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Saturday 26th May 2001

Alk11: "Grisly Manifest"
(Size: 2.60 meg. Alternative downloads: Alk11)

A large, convoluted level that puts a different twist on a medieval theme by mixing copious amounts of blue textures with the normal brown/white style. It comes with a backing story that follows on from Quake itself. The map consists of many open and fairly complex courtyards, and brief connecting corridors. The layout sprawls over two tiers, and is heavily interconnected, which is only revealed when doors open to previous areas as you progress. The architecture is fairly good, but mostly rather arbitrary - there's plenty of angles everywhere, and good solid designs, but it has a random feel with few structures standing out. Perhaps the haphazard nature is intentional, but it doesn't give a good sense of place. However, there are some impressive collonades and archways, particularly later in the map, and the build quality is all good. More set-pieces or focused designs would have improved the looks.

Textures are also fairly good, providing a consistent theme, with well used blue trim later on, though the blue/brown mixture might be a matter of taste. One of the rarely used rock textures is particularly nice. Lighting is fairly dark and gloomy, and sometimes unsourced. Despite the connectivity, there isn't much exploration, and 2 secrets (number obscured by the map name), the one I found was neat and useful. Gameplay is tough, relentless, and sometimes longwinded due to the amount of medium-tough monsters. Custom monsters are prominent, including Axemen, "Mordrigor" Deathknights (see Mexx8 - LOTW review), Snakemen, Centroids, and modified nailgun Ogres. You better like nails as there's an awful lot thrown at you from those last three monsters - the Ogres also jump wildly which provides a good, new, tactical challenge, and the Axemen are as frantic as usual.

Monster placement, combined with the lighting, makes it hard to avoid damage from the nail monsters, so a lot of care should be taken. Weapons and ammo are liberally supplied, but health is very limited, especially in the early-middle parts of the map, which is likely to require a lot of quicksaving for many players. More health here was needed and would have given more enjoyable gameplay all round. Later on supplies improve, as does the balance, including a very fitting ending, with an escalating series of heavy monsters and several fun ambushes. Skill settings are slightly effective. The challenging gameplay means it's a map that's best to play slowly and methodically.

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