|The House of Sadlark||
SADLARK2.ZIP -- 928k
4 sep 1997
author: Jonas N.P. Lindstrom. this level has been done in the medieval style. architecture has been done well, and structures are proportional and believeable. the texturing is interesting; the author has applied a very wide variety of textures to the structures and play areas, and while this effect is usually chaotic, it somehow works here. (remember the E1M* levels in the first Doom? remember how many textures were used, and how they all just seemed to "work" but you could never figure out exactly why? this level is like that.) i would have liked to see more of this level apart from the entry room and first courtyard, but the only door had a "find the secret button" message... and guess what? i never did find it. (i did find what looked like a wall-mounted button in a very small secret room off of the "lobby", but i couldn't shoot it or press it, and it certainly didn't open the door.)
|The Base of Sadlark||
SADLARK3.ZIP -- 855k
4 sep 1997
author: Jonas N.P. Lindstrom. this level has been done in the base style. the architecture is interesting and noteworthy in its attention to theme and detail, and there are quite a bit of detailing features present that don't detract at all from the running speed. the flow is linear and pacing is good, but some of the areas were a bit difficult to move through; the doors in particular were a constant problem. weapons provided are more than adequate, but the ammo is a bit tight. monster mix is varied, with many non-base monsters making an appearance, and some of the mixtures in areas were odd. in addition, it is possible to become permanently stuck in this level. one thing that could have used some work is the "danger" room; you're given a pentagram to get the gold key without damage, but you don't have a clue that you really need it until it wears off... and you die. a pop-up message would have been good. other than that, this is a solid, playable level.
|The Domain of Sadlark||
SADLARK4.ZIP -- 1,122k
4 sep 1997
author: Jonas N.P. Lindstrom. this level has been done in the medieval style and has a very nice transition from the author's previous level. the title in the status bar is too long, making the number of secrets difficult to ascertain. the architecture has been done well, and play areas are both widely varied in size and fun to explore. like SADLARK2, this level requires that you find a secret button to open a required set of gratings; unlike that level, however, the secret button is fairly easy to find. monster mix is consistent with the theme, and they have been placed well. there is an unmarked lethal trap in this level, however. weapons provided are more than adequate for the job, but you're going to have to scrounge a bit for ammo, because the amount is tight. the flow is linear and the pacing is good. a good strong level.
|The Palace of Sadlark||
SADLARK5.ZIP -- 991k
17 sep 1997
author: Jonas N.P. Lindstrom. this level has been done very well in the medieval style. the architecture is very tall and narrow, through most parts, but the running speed remains good through most of the level. the level is fairly intricate in structuring as well. monster placement and combat situations are fun and challenging, and you're given more than enough ammo... but you'll need it. there are plenty of areas to jump on and climb around as well. there is some simply brilliant and believeable architecture present in this level, with texturing and lighting being done well to advance the theme. the flow is linear, with both keys being required, but you never feel herded. the weapons are a bit on the powerful side, considering the powerups available, but it's still fun. all in all, a good, strong level, and well-worth the download.
|The Sacrifice of Flesh||
SADLARK6.ZIP -- 980k
17 sep 1997
author: Jonas N.P. Lindstrom. this level is a mix of base and runic styles, with an emphasis on the latter. the two have been blended pretty well, actually, giving this level a feel and style all its own. the architecture and structuring tend toward the smaller end of the scale, and the detailing has been emphasized due to this. the play areas are a bit constricted, making combat (with some of the tougher monsters) more challenging. as with this author's previous levels, necessary buttons are contained within secret areas, and there is an area (near the silver key) where you can become permanently stuck. also, the presence of unmarked "killer" traps detracts a bit from the level. the ammo and health have been carefully measured and placed, which makes this level that much more challenging. this is a well-crafted and enjoyable level.
