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Monday 18th October 1999:

Cursed: "The Occursed"
(Size: 2.00 meg. No Alternative downloads.)

This is an excellent two level pack, also including a start level, centered around a marble temple/tomb, with surrounding medieval villages and canyons. Using Hexen 2 textures, it blends unique and very stylish designs, rarely seen in Quake, with good honest traditional gameplay, full of teleporting monsters and ambushes, to create a very interesting and satisfying pack. There is a fairly detailed fantasy story to explain the levels, and though really it's just an excuse to kill things, there are some onscreen messages during the levels that give a bit more flava. Architecturally these levels are superb: right from the start, the combination of themes, textures, structures and details is stylish and impressive - in fact the start map is perhaps the coolest one I've ever seen. In the main levels, there's two strong themes at play, the rustic medieval villages, and the serene eerie temple, the two being connected by natural looking canyons and caverns.

The villages are small, with just a few buildings, but are well done and fit the village theme, with thatched roofs and wooden fences around. The temple and tombs are done in purple and grey tinged marble textures, with excellent texture details in blue grey. Structurally, numerous pillars and arches, tombs and buttresses are used, combined with very stylish angles, which makes even simple rooms look cool, and the front of the temple look impressive for it's size. The overall effect is very good, very original, and gives a good atmosphere - not as dark and grimy as Quake, but still pleasingly arcane. The only significant flaw with this packs looks is that the start map architecture is arguably more impressive than the rest, and certainly more impressive than the ending - the end arena should have been made more spectacular to compensate. Also, perhaps the first village could have had a bit more variety and better lighting too. These are minor flaws in the otherwise refined looks.

To go with the intriguing feel, there is some exploration, particularly in the first village where exploring in all the buildings is important, and at the end of the temple you can chose which route to take first. A few secrets too, some of them useful and nicely done (though not as complex as I'd like). Gameplay is as solid as the design is, and continues in Tim's tradition of using multiple ambushes and surprises effectively. This is evident right from the first village section, where a few Scrags lure you into a false sense of security, then after exiting a building, there seems to be Ogres everywhere!! And so it continues, as well as the monsters in plain view or behind doors, any areas devoid of monsters soon fill as you trespass through (sometimes several times over). Almost all these ambushes are entertaining and fair, though picking up the rocket launcher and finding monsters right next to you was a bit annoying.

Gameplay balance is very good, with the pace steadily increasing throughout the maps, as more waves of monsters to appear to give your best weapons a good workout. The ending is not so much an ending as 3 drawn out series of combats: the first in a village courtyard, then an unusual arena combat on a platform in a tall shaft, and then a traditional arena combat to wrap things up - these combats prove appropriately climactic. Throughout all of these, and indeed the map, there is plenty enough ammo to keep you going, and usually an escape route too, but with the numbers of monsters, it provides a good challenge. Like the architecture, not much to find fault with, as skill settings are in effect, and there aren't any unfair combats or daft traps to spoil the flow. Great stuff, this pack is destined to be a classic.

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