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Unreal Gold

Review: Escape from Drea

Yet again, an improvement from Nikola's previous outings

Project information

Escape from Drea
Nikola -(DOG)- Genyo
Unreal Gold
Single Map

Main review

The sixth project of Nikola's, Escape from Drea, came early in 2017 and it was met with very warm reception on the coop servers. No surprise there, as this here is a quality release, as the review will try to convey. It is, yet again, an improvement from Nikola's outings two years its senior, serving as evidence how she constantly finds ways to grow as a mapper, and a quality piece of entertainment for us Unreal fanatics out there.

Wake up, you are drunk!

Escape from Drea is a standalone project but it might as well serve as a complete reimagining of the mediocre Medieval, using and enhancing its few strengths while at the same time doing away with almost all of the weaknesses. Given that the player starts the game in a pub, it could be even thought of as a very loose sequel. This time, there's a story, implemented via simple but effective means such as translator messages serving as character speech or player's musings, putting us in the boots of an alcoholic assistant to the pub's cook that has just woken up with a major league hangover and decided that it would be best to take his leave from Drea, freeing some of the Nali imprisoned in the town's dungeon and avenging a slain friend. Given how the narration is presented, it seems evident that the player should themselves be a Nali but no model is enforced by any manner of custom gametype so playing as any class is fair game.

The story develops in a decent, gradual fashion, with the player starting out with the task of cleaning out some pests from the pub, then lighting a fire for the cook (again, with a flare, just as the torches in Vodojem, this time with the fireplace lighting up like a Christmas tree) and finally setting out to clear out the town of Drea itself. It seems to be mainly populated by Krall and Pupae, with a particularly beefy officer of the former species serving as the dungeon's head warden. Some exploration and a couple switches later and the second half of the town shall also be open to the player and as exploration progresses, one of the player's close friends is found dead right next to the target of our quest: a cloaking device that is apparently meant to help our hero to bail out of Drea. That sounds pretty simple, but the story being as well presented as it is and the town being fairly large, it is guaranteed to take a good chunk of time (like 20 or so minutes) out of the players' lives.

As stated, the gameplay is mostly exploration that boils down to switch hunting meant to open some locked doors and gates. In-between, Krall come in packs and while there's enough arms to bear in order to eliminate that opposition, occasionally the encounters might prove a bit challenging. Patience and good aim is key. There are also a bunch of pupae scattered around that serve as pests, but the Krall are evidently the clear main antagonistic faction. There is no real sense of progress combat-wise after the initial bunch of pupae in the pub, instead the level resembles regular heartbeat, with repeating pattern of beats intertwined by short periods of peace.

Time to explore the town.

Visually, Drea is beautiful. While the outdoors are a bit brought down by the lighting, there's great attention to detail in the form of buildings divided into working area for guards, the pub, a slew of private residences (only few of them open) and commercial stalls. Especially indoors, there's a lot of custom decorations and texturing that lend to the feel of the location. While Drea isn't as grand as Vodojem or Jeges, it still is beautiful, well planned out and decently (and fairly realistically) populated, feeling like an authentic Nali town under Krall occupation.

The sound design supports this well - while there's little in terms of random ambient sounds, nearby hostiles and the Nali population get the job done as long as they are alive. There are two medieval sounding tracks of unknown origin (if I learn what those are, I will append the review to reflect that) and the two provide a boost to the sense and feel of a medieval Nali town.

In terms of technical issues, there's a bit to ponder. Not much but it's a step back from the previous two works nonetheless. One, particularly within the pub, the player can clip a bit through some of the decorations. Two, the teleporter in front of the cloaking device has a small hitbox, meaning the player can easily miss it. Thirdly, the level feels like it's end is a bit abrupt, so there's that, but this is more of a gameplay rather than technical problem.


Nikola's sixth outing feels like what TiT: Medieval was supposed to be from the very start. It has a proper story. There's more to explore. There's less technical issues. Due to near constant presence of enemy groups there is next to no boredom. The custom music gives off a much better feel in conjunction with the visuals and the concept of the location. It is a very decent and fairly large level that is a pleasure to play. Highly recommended.

download link:…

Build (30%)
  • 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 (31%)
  • 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.

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