|The Insurrection Part III||
29 mar 1997
author: Chris Mayers. this level sports the true-to-form architecture and lighting that are shown in the other three "Insurrection" levels. plenty of maneuvering area and lots of combat make this one of my all-time favorite levels to play. the flow is linear and the pacing is... well, let's just say that after you shoot the first couple of wall-mounted buttons, you'll soon learn to get the hell away from them when you shoot 'em. plenty of varied and interesting areas, and quite a bit of water to wade through (though there's no actual swimming in this one). three secrets, all well-marked (which means i found them all). a lot of platform movement, which is something i've not seen from this author before. did a good job with them, except that some of them don't make any noise, which can be odd. i noted some misaligned textures (box tops, mostly) and some visible brush seams, and the game slows a bit in the first blue-texture "balcony" area (you'll know which one i mean). other than those nit-picks, though, this is a great level to play, and one which i enjoyed immensely. get it as soon as you can.
27 dec 1996
author: Gene Spinks. nice atmosphere and theme with semi-gloomy lighting and predominantly-stone textures. i noticed some TexSmear in the first large room but it's not too bad, and only noticeable if you're in the corner looking at the ceiling. the rooms are generally large and plain and seemed really empty due to the light monster population. there are misaligned button textures (one behind the silver key door) and the exit sign is misaligned as well. there is significant TexSmear on the wooden bridge over the slime -- as much as 40% FOV. this level does not have an 'end of level' count; when you exit, it merely puts you in The Slipgate Complex. all in all, this is an adequate if slightly boring level.
SBLUE.ZIP -- 430k
26 aug 1997
author: YooShin Yang. this level has been done in (surprise!) mostly blue metal and stone textures. this is an extremely fast-paced and intricate level, with play areas usually featuring small, tight, and cramped areas. it contains not only a pentagram (you'll need it), but a pair of quads (you'll want these). there are plenty of weapons and ammo for your fragging pleasure, but there isn't an overwhelming amount; it's just about perfect, though it seems a bit on the heavy side if you're a good shot. this is exactly the type of inyourface action that i like in Quake... it's the kind of action where, when the monsters pop up (frequently) right in front of you, you find yourself yelling at the monitor, "oh, yeah?! well, here, have some of this!" a very challenging and ultimately satisfying level. architecture and lighting are very good, and attention to detail is evident. there were also some nice structural touches; i was particularly impressed with the elegant two-rail walkway in the exit room. pop-up messages are relevant and humorous, and they add a nice touch to the out-and-out blunt ferocity of this level. this level will definitely be among the most exciting and fun 430k you'll download all week.
25 jan 1997
author: Michael Reed. some real fear is found in this level. this is the most testicle-shriveling scary level i've played in quite some time. sudden, killer-when-revealed traps are in this level, but they're not unavoidable, and the author always gives you time (though not much) to decide how you're going to deal with them. they give the level a tension that i've rarely experienced in Quake. the weapons provided seem to be pretty heavy duty for a single-player level (and you get plenty of ammo for each of them, too), but believe me, you'll be glad for it. the placement of monsters is superb, and in most of the situations, the area the monsters are in plays to their tactical strengths marvelously. this level ran very smoothly most of the way through, which is remarkable considering how complex many of the areas are. the lava room is simply magnificent in both architecture and playability, and it's really fun if (like me) you like to explore every horizontal surface you can get to. the level layout (along with a button mechanism or two) rewards the observant player and tactical thinker with many alternate ways out of a situation. the endgame was a bit easy due to the monsters' limited ability to get to you, but otherwise this level is another must-download.
SE.ZIP -- 875k
4 sep 1997
author: Zied Rieke. this level has been done very well in the base style. the word "severe" in the title does very well to explain the opening sequence, as you're under fire from the very beginning and for quite some time. my advice: hit the opening slipgate pad running and find a defensible position as quickly as possible, because if you try to slug it out, you'll die. the monsters have been placed in areas and quantities that make it difficult to concentrate on one group without taking fire from many others, yet the structuring of the level makes it seem like they shouldn't be able to hit you that much... almost like the grunts have chosen semi-hidden spots to snipe at you from. the architecture is complex and convincing, and the lighting has been done very well. the level runs smoothly throughout despite the complexity. some interesting uses of texturing as well; the author has used the original textures in ways i've not seen, but that are remarkable. the level is fairly linear and is surprisingly intricate, and is strongly reminiscent of some of the Ritual base levels in areas. there are four secrets in this level, of which i found none they must be really good secrets. some fun things in the level as well; the nail traps and the underwater/slime areas are fun to explore, and i must admit i loved the sled. a very good and fun level.
