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 "c" reviews

Dark Hell DARK.ZIP -- 398k
11 may 1997
author: unknown. this level is in a dungeon-type setting. the architecture has been done well in dimension, flow, and play areas... but the detailing (especially in the three and a half tier central area) can slow play to a ridiculous degree. play in all the areas visible from this area -- comprising roughly 60% of the total play area -- slowed to a crawl; in one notable case, i was able to visually track nails as they flew toward their targets, and my frame rate dropped to around 5 (yes, five) fps from it's normal of around 41.1. incredible. the rest of the level ran very well, and the combat was intense through most areas. the lighting was done extremely well. aside from the slowdown, this level is very well done. i'll be looking forward to this author's next release.

9 jan 1997
author: Juha Koiste. starts off in a beautifully-constructed and appropriately lit anteroom. the texturing is reminiscent of e1m5. the room sizes in this one vary widely; you start in a relatively-small room which leads up a ramp into an enormous area. some areas have extensive amounts of detailing (for instance, the aforementioned beginning as well as the teleport destination room, which is wonderful) and others are strikingly bland... most of the larger open areas are this way, actually. the flow is good and the monster placement and selection is interesting, but not very challenging. the weapons are placed in a logical manner, with the biggest weapon being a nailgun. this isn't a problem, though, because this level is very light on the population. it's definitely a single-player level, however, because there is a logical progression, despite the fact that there aren't any keyed doors. two secrets in this level, of which i found one. there were some quirks in the design that i thought were interesting -- some of the light fixtures didn't have any lights in/on them, like they'd burnt out or something. pretty cool, now that i think about it, and ultimately realistic. a good exercise, but it needs something more. maybe more complexity, or more monsters, or something. another one of those levels where it felt like something was missing.

this level has not been released to cdrom.com, but it is publicly available for download from the files section of the Thred home page.

21 jan 1997
author: "Reichert". you start in a small house outside a castle, and proceed to wend your way through the dark forest. attention to theme in this level is among the best i've ever seen; the forest is truly creepy (play track 7 on the Quake CD when you go through this level -- check the CD section for the .rc file that will help you do this) and feels like a forest... even though Quake doesn't yet have the tools to make convincing forests without a patch. the monster placement is a bit light, and there are far fewer scrags in here than i expected. the ones that are here, as in Village, seem completely in their element. this level runs surprisingly slowly in many places, and i've yet to determine the reason, because the detail level isn't that high at all (though the edge and poly counts are pretty high, the surf counts are more than reasonable). there are a couple of instant-death traps in this level, but at least they're marked (if subtly), so watch your step. the trek through the forest is very tense due to it's relative emptiness, and the bursts of combat that do occur come almost as a relief. there aren't any really tricky puzzles in this one, but you do have to do a lot of backtracking. the endgame is challenging, but not ridiculously so, and fun. "to be continued..." it says at the end, and i'm looking forward to it. on an unrelated note, this level would work very well as an introduction to Village of Dread; the themes and the lighting are about the same, and since Village starts in a forest...

this level kicks ass

25 jan 1997
author: Neil Manke. this is the first Quake level i've played where the puzzles have been difficult to figure out. if you're impatient or easily frustrated, i suggest you skip this level. otherwise, this level is a great use of the 'specials' to create an environment that focuses on the thinking part of Quake. you even have to solve a mini-puzzle to get out of the first room. the nice thing is the author has included tips on how to get through the level in the text file... which, for whatever reason, isn't in the archive. luckily, the text file is on cdrom.com, so be sure to grab it when you get this level. overall, the level is rather dark through most of the open areas. the lighting, when used, is well done. the architecture in this one (what i could see, anyway) is also done well -- some of the detailing is excellent. i especially liked the cookhouse fire with the "what's cooking" message when you get near it. the combat is surprisingly easy, considering the monster mix, and the attention to theme is obvious. a quick hint: the messages / clues can be somewhat abstract, but remember that all of them have a specific meaning and reference point; as long as you pay attention to your surroundings, you should be okay. i'm not a big fan of puzzle-oriented levels in general, but i liked this one.

The Wrong Way! DEATH.ZIP
1 jan 1997
author: Marc Roussel. the architecture and lighting in this level are both believeable and consistent, and very well done. the combat is frequent, but you're well-equipped for it. there is significant stair-stepping on some of the shadows, though (especially by the wall-mounted lanterns in the air shaft room). you need to find a 'secret' button once you've cleared the first area to open a required door, and this is mildly annoying. finding the silver key to progress was even more annoying, as it's pretty well-hidden and it takes an observant eye to figure out where it is... it took me nearly 15 minutes to find it, but find it i did, so i guess you'll have to be more observant and analytical than i am to find it quickly. the 'sewers' are nicely done, as is the rest of the level up to and including the endgame. the end is a bit tame, but on the whole i enjoyed this level. i probably would have enjoyed it more if i could have determined where the silver key was faster...

