Friday, 2 September 2016

Swordflight Series for Neverwinter Nights NWN - Review Part IV

Swordflight Series for Neverwinter Nights NWN - Review Part IV



    S w o r d f l i g h t  S e r i e s  C o v e r a g e  
 Installation Instructions | Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV

Hi there! - and welcome to the fourth part of my coverage of the award-winning Swordflight Series by Rogueknight 333; this one introducing Chapter Three - which has just been released (August 31, 2016)! Download it here. For those unacquainted with Swordflight I kindly refer you to its entry on neverwintervault.org, from which you may download Chapter One and start playing in no time. But if you would like more info before doing so please refer to the Part I of my coverage, linked above. Currently, this is just a short intro to Chapter Three. I've already espoused the general virtues of the series in my first three parts, and can confirm that this third installment upholds them. For now, this post is just so people can take a gander.

I was excited a few months ago when Rogueknight 333 kindly allowed me to playtest a beta version of Chapter Three; the most excited I have been about a campaign in a long, long time. I pretty much played it non-stop until its conclusion, surprising the author with my rapid progress. It was funny, too, because I was in an exotic country at the time and instead of sight-seeing I was cooped up in my hotel room playing Swordflight! Indeed. It's all about priorities, you see. Anyway, the degree of polish in the beta surprised me. Yes, I found lots of typos but only a few bugs and oversights. Nothing game-breaking. That in itself is a feat, if you ask me.

Ok, this first lot of pics recaps the events of the first two chapters; the second lot sets the scene for the initial events of the current one. For those who have played the first two chapters the spoilers posted here are gonna be very, very mild. That said, if spoilers of ANY kind are not your cup of tea then what the hell are you doing here - get out!

   F i r s t  &  F i n a l  S p o i l e r  W a r n i n g   

   O u r  S t o r y  S o  F a r   






   P i r a t e  H u n t i n g   


 

   A b o a r d  t h e  S w o r d  o f  V a l k u r   


.
Left: Initial dialogue with Zarala, belowdecks.
Right: Dialogue with the Captain on the decks.


   M i n o t a u r  P i r a t e  I s l e  


Ok, that should be enough to whet your appetite! :P

   M i n i - R e v i e w   

Size & Scope. Chapter Three is shorter than the second chapter but still much longer than the first. It starts off linear, then goes non-linear for its quest-dense urban hub (Zazesspur), then goes linear again for its "major racial paths" (see Reactivity section).
• This installment takes you across varied environments such as pirate isles, minotaur mazes, the City of Zazesspur (and the ancient dwarven ruins buried deep beneath it), the frozen wastelands of Cania, forests, countrysides, fortresses, ancients tombs etc. So yeah, it's all there.
• I counted approx. 50 quests, 150 areas, over 600 custom items and quite a few custom bosses, too, like the Dwarven Doomknight and the Minotaur King, pictured below.


Reactivity. It's Swordflight! - so, highly reactive to your character. Race, class, alignment, feats and skills are checked at regular intervals; f.e, Playing a survivalist? Expect woodcraft, tracking, and animal empathy checks. Playing a holy warrior? Expect to detect evil wherever you go, and break necromantic wards with Turn Undead.
• Most notably, there are two major racial paths that begin at a certain point in the main quest: one for gnomes, halflings and dwarves; the other for humans, elves, half-elves and half-orcs. The areas, dungeons, quests and companions associated with these paths are completely different to one another.

Difficulty. You hit epic levels in this one and start to kick some ass as a result. But the mobs are massive and their ranks are non-trivial, so they WILL tear you a new one if you're not buffed or being mindful. I played with a character that didn't have equipment from the first two installments; twice I got a lump in my throat because I forgot to bring consumable wards, and backtracking was out because I was deep down and STUCK. So yeah, don't delve any dungeon without a solid supply.
• To reiterate, it depends on your build, but as a general rule of thumb you DON'T wanna be exploring without potions of Death Ward, Freedom, Lesser Mind Blank, Resist Elements and Speed (Enhanced). Also, Potion of Cure Severe Wounds is a new addition, replenishing fewer hit points than Heal but more than Cure Critical. Invigoration runes, undead wards, scrolls of Raise Dead and the Scabbard of Enhancement won't go astray, either.

