Author Topic: REVIEW: Bridge Over Troubled Water (by Shaun Hately)  (Read 1329 times)

Offline Olivier Leroux

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REVIEW: Bridge Over Troubled Water (by Shaun Hately)
« on: February 02, 2009, 04:49:35 PM »
Bridge Over Troubled Water
by Shaun Hately

Reviewed by Steve Gustafson


    This is excellent for a first design, a well-balanced, well scripted, and generally well-made adventure. I gather that it represents an introduction to its creator's campaign world.

    It definitely seems to set up a sequel. Your created characters have just been released from military service, and are looking for work as adventurers. An opportunity comes your way when you visit an ancient and important bridge, whose continued existence is under threat. You must identify the threat and remove it.

    The game is well written in a modified Gold Box style. There are a fair number of mazes and dungeons to wander through, though you will seldom find yourself truly lost. Treasures are given out only grudgingly. The combats are well balanced, and random combats are few.

    This is the author's first design. This is a "French Vanilla" design; the only hack I noticed is a new title. The game abounds in original art, however, which is always appropriate and used well. The plot is pretty linear, which I did not mind; there is seldom a situation where you are wandering around wondering what to do next. The gaming world seems to present more possibilities than the actual plot of the game. Although, in the end it is probably not the most original story in the world, it is generally well presented, well paced, and well told. Combats are actually rather rare, but well balanced and well used: when a fight does happen, it usually marks the climax of a plot point. [More could have been done, I think, with the story of the wayward dwarf prince.] There is a great deal of dungeon crawling.

    There are some minor aesthetic flaws: you cannot gain entry to the dwarves' lair without the proper credentials, but once you have them, you must go through the ritual of presenting them each time you return. Some of the dungeons have paper walls; when using solid wallsets like the Marble wallset, I think it best to anchor the ends with doors or gateways so that they do not look thin and insubstantial when you round a corner.

    All in all, an excellent first effort. I am looking forward to further adventures that explore this game world more deeply.

Offline Olivier Leroux

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Re: REVIEW: Bridge Over Troubled Water (by Shaun Hately)
« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2009, 04:50:04 PM »
Bridge Over Troubled Water
by Shaun Hately

Reviewed by Susan McKinney

    This was a fantastic design! I loved the story line and the progression of the plot flowed nicely. Can't wait to see the next installment of this campaign world. Your party has just been cashiered from the military and decides to winter in a town built on a HUGE bridge. However, bridges are a bad place to be in an earthquake...

    Mycroft Rating: 9

Offline Ben J

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Re: REVIEW: Bridge Over Troubled Water (by Shaun Hately)
« Reply #2 on: July 17, 2010, 11:44:57 AM »
Empty rooms, empty rooms, empty corridors, empty houses, empty swamps, an empty overland map, more empty rooms, an empty tower with about 15 nearly empty stories (and you have to climb it twice)...

But I'll start at the beginning:

I saw this module listed in the Underrated Modules thread, that's the main reason why I chose to play it. It's old, but not that old (the module listing at rosedragon says it's from 2001).

My fears that it would be a Simon & Garfunkel-inspired mod didn't come true. Instead, it's a fairly standard fantasy story, but the story itself proved to be one of the strong points of the game.

Most of the plot takes place in a big town that is entirely built on a bridge - a very cool setting.

I also liked the style of the few text events that there are - but that's where the problems start.

The whole game is incredibly scant when it comes to text and events in general. A good example for this is the crypt that the party needs to enter in the course of the plot. There is an (always recurring) event at the entrance of the temple that informs the player where the crypt is, but there is no text in front of the crypt door, nor when the party climbs down. Since text is the primary means for creating atmosphere in a module that mainly uses vanilla walls and music, this is a serious flaw.

But that problem extends to the whole of the module. There are about 100 empty houses in the city. You can bash the doors in, but that only makes the problem more clear.

