Author Topic: REVIEW: Sword of Archania (by Wolfsnap)  (Read 956 times)

Offline Olivier Leroux

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REVIEW: Sword of Archania (by Wolfsnap)
« on: January 29, 2009, 07:58:17 PM »
Sword of Archania
by Robert J. Kendzie (Wolfsnap)

Reviewed by (Unknown)

Sword of Archania is a module of monstrous size and complexity. Its awesome scope has produced a number of niggling errors and a few more serious problems, but despite these snags, Archania is an enjoyable module.

Wolfsnap has created a complex world here, with its own politics and geography. The party begins on a journey to the kingdom of Archania, which has been taken over by an evil warlord, when their ship is attacked by pirates.

Since Wolfsnap has elected against using a strictly linear plot in this adventure, it plays in many ways like some of the old SSI Gold Box adventures. Each adventuring area has its own separate quest to fulfill. One of the snags arises here, in the beginning of the game, as the party is left high and dry with absolutely no idea what to do. I very nearly missed the "starting" encounter, because I thought it was part of a side quest. Since this first encounter is more or less required for the game to continue in a meaningful way, I wondered why Wolfsnap chose to make the player come to it, instead of vice versa (setting up the encounter to happen another way would not have been difficult). My advice to players is to seek the "wolf" immediately...

The non-linear structure of the game causes a few other minor problems, and Wolfsnap has also made a few errors which might make the game unsolvable (barring editing it yourself). Events which back the party up sometimes fail to function, for example (usually when they would back the party into a Transfer Mod), and it is possible to get trapped by such events. The patch fixes a few of these, but not all. There's also a major problem with some of the quest events: Wolfsnap has used Utility Math events to incriment quests on occasion... but he neglected to make them occur only once. It is thus possible to go "past" the correct quest stage by repeating one of these events.   I'll pause here for another brief comment on the importance of playtesting. Sword of Archania is a very good module, and these errors aren't enough to ruin that, but I don't know very many designers who WANT to include errors in their games (I'll refrain from acidic remarks about commercial computer game companies). All of the errors I found here could have been found in the playtesting stage... after all, I found them! So I'll repeat: Playtest your modules. Play through them yourselves, get friends to play through them, solicit playtesters online... and not all playtesters are made equal. Some will miss glaring errors, perhaps because they just play through the module "normally" instead of looking for them. I'll write a Playtester's guide to UA for a future newsletter which will explain some ways to look for bugs.

Despite the non-linear plot, the different parts of your overall quest fit together well. There are a few threads which appear to have been dropped, although I admit that I may have missed something. Since I went through the module dungeon by dungeon in the editor after finishing it, I doubt that I did, but it is possible. I suspect that some of the dropped plot threads were dropped because of space limitations, but a few seem absent for no good reason, and there's even one "partly" finished dungeon map (the Palace). Some of these events should have been written out of the game entirely, although others contribute to the feeling that there are some things going on which you don't ever find out about.

And that's one of the real graces of this module. The dungeon designs are good, and the art is, too, but it's the setting which really shines. There's a real sense of a world, here, and it's a big one, too. Wolfsnap has used some Password events to make sure that players have been taking notes, and, like in the Ultima games, this ensures involvement in what's going on (you HAVE to be interested...). The setting is so well done that I'm even willing to forgive the use of default text in one or two places in the module (despite threats I made on this subject a while ago).

The hacks are fairly non-intrusive (unlike, say, "The Guild"), but add to the atmosphere. Characters are somewhat conventional, but distinctive nevertheless. On occasion, the game can be somewhat unforgiving (being caught and hanged is not much fun), but these occasions can usually be avoided with caution.

I heartily recommend Sword of Archania. Any module which can make me stay up late to finish it deserves note. It may be uneven at times, and it may be "traditional", but Archania is a place you ought to visit.


    * Plot Matter: 9
    * Artwork: 9
    * Hacks: 7
    * Text: 9
    * Events: 7
    * Originality: 8
    * Errors: 6

    * Difficulty: 6

    * Total Rating: 82%

Offline PetrusOctavianus

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Re: REVIEW: Sword of Archania (by Wolfsnap)
« Reply #1 on: May 03, 2017, 12:49:19 AM »
A very promising design that was ruined by the insane encounter frequency and encounter design in general.

This is a very ambitious design that tries to be a Gold Box game and has a lot to show for itself.

The background story is not very original: you have to do quests for six lords so that they will pledge loyalty to Eric, the son of the last true king before he was usurped.

The writing is good, but the spelling is quite bad.

There's lots of neat touches: new graphics, graphics that changes when you find things in a square, the translation of the Lizardmen language, lots of places to explore.

But the encounter design is pretty bad, and the design philosophy seems to be to whittle down the party's HP and the player's will to live by constantly fighting the same battles; pirates in the pirate cove and millions upon millions of Lizardmen in the Lizardmen city. The Lizardmen fighters come in three different flavours, but they all taste the same. And to make matters worse the Lizardmen for some reason all carry Jewels and Gems, so you can expect several thousand XP from one random encounter!
Earlier in my FRUA career I would have edited the random encounter frequency and played on, but now I don't have the patience for it, so I abandoned the module in the Lizardman city.

In general the combat was too easy, even for my imported, underleved party. There were a few clever set pieces (one where you patrol walls and you fight alongside "wall" units with bows), but generally the combat was too easy. Give me me a few hard battles, instead of death by a thousand easy random encounters!
« Last Edit: May 03, 2017, 03:42:14 AM by PetrusOctavianus »