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Wednesday 19th September 2001

Rapture: "Rapture"
(Size: 7.9 meg. Alternative downloads: Rapture, Rapture.)

Note: This review is based on the final version of the unit - there was a beta version floating around at 3DDownloads, if you downloaded that you may experience some bugs.

A unit with 4 single player maps, start maps, and an exit scene. These are wrapped up in a lengthy story that sets the scene nicely from the monsters' perspective - an atmospheric touch. There's also inter-map messages which probably continue the story if you're patient enough to wait for them to appear. The theme is a dark, gothic medieval look, with a chilly Norse feel using Daikatana and Hexen2 textures, which have converted well this time. Grey-ish stone walls, wooden sections, celtic stone trim and gothic details are used consistently, but design-wise each map is worth treating individually. Good build quality and atmospheric lighting are common to most maps, but the skies are all different, which reduces the coherence. Sounds are sometimes well used. Gameplay varies from map to map, but is generally solid and challenging, with some custom monsters used - Axemen, Gremlins, tougher Knights. In particular, modified Nehahran "Barons" are used as increasingly difficult boss monsters - a good, fresh challenge as a bosses, but their attacks can be frustratingly fatal. Supplies are good: ammo is quite plentiful especially in later maps, health and armour are sparser. A few Scourge of Armagon extras are featured too. Skill settings are reasonably effective.

Start: "Beginning of the End" / "Epoch Gateway" are the starting maps. Firstly a wee little Idbase room which leads you into the skill-choosing start map proper. This is an unusual but surprisingly successful blend of the not-very-blendable Ikbase style with this unit's medieval style. All quite good, and thence onto...
Rainpal/Rainend: "Rain Palisade" is split into two parts, and easily the design highlight of the unit. A really strongly themed medieval castle, starting with swamps and an impressive fortress entrance, then leading through various hallways and courtyards to eventually reach a foreboding final arena. Proper structures like pillars, arches and bridges are enhanced with ruined sections, spikey bits, and gothic details. A map with a good sense of place. There's a few varied secrets but only a little exploration. Gameplay is nicely balanced for a first map, it's challenging for sure, but there's nothing really outrageous - most fights can be made quite reasonable with a bit of care. There's a steady flow of monsters, and fitting with the convoluted design, they tend to lurk. The fighting escalates to the first boss.

Rapture: "Castle Rapture" is not quite as distinctive, but still a very good map, with some impressive medieval halls and a variety of well styled rooms that compensate for the occasional arbitrary area. Angles are well used and texture details are particularly striking. Lava is also introduced, complete with the now-obligatory tinted-texture-coloured-lighting-fakery, which certainly enhances the setting. Only one secret and no exploration (not without naughty slope jumping). Gameplay is now a bit tougher, but again there's nothing unduly nasty (apart from the boss of course). Just a steady stream of medieval monsters, with the occasional ambush, and plenty of reinforcements when backtracking. Monster infighting can be fairly common here.
Sub: "A Cross to Bear" is a more arbitrary map - pretty much a typical Alk map but textured in this unit's medieval theme. Thus, solid, well angled designs, but no outstanding set-pieces (there's also at least one "cloned" section). Gameplay is tougher once again - the player is given increasingly good weapons, but there's an increasing infestation of monsters to blast through. Medium class monsters are increasingly common, and the fighting is straightforward, relentless but fair, with a hard boss as usual.

Storm: "Storm Dungeon" is a definite climax for gameplay, though not for design. The design is still good though, a symmetrical, arena-esque complex of ominuously large scale medieval hallways. The usual solid architecture with pillars and walkways, angles and arches is present, but in a slightly metal style. A continual storm with thunder and dramatic lightning adds a lot to the atmosphere and makes it quite an unnerving place to fight in. There is a bit of exploration, but the symmetry means there's little to choose between routes. The gameplay is most appropriate for a final map - very hectic and exciting. While a variety of monsters attack on the ground, Ogres are perched on every ledge above, and you really have to play hard, bring out the big guns, shoot first and all that. The final boss is tougher yet, and the more complex setting means it's a good final challenge.
"Distant Thunder" / "Entrance to the End" is merely an exit map, neat enough. A section of canyon and cliffs around lava falls and rivers, it's an atmospheric setting for the final on-screen messages detailing the final twist in a stylish and solid unit.

Sm32: "Shut Up RPG!"
(Size: 930 k. Alternative downloads: Sm32:, Sm32)

Another map where the plethora of mappers involved leads to a diversity that is beneficial rather than detrimental. This map has a clear theme running through it - a dank, green, mossy temple with sections of swamp and canyons - but there's variety within that theme. Some areas are more natural and watery, some have more distinctive designs, some focus on a consistent architectural style. The way areas are connected at various points and levels, circularly rather than linearly, enhances the feel of the level as a whole, as there are fairly few bland connecting tunnels/corridors. Architecture is generally good: Bridges, pillars, wall buttresses and doorways are enhanced by subtle angles, and the cliffs and rocks look pretty natural. Lighting is also attractively natural and well sourced from the sky or torches. However the map would have benefitted from a couple more memorable set-pieces, as it is a bit unfocused design-wise.

There's a few nicely placed secrets, but hardly any exploration. However the well-connected map layout gives a pleasing sense of discovery as the various routes through each area are opened up. Gameplay is constant, challenging, and well thought out. A limited selection of medieval monsters are used, and are often well placed to make good use of the scenery: Ogres bombard from high ledges while Knights attack in lower trenchs, Deathknights attack in groups supported by Vores. This produces more thoughtful gameplay than average, giving a good challenge without resorting to hordes or multiple ambushes. The latter do creep towards the end, and at the final arena, but even here monster placements are good, including a sting in the tail....or more like, your tail. Supplies of all items are fairly plentiful, but not excessive. Skill settings are also well used, so this should be a fun map for all.

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