Monday, August 25, 2014

The Black Scourge of Candle Cove

Welcome to Candle Cove, Docks District!
My character: level 10 wood elf ranger, who has played through Avendale and (some of) Misery Stone.  Advanced to level 13.
Time: About 20 hours.

A villainous sea hag and her band of ogre pirates has shut down the lighthouse of Candle Cove, and that, along with the formidable firepower of her ship, shut down all trade out of the lucrative harbor of Candle Cove.  You have just arrived in the town as a traveling adventurer, and decide to answer the Mayor's call to help out the town.  What follows is a challenging, engaging adventure that combines a fairly linear main plot (though with some choices) with a decent sampling of sandbox-style adventure in its sidequests.  Here are my comments to the author:
Dive!  Dive!
I finished last night and I really enjoyed the adventure.  It's an engaging story with a lot of great flavor mixed into the module, and more gameplay than I anticipated when I began the module.  While the adventure itself doesn't really claim to be a "pirate adventure," in that you're going after the pirates and not living as one yourself, there's a lot of those themes mixed into the setting.  A lot of the foes you encounter use "pirate speak" to great effect, especially as flavor text as you fight them.   Candle Cove is a great port town, and I appreciated the innumerable small things that were done to add depth, immersion, and entertainment to the setting (also, my daughters greatly enjoyed the names of the horses near the magic shop).  It's also a Forgotten Realms module, through and through, with a lot of attention paid to backstory coming from that setting.  The Temple of Sune is probably the most direct example of this, which was a far cry from the variety of Sune worship from Harp & Chrysanthemum (and, in truth, probably more in keeping with the lore).  Nevertheless, from the backstories of the companion characters to the items, there's a lot of other lore that works its way into the game. 
Well, hello!
Area design is spectacular.  The city of Candle Cove itself is a delight to navigate, but the most spectacular areas are unquestionably the underwater areas.  I've seen underwater zones implemented in other modules--mostly NWN1--but never as well as was done in this module.  There is also a huge, underwater cavern that you get to investigate that also has to be on the shortlist for spectacular exterior area design.  The entire module is a visual treat, and your ears get treated to a nice selection of nautical themes. 
Combat was very challenging for my two-handed ranger.  While he may have been a bit underpowered when he began the module (he was dual-wielding +1 weapons), he seemed a pretty good match for the companions that are provided in the game...and, after he finished his first small adventure near town, he was quickly able to upgrade his weapons from the more-than-ample selection in the various stores around town.  By the module's end, he was dual-wielding +5/+4 weapons, with some +6 bracers, +3 to all saves, some elemental resistance, etc. I didn't give the companion characters quite as much attention, but they were still very well equipped for level 10-11 adventurers.  Nevertheless, despite being pretty decked out, the final part of the module proved extremely challenging.  This was clearly by design, because you battle through hordes of weaker foes before being faced with a set of very challenging enemies with some key resistances.   It was always possible to survive, and I don't think I ever actually had to load from a save, but it required a lot of buffing, item use (summoning!), and consumption of healing pots and kits to make it through.
Overall, it's an excellent, polished, engaging module that definitely falling into the must have category.  Congrats on the module, and thanks for giving it a release!

Custom UI pop-up boxes!  ...although these eventually
seemed to stop working as the module
went on.
As a note to other players, the module gives you import your own part, make use of the provided companion characters, or do a mixture of both.  I opted to use his companions, but if I were to do it again I'd probably have brought my own wizard along (a pre-existing level 10 character already in my vault).  The characters definitely have some dialog, and one (apparently) has a side quest that I didn't find, but they're far from essential to the experience of the module.  If you were to use one of Tchos's characters, though, I'd definitely recommend the rogue.  She has some great dialog of her own, and knows a few people around town that you'd otherwise never get to meet.

More screenshots after the jump!



Rolling hills in the one rural forest area

Setting sail!


One of the neatest underground temples you'll ever see.

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