Friday, December 28, 2012

For the Throne

For the Throne is the final map in the FoL campaign. At long last, we come to the final showdown between upstart barbarian Kilgor and longstanding monarch Winston Boragus. There are no more silly restrictions and you are free to lose any of Kilgor's allies without the game being over.

That being said, the key to victory is to topple the opponent's heroes and steal their artifacts before they do the same to you. Yes, this sounds obvious. However, there's a twist. Since neither side has access to taverns, defeats are permanent! If you defeat an enemy hero, he or she won't come back. Similarly, if you lose a hero, you won't be able to rehire him or her.

Thus, the map feels more like a tug o' war than most. At any given moment, if the enemy manages to out maneuver  you and defeat one of your heroes, you might as well restart the map. Every defeat gives the enemy huge bonuses.

Also to Kilgor's dismay, there's a strict time limit. If Kilgor can't defeat Boragus within 3 months, the game is over. Boragus doesn't have a super army as you might expect. Instead, the challenge comes from chasing the three generals around the map before time runs out.

For me, the Town Portal from the previous map became invaluable.

Without Town Portal, I imagine the map would be even more challenging. I noticed there is a secret backdoor into Boragus' castle (at the northeastern corner of the map).  However, passing the quest gate requires that you defeat some water elementals somewhere on the map. I was never able to track them down but did notice a lone boat in one of the lakes. I guess I could probably summon the boat somewhere else. In any case, I didn't have time to test this method as the enemy generals relentlessly assaulted my Strongholds.

After Kilgor defeated Crag Hack (one of the generals) and took his shackles of war (which prevent enemies from retreating or surrendering), the rest of the generals fell over easily. I stormed Boragus' final castle very close to the deadline.

After the terrifying battles against the generals, Boragus was a bit of a let down.

In any case, Kilgor is now the king of the barbarians. Poor Winston is now just a head on a pillow.

Clan War

Ouch. What a painful map. It took me about 5 hours to finally finish this scenario, most of which was conducted in quick combat mode to reduce the monotony. In Clan War, Kilgor and three of his strongest allies have been transplanted to a huge battle arena to defend House Kilgor against three rival clans. If Kilgor can emerge victorious, he can move on to challenge Winston Boragus for the throne.

The intro speech adds little to the storyline. Yes, we know Kilgor loves power and hates mercy. Pretty typical Conan-esque barbarian dialog. Yadda yadda.

The most challenging thing about this scenario is you start with four heroes and all four must survive. Realistically speaking, this means you'll have to split up your army between four heroes to keep each of them strong enough to survive an enemy attack. Otherwise, you have to hide three of them in a corner somewhere and babysit them so they don't accidentally get ambushed. If any of the starting heroes lose a battle (retreat, surrender, defeat) the game is over. I got pretty tired of seeing the executioner cinematic.

Kilgor is currently a Level 20 Barbarian. My other three heroes are Gird the Battle Mage, Oris the Battle Mage (whose power is Eagle Eye... yuck) and Gurnisson the Barbarian (a Ballista expert). They were carried over from the previous map and are significantly weaker than Kilgor. Gurnisson still lacks a spellbook, but can now buy one from the Mage Guild.

Immediately north of House Kilgor, I found three dragon fly hives clustered together. By visiting these sites and fighting a fairly small group of dragon flies, I obtained wyverns. This made it easier for me to expand without constantly losing troops.

The map is divided from the northwestern corner to the southeastern edge and the northeastern edge to the southwestern edge by impassable mountains (like an X). There are garrisons guarded by tough creatures. At the center of the map is a volcanic area with fire elemental confluxes and cursed terrain. The three enemy heroes tend to congregate in the middle and fight one another. Each "quadrant" in the map has nearly identical amenities. For example, each quadrant has dragon fly hives.

Navigating the map is a bit of a nightmare because of the need to keep all heroes alive and lack of high level spells that let you move about the map (e.g. Fly, Water Walk, Town Portal, etc.). There are four main ways to move about the map.

Monoliths: They start off blocked off with a powerful creature. Later, they become annoying backdoors for the enemy heroes to steal Strongholds from under your nose.

Volcanic Area: The easiest way to cross over to another quadrant is to just walk to the volcanic area in the middle of the map. Unfortunately, if you try to do that the enemy will use the liths to take your Stronghold.

Garrison: There are garrisons locations between mountains. They are initially guarded by high level creatures. Even after you retake the garrison, the enemy AI knows to wait for you to cross the garrison before hungrily pursuing your Stronghold.

Whirlpool: The final and worst option is to build a boat in one of the corners of the map and enter the whirlpool. You not only lose a lot of money along the way, but also units. 

The key to this map is to let the other three factions fight and weaken one another. Then, swoop in at the end and kill everybody. However, if one of your enemies ends up killing the other two, they may end up becoming too strong. Unlike other maps, you won't be able to utilize may "hit and run" tactics here. Any retreat will cause you to lose the game. So... you have one shot to win it.

You can recruit secondary heroes, but not at any of the main Strongholds. In each quadrant, there is a secondary Stronghold that must be captured. Only the secondary Strongholds can build taverns.

Thankfully, as the enemies decimate one another, you'll be able to recruit the defeated heroes from the tavern. Most are between Level 15-25. If some enemy heroes retreated or were killed by random stacks of creatures, you can even nab all of their artifacts. I managed to recruit a Level 20 Yog with 17 artifacts once I captured my secondary Stronghold.

In the end, I found this map hard to manage due to the sheer size of it. There's a lot going on and only a handful of heroes at your disposal. Finances are always problematic. Somehow, my last enemy managed to obtain the ability to walk through mountains and I spent a few hours chasing him down. It didn't help that he had a huge army of red dragons.

UPDATE: There is a Dungeon in the middle of the underground layer of the map. When I built up the Mage Guild to Level 5, I was pleasantly surprised to find the Town Portal spell! That certainly made jumping between my Strongholds easier.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Holidays 2012

Happy holidays! Another year has come and gone. Yes, this blog is still on "sleep mode" while I finish my masters program at Berkeley. That means I don't have a set posting schedule.

This winter break, unlike last year, I have no plans to travel outside the United States. Instead, I'm just going to stay at home and play games. So far, I've played a lot of Civilization IV and League of Legends.

I also reinstalled Heroes VI and have been toying with it. I'm still not very happy with the way the game designers simplified the gameplay. There are simply too few resources, too few factions, too few maps, and too few creatures. I've finished both map packs (Danse Macabre and Pirates of the Savage Sea) and found them to be very well-written. However, never has it been more apparent that Heroes VI needs more interesting neutral creatures. 80-90% of the enemies on those maps are "elementals!"

Hopefully I can get around to finishing the Armageddon's Blade scenarios I've been meaning to write for the last year. I believe I still have to finish the Festival of Life (FoL).

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!