Bloodstone DECON.ZIP
1 jan 1997
author: Drakkon (C.D. Roberts). this level is very dramatically and effectively lit, and the architecture is functional. too many technical 'flaws' in this one for my taste, though, from the 'identical texture on all five sides of a button brush' to the 'visible seams between brush joinings'. the exit is also unmarked in any way (other than being a teleporter), which cut this level short prematurely the first time i played it. the architecture lends itself to a freewheeling, open style of gameplay (which i particularly enjoy), but the deathmatch configuration for this level is evident even in single play -- the unmarked doors that wouldn't open, the shelves of ammo i couldn't get to, and the 'extra' monsters i couldn't find or kill (until i noclipped and found them way off the map) kind of spoiled the single-play illusion, as these features are unnecessarily distracting during play. this level is pretty enjoyable to play, but it needs refinement, especially in the area of hiding the deathmatch architecture from the single player.

Devil's Decree DECREE.ZIP
12 dec 1996
author: Jim Ahara. you start with the double-barrel, a box of shells, the yellow armor, and +100 health. grab 'em, because you're going to need 'em. the architecture in this level never crosses over the line into 'oh my god i need to get a screen shot of that', but what is there is remarkably functional and consistent. there was not a single spot in this level where anything built seemed out of place or extraneous. the lighting in this level is among the best in any level i have yet played, including the originals from id. the monster selection and placement is fantastic -- the monsters actually seem to support each other, and, due to this, i observed very little monster infighting. a claustrophobic zombie 'under' room was great to play through, and contained a 3-button puzzle (to open the next door) that was simple yet elegant. i hate lava, and this level has some, but the author has thoughtfully provided a very subtle alternate route. great usage of one-way doors for effect; not once did i feel herded, yet that's exactly what was happening. the rooms are spacious, but for some reason when combat started they seemed awfully crowded... this, to my mind, is a perfect application of monsters and architecture. the endgame (after obtaining the gold key) is slightly anti-climactic, considering all of the fighting that was done to get there, but the combat between the silver and gold keys is some of the best i've experienced in an add-on level. the only down part of this level is that i couldn't find one of the two secrets. you simply must play this level.

this level kicks ass

House of Desolution DESO.ZIP
12 dec 1996
author: Jim Lowell. another fine level from the author of Critters. the architecture and lighting effects are top-notch aside from the stair-stepping shadow effects. believable and consistent throughout. i was somewhat surprised at how easy the secrets were to find, though. since this is this author's first level, though, i'm sure that future secrets will be more difficult. another dark claustrophobic zombie room (you know, though, i think i prefer to fight zombies in a dark low-ceilinged room). the lava river and tunnel with the moving boat is, of course, too cool, and the 3-tiered walkway room is remarkable. it's a little on the light side for monsters, and some of the monsters were really easy to dispatch (that poor fiend kept running into the supports in the hallway). all in all, a classic level, and another one that should really be part of your add-on level collection.

this level kicks ass

Liquid Despair 2 DESPAIR2.ZIP
13 dec 1996
author: Steve Rescoe. the author actually has two versions of this particular level, but i'm only going to review the modified / improved version. top-notch lighting and architecture make this level easily one of the most visually appealing levels i've yet reviewed. true to the title, there are extensive waterways in this level (a big plus as far as i'm concerned). the monster selection, placement, and proportion don't get much better than this. plenty of fish, as you might expect in a water-based level. one item of note that i have not seen in other levels -- when coming out of the first deep water tunnel and going through the door to the left (where the fiend and zombies are) i found that the zombies in that area often became no-clip monsters... i could not kill them with ANY weapon, including the grenades' blast radius. totally impervious to damage. weird. the rooms run the gamut from medium-large open areas to claustrophobic tunnels and passageways. most areas are well-lit, while others are dim but not so dark you cannot see at all. the lighting is, in a word, spectacular. the theme was so well-executed that i actually FELT damp after i exited. to this point, i have not played a finer overall level than this one. period. stop reading these reviews right now and go download this level.

this level kicks ass

2 mar 1997
author: Juha Koiste. this archive comes with two levels -- SETSKILL.BSP and CHURCH.BSP. SETSKILL is just what the name implies; a skill-setting level. it's basic and functional; how pretty does a skill-setting level have to be? CHURCH is an extremely well-built level, with great attention paid to theme, detail, and lighting. it's a little on the small side, however. the combat is lively but not overwhelming. the monster count is a little light, but due to the smallish size of the level, it's done well. this level is very linear, and was fun, if a bit too short. i'd love to see what this author will do with a larger area.

