June 2021: Midnight Gardens

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Area of the Month for June 2021 is the Midnight Gardens!

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Player: You!(Class/Level)

Review Date(s):

Descriptions: X/10

How does the area's room descriptions(descs) work for you? Do they give you a good idea of the area? Do things that stand out in the desc and NEED explanation GET that, either from flavor text(extra-descs) or NPCs in the room or anything?

What about mobiles(mobs) and their descriptions? Can you get a decent mental image of who or what this NPC/monster is? Do they respond when you talk or interact with them?

Some areas have interact-able objects like fountains. Do they stack up well also?


Balance: X/10 (OR N/A)

(NOTE: combat will be most accurately gauged when your character is in the area's suggested level range.)

If this area has combat, how does it feel? Does anything jump as horribly overpowered and impossible to deal with? What about the flipside, anything far too easy to beat?

Are purchased or rewarded items at the appropriate strength levels? Is the effort required to obtain rewarded items reflected in their usefulness (or uniqueness and fancifulness)


Attractions: X/10

Why would you suggest someone come to this area? Is it just a good place to grind experience(lots of mobs)? Does the area provide a chunk of good gold and loot?

What about the quests? Does this area's quests feel properly done, or is there some part of it that you feel needs work?

For towns, are the shops good? Any other non-combative attraction for the area?


Connections: X/10

How easily and well does this area connect to its nearby areas? Does it make sense thematically to be connected to the areas it is?




Player: Coeurl, as Remi (Geomancer/15-18) --TOKEN'D

Review Date(s): 5/26-5/29

Descriptions: 7/10

The descriptions paint a good picture of the area. The amount of extra descriptions I spotted seemed to be about right.

There are actually several rooms with a stream or fountain that cannot be drunk from but there is a room with a functioning fountain so it's probably okay that every single room isn't a source of water.

There are a couple of areas with repeating descriptions but the POINT of those areas is to be mazelike and difficult to navigate so this is not a negative.

There is a gazebo in one room with an extra description with no way to interact with. This isn't NECESSARILY a bad thing but I was a little disappointed there wasn't a little more to check out there. Another room has some statues I wanted to get a closer look at but had no extra descs. This is really nitpicking though.

You can attack the featured quest NPC (if you are some kind of a monster) and they do not have a special reaction or seem to have any mprogs. Seems like this should either be fixed or they should not be attackable.

Every mob that I talked to responded, which I like to see.


Balance: 8/10

The area struck me as quite well tuned overall. It's incredibly annoying that engaging a Crawler is basically GUARANTEED Blight and you'll watch a ton of your HP tick away after combat ends, but some mobs can just be annoying. As a vanilla geomancer I was challenged enough that I needed to rest reasonably often but didn't find anything that I absolutely COULD NOT kill.

The Porobin Hoods are going to be a little bit rough if you come there on the low end (it's a level 16-25 zone, and they're level 21) and they're harder to completely ignore because they can steal from you, but at least you can somewhat prepare for that because banks exist. Other than Crawlers they were probably the most frustrating to deal with because they hit fairly hard and money you pick up in the area isn't safe.

In fact, the major boss of the area was incredibly challenging, but still possible to solo. I was able to beat it on my own, but it required spamming the pumpkin pombs that I had collected in the area and I was in the single digits in HP. That strikes me as about perfect in terms of difficulty level. As a solo character I would not have been able to win if I had gone in any less prepared.

There's a light you can obtain in the area that's thematically cool, but it has a negligible bonus and doesn't last for very long so it's a little disappointing. There are a couple of items that fill rarer equipment slots that are cool, though.


Attractions: 8/10

I was completely prepared to totally hate my life here because navigating non-linear mazes is not one of my strong points but weirdly, I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected! If you're unobservant as hell like me, drawing a map and finding a way to mark the rooms you've been in is extremely helpful.

It would not be the worst place to get experience, but it's not the best. There is at least one unique item that I can see being useful for a long time after you outlevel most of the benefits of the zone.

The quest list does feel a bit short, with only one quest in the area that can be completed. It is, however, a slightly longer quest that could end up taking a very long time depending on how lost you get or how hard the hints are for you to piece together.

