I've played this adventure on Olympian and thought that the first 3 episodes offered quite a challenge: Making money was hard so allmost every invasion needed to be fought, while keeping an eye on a monster. I felt like the pressure increased all the time. I had to end the first episode just to get rid of all the invading armies on my shores. The second episode kept the pressure on, and finally in the third episode I managed to struggle to supremacy. I liked it!
And then there was the second half of the adventure. all three episodes featured all three monsters invading again, and no challenges whatsoever. the only thing I did was easily summoning heroes, swatting down turncloaks and some quick sanctuary building. The adventure feels finished, and quite rewardingly so, after 3 episodes, but gets dragged out unnecessarily.
I thought the first 3 episodes were quite balanced as well. every episode required a different hero, and their requirements got increasingly steep. Elite housing wasn't allowed immediatly, and horses appeared later still, which led to a slowly expanding city. It was nice! The balance of the second half is mostly covered under playability. Senseisan is right about the single colony: you never need its resources. It also featured a threat by sea, however, having conquered over 15 rivals in the previous episode provided me with everything I needed through tribute, so I never even looked at this threat.
The combination of heroes and the sanctuaries they required was cleverly done. The first episode also featured a nice unexpected pressure increasing event. Other than that, the adventure offered little variation or originality. And summoning heroes for a fourth time (three of them just to prolong the plot) is just frustrating. Also all invasions landed on the same bit of shore. Aggresive monsters appearing very close to the city required me to keep rebuilding many many buildings, which might put off many players i guess.
Map Design: 2
I liked the ample building spaces. some effort went into scrubbing. The square tool was much in evidence as well. The parent city had a corner of the map walled of, which had no function whatsoever. the line of silver rocks and the very long and straight shorelines in the parent city were other issues that put me off.
Like Senseisan said: the lack of wood was challenging, but as many forests were just standing around, there should be a very good reason for not allowing lumberjacks in the story. Other than that it didn't matter much that no story was provided.
Play the first three episodes and call it a day. :) They are quite challenging and clever and I enjoyed them. As this adventure got a great rating I gave it a try, but the latter episodes don't deserve this rating at all. I hope my review is of some assistance to future players.