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Review: The Abandoned Colony

Project Information

  • Title: The Abandoned Colony
  • Author: Edd 'EddX' McRobbie
  • Platform: Unreal Tournament
  • Category: Single Map
  • Review Score: 35%

Main Review

Gameplay suffers greatly from the lack of weapon and monster progression

Released in 2000, this map was brought to us by the same author who made Zero Black. Eddx had only one previous work before this one – The Skyshard, an Unreal map pack. The Abandoned Colony is built for Unreal Tournament Singleplayer. It works fine under the Oldskool mod.

What we get here is a medium sized map along with an ending map. The readme file that comes with The Abandoned Colony gives us a short story from the perspective of you, the player. The setting of this map is a cold planet with a colony of some sort. Unlike what the title would have you believe, the colony is actually taken over by unknown hostile forces rather than abandoned (this is obvious the first 30 seconds of the adventure). This setting is reminiscent of the movie “Aliens”. You even start out in an armored buggy vehicle with wheels like in the movie Aliens, as shown in the screenshot below.

[image:1]

At first glance from the starting room, the architecture seems reasonably sound and well built. You exit a fairly well crafted armored buggy into an Ice Planet (using GenEarth textures) and see a gloomy base lingering in front of you. As exploring commences, the architecture quickly shows its flaws. The terrain isn’t that bad, but the detail for the base seems slapped together from cylinders and triangles. The inside of the base is not much different. Details are cut out from basic shapes in a majority of the rooms. The mapper made a common mistake often seen in new mappers – rooms were based on squares, cylinders, and little else. This makes things seem a little rushed. On the plus side, there was a decent amount of work put into the ceiling and floor detail. Beams and grates with pipes showing through them are most commonly used as the source of detail. The second most common detail used is many computer terminals with chairs in front of them (or fallen over in some cases); it works well enough.

The primary problem with the visuals in The Abandoned Colony is the many errors in texture usage and alignment. The terrain would have looked much better had it been aligned properly. There are a few UTtech textures on a side of a cliff in the first area that were obviously meant to be ice textures. Some of the UTtech textures seemed awkwardly used in several parts of the base as well. The texturing was bland throughout most of the map, with the same textures used repeatedly from UTtech. On a positive note, the textures were presentable on the many pipes seen in the floors and ceilings, and the computer terminals weren’t half-bad either. I believe some custom made textures were used for labels and terminals in various parts of the colony base.

There is an obvious attempt to use lighting to enhance the atmosphere in The Abandoned Colony. Blinking, flickering, pulsating, and ambient glows are used in numerous areas. The effects are nice in a few parts, but overall they turned out to be annoying rather than atmospheric. The greatest problem with lighting is in the dark gloomy setting. There are so many dark corners and shadows that flash lights felt mandatory for the entire short adventure. The result is like playing in a film noir made in the 50s rather than an Unreal map. Zone Lighting was heavily needed in certain rooms to prevent this shrouded feeling.

Sound is average in this map. I didn’t notice anything fancy, nor did I notice anything annoying about the sounds used. Eddx did seem to spend a decent amount of time placing sound actors around to get you feeling like you are in a colony in some mysterious planet. The sound score could have been increased with a few tweaks in the pitch and volume of certain sounds. As it currently stands, the sounds are just plain ol’ Unreal sounds that we’ve all heard plenty of times before.

The highest point of this adventure is the story. You are greeted with many translator message beeps and computer terminals that explain the situation and status of the Colony. The story is easy to follow and is probably one of the few factors that will make you want to finish this map. You learn of the reasons behind the presence of the Skaarj through translator messages deployed on dead bodies of people. The Abandoned Colony gives you a neat little flyby ending after the short adventure that further enhances the story. There are a few problems with the story could have been easily fixed however, such as spelling errors in translator messages. There were also times when I felt there was an overabundance of translator messages in front of computer terminals. We are given unnecessary information, such as the status of engine cores and base stability (which wouldn’t be that bad if there were only a few).

[image:2]

Gameplay was repetitive in The Abandoned Colony. Anyone who plays this had better enjoy using UT Enforcer, because it is used to get about 80% of the kills in this map. The Gameplay suffers greatly from the lack of weapon and monster progression. From beginning to end, I was hoping for something bigger than a measly Enforcer. You do get an eightball gun fairly quick, but all it had was the default load of ammo and one rocketpack. You also get a shockrifle about 3 quarters into the map, but that ammo is also used up quickly and you are stuck with the enforcer again. Most of the battles were against Skaarj warriors and Pupae that just sit and wait for you. There was one creative battle against a Skaarj on an elevator, but for the most part the battles were non-scripted and dull.

The mapper could have enhanced the gameplay experience with some more scripted events. There are a few here and there, such as parts of the base falling apart towards the end of the map accompanied by earthquakes; nevertheless, this didn’t seem enough to make the experience very memorable. There was one major problem that should be mentioned – the game crashed several times in the end battle for reasons unknown. Perhaps the crash could have been fixed with another rebuild of the pathnodes (it seemed to crash when I disturbed the end boss, which is also seen when forgetting to rebuild the paths for bots in UT multiplayer), or maybe the crash was just a fluke. Either way, this made the ending less enjoyable. The crash bug wasn’t mentioned in the readme file, so it seems to be something that EddX missed in the testing stage.

Summary

EddX is well known for his more modern work Zero Black and should not be tainted by his older works such as this. This map might be worth a look for those interested in seeing how Eddx got his start on mapping, or for those who have time to kill and have played all the other well-known SP maps already. Other than that, this map isn't fully satisfying.
Review Scores
BuildThe combined value representing the technical quality of the level's construction.30% CastThe combined value representing the imagination and reasoning behind the level's conceptualization and design.40%
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.2
TexturingUse of textures in the level. Technically speaking, alignment and scaling. Choice of textures, and quality of any custom textures used.2 Story ConstructionBacking story & progression via translator, subplots, and script of voice acting where applicable. Logical choice of opposition.6
LightingLighting of the level: does it look cool? Use of light colour and other effects, and sourcing of lighting (no light out of nowhere).2 Story ImplementationProgression of the written story via the events of the level, and performance of voice actors where applicable.6
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.4 Gameplay AweQuality of scripted sequences, originality and staging of combats. Maps that force the player to "learn by dying" will be penalised.3
Technical ExecutionTechnical soundness of the level, i.e. no visual glitches, no random deaths or other gameplay bugs, and a good framerate.3 Gameplay BalanceBalance of weapons and items to creatures, including difficulty settings. Most importantly, fun factor.3
Final Verdict: Below average
Score: 35%

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