Gaming, Warcraft III

Blog 534: The SPRPG Diaries: Quest of Kyneria

Right from the beginning, I was all up in Warcraft III‘s singleplayer RPG scene; a combination of a love of steamrolling easy AI opponents and limited internet access made it the natural choice. So in this series, I’m finally going to discuss some of those maps that had a big impact on the way I do things…

Today: the ancient monolith Quest of Kyneria, so ancient it isn’t marked with an author and has no known remaining download locations.

Kyneria’s Quest: Three souls looking for their destiny

This map is, objectively at least, not that good, so it’s going to be hard to explain the peculiar affection I have for it. But hell, it’s a map that’s survived in my collection since the darkest days so it must have something going for it.

Ach, I can’t bag the guy too hard — he does admit that it’s his first singleplayer RPG on the loading screen, and it was made in 2004. We all had to start somewhere, and I’m sure you’ve experienced my own embarrassing beginnings on The Forgotten page by now! (If only I could track down some even earlier remnants, it could be a lot worse.)

Shandris starts off level 10, you just know she's not long for your team.
Shandris starts off level 10, you just know she’s not long for your team.

Maybe it’s all in the object editing?

Uh, no. Most units are base melee; most heroes have a few broken skill swaps — Leedan’s Metamorphosis turns him into Illidan indefinitely, Erik’s Divine Shield lasts longer than its cooldown at level 3 so it can be used to totally cheese any fight (not that cheesing is necessary)… There are no custom items, and no custom enemies beyond renamed base heroes and the occasional boss super-unit.

Bah, he's not so great.
Bah, he’s not so great.

What about the terrain?

Nothing special here either; it’s Cityscape with a fairly perfunctory smattering of Lordaeron trees and basic decorations. Well, the geography is at least diverse — there are lush forests in the south, drier forests in the middle, going up to the Barrensy areas surrounding Capitol City and the North Prairie; plus the cityscape areas of the Shadow Temple (it’s not very shadowy) and Capitol City itself.

It does also wind together in a fairly pleasant way — sub-areas are neatly jigsawed to ensure that the entire playable map area is used. I think my highlight (conceptually at least) is the High Elf town that spills up a cliff area by the use of destructible cliff ramps.

Everything that is custom is giant.
Everything that is custom is giant.

Maybe it’s in the gameplay?

It’s a basic RPG, to an extent — you start with one hero, then some more will join and leave as you traverse the world. Except you’ll also have bits of base and lots of melee units around with you, making it more akin to the WC3 campaigns’ faux-RPG missions rather than the full-scale single-hero/small-party RPGs that came to dominate the market. Though this falls down in a lot of places where the geography is rather too tight to manoeuvre a small army.

Okay, maybe this is where a little bit of that affection really creeps in. I kind of love the way that, as you go around, you pick up buildings. Your Altar of Kings here, a barracks there, a few farms there, a lumber camp there — little microcosms of base. You never get to build, but you do find structures arranged sweetly inside larger settlements that allow you to bolster and upgrade your troops.

Eventually, over the entire fairly large map, you’ve got a pleasant smattering of owned settlements. It’s not a difficult game so you barely need them, but it’s nice to know they’re there.

Though the delivery is a little bungled there are some good lines in here.
Though the delivery is a little bungled there are some good lines in here.

Okay, how about triggers–

No, seriously, let’s not go here. I managed to totally bork the game by shoving too many units through the Shadow Temple entrance at once — they immediately spilled back onto the entry plate and started bouncing in again in a not-quite-infinite loop. Having said that, I managed to recover by issuing a few right-click orders to nearby empty ground — once the game got out of its insanely location-leaky hole the order was issued and they moved out of the danger zones.

That’s the “good” thing about ancient triggers — if they break there’s an equal chance you can exploit an unbreak and continue. Whereas if something a bit more robust goes wrong, that very robustness tends to stonewall any potential avenues of recovery.

The world is full of large gates and they are all locked.
The world is full of large gates and they are all locked. I know this is a metaphor for something…

All right, let’s get down to the truth of the matter — it’s got story.

The story is a bit twisty and mysterious. Erik BigHammer (great name) returns home from a war and finds Orcs tearing shit up. He follows them, they’re attacking the Shadow Temple in order to unleash the demons trapped there and there’s this random guy called Darkman floating around and doing ambiguous stuff… Well, I admire the structure and how all the little revelations and such play out. Okay, it’s not watertight and there are some things left dangling, but with a bit of refinement there’s a very strong narrative in here.

By the end of the game you’ve got three core heroes. One of the things I really like is the Magic Flame of Destiny at the climax — our heroes reach the Capitol City and there are Orcs and Demons and Vampires everywhere. Instead of having one final boss, the Magic Flame of Destiny takes each hero to his, well, destiny — each faces the one threat that is most pertinent to him. It’s kind of a cool way to finish, especially as one character doesn’t quite get sent to what he expects.

Does exactly what it says on the tin.
Does exactly what it says on the tin.

The Verdict

I am reluctant to post the map because there is no official download, it’s not mine, and I have absolutely no way of tracking down the creator. I can only assume it came from Maps ‘n’ Mods, before it shut down (and probably long before it was even war3.incgamers).

I’m not sure that I can recommend it, though. I can talk about Season of Uncertainty being a bit scrappy around the edges by today’s (misguided) HDGRAPHIX standards, but it can’t hold a candle to this. Broken cliff ramps, shonky triggers, broken tooltips, techs that will never be researchable — it’s pretty much got it all, and the rest is just plain missing.

Which is a shame, because in here actually is the core of a really good map.

Quest of KyneriaIf, after all this, you still want to have a go, use the Contact Me form and I’ll pass it on.

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