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Review: Arachnopolis

It's not bad, but I'd expect more from a mapper of such fame

Project information

Simon "EZKeel" West-Bulford
Single Map

Main review

On 20th January, 1999, the well known and respected mapper EZKeel, already appreciated by the community after the release of such classics as Xerania's Fall and Invasion, has released the small map Arachnopolis. It was a testing ground for his new Scorpion pawn, which later appeared in the third installment of Xerania trilogy, Legacy. Was it worth it though?

We begin our adventure in a small courtyard. Two towers loom in front of us, the doors behind us and in front of us are locked. The courtyard is rather small and not very detailed, but it's very well textured and lighted, as most of the level will be. Nothing to marvel over, but also nothing that'll make your eyes hurt.

After we make our way into the level's bowels, it does not improve, sadly. Most of the time you'll spend in narrow corridors, some are lighted worse than others, killing off scorpions. Granted, you'll be able to push a few buttons which will force you to backtrack and look for a new opening, but the places where such openings will appear are clearly visible, so the progress will be fast. There is a degree of non-linearity though -- depending on which tower you choose to jump down underground, a different compartment with weapons will open. It'll be either an automag with two weapon powerups for your DP, or a rifle. So, one point for a degree of non-linearity.

One of the more complex chambers

Don't be expecting any variation in the bestiary roaming the map. There's just scorpions, if I may call them that. Those who have played Legacy know what I mean. They jump like frogs, they have just 4 legs and they throw toxic sludge at you much like Return to Na Pali's Spinners. Perhaps they inspired Spinners, who knows. Anyhow, they can hardly be called true "scorpions", but at least they put some degree of freshness into gameplay. Not much though.

A word of warning on the technical execution. It'd be a perfect 10, lest one small bug that plagues the level. When you approach the final boss and not make your way through the center, the jewel won't break and thus the path to the exit will remain locked off. For an entire level, having a single bug, that's near perfection.

As for gameplay balance... the amount of creatures on the level is sufficient for the entire ammo to be enough, there's also enough healing items for you to remain safe during your trip into Arachnopolis. I have nothing against the balance, except one little thing. The final boss takes 3 shots from the rifle before dying. Please, a little more HP?

Finally something really good looking

Atmosphere. Could've been good. The critters are making enough noise to give the feeling that the entire place is crawling with them and it actually is. But what difference does it make if they are weak enough to pose zero challenge even for new players.

The story written in the level's release notes tells you of a very precious jewel that the Nali crafted and you, like an Indiana Jones of the future, set out to retrieve it. A story so repetitive that I couldn't notice a single unique thing about it. Had it at least been properly implemented, I'd have nothing against it, but one translator message that's easy to miss unless you grab the translator first and back out at the door behind you, and two trigger messages just don't cut it. No, storyline is very badly implemented.

Those scorpions look more like lizards to me


The level is technically correctly built, even if it does not cause any awe. No fireworks here. The gameplay is just running around, gunning down critters and pushing buttons, all in a minions-to-boss fashion. With only a modicum of challenge implemented, Arachnopolis can be finished fairly quickly without even looking at the story much, which is easy to miss. It's not bad, but I'd expect more from a mapper of such fame.

download links:*

*Note that only the Unreal Archive uploads are checked to be the newest and most compatible/stable download link.

Build (36%)
  • Architecture
    Imagination, realism and detail of structures used in the design of the level.
  • Texturing
    Use of textures in the level. Technically speaking, alignment and scaling. Choice of textures, and quality of any custom textures used.
  • Lighting
    Lighting of the level: does it look cool? Use of light colour and other effects, and sourcing of lighting (no light out of nowhere).
  • Sound
    Use of ambient sounds and event sounds to give the level atmosphere, and the quality of any custom sounds. Appropriate use of music and silence to complement the atmosphere.
  • Technical Execution
    Technical soundness of the level, i.e. no visual glitches, no random deaths or other gameplay bugs, and a good framerate.
Cast (20%)
  • Conceptual Grandness
    Scale, imagination, awe & originality of design and layout, physical foreshadowing of future areas.
  • Story Construction
    Backing story & progression via translator, subplots, and script of voice acting where applicable. Logical choice of opposition.
  • Story Implementation
    Progression of the written story via the events of the level, and performance of voice actors where applicable.
  • Gameplay Awe
    Quality of scripted sequences, originality and staging of combats. Maps that force the player to "learn by dying" will be penalised.
  • Gameplay Balance
    Balance of weapons and items to creatures, including difficulty settings. Most importantly, fun factor.
Above average