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R2A Return to Arhok

Let's talk about Return to Arhok! I'll post a review and some pics Smile

You can get it here:

This map is an official release, and therefore part of the canon lore of Aranna.
It has been criticized as being very badly done, and a "marketing ploy". It was released as a Windows XP exclusive free download for promotion.
It is very short (5 regions; maybe 1h for 1st playthru).

The basic premise of the story is a big plot hole. You (the hero of Arhok) were frozen in stone to protect the Staff of Stars, but when you're released the staff is broken. Hassat are attacking Arhok, so you go and... team up with them. Storytelling ok for an amateur custom map, but subpar for an official release. Oh and the endboss is yet another derailed Utraean genetic experiment.

You get to choose one class to get level 10 right at the start (via skill scrolls), which is a RED FLAG even for custom maps, as it indicates that the balancing is very bad and the map maker wasn't able or too lazy to adjust the levels of enemies properly. However, the level-up is technically well-done, and the subsequent balancing on the map felt reasonable to me.

Of course, the map contains some high-quality art that can be expected of an official release, like voice-acting, or new enemy textures and models. There are Werewolves, Zombie Zaurask, Salamander Zaurask, and more, and of course the endboss Raks. I particularly liked the Salamanders.

One thing worth mentioning is Tareece, a Hassat fighter that "joins" your party without actually joining it. Probably the simplest solution for having a party member without letting the player see or change the equipment or inventory (making an equippable hero is a lot more modeling work). It's a bit clumsy because you can't control the character or heal him directly. Using Healing Wind helps. And in case of emergency Tareece can be resurrected, after which he continues to guard you.

IMHO worth playing once, to get to see the plot (and its holes), the new items and enemies, and the special game mechanics (skill scrolls, Tareece) this map has to offer.

Picture time!

The skill scrolls to choose from at the beginning of the map:

Werewolves in the Uncanny Valley outside Arhok:

Teleport to the Island of the Utraeans:

Zombie Zaurask with weird-looking eye effects:

Entrance into the dungeon:

Dead Salamander Zaurask in the dungeon:

Yet another Utraean laboratory (for some reason they're all underground):

But wait, why is there a Droog, did they kidnap one all the way from Quillrabe? And how old is this facility of the ancient Utraeans, why are the corpses all fresh? Plot holes within plot holes... Oh yeah there's also dead Seck somewhere. Because why not.

To save Arhok you must free the Hassat King:

And to free the Hassat King you have to kill Raks:

Ugly as f*ck, if you ask me. And not in a good way. Seems they had two texture artists, a pro that did the beautiful Salamanders, and an intern that did Raks and the Werewolves.

I made a little overview map for R2A:

foerstj wrote:
Ugly as f*ck, if you ask me. And not in a good way. Seems they had two texture artists, a pro that did the beautiful Salamanders, and an intern that did Raks and the Werewolves.

There's plenty of evidence the Werewolves were made by GPG in an earlier version, and I seem to remember there was some evidence Raks was a cut NPC too... so yeha, maybe when they were less skilled, and MAddoc chose instead of updating them to the correct standards they just used as is.

Attached you find a German translation.