Some time ago in Driftland the possibility of playing single, randomly generated maps against artificial intelligence was made available. Quite complicated rules governing skirmishes were explained in an accessible way in the tutorial: step by step showed how to build the kingdom and prepare for the fight against rivals. Depending on the level of advancement, you can choose between easy, medium and high difficulty level and adjust various options to your own preferences (e.g. amount of resources, occurrence of flying creatures, victory conditions, etc.). Mastering the rules did not take me much time then, and although I am still rather a master of kingdom management, I managed to get to know the game well enough to know what I have at my disposal and where to look for needed buildings or spells. Writing impressions from individual skirmishes, I put this title aside, but waited for other modes of play. After a few months break, I was glad that Driftland would finally receive a story campaign, because I liked the game on random maps, but soon it began to smell of monotony. I was also glad that the beginning of the people campaign is a tutorial, because it was useful to remember what to do.
We learn the introduction to the story presented in the game in the intro. Driftland is a planet where for hundreds of years there was a war between magicians belonging to four races: humans, wild elves, dark elves and dwarves. Their arrogance led to the world falling apart. With no choice, all races joined forces and sacrificed magic to stabilize the drifting islands. Over time, new magicians began to be born, but the return of magic also meant the return of old conflicts.
The human campaign begins with outlining the tense situation between humans and the dark elves who have always aroused fear. Fortunately, it turns out that their leader has a pure heart and wants eternal peace. However, we cannot immediately go to her with a diplomatic mission, because our hero named Emeryk has yet to learn to rule the kingdom. The young man is still a feathered mage, but he has great potential. To train in magic, he must first find Helior Grimoire, a magic book that contains vast knowledge. The Eye of Karhas Muir adviser explains exactly what to do, suggests what the next steps should be, reminds about tasks and praises Emeryk for progress – as if the boy was still a small child. Maybe there is something to it, our hero is a typical young man, he is bored with science and government, he would prefer to focus on learning powerful, magic spells. However, he reacts with exaggerated enthusiasm if, for example, he builds a fortification or a marketplace. Stroking his head for performing the simplest activities made me feel like a child myself – even if praise was addressed to the characters in the game.
Emeryk has talent, but I didn’t really feel that he would negotiate with the dark elves, since he was more like a carefree kid than a strong ruler to be reckoned with. Emeryk’s older brother, Urias, is already experienced, has his own flying creature and is not afraid of undertaking various tasks that require combat skills. Certainly he would be better suited for this role if he had magic in him. Similar doubts are expressed by unspecified men and women who talk about current events before each mission.
The first mission has been maximally simplified. On the one hand, this is great news for people who are worried about whether they will manage – yes, they will manage, even if they do not feel too confident in the real-time strategy genre. We have enough raw materials to build everything that will be needed, we don’t have to think about how to deal with opponents, because there are no enemies to attack us. Therefore, we can spend as much time as we need to review the available options. On the other hand, people who have many times fought with artificial intelligence on random maps will feel as if they have taken a huge step back: they are forced not only to go back to the tutorial, but also to use very limited possibilities, because most buildings and spells are blocked.
Of course, in this mission advanced options are not needed for anything, just focus on the set goal. This goal is to find a magic book on one of the islands in the indicated area. To do this, you do not have to develop from scratch, think about priorities, what to invest in first. Our army is Urias, who will handle the mission alone. Thanks to such a simple task, however, we can get acquainted with the most important mechanics: attracting remote islands and connecting them with bridges, building new buildings, improving the castle and giving orders to the heroes subordinate to us (in this case Urias), who can fly to the unknown, much further than our spells reach back. Finally, there is something interesting at the end – the option of choosing whether to give someone help in exchange for the prize, or send him to eternal rest.
The second mission is a bit longer and more complicated. It still has a lot of options blocked, but it’s a good time to see what the expansion of the kingdom is, recruiting heroes and developing their skills – without worrying that artificial intelligence will disturb and spoil our ranks. Again, story dialogues are mixed up with instructions, with an emphasis on the latter. The whole was designed so as to teach the rules of the game rather than distract the player from tasks with an interesting story. This time we train new knights and crossbowmen, because we cannot rely solely on Urias. The adviser helpfully suggests where to get combat units, encourages the construction of several new buildings. Therefore, we need to move the economy a bit to secure a steady gold income, build farms to have enough food, build mines to build and upgrade subsequent buildings and buy new skills, explore islands to find out where the richest deposits are raw materials …
In the end we are let loose and although I already had some experience with the game, I did not quite know what to do next. I wondered how many heroes would be needed to deal with the threats? Is it worth visiting as many islands as possible before I cover the main goal? Ultimately, properly preparing the army by buying skills at the blacksmith and ensuring that everyone would ride a flying creature proved to be a good idea.
When all the goals of mission number 2 were completed and I saw the message that the further tasks of the people’s campaign would be available soon, I felt disappointed. How is that already? After all, both tasks are not much more than a tutorial, in addition stripped of options compared to a single, random map. The plot did not have the slightest chance to spin, pull in and absorb. Chaotic descriptions at the start of individual missions and mixing instructions with loose conversations of the characters do not help either. It may keep going, but for now the story does not attract attention with anything special, and when it comes to mastering the rules, I can learn a lot more by playing in single-player mode. However, I will wait for the campaign to continue, because I love Driftland for the idea and the beautiful setting. I hope that the story after the tutorial stages will blush and keep my fingers crossed for the Star Drifters studio.