Author Topic: REVIEW: Kuststad (by John J. BEACH)  (Read 137 times)

Offline Jadefang

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REVIEW: Kuststad (by John J. BEACH)
« on: April 04, 2017, 06:52:53 AM »
To my knowledge, this is the first module created by this author, and a fairly large one at that.
The author encouraged using the pre-generated party, so I went with that.

First thing that stuck out to me was that spoken dialogue was not highlighted like most other mods. Though it made things a bit harder to read, nonetheless I could look past that.

However, soon after, common pet peeves of veteran FRUA users quickly reared their ugly heads: store signs that required you to press ENTER whenever you passed by, building events that would play both when you enter and try to exit, and later on, doors that were locked on both sides, and even an instance of a one-way door! Though these annoyances might be a deal breaker to some players, I nevertheless stuck to the end.

One issue was the plot. In a sense, the plot is kind of confusing; you aren't really told or given any idea where to start or proceed next, and pretty much stumble around in the city until you find a secret passage leading to somewhere. The story generally "progresses" when you finish a quest, you find a key that opens a new area. However, there is no indication as to what that key leads to, so you pretty much try visiting every previously key-locked door (which were all accompanied by annoying PRESS ENTER TO CONTINUE text statements) until it fits. The only indication you are given that you've really completed a quest is when you visit the commander, he gives you a reward for your work, and then sometimes alludes to an underlying plot or something that the quest was involved in.

This open-ended exploration has also led to an instance where I entered through the secret exit of a dungeon, and then a few paces in, I suddenly find a quest solution that I had no idea existed or was a plot point. Another time I accidentally stumbled upon the ending of the main story, despite having a few other in-progress quests, because I found a new area had opened up, and I had the password from an optional event which only slightly alluded to the end area.

Another effect of this open-endedness is that it's possible to get into an area where the combat is too tough for your level. It actually happened to me: I was locked in an area with my level 1 party where the only way out was to fight a tough boss battle. The only reason I was able to win was due to what was presumably a bug - the Sleep spell, against all classic D&D logic, worked on the undead Skeletons. Though aside from that instance, I found the battles were mostly fair, though some required a few reloads to beat.

When you finish the main quest, there are two postgame areas that can be visited. One of them is quite challenging, due to not being able to rest through a large marathon of combats (featuring a lot of interesting unique monsters, I might add), while the other was fairly on the easy side, but puts you up against some hard hitting enemies.

The treasures in general did not feel too much or too little; though some stores were selling +1 or +2 items (and later on, +3 or better), it was largely limited by the money you obtained, and the items you'd find were mostly in the +1 ballpark. Though I eventually managed to outfit my party with these store-bought magical weapons, I did not really feel overpowered for doing so.

I noticed quite a few spelling errors. However, the dialogue is quite witty and humourous at times, so that kept me entertained throughout the mod.
Though there are no hacks, there is a large amount of imported art and custom monsters to be seen. Everything fits its usage nicely, and the new monsters add a lot of variety for people who've played through dozens of mods.

One of my largest gripes was that the Thief training hall was locked behind an Enter Password event. However, I did not discover this password until maybe halfway through (in fact, I did not realize it was the password until I looked it up in the editor), which resulted in my thief lagging behind in a few levels.

There unfortunately exists one fatal bug: in one of the postgame areas, it is possible to enter a space that is completely locked in, requiring a reload to get out.
I also found an annoying instance of a "Secret Door" that was actually just a wall that was set to Open; the only reason I found it was because it showed up on the Area view as a one-way door, with the other side being the proper secret door.
Speaking of which, Area View is enabled in every area in the entire game, which while making things easier, maybe spoils too much at times.

I also found one completely nonsensical instance of a MONSTERS ATTACK! combat event, complete with 10 Goblins as monsters...except it wasn't actually goblins, it was 10 of whatever monster that replaced the Goblin slot, accompanied by the picture that replaced the Goblin small pic.

The mod took me maybe 8-9 hours to complete, with my party ending at levels 4-5.
« Last Edit: April 04, 2017, 07:19:08 AM by Jadefang »

Offline hans

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Re: REVIEW: Kuststad (by John J. BEACH)
« Reply #1 on: April 09, 2017, 11:01:55 PM »
There is a lot to like about Kuststad by John J. Beach.  A lot!  So much so, that I cheated several times so that I could play it all the way to very end (where I met the author, metagamishly, and fought several final fights --the last one a doozy!).

The city of Kuststad is where most, but not all, of the action takes place.  It is very large and entertainingly detailed.  It rivals, if not surpasses, the city of Phlan from the old GoldBox game, Pool of Radiance, in activities and intrigues. 

Upon leaving Kuststad, there are two other major dungeons to explore.  One is in a fairly classical mold, with orcs and ogres and villagers to save.  The other is a most unusual mountain keep, with a highly unusual NPC that can be added to the party, and a highly unusual Dragon, among other monsters, to contend with. 

Then it's a return to Kuststad, to meet the author and, if you wish, fight four waves of final combat which get progressively more difficult.  I lost track of time, but I probably spent around 9 hours completing the mod. 

The author displays a great deal of imagination, intelligence, and wit.  Alas, he also displays many common failings of first time mod authors --which is why I found it necessary to cheat several times. 

One of the biggest problems was a disorderliness in quests.  Many could easily be stumbled into, and completed, before the quests were officially given.  Part of the problem is that the City Commander of Kuststad was either inaccessible, or hard to find because he moved around.  It was rather dizzying at times. 

Other places and quests I wanted to move on to but lacked an item or authorization which I couldn't get (or was left clueless how to get).  There are, I believe, three important passwords in the game, but only one that I could find without cheating.  One of those I lacked I needed to exit a dungeon that I had stumbled into (probably too early).  The other I needed to access the Thieves' Guild to train up my thief.  Training Halls for classes are separated (moreso than the few steps they were in Pool of Radiance).  That's a bit of a nuisance, but only the Thieves' Guild is really problematic.

TIP:  Either don't have a thief in your party, or start a human thief and have him immediately Change Class at the first Training Hall you can find. 

TIP:  Revisiting city locations and exploring every section of every room is advisable.   

More first time author failings have to do with such things as not checking the "do event only once" box and not using the "facing correct direction" event option.  To reach the ultimate endgame, I had to approach a fisherman from a Southern direction, or else the following Guided Tour event would take me to the wrong destination.  This could've been solved by the "use starting location" option. 

Despite such problems and occasional moments of aggravation, I very much enjoyed this mod.  To me it was, in fact, well worth cheating to be able to continue it.  Kuststad was quite clearly a major labor of love by its author, and I very much hope we will be hearing more from him.   :)