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Saturday 25th November 2000:

FMB8: "For My Babies 8"
(Size: 1.2 meg. No Alternative downloads.)

A collage of Tronyn's spare map bits by Mike Woodham, in a sort of Egyptian theme with some metal details. There is plenty of variety, not just in the designs which range from canyons, small annexes, complex watery rooms and large temple setpieces, but also in the theme which includes dingy styles in some places and bright clean styles in others. Archicture is pretty good throughout the map, with a fair use of details and angles, as well as larger designs like pillars and massive beams, the highlight perhaps being a large indoor arena with sandstone beams arching overhead. However, it's not coherent enough and more work should have been done harmonising the theme, for example using similar basic wall, floor, beam, and water textures would have helped a lot. The metal details don't quite work either. Also the lighting is a bit odd, sometimes fairly dark, but very bright in the outside areas, sometimes without proper shadows - again, more refinement needed. Despite the disparate origins, the map has a well connected layout, often revisiting old areas from new directions.

There's only a little exploration, but a hefty 7 secrets to find, most of which use the similar small buttons - can be hard to find in a map this complex, and the secrets are very useful. Combat is pretty hardcore and, as Mike says, will provide good value for experienced players, with 136 monsters on Normal/Hard skill - a much easier Easy skill is included. Combat situations vary a lot, and some of them, particularly Ogres bombadiers on high ledges, or well placed Shamblers, provide a tactical test too. There's also a potential hair-raising underwater combat against Spawn which I personally liked. Elsewhere there's the usual gangs of medieval monsters, with the climax being in that large arena, providing a fun massacre especially if you get the Quad. There's a fair amount of ammo and health overall - it's a bit sparse at the 3/4 mark, but still enough - though little armour. Pretty challenging but balanced too.

Dazsp3: "Ground Zero"
(Size: 1.2 meg. Alternative downloads: Dazsp3)
Speedrun demo: 1:31

A large, diverse IKbase level. Although these strong, familiar textures are used throughout, there's a lot of variety in themes: Apart from the start and a couple of similar corridors, every room has it's own invidual sub-style. Architecture is divided between impressive outdoor areas with cool, complex designs and natural rocks, and square rooms indoors, whose simplicity is disguised with beams, pillars, interesting light details, and sometimes complex texturing. Mostly it's good but there's a large discrepancy between the best outdoor areas and the simplest passages. Lighting also varies, usually good, but a few areas are very bright for the given lighting, and a few areas are very dark - this can be annoying when enemy are shooting you from the dark. Since every possible IKBase texture combination is used, there is some good texturing but some careless texturing, particularly with the "hexagon" wall textures. There's plenty of good - occasionally great - visuals in this map, but it needed more attention to theme and architectural consistency.

Another aspect reduces the coherence: The level is divided into two seperate sections, linked by teleporters, rather than all joining up "au naturel", which spoils the plausibility of the level design - and I'm sure it could have been avoided. There's hardly any exploration aside from the start, and two secrets, both very useful, I found one. Gameplay is generally good but slightly odd: For most of the map it's very steady and well balanced, later on there's a combination of a severe ammo and health shortage, a couple of awkward "hard to survive" situations, and some empty areas - why no monsters in these?? It should have been tweaked and tested more... Aside from that there's plenty of base enemy, generally in small numbers but with some ambushes and snipers to spice things up, as well as occasional monsters the provide more of a challenge later on. It all flows rather nicely until near the end - the ending itself is unusual, with some trickery to avoid a potentially ammo-less combat, as well as two exits - one leading to Dazsp1, the other to Dazsp2 - a cute touch.

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