|Altar of Pain||
27 dec 1996
author: T. H. Johansen. when you exit from TEF_SG, you end up in this level. however, since both levels were not downloadable together, i reviewed this one (as i do all of them) from a shotgun start. some good fighting in this one, even from the beginning. watching two zombies wear down one of the fiends (in the first pit) as one of the more amusing things i've watched in quake in a while. the gold key door doesn't open right away when you approach it, nor does it alert you to the fact that it needs a key. sure, the gold key icon is on the wall adjacent, but still... it takes too long to get the grenade launcher in this level; in fact, i was never able TO get it. since there are zombies in the game early, the grenade launcher is a necessity. lots of intra-monster fighting in this one; much more than normal. i wasn't able to complete this level with the weapons provided, so in order to give a complete review, i had to give myself the grenade launcher. this level is seriously overpopulated for both the weapons and ammo provided. the endgame is ludicrous, even with the powerups that are readily available. it'd be a good beta level, because it still needs a lot of playability work, but it does show great potential... most of the things i would have changed were monsters, actually.
27 dec 1996
author: T. H. Johansen. an interesting level with architecture that looked good but didn't feel right. plenty of good combat and no shortage of weapons or ammo. lots of places with visible seams, however, as well as many misaligned textures -- applying the same texture to all five visible faces of a button brush was common. this level felt kind of awkward to play and the flow wasn't easily discovered. the lighting was okay, but parts that should have been lighter or darker weren't. a solid level.
|Spawn City & Water World||
4 jan 1997
author: T. H. Johansen (TJ). this meg-and-a-half file contains a .pak file with two levels in it, as well as three of the new monsters that have been created for Quake -- the Manga Babe, Snakeman, and Willy the Spider. as usual, the levels (TEF_SC and TEF_WW (?)) will be reviewed separately.
TEF_SC was very nicely done architecturally, but near-constant BrushGlut and some GreyFlash (no more than 15% at any location) detracted. this author clearly understands the physics and behaviors of the various monsters, because the ogres in this level that were above me were able to nail me with grenades at distances i hadn't thought possible... and i've got the shrapnel sticking in my ass to prove it. a few tricky puzzles, but the excellent and effective messages that served as clues helped to solve them. a smallish level, but it takes a while to play because of the complexity. the monsters are both well-placed and challenging; i died a couple of times before i stopped underestimating them.
TEF_WW introduces the new monsters. i was honestly prepared for arbitrary and ineffective placement of these new monsters to 'showcase' them. wrong. i had forgotten this author knows how to use monsters, be they 'stock' monsters or new ones. they were placed and used so naturally it seemed like they belonged in the game in the first place (though the sounds were a tad weird). this level runs slowly in spots, but not nearly as badly as the previous level. true to it's name, there is plenty of water to swim around in. some brutal monster placement and well-hidden secrets -- i only found two out of five. the exit is unmarked. the level is very linear in both form and execution, but i didn't notice while playing it. some good play, but nothing extreme or memorable. a good, solid level.
TEFDBL2B.ZIP -- 2,798k
10 aug 1997
author: T. H. Johansen. this pair of levels comes as a .pak file, and are done in the medieval theme. the author has included just about every additional monster i've yet seen into these levels as well.
Into Oblivion is a large, very square level. most play areas run toward the large size, the flow is linear, and pacing is erratic. many new monsters have been tucked into this level, and their placement seems rather arbitrary. for that matter, the placement of weapons and ammo was fairly arbitrary as well. no theme that i could detect; just lots of new monsters to kill as you slog your way to the exit.
Nostalgia introduces the rest of the included monsters. all of the Ritual monsters and weapons are present here as well. the only powerup missing from this level was the ring, and with the firepower you have by this point, you don't really need to be invisible. the architecture in this one was a bit better, as it stuck more closely to the theme. the last outdoor area ran slowly from some angles, but the rest of the level ran acceptably smoothly. the progression is linear, but again, it just seemed like these areas were created to slap some monsters down and start fragging. overall, it's an interesting archive, but it left me a little flat.
|The Temple of Doom||
TEMPLE.ZIP -- 128k
17 sep 1997
author: Michael Rogers. this level is an extremely blocky, slow running, oddly textured level with no discernible theme. items have been placed somewhat arbitrarily. the flow is extremely linear, and there are only three major playing areas. this is a good starting level for a inexperienced level designer, and shows some potential, but this level in and of itself needs far more work.
