Wings of Protection

Kurald Galain's page

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32. ** Pathfinder Society GM. 1,125 posts. 25 reviews. 1 list. No wishlists. 11 Organized Play characters. 1 alias.



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Good story, poor mechanics

3/5

This provides an important part of the plot between Siege of Serpents and several later scenarios, and allows you to figure out what's going on behind the scenes, and has a tie-in to a cryptic character encountered earlier. That makes it a pretty cool scenario, and the ending scenes in the dreamscape are very interesting to play.

Unfortunately the rest of the scenario is repeated library searches. The library mechanic is unnecessarily complicated, basically lets one PC do everything by himself (which takes a long time) while the rest stands around being irrelevant. And then there's a second library. And then there's a THIRD library. All in all this is aggravatingly tedious.

But in practice, a scenario is mostly judged on its beginning and its end, and these are both strong. Just ask your GM to go quickly through the boring middle part.


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Overall solid scenario

4/5

This scenario fits very well with the season's overarching plot of gathering resources and allies for the war against the demons, and does so while neatly establishing a rarely-visited country of Golarion.

As the PCs are tasked to investigate a noble's daughter who's gone missing, they get involved local politics with various factions that ought not to be spoiled in this review. It gives a clear direction while still allowing multiple options and choices for the PCs, and is well written overall.

The combats are arguably too easy, but this wasn't intended as a combat scenario anyway. Murderhoboes should probably skip this one.


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An epic cooperative event for all levels

5/5

After several years of PFS specials, this is the best large-scale event that I've played in, and a great start to the season five plot. The pathfinders are forced on the defensive for once as a massive host of demons assaults a city and the characters struggle to push them back. The scenario does a good job at pulling off the vibe of a panicked city under supernatural attack, and gives a wide variety of missions for PCs of all levels to assist and mount a counteroffensive. This also allows the GM some leeway to tailor the tasks to suit that particular table, which is good to have.

What makes the special particularly impressive is the interaction between tables. Many events on one table directly affect what's going on at another, so you strongly get the feeling of cooperating as you slowly turn the tables and clear the city. For example, a team of low-level characters get to liberate and then operate siege weaponry to take down oversized demons that are being held back by their high-level allies.

It'll require some organizing to get all the tables, but overall it's a joy to play with a satisfyingly climatic ending. Highly recommended!


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A good test of your morals, with actual choices for the PCs.

4/5

After playing through the poorly written and forgettable Winds trilogy, I was worried about the rest of Season Eight. So I was pleasantly surprised to see a varied and diverse scenario like this.
Basically, the Pathfinders need a favor from a high-ranking efreet, and to get that she demands a series of tasks from the PCs. The tasks are diverse in nature, and the PCs are encouraged to find their own approach, be it to use stealth, diplomacy, straight-up combat, or a combination of the above. What's more, several of the tasks pose ethical dilemmas for the PCs, and they have to decide whether to actually help the efreet, or deliver something that technically follows the letter but in practice doesn't help her. There's even an NPC advisor who can help with the latter. So expect some fun in-character debates on that.
It is crucial that this decision point exists. The efreet (as can be expected) is not exactly ethical, and the PCs have to decide whether to do what she wants, or stick to their own morals. While this adventure has a similar structure as the infamous Many Fortunes of Grandmaster Torch, it is important to realize that MFoGT does not give you any choice but to act unethically, and this adventure does. A better comparison point would be Destiny of the Sands, part one. I note that the players of several other reviews didn't realize that they had this choice, but that's on them: the adventure clearly gives this option.
The main downside is that while it nominally plays on the Plane of Fire, in practice it does nothing with this environment, and it might just as well have played in a random city on Golarion. Other than that, I highly recommend it as a trial of your characters' ethics instead of just their combat performance.


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Bland, uninspired, and unrelated to the rest of the plot

1/5

You should know by now that this is not actually a trilogy, but a set of three unrelated scenarios, written by different people with very little communication or coordination between them. If you were expecting a climatic conclusion, you're going to be sorely disappointed. If not, you're probably going to be disappointed anyway because this is one of the most shallow cookie-cutter plots I've seen in PFS.

