Review of Wesnoth UMC campaigns

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nemaara
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Review of Wesnoth UMC campaigns

Post by nemaara » May 15th, 2018, 2:18 am

I've decided to review some add-on campaigns since there seems to be some interest in the community in finding good ones. These are only the ones I've finished completely and that I remember in detail (there are others that I may review in the future). Not all have been ported to 1.14, but will be soon, so keep an eye out for them.

I'll be using the following criteria to grade them (only assigning numerical values because it was suggested to me that I should :whistle:).

Surroundings: * visual aspects of scenario designs, including terrain and cutscenes (1-10)
Unit sprites and animations: * visual aspects of unit sprites and their animations (1-10)
Design: * scenario quality and gameplay (1-10)
Plot: * story quality and plot cohesiveness (1-10)
Character development: * quality of realistic and convincing characters (1-10)
Overall: * aggregate rating based on fun and enjoyment of all campaign aspects (1-10)

Please note that all of these are only my opinions and should not be taken as facts. Furthermore, the ratings I give will be relative to what I would expect from a decent mainline quality campaign (e.g. relative to Heir to the Throne or Descent into Darkness, these campaigns would score about a 5/10 on my scale with some variance). So, without further ado...

Invasion from the Unknown (not yet ported to 1.14)

Summary: Long after the Fall, the last elves on the Great Continent are forced to abandon their secluded home and forge an unprecedented alliance in hopes of retaliating against the great evil that has befallen Irdya. Though the dark veil of the Chaos Empire threatens to engulf the land, an assorted group of foolish heroes endeavors to stand against it and vanquish the forces that seek to destroy the last sanctuary standing in the Great Continent.

Comments: IftU is a classic UMC campaign that is an unofficial sequel to Under the Burning Suns. It is split into two campaigns of medium length and features many dungeon crawl-type scenarios. Suggested prerequisite campaigns are Under the Burning Suns and (optionally) Descent into Darkness.

Surroundings: 7
IftU features generally well-drawn maps and detailed scenarios, but does not add much eye-candy in terms of new terrains or other visual effects. Cutscenes, however, are well-planned and executed.

Unit sprites and animations: 6
Sprites and animations used in this campaign are generally of about mainline quality; they are solid, but do not really stand out too much.

Design: 6.5
This category really depends on if you like or dislike dungeon crawls (personally, I find them reasonably fun). IftU features a large number of sprawling dungeons, so if this type of gameplay is something you really hate, you might not like this campaign.

Plot: 6
The plot is a little bit generic (the whole spiel of brave hero goes to save the world is something you find everywhere in fantasy writing), but the execution is done fairly well. This puts it at an above average rating for plot.

Character development: 6
Like the plot, the characters are nothing really to write home about in Invasion from the Unknown. The writing is solid, but nothing extraordinary.

Overall: 6.5

After the Storm (not yet ported to 1.14)

Summary: After the Emperor of Chaos was defeated, the free civilizations of the Great Continent hoped that his followers would abandon the ongoing war. Meanwhile, Galas and his unlikely band of heroes head back to the northern lands to request aid for their next journey.

Comments: AtS is the sequel to IftU and one of the very best UMC campaigns. It is a story of epic proportion and is well-designed with great attention to detail. This campaign is split into three episodes of medium length.

Surroundings: 7.5
Like IftU, AtS features well-designed maps and cutscenes. There are a few more terrains in AtS and it generally looks better overall, which bumps up its score slightly.

Unit sprites and animations: 7
Like IftU, most unit sprites are of mainline quality. There are some extra sprites and animations, especially for special units, which also bumps up its score.

Design: 7.5
Like its predecessor, all three episodes feature dungeon crawls, and once again, most of the gameplay is nothing to write home about. However, there are some very intricate scenarios especially in the third episode, which increases its rating.

Plot: 8
Again, the campaign is nothing to write home about in terms of plot, but it does delve much deeper into the universe’s lore and features much more well-thought-out plot elements. The particularly impressive thing is how absorbing the campaign is – episode III especially felt like a good book, where I simply could not put it down and kept playing scenario after scenario. The biggest detriment is only that it does get a bit long-winded at times.

Character development: 8
There’s not much I can say here. The character development is fantastic in this campaign, and shadowm paints a very realistic picture of all the characters and their relationships. It’s really worth playing this campaign for that alone.

Overall: 8
(The score for AtS is not simply an aggregate of the above scores, you really need to play the campaign to understand why it deserves such a high rating).

Genesis

Summary: In the cycle before our own, the civilization of the First Gods was eradicated by a cataclysmic force that was beyond their control. On the brink of utter destruction, the few survivors harnessed the ten aspects of creation to end their cycle and shape the development of a new universe. In the process, however, many errors were introduced into the fabric of the new worlds, which would eventually resurface when the Guardians of the new universe began to unveil the secrets of their creation.

Comments: Genesis is the prequel to both AtS and IftU but is in the universe prior to both of those campaigns. No prerequisite campaigns are required. This campaign features unusual gameplay and scenario design and may not be suitable for beginners. Only the first episode is complete. (Disclaimer: I am the author, so the following review should be taken with a grain of salt).

Surroundings: 7
Genesis features multi-hex terrain art and detailed cutscenes and several maps contain unusual mechanics with terrain. However, the lack of detail and care in some scenarios prevents a higher score.

Unit sprites and animations: 4
Although Genesis uses many mainline and mainline quality sprites, many units lack animations and are clearly not as well drawn as others. The artwork in general is clearly incomplete and needs improvement.

Design: 7.5
The gameplay in this campaign is very unusual and offers a wide variety of different elements, including puzzles, changing landscapes, and intricately designed scenarios. However, some scenarios and scenes are redundant and come across as repetitive. The random nature of some scenarios also makes them difficult to play and can be frustrating.

