This scenario should have been retired, as were a number of other Season Zero scenarios.
It's a railroad with a weak story that only gets explained at the end.
But worse than that are the encounters. 3 out of 4 are inappropriate for a tier 1-2 party; they either have too many enemies, or the enemies are much too strong.
We had a party of 7 (6 x level 1, and 1 x level 3); we only survived because of the number of wands in the party (offensive and defensive). A party of 4 level 1 neophytes has next to no chance.
Note to scenario writers and editors - putting a bit of damage on a 7HD monster does not make it an appropriate challenge for four level 1 adventurers; doing this with two 7HD monsters (who have a save-or-lose special attack, and 4 melee attacks on a full attack, and fly) is madness.
This scenario sets out to tell a different kind of story to the usual fare, and that is to be applauded. You're not chasing a mcguffin, or after a particular bad guy. This is a quest for knowledge.
There are good opportunities for roleplay - the midsummer Sarenite holiday can be lots of fun.
But there are two big problems with the scenario's execution.
1. the scenario flip-flops between establishing success based on what the players say, and based on the results of skill checks. The latter undermines the former, because in some encounters it doesn't matter what you say if you get a good roll. To some extent this is a problem with the game system, but when you want to encourage creativity and thinking on the part of the players forcing them to then make a skill check that is the arbiter of success is, in my opinion, a mistake.
2. as others have noted, there is an encounter in the high tier that is broken. It's just too lethal, as a result of the set-up, a template, and tactics. It killed a PC in my high-tier run, and did so in a manner that felt unfair.
If I could give different star ratings for the high and low tier I would, but since I can't the bad encounter at high tier makes this a 2-star review. I hope that PF2e either does away with simple templates for monsters, or does a better job of adjudicating their impact on CR.
I recently completed this scenario in a play-by-post game led by the inimitable GM Hmm.
Play this scenario!
Yes, it is hard. Yes, it's possible to experience perma-death. Yes, in some ways it may feel "unfair" in the way it challenges and breaks with normal expectations. These are not necessarily bad things.
I've purchased and read through the scenario as well as having played it through. I can certainly see that it needs a skilled GM. We had one.
This scenario excels at building an evocative environment and telling a superb story, a fitting end to the Scarab Sages plotline. As a player, you will need to be prepared and you will need to pay close attention. But success is ever so satisfying!
This is not a scenario that I would recommend to novice players or GMs. It's easy to see how it will run longer than a standard 4 hour slot. It is ideal for the play-by-post format, and I will probably run it in pbp.
We had a party of 6, with an APL of 9.83. We were: elf oracle 11 (me), 2 x human fighter 10 (both two-hander melees), halfling druid 10 with large kitty, oread spiritualist 9, human skill-monkey 9. Three of us were scarab sages.
Rather than go blow-by-blow, I'm just going to offer some “sage advice.”
Prepare like your lives depend on it – because they do.
Do your darndest to find as much information as you can, both in the briefing and during the dungeon segment. There is risk – you can mitigate that risk though.
There are (imho) optimum strategies for dealing with the combats. If you find those strategies, this scenario becomes much easier. (Though still not easy).
This is a scenario that really rewards skilful play.
ETA: I have just completed GM'ing this in play-by-post. It took about 9 weeks, and I go at a fast pace in pbp so that really confirms this is a big scenario. Players really enjoyed it, as did I. We had a few PCs drop below zero hp, but no deaths. As I noted above, the scenario rewards skilful play; and my players did well.
I recently completed this scenario in play-by-post. We were a high-tier party with 4 player adjustment, but there were 6 players (mixed tier group).
It is a really well written scenario. I look forwards to GMing it some time.
The scenario starts with an investigation. The scene is evocative, and the location makes a difference. There are interesting NPCs. You have to think about where you are.
The second half of the scenario is a rescue mission. This part is "hard-mode." The BBEG is strong, with effective tactics. But what makes this really difficult is the use of (imho) a seriously under-CR'd adversary. The adversary makes sense in the scenario. It all fits together. But because of the flawed CR this can be very deadly. We all survived, and when you have to really work for a win (as we did here) it makes the victory sweeter, but be warned!