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Map Title: Legacy
There is a deep history with this one that needs airing out. Legacy is probably the most heavily debated SP experience ever made for Unreal. Some have hailed it for its epic storyline and non-linear passage of gameplay. Some have criticized it mercilessly for seriously questionable level design and some awkward Christian themed puzzles. Despite this fact, upon its release it garnered high praise from UnrealSP.org with a staggering 9½ rating. But with the modernized review schema, how does Legacy stand up under a more demanding, critical perspective? Is it the massively overrated mappack some people always said it was, or is it a grand adventure game that deserves its rank in the Unreal hall of fame?
Well, that's really a matter of opinion, and in reality opinions can often change. Take for instance... mine. When I first played Legacy, I was turned off by the overbearingly simplistic level design structure and the forced religious themes. I contributed a short, second-opinion review to USP on the old schema that clocked in a harsh 5 out of 10 score, as compared to the main review of 9½. But that was quite a long time ago, and given a chance to experience the pack again, in 2007... I put many of my pre-emptive judgments aside in order to get a fresh perspective.
Legacy starts off with a cinematic touch that permeates throughout the entire game. Though taking place after two previous packs released by EZkeel, the storyline for Legacy does not depend on these episodes in order for one to get involved with the game. After being taken to safety during an opening scene disaster, you awake locked in a cabin for... as you are told... your own protection. It isn't long before you'll find a way out of your room and are roaming free on an empty station with dead humans lying about. It's quite similar to the opening of Unreal, onboard the Vortex Rikers... only you will immediately be aware of the lower-standard design build for Legacy. This is a trait that will follow you from the beginning of the mod to the very last ending credit. It's also something that will make or break this one for some people. Hopefully, SP fans will persevere and keep playing... because Legacy offers some real treats for those who give it a chance.
The first map is a testament to the gameplay diversity Legacy has prepared for you. The very first map pits you against a patrolling Behemoth without any weapons whatsoever. Your very first kill will made by a Half-Life-esque puzzle scenario that has you running all around the map trying to get certain machinery operational in order to be used against your foe. After you escape the entry area and make your way to a Nali village dubbed "The Nexus", the plot will begin to unfold in Zelda-like style. Your tasks will be laid out from the outset; The Nali believe you are their savior. They have hidden two keys that activate a Skaarj wormhole that in turn leads directly to the planet's moon where the being known as the Cyberus awaits you. The keys have been separated and you will move about the various maps in a free-reign, non-linear choice path with the Nexus as a central hub. That's it, that's the objective and you are left to play the game exactly the way you want. What makes this unique style of passage interesting is that you can travel back and forth between previous and forward maps with all changes saved (similar to Half-Life). Your path to the Cyberus will take you through subterranean caverns infested with creepy crawlers and slumbering giants, a large palace infested with Krall, a holy Nali tower taken by the enemy, a Skaarj outpost on the fringe of a peaceful settlement (and strangely enough it uses lots of Mercenary textures), an ancient stronghold holding mystical secrets, and finally... a climatic showdown on a low gravity moonbase. All of this in any order you wish... until the last area of course. You'll wield an arsenal made up of completely new weapons. Along the way you will find precious keys and artifacts, as well as rare gems needed for the game's barter system. You'll fight a horde of enemies, both new and old. New additions consist of nasty little scorpion pests, fast moving dinosaurs (yeah), Cyborg soldiers with dangerous wielding arms, tribal insect people, and of course the usual new classes for the familiar legions.
While all of this is clearly welcome, some of the new stuff doesn't always work. Most of the new monsters aren't as animated as well as their classic brethren, although they can hold their own for the most part. In particular, the ant people are incredibly annoying. They toss flying darts like ninjas on speed... and just like the police they always pop up when you DON'T WANT them to. Namely, they often show up in tight hallways where the option to dodge isn't an option at all. Now reading this you may be thinking “just flak them Prophet, duh”, and that would be great. However...
