Welcome to InsaneBaron review number 2/Two/II/T'ad/Dos/Ni! Sorry for the delay- combination of RL busyness and computer trouble.
Today, we're looking at two campaigns at once: Silent Threat: Reborn, and Operation Templar. They have a lot in common. Both are remakes of canonical campaigns by
. Both were remade by the same people. And both fit into the same continuity. Besides, Operation Templar was too short for its own review
First, a little about me and my reviews. I'm a decently experienced pilot, but I haven’t been on HLP for very long. Hence, these reviews are gonna be tailored for two groups of people. First, other new-ish people who, to quote General Battuta, are looking for their “...First (or Next!) Campaign.” Not that I'm making n00b reviews, I'm just not making 1337 reviews. Second, hopefully my reviews will be helpful to the campaign makers themselves, by way of feedback, encouragement, and a bit of constructive criticism. If you're a new recruit trying to decide if a campaign is for you, or a designer wondering how new recruits will react to your campaign, then these reviews are for you.
I'm going to organize these reviews into four categories. First, PLOT. Characters, story, scary or funny moments, et cetera. Second, GAMEPLAY. Balance, fun-factor. Quality of any new ships and weapons. Clarity of mission goals. Challenge. Third, AESTHETICS. This will barely apply to some simpler campaigns, but this includes cutscene quality, the artistic appearance of new ships/weapons, voice acting, music... the “look and sound” of the campaign. Finally, TECHNICAL STUFF. Was it easy to set up? Did I run into bugs? That sort of thing. This last section will naturally be incomplete, because I'm no beta tester. I didn't try to break any missions (“really, I wasn't TRYING to break it! It just happened!”). So the only bugs I'll catch are ones that will come up in a casual playthrough- but those are probably the most dangerous type.
Anyway, without further ado, my thoughts and opinions on.............................
SILENT THREAT: REBORN
SILENT THREAT, for those who haven't played it before, was originally a rather poorly received expansion pack for the original FreeSpace. The pack came with a number of popular user-made missions, and some new ships and weapons. However, it's main feature was supposed to be a whole new
-made campaign of twelve missions. While some of the “bonus features” were popular (Destiny of Peace, for example), the Silent Threat campaign was a major letdown. The team at
had very little time to work on it, and basically no time to test.
The mission quality ranged from “has potential, but poorly executed” to “AAAaaaAAAaaaAAAGH! Tell me when it's over!”.
The plot didn't make much sense. It was too bad, too, because the plot was pretty important from a FreeSpace historical perspective.
Silent Threat, or ST, cast the player as a member of Galactic Terran Intelligence, or GTI. You got the chance to fly a couple mop-up missions against the Shivans. Somehow, the GTI rebelled against the GTA for unknown reasons, but somehow, you and your commander weren't part of the rebellion, so for some reason the GTI rebels blew their cover by trying to frag you, then for unknown reasons GTA command sent you to fly a few missions against the Shivans again, then they announced the Shivans had somehow been vanquished and sent you back to finish off the GTI rebels, whose Superdestroyer, the Hades, somehow contracted Tactical Stupidity Syndrome during the final battle. (pant, pant, pant). Important stuff, but poorly carried out.
That's where the FreeSpace Port team came in. Led by Goober5000 and Galemp, this team's goal seems to be making sure that all of [V]'s FreeSpace work could be played on FS2 Open. Having made FreeSpace 1 into a mod for FreeSpace 2 Open (FreeSpace Port), they then proceeded to clean up these two secondary campaigns.
SILENT THREAT: REBORN was the result of a massive project by Goober5000 and Galemp to remake Silent Threat into a campaign on the same level of quality as the main FreeSpace campaigns. Each and every mission was remade for balance and gameplay. The order of the missions was changed to make more sense plot-wise. One or two completely hopeless missions were scrapped, and several new ones were added. The plot itself, while it followed the general outline of the original Silent Threat, was rewritten to make more sense, clear up inconsistencies, and provide some valuable insights into the events. The resulting campaign was also longer, at 18 missions.
Now, let's get this review going! Silent Threat: Reborn
A note on spoilers: When I played ST:R, I had already beaten the original ST. Thankfully, playing the original doesn't spoil the remake, thanks to the plot revisions- even the ending is a bit different. Therefore, if something happened in the original campaign, I'll consider it a non-spoiler. Stuff that's unique to the REBORN version, however, will be spoiler-tagged.