|The Forgotten Level||
TFL.ZIP -- 722k
27 apr 1997
author: Anders "Backspace" Persson. as one of the Rangers would say, "hooo-AHH"! this level is non-stop action from beginning to end. the good thing is all of the other aspects of level design -- architecture, flow, pacing, lighting, monster and item placement, and texture selection -- have not been overlooked; this level looks as good as it plays, and it runs extremely smoothly throughout. the areas are mostly on the large size, and this is good, because you'll definitely need it. the only problem i really had with this level is the spikeshooter room; it seemed unnecessarily brutal given the theme of the level overall. some good uses of architecture and 3d give this level a true to life "feel". there are two difficulty settings -- medium and hard -- and hard is exactly that; it took me seven tries to beat this level, but it was just as much fun the first time as it was the last. after all the hard combat through the level, you'd think the author might be tempted to make the endgame a bit soft. no worries there, though -- this endgame is just as brutally fun as the rest of it. a really, really fun game, and another must-download.
|The Fierce Livid||
TFL2.ZIP -- 651k
25 jun 1997
author: Anders "Backspace" Persson. this level has been built with a metal theme. the architecture has been very well done; the place is believeable, and the proportions, travel areas, and combat areas all make sense. the texturing is a bit repetitive, it must be said, but the author has used the "scaling" function rather liberally, getting a lot of mileage (and a fresh look) out of the standard Quake textures. the flow is linear, yet you are given plenty of areas to explore before you're required to have a key of any kind; in fact, there is only one key in this level, and it was difficult to see where it was placed (due to the lighting and texturing in that area), even though it's out in the open. the combat in this level is excellent -- it's frequent, can be heavy at times, and the monster selection and placement is very good for the weaponry provided. this level uses the 3d-ness of Quake very well; areas frequently wrap around each other at different elevations. also, since the author has foregone excessive detail, every single area in this map runs quickly and smoothly. i did not find one instance of slowdown, even during combat. there are three secrets in this level, and all of them are marked precisely the same way, which i like... which means i found all three of them. i like this because if i find one of them, i'll know what to look for the next time. that being said, the markings certainly aren't easy to find, so you really feel good when you find one. another great level from Anders.
|This Feels Lurid||
TFL3.ZIP -- 651k
25 jun 1997
author: Anders "Backspace" Persson. this is another fairly large and sprawling combat-ready level. the architecture is proportional and believeable. most areas run toward the large end of the scale, but it never seems bare or sparse. the lighting has been done very well in this level, and there are plenty of shadowed areas for the monsters to lurk in while they're waiting for you. the light sources are textures, for the most part, and are consistently and excellently done; the lighting fixtures make sense. the flow is fairly linear, but like the author's previous two levels, you have plenty of room to wander around before you need a key. secrets are subtle in this level, and no two are marked the same... but they are clearly marked, if you're paying attention. (i found three of four). combat is frequent and challenging, with the monsters being placed to maximize their effectiveness. (one that made me come out of my seat was an ogre right behind a door; i opened it and he was immediately swinging the chainsaw. yow.) there are some specials (moving platforms and the like) in here as well, but they've been integrated well. this level did exhibit a bit of slowdown in a couple of places, but nothing very serious, and definitely not prolonged. another battle from start to finish, and a strong, solid level.
23 feb 1997
author: Marc Roussel. a small, fairly thickly-populated level. very complex in both design and architecture, which makes for a great-looking but extremely slow-running level. some interesting situations and combat in this one, but with the entities flickering in and out and GreyFlash showing up erratically, it was difficult to focus on the job at hand. no theme as such through this level (if there was one, i didn't find it). too much level packed into too small a space, i think... with a few less intricate areas, and more spacing, this level could have run a lot faster and been more fun to play.
|Welcome To The Mill||
6 jan 1997
author: Phil Hammond. this a level you basically thrash your way through. the architecture is functionally plain and the lighting is sparse but done well. it's populated with an assortment of grunts, dogs, and enforcers, and you're provided with the ventilator and two quad damage powerups to dispatch them. truth be told, this level is probably beatable with nothing bigger than the regular shotgun if enough ammo were provided. as it is, it's overkill, and a lot easier than it has any right to be, which is disappointing. no technical flaws, but it really needs more development (and an exit). lots of potential.
|The Lava Mines||
THEMINES.ZIP -- 738k
10 aug 1997
author: Stuart Maine. this is a very dark, linear level with (you guessed it) lots of lava. [ed. note: how do you mine a liquid?] the architecture has been done adequately, though many of the areas have significant areas of dimness next to daylight brightness, making it difficult to tell how well the architecture was actually done. flow is good and pacing is interesting; most of the combat takes place in pretty close quarters, so you've nearly always got monsters right up in your face. five secrets in this level, but they're pretty well hidden because i only found one, though i did see a suit of red armor that i couldn't get to. overall, it's an interesting concept, and it's been competently done, but for whatever reason it feels unfinished.
