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Wednesday 24th February 1999:

Wieder: "Timebomb"
(Size: 2.0 meg. Alternative downloads: Wieder / Wieder)

Note: There are two seperate maps in this zip: "Timebomb" and "Salvation".
Note: These maps require the Hipnotic mission pack, Scourge of Armagon, to run.
A pretty much unknown level this, and it's rather interesting. Made as a job application for Ritual, it's easy to see why the author got the job - although he says claims it's unfinished, the map has a pretty fantastic design and style by any standards. It's a base level, but with a unique and ultra detailed style. So you get pale blue walls, metal floors and doorways, absolutely loads of industrial touches and "pseudo-real" details like fans, proper lights, computers, pipes, ducts, consoles....the list just goes on. In fact, if the author crammed any more detail into this map, it would explode and leave gooey blobs of detail everywhere. This is the most distiguishing feature of the map, and in every single area there are more than enough details and designs to catch the eye. When combined with an interesting design and a very attentive use of angles, you get a highly intriguing map, that looks little like any other base map. In short, the architecture is superb, my only criticism is that the missiles look a bit cheesy and a few textures look a bit odd, but those are minor points.

There is another more important criticism related to the architecture however, and that is the potential of the details and designs for loads of fun secrets has not been exploited. There are no secrets and only a couple of hidden items in the map, but there could be a huge amount of stuff placed in hard to reach areas which would lead to some fun exploration around all the map's designs - it's a pity that this is lacking. In fact, there is no real exploration in the whole map, which is at odds with it's style. Gameplay, like the architecture, is original: you get supplied with all the weapons you need at the start, in a pseudo-real kinda way, and only get ammo from troops and a couple of mega health boosts in the map. This does mean that the gameplay is fairly consistent throughout the map, though there is a major fight part way through.

However, with a bit of exploration this fight can be made disappointingly easy, and overall I found the map to be too easy overall. This is mainly due to the amount of ammunition you receive for the bigger weapons - with my double shotty orientated playing style, I ran out of shells, but was loaded to the gills with rockets and cells by the end, which reduced the challenge a lot. So the idea of getting weapons at the start needs some more work, I feel, with more focus on the weaker weapons rather than the strong ones. Of course, the firepower you get makes it quite fun to wade through more of the monsters (including the cool Hipnotic ones), and there are some entertaining situations. The ending of the map is interesting, a non-combative race against time, in which you need to be pretty damn quick. However, if you fail this race, nothing at all happens except a silly message - a bit stupid as this reduces any urgency or excitment, and this is one case where an instant death explosion is needed! But although there are some gameplay flaws, the style alone makes this map worth checking out.

Wieder: "Salvation"
Speedrun demo: 1:03

This is the other map in the zip, and is in a completely different style to Timebomb as far as looks goes, and a completely different style to everything as far as gameplay goes. It's a very well built metal level, with great gothic details and good architecture. However, the level is completely orientated around traps and "trick" gameplay. I lost count of the instant death traps, but basically working around them makes up the gameplay, with little real fighting. If you like this sort of thing, then you should love this level - and you should seek professional help. However, I do not consider it to be worthwhile as a single player level - but since it's in the zip, you might as well download the speedrun demo I did, so you will at least get some value from the map. (Did a fun Nightmare speedrun in 1:03.)

Tefdbl3: "Halls of Artemis/Apollo's Domain"
(Size: 2.58 meg. Alternative downloads: Tefdbl3 / Tefdbl3)
Speedrun demo: 1:37

Curious, the TEF series had been generally awful up until this map, then *pow*, a huge increase in quality - which is good, since it means these TEF maps at least are high quality and fun to play. As with Wieder above, there is a mission pack link, as the two linked maps in this zip both use the Rogue mission pack, Dissolution of Eternity, monsters, as well as some mission pack and custom textures. However, these maps are conveniently in a .pak file, so you do NOT need to the mission pack to run them. Anyway, the maps, and there is a nice story behind them: Quake's forces have even defiled the heavenly realms of ancient Greek Gods, and it is up to you to stop them....what the Gods are doing is unclear, but it's a nice twist on the Quake idea. Halls of Artemis is a great metal map, as solid a metal map as you are likely to find, with good architecture, a very consistent theme, and all round good gameplay. It takes the standard metal designs, adds some nice buttresses and curved arches, and wraps things up nicely with some good details - both screenshots are of this map.

There could be some improvements to the design and looks - the blue metal seems out of places, there could be some more intricate rooms, and some more spectacular architecture - but what you get is good. The secrets are cool too, plenty of them, and my favourite involves opening one secret area, hitting a hidden switch in there, finding another hidden switch, then finally finding a hidden teleporter - value for money to be sure, and this gives some good exploration. Gameplay rounds the map off very nicely, and as with the design, is as solid and Quakey as they come. There's a good monster balance throughout, some well used monsters, and plenty of good honest surprises. You get the right weapons and good armour, and there are enough varied combat situations to make it all fun. The only disappointment is the ending, which is set up to be a real climax, but with the weapon you pick up, is easily defeated by sniping tactics. Without the RL, this would have been a more exciting and appropriate ending.

The end of Halls of Artemis leads straight on to Apollo's Domain, though the second map can be played on it's own (weirdly enough, I found this easier than starting with the weapons and ammo from HOA when I replayed them recently...I guess I was being really careful). Unfortunately, AD doesn't quite live up to the standards of HOA - in some of the areas where that map excels (theme and gameplay), this map is inferior. However, it is still good and worth playing. AD takes a different style, and uses a mix and blend medieval style, with some metal and mission pack textures. Although there is some good architecture and designs, such as spiral stairs and some cool outdoor bits, the theme isn't as strong, and some areas seem out of place. I do like the marble halls, and of course the outdoor bits, and if more attention had been paid to making this a strong theme of the map, I would have preferred it. Architecture is pretty good and there are some nice designs and details, again a few seem mismatched. There is a little bit more exploration than in HOA, and the secrets are up to that map's standards, which is nice.

Gameplay is generally good, but there is one annoying aspect: the Rogue and custom monsters. Rogue monsters, in general, suck - HOA used the less annoying monsters, but AD uses the appalling and completely un-Quakey "Bearded Twats in Skirts" - yeah, you know the ones, nothing to do with Quake. Combine these with those pesky spiders, which are okay, but I don't like their blatant use of other monsters sounds and attacks, and you have monsters which don't really spoil the gameplay, but do noticably detract from the feel of the map. The other Rogue monsters used in this are okay, and provide a bit of spice, especially at the end. Aside from that point, the gameplay is good again, quite a bit harder due to the closer design of the map, and some nasty surprises. However, it keeps the level of challenge reasonable, and after the first map provides a fitting second, though the ending is still on the easy side if you are cautious. With a better theme and less crap monsters, this would have been better, but it, and indeed the whole pack, is still good as it is. (Did Easy speedruns of both maps in 1:37, including HOA in 1:00 and AD in 0:37.)

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