A note on acronyms: ST refers to the original campaign by
(the let-down), ST:R refers to the remake by FSPort (the subject of this review).
PLOT: Credit goes to Goober5000 and Galemp, and to
for the original idea.
Starting off with PROS!
CANON BASIS: The basic plot of the original Silent Threat is maintained, but modified. In effect, think of this as a drop-in replacement for the low-quality original. ST and ST:R do conflict with eachother (pretty heavily at points), but ST:R meshes perfectly with the main campaigns themselves- better than ST does, to the extent that it clears up a few inconsistencies
like the Hades debris on Deneb
IMPROVEMENTIZATION: Improvement + Improvisation.
The FSP team makes the story more logical and takes the opportunity to speculatively explain a lot of the questions that arose. See the next few notes...
STRUCTURE: In ST, the missions were in a rather odd order. You were switched, seemingly at random, between fighting Shivans, Rebels, and people who your bosses just wanted disposed of.
As mentioned in a developer commentary by Goober5000 and Galemp (I'm gonna call them G&G from now on
), the team decided to organize the missions into three categories, and make each into a story arc. Therefore, you START by doing covert ops for six missions, THEN you join the operations to end the Shivan incursion until mission 10, and FINALLY you have it out with the GTI rebellion for the last 8 missions. It makes a lot more sense that way. In fact, this might be a good place to look at the mission list. I'll indicate where each of the missions fit in (or didn't) in the original ST.
1. Silence All Voices (remake of original)
2. More Than Meets The Eye (replaces mission 2: The Pursuit)
3. Ghosts (remake of original)
4. Field of Destruction (remake of m8)
5. Cloak and Dagger (remake of m7)
6. He Who Rides the Tiger (replaces original mission 4: On The Run)
7. The Wait (originally m11)
8. Hellfire (originally m5)
9. The Return to Ross 128 (originally m10)
10. The Last Hurrah (NEW)
11. Betrayed (replaces original m9: Exodus)
12. Exodus (NEW, borrows name from original m9)
13. Forced Hand (NEW)
14. Chasing Shadows (NEW)
15. Secrets Reborn (partial remake of original m12: Secrets Revealed)
16. Blood of the Innocents (NEW)
17. Abandon Hope (NEW)
18. Last Stand (another partial remake of m12)
In addition to generally making the events of the missions more logical, G&G cleared up some major plot holes, gaps, and inconsistencies that had plagued the original campaign.
IT'S A PARTY IN THE GTI: One thing that ST:R does very well is explain the internal structure of Galactic Terran Intelligence. G&G went into detail to explain how the GTI was organized into three branches: Special Operations (the branch you join), Intelligence, and Research and Development (the branch that goes rouge). Each branch has its own Admiral and its own Flagship.
CHARACTERS: While it's not a character-driven campaign, ST:R does have some memorable people, including your boss, the loyal Admiral Jason Scott, the ingenious leader of the GTI's intelligence branch, Admiral Samantha Tess, the intimidating leader of R&D, Admiral Marcus Glaive (Awesome McCoolname
), and the sinister, devious Andreas Rybak.
LESS BAD GUY STUFF: The original campaign had you spend the first three missions “killing everyone who knows” about a fight the broke out between Terran and Vasudan forces at an outpost. It was probably supposed to have a “Men in Black” feel, but in actuality it felt stupid, especially when I had to blow up FOUR ATENS
in one mission (that's, what, 4,000 innocent Vasudans who happened to pick up a stray comm message?
). Thankfully, in the remake you're able to contain the incident on the first mission, so you only have to blow the guys who were involved in the fight. After that, no more witness elimination. Thank you, G&G, for not making me feel stupid this time
HE WHO RIDES THE TIGER: Scariest mission I've ever played. Just play it and find out
THIS IS THE WAY SHIVA ENDS: Not with a whimper, but with a bang.
In the original, your last encounter with the Shivans was on the second-to-last mission, THE WAIT. A basic convoy mission; the Shivans had a Cain, but that was it. You had to capture the cargo intact. Hardly a worthy end for the Great War. However, G&G gave us a good “Finish the Shivans” mission in the form of THE LAST HURRAH, an intense, climaxing assault mission against the last Shivan destroyer, the Archon, and its considerable cruiser escort. The Lucifer fleet got to go out with a bang, for sure.