19 jan 1997
author: unknown (an email address is given, but no name). this archive contains six very short and sometimes-complicated levels:
S1L1 is a very very vertical level. to estimate real-world dimensions, i'd say it's roughly 100 feet by 100 feet by maybe 900 feet deep... so falling damage is a definite concern. there are few visual clues in this level on the correct way to proceed through it, and it can be extremely easy to fall off the various ledges. an interesting concept, but i found it somewhat annoying overall. the endgame is overwhelming, but at least you've got the tools to do the job.
S1L2 is a simple 'cross' layout with lots of flickering torches (significant slowdown) and straightforward gameplay. getting to the exit after obtaining the gold key is somewhat problematic and non-intuitive, but at least you have a clue as to where you're supposed to look for it.
S1L3 is another small, short, thinly-populated level. the endgame kind of sucks; you need the silver key to open the last door, but when you open it, you're distracted long enough by incoming monsters to miss getting inside before it closes... permanently.
S1L4 has lots of lava, the spiked-ball teleport destination seen in Shub's lair, and non-intuitive puzzles. overall, a frustrating level. S1L5 is a series of identically-furnished and laid-out rooms with an interesting teleporter connecting them. basically, grab weapons, clear a room, teleport through, clear the room, grab the key, teleport through, clear the room, grab the key, teleport through, use the key, and exit.
S1L6 was the most amusing of the six, and the one i played the most (i think i did this one about twenty times). the beginning is an amusement-park-like ride with a series of 'boats', each of which holds a single monster. they travel around the center building in a circle, and the slime they're in is instant death, so don't fall in. this author seems to like puzzles that can't be figured out the first time you play the level; getting the pentagram at the bottom of the lift killed me twice before i figured out where i was supposed to be. between the gimmicks and the somewhat-abundant powerups, i enjoyed this one the most of the six. (hint: don't waste ammo on the shamblers... you don't need to.)
overall, this series appears (more than anything) to be a number of 'test' levels where the author experimented with one new function, then another. if combined into, say, two levels, they might have worked better. as it stands, though, they're novelties.
these levels are not available from cdrom.com, but can be gotten from the mecca.
SEWER12.ZIP -- 753k
10 aug 1997
author: Brian Kline. this level is, as its name would imply, a sewage station of some type. the architecture, lighting, and theme in this level are astonishing in their immersiveness; this is another one of those levels that looks and feels exactly like you'd think it's supposed to, and nothing is extraneous or missing. the flow and pacing have been done well, and the monsters have been selected and placed for maximum effectiveness. the enforcers were not terribly numerous, but they were very difficult to get through because of how and where they were placed. only one secret, that i didn't find. the use of the Ritual specials is integrated very smoothly into the overall look and feel of the level as well. i didn't particularly care for the instant-death trap in the basin (with the megahealth as a lure) but i found it was possible to get the health and survive... on the third try. all in all, a good solid level that is very playable and a lot of fun; well worth the download.
SFEST97.ZIP -- 703k
11 may 1997
author: Brett Wilcock. this level exhibits a mish-mash of themes and styles, from military base to medieval and back. lots of combat going on here, and most areas have been done well, but portions of this level (most notably the "maze" by the water areas where the nailgun is) are strikingly bland. pacing is good, but flow is a bit non-linear at times. monster placement was erratic; in some areas, i breezed through, while others seemed almost insanely tough. the architecture was interesting near the end, but since this area was so large, i experienced a number of places where the game slowed or became choppy. texture selection was good for individual areas, but taken as a whole, again, a consistent theme failed to emerge. some interesting new textures; the jury's still out on the texture in the silver key room. a good, solid level, but one that tries to be everything to everyone, i think.