The Death Trap DETHTRAP.ZIP -- 1,154k
27 apr 1997
author: Rick Troppman. you begin on a slipgate pad in a room decorated with Doom and Doom2 textures. the first courtyard, up the lift, runs very choppily; many areas in this level exhibit slowdown. the texture selection is adequate, though many texture have been placed in areas where they simply do not "fit" -- witness the crucifixion texture in the water area for a glaring example of this. the architecture runs from cramped walkways to large, open areas. the flow is erratic and non-intuitive in places... it was a tad difficult to figure out that two underwater buttons (hidden in dark niches, no less) were needed to open a required door. the silver key door (if that is indeed what it is) is marked with the gold-key textures, and i never even found the silver key. (i did find the gold key, but i couldn't find anywhere to use it.) there are five secrets in this level, of which i found one.

update: the author has re-released this level, and has modified some of the above areas. the underwater buttons are now clearly lit and much easier to find. the gold key now works with the gold-key-indicated door. i did find the silver key and the gold key, and exited this level (which has four clearly-marked exits, each leading to a different registered-game level) properly. i also found all five of the secrets.

Dave's Graves DGRAVE.ZIP
13 dec 1996
author: David Nickerson. a huge, sprawling level with a seemingly-random scattering of monsters, weapons, and items. it looks like it's designed for deathmatch play, but the author indicates in the .txt file that it hasn't actually been played in deathmatch. this level has far, far too much open area; outside of the main building, GreyFlash is nearly constant. inside, it gets worse. on one side of the room is a ramp leading to a raised wooden platform -- if the player ascends this ramp and looks over the main room, nearly 75% of the screen is pure GreyFlash. no theme to speak of, other than a modified 'church' theme, complete with altars and pews... though i really couldn't tell as i squinted through the grey exactly what it was.

Discordia DISCORD.ZIP -- 455k
26 aug 1997
author: "Creed". this level has been done in an "outdoor medieval" style, and it has been done very well. play areas are medium-sized, with some running to the large end of the scale. the level runs smoothly throughout, however. flow is semi-linear; you need keys, but you can do quite a bit of exploring and fighting first. monsters have been placed well, for the most part, but the population seems a bit thin for a level this size, which makes the combat easier than it has any right to be. three secrets in this level, but they're hidden pretty well, because i only found one. the level is pretty brightly and evenly lit, but then, it's outside for the most part. one thing i found interesting and really nicely executed were the chains attached to the bridges in this level, which reminded me very strongly of some of the earliest Quake2 screenshots. all in all, a good, strong level; with more attention to combat flow and monster placement, this one would've kicked ass.

Base of Disgrace DISGRACE.ZIP
29 mar 1997
author: Chris Williams. this level is another in the "base theme" mold, but it does stand out as having a base look that i've not seen before, and which has been very well done. it's a linear level with enough non-key-required exploration to make it interesting. some slowdown is evident in a few areas, and a bit of texturing oddity (at the end of brushes, for example) distracts in places. the keyed doors, as well as the exit, are unmarked. this level has a bit of puzzle-solving involved; shooting buttons will open doors in remote areas, and no message indicates where the player should go next, which can be confusing. the architecture and detailing is consistent and believeable throughout, the level shows attention to theme, and flow and pacing have been done well. a fun level, and well worth the download.

this level kicks ass

The Disturbed DISTURB.ZIP
29 mar 1997
author: "marty". this level is another done in the "metal" style by marty. the flow and pacing is superb in this level. the balance between the toughness of the monsters and the availability of weapons and ammo has obviously been carefully crafted; it always seems like you're on the verge of running out of ammo. this level, as in his previous one (see the review for Horror Erotique) runs smoothly and quickly throughout. only one secret in this level, and i didn't find it. a great and absorbing level, despite all the lava (which i don't have a fondness for). highly recommended.

this level kicks ass

Fortress of the Dark Knight DKNIGHT11.ZIP -- 610k
25 sep 1997
author: Tobias Person. this level comes with some .mdl files for use with the level, and the directory information is included in the .zip for convenience in installation. the level has been done very well in the medieval style, with new textures, and looks, feels, and plays like a castle. the architecture is convincing and proportional – if you've ever seen or been in a real castle, you'll recognize the sizes – and gives a fairly immersive feel. i say "fairly" because most of the archways protrude into the various corridors, causing you to frequently become "hung up" on the architecture. the lighting in this level is interesting as it has been done in such a way as to give a "natural" feel – light streams in from windows and centers on lighting elements such as torches. the author has used darkness to great effect in this level as well... normally, i'm annoyed by total blackness, but it works somehow. the ammo load is very tight, and you may have to play this one through a couple of times before you're able to beat it. four secrets in this level, clearly marked, and i found three. the endgame is challenging and a lot of fun, and i really liked the skin that was created for the endgame monster. running speed is good through most of the level, though the three-fiend courtyard was choppy. all in all, a fun level, but the minor imperfections added up to too much irritation for me to recommend it.

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