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Reviews: 1st November 2005, review 2

Game - QUAKE
Map - cda: Castle of the Dark Ages
by - JP Lambert
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Overall Verdict: An excellent dark and atmospheric castle setting with average gameplay.

This is a medium-ish sized black castle, the whole map being played out in large, open, flat plain, around which various buildings and the main castle interconnect and are situated.
The setting of this map, its architecture, consistently textured theme and excellent damp fog and dark shadowy lighting, which creates a highly imaginative and atmospheric setting, is this map's strongest point. I liked very much the dark black feel of the map, with the black textures of the castle well designed and complemented by the dark organic rockfaces and bubbling lava. The lighting is very good and suitably shadowy, and the player is drawn into a rich *quake-like* (TM) atmosphere of gloom and dread.

For the most part map progression is clear and there is a nice freedom (especially at the start) into which part of the map you want to explore first. The architecture has a number of excellent details, for example the cross in the roofs, the iron arching beams supporting the walls and the beautiful stained glass windows which look really cool offset against the dark background.

The architecture in this map is really very good, its just the gameplay doesn't quite live up to that. In my opinion, the gameplay has two problems:
[1] There is an over supply of health (especially) and also ammo throughout the map, but in especially in the first half or so. Also the power-ups (including armor) are too generous. For example, at the blue key, a pentagram of protection is provided, which then makes the fight against the 4 monsters which spawn in pointless.
[2] Because the map layout is so flat and open, it is reasonably easy for the players to simply retreat/run away and then turn and shoot at leisure.

To be fair, the challenge does increase in the last half of the map, and gameplay does become more tense, as health supplies decrease and monsters continue to appear (maps monster count is 214 on hard). Continuing this improvement in gameplay terms, the final battle is well executed with a good balance between power-ups and enemies.
In the final analysis this is a beautifully dark and atmospheric map, which is slightly let down by overall average gameplay, but i can see the effort put into this map and the feel JPL has for quake, and i recognize and appreciate that very much.

Overall Score: 16/20