Map Title: The Ritual
Map Author: Jason 'Jaspos' Poots
Review Score: 39%
Tagline: While simple in construction, this is a damn decent level.
Jaspos' Ritual, a single map predating his "The Elder" two-map pack, puts you in the shoes of a military intelligence agent sent to investigate a human cloning facility that has procured the services of self-proclaimed Skaarj defectors. However it soon becomes obvious that the 'defectors' actually never defected and the humans who trusted them are now at their mercy... and so are you.
What happened to this poor sod?
The players start the level... jailed. After a Skaarj scout enters the cell to kill them, they must slip past him, grab the nearby weapon and attempt a jailbreak. As this is a quite early map by the author, I didn't expect the formula to actually work, but much to my surprise it did, thanks to the well-constructed scripted sequence. Such attention to detail is rare in early SP endeavors. Sadly this is the only occurrence of such sequence on the entire map. The remaining enemies just sit in the spots they were placed and await the player's attention, or bullets. Some of them drop more ordinance for the player and there's just enough ammunition to deal with the entire opposition but not too much. The only major flaw in the gameplay is the final fight with the Warlord - more than once I witnessed him get stuck in the ship and that means the player would have to enter the extremely cramped vessel to fight him. I don't think I need to stress how nightmarish this may turn out to be. If you're forced to go up with the Warlord still inside, I suggest you circle around the place to find the exit and ignore the guy completely.
Is this what I think it is... ?
The storyline written out in the readme is further implemented by various translator messages scattered throughout. Most mention the experiments conducted in the facility and explain possible reasons why the Skaarj became hostile towards the scientists. Further horrors are revealed when the player realizes that the Skaarj completely took over the laboratory and started experimenting on the previous personnel. The new texture pack helps illustrate that just fine and manages to turn the crude, almost primitive constructs into a somewhat believable location.
As I mentioned, the construction of the location is very simplistic, however at times it may still be quite believable. The mentioned texture pack helps immensely and in the cargo/warehouse area, the four ventilation fans and the small crane work just fine as well and the satellite dish outside made me actually smile. While usage of the stock textures might seem a bit out of place at times and the lighting is completely primitive, there are memorable spots and these should be appreciated.
The cargo hold.
As for the audio layer - forget the ambience, the level is almost completely barren. There are several music tracks playing throughout but half of them - like Seti for example or Surfacing - don't fit the modern atmosphere of the level itself. The music does however offer some degree of dynamism and suspense during play.
The level is dated. And looks dated. But while simple in construction, it is still damn decent. The storyline is well introduced and implemented by not only the translator messages but the texture pack as well. The simple visuals have a few good points, even if just a few. While nowhere near as good as The Elder, this map can be enjoyable, if the player gives the author a chance.
Outside. The satellite dish.
Technical Execution 4
Conceptual Grandness 3
Story Construction 5
Story Implementation 6
Gameplay Awe 4
Gameplay Balance 5
Total Score: 39%
ritual.zip - Dropbox
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