The Sky Shard
Site score: 39%1. The Underground Temple
by Edward "EddX" McRobbie
In The Sky Shard
, the player is Chris Daniels, one of a small group of explorers who have followed the wake of an alien spacecraft in the hope of making first contact with an intelligent alien species. The trail leads them to the Nali planet, where they touch down next to an ancient temple. When the team's archaeologist ventures into the ruins and fails to return, the player is sent in after him to rescue him.
Setting off into the ruins with a flashlight and a dispersion pistol, it's not long before the player falls down a deep shaft into an ancient well. He has arrived in the Temple of Na-Kasher, where he is dwarfed by the scale of its gloomy and watery antechamber.
The entrance to the Great Hall is guarded by a hulking Behemoth, against which the player is heavily outgunned. Unfortunately, upon defeating the Behemoth, the player finds that the entrance to the Great Hall is sealed. He must explore the dingy passageways and outer chambers of the temple, where Skaarj and Krall lurk in the depths, to find the switch that will unlock the doors.
It's not long before the player finds the body of his missing friend. Now, with no way of going back, the player's only choice is to venture deeper into the temple in the hope of regaining his freedom.
The Great Hall is cavernous and shadowy. Ahead lies the door to the chamber of the mysterious Sky Shard, but it is sealed.
Climbing to the galleries of the Great Hall, the player finds a library, in which he learns some of the secrets of the Sky Shard as perceived by the Nali: it fell from the heavens, leaving a trail of fire and destruction in its wake. It is perfectly reflective, and has strange properties such as the power to make things float. Now it is an object of reverence to the Nali.
It is in a sleeping chamber that the Krall are using as a barracks that the player eventually finds the switch that opens his way to the Chamber of the Sky Shard. Journals among the serried ranks of beds show the Krall reflecting on their servitude to the Skaarj. Life under the Skaarj isn't much fun, it would seem, but the Krall like to be on the winning side.
With his way cleared, the player finally reaches the Sky Shard itself, whose strange properties seem to be causing gravitational anomalies. A perilous airborne fight with two Skaarj frees the player to find out what the Skaarj have been doing here. They are as intrigued by the Sky Shard as the Nali are, it would seem, and have been attempting to analyse it, but with little success so far.
The Nali have speculated that, if the Sky Shard can be made to flare, it will generate enough power to take down the force field barring the exit to the temple. Sure enough, as the player tinkers with the controls of the alien machinery, the shard emits a flare of blue light. The way to the great abyss has now been cleared...
As EddX's first map, The Underground Temple
is a pretty primitive affair. Everything is made of basic shapes, the lighting is dull and dreary, and the combat scenarios are not tremendously involving. The backing story also peters out pretty quickly with the discovery of the body of the player's friend. However, the mystery of the Shard itself is just about enough to keep me interested in playing the next map of the saga... will it be explored any further?