25 jan 1997
author: Daniel Svensson. an interesting level. the architecture is widely varied and monster placement is somewhat erratic, though entertaining. this level can't quite seem to decide what it wants to be; the author needs to work on texture selection as well, as it didn't follow any theme i'm familiar with. a couple of items (quad damage, red armor, rocket launcher) could have been marked as secrets but weren't. with a little more work on flow, pacing, and texture selection, this level would be top-notch.
18 mar 1997
author: Dann Thombs. yep, it's another pyramid level. entity flicker and significant slowing are present from the very beginning, along with a number of brush seams and misaligned textures. this level has some interesting combat (though it seems arbitrary), but there is way too much health -- in one room, i counted three +100 powerups, and there were over a dozen scattered through this level. finally, the flow and pacing were nearly nonexistent. this one could definitely have used some more work before release.
THETOMB.ZIP -- 535k
10 aug 1997
author: "N.I.B." this level gives you a rocket launcher at the start, and you have to deal with a six-pack of zombies. it's been done in a medieval style, and most play areas are on the large side. the good thing is these areas run smoothly; the bad is that they're bare and sorely underpopulated. very little actual strategy is required in this level -- just keep moving and shooting. the flow is linear, and pacing is fairly regular; it's not hard to guess where the monsters are going to be. i noticed quite a few brush seams in this one (most notably in the little "fire fountain" where the silver key door is) as well. the author clearly understands the rudiments of level construction; now all that's needed is a solid theme to tie it together and a bit more attention to details.
|The Hall of Trilogy||
18 mar 1997
author: Stuart Presley. this level contains functional and easy-to-move-in architecture, and the lighting (which has been done well) sets the mood. the monster mix is good and challenging for the weapons provided. the ornamentation in the main area of the level has been kept to a minimum (aside from the Trilogy logo, which is pretty cool), and as a result the running speed is excellent throughout. most of the action centers around the main hall area, with some open side rooms (no doors) providing health and ammo... this leads me to believe that this level is more deathmatch-oriented than most single-player levels. good flow, though, and a clear linearity, so the single-player aspect hasn't been overlooked. this level contains one of the harder skill jumps i've had to do (to get an item), and it was satisfying to have done it. all in all, a fun game, but not as intense as it might have been.
|Trilogy Military Installation||
27 dec 1996
author: Stuart Presley. true to it's name, this is a military installation, strongly reminiscent of any of the e*m1 levels from Quake. this level is, in a word, wonderful. the pacing is perfect, the monster mix and placement is tough but survivable, and health is scarce, so learn to dodge. no secrets to be found in this level. the lighting is appropriate and varied and the flow of this level is excellent. the messages were also well done. this level could easily have been in the original Quake and you wouldn't have known the difference. simply put, this level is superb both in form and function, and i cannot WAIT for the next installment to be released.
|Temple of Lightning||
TOL.ZIP -- 251k
25 jun 1997
author: John Parr. this level is a temple-like structure (surprise, surprise). in architecture and theme, it's top-notch; the proportions and texturing both do much to give the player the feeling that this is indeed a temple of some type. not too many monsters in it, but there isn't a whole lot of ammo, either, so be accurate. the lightning specials were everywhere (after all, this is a temple of lightning), and were placed in such a way as to be barely survivable. the entrance pentagram, for instance, was impassible without taking a significant amount of damage, and the exit is the same way. i died four times just trying to leave the level after i had beaten it. all in all, it's a good effort -- and this author shows a lot of potential, as this level has a polished look to it -- but the excessive lightning specials ruined it for me.
note that this level requires that you have the Hipnotic pack installed. the level will run without it, but you won't have any lightning... and you'll get a large number of "error" messages at start-up.
TOMB.ZIP -- 564k
10 aug 1997
author: tobias person. this level, as the name would indicate, is a tomb, and the architecture and lighting have been done very well in this theme. the flow is linear and the pacing is good; the amount of weapons and ammo you're provided, though, are a challenge to any player. as an example, the opening area requires you to kill four zombies with 5 rockets in extremely close quarters... and did i mention that there are gravestones scattered around to make moving difficult? after you dispatch the zombies, you're given a regular nailgun to take on a death knight in that same area. the rest of the monster placements in this level follow in roughly that same vein: you're overpowered in places that make it very difficult to move around (like taking on two death knights on a bridge over lava, for example) and, most of the time, you don't really have enough ammo to finish them off. another thing i have a problem with is being dropped for long distances on the required way through the level. aside from all that, the level has been very well built, with interesting architecture and lighting and excellent running speeds throughout. the ammo given you is horribly inadequate, though; at the end of the game, i had run completely out of ammo and still had to take on (in this order) a death knight, a shambler, a vore, and an ogre. hey, i'm good with the axe, but i'm not that good... in any case, it's an interesting and pretty fun level if you don't mind using god mode to get through it; with a little more work on weapon and ammo balance, this would would have been a winner.