SPECIESISM: ST:R also deals with Terran-Vasudan relations after the war. You get some good insights into the reasons behind the formation of the GTVA, and the difficulties involved.
THE MOTIVE: ST:R actually goes in depth to explain why the GTI's top brass are rebelling, and why they are able to motivate hundred of pilots and thousands of ship crew to join them. And the motive makes sense, too. HUGE thumbs up here!
H4D35 15 N00B N0 M0R3: Remember what a waste the Hades was originally? It warps in after the Jotunheim blows up. There's nothing for it to shoot with its beamz, so it sits there for an hour or so, launching replacements for its CAP on occasion. The GTI command on board just patiently waits while their ship is slowly pounded to death by a lone bomber. Well, problem solved. By the end of ST:R, you'll be almost a scared of the Hades as you were of the Lucifer.
OK, now I need to give a few of the plot's cons. Sorry, G&G:
O HAI, U C: On the briefing for FIELD OF DESTRUCTION- Ok, we're sending you to escort these ships to a rendezvous point. We put the rendezvous point in an asteroid field so the Shivans wouldn't find it. By the way, the Shivans are using this asteroid field as a staging point, so watch out. If there's something I missed in that briefing, someone tell me; otherwise, I'm gonna try and find a teetotal commander.
Actually, I misunderstood this briefing. Problem between keyboard and chair, folks!
GTI: As opposed to the massive anti-Shivan conflicts of the main campaigns, Silent Threat: Reborn is more of a CIA story. As a result, it doesn't have the same epic Shivan-Smashing save-mankind feel of other campaigns... it's less about stopping the terrifying, unstoppable Shivan armada
and more about unraveling a conspiracy. Although you do get to have some good fights with the genocidal aliens, and there's no shortage of epic FreeSpace battles.
DEJA VU: Also, the plot is reused from the original ST, which can trigger some spoilers if you've already beaten ST. Don't let this ruin it though, as there are plenty of original moments, including the ending.
GAMEPLAY: Credit here goes to G&G, again.
PROS of the gameplay!
Again, taking the original and making it better. I'll give you a taste of a couple missions here.
SILENCE ALL VOICES: As I took off from the Krios, I knew this was gonna be good. A much bigger battle than the original mission, big enough to seem serious, with very clear directives that allow you to eliminate ALL the witnesses the first time, ruling out the need for a massacre on the next mission. Also, the pesky bug in the original where you had to sit around for several minutes after the fight, and then jump out in a 15-second window? Fixed.
You can leave as soon as the battle's over.
MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE: A convoy mission... where the convoy can actually protect itself! What is HLP coming to?
GHOSTS: Awesome. VERY challenging early on, as this time around the Basilisks can and will shred the escape pods you're trying to escort. Also, the tension at the end was perfection!
CLOAK AND DAGGER: The original was a good idea that was poorly put together. This version is quite impressive, with multiple objectives to rush between- protecting the escape pods from the station, protecting the GTC Leto, and keeping the pirates away from the cargo. The "which frieghters are pirates" part makes a lot more sense this time around, and it doesn't pull you out of the fighter for nearly as long. Oh, and 3573R 5GG!
HE WHO RIDES THE TIGER: Without giving too much away about this bloodcurdling mission; not only is it innovative, it escalates rapidly from a simple escort job to a full-blown destroyer duel. Easily up there with Forced Entry and Bearbaiting as my favorite non-climax missions. One of those “I can't do everything at once!” missions.
THE WAIT: An impressive endurance run, with a big payoff at the end. Due the the length, you want a ship with a tough hull. Surprisingly hard. And the waiting actually gives the mission some atmosphere!
HELLFIRE: Once the icon of lazy FREDing, this mission has been remade into a quite challenging multi-cruiser assault. One of the few missions where the Zeus can be put to good use.
THE LAST HURRAH: Very creative use of EMP
Epic assault mission against multiple cruisers and the Shivan's backup flagship, the SD Archon. Requires rapid changes of strategy as the situation develops- you have to combat reinforcements, prioritize targets (what does the EMP wear off next?) and be a good shot without aim assist (or just shoot at the cruisers like I did) Incidentally, Archon was my callsign even before I played this campaign
FORCED HAND: Awesome capture mission. You have to capture a...
I recommend using the Athena.
