Sunday 21 February 2016

Dungeon Saga: The Return of Valandor - Campaign Review

The 'Return of Valandor' is the first expansion for Mantic games excellent Dungeon Saga game.  Unlike the other expansions this one is a direct follow on to the story in the 'Dwarf Kings Hold' set and uses the same heroes that you use in that first campaign.  As such we carried on using the same heroes each as before and Mike remained as the overlord.  Whilst you play as legendary throughout the whole of this campaign we were very disappointed to learn that we would be losing some of our favourite magic items in the form of the Dwarfs armour and the Wizards staff.  The campaign has six adventures and the heroes have ten attempts to get through them.


If you plan on playing this as the heroes there might be some stuff here you shouldn't read before you've had a go at the missions, unless of course you don't like surprises......

Adventure 1: It Begins Again

This is a simple little adventure to get you started.  You just have to open a door you can see from the start.  The twist is you need to take wards off of four standing stones to do it, which only the wizard can do.  The heroes are in no danger here from anything, but getting the wizard round all the wards in time is a challenge and if the overlord can manage a small delay he'll win.
Tries to complete: 1
star rating: ****

Adventure 2: A Wicked Surprise

Ba'el the undead demon makes his first appearance to test heroes, but isn't going to stick around forever, only till he gets bored, this is shown by a random disappearance mechanism.  This means this level can vary wildly in difficulty depending on how long he sticks around for.  In our runthrough it came down right to the wire, we only just made the room where you all have to be at the end and we had one hero on only a single wound, our tightest win yet.  We enjoyed this one and Ba'el is one tough cookie.
Tries to complete: 1
Star rating: ****

Adventure 3: Needle In A Haystack

What is it with adventure 3's? in the DKQ's adventure 3 sucked, and it sucked here too.  The objective is to find the amulet of Valandor which is hidden in one of the four chests.  That's all well and good, but opposing you are 5 Zombies and a Revenant, that's it!  We're convinced we've either missed something, or there is a misprint and they missed the rest of the monsters and/or bone piles!

Tries to complete: 1 (under time limit doesn't count)
Star rating: *

Adventure 4: A God In Mortal Flesh Once More

This is a simple little dungeon crawl through to the final door, you have to replace one of the heroes with the spirit of Valandor, and this is about getting used to his abilities really.  The choice of who you're going to replace is an interesting one.  He's a tank, but struggles offensively against anything that isn't a demon.  We plumbed for the Dwarf, but I think anyone except the Wizard will work fine.  The concept is fine, but there just weren't enough baddies to slow the heroes even slightly which led to a disappointing game. 

Tries to complete: 1 (under time limit doesn't count)
Star rating: **

Adventure 5: New Friends, Old Enemies

After the disappointment in the lack of challenge that the last two dungeons provided things finally got back on track here with a confrontation with the mighty Ba'el.  Ba'el is proper scary, he has a feat that curses the heroes, powerful magic, a solid attack, and regenerate.  Although we accomplished this well within the time, Ba'el wasn't far off of crippling a hero and winning for the Overlord.  There's also a collapsing dungeon twist here, but it added nothing to our play through, but the random nature of this part means that sometimes it might.

Tries to complete: 1 (under time limit doesn't count)
Star rating: ****

Adventure 6: Reckoning

The final final battle against Mortibris.  Like the final mission in the DKQ not all the heroes have to survive this one, which means Mortibris must kill them all to win.  Even in his 'legendary' aspect he didn't seem to have much hope, he just doesn't have a high enough damage output and is easy to wound in return.  This was a massive anti-climax, there just weren't enough minions to take down any of the heroes, we think Mortibris can potentially cripple one hero, but there's no way he's going to kill all four.  A shame for the final mission of an arc of 14, even playing the heroes we wanted him to be more of a challenge.

Tries to complete: 1
Star rating: ***

Final Result:  Heroes win in 3 out of 10 possible turns, a crushing victory for the forces of good.

In conclusion this is a bit of a disappointment after the solid first campaign.  The average of my scores comes to 3 out of 5, which is fair enough, but doesn't tell the true story, there are three good missions here, but also three rather poor ones, and I feel a hit rate of 50% isn't really good enough.  It's a shame as well, the concepts and layouts for the three poor missions are fine, but we found the balancing so far off as to take away the fun, they just needed some more baddies in them.  Ultimately this campaign was a disappointing follow-up to the core box campaign.
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