!
The mission with 3 civilian stations is my very favourite in the entire campaign. The RTS aspect is briliant, entertaining and makes player extremely influential at the mission outcome. I killed that poor Demon :]. And I saved all 3 stations. I have two small complaints: Before the last wave of shivan bombers appears, our carrier notifies us that it's proper moment to call the support ship, but it's simply not enough time for resupply. I was close to the middle station, when Vidys and Yalis reached the station, and when I was ready to fight, I was forced to rush like hell to that attacked station. It miraclously survived at 9%. The second issue is arrival of our torpedo cruisers. I suspected that they will arrive at Demon's flank so the destroyer can still kill them, but I wasn't aware which flank it will be. Fortunately I guessed correctly and killed the LRed at the right broadside, so our cruisers hammered the Psoglav safely. A simple Pharos indicating the arrival position of our cruisers would help the player a lot, and reduce the guessing game.
This is where nightmare begin. The first Sathanas mission.
I get a bomber with 10 gunpoints by default, and a Kayser in 6-firepoint bank. I think "this things must be nuts", so I make my attempt. Sarissa runs out of energy after 4-5 of Kayser bursts. Quick adjustment of loadout to replace Kayser with Uber Subach... And I'm completely op xD. This thing has basically no energy consumption... So let's rock!
But it was just the first step. The briefing recommend me a light bomber with 10 guns, so I assumed this thing has all the firepower to accomplish the task. It does not. Killing a single shivan carrier is hard due to low amount of ordinance my bomber carries. I quickly figured out that this thing is basically OP Athena, so I quickly switched my tactics to killing shivan drones, while my heavy bombers were dealing with carriers... And that drones are nuts. They just keep coming. Endlessly. I scored something like 40-50 kills in this mission, dogfighting like hell, but my heavy bombers still died. Nothing I had at my disposal was even close to damaging a Sath, so I figured out that this one is just scripted to be a failure. Perhaps heavy bomber would do better work as default choice, but this mission suffers from being designed to be a failure.
Default craft suggests a lot to the player. If it's loaded with Akheton by default, it suggests that disarming/disabling of large target will happen in this mission. Players assume, that default loadout is good to accomplish the mission. This time the default pick is a deadly trap. Argh, and the distances... Half of this mission is just "smash your tab like crazy". This one was bad, confusing and overwhelming.
Second mission with Sathanas is the opposite. It's self playing. I'm locked in my OP Athena due to red alert, so again I have 0 firepower against the Sathanas. My bank of 5 Jackhammers is not enough to kill a single beam. Fortunately my vasudan fellas quickly do everything for me, and the poor Sathy used it's beams 0 times. Again: **** the Sathanas. Let's just kill every annoying, shivan mosquito around.
Debris of the Sath hit the civilian station hard, and while station itself seems to be guardianed at this point, the large, blocky liner docked in the station's ring provided victory fireworks probably at the cost of thousands of lifes... But who cares? We killed a Sath!
Suddenly enormous fleet of friendly warships appreared around. None of them fired a single shot at Sath. They do absolutely nothing, but making me confused. Themis did basically everything here. Aquitaine never even tried to bring her main beams to bear, heading at random direction without participation in the battle... At all. At this point I focused on defending Themis, but even without my dogfighting she would be completely fine.
What now... Aww, right. The counterattack in Delta Serpentis. I have to TAG targets for Themis, but she rips everything to pieces without my intervention. Friendly and hostile warships around me, heading to random directions, shootin... Everything is confusing like hell. Normandy dies, Themis is going for pair of Vassago destroyers, they withdraw after a single volley... I have no idea what I was supposed to do in this mission. I dogfighted entire time, sometimes tagged something for Themis if some shivan warship is outside her firing arcs.
Reunion was known from well-fredded BoEs in my opinion. Neither of those 3 BoEs are well-freded. All are chaotic, confusing and unbalanced.
Fortunately that's where the pain ends. The Olympus mission was good, full of chatters and sets the mood correctly. I sided with terrans, because I wanted to go to Sol and check what's there. I'd like to have option to explore the vasudan branch without replying the entire campaign.
The mission in Sol nebula was cool, eerie and features good chatters again.
Did I enjoy it? Yeah. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but overally it's much more good about the sequel, then bad. Character development improved a lot. I loved the plot of our former, butthurting squadron leader, and Tex is feeling like that closest buddy that player character can go to hell and back with. I hear less anime music, but way more cool stuff. Vikings soundtrack fits to the campaign surprisingly well. Overally the music pumps adrenaline into my veins in right moments and rocks ass, depsite lacking... Consistency.
What should be improved:
- Messy BoEs.
- New weapons use basically no energy at all.
- Some shivans craft, like Vidy and Gorgon needs rebalancing. They are sponges for damage, mostly due to overclocked shield values. This campaign continues the unholy tradition of the community to make Vidy and Gorgon a nightmare to fight.
- All of new weapons are the same, except the Spear. And none of them has good shield damage. Circe is still available, but has low projectile velocity, so it's performance is lackluster against all those crazy shivan interceptors.
- Many older models still use vanilla tilemaps.
Final verdict: 6,5/10. Still a good campaign I would recommend, but Act 1 seems to be much more polished.