Also, being as vague as possible to avoid qinfo, there is an item in the area that you will need to proceed if you didn't come prepared. I couldn't figure out a way to obtain the item without being a murderhobo, and I think I would have liked a less violent method to procure the item, given that it came from an a peaceful NPC. This could be another quest in the area, maybe?

I found no shops in the area.


Connections: 10/10

Elaborate garden connects to a forest. Sure, I have no trouble seeing it. Lots of plants either way, one is just more cultivated.


Player: Deim, as Aelys (Elementalist 100/21-remort) --TOKEN'D

Review Date(s): 7-6-2021


Descriptions: 7/10

The Midnight Gardens looks and feels nice. You can tell it is what it says on the tin, a lovingly made garden to enjoy for a night time stroll. Past that first impression though, it shows its age, in that quite a few would be extra-descs pointed out in the room-descs, don't actually pan out as viewable. Given the very large span of the Zone, this is not entirely un-expected, it would amount to an awful lot of extra-descs, but it makes it feel less then it could-be, given there are still some earlier in that do pan-out. The mobs though are again, nice, the descriptions are fitting and you can tell their inspirations for the most part. Interactively some of them feel a bit repetitive in their responses, especially the sapient ones, not the trash fight- mobs, but again, its a large zone, and bonus-points for even having Talk-responses including some downright hilarious ones. For a Garden, it feels somewhat lifeless, in that the plants are not all that interactive, or at least the extra-desc ones. Yes, there are entire rooms set aside for treasure-chest flowers, a nice thematic touch. But what about all the other flowers hinted at, this feels like a missed opportunity, which is somewhat of a recurring theme for the zone.

Balance: 6/10

For such a large zone, it's Mob-density is actually quite nice, if somewhat scattered about, leaving entire sections feeling lifeless and, admittedly, allowing you to enjoy the pretty scenery. The Mob-diversity though, needs a lot of work. Again, it feels like a missed opportunity to not have more variety of Bugs and other garden pests around. The Bees in particular, are very repetitive, and could use more diversity. While the furthest part, is actually the best represented area for diversity. Which fits, since its also the most 'wild and overgrown' part. Awarded and Dropped Items are somewhat of a mixed bag, some are level appropriate, others are wildly not-level appropriate.

Attractions: 5/10

Quite frankly I would not actually recommend Midnight Gardens past a single visit per remort. The Main, and only Quest in the Area is very nice, and in fact, very recommendable for its fun interactivity and its rewards, which is why it doesnt get a worse grade. But given that is all the area revolves around, once that's done, so then, are you. The Mob-density is alright for leveling, but it's scattered across a vast and large zone, which is not a good thing for leveling and the mob diversity, as and equally important, leaves much to be desired for leveling seriously. It works for during the quest, but as 'go there for this level range', nope. Which, in all is rather sad, since it is a very large Zone, and it contains a lot of hints and possibilities for expansion, both the Zone itself, and More Quests there or near-it. Some of the Dropped items have some potential, see wildly not-level appropriate, but a single pass through to do it's Quest should net you all that you need from that if such suits you. Without wanting to enjoy a visit to a nice garden, there is thus really no reason to ever return here, which is again, rather sad.

Connections: 6/10

Geographically, it makes sense for where it is, in that it is the place where the Moon Mana Stone is placed that makes Eternal Night a thing for the region. Past that, it is a dead-end connection-wise, and devilishly tricky to find, let alone visit the first-time. It has a lot of missed opportunities to connect to other-places, the Moon Tower itself, the Beast Kingdom and so-on. But given those other-places are non-existent at this point in time, that makes sense.

Personal

Midnight Gardens is nice as it is, and is a Good, fun zone. The Quest the entire zone revolves around is a joy to play the first time, and on repeat visits the next remort over. And it is exactly because of that, that it hurts that there is not in fact more to do there. It has a good foundation to be Great, but it settles for being Good. More ExtraDescs, More HiddenPathways in the Maze, and More Mob-Diversity; But mostly, More Quests. Give an actual reason to return to the Gardens, preferably by following up on its Main Quest so that To Be Continued proves True, or even better let us visit the Moon Tower and Fight Another ManaBeastie at its Top.




