Might as well get the ball rolling.
So, 159. I said in the General Discussion thread that this quest sums up the best and worst of Heroica, and I think that’s a fair statement. This quest had a lot going for it and a lot going on, it was big and grand while still carrying a lot of pathos and weight.
I love how ‘low’ the stakes were, at least at the beginning. Having the Founders be the ignition point for everything makes so much sense, it centers the conflict on the heart of Heroica and makes it all very personal. Fair warning, as a general rule, I liked the Founders as villains way more than Rosier. Rosier felt very over-the-top and a little too ‘end of the world’ for my tastes, though she worked well as an ultimate final boss for Heroica. Still, I like how the Founders centered everything on Eubric itself, especially Heroica. Every hero had their stake in fighting the Founders. They set a tone where things were serious, but not necessarily world-endingly serious. My best comparison is the Citadel DLC for Mass Effect – the conflict is solid and personal, but on a level where the ‘plot’ can still focus on tying up loose ends and wrapping up character arcs.
All-in-all, the first act was fantastic. Everyone trickling back into the Hall had a good sense of nostalgia, but also carried the sense of the end of an age. Sorrow’s death, while obviously unplanned by WBD, did a really good job in emphasizing that ‘old Heroica’ was gone, and something new was coming. And then, yeah, the Houses are torn down and the Founders show up from the dead, and all the Heroes are kicked out. Immediately there’s a big mystery set, and a lot of angles to cover. I loved everyone meeting back up in Lady Luck’s Locale, especially Hoke’s line as everyone saunters into this dump. There’s a clear sense that we’re going to have to fight to redeem ourselves, to reclaim what’s ours. Also, in the Locale, I love the clear tension there is between the groups of heroes. Everyone’s thrown in together with an extensive net of histories and conflicts, and I think a big part of the arc of this quest was everyone going from this initial tension to the united front we show against Rosier. The barroom blitz was a lot of fun, and introduced a lot of cool mechanics in terms of specials. All the enemy specials in this quest definitely felt like ‘endgame’ specials, and I think that was a cool move.
Everyone split up heading into Act 2, which is where I think a lot of the problems began to creep in. I really liked the group division, though I wish there had been a little more crossover. I think the biggest problem at this point was a pendulum between feeling railroaded and directionless. For the most part there was a solid middle line struck between the two, but other times there was a clear tension. I think the whole thing with trying to commune with the Golden Dragon was the biggest example of this, and my personal biggest frustration. We were clearly guided towards the Dragon House, presumably with the intention of proving that the Founders were fake. Yet, after jumping through several hoops to get to that point – including traps in the House, picking the lock, fighting a wave of dragons, then marching over to the Ziegfrieds and back – after all of that, we were put up against what was clearly intended to be an impossible boss fight. I like that the Founders were a legitimate challenge, but it definitely felt at this point like we explicitly weren’t supposed to talk to the Golden Dragon – in which case, why not just say so? I don’t know, I just recall feeling pretty strung along at that point. I think after that point things picked up, even despite some inactivity in the group. I really liked the freeform nature of Eubric in this quest, and how it felt like we had to rely on the resources and connections we’d collected over the past seven years of playing in this city, but I think that same freeform nature was also often pretty daunting. We were given a lot of dots and expected to connect them, but we were given leisure to connect them ourselves, which sometimes brought some confusion, I think.
Act 3 was solid. I enjoyed everyone meeting back up and swapping notes, and slowly coming to conclusions. The charge on Fort Freedom was a lot of fun, and felt appropriately ‘big.’ I think my only real disappointment in this stage was how easily the Founders were swayed. I went into the fight expecting a huge showdown with all of Heroica against these five absolute powerhouse enemies, and I’m a little sad we didn’t get that. Again, I thought they were much more interesting as villains than Rosier – but that may have been partly due to Dyric’s investment. He was much more set on redeeming Heroica and fighting the ‘fake Miracleworker’ than he was on going after this archdemon, and we were both pretty surprised when the Founders could just be talked down. The Rosier fight was still well and cool and big, but I can’t help but feel that the Founder fight would have been more dynamic. That said, the dream sequence was superb, and was very well done. A very eerie sensation.
All in all, very strong. It felt very fitting for Heroica’s swan song. I loved being able to openly travel through Eubric and recruit old allies and resources, and I enjoyed the ‘moving through the city’ mechanics. That said, I wonder if the loose structure of the Quest may have hurt elements of it in the long run, or at least I think the guidelines could have been a little clearer. There were a couple times where it felt like we were floundering for an answer. That, and my criticisms of Rosier, are my only real knocks on a largely fantastic conclusion. I loved seeing Heroica and Eubric assemble one last time, and I loved the amount of small character moments that were parked into this big, grand finale. I want to talk about individual characters in a future post, as well as the conclusion of Dyric’s own arc. Thanks to WBD for a stellar finale, I can’t imagine the pressure behind closing out something like Heroica, but you did it with style!