After learning more about the Elemental Lord of Air in the previous part, you are now sent to recover an unrelated and previously-unmentioned magical item. Why this macguffin is so crucial is not explained, other than that it vaguely helps in combat or something. The story nominally takes place on the Plane of Air, but this is not at all noticeable in the encounters or the plot. It might as well take place in any random city on Golarion.

Aside from that, the adventure is utterly bland. You are told to locate a contact, get a few rumors, and use those to easily find the contact. Then you fight the creatures guarding her. Then she tells you where the macguffin is, you easily find it, and then fight the creatures guarding that. And that's all there is.

The scenario is so completely forgettable, there's just nothing of substance here. It fails to do anything interesting with the Elemental Plane; has no interesting NPCs or plot twists; the combats are bland; and the goal is generic and unrelated to the rest of the season. The recovered item turns out to be unimpressive (a once-per-day fireball, essentially) and there is no eclipse, either. As the other reviews point out, everything here is either a shallow copy from somewhere else, or some of the most lazy and uninspired writing I've seen. Basically, it's all a load of hot air.


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Social scenario, but only for murderhoboes

2/5

Again, this is not a trilogy but really a set of three unrelated scenarios, written by different people with very little communication or coordination between them. Keep that in mind before you start. This is the only one of the three that is somewhat ok.

After the disappointing first part, you find yourself in the same situation again: a thief has stolen a Society artifact, go chase after her to get it back. Interestingly, the thief went to the Plane of Air. But you get a contradictory order again: if you find some info about the Untouchable Opal, please forget about the thief and get that info instead. Just like before, you end up chasing the secondary order all evening, with no means of catching up to your quarry.

The scenario starts out strong. It does a lot with the exotic surroundings: there are floating creatures everywhere, transport is by flying carpet, and you get to talk to numerous exotic NPCs to figure out information on the thief or the Opal. The best part of the scenario is a grand party where you meet djinni, veela, and even an invisible stalker. As numerous clues unfold, a mysterious society appears to be at the heart of it all.

And then, the plot comes to a screeching halt. From this point, it assumes the PCs are unthinking murderhoboes, and gives no other options. A bunch of society thugs confront you, and you have no choice but to fight. In the society's headguarters, a group of guards appear, and you fight those too. Then you return to an earlier location, a team of evil elementals turn up, and you must fight them as well. Oh, and there are two extremely easy puzzles. This is all to find an ancient book about the Opal. It has been lost for centuries, so of course your team of low-level Pathfinders finds it within the hour. Yup.

Now there's nothing wrong with a solid combat scenario, but this one is particularly hamfisted about it, and the fights fail to be interesting. Where the earlier encounters really establish the elemental setting, the later encounters don't do anything with it, and the opponents are basically sacks of HP with no noteworthy abilities. And it's just annoying when combat is forced upon a scenario if neither side has a compelling reason for attacking the other.

Again, because of the good GM and good group, we had a fun day anyway. It feels like the two halves of this scenario were written by different people entirely. The roleplaying half is good, the combat half is mediocre at best. And it's almost entirely unrelated to the first and third "parts", which leaves me wondering why this is called an "arc" in the first place.


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Poorly written and irrelevant to the plot

1/5

Although listed as a trilogy, this is really a set of three unrelated scenarios, written by different people with very little communication or coordination between them. Keep that in mind before you start.

This scenario starts with contradictory orders: a thief has stolen a society artifact, so you should hurry after her to recover it. But if you see any interesting ruins on the way, ignore your urgency, stop, and explore them. It should be no surprise that you spend the entire evening in these "interesting" ruins and have no chance to catch your quarry.

Turns out there are two tribes that have an unexplained prophecy and think you are The Chosen Ones (no reason given, and despite you being unknown low-level characters at this point). You can state that you're clearly not prophesied, but that's just what A Chosen One would say, right? So you have no choice but to enter an ancient ruin to prove that you're The Chosen Ones. This takes the form of three rather easy tests.

