Modding, Mission Design, and Coding > FRED Contest 2005

Review: TopAce's "Without thinking"


"Without thinking"

Description : Alpha 1 is scrambled to help recover a gas miner under attack from pirates.

Storyline : 2  

 The mission appears to have been culled from a campaign and suffers greatly from the loss of the backstory. At the start the player is scrambled to assist a gas miner. The briefing simply consists of a mention that the pirates are attacking and need to be killed and that the miner needs to survive. And that's about it as far as the plot goes. You'll never find out why the pirates want a gas miner so badly that they're willing to throw a cruiser and several wings of bombers at it. Nor is it ever explained why a gas miner is sitting in the middle of nowhere with neither a gas giant nor nebula anywhere close. Oddest of all is why the GTVA has suddenly dropped the zodiac names for enemy wings in favour of silly names like Predator and Lancer.
 Without an explaination the mission's plotline can basically be summed up as protect Ship A while Ship B docks with it and as a result it's hard to generate any feelng about any ship in the mission. The bad grammer doesn't help with the overall atmosphere either but I didn't knock any marks off for it since I know the FREDder isn't a native english speaker.  

Balance : 2.5

 The mission is simply too easy. The first enemy you face is the completely unguarded transport involved in capturing the gas miner.  Approach correctly and you can park up and blat away at it cause there is nothing to stop you. Which does make you wonder where the pirates went after blowing up the miners escort (Cause I'm pretty sure they didn't manage to do that with an Argo class transport).
 Soon after that is destroyed the priates send in an unescorted Fenris class. That at least managed to get a couple of hits in with it's beams before it surrendered to the volley of tempests I sent in its direction. Why the pirates would send an expensive cruiser to its death in such a manner is beyond me.
 Only after the Fenris has gone to the big scrap pile in the sky do we finally see our first pirate fighter (about a minute of thumb twiddling later to be precise). Only problem is that by that time you've had a friendly corvette jump in. Let's face it, a wing of fighters and a wing of bombers are never going to be much of a match for 6 fighters and a corvette. Sometimes I would pick an enemy only to watch the entire enemy wing get blown away by the Deimos and my wingamtes in about 10 seconds flat.
 Furthermore the large maximum delay between waves of both enemy wings means that the mission is very stop-start with you often sitting about waiting for enemy ships to appear (And you can't even rearm cause support ships are disabled for some mysterious reason).
 Oh and while I'm at it why on Earth do Delta and Predator wing have nothing in their first secondary bank?

Design : 4.5

Now this on the other hand was pretty good. There are lots of little bits that show quite a lot of care was taken into thinking what could possibly happen when the mission is played. I loved the confused way that the GTCv Rapier asks for the location of the Fenris it was sent to destroy if the player manages to take it out before the Rapier can arrive.
 In fact there is lots of actual radio chatter in the mission. It doesn't advance the plot much but it's better than the silence you hear in many missions.
 Apart from the issues already mentioned I can't really fault the design of the mission. It's just a pity that what needed designing wasn't more substancial.

Gameplay : 2

Well this suffers cause of the ease of the mission. There's just not much of a challenge. I never felt that any of my ships were under threat. In fact I could probably just park up near the Rapier and do nothing while still winning the mission.
 The other problem is that the mission is instantly forgettable. We've all played missions where we have to guard a transport while it docks with and repairs something beefore. There's nothing new about this one to set it apart from everything else.

Overall : 2

 Maybe the mission was rushed or not playtested enough but the enemy attack patterns are too predicable and the plot is virtually non-existant. Had the same care been taken over the plotline that was taken over the actual FREding this would be a very impressive mission. Without it though, quite simply, this is a bad mission written by a good FREDder.

Storyline: 2

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.


[0] Message Index

Go to full version