This primarily military adventure is based upon the classical defense of the pass of Thermopylae against a Persian army. Except in this case you also have to defend against the Greek armies who would otherwise be holding the pass. Luckily neither side wants to allow the other to take the pass from you.
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The adventure is smaller than most, with only 2 episodes, but this shouldn't prevent it from being fun.
The adventure is also a test/demo of what might be done if one edits the adventure files with a hex editor, rather than just with the Poseidon editor. This means you will encounter things that you wouldn't expect to happen in a Zeus/Poseidon adventure because the editor won't allow them to be done. More details on what was done are included in the "Adventure notes.txt" file, along with a few issues that might turn up. It has been thoroughly tested, so I don't anticipate any serious bugs, but if something I didn't take into account turns up, do mention it.
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So after having uni exams over and the holiday break starting (yayy!! Finally), I finally went back to Zeus and reinvigorate my joy for this game, and after browsing through Zeus heaven's download section, I finally got back to tackle this monster of an adventure, which I never had the time to try out. :)
I played this adventure on Olympian mode, and for anyone having difficulty with this adventure, I might even post my own sav file as a sort of mini-guide, if I have the time. :)
Being a player that loves the military aspect of this game, the fun factor scale went totally off the charts for me in the first episode. :P
The bizarre frequency of invasions you had to deal a few times every year, sent simultaneously from a horde of persian/egyptian cities, and the generosity of your Greek rivals giving you re-inforcements (thanks to hex editing!!) made me enjoy the episode a lot!! And not to mention, the micromanaging tasks I had to deal with during every invasion kept me busy at all times.
The strategies I had to employ were sometimes not for the faint of heart, and at many points during my playthrough, I took a lot of risks that in the end, benefited in moving the gameplay forward in both episodes alone.
In the second episode however, I did notice that there were not really many events to see or take care of, other than just invasions that were not as frequent compared to episode one, and a voluntary vassalization of one of the rivals early in the episode. The lack of events itself, kinda marred the playability score a little bit, as I found myself getting a little bored and turning off all kinds of news bar invasions, when I decided to maximize my armor stores to complete episode 2's objectives.
So in this category, a 4 would suffice, imo.
The balance in this adventure was well-crafted and taken care of beautifully. In the start, you are given some ample funds, more than needed to build your first housing block, but don't be fooled by this. You also need to wisely use these funds to build defenses that can destroy whatever opposition is hurled at you from the first year alone. But don't rush, for in the beginning, you must create a city housing block, at breakneck speed, such that you should at least have some tenements ready by the first year alone. Fortunately, your rival Greeks will aid you in this endeavor, by providing you some of the necessities needed to quickly build up your rabble army and prepare for the first invasion.
As you quickly buffer up your defenses with towers and walls, you finally encounter the first wave of persians and egyptians in the first year or so, and you are given a choice of surrendering or fighting the invasion force, but in this case, you must make wise choices to ensure you at least, survive for the next year, so tactical foresight is needed. Unfortunately, you will figure out that no matter what tactics you employ in this invasion, the enemy will still, be too great a number to fight. Fortunately, you have a couple more things to aid you: A choke point which gives you an advantage if you placed a lot of towers to defend this spot, and re-inforcements from Athens and Sparta. However, even with this, you still need your rabble force you built up asap in the first year to aid these advantages, as well as the tower defense you built up with your remaining funds.
This however, gives you another choice: How much employment do you want to risk to man the rabble force and the towers? Suffice to say, you must balance these factors during every invasion to ensure that (1) your defense is adequate enough to repel the invading horde and (2) your housing blocks will not cripple and devolve, which may internally damage your rabble. Another factor to consider is that your wheat/fleece/olive supplies are stationed dangerously near to the invading hordes, so you must ensure they will not be destroyed by the persians, the egyptians or the greeks (yes, even the Greeks will attack you!!).
These factors (as well as other factors I won't bother to put up in this review, since it's already too long) bequeathed life to this adventure and contributed a lot of elements, such that juggling these elements kept you busy and concerned at all times, contributing further to the game's playability and balance.
In the second episode, some things change: You will no longer receive help, Sparta will gladly disappear off the map, and Athens will side with you. This time however, you are now expected to conquer your rivals - give them a bit of karma. But fortunately, one of your rivals will voluntarily become vassalized, and with this in hand, you now have 2 potential friends that will aid you in this expedition, further ensuring balance is maintained, but still requiring wise use of what you have at your disposal to win the 2nd episode.
Regarding the above-mentioned, it is clearly evident that the author has given balance a lot of thought and has thankfully succeeded, during the realization of this adventure. So full marks suffice in this category.
As expected of an adventure crafted by a hex editing software, creativity should be implored, especially with one that is designed to demonstrate the features and advantages of using such a thing to craft an adventure, and this adventure does its job very well.
A lot of things that were deemed to be impossible in Zeus' adventure editor, has been featured in this adventure and proved possible with a hex editor. Many times, I've been surprised at the sheer amount of things not seen before in other adventures, and many times, I've wondered how you achieved such things.
The fact that you sought for unique ideas and explored the hex editor to undertake such a feat, clearly demonstrates creativity, especially seeing the finished adventure, as the result of all of this; a category that deserves a 5 in this regard.
Map Design: 4
The map was beautifully designed, to cater well to the true actual map of what Thermopylai may have looked like, as well as giving players a suitable challenge. Heck, we also have another thing you'd not normally see: An exit point in the middle of the map, which thanks to hex editing, is very much possible to do for a Zeus adventure. However, the secret path leading to the "backdoor maze" mentioned by JRFisher above, could've been designed a little bit better and paid more attention to, in detail, imo.
The story was a little disappointing for my taste. It was quite sparse, and doesn't give much storyline for thought, but with respect to this adventure, it gets the job done nonetheless.
A readme file was also provided, giving clear instructions on what file to move; since this is an adventure crafted by hex editing, its peculiarities does indeed, show. The file also explains the adventure's features, certain nuisances of the editor, and what was modified during the creation of this adventure. However, it would also be nice if it gave some insight to fellow designers by giving them a brief guide on how to do the changes implemented in this adventure.
It's an adventure designed from hex editing after all, so why not share some of your discoveries and know-how's, rather than just leave it in some imaginary dust, never to be explored by other designers at all?
As one who finished this adventure, I wholeheartedly recommend it to players who enjoy military challenges in Zeus, and to those who have decade-long experience playing this game, such as I. :)
Not for the novice, or intermediate though. They would rage-quit before getting to the 2nd year alone. :)
[Edited on 08/15/17 @ 09:27 PM]