Then you run into an NPC, and the scenario expects you to murderhobo the sh*t out of her. You have no reason to fight, neither does she, and plausibly a few social checks should resolve the matter. But no, this is not allowed, you have to fight. Finally, you meet both tribes at the exit, they pick a fight with each other, and each expects you to murderhobo the sh*t out of the other tribe. Again, no reason to fight, you haven't even met one tribe before, and social checks sound like a reasonable solution. But no, it's mandatory fight time again. Oh, and it turns out you weren't The Chosen Ones after all.

If you're wondering how this relates to the seasonal plot, it totally doesn't. Neither the ruins nor the tribes reappear anywhere else, they're basically irrelevant. Indeed, the second scenario starts with the exact same situation: that thief has stolen the artifact, and you should hurry after her. This sidetrack hasn't accomplished anything.

To be fair, we have a fun group and a good GM, so it was a nice evening anyway. But this was despite the scenario, which is embarrassingly bad for season eight. It turns out the two "sequels" aren't much better, so do yourself a favor and skip the entire so-called "trilogy".


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Good setting, poor development

2/5

The setting for this adventure is very nice. It does well in showing the exoticness of the locale, and the often glimpsed but rarely seen Wayang race. Exploring a community instead of a location is rarely done, and is an interesting change of pace and a good mission for characters who want to see more of the world. The various masks make for a nice touch with their distinct personalities and desires for the PCs.

The downside is that the plot doesn't develop very well, and that the twist (if you can even call it that) is telegraphed a mile in advance. Gee, the guy who looks like he's going to betray you ends up betraying you, there's a shocker. And he doesn't even have a motive, he's just the designated bad guy for no good reason. Aside from that, getting full points from the masks strikes me as far too easy.

And then there is the much-derided debate subsystem. It has all the disadvantages of being overly clunky, inhibiting roleplaying in favor of finding numbers on a table, having a poor and overly verbose explanation, and not even being relevant to the plot. A player warned me in advance that there would be a very complicated minigame but told me to ignore it since its outcome was completely irrelevant, and it turns out he was correct. I would strongly recommend to all GMs to run this as a pure roleplaying discussion to the players, and keep all rolls hidden behind the GM screen.

Despite these downsides it remains a decent roleplaying scenario - but one that could have been done much better for its setting.


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Great introductory adventure

4/5

This is a very good introduction adventure for both players and GMs. Creativity on both sides is encouraged as the PCs have multiple ways of getting through party in the embassy, and are likely to improvise an oddball plan of their own. The scenario gives a good variety of responses and DCs for possible actions. In this, it makes the point that PFS is not the society of murderhobos - and in addition, it provides a nice introduction a couple of famous NPCs, notably Zarta, making it a good springboard for future scenarios.

Finally, the combats are also interesting, and show the PCs that simply charging forward with your standard weapon (or spell) isn't always the best strategy. Overall it makes for an original package that is well worth playing.


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Good setting for a dungeon crawl

3/5

What makes this adventure interesting is the connection to other scenarios, such as Mists of Mwangi and the Blakros Matrimony. It adds to the depth of the PFS setting to have these tie-ins that explore the background and history of recurring characters, and the museum of course. The shadow version of Absalom is an interesting choice of location that I would like to see revisited.

Aside from that, the scenario is a straightforward dungeon crawl, with solid writing and a varied roster of enemies. As other reviewers have pointed out, the combats tend toward the easy side.


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Diverse and well-plotted city scenario

5/5

The Destiny of the Sands trilogy serves to answer two long-standing questions: what's the deal with the Scarab Sages, and whatever happened to Grandmaster Torch? And it ties these questions together well, as the recently-banished Amenopheus sends the party in search for the mythical lost sage jewels, and the person who has the information is none other than Torch himself.

For characters new to the metaplot, expect an interesting city scenario as you work a diverse set of tasks in payment for Torch's information. The players are free in their approach here; anything from combat to diplomacy to sneakiness can work if planned well, so this rewards cooperation between diverse character types.

