Posted on 09/20/17 @ 10:36 PM (updated 09/29/17
It is the beginning of Carthage. The Phoenician had just leave Tyre for a new colony. In this new world, there will be new challenges and new land to conquer.
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Carthage is an adventure consisting of 6 parent episodes and 2 colony episodes, which mostly features a historical timeline of sorts with minor alterations, depicting key events occurring from the Founding of Carthage, up to one of the Punic Wars. Another feature which was included by the author was a "what-if" episode, featuring yet another superpower, vying to snatch the reigns of power from Carthage.
I enjoyed playing this adventure, and with such a decently designed parent city map coupled with an interesting historical storyline to boot, who wouldn't enjoy it?
Right from episode one, you are placed in a world filled with heroes, monsters and gods; you will also notice unhappy neighbours intent to attack your city and throw you away from their lands, but good-natured allies are also in the world and some of them will aid you with gifts sufficient enough to help you build your starting city. Over time, some of these cities will require your help to fight famine, or finish a sanctuary; sometimes you will get littered with messages of a god or two causing havoc and forcing them to shut down their trade, and so world interaction is encouraged from the get-go.
The author wasn't kidding when he said there were new lands to conquer, and right from episode one, you are required to dominate your neighbours, mirroring Carthage's early historical timeline. You may choose to build an Ares sanctuary to help you raid the necessary resources you need to thrive and probably finish three of the five objectives in episode one very quickly, or you may choose the stoic route of building an elite housing block later on and endure some of the neighbouring threats until you're ready.
Unfortunately, this adventure does suffer from a few glaring weak spots which negatively affect its gameplay. In addition, these subtle features could work in tandem to further negatively affect the adventure's gameplay twofold. One of them is the fact that every single resource can be obtained in the first episode; the other feature is that only one city in the world map has a shield level of 6. Add to the fact that you could build elite houses in episode one alone, and obtain gifts of armor and wine free of charge to get manors 2 years early into the game means if the player wishes, he could conquer every city in the game at episode one alone and get tributes of nearly every resource in the game very early on! Let's also not forget that Ares can facilitate this endeavor even more. And when this is achieved, you can complete 4 episodes successively, out of 8 in total without experiencing any pressure of scripted invasions or threats alike from rival cities like Rome etc. Let's also add to the fact that if you import/raid and store at least 44 of every resource in the game at episode one like I did, you can pass parent episodes two and three in just less than 2 years without much problem. This hurts playability a lot.
These weak spots also render another feature of this adventure completely redundant: Quests. Quite often in this adventure, I'd observe that completing a cascade of quests later on would result in a military decline of a rival city you'd be required to conquer. Unfortunately, one does not have to complete these hero assignments to conquer these cities. Instead, just sending an 8-manor army you built from episode one, with military aid to invade a city *twice* would normally be enough in olympian mode, since many of these cities - including your colonies - would have 5 shields; sufficient enough to conquer all but one city, which is allied to you in every episode anyway, apart from the last - and you can even abuse that level 6 power to aid you in conquering rivals, once you gift it enough sculpture - which can be stockpiled in the very beginning.
Another minor feature I've found a little irritating for a few seconds of gameplay was found in the colony episodes and some of the early parent episodes. In both colonies, olives were present in the world, but yet I cannot make olive oil? Same goes for episodes one and two, where bronze and grapes can be imported, but I can't make wine or armor? Reflecting back on this, I've found myself uttering really colorful words when I noticed this oddity. It would be nice if there was a small explanation in the story; anything to explain this phenomenon would've sufficed, like limited manpower or something.
All of this however, was compensated by a very intense and hair-raising experience found in the last two episodes, which scaled my own personal fun factor in this adventure by a mile. A word of caution to anyone who reads this review: be prepared after completing the second colony episode, because things are about to get hectic in your journey; for RTS fans and players who enjoy the military aspect of Zeus as much as I do, you will surely enjoy this ride to the end. :)
I found the difficulty and challenge in this adventure still adequate and variable, despite the fact that I managed to stockpile 40 of every resource early on during my first gameplay. At times, you need to carefully manage your commodities in order to win some of the episodes, and the later scenarios can prove to be very challenging, which is a good thing. Invasions are intense, but manageable; god invasions are present and foreshadowed in the storyline, and are timed wisely to not become an annoyance; monster invasions seem to be mostly triggered after quest completion, but given that you already had a sanctuary to Apollo constructed at parent episode three, and that these events sometimes had no indication in the storyline, I question their relevance at times.
Some features in this adventure were also way too convenient for my taste. For instance, you start the adventure with 20,000 dr in olympian mode and obtain gifts of armor and wine at the first year, allowing you to drop an elite housing block early on in the game once you import the fleece. Not only would this have made the 20,000 dr redundant at the start, but this would also make you way too overpowered, given that you could also build an Ares sanctuary on the first episode. Indeed, the author made an attempt to compensate this out by including invasions from hostile neighbours and making later episodes much more difficult, but it doesn't take away the fact that you could exploit this by conquering every city very quickly by the first episode and render the challenges non-existent in the first half of the adventure if you wanted to, which hurts balance.
However, despite the number of convenient situations in this adventure, I have to take into account that the author insisted this to be "Hero" level in difficulty, and so at some point, it does make sense that some aspects of this adventure would be given convenient situations, especially early on.