27 dec 1996
author: Steve Clarke. dark and forbidding, this level starts out quietly enough. the architecture is beautiful, and the detailing is perfectly matched to the theme. combat is unpredictably spaced, with bursts of short and very intense fighting occurring when monsters are encountered. a good use and selection of monsters, as well as intelligent, effective placement -- the architecture seems to work for them more than it works for you. the whole level is exquisitely crafted and the theme is carried out excellently. the endgame is a tad predictable, but exciting nonetheless. a great level.
4 jan 1997
author: Steve Clarke. this is the military base supreme! brilliant architecture and pacing. the monster mix is what's now becoming the Military Base Standard: dogs, grunts, and enforcers. the weapons given you (all the way up to the grenade launcher) seem a bit excessive for a level this weakly (strength-of-monsters wise) populated. the lighting effects are top-notch, and are well-placed and executed for both theme and mood. the level was extremely linear in flow without actually feeling like it, which is a sure sign of an excellently-designed level. the combat was intense at times, while never being overwhelming. the secrets were well-placed and marked; i found both of them. one stylistic nitpick (and one that distracted me more than i would have expected) is that many of the free-standing half-height lighting fixtures had terribly misaligned tops; in one case, the lighting fixture itself was floating in mid-air. other than that, however, this level plays extremely well and is a lot of fun.
8 feb 1997
author: Steve Clarke. this is the best castle-type level i have played. the lighting, architecture, and theme are absolutely marvelous. nothing is out of place in this level; the flow and pacing are excellent. you'll have areas of pitched fighting, and then an interval where you get to wander around and wonder what the hell's going to jump you next. there is more than enough ammo and weaponry to see you through this level. messages are relevant, informative, and appropriate. this is another level where both types of knights and the scrag look like they belong. lots of nooks and crannies to explore, and this level is "real" enough for the player to become totally immersed in the experience; for me, my phone rang twice while i was playing (it sits on my desk less than a foot from my keyboard) and i didn't even hear it. one flaw in this level, though, and it was a big one; when you disembark from the "conveyor belt" type lifts (the vertical boxes in the loop), wake up the monster in that room, and then jump back on the lifts to dodge the beast, a set of bars drops. this would make sense if you were still in the room, as you would have had your only escape route cut off. as it was, i got trapped OUTside, and had no way of opening them. ::sigh:: i loved the copyright notice near the end; perfectly executed, to my way of thinking. the endgame is understated, well-done, and really difficult in places. i only found one of the five secrets in this level, but that just gives me a reason to play it again.
SGC8.ZIP -- 992k
10 aug 1997
author: Steve Clarke. this level has been done in the base theme. the architecture and lighting is nothing short of excellent, and the texturing combined with them gives this level a very immersive feel and mood. the architecture is widely varied in dimensions and structures -- most areas are rather large, but the level runs acceptably smoothly throughout. there are plenty of places to jump on and climb over as well; this level has been made for exploration. the flow is linear, and the popup messages are clear and relevant. monster mix is mostly base standard, though there are some "wild" areas where the medieval monsters make an appearance. there certainly are a lot of monsters, too; 145 on Hard. secrets are marked, and reward the exploring player with all the powerups (i found five of six). one minor flaw is that you can become permanently stuck in this level, even though it takes some doing. a variety of specials have been used to keep you hopping; clever laser-type defenses makes these areas a bit more difficult than you'd think. all in all, a most excellent base level, and a good game.