The dungeons consist mainly of big, empty rooms and corridors. Fights are very scarce (and very easy). There's an entire swamp that is primarily a vast, empty tree maze without any text events - quite boring. There are no random encounters on the overland map (except for rest events that happen far too frequently).
By far the worst thing was the tower that consists of endless, almost indentical marble levels, with about two fights and two traps in total (and you have to climb up, then all the way down again, and later climb the tower a second time!)

It seems like the designer drew all the maps first but then lacked the material to fill them.

In addition, the game is riddled with numerous design flaws.

The author has seemingly never heard of the "back up one step when leaving" or "when the party tries to enter"-options, which leads to some very odd situations (stairs and gates appear to be teleporters, taking the player to a small room first, and then on to the next part of the map).

Paper-thin walls abound in the mazes.

Area view is turned off in the city, which becomes frustrating very quickly, especially if most of your city consists of empty houses. This is the only game so far where I went into the editor to turn the area view on (just for the city).

Treasure and XP are also very scarce. How am I ever supposed to buy all the expensive stuff the magic shop sells?
For most of the game, my characters were creeping around at level 1. I only ever advanced to level 2 because I kept on killing alligators in the swamp (a rest event at 1% chance per minute).

The ruler of the city is a thrifty old screw. For all my deeds, I expected to get some platinum in between adventures, but no. I went through a lot of trouble, and all I got was this t-shirt, I mean this deed of citizenship.

And the story isn't even resolved! There are hints strewn throughout the game pointing towards some kind of conspiracy, but the solution is postponed until another time.

All these flaws give the impression that this is an unfinished game (I know, I basically said the same thing about 'All Along the Botchtower' - this game reminded me of it).


After playing "Bridge over Troubled Water" and reading the older reviews, I must conclude that this game isn't underrated at all. Quite the opposite, in fact.

With a little a lot more work, it could have been a cool game. Too bad.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2010, 03:11:21 PM by Ben J »
Released designs:

The Sect

Offline Olivier Leroux

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Re: REVIEW: Bridge Over Troubled Water (by Shaun Hately)
« Reply #3 on: July 17, 2010, 12:56:00 PM »
Hey Ben J, it's a long time ago that I played this design and reading your review I can hardly believe now I actually liked it. For some reason I did though. I'm sorry if you feel I mislead you by pointing it out but keep in mind that I started the Underrated Designs thread out of a personal craving for more UA designs, as someone who thinks he's already seen it all (including all the horrors the UA File Archive has to offer) and is desperately looking for something halfway decent and unheard of. *YOU* on the other hand haven't even played all the top rated designs yet, why not start with them instead of wasting your time with the suggestions of nostalgists?  ;)

And don't get too spoilt by playing hans' and Ben Sanderfer's designs and by being the author of the best UA mod ever.  :P
(You probably should have chosen "The Bell and the Staff" over "Bridge over Troubled Water" but I doubt you'll still trust me on that, heh.)
« Last Edit: July 17, 2010, 12:58:30 PM by Olivier Leroux »

Offline Ben J

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Re: REVIEW: Bridge Over Troubled Water (by Shaun Hately)
« Reply #4 on: July 17, 2010, 02:50:27 PM »
No worries. I don't think that you would intentionally mislead me.  ;)
I brought this upon myself, because I wanted to play some older, lesser know designs. I think playing this and the Botchtower somewhat cured me of this idea.

The other reason I chose to play "Bridge" was that I temporarily had to play without sound, and I knew this one only used the standard music and FX.

Next up on my list of designs to play: The serial mod, Curse of the Fire Dragon, one or two of the remaining hans mods, Night of the Basilisk.
Released designs:

The Sect

Offline PetrusOctavianus

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Re: REVIEW: Bridge Over Troubled Water (by Shaun Hately)
« Reply #5 on: December 04, 2015, 07:28:48 PM »
Interesting how little agreement there is about this design.
But my probably number one pet peeve with FRUA designs (and games and user made material in general) is having too large maps with too little content.
It's such a basic design flaw that should not be hard to avoid, IMO.

BTW, the intro to the module gave me a "Starship Troopers" vibe, with the goal of the party to get citizen papers.