Thursday, November 13, 2014

Saleron's Gambit Review

This is one of many posts I've made on Saleron's Gambit.  As the last "review" I made was for Chapter III of the series, I'll begin by assuming that module as background.  The series is available as a combined download on Neverwinter Vault, so this post focuses on chapters IV and V.  If you'd like to read my thoughts on the first three modules, they can be found here: I, II, and III.

Chapter V features some amazing tilesets.
Having located Natalya in Chapter III, you have learned of how the two of you, along with Saleron, are linked by your murdered parents.  Now united in your goal to rid yourselves of the sinister threat imposed by the Dread Lord Vraxilom, you travel to the remote island of Ajit-Kuhn to find instructions for a ritual that might free you.  Little did you know that it was there that you would finally come to learn the greater truth about your parents, and ultimately make your mark on history.  Here are the comments I left on the Vault's module page:

This was a terrific module series.  The story begins as fairly traditional "Farm Boy Rises Up" tale in the early modules, but gradually goes far deeper.  The story becomes increasingly complex, but it is told in a way that makes it both approachable and, most importantly, personal.  I think this is ultimately one of Tiberius's great strengths.  He allows me to connect with stories on an emotional and personal level.  His NPC's are well-realized,  his locations richly presented, and the story is well executed.  But he keeps the focus squarely on the player character and his place in the story as well as any other module author. 
I'm never above some goblin smashing.
I loved that this series is, in some ways, an homage to some of the great Infinity Engine games of the past.  Areas, events, and characters from Baldur's Gate II appear prominently in chapter III and, more ephemerally, chapter IV, whereas parts of Chapter V take strong inspiration from Planescape: Torment.  Moreover, it is extremely well-grounded in published lore of the Forgotten Realms, again featuring numerous appearances from known NPC's, areas, and even plot ideas that have been published over the past decade.  In a favorite example of mine, the Steel Regent, Alusair Obarskyr, makes a prominent appearance in Chapter 5.  What's great is that I'm currently reading Erin Evan's terrific Fire in the Blood, and the very night I encountered Alusair this module she (or her ghost, rather) appeared in the book.  This is why I love reading and playing in the Forgotten Realms!

It also is an important module because of its emphasis on low-power gameplay.  While there are a handful of magical artifacts in the game, they are rare and well-prized.  Your character's innate abilities, along with consumables like potions, are what ultimately make the difference for your character when trying to survive through his modules.  Combat in the last two modules was very well-balanced for my melee-oriented bard, who could use his buffing spells and abilities to overcome his native weaknesses in attack modifiers and HP.  I'd guess that it would work well for a fighter-type as well, as long as you made aggressive use of potions.  Wizards and Sorcerers, provided they can survive the first module, really would seem to shine in this game.  Their spells would largely be unmatched by your non-magical opponents, and you will do battle with several magical casters that prove very potent opponents for those without a good way to penetrate their defenses.

The module features fantastic, cinematic cutscenes.
I've played both this series and the Maimed God's Saga.  Both are excellent, but I think the tone of the two modules is different.  Maimed God is very mature, gritty, and serious.  Saleron's Gambit, on the other hand, is a bit more jovial and lighthearted, despite the fact that it is quite challenging.  The villain in Saleron's Gambit, for all his power, is a bit of a buffoon, and is quite a contrast from what you fight against in Maimed God.  Nevertheless, the story itself is gripping, and just becomes more and more interesting as you move into chapters IV and V.  I'm glad to have finally had the chance to play it all the way through.
More screenshots after the jump!

More cutscenes!  These orcs will burn!

Endless zombies!

Here come the cavalry!  er...infantry.

The great City of Doors tileset used in chapter V.

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