This adventure has a great creative spark, and the author did a good job in this category. All episodes carry their own individual character, and colony episodes are not just a matter of "produce x resources in 1 year and tally ho". No, there is more depth than this. There is competition, there is rivalry, worship to household gods, fighting hostile natives etc and this imo, adds some extra interest to the colony episodes beyond simply just producing some meager resources. Objectives are different in every episode, cities in the world map are placed accurately with respect to their historical locations, trade routes are done plausibly and storylines link to the gameplay as a whole, carrying their weight and adding immersion to individual episodes. The growing enmity of Rome at each episode progression also adds to the adventure's historical immersiveness too.
My only complaint however (and this is a minor one), was that the author had given names of leaders you'd find in the game to cities in the world map, which just doesn't fit. As a result, one would suddenly notice oddities such as Priam being leader of Rome, Oedipus being leader of Carthago Nova (instead of Hasdrubal who founded the city) and Chiron being leader of a city in Spain, which detracts immersive quality. The author probably didn't know that you could simply use your own names to represent city leader names in Zeus, which you wouldn't be able to in Caesar3, Pharaoh and Emperor. But this itself, is too minor a complaint and I would be too nitpicky if I were to detract the 5 rating from this alone.
Map Design: 5-
Taking into account all three maps used in this adventure and without bias affecting the score, I reward this adventure a 4 in this category.
While I do not know the details of the 2 colony maps very well, I DO know very well the details of Carthage like the back of my hand, and the author did a very good job in outlining this jewel of the mediterranean very aesthetically and near-accurately in Zeus/Poseidon. Indeed, the Byrsa may have been centrally placed between the meadows and the cothon in contrast to the Carthage version shown in this map, but nonetheless, it is very impressive.
I do question however (and this does not contribute to the 4 rating), as to why fish or urchins weren't used as a resource in the parent city, since Carthage was known to export sun-dried fish paste, and urchins could be used as a good substitute for murex snails which were utilized to make purple dyes that were in high demand in the ancient world; purple dyes that Phoenicia and Carthage were both famous for. But this was probably revoked either in favor of challenge, or to encourage pier-building on the superficial part of the cothon, as it historically had that purpose.
Dharkuum was very impressive to look at. Addition of scrubbing, careful placement of ores and good placement of forests that had inner spaces gave emphasis on the sheer beauty of the map. Swamps were also added, and were merged with respect to the surrounding land, giving it a better aesthetic quality.
Carthago nova on the other hand, was not done as beautifully as the other two maps and I believe it could be much improved to fit the magnificence of the other two. Plus, I question why a huge tile of meadows had to be placed on the entry point - since I barely even used it and it detracts from the aesthetic value of the map, but the easternmost mountain was interesting to examine.
EDIT: Reflecting back on the map, I believe my rating for map design was a little too harsh. While Carthago nova - a contributing factor to the previous 4 rating - had quite a few head-scratching contributions of design work, it is still not enough to detract from the beauty that the other maps had to offer, and parts of it still had good work in map design. So this category has been re-visited to award full marks. Apologies for the previous blunder.
This adventure features a loose historical timeline that signifies the struggle and hardships in Carthage's history, with minor alterations; therefore you can't expect the adventure to thread a narrative with characters who receive personal growth. Nonetheless, each episode does have a good story on its own that emphasizes not only events that occurred in Carthage's past, but it also roughly highlights the power struggle in the mediterranean basin.
Reading back on the storyline on one particular colony episode, one who has studied Carthage's history in detail before, cannot help but reflect back on the reminiscences of Hanno the Navigator, who was speculated to have sailed upto Senegal and landed on a place called "Dakar" (according to modern research). Reading the storyline of another colony episode, one cannot help but reflect on Hasdrubal and Hannibal, who had both contributed to the colony's prominence.
Unfortunately, this is not enough to justify a full story/instruction rating. The storyline could be a little bit improved however, and I still believe some particular aspects of the adventure's storyline could be given a little bit more depth to flesh out and bring to life Carthage's history and prominence even more. Introducing those historical characters who have shaped Carthage's history, or giving a few extra details of the Punic Wars are a few examples of giving extra depth and more immersion into the storyline; telling the story of how Hannibal went into voluntary exile to some of the city states of the map after the Punic War could also be another example. The colony episodes could also be fleshed out and improved a little more in this regard. Rather than just competing with other cities, why not introduce some other ideas, like a colony helping its rival by ousting an enemy that subjugated or enslaved them, and then they would happily allow you to be their leader, for instance? - or something along the lines of that. I feel there's a lot of creative potential in story-writing that could've been brought into play in this adventure, but were not imagined, and so the storyline - despite its length - seemed a little bit diluted at times.
Despite its flaws, I still recommend this adventure for download and playthrough; it would be a real shame to miss out on this adventure just because the opener can be exploited to a massive degree. For full enjoyment though, just be sure to tag along with the objectives and not stockpile every resource early on or conquer cities in the world map unless it is required.
[Edited on 12/15/17 @ 10:08 PM]
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Map Design: 5
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Very good, really enjoy it so much. Thanks very much
There will be zeus bug, the answer was in the forum but for those who forget or didn't know before will screwed a few times. Me too.
The parent map was OP from the start. You get 20000 on olympian and if you want almost 10000-15000 from ally.
any way to create and plan your city.
Map Design: 5
Look good both the city map and world map.