VGsatomi: Approved. Part of the lengthy mathias campaign
First of all, I, Savage Potato am the creator of this work, not that piece of $#%& plagiarist Fravell. I have asserted my copyright in the past and the Hive has recognised this. The kiwi place names and butchered Te Reo Maori are significant to me which is why they have been used for character and place names. Secondly, things have moved a long way since the early patches when I created this way back in the day. Blizzard updating patches has caused most of the bugs and as I gave up maintaining the campaign back around 2006 it probably runs pretty messily now.
I'm thrilled that people are still interested in playing and reviewing this, but please be aware that it is an artifact of its time. My personal favourite campaign was Kel'Zarach's Tale.
Another author Med.mapguy has (with my permission) updated some of my works. If you enjoyed this campaign you might want to try his updated maps.
In hindsight, I probably should have used "orcish" rather than "orcen". I am spending my mapmaking retirement playing WoW.
|Before I begin by talking about the actual story of this campaign, I will say that I have played this campaign series already several times in the past and now have returned to it after some years to take a closer look at it.|
This is just the first part of a series, its story is rather simplisic and you can clearly tell that this campaign serves only to introduce the characters and story of the entire series. This campaign has been created during Reign of Chaos times and has an alternate plot to the original WC lore, keep that in mind when playing this.
The campaign starts soon after Arthas has set sail for Northrend, the Scourge in Lordaeron is considered beaten.
Mathias, bastard son of King Terenas of Lordaeron and therefore half-brother of Arthas, is hunting Orc refugees, aka the part of the Horde (They are called "Orcen" instead of "Orcish" here) that has not left the continent to travel to Kalimdor, led over by their warchief Malakai. While the Orcs are outnumbered, Malakai manages to outsmart the rash Mathias and other humans on several occasions, like when he lures a regiment of knights into a trap and defeats them despite the knights seemingly having the upper hand, and even attacking the base their allies set up behind.
This is where things start getting interesting. When Mathias arrives, he meets with a necromancer of the Cult of the Damned named Kel'Zarach who offers his support against the Orcs. Mathias accepts any help he can get and together they defeat the Orcs - their leaders still manage to escape.
Later, soon after Arthas killed Terenas and threw Lordaeron in disarray, Mathias sees himself facing other Humans led by a knight commander who used to fight in his service and now wants to leave the continent westwards after having made an arrangement with the Orcs led by Malakai. Mathias is so outraged over this that he declares the knight commander and all who follow him traitor, throwing insults around. This makes his paladin mentor Lord Duncan and his mage ally Larissa leave his side to side with the others instead. Mathias wins the battle against the traitors with the help of Kel'Zarach who now becomes his closest ally, even as the Scourge returns and the fronts are becoming blurred. Yet, Kel'Zarach stands with Mathias, given them both sharing the burning hatred of the Orcs.
In the end, Mathias faces Malakai in a forest and then, when he thinks he has won the day, he has to realize he got trapped once again and put in a cage.
One of the main problems I have with the story is that, despite the plot telling you in what bad shape the Orcs are, they manage to bring up huge numbers anyway. They are on the run, not jumping from one rescue to the next, and yet the keep being in a position where they can muster huge armies.
Overall I would say the story is okay. It is not extremely good, but not really bad. It is just that much of the story that comes in the later campaigns is not here yet.
The entire thematic of having a high-ranking member of the Cult of the Damned as your ally is what saves it from being considered a "poor" story in my opinion.
|The terrain is.... simple. I think you can clearly see that this has been created a very long time ago. Some maps seem to have more effort put into them than others.|
If you are the kind of person who cannot stand "low level" visuals, then the entire series will not be interesting for you, I can already tell you that.
I personally liked the look of the city where you fight against humans and by the standards of back then it would count as being really good, but I understand that people used to today's standard might not find what they are looking for here visualwise.
|Gameplay. This is where things are interesting.|
In most maps, you get to build a base, train units and attack your enemies. The AI used by the enemy players is melee AI that is limited by what it can build and what not. This makes the AI very similar to melee, however, it faces one serious problem: The Frozen Throne expansion.
Both you and the AI are not limited when it comes to units from the expansion, you can even recruit a Blood Mage hero in every chapter in addition to your set heroes. That is the problem with the campaign having been created before the expansion came out and apparently the creator, even though still having been active when Frozen Throne came out as Mathias IV and V were created with its data, never bothered to fix the issues.
I mean, as player, you can easily ignore the additional options (I would even say that in most missions it would be more harm than do you good if you train that Blood Mage unless you want to burn some money), but the AI will not unless you would edit the maps.
As mentioned earlier, this campaign is ancient, one of the first of its kind, created when you could not even create campaign files and had to use several maps in the maps folder (hence the transitions do not work, they want to link to the maps in the maps folder), but even back then this could have been done.
I think some more custom techtree and other work in the Object Editor, like changing the abilities of heroes, would have been pretty good and the heroes would feel less like copies of Blizzard's originals. They aren't storywise, but at least gameplaywise, they absolutely are. There are only three heroes who do NOT use standard abilities, one being a rogue, another a rogue wizard and the last being a gryphon rider. Your undead allies are added by giving you their respective building, like the Temple of the Damned, to recruit them instead of adding them to your own human buildings. You are also not able to get mastery training for the necromancers since you cannot get any undead buildings or workers and therefore have no way getting the required Black Citadel.
Also, two missions with landmines were... lacking. Chapter Seven not so much, but Chapter Two... Well, let me just tell you:
In the second mission, the Orcs use a massive amout of landmines and you have no way of seeing them unless you use a crystal ball which you MAY only get if you are lucky enough to have a fitting level 3 item drop. There are only random item drops and you need to get past the goblin mines to get to a second goldmine and further progress in the story. There is a selection of ten to eleven level 3 items and two drops of a random lvl 3 item on your side of the minefield. You have to ask yourself: Do I feel lucky?
It's either that or sending several units to their death. This is something I did not even notice on some occasions, but in my recent playthrough I didn't get a single crystal ball and had to sacrifice an entire town of peasants to get past that minefield. You get a warning, yes, but you still have to get through.
Other scenarios, like the knights charging at the Orcs and the player controlling a large number of them, were very enjoyable, it is one of those missions that you want to play again because it really was fun to play. Same goes for the fight against the Humans, it is not an "innovative" map per se, but I really enjoyed it a lot.
|The campaign has its problems and god help you if you do not play them properly (as in, wait until you have all the heroes you are supposed to have) or cheat (causes faster victory and then often causes bugs in later chapters since the hero you should have had later cannot be imported properly), but it is, in my opinion, a nice beginning of a nice campaign series. It is not perfect, but calling it bad would be just unfair.|
I would say it has some sort of "cult status", but given all the bugs and other problems it faces, I cannot give a higher rating than 3, knowing that other things with 3 are either better or worse. I don't think it deserves a lower rating but also not a higher rating, even if keeping in mind that some of its problems hail from its age.
Most bugs have already been mentioned by @deepstrasz in his post.
Most bugs can be avoided if you simply take some time to finish the chapters, but they are still there and other bugs like the entire Frozen Throne units and even heroes being trainable... I mean, the author was still around for a few more years, he could have fixed the issues but apparently had no interest in doing so.