Player: Ryrol (Thief 13/1 remort at time of review)

Review Date(s): JUNE 18 2021

Descriptions: 7/10


I enjoy the room descriptions in this area. The verbiage is varied, the rooms feel distinct from one another, and for a newer player to MUDs I think there are a few tricks they can learn from navigating the area. The NPCs feel distinct, despite most of the ones having information are not very distinguishing by short description. Unfortunately so far I think the flavor text is a bit lacking (or hard to find), I tend to read rooms and look for keywords, and I didn't really find things at all, especially where I really would think there should be (possibly because of quests there are things in the room description that become more noticeable later, but truthfully coming in and looking as a observer nothing really stood out). As a person who specifically enjoys finding the "little touches" in a room, that was probably the biggest downside (for me) in this area so far.

It's nice there is both a food and water source in the area, it does help give it a "lived in" feel, however with the exception of wandering enemies, things do feel a little static. There are also some benches, and while I'm not sure if they give a resting bonus, they do help give some flair. Without strong extra descs, I would hope there would at least a few more objects to look at, but have no complaints about the ones currently on display.

I think the enemies are interesting, and there are a few different styles of enemy on display here that not make combat interesting. At the moment I'm not getting any alignment changes from any kills, which I feel could be worked on. I will say some areas feel like they are far more dense than others, which would be fine except most of the mobiles are grouped in one area together, and as stated before, not much to differentiate them.


Balance: N/A


I am underleveled for the area, so I will not give it a score, but I will make a few comments on the combat.

As mentioned before, there are a few different mob combat styles on display here (poisoners, stealers, strong melee, casters) so I think a player or group of players will find something they like in the area at one level range or another. There is (more or less) a clear separation of the area between the higher and lower level mobs, and most don't seem aggressive so you can move freely to the places you'd like.

I think some people would not like some of the mobs because of their combat or out of combat effects, but personally I find this to be a positive. I enjoy varied and challenging combat, so the less a mob just plain auto attacks, the happier I am. Especially in an area where mobs are not aggressive or link, I don't mind a more challenging battle. That being said, I think someone looking for easier or more straightforward combat will avoid this place.


Attractions: 4/10


I feel there are a few reasons players would come to this area, but I think in general most coming for a specific reason will feel underwhelmed.

Someone coming for quests may get frustrated if they are newer to MUDs. As mentioned in another review, I feel the ability to continue the quest relies on aggressive tactics, or an unforeseen method. This is an issue with many quests at the moment, where deductive and inductive reasoning are not helpful, and one must turn to outside sources or nonsensical actions to solve a quest. If it wasn't for one little hiccup, I would have really enjoyed the only quest in the area.


I think someone could level here, but I don't think someone who is looking to streamline the leveling process will. Considering it is based in an area for more seasoned players (closer to Viorar), many players are set in what they want for mobs, and this isn't it. As I mentioned before, I don't think the area is bad for leveling, but considering only one quest and the style of mobs, experience grinders won't visit.

The gold and loot seem fine for the area, maybe a bit more powerful for someone (it seems a lot of the gear will become available more for when you leave the area, which is helpful but kills the vibe of finding something and being able to try it out right away). Once again, I don't think someone will come here specifically for the loot, but I think someone can find some decent things coming here.

There weren't any shops I could find in the area.

To recap:

- I think it lacks flavor for exploring players

- It lacks an overall grindable mob for xp players

- It lacks strong loot for optimized players

- It lacks quests for questing players

It saddens me, because I think Midnight Gardens wanted to be all of these things, but fell short. I think a player could come here and still find fun, but I don't think it will be recommended by others. There are better quests, better mobs, better loot, and a better feel elsewhere, and even while none of those are strong enough to hold up on their own, the overall experience feels lacking as well. I personally don't think I'd come back unless it would be to quickly do the quest again and be on my way.


Connections: 6/10


The area is where it says it is, and for newer players it's clearly highlighted in both the map and atlas. I think the process of getting there might be a little... strained the first time, but it is not quest blocked nor is needlessly difficult to find.

