• A look at Derc Plays Through World History - An AAR review by Turkafinwë

    A look at Derc Plays Through World History
    An AAR review by Turkafinwë

    Ladies and gentlemen, I am Turkafinwë (Turk for friends and the lazy alike) and I will be your host today. Let me welcome you to another issue of the Critic's Quill, this one pertaining to an AAR review. Which AAR will I be reviewing you ask? There are too many to choose, I hear you cry. All too true, my friends! A difficult decision to be sure, but which one to pick out of all these wonderful stories? Oh I know! *snaps fingers* What about the witty, larger than life and absolutely mental Derc Plays Through World History by Derc? Yes I think that will do perfectly. Let us begin our adventure!

    On the Review itself
    Now what do I aim to deliver with this review? What message do I wish to convey? Firstly I wish to analyze Derc Plays Through World History and figure out what it means within the AAR community, from my perspective of course. Secondly I wish to give my opinion on this piece of writing and on the way Derc presents his AAR. Thirdly, I wish to give an honest review of Derc's first AAR and inform TWC members about this, in my opinion, very enjoyable AAR. Let's get started shall we! *clap*

    The AAR itself
    Derc Plays Through World History is an AAR of a non-conventional kind written by, unsurprisingly, Derc. What is so unconventional about this AAR you ask? Gather round and I'll indulge you. As you probably know (or maybe not) most AARs span over one game or is set in a part of one game yet Derc's AAR spans, at the moment, over a number of Total War games, six to be precise. Its goal is to span over all the historical Total War titles (and their major expansions), the earliest period presented by Rome II: Wrath of Sparta set during the Pelepponesian War in the 5th century BC to the latest period presented by Shogun 2 Fall of the Samurai set in the Meiji Restoration, mid 19th century AD. Derc plays his journey through this twenty-four centuries gap in a non-linear fashion, meaning the order Derc plays the games in is random and follows no specific chronology.

    Scope of the AAR
    The AAR is aimed to be based around pictures as its centerpiece followed by a commentary on all the strange things Derc encounters on these campaigns (and we all know the quirky nature of TW games ). In his orignal post Derc explains that he not only aims to make an enjoyable AAR but also to review these games in all its Vanilla glory (except in the very first campaign where he did use a mod for Medieval I called MTW XL) and provide his findings at the ending of every campaign.

    Quote Originally Posted by Derc View Post
    But wait! I said earlier that I will play Vanilla only, yet this isn't the case here. Yes, I'm a dirty liar, but just this once. Let me explain.
    A great start Derc!

    Modus Operandi
    Now how does Derc write such a gargantuan beast of an AAR? I asked myself the same question and did some research to explore Derc's modus operandi. This is what I found. Firstly Derc chooses the game he is going to play and gives us a short description of said campaign and which faction he's going to play. After this introduction Derc proceeds to list up his own made house rules and special goals he wishes to follow and achieve for the duration of this particular campaign. Derc's reasoning for implementing house rules and special goals is to make the campaign more challenging for him and more enjoyable for player and reader alike. That is of course if he can hold true to his own set of goals, in which he doesn't always succeed, for various reasons. However failing to follow these rules does not affect the quality of the AAR nor does it reduce the fun readers have with this AAR. Lastly Derc also gives his opinion on what features makes said campaign/faction special and enjoyable. After this introduction the campaign starts in which Derc tries to do what every TW gamer has tried to do since the games first came out, try and take over the world.

    Quote Originally Posted by Opening line from Pinky and the Brain
    “Gee, Brain, what do you want to do tonight?"
    "The same thing we do every night, Pinky, Try to take over the world!
    What follows are a number of chapters following Derc's journey as he paints the map, with all its quirkiness from given missions to glitches to just hilarious happenstances. At the end of each campaign Derc gives us a summary of the alternate history this campaign has created and what might happen the years following the campaigns end, the achieved goals or which ones were not achieved and Derc's concluding thoughts on the game, both positive and negative. Then the cycle starts anew for the next campaign. (The end of a campaign can also consist other information like History & Culture, Author's notes, etc.; full list of types of information further down at point Presentation further down in this review)

    Every AAR has its own personality and characteristics, things that make it stand out from other pieces of writing and Derc Plays Through World History is not different. Down below I have listed the most prominent character traits Derc Plays Through World History has.