SECRETS REBORN: Good Title. Really explains a lot of plot details that got left out in ST. An intense assault mission on the GTI Jotunheim, especially if you're like me and you wanna smash all the freighters and science cruisers to get bonus objectives. And...
THE HADES IS SCARY THIS TIME! IT ACTUALLY SMASHES STUFF!
BLOOD OF THE INNOCENTS: Wow. Just... Wow. What a defense mission. Really had me trying to be everywhere at once. Creative use of a user-made ship, the PVI Karnak (so the Vasudans DO have installations!) And...
the sneak attack by the one Zeus triggered one of my biggest shock moments in game history. “Take THAT, Medusa bomber! Say what, comma- wha-WHAT! YOU GOTTA BE KIDDING ME!! WHAT IS THIS, ACE COMBAT!!!”
VERY impressive, G&G.
ABANDON HOPE: Fiendishly intense Redux of “A MONSTER IN THE MIST.” Adds a lot to “H4D35 15 N00B N0 M0R3”. Getting all the objectives is not easy, neither is watching the ingenious FREDing at the end as the
Hope rams the Hades
LAST STAND: What Secrets Revealed should have been. Fixes the single most massive, disastrous, ruining failure of the original Silent Threat... the last mission. For those who haven't played it, in the original final mission, you went up against the Hades with a limited amount of wingmen and no capships to speak off. The Hades sits in one place spitting infinite Lokis at you. Your wingmen all die long before the Hades takes heavy damage, forcing you to hide in one of the superdestroyer's many nooks and crannies and slowly pound it to death with your primaries. In my case it took an hour and a half.
The Reborn version is much more reasonable-lengthed (still a long mission, but not stupid long); and it requires a lot of strategy to win- basically, you have enough reinforcements to win the mission reasonably, but you gotta deploy em right- and you gotta protect that backup.
also answers a question everyone asked about the original: if this battle with the Hades is so critical, WHY NO WARSHIPS? Answer: WARSHIPS. WHY HADES NO JUMP OUT? Answer: HADES IS TRYING.
. You need to be good to win this one, but there are a couple different strategies, including flying a heavy assault fighter, an interceptor, or a bomber. I recommend flying bomber, since you gotta
disarm some beamz
, and because otherwise the mission takes a little too long if the AI does the bombing. A high-skill battle requiring rapid warships disarming, interception, dogfighting, bombing, escort... everything. You need to use your wingmen well. Epic mission overall.
NEW STUFF: ST:R give the player access to the new tech developed in ST- The Loki fighter and Zeus bomber, the Leech Cannon and S-Breaker, the Cluster Bomb and EMP Missile. There's also a new enemy: the infamous SB Seraphim bomber (which ST:R makes a decent plot point out of). It also introduces a few non-playable user-made ships and weapons not found in the retail ST: The Syrkr Bomb, which is basically the Cyclops; the Imhotep, a Vasudan counterpart to the Faustus; The Polaris, a system of dockable struts to make drydocks and such out of; the Karnak, a huge, well-defended Vasudan installation, and an alternate Hades model with five beam cannons, multiple engines, and better point-defense.
OK, I have a few minor CONS to point out.
WAIT! WAIT!: Waiting can be a boring.
This is one of the few missions where I ended up using Time Compression, especially since I had play it three times. Somewhat irritating, but the end of the mission payed off.
OLD, NO(T MANY) BEAMZ: Since this is an FS1- style campaign, beam lunatics will be a little disappointed.
Thankfully the Hades has a few of em to keep you happy.
NEW GEAR LETDOWNS: This is something that G&G were more or less stuck with, not so much their fault as that of the original designers. Much of the Silent Threat gear is somewhat disappointing. The leech cannon, with no effect on the target other than energy drain, is pretty much pointless. The Cluster Bomb, like all cluster weapons, is hard to use, and this one in particular is generally ineffective. The EMP Missile actually didn't work in the original ST; thanks to FSPort it does now, but it's still a rarely-useful. The Loki is fun while it has stealth, but once sensors are developed that defeat the stealth feature it's a pretty lame fighter. The Zeus is a little controversial: it can dogfight AND bomb, but it's not great at either. And the Serkr is not available to the player. The one bit of tech I did find useful was the S-Breaker, which combined with the Prometheus makes for a pretty good dogfighting combo. Even the S-Breaker is pretty specialized. Generally speaking, the Silent Threat gear was either very special-use (fitting the Secret Agent mood of the story), ineffective (fitting the general sloppiness of the original expansion pack), or both, and unfortunately the FSPort team couldn't do much to fix that. At least they let you have stealth Loki's for a few more missions, and they FREDed some tolerably good missions for the Zeus (which can also be done in a Hercules or Athena if you really hate that bomber).