There is only one real connection, which... it is a hedge maze, so I can't fault it too much. I suppose I'm of the mind I think the connection could be better, or maybe just a little more visible, but I don't have a clear solution as to how.

If the connection remained unchanged, I don't think I would be too bothered, especially compared to the other issues within the area.



Player: Slurmp(Wizard/16-20, 1 remort at the time)

Review Date(s): 6/29/21 (right before the deadline!)

Descriptions: 8.5/10

As far as room descriptions go, at least for me, Midnight Gardens was fantastic. Each room was evocative, making me imagine a beautiful, gently-lit garden in different but cohesive ways. Room descriptions flow together, and they're generally just the right length -- long enough to enjoy, but not so long I start skimming.

Mob and item descriptions generally worked just as well for me. And most things I tried seemed to have talkprogs, which is something I always really appreciate. Also, the apple tree and fountain are nice to have.

Extra descriptions, though, were pretty lacking at times. I had high hopes going in (the boxwood hedges were described!), but much of the rest of the maze had rooms that seemed like they cried out for some extra flavor to expand on the room desc, but didn't have them. Now, to some extent, that's an excessive ask: if something's described well and prettily in the room description, and it's utterly inessential to interacting with the area, then I understand there's no describing absolutely everything in an area.

That being said, a few rooms that stood out to me were: the corridor S-E-S of the entrance, where flowers are described as covering an entrance (seems potentially important); the room NW of the apple tree, which is described as having statues alternating with flowerbeds in a generally-interesting environment, but seems to do nothing with them; possibly a stone arch in one room; the beehive, which unless I'm missing drastically lacks descs for any of the main hive rooms; possibly the room with rose trees; the stream, I felt, really needed descriptions; a 'slender tree' caught my eye; and I think it'd be nice if the Pristine Pool had a description for the pool.

The most important one, though, is the Lunatic Basilica. Which responds only to 'tower', and neither of 'Lunatic' nor 'Basilica'. And whose description is "The tower is intimidating but lovely. Unfortunately, the doors seem to be sealed.", which really gives me no sense of what it actually, well, looks like.

Also, the lamp post room isn't marked as lit despite being described as it. (That's a more general question I have, since many of the rooms are listed as having lighting rocks in the floor and such, but aren't marked as lit -- but a room with a literal lamp post seems somewhat egregious.)

All told, the area's gorgeous at times -- I'd absolutely take this level of extra descs compared to many other areas; it's just that the lovely room descs gives me higher expectations for extra descs, and they're rarely there.

EDIT: Also, some things may need mousing... iirc I think I was able to 'give' something to a lampflower at one point, which is particularly questionable for objects that may seem like they need to be given something to pass. Maybe just a drop-on-give program would be appropriate. Druids also could be fixed, although they're attackable mobs so maybe not.


Balance: 7/10?

Well, by level 20ish (in the middle of the listed level range), I was two-shotting most enemies here when I rolled well. But I think a fair bit of that's just Wizard doing Wizard things.

The bee soldiers are fine. The bee workers don't really differentiate themselves from the soldiers much. Given that they're bees, could the workers get reinforce or something? They might need to be slightly lower level/power to account for the decent chance of ganging up on the player, but I think it'd add something to encourage players to (metaphorically or literally) sneak around and pick off mobs who've been separated from the others. Also, the soldiers specifically note they fly off to "warn the others"; it'd be neat if that made the bees aggressive for awhile or something.

The crawlers are easy, though their Blight is, in fact, annoying. Maybe it's there to teach you how Blight works? The Kokiri are pretty easy. I dunno, they seem more there to give out qinfo, so that's fine. The Beastmen are nice, and I'd say about the right difficulty level: Wizard killed em fast (as usual), but they could lay on the beats if I missed a few spells in a row. The monks were a decent challenge at my level range, which feels right for them being a few levels higher than the rest. The flytraps were fine; it's a little odd to be able to fight them outside their role in activating the boss, but maybe it's a red herring? The Porobins are kind of perfect, I think. I *hate* them, but they're just the right difficulty level (tough when I was at 16, fairly easy here at 20), it introduces players to steal and flee and smokescreen, it's just really cool IMO. Though annoying. The boss was at a very good level: it took some consumables and I barely survived (at 18ish), which feels right. The moving around was neat. The Queen Bee pokemon (why do we have so many pokemon?) was a decent fight but not too tough, so that's alright.