A typical on-rest ambush

Custom Content Employment. Swordflight is known for its inclusion of custom content and this installment is no exception.
• Custom creatures (SwordflightB.hak): Cornugon by Magma, Displacer Beast by DM_Shade, Gelugon by Jupp & h20rat, Glabrezu by Schazzwozzer, Marilith by Lord of Worms (2011 CCC), Otyugh by ShadowM, Rust Monster by Fenmarel & Brent Anderson, Undead Umber Hulk & Undead Hook Horror by Plush Hyena of Doom, Yuan-Ti Abomination by Diademus.  
• Custom Placeables (SwordflightB.hak)Pirate Flag Placeables by Dark Defiance (2010 CCC), Snow Mogul Placeables by Vibrant Penumbra (2011 CCC). Custom Tilesets: Seasonal Forest from the Lord of Worms Tilesets and Dwarven Halls & CTP Loadscreens from CTP Common.

That's right, RUST MONSTERS. I think the creatures, placeables and dwarf-hall tileset are quite striking, but I find the forest one to be too vivid and "yellowy" for my taste (pic).

Walkthrough. There is also a 94 page walkthrough written by the author, available as a separate download (here). I didn't have access to it during my playtesting, proving that it's possible to get through this Chapter without one.
• I sort of hinted to Rogueknight to delay the release of the walkthrough for Chapter Three, since it would force people to work things out for themselves, or band together to solve problems, but he was concerned about being inundated with questions on how to find x, y, z or solve the puzzles; that sort of thing. So yeah, I hope people can restrain themselves because RPGs are just so much more rewarding when you complete them without a walkthrough. Sure, you might miss stuff but that's what replays are for!

—Ok, so do I have any criticisms of this installment?
• As usual, most of my issues center around the Aurora Engine upon which my fave modules are built. I find the companion AI really, REALLY annoying; and Swordflight exacerbates the issues due to its increased difficulty. Why didn't Rogueknight employ Tony K's Henchman Inventory & Battle AI Mod? A lil' Q&A:

Lilura: People are wondering why you didn't employ Tonk K's, perhaps for a lil' more companion control. I seem to recall reading somewhere that you have employed your own partial AI (that would conflict with Tony K's without a rewrite, which would perhaps be more trouble than it's worth), but I can't remember where. I'm not sure if Tonk K's would actually mitigate the AI issues people have with NWN, anyway (specifically, companion control), but it would be nice to get an official word from you, if you don't mind. Are you aware of Balkoth's Minion control mod, btw?

Rogueknight 333: When I first started making Ch. 1 many years ago I did not even know that Tony K's AI existed, so perhaps that got things off on the wrong foot...

I do use some customized AIs, generally quite simple ones, for a handful of select monsters, but that would hardly be a fatal problem in and of itself. Primarily I do not do more with AIs for 2 reasons:

1) It seemed more trouble than it was worth, since it is a lot of extra work setting up a custom AI system, making sure it does not conflict with anything else, is not introducing more issues than it fixes, etc., for what seemed minimal rewards, since, though one can mitigate certain specific issues, the AI is never going to be all that good whatever one does with it. If not having IE-style full party control is a deal-breaker for someone, there is not much that can be done about that within the constraints NWN imposes.

2) Zarala (the primary companion) is actually supposed to be somewhat tactically stupid and troublesome, making the need to baby-sit her an additional challenge for the player. I suppose I could achieve some such effect by adding in a ton of scripted sequences like the "shot in the back with friendly fire" incident in Ch.1 [1], but that is a lot of work to go through when the default AI will regularly produce similar stupidities without additional effort on my part. It might be said that the Swordflight series is, among other things, a gigantic escort mission.