Plot: 5
The plot itself is nothing extraordinary, but does feature some behind-the-scenes machinations between characters and detailed lore. The score here currently reflects that the campaign is not complete.

Character development: 8
Like After the Storm, Genesis focuses heavily on a few characters and their relationships. A couple of the main characters are particularly well-executed and each have their own personalities, making for particularly convincing characters. The dialogue in Genesis is especially well-written.

Overall: 7

A New Order (not yet ported to 1.14)

Summary: The old Kingdom of Wesnoth has fallen before barbarian hordes. The occupying barbarians are on the brink of civil war, the seeds of Wesnotian rebelion are kept alive by old legends, while bandits and Khalifate mercenaries roam the land. Can Gawen Hagerthen unite these disparate factions against a common foe?

Comments: Another classic UMC campaign, A New Order is probably one of the oldest campaigns of such quality. It has no prerequisite campaigns, but a reasonable level of familiarity with Wesnoth’s lore would be helpful.

Surroundings: 4
Unit sprites and animations: 4

ANO’s status as an old Wesnoth UMC shows. Both maps and units are outdated and there is very little visual eye candy in the campaign, making it rather bland to look at overall.

Design: 6.5
There are a large variety of scenarios in ANO, ranging from small skirmishes, to large battles, to world exploration. It is generally very fun to play, although the diversity of units available to the player is very limited.

Plot: 8
One core feature of ANO is that the player has to interrogate enemies in order to find out details of ANO’s backstory. This, combined with the mostly convincing and focused storyline gives ANO a high rating in this category.

Character development: 8
There are interesting and well-developed characters abound in ANO. There is not only depth into one or two characters, but breadth across the board – both protagonists and antagonists all have their own personalities and some of the characters are particularly memorable.

Overall: 6.5

Bad Moon Rising

Summary: An expedition to gather treasure from the cold north sets off compounding disaster. SP Campaign with some RPG elements in Parts 2 and 3.
Comments: A series of three campaigns of medium length, BMR features Archaic Era and a rudimentary inventory system.

Surroundings: 8
BMR features a large number of new terrains and impressive multi-hex drawings. There are a lot of impressive visuals and effects, earning this campaign a high rating.

Unit sprites and animations: 6.5
Archaic Era includes a large number of mainline-quality units, and added to them are several impressive boss units in this campaign.

Design: 7.5
BMR uses a world-map design with the player’s army actually travelling between the location of subsequent scenarios. The inventory system also allows you to power up units with gear dropped from enemies and scenarios are generally fun to play.

Plot: 6.5
The campaign’s plot is interesting and backstory reasonably well explained, although there are still holes in the lore that could use more detail. In general, however, it progresses well and keeps the player reasonably absorbed.

Character development: 5.5
There are moments of insight into some of the protagonists, but ultimately the weakest part of BMR is that most of the characters feel bland and unexciting. It is easy to empathize with the situation some of them are in, but I found it hard to connect to the characters and really sympathize with them.

Overall: 7

To Lands Unknown

Summary: Hear the story of Mehir, a young city guard from al-Kamija - an isolated city in the middle of the Great Desert, where people and jinns live together. Reveal Mehir's destiny, visit many exotic places during his journey, encounter strange nations and learn about their intentions.

Comments: TLU is a long campaign featuring the Era of Magic and is very visually sophisticated. It has a relatively long history of development and uses the game engine in very unique ways.

Surroundings: 9.5
All you really need to do is look at a screenshot of TLU. Almost every scenario features multi-hex terrains and the campaign even has maps that are 2.5D cities. Animated cutscenes are also extremely well done (although I hear they can look choppy or even crash on slower machines). The only detriment is that some of the maps can look cluttered or messy and some terrains are visually hard to distinguish as unwalkable or impassable.

Unit sprites and animations: 9
The sprite base-frames used in EoMa are solid, some of which look impressive, and some of which could use a little work. However, the animations more than make up for this. Not only is each sprite animated, but many of the animations use incredible effects that really give a sense of how powerful some of the attacks are.

Design: 7
TLU does not really include too many new gameplay elements by itself, but its resource, Era of Magic, is quite fun to play and offers a wide variety of unit abilities to work with.

Plot: 4
The campaign feels more like a series of short, disjointed episodes rather than a cohesive story. It feels almost like reading about the fantastic tale of a legendary hero’s deeds, but does not offer a directed or focused plot. The episodic nature of TLU is not really a detriment in of itself, but is not executed in a particularly outstanding fashion.

Character development: 3
TLU does present a few interesting character concepts, but for me, fails to execute on them well. Rashti is a classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde case, with two halves fused into a single being. The dualism between the halves is presented from the outset, but her dialogue is often overbearing and predictable. Mehir is an example of a Mary Sue (something I will admit I am very biased against), and in general the characters are very stereotypical and have very little depth of personality.

Overall: 7
(This is not an average of the above scores; I think that the graphics and gameplay in TLU are enough to offset what is lacking in the writing).

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Sudipta
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Re: Review of Wesnoth UMC campaigns

Post by Sudipta » May 16th, 2018, 6:47 am

Well, these are very accurate and unbiased reviews of some of the most popular UMC's. It should give new players an idea of what to expect in said campaigns, which are all good in my eyes( haven't played a new order though)

I look forward to more entries. :)
It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
Playing Wesnoth since 2010, still there is so much left to play

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taptap
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Re: Review of Wesnoth UMC campaigns

Post by taptap » May 16th, 2018, 6:59 am

I am a Saurian Skirmisher: I'm a real pest, especially at night.

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