What makes combat radically different than the casual Unreal SP is that Legacy's arsenal is fantastically diverse and unbalanced. The first gun you get is…oddly enough... a very powerful rocket weapon with an incredibly useless alternate grenade launcher. Most of the explosive weapons, whether they be grenades, charges, or a huge minigun that shoots mini bombs... tend to be annoying to use. The deployable charges for instance have a toss distance of LOL, and basically fall to your feet. Plus you can't carry very many, making them generally useful for taunting sluggish monsters near your traps but otherwise irrelevant in fast paced combat. Another weapon is a cool razor disk that you can fling at enemies, Predator 2 style. Unfortunately the weapon has a really distracting idle animation where the player's hand shakes the damn thing in such a way that it blocks out the entire viewing distance of the known universe. Plus, as destructive as its buzz-saw attack looks it never seems to cause enough damage... especially when you need to rely on it in a pinch. Generally you'll use it a lot in solo fights but put that thing away when multiple baddies roll around the corner. You can loose it as well, an interesting penalty feature... but more can be found. Weapons kinda go in and out like that, either having really useful features with a painfully debilitating side-effect or being next to useless for 90% of the game. Take for instance the neat triple barrel shotgun that has to go through long pump-delays after every three shots (without the ability to reload any spent chambers if you manage to kill something before you need to reload, meaning you could be stuck with walking up on a Skaarj Berserker with one chamber and need to reload after the first shot). The shotgun requires the player to have good dancing skills since when fighting normal enemies like Krall, Skaarj etc... you have to fire the shots, move while you reload, and repeat until your target is dead. Also, the gun eats ammo like a hog and aside from a few big shell caches scattered throughout the game.. you usually find a measly shell packs that barely gives you any ammo it seems. But all that is secondary to the sheer weakness of the weapon. Sometimes it just took too many rounds to even have an effective purpose. My favorite weapon was the regenerating Skaarj wrist weapon, which makes Legacy the earliest pack on record to give the player a usable Skaarj claw weapon. The flamethrower slash jetpack was great as well, if a little blinding. Above all else players will find the Rail gun the best overall "strong" weapon (it's about equal power-wise to Strange World's version, only prettier).
The weapon models look fine, though their skins can often be a little blurry. But the main obstacle with the combat is that the weapons may be a bit too cumbersome for fast moving Unreal enemies. There were times I found myself yearning for a stinger or an ASMD. To be truthful, Legacy isn't really a very memorable combat pack anyway. What stand out are the game's many puzzle situations. Many of the locations you visit place you in trap scenarios where you usually have to figure your way out of an obstacle or make a smart decision in order to pass. The scope of these puzzles is very diverse, and no two are exactly alike. However, a few of these infamous puzzles have turned off some players do to their Christian preference. What I mean is simply this: there are several situations where you are forced to come up with a solution to a problem (usually something that has to do with the penalty of death) that will have something to do with accepting Jesus Christ as your savior. A certain water hazard has you in a drowning situation where you need to pick the "correct human deity" and there are passages with different religious gods displayed about. Pick anyone but the "Christian" path, and you drown. Other things include having to kneel before the cross in order to avoid being crushed, and things of that nature. There's also a great deal of biblical paintings with gospel passages displayed and once the soul orb weapon is found there seems to be a large presence of crosses and "holy sites" needed to rejuvenate your relic. By the end of the game even the Nali gods have their images with white light shining around them with cross decorations in the backdrop. I'm not a Christian and honestly... I don't mind a game that has religious themes in them. But in Legacy it is a bit of an annoyance. For starters a big part of the plot has to do with the Nali mystics and the entire setting for the game is a little too adventure-meets-science fiction for all the Christian stuff. It just seems out of place and makes the story a bit hazy toward the end. Is the Nali spirit who has been guiding me actually Jesus? Is my character supposed to be a man of faith? The story falls short here and loses focus at the end. You are bombarded with scenarios, messages, and images about something that has no place in Legacy's story. If the author had given a reason or presented the character at the beginning as a Christian or something to that effect... it might have made more sense.
While the story derails itself toward the latter half of the game with awkward plot detraction, the sound is sufficient from start to finish. Music is composed of old Unreal tracks and some new techno additions. Usage of level ambient noise is effective as well and does its best to help animate some of the hum-drum looking environments. To add to that, EZkeel included lots of new sounds to give the locations and enemies an edge. Take for instance the first map, where new computer voice effects replace some of same old Vortex Rikers/ISV-Kran computer sounds we've all heard a crapzillian times. Legacy also has nice vocal segments for Skaarj conversations with each other and for other things, like the voice of the Cyberus.
