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[u1] [ut] Custom Map Review: 'Shamu Quest II' by Jean 'El Chicoverde' Rochefort

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User avatar Delacroix
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Subject: [u1] [ut] Custom Map Review: 'Shamu Quest II' by Jean 'El Chicoverde' Rochefort

Post Posted: 13 Nov 2013, 16:40

Map Information:

Map Title: ShamuQuest: Part II
Map Author: Jean "El Chicoverde" Rochefort
Reviewer: Delacroix
Review Score: 75%
Tagline: While not as grand as the original, this pack is certainly more polished.

Main Review:

When the original tri-pack of ShamuQuest appeared in January 1999, the Unreal community was shocked - at least those lucky enough to find the pack since it never showed up on Nali City. And for a good reason. Never before has there been a pack as grand as that one. Each map took at least thirty minutes to complete, sometimes longer, and the visuals were breathtaking - especially in the Temple of Soquatre, which is Chicoverde's magnum opus to this very day. How does ShamuQuest II fare in comparison to such a legacy?


The Shamutanti mountain range in its full glory.

It isn't clearly stated in the readme, but judging from the translator messages and the setting, the pack is most likely a prequel to the original. The player begins their journey in the Shamutanti mountain range, quite possibly straight after finding this secret route in Sacred Passage that the original's release notes preach of (word to the wise: it isn't there so don't open the map to look for one, it's purely Jean's idea). The player, while finding their dead comrades along the way and commenting accordingly, is given their assignment: to find the "Crown of Nali Kings" and prevent the Skaarj from taking control of it as it is a relic of extraordinary power. Nothing we haven't seen yet, but well constructed, both by the player's comments, Nali talk and scattered notes - this time with less typographic errors than in the original pack - and actually fitting the regular translator, for once. So, ShamuQuest II not only explains the setting of the original, adding onto it, but also does it with less issues of its own.


The prison cell of the Nali. Makes me think why they even bother to build these since the tennant just teleported out.

The visuals have improved as well. While obviously less grandiose than the previous set - Eelhandra's temple is no match for Soquatre's, not even by a long shot - the maps contain way less BSP/HOM issues, the textures are for the most part aligned properly and not stretched ad nauseum (which was abundant in the outside maps of the original). The lighting is also improved, everything that should be visible, actually is visible, but the levels aren't too bright. It's just right. The environment isn't all that varied - the first two maps take place in the Shamutanti range's similarly looking valleys, chasms and rock formations - but one can clearly see that Chicoverde certainly HAD an idea for the locales and he implemented it well. This also ties into the backstory: traces of conflict between the Krall forces and the Skaarj Kh'halan Clan are seen by absence of Skaarj in the Nak'halinra Peak area and by the Skaarj corpses and broken inventory scattered all over the Valley of Eelhandra.


An excellent example of Skaarj cruelty. Impaled natives. Turns out Vlad Tepes wasn't the only one to come up with the idea, huh.

As I said before, the Temple of Eelhandra is no match for the standards set by the Temple of Soquatre from the first pack. It's obviously smaller and less complex in design. While it could certainly work as a sacral area as it is realistic enough, it's obvious that unlike its competitor from the original, Eelhandra's place of worship won't be stealing the show. It's there, it's atmospheric, it's beautiful, it works - but there are no fireworks. Period.


The temple of Eelhandra, from the front. While not as grandiose as Soquatre's, this is still a sight to behold.

Speaking of the atmosphere, it's being built up masterfully - not just by the visual layer, the rich (to the point of abundant) ambience is there to save the day as well. The player can truly feel that the environment around them is alive. The music is equally fitting - and while the initial track, accompanying us for the entire first map and a good portion of the next one, may come across as a bit monotonous, if you're new to ShamuQuest, you'll most likely never notice it in the first place.


The temple of Eelhandra, the rune chamber. Let the dalliance with the lightnings begin.