    I mentioned above that pictures and not narrative is the focus of this AAR nor is narrative meant to be a large factor in Derc Plays Through World History. Further supporting this claim is the fact that there exists no greater narrative in this AAR, connecting each campaign to each other. Each campaign rather works as its own little AAR within the bigger AAR (AAR-ception). Every campaign played in Derc Plays Through World History has its own little universe, with its own storyline, players and quirkiness. (Though I would like to believe in a Derc Plays Through World History Expanded Universe ). Every campaign has its own little differences concerning writing style as well. For example: During the Rome: Alexander expansion a more storytelling style of writing was chosen commenting, mostly, from Alexander's perspective as he rampaged through the Persian Empire (with a condescending Athena constantly giving abuse to our hero), while during the Medieval I campaign, the text focused more on the Golden Horde as a nation as it ravaged the civilised (and less civilised) nations of Europe and the Middle-East.

    Rest easy Athena, this is a review not a race. It seems she has found a new job in pestering me after Alexander died, probably to my death. No Athena I didn't say anything. Onwards we go to the next characteristic!

    Unconvential traditionalism
    In a time where narrative based AARs are very popular and reigning surpreme Derc produces an AAR in the more traditional fashion, aka the reporting of the events happening in the campaign being the main focus of the AAR rather than a constructed narrative. But Turk (yes I also am lazy sometimes), earlier you said that Derc Plays Through World History is an unconventional AAR? How does this coincide with your statement that DPTWH (Derc Plays Through World History) is an AAR written in a more traditional fashion? Excellent question hypothetical questioner. DPTWH is a wonderful blend of these two seemingly contradictory statements, both unconventional and traditional. DPTWH lets screenshots do most of the talking and the text perform a supporting role. This is the way the majority of AARs used to be in the past. The definition “What is an AAR”, as with everything, has changed over time and in the present, as I mentioned at the start of this paragraph, more narrative-based AARs are the most popular, both by writers and readers. This used to be different in the past with the picture and commentary style of AAR being the dominant format. The state of AAR writing is a subject for a whole other article so I won't digress any further. The important thing to take out of this is that Derc has returned to the “old ways”, and I must say in my humble opinion, with enormous fervour sporting wonderful pictures and spot on commentary taking a leading role in the traditional writing style.

    Reader Participation
    A great part of Derc Plays Through World History is reader participation. The chapters created by Derc are only part of the full experience. Derc is known to make many jokes in his writing and he encourages others to chime in on them, many producing their own humerous comments and findings on the turn of events. This does not mean Derc doesn't appreciate constructive criticism about his writing or presentation or questions concerning the game itself. In my opinion I find Derc's AAR to be a fun place where you can discuss subjects concerning writing, gameplay but also just weigh in for some friendly banter and general fun. I believe this friendly environment is one of the greatest assets to this AAR.

    Images, pictures and screenshots
    I already spoke a number of times about Derc's use of pictures and their importance. Therefore we must, of course, delve deeper into them as it is one of the main characteristics of his AAR. I must preface this by saying that not every TW game is created equally regarding the quality of screenshots. The later engines (Shogun 2 for example) can support graphically superior images than earlier iterations (for example Medieval I). Because of this we must look at the pictures used in their own context and cannot compare screenshots from two different games. Yet the screenshots used in the Attila campaign are by far the best of the series (so far) in my opinion. Previously Derc has played with the thought of altering his screenshots to enhance their quality or to better convey a certain message but with the Attila campaign he has gone far and beyond. Have a look at these examples.

    Chapter 3, Attila Total War Campaign

    Chapter 5, Attila Total War Campaign

    In the images above Derc merged parts of battle-pics with campaign screenshots. This merging of two screenshots into one image works perfectly with the Attila campaign in particular I find. The colour schemes of both the battle- and campaign map are very similar, easing the transition between the two of them and the often bleak landscape versus the equally often bright burning flames (we are seeing the destruction brought by Attila firsthand) deliver a wonderful contrast that bundled together present us with incredible images. Derc has been praised for these creations by many following his AAR. Derc, ever the practical one, has this to say for them:

    Quote Originally Posted by Derc View Post
    It sprang up due to space problems. This campaign floods one with so many informations it is impossible to show even a quarter of them. It has much more than any of the campaigns before.
    However, 20 pics should be the absolute maximum per update. This is a problem because I want my steps on the campaign map to be traceable, but at the same time show awesome battlepics. So why not use some uninteresting space on some screens to merge this and that? Gotcha.

    Quote Originally Posted by Derc View Post
    These overlays can be a very dangerous thing. It can work fantastically, but it can also end up in something ugly. Glad you like it so far. Please tell me if I screw up. I can't improve otherwise.
    As a pragmatic creature myself I see Derc's practical reasoning for the creation of these beautiful images yet I find this does not lessen the quality of the creations. Though created for pragmatic reasons, the execution and the attention to detail is phenomenal. These merged images, are in my opinion, the pinacle of Derc's imagery so far and I hope he continues to experiment with them in his future campaigns.

