Author Topic: REVIEW: Bilfur: Bracegirdle Unbound (by Musalaya)  (Read 856 times)

Offline Olivier Leroux

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REVIEW: Bilfur: Bracegirdle Unbound (by Musalaya)
« on: January 29, 2009, 07:47:26 PM »
Bilfur: Bracegirdle Unbound
Author: Musalaya

Reviewed by David Ainsworth (aka Narsham)

Well, I wanted to like Bilfur. The premise was promising, and any mod which is set in Middle Earth (and succeeds) has the mystique of that place in its favor. I ended up slogging my way through a module which is, perhaps, the most disappointing I have yet played. When I say disappointing, I mean that there is a lot of promise here (unlike a few modules I have played, which were lost causes from beginning to end), and that that promise is broken by a number of serious design problems.

Bilfur begins with the player as a down and out hobbit, who turns to a life of crime to survive. Now, a hobbit running around the Shire trying to steal things could make for a very entertaining adventure right there, with plenty of opportunities for role-playing, colorful personalities, and interesting situations, not to mention complex event chains to handle break-in attempts. What we end up with is somewhat less than that. There are several combats that might be encountered (and, at first level, Bilfur has trouble with three Giant Rats), a Damage event which may very well kill Bilfur (oops, stepped on a piece of glass and died...), and an eventual robbery of the Took himself (who evidently had secret doors installed so ANYBODY could walk in and take his treasure, bypassing his guards completely).

Soon, the adventure turns into a quest for the stolen dagger of the Took, which turns out to be in the hands of Saruman, who offers to trade it for a certain ring in the possession of Bilbo Baggins...except, upon breaking into Bag-End, Bilfur learns that the ring has been stolen as well...

Tolkien fans may be wondering, at this point, just when in the timeline of the novels this adventure occurs. Evidently, it is set just before the events in Lord of the Rings, right before Bilbo's big birthday party. And here, Bilfur descends into a morass of plot problems.

Where shall I begin? This module is supposed to be set in Tolkien's world, but it doesn't look or feel much like the place in the novels. Frequent combats (not a feature of the books) are permissible, I suppose, but the appearance of chainsaw wielding maniacs, not to mention encounters with Goblins inside the Shire (with nary an indication that there's anything unusual in that), is going much too far. If the monsters were Tolkien's monsters, I might have been willing to forgive all the battles, but these are the denizens of the AD&D world that we all know and hate...

Then there are all the other modifications to Tolkien's world.  There are deities in this game completely unrelated to the novels (one is called Mammon), and no mention of any others. The elves are all but absent, as are the dwarves. The One Ring is stolen by a thief who takes it to Numenor with the intention of returning with an army and conquering all of Middle Earth, begging the questions:

   1. Hasn't Numenor fallen by this point in Middle Earth history?
   2. How did this thief find out that Bilbo had the One Ring, since Sauron wasn't able to figure it out (with considerably greater resources)?
   3. For that matter, how did Saruman find out about it, and why didn't he just go up to Bilbo himself and take it?
   4. Speaking of Sauron, just why is he so absent in this module? Even in the tranquil Shire, the shadow of Sauron was present.  Here, second rate evils like Mammon take his place.
   5. Why, in Elrond's name, would Saruman ask a low-level hobbit to bring him the Ring? Saruman is NOT Gandolf, and does not share Gandolf's high opinion of hobbits.

I might have been willing to overlook all of these problems, since, after all, this is not an entirely serious module, and it isn't attempting to be absolutely true to Middle Earth. On top of all of them, however, are a serious of design flaws that made this module something of a headache to play.

Musalaya makes some good design decisions in this adventure, and it is almost entirely free of grammatical errors. For example, Bilfur is not much of a fighter, and the wise player will spend a lot of time in this module fleeing combats. This is as it should be. There are, however, far too many battles to begin with. At the very least, Bilfur should get a chance to hide in shadows and avoid all of the random combats in this module. Also, once some NPCs join the group, flight is no longer an option (unless you feel like leaving the NPCs behind), and the game turns into a long series of difficult battles--difficult because if Bilfur goes unconscious, the game ends, and because the NPCs are run by the program itself, with the usual lack of intelligence.

Add to that some dropped premises, unexplained locations and references (including a temple which seems completely unrelated to the adventure, whose existence is never explained, and which supposedly contains a magical sword... which isn't in there at all), a Mayor's keep which you can leave through a gate (and if you do, you can NEVER get back in again, and therefore can't finish the game), an inn in Hobbiton where you will always get attacked Goblins when trying to rest, and, to top it all off, an item which you need to get at the beginning of the game in order to finish the adventure, but which you can quite easily overlook. I overlooked it, since the man who tells you where it is and gives you a key to get it is lying in an alley--and I stopped looking there after being killed first by Giant Rats, and then by broken glass. Also, there is no indication at the end of the game that you DO need this item.

The ending seems strangely appropriate for this mod. The party goes sailing after the thief with the Ring, and we are told that the adventure will continue in Part 2. Then, all the party members get experience, and we are told to save... and the game ends without our getting a chance to do so. I wasn't surprised.

Would I recommend this module? Well... it is hard. Very hard. It does have some nice touches. On the other hand, after slogging through all of the design flaws, I couldn't look back on those with much fondness. There is a virtuous core to Bilfur, but it may not be worth the difficulty and the frustration to get to it.


Ratings:

    * Plot Matter: 3
    * Artwork: 4
    * Hacks: N/A
    * Text: 4
    * Events: 4
    * Originality: 6
    * Errors: 5

    * Difficulty: 8

    * Total Rating: 44%

Offline Olivier Leroux

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Re: REVIEW: Bilfur: Bracegirdle Unbound (by Musalaya)
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2009, 05:50:27 PM »
Bilfur: Bracegirdle Unbound
by Musalaya

Reviewed by Susan McKinney

This is a humorous module set in Middle Earth. You play an unemployed pipeweed factory employee turned thief. You must regain your honor and save Middle Earth too. This module also claimed to be unhacked but there is original artwork included and icons. This is a very light-hearted module, not for the Serious-minded. It has a pretty good design, some design features that can be irritating (you are exploring the "rich" side of the city and the guards keep throwing you back into the slums. It is geared towards the one pregen character Bilfur. This can be tough because you start out as a 1st level thief with no equipment. I died a few times starting out. I learned to save after every major quest step the hard way. The plot development is nice and measured. There are a few glitches that are very minor. One is where Prospero joins the party but no text accompanies this. I see a face and the name is added to my party.

Rating: 6 (out of 10)