|Shadow over Innsmouth||
23 feb 1997
author: Steve Rescoe. this .zip comes with four .bsps in one embedded archive and a bunch of .mdls in another. thankfully, the zips have been named with the directory names the files belong to, so installation is pretty easy... though it would have been even easier had everything been in a .pak file. this is another extremely-immersive level. you start in a cul-de-sac with a box of shells and a small pool of water. you must wend your way through another small medieval village, which has been perfectly rendered in dimensions, architecture, lighting, and overall feel. most of the monsters have been given new skins to give a more "sea port" feel to this game, and in most cases it's been done very well -- the scrag's new skin in particular. flow and pacing are excellent, and the combat situations were well-orchestrated; it's tougher than usual to beat some of these monsters due to their positioning. there were a couple of items that jarred, however; in a couple of places, monsters that teleported in got stuck near the ceiling instead of dropping to the floor (i don't know if this was intentional or not, but it was most definitely odd), and i found that it's possible to get past the silver-key gate without needing the silver key. the water areas are among the most extensive i've encountered, and the underwater structuring gives a real "shoreline" feel. the endgame was a bit jarring, though, as the theme under the pyramid is totally different from that found in the town proper... though now that i've seen that quote from the story on Matt's page, i understand why it's the way it is. some really good combat throughout, and plenty of it -- 128 monsters on hard! for look, feel, and playability... well, what can i say? this is another one to add to the "must have" collection.
4 jan 1997
author: "Chris". this level starts in a narrow, highly-vertical area with the player under immediate attack. i never thought i could take this much damage from four grunts so quickly, but since they're on both sides of (as well as above) you, it's difficult to dispatch them all quickly enough. the only way from the beginning is needlessly vicious in both it's population and in the architecture; being caged in a small, dark box with a fiend in my face (even though i've got the ventilator) is not my idea of a good time. after you kill the fiend (which took me four tries), a group of tarbabies launches themselves at you. good thing you're out of ammo by now, or you might have stood a chance. after six more tries, i cleared the hallway and advanced to the next section. this section was easier by far than the first in both it's intensity and population; the last room is packed with death, but since the doorway leading to it is so small, the monsters have no chance to press the attack. i was able to kill a pair of death knights and a handful of scrag with nothing but the regular shotgun. this level is tremendously short, and due to the placement of the last monster, it is impossible to have 100% kills. it is a cool effect, though. all in all, this level is extremely short, tight, horribly overpopulated, and difficult (but not impossible) to win. the architecture and lighting were done well, though there was no coherent 'theme' as such.
8 mar 1997
author: Marc Laidlaw. this is another epic level (two in one day!) both in overall size and scope. the flow is good, though it can be a bit non-linear at times; i sometimes found it difficult to determine where to go next. on a related note, there is a significant amount of backtracking through this level; while this is not a bad thing per se, due to the size of this level and the relative lightness of the monster population, it can become tedious... especially if you're not sure where to go next. the theme and architecture are both excellent; though this level's a bit on the dark side, it more than makes sense for this theme -- after all, how much light do you really expect while you're underground? monster placement is done well, though, again, a level this size could have stood to have a couple more monsters tossed in... it had 52 on Hard, and i'm thinking another 40 or 50 wouldn't have hurt. some of the areas were astonishing -- brilliantly and memorably constructed. the underground graveyard with the multi-level arch wall and the catwalk cavern in particular are two areas i won't be forgetting any time soon. (since i don't like heights all that much anyway, the cavern was particularly gut-wrenching.) now for the nitpicks: since this level is so huge, it runs noticeably slowly in most areas. i noted some GreyFlash (20% FOV) and entity flicker in the graveyard area. finally, it's possible to get completely outside the level (via the chapel's windows) with no way back in. (note: after reading the .txt file, i find that the author knows about this particular quirk... but Marc, how hard is it to raise the sills another 16 units?) all in all, though, this is a most excellent first release; i'll be looking forward to the next smaller, faster-running, and more heavily-populated release.