    Derc has a very organised way of presenting his chapters, campaigns and AAR as a whole. Allow me to explain. This AAR is divided into seperate campaigns that together form the AAR. Each campaign is divided into chapters. Each chapter consists of a contentbox sporting a screenshot of a loading screen from the game, usually bearing a quote that is (usually) applicable to the contents of the chapter. When opening this contentbox we find a multitude of screenshots taken from the game with, underneath each screenshot, commentary. This commentary mostly consists of explaining what's happening on the screenshot above it or an amusing comment about something that is happening in the picture, yet on occasion Derc provides us with other sorts of information. This information can consist of (as mentioned in the Legend in the Original Post) the following (each specific piece of information is also denoted with its own symbol and are always placed in a fieldset):

    Quote Originally Posted by Derc View Post
    �� Authors Note
    May contain information why I did this, why I did that, how I felt doing that and so on.

    ⚙️ Authors Note - Technical
    I will talk about the games technical behaviour here.

    �� Funfact
    Some random Jibber-Jabber to lighten the heart.

    �� History & Culture
    Some facts or questions to the course of history as we know it.

    �� Alternate History
    Some hypothetical question what might've happened if this or that would've been the case.

    ☯️ Philosophy & Spirituality
    Asking more indepth questions here.
    May be awkward and can easily spill some beans, so will be used rarely and with great care.

    �� Misc
    Everything that does not fit into any of the above categories if ever necessary.
    This well structured way of presentation makes DPTWH very readable and is one of the reasons that I believe why Derc's AAR is so succesful and beloved among WS goers. It shows us, as writers, that not only the quality of our writing but also the way we present it to our audience is of great importance.

    With such a grand project as playing through thirty-three Total War campaigns, spread over twelve Total War games, we can safely say this is a work of the ages, and with time passing by comes evolution. Even though Derc has played through six titles at the moment of writing his AAR, improvements in both writing and presentation have been recorded. As mentioned in the point above, Derc has shown a well organised way of presenting his AAR from the beginning and continues to do so, following a strict template, which, in my opinion, is very impressive for a first AAR. When you already start with a highly organised way of presenting it's difficult to make large improvements yet Derc has found a way and at this point it has mostly to do with making it easer for the reader in any way. Small improvements like putting a line between the positive and negative points when giving his conclusion of the game, is a thing to make it easier for the reader to distinguish at first glance what is good about the game and what is bad, in Derc's opinion.

    Over the course of these six campaigns Derc's writing has improved with spelling and grammatical errors appearing less often than in the earlier campaigns. This is not to say Derc's writing is bad in any stretch of the imagination, this is just to say that Derc makes mistakes like any of us whose first language is not english and to say that his writing has improved as he writes more.

    Derc Plays Through World History is a fun to read, fun to interact with, picture based, non-narrative driven AAR that all who enjoy a light hearted atmosphere will appreciate. DPTWH is very light to read where each chapter does not take more than ten minutes to read. This could be seen as criticism but that's not how I intend it. I believe Derc Plays through World History's easy readability is a positive thing, its lighter nature (narrative-wise) making it easy for writers to immerse themselves within the AAR and making it easier for them to pledge themselves to keep reading it on a regular basis. So whether you have limited time or have all the time in the world and you want something very lighthearted and in no ways heavy to read, something that is special and fun to interact with, then search no more for Derc Plays Through World History is the AAR for you!

    So that's it from me. I hope you enjoyed this tour through Derc Plays Through World History and I hope to see you all very soon!
    Comments 4 Comments
    1. Cookiegod's Avatar
      Cookiegod -
      Dammit Turk that was well done! I mean the entire review was well done but that which shall not be named was very exceptionally well done. I want to see if anyone else notices, so I'm not going to spoiler it.
      And yes, he does have a friendly environment there. Too friendly.
    1. Swaeft's Avatar
      Swaeft -
      What a well written article. Now if only I have the time to read the AAR...
    1. Kilo11's Avatar
      Kilo11 -
      Well done here, Turk! I really am loving Derc's AAR, and I think you've done it excellent justice here. The only thing I'd add is that Derc himself adds a certain black humorous splash that is pretty unique among AAR writers. Most of us get so attached to our stories and characters, it becomes difficult to laugh a little when something horrible (but funny) happens, but Derc is always ready with a little quip at some heroes expense. And that is one of the things I consistently love most about his ever-expanding set of stories!
    1. Turkafinwë's Avatar
      Turkafinwë -
      Thanks guys! Glad you like it.