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Monday 6th August 2001

Czg03: "Ceremonial Circles"
(Size: 810 k. Alternative downloads: Czg03)

Imagine a current top mapper travels back in time, joins Id when they're developing Quake, and makes E1M3 and E1M4 in one map using their own superior mapping talents. And this is what you get: A large level with a very traditional medieval theme and atmosphere, but also a very complex overall design and some cool, stylish architecture. The theme is well excecuted and consistent throughout, but there's also plenty of variety in designs. The layout takes Id's traditional connectivity to the extreme: all areas are complex, diverse, and connected at many different levels, water is common, adding an extra dimension to the map, and there aren't many mere "rooms". Indeed the layout is more impressive than the architecture itself, which hasn't been pushed as far by current standards. There are a few great designs and the architecture is good throughout the map, though a few areas are quite simple and would have benefitted from more detailing. The main circular towers, crowned by blunt spikes, are definitely a cool feature, there are also some attractive cavern like sections. The big designs are well angled off and have an appropriately solid look, while lighting is well sourced, gloomy and atmospheric, but a bit on the dark side. A very interesting take on a classic style.

The convoluted layout gives some exploration, particularly around water, though the player is forced to follow a set route overall. There's also a varied 7 secrets, which are mostly reasonable to find and useful but not essential. You also might need to hunt around for some items. Gameplay is solid and challenging, and will test players' tactics and endurance, with the numerous medieval monsters often carefully placed for maximum efficiency. In particular, Ogres and Deathknights are positioned on various ledges where their attacks can be really challenging. Other monsters are more straightforward to deal with but they still give continuous fighting, and only weaker weapons are supplied. The map rewards careful sniping, and is quite reasonable and fair if, and only if, you're patient with all situations. This applies to the sustained ending too, a semi-arena style combat in an attractive position. Unfortunately that same complex layout does lead to some odd situations where you'll have cleared out some areas, with difficulty, earlier on in the map, and they're empty of monsters later. Also, although skill settings are present, some players may find the gameplay a bit too gruelling in places.

Ch1sp1: "Higher-Synth"
(Size: 760 k. No Alternative downloads.)

A medium sized level in an industrial style. It uses a distinctive combination of small blue-green brick textures, heavy rusty metal trim, set beneath a blood red sky. This theme is consistent through the map, and the architecture also has a consistent theme, particularly the inset wall arches, and good usage of lights, pipes, and vents as the main details. This strong style gives the map it's main visual interest, as most of the architecture is decent but rather simple: straightforward corridors and rooms with some good angles and details. There are some more interesting areas - the small outdoor canyon is nice, and the ending is properly impressive, if rather seperate from the rest of the map. Lighting is quite good, though occasionally ill-sourced, and build quality is good throughout. The ideas and style are certainly here, but this map needed a more perfectionist approach to ensure all areas were kept visually exciting.

Due to the simple overall design of the map, there's no exploration. There are 4 secrets listed, two of which required a grenade jump. The other two, if they exist, must be incredibly hard to find. It would be well worth hunting them down, as sparse supplies are a prominent feature of the gameplay, which is tricky and occasionally awkward. Medieval monsters are used, not in huge amounts, but the smaller scale of the map and some of the monster placements makes them quite challenging. There are a few ambushes in a similar vein, which can be hard to survive first time unless you guess what to do. Weapons are kept low key, and although ammo is in reasonable supply, health and armour are sparse so care must be taken. The same applies to the ending - although you're better equipped at that point, it's a good climax with a tactically interesting finish. Unfortunately skill settings are effectively ineffective apart from a couple of better items, so if it's too tough, tough.

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