|Silhouette of Darkness||
SILUETTE.ZIP -- 668k
13 apr 1997
author: Neil Manke. like Neil's previous works, this level carries a strong theme with it, as well as a good story. both the theme and the mood in this one are top quality, given leverage by the judicious (and frequent) use of messages to advance the plot. the architecture is consistent with the theme, and the textures (most of which are new) have been used well. the flow and pacing is excellent, and you're provided with the weapons and the ammo to do the job. there are a lot of secrets in this level (eight total), ranging from the surprisingly-easy to the extremely difficult (i found seven of the eight). the exploring player will be rewarded in this level. the flow is linear as well, but you're given the freedom to roam for some time before you need a key. this level winds in on itself satisfactorily, giving you maximum play value while occupying a minimum of space. there is only one deadly trap in here; if you think fast, though, you won't die. the endgame was surprising; it was very abrupt, and unmarked (though in hindsight i should have expected it), without the normal monster buildup to indicate you were getting near. i did get one RAM warning, though, and one of the required shootable button textures (under the eaves of the barn) was a bit difficult to see. other than those nitpicks, this is a great level, and one definitely worth playing.
SLAUGHTR.ZIP -- 564k
4 may 1997
author: Neil Manke. this level is exactly what it says it is -- a slaughterhouse. the entrance area ran somewhat slowly, especially during combat; with the amount of detail present, though, that's hardly surprising. the texturing (all new textures in this one, as per Neil's normal procedure) has been done well, and the ice areas were notably convincing. (i did find an area i could get to that there was no escape from, though, so be careful where you jump... and what you jump into.) lots of neat tricks and traps in this one; since it's a slaughterhouse, there's plenty of remote-control machinery to do your gibbing for you. and it's fun, too. heh. most areas run toward the small side, and all you're armed with are the regular shotgun and nailgun (the rocket launcher and super shotgun are available in secrets). some travel through liquid is required (i'll let you guess what kind of liquid it is), and though these areas are short, they're very dark, so it's easy to become disoriented. there is one area near the beginning with a bank of three buttons (one light brown and the other two red) on the wall -- be careful around these, because unless you quickly run in, hit the button, and immediately back away, you can get stuck on a button, requiring noclip to free yourself. attention to theme and detail is evident, and some of the new textures in the "office" are, shall we say, a bit familiar -- and a bit flattering, as well. (for the record, i only stared at the green terminal in the office for about, oh, twenty minutes. :) i guess this slaughterhouse has a good internet connection... in any case, this level is a lot of fun to play through.
|Slipgate Research Complex||
SLIPCOMP.ZIP -- 358k
6 apr 1997
author: Bruce W. Krueger. the author describes this level in the .txt file as a "new level for Quake with jumping puzzles and a dark industrial setting." this description is accurate; this level contains quite a few jumping and climbing puzzles (of which one -- the teleporter alignment one -- is extremely non-intuitive), and the setting is dark in many places. many dark places are pitch black, in fact, though the "glow in the dark" textures are used to help you orient yourself. these textures are helpful, but not completely so, and the fact that you really can't figure out the dimensions of a room is a tad annoying. this level is huge, both vertically and horizontally. not much slowdown, but that's probably due to the fact that you can't see much and Quake doesn't have to draw what you can't see. a few technical flaws, such as ramps not meeting up with ledges, were noted. the texturing is good, if repetitive. the combat was solid, when it happened, provided you could actually find what you were shooting at. some interesting architecture nonetheless -- i especially liked the enormous central slipgate. a good concept, but a little more light wouldn't have hurt.