WEIRD LOUDOUTS: Just pointing out that the default loadouts tend to be a little weird. EMP missiles for Exodus? Lokis for The Return to Ross 128? A ZEUS of all things for Last Stand?
Anyway, odd, but easily remedied.
OK, that brings us to...
PROS of the Aesthetics:
90% RETAIL: Mostly uses standard ships, backgrounds, et cetera. Retail Quality ain't bad (if you discount the original ST, of course).
NEW SHIPS: As far as appearance, nothing radically new, but that's probably what the dev team wanted. Can't complain about the look of the ships. Oh, and I did think the Karnak was pretty kool.
VOICE ACTING: Fully voice acted- personas and everything. Not bad acting, either- quite professional, especially the gruff “Veteran” wingman (The one that plays Zeta 1 on Mission 15).
Admiral Marcus Glaive is also well-acted, with a dark voice and a perfect calm. The InsaneBaron Awesome VA award for ST:R goes to the silvery-tongued Andreas Rybak, as heard on mission 15 (I think the VA was Peter Sandon, somebody beam me if I'm wrong).
COOL MUSIC: In keeping with FSPort's motto (We don't make things, we make them Better!) and ST:R's “improvement-on-retail” nature, G&G used Daniel Wentz's remixes of the FreeSpace 1 soundtrack as music for ST:R. The remixes are great, especially the ones of “Spook” and “March”, the later of which started me off perfectly on mission one and had me pumped and ready for the whole campaign
CONS of the Aesthetics:
VA SLIP-UPS: Just a few persona lines came out wrong, like the death line for the young female pilot. Only a few though.
That's about the only CON I can think of!
Unless you count the fact that it uses mostly retail stuff, which is, of course, necessary. Basically, Aesthetics were retail-quality, with some Improvementization in a few areas like music (I'm gonna patent that word, unless Goober thought of it before me).
Which brings us to...
Rather than looking at Pros-Cons, I'll just say that ST:R is technically solid, well-tested, has no major bugs, and only one part that lagged my machine
the collision between the Hope and the Hades on Abandon Hope
Silent Threat: Reborn is definitely an important campaign that everyone should play at some time or another, especially new members. It takes a very important bit of FreeSpace History, essential for anyone who wants to make a user-made campaign, and puts it in a form that's worth playing for its own sake. No one is forced to slog through 11
missions and then rubber-band their trigger to kill the Hades. Goober5000, Galemp, and the FSPort team certainly lived up to their motto.
Admittedly, ST:R is not the most original plot-wise, as it follows the retail methods of telling an existing story. If you want someone with a completely new story, look for Samuel Bei in my last review, or Aubrey Mackie in my next. But even if you've already played Silent Threat, the Reborn version is definitely worth a try- both to enjoy new material and to marvel at the improvement.
All in all, ST:R isn't anything radical, but it is an enjoyable campaign that succeeds admirably at its stated objective: bring Silent Threat to the same level of quality as the main FreeSpace campaigns.
Smaller-scale than the main campaigns, but enjoyable in its own right.
Pushes the envelope of FS1 mission design.
Essentially retail-quality, with bonus points for the music.
TECHNICAL STUFF: 100%
An excellent campaign! Highly recommended
(A little context: 85% is “retail quality”. That means that the main FS1 and FS2 campaigns, with MediaVPs, would get 85s in everything but Technical Stuff, where they get 100s. In Plot, Gameplay, Aesthetics, and Overall, anything above 85% means an improvement on retail.)
Hope this helped! I believe that reviews need to be reviewed, so I'd love to see some player's comments on whether or not this was helpful, any developer replies to my comments, or general questions.
The second part of this review, covering OPERATION TEMPLAR, is under construction and will be completed shortly. I'll post it here as soon as it's ready.
Coming soon: I'll be reviewing Derelict next. After that, POSSIBLY Vassago's Dirge, although it's a hard campaign to cover with my reviewing style. I'm currently working on Warzone, so that's next in line. After that, probably either Windmills of Blue Planet: War in Heaven!