The final installment of the "Splinters of Faith"-series is 44 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC and 1 page SRD, leaving a whopping 40 pages of content for the grand finale of the sags, so let's check it out!
This being an adventure-review, the following text contains SPOILERS, thus potential players are encouraged to jump to the conclusion.
Still here? All right! The Scepter of Faiths has been restored to its full power by the belligerent PCs and now it is time to finally crush the threat that is Akruel Rathamon once and for all! As befitting of a finale, this installment of the series breaks the formula of the series and ventures straight for Al-Sifon, the power-base of the resurrected vampire lord without stopping at a good temple first. In order to to find the temple, the PCs are in for a neat and creepy wilderness exploration of the seething jungle - deserted villages, partly conquered and partially charmed speak a language of impeding destruction - Akruel is amassing his armies, both living and undead and the jungle shows. Unfortunately, the wilderness-exploration once again suffers from the problem of the series of lacking a player-friendly map for the section. On the other hand, though, the deserted jungle and Al-Sifon feature truly unique landmarks - from a monolith that resurrects the dead to an ominous storm that can only temporarily be dispersed and jots down tell-tale bolts of negative energy, the Aztec-style temple and its surrounding city OOZE iconicity.
In fact, the exploration is rather important, for the PCs will need numerous forays into Akruel's territory in order to beat the powerful vampire - in terms of difficulty, this module surpasses even its deadly predecessor, but offers unique challenges and even secret entry-point to the ziggurat of the dread foe. In addition to the deadly challenges awaiting the players in the city per se, they'll e.g. have to deal with tyrannosaurus-creatures led by will-o-wisp-herders, death nagas and even a green dragon, which might make for an uncommon ally against dread Rathamon. The dungeon per se lacks nothing in terms of iconicity and both ziggurat and catacombs provide ample opportunities for showdowns with Akruel and his undead legions: From portals to the negative energy plane to the legendary Frore Heart, source of Akruel's immortality, the deadly climax of the series surpasses each and every dungeon in the series and provides for a dreadful climax of epic proportions. Well done!
Editing and formatting are unfortunately once again not up to the usual standard of FGG, sporting unfortunately quite a few glitches like double sentences etc. Layout adheres to a 2-column standard and the b/w-artworks rock. The pdf is extensively bookmarked - neat! While the wilderness-section once again suffers from a lack of player's maps for the wilderness-sections and no transition from the last installment is provided, this pdf makes up for these shortcomings by introducing us to a deadly jungle, a cool dungeon, an iconic villain that oozes antiquity, options for stealth and a writing that is on par with Greg A. Vaughan's iconic imagery. In fact, I'd go for a full 5 stars, were it not for the ample glitches that could easily have been caught with another pass at editing. Thus, my final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4.
Conclusion for the whole series:
So, is "Splinters of Faith" a worthy purchase? Yes and no - on the one hand, we get ample of cool temples, wilderness and dungeon-settings. On the other hand, i feel like the sags suffers massively under the format - the individual installments feel disjointed and unfortunately repeat the same formula over the course of the whole series, feeling rather like a weekly series than an organic campaign. The fact that no overall travelling/transition-guidelines are provided, hurts the series and makes it feel like an episodic series that has blank spots in between the adventures. While some of the installments are slightly less compelling than others, sparks of greatness pervade the series in its awesome ideas only to fail to realize them to their full extent.
Due to the lack of player-friendly maps for the wilderness-sections and the lack of transitions between temples and dungeons, a DM has to invest quite a bit of work to make the campaign work smoothly, but said work WILL be rewarded. Overall, I can't help but feel that presenting the campaign in a format similar to Slumbering Tsar (including transitions etc.) would have greatly benefitted the series and made it a true blast. Especially if you want a feeling of a world that is very much points of light in style, a world that has had its great civilizations fall and is a hostile place, then the stellar old-world feeling of the series definitely will appeal to you. In spite of its problems, my overall verdict for the series will be 4 stars - I'm looking forward to reading more from Gary Schotter & Jeff Harkness.
[4 of 5 Stars!]