While I'm rapping it up, I do feel I should mention Legacy's bug related problems. Sometimes things don't seem to work properly. The backtracking system that saves elements from previous maps can have issues. For instance, Nali huts have a habit of staying closed after you return with gems in later maps, never allowing you to enter. Also, sometimes loading a saved game will send me back to a spot I saved in an earlier map that I had long since passed and overwrote the old slot with a new save. This led me to make several save game files just to be safe. Also, there is rumored to be a risk with not being able to ever get into certain maps if you don't go to them earlier rather than later... which means you could be stuck not being able to finish the game. This never happened to me, but I've heard reports that it happens at the Tower map. There are also little things that can happen, like suicidal fish. See, in the Nexus hub, EZKeel made ponds with slanted sides and fish schools tend to swim up the ramp and then hop around the terrain in groups. You see them doing this every time you return to the Nexus. Lighting in Legacy is also largely a bore and the use of fog can often trip up. EZKeel uses a lot of fog in this mod and often with things behind it that can cause a rupture depending where the player looks. For instance, you can have a cool fog effect occur and see a square hole through it where the hallway across the room is visible. This is because the other room is within a different zone where fog is not enabled. The same happens with fog appearing against a skybox in some levels. All of these little issues should have been easily avoidable when irrelevant things like biblical readings didn't really need to be added.
Legacy is an ambitious mod with some really unique aspects that set it apart from just about every other SP mod out there. It also has its drawbacks, which can be crippling when combined with each other. Regardless, Legacy is a piece of Unreal history that simply needs to be played. All the cons I've stated aside, Legacy is still an interesting game that can present you with some engaging puzzle-themed layouts. It may not be a radiant gem by today's visual standards, but it is hardly a blunder. In the realm of large Unreal SP campaigns this is one everyone should play.
Second Opinions - zynthetic
The original review, based on the old review schema:
Legacy, what can I say. This is probably one of the largest and most time consuming level packs made by a third party. Legacy is not maps alone though. It required a development team that produced weapons, enemies, music, sound and textures; all new.
Legacy is technically part 3 of the Xerania's Fall series by EZKeel. I'd recommend playing the first two beforehand to get an understanding of the general plot. Diving right into Legacy will not leave you guessing though. The story is developed marvelously and elaborates past events as well as keeping pace with the present. During the course of the game there will be multiple goals to accomplish, definitely a break from the classic escape plot. What makes the gameplay in Legacy so different from other packs is the level progression is practically non-linear. You are given the choice over where you want to go and when. The levels are re-visitable and in several situations you'll pass through the same area to get somewhere else. The non-linearity of the pack doesn't confuse the player though. There's many cinematic cut-scenes accompanied by translator events to help unfold the plot.
The new weapons included range from somewhat believable to sci-fi. At times they can be too powerful but this is balanced by the amount of ammo they can carry and the amount you'll find in each level. The new enemies really added something special to this pack. Seeing a new creature really makes you feel like you are on an alien planet.
The architecture ranges from beautiful to strange. Lights were used sparingly to enhance certain settings or as special effects. New sounds were appropriately used for the new enemies and weapons. There was subtle use of ambient sounds that blended into eachother nicely while exploring. Textures seemed appropriate, keeping a general theme and giving each place a distinct atmosphere. Clever combination of those produced quite a few traps or puzzles for you to accomplish. There are however, certain puzzles that relate to religious references which some people may not feel comfortable with.
Regardless this pack is not one to miss and is definitely worth playing at least once. While the download may seem a bit large for those on modems it is well worth the effort. Playing Legacy for third time I completed the pack in just over ten hours, it's that big. The quality and amount of work that has gone into this pack definitely takes it out of the map pack status and could easily rival any official mission pack. Legacy is clearly a landmark of single player mapping in the Unreal community.
On a side note, Legacy comes in two flavors; with or without music. If you have Unreal, download the nomusic version, if not you'll have to get the full version. It also contains Old Skool Amp'd v2.10 that gives you a simple interface to play single player games in Unreal Tournament. As a bonus Legacy also comes with a fully documented and illustrated readme.
Downloads - With Unreal Music
Downloads - Without Unreal Music