For characters familiar with the infamous Grandmaster, expect a good opportunity to throw a wrench into his plans, as for each task you can fulfill the letter of the agreement in a way that doesn't actually benefit GMT's plans at all. Serves him right. But what are his plans? Stay tuned to find out!

Overall, a well-written city adventure with strong ties to the overarching plot; expect more revelations to follow in the two sequels!


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Impressive secrets revealed!

5/5

This is one of the best scenarios in PFS, and serves to satisfactorily deal with not just one, but two of the major overarching plots, revealing numerous secrets along the way.

Enter a well-written dungeon with solid traps and combat encounters, in search of the mythical Sage Jewels. The fights are challenging without being overpowered, and there are interesting traps and curses that tie in well with the backstory of the place. As you explore the vacated halls, you'll find that another team of Pathfinders was sent here years earlier, and come to chilling realizations of what happened to them and how they were treated by the Decemvirate. Over several hours, it all falls into place and ties together very well.

You likely won't think of certain prominent characters the same ever after playing this, and for that alone it is highly recommended. In addition, it has solid gameplay throughout. My only regret is that I cannot give it six stars.


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Solid combat scenario

3/5

This scenario is primarily about combat, and it throws a number of well-written and tactically engaging battles at the party. Danger is tangibly present and your party will need to cooperate well, and the enemies are interesting.

Other than that, the setting doesn't really materialize. The encounters appear to be unrelated to each other, and the titular labyrinth doesn't really do anything. Your characters walk through nondescript corridors for some time, then enter the next room and roll for initiative. I suppose this was meant to be creepy and atmospherical but it really isn't; and there's no tie-in with the other scenarios at the same location. There's no real opportunity for roleplaying, and no chance to explore the dungeon as there's never a choice of where to go next.

Play this for an evening of good fights and showing what your character can do mechanically. Skip it if you're interested in story.


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Forgettable dungeon crawl

2/5

There is nothing much to this scenario. There is a simple dungeon, some rather easy combat encounters, and it ends in about two hours. There's nothing actively bad about it, there's just nothing memorable here either.


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Good roleplaying, poor mechanics

3/5

Story-wise, this is the epic conclusion to the series and a very interesting part of the metaplot. It works up to a long and engaging debate between Amenopheus and the Diamond Sage, where the PCs have the final call to make one of the most impactful decisions of their adventuring career. GMs should be sure to focus on what happens with the Emerald Sage; while this is mostly off-camera it is nevertheless very important to the ongoing plot.

Unfortunately, the mechanics for this scenario don't work very well. The inclusion of the mythic rules is questionable and makes combat longer and more complicated for no benefit. While the first two combats are tactically engaging, neither has anything to do with the rest of the scenario; this is followed by a pointless and poorly written chase scene, and a puzzle combat that's basically random trial and error. Finally, a missed opportunity is to have Amenopheus say he will accompany the PCs, only for him to (predictably) go the other way before the first encounter, and teleport in after the last.

Regardless of the poor mechanics, don't miss your chance to decide the Destiny of the Sands!


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Nothing To See Here, Move Along

1/5

There is really nothing to see here. It's a short scenario with pretty much no plot, a straightforward bit of dungeon to explore, some very easy combats, and that's it. Expect this to run short; you can probably go home after two hours.

Out of several scenarios that deal with the presence of Aspis in the Haojin Tapestry, this one is completely redundant. I recommend playing one of the others instead.


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Fun sabotage mission

4/5

Messing with the Aspis is alwasy fun. In this interesting infiltration scenario, you get to hamper them by sneaking into a cultist base and messing it up as much as possible. The nice part is that this is about stealth and sabotage, not about direct assault. Indeed, trying to brute force the scenario through combat is not the best approach here (and intentionally lethal) so the players are encouraged to take more creative solutions.

All in all, a good mission that rewards a wide variety of skillsets and character types, and that ties in well with the overall metaplot.


