Author Topic: Review : Akalabeth Angel's "Divided We Fall"  (Read 372 times)

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Offline karajorma

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Review : Akalabeth Angel's "Divided We Fall"
Divided We Fall
Description: Following an unspecified disaster the Syndicate, a new fledgling nation, close their borders with GTVA space and attempt to enforce this only to find that the enemy forces are somewhat stronger than expected.

Plotline : 3
Divided We Fall appears to have been cut from a campaign as the command briefing mentions things that are never explained during either briefing or in the mission chatter. That said beyond raising the curiosity of the player it doesn't particularly hurt the mission that much. Once the briefings are over it's on with the mission. And here is where the first major flaw in the mission appears. Mission chatter to set the scene is fine but it is around six and a half minutes before the mission itself starts. Some of that time is mission chatter but there were a couple of long periods when nothing at all was being said and yet the player still hadn't seen anything to shoot at yet. Eventually though something comes through the node and the player is left needing to defend the Mjolnir RBCs that have been positioned near the jump node.
 As annoying as that dead time is the first time you play the mission it's far worse when the mission is repeated. Advancing time gets you around it but players shouldn't be expected to fast forward to the good bit in missions.

Balance : 2
And here's the other major flaw in the mission. It's too damn hard. Even on easy I found myself stretch much too far to complete my objectives. Maybe with better weapons and fighters the player might be able to stand a chance but when the only choice of fighters less than 30 years old consists of 4 Perseuses and 4 Myrmidons you know you're in trouble if the enemy are any kind of serious force. Add to that the fact that you can't rearm for some inexplicable reason (I couldn't see any plot related reason why a supply ship should be unavailable either) and you're definately in trouble given the poor number of secondaries either ship can carry. The enemy on the other hand get wave upon wave of bombers. If I've counted right I make it 16 waves of Shivan bombers with similar numbers of fighter escort. Stir in a whole mess of Shivan capships and the mission becomes way too hard. Especially seeing as how the bombers have been given cyclops bombs with which to attack the Mjolnirs.

Design : 4.5  
The design of the mission on the other hand is much better than the balance. I couldn't see anything particularly new or impressive in the way the mission was FREDded when I took a quick glance at it in FRED but what was there was pretty solidly done.
 One of my few complaints about the mission was that the enemy weren't divided up into more wings rather than several waves of the same wing. I've never been much of a fan of seeing Cancer 26 turn up to do battle even if :v: did it themselves. Maybe it was done to keep the number of enemy ships present in the mission down somewhat but it you're having to do that maybe you've got too many ships in the mission in the first place. There is a hell of a lot of stuff going on in the background and maybe some of those ships could have been cut in order to better split up the waves somewhat.  Apart from that though I've got no real complaints about the mission.  
 I also got a message about the Diemos taking damage from enemy beams when I could swear that there were no enemy caps around one time. Found that one a little odd.

Gameplay : 3.5  
Although hard the mission is actually very enjoyable. The enemies present a challange to you completing the mission goals rather than to the player personally most of the time which means that although the player is in danger he isn't immediately beset by hundreds of enemy fighters and ripped to pieces. The fighters are a danger but they don't prevent you from peeling off to at least try to complete your mission objectives.


Overall : 3.5
 Basically this is a good mission that is struggling hard to get over a couple of major flaws. As a result while it is fun to play it could have been so much more with only a few minor tweaks. What drags down the mission a lot is the difficulty and the dead time at the start. It would probably have scored a whole star higher without those.
 Maybe the plot is missing a clue as to how to complete the mission or maybe it is actually as hard as it seems but either way I never saw a successful conclusion to the mission in anything other than FRED.
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Offline Goober5000

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Re: Review : Akalabeth Angel's "Divided We Fall"
Storyline: 3
There is a palpable feeling throughout the command briefing and the mission that much is happening behind the scenes.  Unfortunately, the player is never really told what that is.  The readme says that the background is intentionally vague to avoid spoiling the associated campaign, but the standalone mission suffers from it.  We don't know who the Syndicate is or what rumors were sparked by the "incident" of three days ago.  (I have a hunch that the Syndicate is a reinvigorated Regulus Syndicate, but that isn't very clear.)

Fortunately, these problems don't detract from the immediate mission-specific storyline, which works decently on its own terms.  The atmosphere encourages a personal investment in the outcome of the mission; and there is a large amount of very well written dialogue.  I just wish I didn't feel like I was playing with amnesia.


Balance: 2
I'm going to have to dock some points here; the balance is too skewed for what the mission is billed as.  With the swarms of Shivan fighters and capships, this felt like one of the 70th Blue Lions missions in the main FS2 campaign, except without the appropriate hardware.  I was satisfied to be able to outfit my wing with Myrmidons sporting Prometheus S's in the four-gun bank; but everything else was underwhelming.  Ulysseses, Lokis, and Perseuses aren't suited for extended firefights; and the Prometheus R is crap.  At least there were enough Subachs to go around.

Considering the difficulty, I felt the briefing was rather unfair to the player.  Given that I was battling wave after wave of fighters and bombers with hardly a break in the action, I had barely any opportunity to give the Narvik particular attention.  Also, considering that the entire blockade force was flattened in a matter of minutes, the mission's outcome should not have depended on the protection of a single unremarkable ship.


Design: 5
I was extremely impressed with the mission's design.  The mission designer really showed his proficiency with FRED here, as the mission is chock full of well-coordinated events.  Not only are all the standard requirements of good mission design satisfied, but the author spent extra effort to give the mission a generous helping of polish.  The messages are displayed for exactly the right amount of time; alt-names are used on many ships in appropriate ways; there's a clever use of a freighter to deploy sentry guns around the node.  There is even an event which checks to see if the Orien has been disabled and sends an appropriate message -- an indicator of scrupulous attention to detail.

There are a few things that could be fixed here -- for instance, since Beta has already been patrolling, they shouldn't be in the starting loadout.  The messages and debriefing claim that Nahemas are threatening the Narvik, but they're actually Nephilims.  There are also a few spelling and grammar errors.  However, the mission has so many things going right with it that I can't help but overlook these minor flaws and awarding this category a solid 5.


Gameplay: 4
This mission was quite a lot of fun to play.  The dialogue was interesting to read; the events and ship movements were fun to watch; and, as said before, the atmosphere encouraged me to feel personally invested in the mission.  That can make or break the gameplay experience, since whether the player quits in disgust or perseveres despite the difficulty can hinge in a large degree on his personal investment in the mission and its story.

I only have a few complaints in this category.  First, the long gap at the beginning of the mission before any action happened.  It was interesting and far from boring, which was a good thing; but it was a little tedious to wait through on the second try.  Second, the endless waves of fighters and bombers once the action started allowed little time to stop, breathe, and assess the situation.  Finally, on the second playthrough when I had finally protected the Narvik long enough for it to escape and initiated the jump sequence, a swarm of Maras jumped in and pulverized my fighter just before I could jump out.  That's infuriating, especially after a sixteen minute long mission.  The mission designer ought to have ship-protected my fighter once the Return to Base order was given, or taken other steps to allow the player time enough to jump out.


Overall: 4
The average of all the categories is a 3.5, but I'm bumping that up to 4 because of the fun factor and the extremely polished design.  With some attention to the storyline and balance, this mission could easily earn a 5, in my estimation.