27 dec 1996
author: Gyro Gearloose. this level is claustrophobic in the extreme, but since the theme is a dungeon with torture chambers, that's not unexpected. this level is full of brilliant architectural concepts and constructions -- from the skull with flaming eyes in the first area to the Easter Island heads near the exit to the chunky protruding-keystone arches, this level exhibits one great idea after another. not too many monsters in this level, but due to the tight quarters, the combat is nearly always intense. a couple of the monsters seemed out of place in this level, though. the secrets are well hidden (i didn't find either of the two) but due to the cramped complexity of this level, they could be nearly anywhere. attention to theme and overall consistency is excellent throughout. overall, a well thought out and well-executed level. highly recommended.
|The Ruiner's Revulsion||
TRR.ZIP -- 712k
10 aug 1997
author: Luke Higgins. this level has been done in the medieval style. the architecture in this level has been wonderfully done in most places; this level feels like a castle complex or suchlike. it also runs toward the large end of the scale, but oddly enough, it only slows significantly in the first courtyard outside the castle. the flow is linear and the pacing is interesting; it'll be quiet for a while, but if you shoot one monster, it seems like they come climbing out of the walls to get at you. two secrets in this level, both well marked... which means i found both of them. the lighting has been done particularly well to give this level a mood all its own. the killer trap at the end of the level didn't thrill me all that much, but then, killer traps never do. all in all, this is a fun level and a good game, despite the intermittent slowdown.
|Temple of the Secret Society||
TSS.ZIP -- 690k
6 apr 1997
author: "Ace". this level is a trap-filled temple that you're trying to clear out. i liked the message at the beginning, which immediately lets you know what theme this level is modeled after. the architecture, structures, and lighting in this level are very well done, and adhere to the theme very nicely. the traps range from the somewhat-common (spike shooters) to horrific variations of stuff we've seen before... the spiked ceiling trap still gives me the chills when i think about it. (something for Dr. Freud, perhaps...) defeating the altar was pretty straightforward, and a lot of fun. the author has come up with an area that is as disorienting as it is challenging to play through, and rather than ruin the surprise, i'm simply going to say "you have to see it to believe it". the ending of this level is brutal, however, and i strongly recommend that you save often after you first encounter the damage slime. some technical nitpicks (brush seams, mostly) but even though this level was pretty large, it ran acceptably smoothly throughout. trying a theme that really hasn't been done before is challenging enough, and pulling it off this well makes for a fun level.
|The Temple of Torment||
11 jan 1997
author: Juha Koiste. architecure and lighting in this level have been done extremely well, if a bit sparsely. the detailing on some of the light sources, as well as the architectural accuracy (i.e. beams and supports) are consistent and believeable. the monster placement is a bit erratic, and in no place was i in any real danger of dying. as in this author's other level, the flow is extremely linear, with no keyed doors; basically, you enter a room, clear it, and proceed to the next. weapon placement is appropriate without being overpowered, though there is a bit too much ammo for the monster mix. this is a good base for a larger, more complex level. i can't wait to see what this author will do with a full level, because these bits of level that we're being teased with show fantastic potential.
this level is not available on cdrom.com, but is on the Thred homepage's files section.
|The Warfare Warehouse||
TWW.ZIP -- 539k
11 may 1997
author: Ludovic Texier. this level is exactly what it says it is -- a warehouse. attention to theme, using architectural detail, is excellent. the level is one of the most detailed levels i've played, yet, thanks to it's design and size (most areas tend toward the smaller end of the scale), it's also one of the smoothest-running. complicated stairwells, plenty of nooks and crannies, and small open areas give the feel of a warehouse that has been added to sporadically and inconsistently over the years, and it has a "realism" that cannot be denied. combat is fairly frequent, but with only 25 total monsters on Hard, you won't be fighting any pitched battles. the monsters are placed in ways that make it appear that they're trying to hide from you, to ambush you all the better when you do stumble past the spot they're lurking in. all the weapons are present, and you really don't need the more powerful ones, but this is a warfare warehouse, after all. play is linear, but since the level winds in and around itself so much, it's very easy to get lost; since the level's so small in overall size, you won't stay lost for long. this level is one of the few i've played that's reminded me of Doom in mood as well, and that's a feeling i must admit that i've missed... the sensation that eyes are on you all the time and it's just a matter of time before something jumps you. nearly every single area is worthy of further description, i kid you not, and if you want to download and play a level that is a triumph of theme and design, then you'll want to get this one now. the only problem i had with this one, though, is the silver key right before the exit; what does it go to? excellent work, Ludovic. when's the next one coming out? :)
note: this level is not available on cdrom.com, but is on the Shrak download page; the link in the title bar points to that page instead of just the file, as is normal.