Mission Type:
Post Date:
John Johnson
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...
Level Review
Overall Score:
Date Reviewed:
86 / 100
80 / 100
92 / 100
93 / 100
First Impressions
This is perhaps one of the most original ideas I have ever seen in a DF level. It has all the characteristics of such great plots as "Jungles of Caldoun" and "Ruins of Talos" (also done by this author). However, the difference with this level is that you're not learning about your identity or finding out things by yourself (with respect to the other two levels). You're actually solving a mystery, which means that there are several characters other then yourself that you need to learn about, and several things that you need to deduce as you work your way through the base. Oh there's plenty of shooting and killing. Also, there are spots where the design and atmosphere fall flat, but overall I think that this level will be remembered for its idea. Hopefully, it will inspire other authors to embark on other original possibilities.
Review Screenshot 1
Review Screenshot 2
Design / Visuals
The design of the level had its ups and downs. On one hand the opening scenes were very well done. The layout of the upper part of the moonbase was not only detailed, but it was also done in a believable sense. I particularly liked the medical room, as well as the parts where you could look out the windows at the lunar landscape. The communications rooms were equally well designed. Lastly, the jungle paths on the planet were also suitably done well, bringing back good memories of "Phantom Point." However, on the other hand, this level at times suffers from a repetitious design. The driving force behind this are the unnecessarily long, narrow, monotonous hallways that frequent the lower levels of the base. Equally disappointing were the two buildings on the planet. The rooms basically consisted of large, white cubes. One had a table in the center, another had a control room, but the majority had nothing in them, save bad guys. Texturing for the most part was well done. The moonbase's upper floor had a wide variety of textures to it, yet they all seemed to come together in a believable, and aesthetically pleasing, sense. The textures on the planet were also impressive, capturing the feel of lush world. The jungle textures, while hardly new anymore, are still nice to look at. There were some areas where too much of one texture was used (around the lower levels of the moonbase, and within those two buildings on the planet), but for the most part everything managed to fit in. I was also pleased to note that misalignments and stitching problems were virtually nonexistent. Other then the doors in the two communications rooms that left an odd stitching error in the center when opened, I didn't find any major problems.
Dynamics / Interactivity
Despite some trouble with enemy placement that this author has had in recent levels, this one is about as perfect as it can get, again bringing back good memories of "Phantom Point." There are no enemies within the first half of the level. This is as it should be since you're trying to solve a mystery in the first half. Later on, the author does a good job with the actual placement of enemies in the last half. The ones along the jungle paths on the planet come to mind. With low lighting and overhead shrubbery getting in the way, it can be very hard to spot an enemy. More then likely it will see you before you see it. This means that the author doesn't have to flood the area with bad guys in order to create a challenge for the player. The enemy generators were a nice touch, insuring that you will be constantly on your toes at the end. Items were well placed, but the number tended to get a little high. For example, there's one room where I counted over a dozen shield recharges. Granted, this is the only spot on the moonbase where you will find any, but I would rather have had them spread out over the whole base rather then confined into one room. The same holds true for the ammo. Moving into the enhancements section of this review let me just say that the author continues to uphold his talent for creating new and interesting features to be displayed in his level. Firstly, there are tons of new BM's and FME's as can be expected from this author. New 3DO's as well as some new WAX's (including a cool looking one at the end) can also be found here. There are even some new VOC's though the person over the P.A. system was a bit hard to understand. There are some nice INF enhancements included in this level too. Since the opening parts are more problem solving then run-and-gun, neat little features have been added to create a more realistic atmosphere. There's also a really cool transport ride from the moonbase down to the planet. Rounding out the enhancements is a briefing that is nothing short of amazing.
Playing Experience / Atmosphere
Lighting was good in that it varied from scene to scene; however, there wasn't a whole lot of shading. For example the upper parts of the moonbase were bright and more pleasant. The lower levels were darker and ominous. This helped set the atmosphere since most puzzle solving takes place in the lower levels. The jungle planet was also darker, conveying an almost eerie tone. All of this helps set the atmosphere and mood. However, within each area there's not a whole lot of variation or shading. The upper floors were brightly lit, but they were all lit to the same intensity. The same holds true for the lower floors and planet surface. It would have been nice to see a little more shading. One thing that does enrich the atmosphere though, and draw the player in, is the whole theme behind the level and the execution of that theme. For the first half of the level, you're trying to figure out what's going on. The author does a good job of creating tension between characters, as well as slowly letting all the pieces come together. The level's semblance and realism was also consistent through much of the level. The moonbase is set up pretty realistically and accurately (except for some of the long hallways in the lower levels, and a cargo room that was placed down there randomly). All in all, it's a refreshing and original approach to the DF game. The one downside though is that the entire experience takes a sharp dive right at the end. The ending is so abrupt that it actually took me a few seconds to realize that it was over. It was a bit of a letdown for me. I mean, you have this suspenseful beginning that's building on itself and building on itself, and then you flip a switch... game over, you win. I was expecting a little more then that. Still, the majority of the level will easily draw you in, especially if you like solving puzzles as well as mowing down bad guys. Mechanically, the level has its share of problems. Although, minor glitches are scarce, (stitching, HOMing, smearing, etc.) and the framerate is consistently high, this level has the tendency to lockup and crash. It happened to me twice, both times while exiting the transport. Others have reported similar lockups, but at different parts of the level. Ultimately, I guess it will come down to your computer.
Review Screenshot 3
Review Screenshot 4
Final Thoughts
This is a great idea and I hope other authors will continue to experiment with new ways of making DF levels. There are a few things that keep this level from becoming truly great, but that shouldn't stop you from trying it out at least once when you have some free time.
80 / 100
92 / 100
93 / 100