The gameplay is Chico's standard from day one and that means the cream of the crop as far as classic Unreal formula goes. The enemies utilize the surroundings with deadly precision - more than once the Krall attempted to kill me with the stationary cannons, e.g. destroying the bridge I was just standing on or shooting almost right at my feet - both close calls there and if the player is unprepared, these shots might not necessarily miss. The opposition isn't all that varied though - the first level is dominated by Krall forces most of the time, assisted by brute force -- literally. In the valley, Skaarj begin to show up more often and in the temple itself it's mostly them and their aquatic cousins, the Slith.


The sacred pool... and the door that leads into the bowels of the temple.

I am however taking issue with the events that take place after the player obtains the rune which is the main objective for this prequel pack. If they don't move away from the rune altar, they'll be instantly vaporized by the Random Unannounced Killer Lightning Of Death. What follows afterwards is a battle with two completely invisible Skaarj Lords. Thanks, Jean. To add insult to injury, the same Random Unannounced Killer Lightning Of Death will repeatedly attempt to kill the player as they backtrack to the previously locked off areas. While nobody will fall into the same trap twice, that kind of learn-by-dying mechanic can prove frustrating... and needless. While it isn't abundant - it just happens pretty much in one place only - being staged in the climax of the pack makes this problem the most memorable of all the game's issues.

Summary:

ShamuQuest II may not be as grand as the original ShamuQuest but there's no doubt about the fact that the pack is certainly more polished than the previous set. Everything from visuals and audio to the story and gameplay just oozes quality and professionalism. It is no wonder that Jean Rochefort has made his way to a professional career in the gaming industry as he certainly deserves a place there.

BUILD (50%)
Architecture 7
Texturing 8
Lighting 7
Sound 8
Technical Execution 8

CAST (50%)
Conceptual Grandness 6
Story Construction 7
Story Implementation 8
Gameplay Awe 8
Gameplay Balance 8

Total Score: 75%

Download links:

shamuquest2_u1.zip - Dropbox (U1 release)
shamuquest2_ut.zip - Dropbox (UT release)
Last edited by Delacroix on 13 Nov 2013, 23:03, edited 1 time in total.
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I am the Unreal archivist and historian. If you have something from the past of Unreal that I don't have, do tell.

User avatar TheIronKnuckle
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Subject: Re: [u1] [ut] Custom Map Review: 'Shamu Quest II' by Jean 'El Chicoverde' Rochefort

Post Posted: 13 Nov 2013, 22:58

(both those links give the U1 version)

sweet, i thought we'd reviewed all the chico stuff already. This will be fun to play
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User avatar Delacroix
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Joined: 21 Dec 2007, 17:22
Location: Poland.ut3

Subject: Re: [u1] [ut] Custom Map Review: 'Shamu Quest II' by Jean 'El Chicoverde' Rochefort

Post Posted: 13 Nov 2013, 23:04

TheIronKnuckle wrote:(both those links give the U1 version)

sweet, i thought we'd reviewed all the chico stuff already. This will be fun to play


(not anymore)

No, this is a re-review of Nak'halinra Peak, Valley and Temple of Eelhandra. As this is a map pack, separate map reviews aren't exactly fitting so I decided to write this in order to rectify the issue.
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I am the Unreal archivist and historian. If you have something from the past of Unreal that I don't have, do tell.

User avatar Sat42
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Subject: Re: [u1] [ut] Custom Map Review: 'Shamu Quest II' by Jean 'El Chicoverde' Rochefort

Post Posted: 31 Aug 2016, 17:16

I might as well point out that it's been at least a couple of weeks or so since all screenshots accompanying Delacroix's articles are gone - as if they were removed from wherever they were hosted.
Can this be fixed? Hopefully Delacroix will show up!
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Waffnuffly wrote:It's tarydium-doped smoothies. Drunk by the player, I mean. The player is tripping balls. The whole game actually takes place in a large city and the player thinks he's on an alien world.


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