As for rewards: most of what I got was pretty comparable to equipment I had of a fairly lower level (rake vs a treant arm, a ragged cloak vs a lab coat, a crown vs a cocked hat); however, frankly, I have no idea what's good or bad in low-level equipment, so I don't really know what to expect there. They were fine, nothing really exciting. I will say it's a little annoying that I could fairly easily kill enemies at level 16-18, but lots of the items were only accessible at level 20.

Really, in general, I'd say this area feels like it's *almost* right, but isn't quite there in terms of combat. Many of the mobs were fairly easy for a Wizard to just chew through even at the low end of the level range -- with the caveats that 'killing things fast if possible' is sort of Wizard's thing, I did need to rest pretty frequently, and I brought in double image as a survival skill from Ninja.

That being said, I can't imagine any real challenges if I came back at the top end around 25. I'd re-list this zone as being levels 15-22 or so, make the aforementioned changes to the bees, and maybe add 1 more mob type that does something different from the others (maybe a darkness/light caster? You could make moon spirits for the Lunatic Basilica, and have them cast light-based spells, or if you're a fan of prog rock give them Darkside).


Attractions: 7/10

The main quest was cool, which is the main thing I look for in an area. I enjoyed playing it, I enjoyed piecing together what was going on. It was... pretty easy, but I suppose it's probably a good introduction to newer players that, hey, talking to NPCs matters. Listening to what they say matters.

It was not a particularly great area as far as xp and such goes, at least for me. It was fine. I got some XP and some gold, a handful of neat items (the flower in a bubble seems a little weak, but decent enough really; the various lights are actually really cool, I'd like it if more areas had lights as a drop/reward).

I think it'd be neat to flesh out the quest a bit more: add a mini-boss to get the tuba, maybe, or meet Carlie somewhere else in the maze in between beehouse and flytrap. Also, some sort of mini-quest so there's not just the one single quest would be nice. I don't know what this could be, though.

There's one huge caveat to this: the bees. They're super disappointing. The hex shape is cool and all, but not really a navigation challenge, and that means you could replace the entire beehive with three rooms (entrance, middle, queen's room) and lose nothing of substance. Adding the reinforcing behavior or something would help, since it'd give a reason to use the space, but I think the beehive needs 1 or 2 more attractions. If the bees are made aggressive, having a 'safe room' in some forgotten corner would be nice. Maybe a pool of honey? Or add a new bee enemy? (I saw the 'Beehoss' from the Mario RPGs and it seems neat, maybe, or some other bee enemy.) Just something so the hive doesn't feel empty and a waste of space.


Connections: 6/10

It's not really its fault, but yeah, even if this is a hedge maze, I'd expect it to connect to *something* else. As currently placed, I'd want Midnight Gardens to connect to the Beast Kingdom, or the mountains or something. (Also, semi-related: given how a decent chunk of backtracking is regularly required, it'd be nice to have a one-way exit from near the end (Basilica area) to near the start (by the beehive) to make traversal faster without losing exploration.)

On a related note, why does the atlas suggest that Midnight Gardens and Carnival Night Zone have basically the opposite of their current positions? I don't really love navigation in Faron Woods anyways, but it might make more sense to put Gardens to the west and Carnival to the north. Or hey, for that matter, put Gardens where the Black Havens exit is and vice versa; it'd make more sense that the latter is more northern-located, I think.

I dunno. I don't know a good solution here, but it does feel disappointing for such a large and twisty zone to have no real outward connections.

The biggest solution to this, of course, would be to make something more out of the Lunatic Basilica. I can't say there *isn't* anything there, I'll need to come back in a future mort after redoing the Mana Quest (and actually completing Luminence this time) to double check, but assuming there isn't anything there, making the Basilica more interactable would be really cool and a natural way to make the zone more worth exploring even for late-game players.