|Spongebath of Satan||
SOS.ZIP -- 788k
24 jun 1997
author: Derek Lawrie. if i could choose two words to describe this level, i'd have to pick "wicked bad", because that's what this level is. the architecture runs toward the small size; most areas are fairly tight, and have been built extremely well. the details in this level follow a consistent theme, and are used throughout (for example, most of the lighting fixtures, as well as the "beams" in the roof, follow a semi-circle construction type) to lend a feel of accuracy i've not experienced in quite some time. the lighting is moody, dark, grim, and oppressive, yet you can clearly see most of the time. the light just isn't where you'd expect it to fall... most of the light sources are low, with the reflected light off the ceiling providing visibility. positively eerie. monster placement and selection is challenging (sometimes extremely so), but you should be able to survive if you're aware of your surroundings. plenty of buttons to shoot and push, and the actions they take when you activate them are usually in the vicinity. be advised, though: you rarely are able to see what the button does when you push it, but you will hear it, so keep your ears open. plenty of twisty, complicated areas give the explorer a good search, but be careful, because the monsters surely do know how to take advantage of the darkness in this level. the flow of this level is linear, and it's not likely you'll get lost in it. pacing is superb; the weapons are given to you right before you need them and, in one case, with just enough ammo to do the job; use those grenades sparingly. the endgame seems brutal, as you're locked in a small courtyard with monsters that are most effective in such close quarters, but you're given the tools to conquer if you're careful. i could go on and on about how great this level looks and plays, but i'll just shut up now and strongly recommend you grab this one right away. amazing work. i think i'm going to go play it again...
STARSHIP.ZIP -- 1,546k
26 aug 1997
author: Neil Manke. this is Neil's newest level, and far and away the best work i've ever seen. as before, all the textures used in the level are of the author's creation, and again, as before, they are extremely well done. as if that weren't enough, most of the monsters in this level have been reskinned. these two features alone would usually be enough to make any level immersive, but the author has gone a step further; by enlisting the coding talent of Einar Saukas to further modify the environment, he has released a level that is unparalleled in both quality and overall immersiveness. like all of the author's levels to date, this one has a storyline and a most definite theme, and the attention paid to this story and theme shines through this level like the reskinned knights' light sabers. you start the level imprisoned in a cell; you escape by short-circuiting the power panel with your body. grabbing a neglected backpack, you quickly arm yourself (oh, did i mention you start with no weapons? not even the axe?) and make a break for it. the environment is as interactive as i've experienced; vending machines take your money and refuse to work, you open doors with clearly-marked and logical switches, every powered item uses the same icon and switch structure, toilets flush, music plays, and access panels give way to reveal secret storage areas. the flow through this level is semi-linear; you can explore to your heart's content, but you'll need keys to gain access to the important areas. it's hard to get lost, though, because the elevator doors are marked with the floor you're currently on. pop-up messages are not only informative, but they all relate to the theme as well, making it even easier to lose yourself in this level. some are humorous as well; one of them, that's related to the interactive environment i mentioned above, makes me glad i'm not "employee of the month". the monsters are placed in order to emphasize their strengths, and some of them are a bit tougher than normal -- a pleasant surprise. the architecture and structuring is nothing short of magnificent, and is a triumph of clean design, believeability, thematic consistency, and is just plain fun to run around in. lighting has been done excellently as well, and the specials in the game are fantastic -- check out the smooth and utterly believeable movement on the "de-freezer" arm. the variable-gravity field in the plasma reactor room isn't just placed in as a gimmick, either; it, like everything else in this level, is clearly and solidly tied into the theme. am i running out of superlatives yet? the endgame is nothing short of spectacular, from getting the last access key on the bridge to making a run for the shuttle bay while the ship bucks under your feet to frantically blasting your way through what's left of the ship's crew to get to the shuttle before the whole friggin ship explodes. i have not experienced tension like this in a level ever; since Einar had shown his skill in so many ways up to this point, i could easily believe that there was some kind of timer running and that i would really die if i didn't get the hell off the ship fast enough. (is there a timer, you ask? you wanna wait around and find out? i sure didn't.) when you exit the level, you're in for a treat, because Neil and Einar have given you a bit more than the fixed slightly-swaying camera angle to stare at, they've given you something that ties in with the theme (just like everything else, up to this point, has) and finishes the story off in a jaw-dropping way. if you get only one level this year, get this one. Neil and Einar, i humbly salute you.
