Monday, June 27, 2011

The Grail

The main Restoration of Erathia scenarios mainly required players to build towns and defeat enemy heroes. Some people call this gameplay style 'vanilla.' I prefer to call it 'the fundamentals.' As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Seeds of Discontent campaign strays from convention by introducing three maps with unique objectives.

In the first bonus scenario (The Grail) three heroes must visit obelisks that are scattered about the map to uncover a puzzle. This in turn reveals a map with an X. A hero must locate the X on the adventure map and obtain the grail.

The grail will give the freedom fighters the brass balls to declare independence. Welnin believes the artifact will grant legitimacy to his cause and win the hearts and minds of his people.

The scenario begins with three starting bonuses: boots, gold, or pegasi. I realized that none of these options would give my heroes a big advantage. But in the end, I chose to recruit the pegasi. Here's why:

A lot of people pick the boots as a knee-jerk reaction to the scenario's two month time limit. "If my hero can travel a few more steps every day, I'll explore the map faster before time runs out." However, the actual map is quite small and you'll sometimes find yourself skipping turns. The boots are rather useless.

The gold is somewhat more useful. But by the end of the scenario, there was more gold in my vault than Scrooge McDuck.

I found the free pegasi to be the best option because having a mid-level creature in my army granted me an early advantage against the many Erathian ambushes scattered around the map.

Yes, this map is filled with Erathian sympathizers who want your head. Certain hotspots on the map, if touched, will immediately plunge your hero into battle. Unfortunately, you can't identify these hotspots until it's too late.

On the flipside, not all hotspots on the map are bad. Some troops are loyal to Welnin and the independence movement. Some of these idealistic soldiers will give your hero new artifacts or fresh troops to replenish your dwindling ranks.

Map designers prefer to put hotspots in chokepoints to force players to trigger them. Keep an eye out for chokepoints.

Quick aside: I love the design of the stained-glass puzzle screens in Heroes III. If I could find all of the different variations online, I would post them here. But you'll have to make do with the screenshot of the rampart puzzle near the bottom of this post.

After locating all of the obelisks, I learned that the grail resided in a large swampy clearing to the north. However, the clearing was guarded by unicorns, angels, and dendroids. I didn't want to screw with these creatures because my troops were severely weakened by the various ambushes I had faced.

To the north of town, I found a dragon cliff that cost nearly my entire army to capture but proved well worth the sacrifice. I hired green dragons to bolster the remains of my army (and used the nearby hill fort to upgrade them).

Another quick aside: Countdown clocks generally make me nervous. I hate feeling rushed. As you can imagine, I dislike those auto-scrolling levels in Super Mario 3. I also despise the StarCraft II mission where you have to keep relocating your base to the east because there's a wave of fiery destruction slowly sweeps across the map. I hate being told that I only have two months to find the grail.

However, capturing the dragon cliff really sped things up for me because it completely eliminated the need to send my heroes back to my starting town and waiting for troops to repopulate. Thanks to the dragons, I managed to finish the scenario in a single month.

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