Not Enough Room To Swing A Cat
For some reason this map felt too small, compared to other 768 maps I felt like I was constant bashing into walls and getting stuck on ledges all the time. Plus the odd time I would take damage for no reason at all on lifts which is never good if the skill level are hard, hard and extra hard.
I feel the scale is wrong on the architecture for the size of the map. The trims are just too large, the window borders are too thick, doorways felt too small with large metal frames. Alot of the curved staircases were awkward to walk up probably because of basic Q1 movement over odd angled surfaces.
The encounter balance felt all wrong to me. First AI was 2 ogres up high bouncing grenades at me while I was wondering where I was. To compound this problem further is that the first curved staircase is awkward to climb and the ledges have no strafe space. The tiny lift you go down and have spawning AI on your head is difficult because there is no room to move and to compound the problem the lift caused some damage from some wierd clipping problem.
The first locked door should of been more obvious and had a blue key symbol on it. The route back up after the blue key room is crazy, it felt like too many AI being thrown at me. Ogre's spawning out of thin air, enforcers going crazy from ledges and even one of those really annoying bob flying robot things. (I am sure most people hate those things)
The switch in the middle of a room that opens a door on the other side was awkward because the sound clue was masked by the door closing behind me. Plus the timing of the event did not make any sense that is opening a door out of view and on a short timer.
After a while each room felt like a trigger for an event that will probably kill me. Like for example the fiend trying to sit on my head when I came up a lift into a brand new area. Or the shambler at the top of a curved staircase with no where to dodge besides going back and using a low archway. The AI did not feel right in the space they were in and balance felt wrong.
At one point I went up a really long lift shaft and briefly saw a really good stash of weapons and missed it. Once at the top of the lift I was presented with a crazy hard quoth monster and luckily kill it with a shotgun! That cache of weapons should of been easier to get, it would have made the fight more fun and not make me feel like I was trying to kill a crazy monster with a tooth pick.
I really liked the idea of the level spliting off into puzzle and death traps. It was really nicely done, I liked the choice. So I tried the puzzle route first because I was curious to see how it was done.
The first puzzle room was hard, in the end it came down to some crazy hard to find button panel buried in a texture pattern. The first button to open the doors should of been easy and the style should of been consistent. The second button on the ceiling was crazy hard again but the best bit was the 3rd section to smash the jammed button. It made me smile when it was complete and I felt clever for solving it.
The next puzzle of the bridge extending thing I could not solve, I could not see any mechanic that worked, needed fixing or texture button to unlock something. There were no clues what to do next and the thing on the ceiling did nothing. (I assumed it was button from previous experience) I think the puzzle section failed because there were not enough clues (except the button jam). If you are going to do hunt the button, it has got to be consistent and an obvious mechanic of what is expected to be done.
I tried the death trap route and I liked the air lift puzzle section the best. Sadly after a while I just ran out of health and switched on god mode to see the ending. There should of been a health pool or respawning health box somewhere near the start so I can stock up and retry the route again. Also the don't push this button thing, was weird and did not make any sense in the context of the map.
The final fighting felt like a typical spawn fight sequence and I was expecting something much more clever. I am not sure why this is so popular in Q1 maps where you run around a tight room fighting hordes of AI and just end up bashing quicksave all the time. I really wanted a puzzle boss fight, where I did something with the environment for a change.
Overall the architecture and textures are gorgeous and well placed. I really liked the vertical element to the map but the gameplay did not feel right to me with forced encounters squashed into a small space. I really do love negke work but it feels like it needs more polish and skills levels for explorers like me! :P
Here is a couple of demo recordings : http://www.simonoc.com/files/misc/768_negke_sockdemo.zip
I am not sure how to play them, I recorded them with Fitz 0.85 engine, hope they work ok.