|The Stone of Tear||
STONE.ZIP -- 762k
27 apr 1997
author: Brian Morgan (Duley). this level starts you in a castle, and all you have to do is get out. the architecture in this level is superb, and is a great example of how you can make a level look interesting while still keeping it running smoothly enough to be playable... in fact, there wasn't a single area in this level that slowed down at all, even though some areas looked like they should have. lighting and texturing have also been done extremely well. the flow is linear, and pacing is just right -- you're not left wandering around aimlessly for any length of time, and it seems like there's always another monster waiting around the corner. the only flaw i could find in this entire level (not that i was looking) was that the exit sign texture was reversed. (as an aside, i just got done reading book three of Jordan's series, and this level looks nothing like the Stone i just read about... but who cares?) just trust me -- download and play this level right now. simply amazing.
|Sul's Wrath of Despair||
19 jan 1997
author: "Sul". some nice architecture, though it slows the game significantly in most places. the monster placement in this level seems somewhat arbitrary and, in some cases, ridiculous. a prime example of the latter is the beginning of the level; you have the shotgun and 25 shells, and you encounter an ogre, a pair of scrags, and a pair of fiends. sorry, i don't have that much ammo, even after making the monsters kill each other. a non-linear level; you can wander around freely with no indication of direction and without needing a key for quite some time. i didn't find any significant flow to this level... it seemed to be just a bunch of combat sequences attached by hallways. big and sprawling, this level might have been better suited for mass deathmatch; no secrets were present in this level. all in all, a good level... just not particularly good for the single player.
SUPPLY.ZIP -- 590k
6 apr 1997
author: Darren Johnson. this level's theme is a large supply depot of some kind, and large it definitely is. there are three main levels of play in this one. the first level consists mostly of a somewhat-poorly-lit maze-like structure that surrounds a central courtyard (complete with water pillar). the texturing through this ground area is consistent, but repetitive. monsters are placed regularly in room-like sections. the second level follows the theme of the first, albeit with a slightly-larger texture selection. after finding your way to the "roof" (which took me nearly fifteen minutes; it's really easy to become lost when everything looks pretty much the same), you have to find the gold key (which i never found) to gain access to a tower, which i presume contains the exit. quite a few texture misalignments (mostly buttons and the boxes on the roof) were noted, and once you get to the top, the frame rate drops significantly. this level could have definitely used a little more work on linearity and game flow, along with distinctive structures and areas to orient yourself by, to be a single-player level. as it stands, it appears to be more of a deathmatch level, due to the lack of linearity.
|Somewhere in Time...||
25 jan 1997
author: "Nello". the beginning of this level was a bit confusing for me, in that i wasn't sure which way i was supposed to go first. i spent a lot of time swimming through the first pool (lots o' water! w00p!) before i figured out where i was supposed to go. the architecture in this one tends toward the sprawling, which is a good thing due to the monsters chosen and placed. the more powerful weapons are hidden in secrets, but you can probably get by with the ones in the open. this level demonstrates the first and only time i've been able to beat a pair of ogres, a pair of vore, and a tarbaby with nothing but a shotgun... and without lurking, too. the combat flow is pretty steady through this level, and there are no cheap ambushes. the four-level courtyard at the end is plain in decoration and trim, but superb in form and function. a couple of things that bothered me were the fake barred "door" in the vore room (i don't care for doors i can't get to) and the traps in the 3-out-of-5 button sequence; it'd have been nice for a couple of pop-up messages to indicate what those buttons were for, and that two of them were trapped... it sure would have heightened the tension. also, the exit sign was reversed, and the grating underwater immediately before the gold key door (in the fiend room) made a "message" beep when i tried to surface, but that was all. strange. no other complaints here, though... this level is fun to play.
also, if anyone knows the email address of this author, could you please let me know so i can tell him/her that s/he received the TLKA? the author has asked for comments in the text file, but didn't include the address...
27 dec 1996
author: Josh Robison. seven error messages (four monsters, three items) scroll up the screen at the start. interesting architecture, but a bit strange for my taste. some hard fighting and lots of swimming, but no exit that i could find, not much flow, and a death trap prevents me from recommending this one.