Some days ago I played Suryavarman scenario 4 (Khmer campaign). I don’t think I have ever played a more irritating and infuriating scenario. It is tough, as the fourth scenario of a campaign should be. But the bad emotions it provoked on me have to do with how badly designed it is.
Suryavarman 3 sort of proves what I’m saying: it’s a ridiculously easy one. You are given military units at the start and no villagers. You can bait enemy soldiers with your hero unit and kill them with your higher numbers. There’s a similar scenario in the Pachacuti campaign. It’s also the third. But here, you find villagers on you way, and most importantly, you can’t sit around doing nothing, because the enemy launches attacks on you. In Suryavarman 3 you can forget that you left the game on and there will be no consequences whatsoever. So, we have a very dumb scenario, then the most maddening ever, and what about Suryavarman 5? It’s also easy. I completed it in my first try. I think we can agree that this kind of difficulty progression is broken.
What would be a tough scenario which is also designed well? I’d say Saladin 6. It’s brutal and nearly impossible. However, when you do something wrong, it’s evident from the start. Very soon you will have two trebuchets with massive range tearing down your walls and be swarmed by three enemy players. In Suryavarman 4, it seems that if you spend 100 gold on the wrong thing at the beginning, the consequences will be felt half an hour later.
Another problem I’d like to point out, is that the alarm horn nearly gave me a mental breakdown. I don’t know what is it about this scenario that made the alarm sound constantly – maybe it’s because it revolves around ships and they travel all over the place. I definitely remember playing very hard scenarios in which I wasn’t driven mad by the noise.
I’ve played Pachacuti and Edward Longshanks, also Hofonglalas, and just now I’ve played, and failed, The Grand Dukes of the West 2. I’ve seen people criticizing the Forgotten Empires DLC. What do you guys think? Is there a difference in the quality, regarding scenario design, between HD and DE? I think the York scenario, in which you play as the Vikings, was very good, but other ones from the Forgotten DLC sucked. So far, the ones from DE feel a lot better altogether. For instsance, I found The Grand Dukes of the West 2 really complex. I spent 4 hours on it and couldn’t cut it. Still, there are those little villages with the Conversion Torches, which, when you control them, give you a stream of the four resources. It’s those small things that give me the feeling of good design.