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Map Title: Nali Cove 2
Nali Cove 2, by Mark Simmons, is one of the more popular single maps from the Unreal archive; and perhaps it was impressive at the time, but when judged by modern standards it suffers.
From the outset, it is clear that some thought went into the conceptual design of the map. Amongst the environments we visit are a large cove, complete with a shrine and a shipwreck (although how the ship found its way into this landlocked cove is something of a mystery); a few caves; and an imaginatively laid-out monastery with a very spacious interior.
However, the concept is often let down by poor implementation. All of the structures in the map are low in architectural detail, enough to get the point across but not to do a lot more. Geometry misalignments are also to be found, for instance where the sails meet the ship's masts and in some of the caves. There is little to foreshadow what lies ahead, although one translator message alludes to the existence of the monastery.
In the monastery interiors, Simmons compensates for the basic architecture with some pretty moody light effects, but the effect is let down by the poor quality of the outdoor lighting. One cave, pictured above, has a nice look, but in the cove the lighting is a bald white, and in the exterior of the monastery it's extremely dull, little enhanced by a Nali lantern that gives off next to no illumination.
Most of the rock textures are poorly aligned, and in some underwater areas completely unaligned. Texturing on the Nali-made structures is better, including trim in some areas, but let down by the occasional misalignment; examples I saw included vertically laid bricks and a decorative wooden panel that had a rectangular doorway completely interrupting the pattern. Pillars have not had the textures properly wrapped around them and look fairly horrendous.
Sound is reasonably done. A few classic music cues are used to enhance different parts of the map, and appropriate ambient sounds make their appearance, but there is a lack of ambient wind to make the cove section really come alive (also no dynamic ambient sounds that I noticed). Technical execution is also slightly on the fritz, with the geometry misalignments mentioned earlier, and the classic combination of an obscure translator clue with an unreliable trigger causing potential progression problems later on in the map.
There's not a lot of story to speak of. No background accompanies the map, and the player starts off in a darkened cave with full health but no equipment. Is he meant to have arrived on the wrecked ship? Later on, the aforementioned translator message describes the monastery and the fact that, for some reason, it is necessary to find the high priest. Once the player actually does find the high priest, the map switches to the Unreal castle flyby. This lack of explanation or any premise leaves one feeling somewhat dissatisfied once the map has been completed.
This leaves just the gameplay, and it's nothing much to shout about. Apart from a few interactive Nali, the creatures that appear in the map are largely sitting around in unsurprising locations. The dominant enemy type at the end is Skaarj (who seem to be there for no particular reason), although the presence of one Mercenary adds a bit of inconsistency for good measure. Weapons are provided on a gradual basis and the map rewards exploration with extra supplies of ammo, but there's really not a lot to keep the map interesting.
Finally, the mapper seems to have roots in level design for Quake. On bumping into a locked door in the monastery, one is presented with the on-screen message "This door is opened somewhere else!" Perish the thought! :)
I don't like writing negative reviews, but I couldn't find a huge amount to enthuse about in Nali Cove 2. It's a semi-creative design, but it simply feels poorly implemented and empty. Worth a look I suppose if you have twenty minutes to spare.
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