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Straightforward dungeon crawl

2/5

It's a straightforward dungeon crawl, that suffers from the common problem of pitting a single enemy against half a dozen PCs. Other than a powerful but completely random trap and the discussed-to-death story boon, nothing in particular stands out here.


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Nothing but a Shaggy Dog Story

1/5

While the scenario sounds promising, by the end it turns out that the party's actions are completely irrelevant. It's frustratingly poorly written.

Most importantly, the investigation doesn't work. Of the crew of the ship, all of them are nasty people with a secret, all of them refuse to cooperate with the PCs, and all of them have the motive and the opportunity to have committed the murder. Instead of a series of clues to follow, you get a long series of pointless conversations with NPCs who don't want to talk to you and reveal nothing but red herrings. The scenario is written so that everyone could be the killer; while that sounds nice in theory, in practice it means that there is no suspect that stands out and no way to eliminate any of them. The only way you'll find out who the murderer is, is because when the time is almost up he arbitrarily decides to attack the party (then anticlimatically die the next round, because he'll be sorely outnumbered in his head-on assault).

And as a final kick in the teeth, the investigation turns out to be completely irrelevant because

Spoiler:
the victim is not actually dead, but magically transported home. And because the victim always had the ability to do that, the entire two-month boat trip to escort him home was also completely unnecessary. The epilogue reveals that you've literally been wasting your time, both IC and OOC.

In other words, it's only a shaggy dog story. While such stories are a neat trick to pull on your friends at the pub, they're really boring to actually play in, because nothing you do makes any difference.


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This was a Triumph

4/5

I'm making a note here: "Huge success". It's hard to overstate my satisfaction.

As a reminder of how they treat even their best agents, the Ten drop you off on a remote island with no apparent means of return. But this is the location of the hidden laboratory that has been hinted at throughout the season, and you finally get the chance to explore it and take it down. Expect a thoroughly creepy location with unnerving characters and solid traps and combat, particularly the end encounter that would make Aperture Science proud. It's well-written overall and serves to tie up a number of loose ends in the plot, as part of the climatic endgame against the Aspis.


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Should have been for level 3-7

2/5

The premise of the scenario is fun, having to infiltrate and trick a group of hellknights, plus an interesting (albeit overly long) setpiece battle against a horde of enemies.

The problem is that this is just not the kind of mission level 7+ characters should be doing. Conceptually, intrigue with a bunch of low-ranking soldiers fits more with low level groups (such as in The Disappeared or Faithless and Forgotten I). Mechanically, there are common mid-level abilities that should be able to bypass most of the scenario, and the writer hasn't taken that into account.

Spoiler:
In particular, using Feather Fall should easily bypass the whole wait for the elevator plus its setpiece battle. The scenario relies on the party avoiding a fight with the hellknights or the morlock horde, but neither is particularly a threat to high-level characters. For that matter, nor are haunts or caryatids. The final battle is fun if the party has to race against time to cross the bridge, but a hasted monk or flying mount will get there in one round, as will anyone with Dimension Door.

Rather than giving reasons why that wouldn't work, the scenario relies on liberal applications of GM Veto. It would work much better to place it at low level, where such abilities aren't available yet.


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Engagingly Creepy, and Well Put Together

5/5

A highly engaging scenario that sends a pathfinder team into a seriously creepy abandoned laboratory to recover valuable information, and have to high-tail it out of there once its demonic owner comes back.

Highlights include the tie-in to Night March of Kalkamedes, the stiched-up half-demonic ex-pathfinder who made for some great moments, a series of well-described and seriously creepy experiment rooms where you're never sure whether anything is going to leap out and attack, and several tense combat scenes.

The best part is when the party finally made it to the final vault... only to discover that

Spoiler:
their arrival triggered an alarm which would quickly have their old nemesis teleport in, so they had to rush back through a shaking lab which caused several display cases to open their hostile content, and ran straight into the arms of the guardian above. Deciding to run rather than fight, with two teammates covering their retreat, they barely made it out of the maze alive.

