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Thursday 1st July 1999:

Rc2: "Swamp"
(Size: 900 k. No Alternative downloads.)
Speedrun demo: 1:16

An unusual and creative level, that is quite reminscent of Evil Dead (reviewed), but has it's own distinctly swampy style. The map takes you through a variety of mostly natural areas, including a swampy forest, a deserted mine, a lost tomb and a watery dock at the end. This gives variety, and the way each section flows into the next one is good - it feels like a natural progression despite the varying styles. The design is varied, mostly 2D but undulating, with fairly simple "room" layouts, until you reach the more complex end. Architecture varies with each section - the swamp areas are fairly naturalistic, with a wall of trees at the perimeter, and gently random angles, as well as the ubiquituous dank and dirty water. The mine also has naturalistic caverns, simple but well done, though I didn't like the textures that much. The tomb section has more structured architecture, with fairly nice rooms and temple details - I thought this could have looked more spectacular though. The final area blends the swamp theme with some medieval building fronts, and works well, it's more spacious and looks good.

The architecture is really second to the feel of the map though, and it's a very atmospheric level, distinctly gloomy and grimy. In particular the textures are well chosen and the lighting is excellent - well sourced from a variety of sources including glowing moss!! This map has a really well done style, though some cooler architecture in places would have been nice. There is only a little exploration - you don't really notice as it feels more exploratory than it actually is. There are also some good secrets that fit well into the map. Gameplay is more scene setting than combat orientated, but there is still plenty of combat all the way. There are a lot of Scrags, Ogres and RotFish. The Scrags have a noticable habit of lurking and ambushing you - they are often used very well and are tricky to take down. The other monsters provide more normal fighting, with occasional surprises but not many.

The scenery can make the combat feel harder, as the random angles, plentiful fluids, and occasional cramped areas make it harder to dodge and escape - which can be a bit annoying. However, the combat itself is well balanced and generally very fair. The ending has a well set up combat, that makes good use of it's chosen enemy and of the water, to provide a tactical challenge. However, I do feel the very end needed to be more challenging - some more monsters would have helped for sure, and the ending is rather abrupt, though it is supposed to lead to a sequel. An interesting and atmospheric map, well worthwhile. (Did an Easy speedrun in 1:16.)

Solarfall: "Solarfall"
(Size: 1.20 meg. Alternative downloads: Solarfall:)

A straight-up, straightforward medieval level, with lots of pillars, buttresses and "sticky-inny / sticky-outy" bits. This level comes in two flavours: olive green for the lower sections, and dirty blue for the upper sections. Each section sticks to it's chosen colour well, with a well done join between the two, and the level has a strong and consistent style overall. Architecture is heavy and blocky - often it can seem quite square, but the good medium scale details, as mentioned, keep it interesting. In some places there is some good uses of curved arches and angled corridors, but mostly it is square with some subtle angles. There are a lot of pillars and ledge trims in this map, this adds detail and complexity, but can obscure rooms, giving them a vaguely maze-like feel. The coolest bit of architecture is a large octagonal lift shaft, big and nicely done. Elsewhere the room designs are good, some good use of 3D layouts, but the structures aren't as spectacular. I would have prefered less pillars and more impressive (and angled) "set pieces", but overall it's still a well made and good looking map for it's style.

There is a bit of exploration, which is good - mostly just trying various routes before needing keys or switches. There are also some good secrets - quite hard to find, but some have a pleasing complexity, rather than just being holes in the wall. Gameplay sticks well to the medieval theme, with mostly Scrags, Ogres and Knights. These are all used fairly well, but not exceptionally, and the lack of suprises and shocks in this map was a bit disappointing. It's very straightforward gameplay, just normal running, shooting and retreating where necessary, no really clever combat setups. The top of the large lift was nice however, and generally the combat was fun and fairly continuous throughout the map. It's not that hard, as you've always got space to run away and lure monsters to you - though the ending is more challenging with the weapons you have, but not really a big climax. Again, the gameplay is good for what it is, but more shocks and clever setups would have made it more exciting. Worthwhile for a solid, well made Quakey map with normal gameplay.

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