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Map Title: Unreal Grief Chapter 2
Unreal Grief Chapter 2 shows that Legendslayer222 has improved significantly since making the first chapter. It's made up of five maps: an intro, three playable maps, and an extro. Having survived his fall at the end of the first chapter, Bernard finds himself in a Krall infested harbor. With a Skaarj base nearby, poisonous waters, and only one surviving villager, it's safe to say that Fiaren's Village has seen better days.
Fiaren's Village comes with its very own Nali huts, and while they're simple, it's nice to see that Legendslayer222 made his own buildings instead of using stock huts from Unreal. There wasn't anything that I could see that looked like it was taken from the original game, and Legendslayer deserves credit for not using stock Unreal buildings. The Skaarj outpost is the highlight of the first map; it looks and feels like a real Skaarj base. It would fit in perfectly with the Skaarj bases of the original Unreal. Architecture seemed to get more simplistic following the Skaarj base, though. Texturing was decent. Aside from misaligned terrain textures, there weren't any major issues with it. Grief Chapter 2 was technically sound, with no movement impairing BSP holes. I only found a few minor problems, and none of them affect the gameplay in any way.
Lighting ranges from okay to great. All lights are sourced, and the skyboxes are pretty good. The second playable map, with its icy mountains and bright yellow sky, had a Lord of the Rings feeling to it. Sometimes the lighting was a bit too plain in the mine areas, but it wasn't terrible. Sound was adequate, and the music fit well, although the last map seemed too quiet; the final boss didn't even have any music to set the mood, and there were no dynamic ambient sounds.
Gameplay is where this pack takes a hit. I played through it on Unreal difficulty, and a lot of the time, it was just unfair. There were times when it was reasonably difficult, and others where it was downright frustrating. In the first map, an encounter with a pair of Skaarj Troopers (one of which has an Automag) had me reloading constantly. A pair of Ice Skaarj (also in the first map) seemed almost impossible to beat, so I had to jump in the water and shoot them from where they couldn't get me. After the first map, gameplay becomes much less frustrating.
The plot, while interesting, was difficult to follow at times. The dialogue system is partially to blame for it. Here's an example:
You: "Magic doesn't exist." Zoalou: "But you talk to a ghost. Bernard, this is serious. If Lord Hiaklir gets the Book he will destabilize the universe. No planet will be safe. No person."
That just isn't easy to follow when it's in game. Most of the plot focuses on a Tarydium extracting tool that's making the water hazardous. It turns out that the Skaarj are willing to kill each other over it, and without giving too much away, it's being used for more than just mining the valuable blue crystal we all know and love.
The final boss is a large Behemoth, aptly named 'Heavy'. Heavy shoots grenades instead of missiles, and there's always a chance that if the grenade doesn't hit you at first, it'll bounce back and get you when you don't expect it. Heavy is the first actual Brute boss I've ever seen, and I was surprised how well he worked. If the player had been provided with a bit more health and ammo, it would have been a much more balanced fight. The Warlord at the end is worth mentioning, too, if only for his crazy skin. You don't fight him, but he looked really out of place. If the intended effect was to surprise, then it definitely worked.
Unreal Grief Chapter 2 sometimes has the look and feel of a newbie mappack, but it's still a huge improvement over the first chapter, including a lot of what Chapter 1 lacked. With each release, the author improves more and more, as evidenced by this and his 10th anniversary map, Forest Run. I for one look forward to his future projects, which I'm sure will surpass his latest release.
None to date.
Download UGrief Chapter 2.zip (19,4MB) from Mediafire