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Inn of Blades

There is no other way to describe this scenario other than a kind of medley. It has no real plot -- not that it was intended to. Instead it is kind of an exhibition for a place called (quite creatively) the Inn of Blades and all of its surrounding areas such as some docks or a mage tower. Throughout the scenario, many real life members of the Blades community make cameo appearances. It's perhaps not a revolutionary idea, but it adds to the desire for those to play it. Just note that I was not included, so there should be no bias in writing this review.

Generally, I dispense with the negatives first and then move on to the positives. This time I think I will reverse my pattern. This scenario has only really two things going for it aside from the creative medley aspect.

The first is the sheer scope in that there are plenty of little areas to explore and such. Quite a lot of effort in painting the town went into this effort.

The second is the node work which is definitely above average. On a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 is complete nodal incompetence and 10 is sheer innovative mastery of them, I would rate this scenario a 7. There are definitely some sequences that were well done. Note that I only say well done. Nothing that I have seen is really revolutionary. For the most part, specials flow smoothly and fit well into the game, but there was really nothing all that spectacular.

Since Inn of Blades has no real cohesive plot, it is virtually impossible to know when one has truly "completed" the scenario. I spent a little over four hours on this scenario. Unfortunately, aside from the first ten minutes, I was bored through just about all of it. Eventually, I got so fed up that I decided to quit permanently. Does this have to do with the fact that there was no plot? Not really. It's just all the little missions were just ordinary run of the mill missions that I've done literally hundreds of in my adventuring career. Every mission got progressively more and more boring with no improvement in sight. So I decided to shut down blades and fire up the trusty word processor.

What's wrong with Inn of Blades? Well there are a few bugs here and there, some serious, but most not so. Aside from that, nothing at all. However, a better question I ask is what's fun about Inn of Blades? Unfortunately the answer was the same as the former question: not much. So I decided to rename the scenario by inserting an 'S' at the beginning of the title, renaming it to Sinn of Blades. Okay, okay, that's a bit too harsh.

There are a lot of areas where things could have been improved. One example is when you fight the treacherous bar bandit, Tigrene. He challenges you to a duel with him and his men. During this sequence, several sets of friendly guards show up to help you. I managed to kill of Tigrene and his little band, yet the guards kept coming. One could argue that they would simply because they would have no way of knowing if Tigrene was dead. However, the narrative acts as if Tigrene is still alive which should really be fixed. Now I know this is a bit acute, but such things are commonplace throughout the entire scenario and they add up.

Most of my four hour journey was spent in the mage tower. This is one of the most illogically designed structures that I have seen in a long time. Aside from illogical twisting corridors, just about EVERYWHERE is accessed via teleporter. Now we all remember how everyone hates teleportation because of its disorienting effects? Also, teleporters are kind of impractical (logically they require skilled magi to create) especially when their sole purpose is to carry you across a wall. I ask why don't they just blast a whole in the wall and put in some doors? I'm surprised that everyone who lives here isn't in a constant state of nausea.

Unfortunately, most of the areas in the scenario are the quite similar in design. They have a main central corridor with several twisting passages leading off. I wonder if the engineers were trying to produce a boring in the middle and nonsensical on the sides motif. If they were, they succeeded. Going back to the mage tower, it was pretty much a whole bunch of ascending floors of just that. Just playing the first two areas of the scenario will show you exactly what I mean. Like the rest of the scenario, the town design really gets boring after a while.

Although TM shows a mastery of nodes, I find he has particular affinity for the 'Do Damage' and 'Place Town Encounter' nodes. Most of the quests consisted of little besides this. One area that really made me want to quit was this area where you had to fight demons on these twisting dirt bridges. So we have about ten demons flinging firestorms, summon creatures, and throwing all hell at you while you are wandering around trying to kill them. It's a good thing I decided to bring in my god party, else I would have been toast for sure.

If all this was not bad enough, before the demons appeared, you had to make it through a gauntlet of move party nodes and the sort. Unfortunately, TM is not kind enough to remove them after the demons appeared. Even worse, there are nodes which inflict a fair amount of damage to the party every time stepped on. One-timing these nodes would have been really nice because after I managed to navigate all the way through this maze of mayhem in combat mode, I was blocked by a combat block near the exit. As another insult, I had to leave combat and go through the entire 'Do Damage' node gauntlet again in town mode only to find myself in another hackslash area full of demons.

So I got through the nice hackslash area and was returned to the tower only to continue on this already boring demon mission. Getting a little bored, I decided to go somewhere else for a while. I tried to investigate a murder and could get no one to respond to anything I wanted to, gave up. Next I went up a level and got a "failed undead experiment" mission. I thought, "Oh goody! Well, at least it's not demons..." Unfortunately, I get to the door and it tells me that I'm not skilled enough to do this mission. I always hate it when they make machines who think they are smarter than man...

Frustrated, I decided to go back to the demons. Only to find that when I returned to the floor with the demon mission, my contact was gone and the quest became unwinnable. Frustrated, and seeing no improvement in sight, I decided to quit.

Unfortunately, all of the above described events was very typical of all the missions I went on. I don't think I remember a single creative logic puzzle throughout the game that was beyond the traditional pull the lever, make the 31 demons appear, *hack* *boom* *slash* *ching* *thump*, repeat last step 31 times, move on, repeat the entire sequence again and again, *sigh*.

In evaluating Sinn of Bl...oh sorry, I meant Inn of Blades, I would probably advise against playing this scenario unless you are REALLY, REALLY, bored. It's not to say this scenario is awful. I bet if this would have been released in the first year of Blades when standards were MUCH lower, the tune of this review would have been much different. Alas, we live in today's world and not the one of three years ago. I suppose I consider this to be all right considering the amount of effort and some humor at some points. If I were grading this scenario on a traditional grading scale, I would probably give it a 'C'. Shows some promise, but could be a LOT better.

My Score -- 5.0

- *i