Overall, it's well-written; the traps, combats, and other elements tie together well; and the premise of "get the info and get out" is a nice change of pace to many scenarios of "go there and kill the bad guy". Highly recommended.


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Poor Investigation, Decent Dungeon Crawl

2/5

This scenario starts out poorly: after defeating the Shadow Lodge in the first part, it turns out there'a second Lodge in town that you also have to defeat. And again, nobody in town has any information whatsoever. The crime lord who sends you doesn't know; divination and gather info don't work; you meet the same colorful NPCs who didn't know anything in the first part, and they still don't know anything. After spending enough time with zero results, you get ambushed in town by the very Lodge you're unable to find. After a remarkably easy combat, you learn where their lair is, and at this point you get into a dungeon crawl to defeat the leader again.

The dungeon is decent enough, no criticism there. The problem is that these two scenarios require a fixed number of checks to trigger the next encounter, but the checks themselves (diplo talking to NPCs) give zero information and aren't related to the overall outcome. It's like those old adventure games where giving a flower to the girl in town makes a potion appear on a faraway island for no discernible reason, and it was annoying then as well. This is really not a constructive way to write an RPG scenario.

Another odd thing is that you get your mission from a local crime lord (instead of the Venture Captains) who demands bloody murder with no other option. The Silver Crusade mission is also an assassination again. Thankfully you don't get penalized for not killing the opposition, but still, for a number of people it would be in character to just say "no" to the crime lord and skip the entire scenario.

Overall this scenario is better than the first, but still not really recommendable. However, there are some good opportunities for roleplaying, and Kaer Maga is worth visiting again.


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An 'Investigation' Where Nobody Knows Anything

1/5

The upside of the scenario is that Kaer Maga is an interesting location with colorful NPCs, and that several of the faction missions are funny (although Silver Crusade asks you to murder a civilian for some reason). The combats are nothing special and are all very easy.

The downside of the scenario is the absence of plot. Your goal is to locate the Shadow Lodge, but nobody in town knows anything about it. The various colorful NPCs don't know, gather information reveals nothing, divinations don't help, the crime lord who ambushes you early on doesn't know either, even the Shadow Lodge goons that also ambush you don't have any info. Only after spending enough time getting no results whatsoever, you get the attention of another crime lord who knows where the Lodge is. After meeting him, you get ambushed again by Shadow Lodgers, who apparently followed you the whole time with no chance of being noticed. And then you easily defeat the leader in his lair, although the sequel reveals they have a second lair, that nobody has information on either.

I did have a pleasant time roleplaying with my teammates, but must note this is not because of the scenario, but in spite of it. So while I hope there are other missions to vibrant Kaer Maga, I really can't recommend this one.


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Cool premise, abysmal delivery

1/5

The premise of the scenario is really cool, with fey and portals and time travel. But wow, does it ever fail to deliver.

After the intro, it starts with a boring trap encounter, then some nice role-playing in an interesting location that unfortunately doesn't answer many questions about itself. Then we get a series of easy and underwhelming combats. This is followed by a tedious immersion-breaking puzzle that took us nearly an hour to get through. And finally, two very difficult combats but in a frustrating way rather than a challenging one. You know, the kind where you get dropped before you can act, or can do nothing round after round because you can't target the enemies.

The twofold issues with the puzzle: first, in-character there is no reason to do it at all. It doesn't make sense that jumping through a series of seemingly-random portals would make a wall of force disappear, and more sensible solutions (e.g. Dimension Door) are arbitrarily disallowed. Second, there is not enough information to solve the puzzle, so you have to rely on trial an error. For an hour. Portal 4, then 2, 5, and 3, then 7? Doesn't work. 3-8-9-1-5-2-4? Nope. 2-5-3-7-4-1-4? No again, keep trying. I am seriously baffled that anyone thought this was a good idea.

Tldr, it's a railroad of encounters that range from dull-but-easy to dull-but-hard, with a horrible puzzle in the middle. Definitely a scenario to avoid.