I am aware of Balkoth's minion control system, and will possibly introduce something like that at some point, but I do not want to raise expectations of what the henchmen will be capable of too much - they are always going to be stupid.

[1] I have to wonder if this was a reference to Ian often shooting the Vault Dweller in the back in Interplay's Fallout (1997). :P

Pathing can also pose a problem in that, under a RTwP system, one can never be sure if, when they click a target/destination, they can actually reach it without bouncing off a placeable or other combat unit (losing costly seconds in combat). To be fair, the latter issue is true of even Infinity Engine RPGs, which people praise to the heavens. The author is acutely aware of both of these issues; nevertheless, it was decided that Aurora was the most suitable platform on which to build his campaign - and I agree with that evaluation. The engine is mostly great. But I've always wished Troika's Temple of Elemental Evil shipped with an Aurora-like toolset, and wasn't so bug-plagued. Then, who knows, we could have been playing the likes of Swordflight as a proper turn-based tactical RPG. Imagine that? One can dream..

• I was hoping for more custom content employment - especially regarding ship interiors and the marketplace tileset - but the ones that were available on the Vault did not suit the author's purposes.

• More visual variation in the ranks of enemies would have been nice, too. Do all bandits have to be in uniform and in same style, same color? I just think it would be nice to mix things up a bit (this is not a criticism of their combat abilities, which are indeed varied enough).

• This is not so much a criticism as it is a warning: you will need a decent PC to run this. The areas are huge and so are the mobs. Also, if you have framerate issues try turning off Shiny Water.

End of Review.

       S w o r d f l i g h t  C h a p t e r  T h r e e  V i d s       

Swordflight Chapter Three combat scenario - Weapon Master vs. Priest of Malar: Big bursty damage of Scythe crits saved my ass here, against a priest who unleashes spells if you don't get in his face and smack him down first. Then he shapeshifts, but yeah, another big crit. Improved Invisibility is mandatory for concealment. This is not as EZ as it looks. Sometimes werecats train on Zarala, too. Not good. Again, I was lucky.


• Swordflight Chapter 3 combat scenario - Weapon Master vs. Bandit Commander: Had to quaff two valuable Healing potions. It's better to be safe than sorry because the bandit commander wielding a keen scimitar, making him a crit machine. He healed himself once, which is what he always does. Zarala is fighting with fists lol, but she is irrelevant in this situation, anyway. The Dire Bear is a squishy meatshield for this encounter but it's better than nothing. The archers are rated EZ but, as you can see, they are decent marksmen, and it was satisfying to chase them down at the end.


   S W O R D F L I G H T  C H A P T E R  T H R E E   
   A  N W N  m o d u l e  b y  R o g u e k n i g h t  3 3 3   

    S w o r d f l i g h t  S e r i e s  C o v e r a g e  
 Installation Instructions | Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV

EoP, and end of Swordflight coverage (at least for now!)

2 comments:

  1. Lilura, I have to thank you for recommending Swordflight. I've not had this much fun with an RPG in more than a decade.

    I finished Chapter 2 a couple of months ago and made a save at the dock where you're given a chance to take some items out of your personal chest. I'd been collecting plot and unique items in case they have some use in Chapter 3. Do you know if there's anything specific I should bring along?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you enjoyed it! Aside from your basic necessities and that orb that resurrects Zarala I can't think of anything specific to bring along. Good luck!

      Delete

Return to Index of lilura1 content

Full comment stream is viewable here

Anonymous/Unknown users may posts comments. Genuine posts are approved quickly.

Blog is moderated due to influx of spammers, trolls and bigots. I can spot a troll a mile off and hit it right between the eyes with fire and acid.

Comments of a personal, political and religious nature are ignored. Comments with "isms" are ignored. Blatantly off-topic comments are ignored.

Use zoom function of your browser to make the blog more readable. In Chrome, that's Ctrl and Shift and +. (And yes, I recommend that you view this blog with Chrome.)

Thank you for commenting, and have a lovely day!