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Review: Liberation of Na Pali

Project Information

  • Title: Liberation of Na Pali
  • Author: Steve "Roswell" Farrow
  • Platform: Unreal
  • Category: Single Map
  • Review Score: 64%

Main Review

You truly get the impression that at any point, the level can come alive and swallow you

Liberation of Na Pali is an ambitious little map. You play as a generic human soldier of unknown affiliations who crash lands onto the shoreline of an alien canyon. The second the level begins, you'll immediately slam into the coast. You take a superficial amount of damage before you can guide your character out onto dry land. And you'll have to do this in a timely fashion, because a patrolling Skaarj shuttle (possibly the very same one that shot you down) will hover around the crash site and deploy a payload of bombs before moving on. Not long after that, a second human vessel cracks out of the sky and crashes into the surrounding lake. Another Skaarj shuttle surveys that wreck with a rather cleverly used search light, before moving on.

Thus begins Liberation of Na Pali. As your wingman's craft goes down in the drink, you'll receive the first of several first person narrations in the form of a single line message at the top left of the screen. Our hero hardly evokes Hemingway, but it's an effective narrative guide. The story isn't explained as much as it is suggested. You get the impression that you and your unlucky partners were conducting some sort of offensive on the planet before you were shot down. In a unconventional way, it is almost as if you are really playing the part of the antagonist. Log entries from Krall lackeys offer intriguing, if humorous, views about humans. While an aggressive human persona is merely suggested, the nature of the level's plot line is always brief and leaves the imagining to the player.

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What is fleshed out, and this is probably the best part of the map, is the gameplay. There isn't a boring moment, and although you'll barely fight more than thirty enemies the entire game... there's a lot of conceptual integrity to your adversaries. You'll be engaged in kinetic chase sequence (think Attacked! or Xidia: The Escape). You'll be stalked in a large crate depot by patrolling troopers and snipers. You'll be locked onto a condemned rig and forced to jump off of it before a dipping mechanism rolls you into molten lead. You'll be able to animate parts of your environment by simply prompting them accordingly. You'll have to outrun a landing craft before it runs you over. You'll even activate a conveyor that sends a hapless Nali bunny through a machine that grinds it into a health pack. The list goes on. While the combat is genuinely infrequent and limited to usually two enemies at a time at most, you'll feel engaged from beginning to end. However, don't look for diversity. In the course of the map you'll be fighting Krall and Skaarj for the most part, with occasional Pupae sightings and two Brutes to round it off. That's it. Suffice it to say, there are plenty of other single maps that offer a much larger bestiary.

What's also interesting to note is that the game doesn't put you on a set path to acquire your inventory. Although the general path is fairly linear, you're on your own to collect weapons. For instance, ignoring your partner's crash site beneath the lake will leave you without an Automag. Not checking out the Krall mess hall will leave you without the almighty Flak Cannon for the meat of the pack. Killing certain enemies is the only way to obtain a good half of the guns. Health is in decent supply, although it's quite difficult to actually get killed. In regards to difficulty, the map is a pushover and depends completely on your ability to explore every nook and cranny.

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Something that will become immediately apparent to players is the sheer simplicity of the level design. Obviously an aged map, you'll be treated to a very basic environment with all the worst texture choices an Unreal mapper could select. First off, themes don't match. You'll see Krall and Skaarj operating in a Mercenary themed establishment. Although much of the architecture is simplistic, and seemingly labyrinthine in appearance, the layout itself is truly alien. It's almost as if the author looked at the conventional way to make floor plans and said, "Nah". Much of the interior areas are at angles, where entire rooms seem locked on a tilt. It's effectively disorientating and wonderfully unique. Lighting may be average, but what the author does with it is not. Dynamic parts of the environment, like vehicles or transit passages, have real time ambiance. Activity lights blink and change color on elevators, vehicles can engage and disengage their searchlights, and entire hangars will shut down during a security alert. But what really gets the cherry is the way Movers are used. They play a big part of this map. From enormous set pieces that react to game events to holograms made from miniaturized prefabs to enemy stand-ins (shuttles, ect)... you truly get the impression that at any point, the level can come alive and swallow you.

Summary

Overall, Liberation of Na Pali is more of a fun, interactive map than anything. There's no real difficulty, unless you make bad gameplay choices. And from a visual standpoint the age is painfully obvious. But the story is a bit uncommon, if sparse, and while the environment is simple it is expertly crafted in other ways. Even though it probably won't make you break a sweat, you'll be grinning like an idiot from beginning to end.
Review Scores
BuildThe combined value representing the technical quality of the level's construction.60% CastThe combined value representing the imagination and reasoning behind the level's conceptualization and design.68%
ArchitectureImagination, realism and detail of structures used in the design of the level.4 Conceptual GrandnessScale, imagination, awe & originality of design and layout, physical foreshadowing of future areas.6
TexturingUse of textures in the level. Technically speaking, alignment and scaling. Choice of textures, and quality of any custom textures used.4 Story ConstructionBacking story & progression via translator, subplots, and script of voice acting where applicable. Logical choice of opposition.5
LightingLighting of the level: does it look cool? Use of light colour and other effects, and sourcing of lighting (no light out of nowhere).6 Story ImplementationProgression of the written story via the events of the level, and performance of voice actors where applicable.7
SoundUse of ambient sounds and event sounds to give the level atmosphere, and the quality of any custom sounds. Appropriate use of music and silence to complement the atmosphere.7 Gameplay AweQuality of scripted sequences, originality and staging of combats. Maps that force the player to "learn by dying" will be penalised.9
Technical ExecutionTechnical soundness of the level, i.e. no visual glitches, no random deaths or other gameplay bugs, and a good framerate.9 Gameplay BalanceBalance of weapons and items to creatures, including difficulty settings. Most importantly, fun factor.7
Final Verdict: Fair
Score: 64%

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