I assume most of the people around UnrealSP.org have played The landing, but for those who don’t I’ll give a small heads-up. The landing is one of Hellscrag’s first UTSP offerings, with only Tashara’s Cove preceding it. It’s a 3 map (unfinished) mappack revolving around an unnamed protagonist who crashlands on an alien planet after being shot down mercenary vessels.
Yes, it’s that time again! Countless of unfortunates have swarmed Na Pali’s surface to this day and now it’s the turn of yet another guntoting maniac to blow all scum to oblivion and rescue the repressed natives. It would be hard to give Hellscrag points for originality plotwise but the cliché story is pulled of decently. Throughout the pack you will find a (albeit) small number of well-written messages that help evolve the bland and unimaginative story somewhat. What I liked most though is when Hellscrag uses the translator messages to make Nali speak to the player. Very clever use indeed!
The pack starts off with the player inside his crashed vessel, it’s nighttime outside with a deserted house whose owner is away to make a map of the nearby caverns. Know what to do? So do I! The caverns are where most of the first map takes place. Architecturally it is pulled of pretty good and the caves look genuinely natural. Lighting is a little bland and texturing repetitive. You’ll have to trust on your automag skills because that’s about all you will be able to rely on in the gasbag-infested caverns. The main objective is to find a key to a gate that will allow you passage out of the caves. The key requires some jumping to get to but isn’t hard to find otherwise. You basically have two choices in the first map. You can finish it quickly or you can explore, and Hellscrag always rewards explorers which makes it all the more worthwhile to stick around a little longer!
In the second map the player has emerged from the caves and stumbles upon a repressed seaside village. The gatekeeper tells you the leader of the oppressors won’t come out of hiding until all of his guards are dead, he then continues to open the gate for you, allowing you passage to the town. After defeating all the guards there’s an encounter with a rather tough Krall Elite. When you’ve killed him a Nali will lead you to the dock where he has prepared a boat for you.
Nali villages are what Hellscrag does best and it shows. He even took the time to give the streets names and make all of the interiors accessible. The houses are very empty and undetailed though, mostly just one empty room with a few potted plants and maybe some ammo. Again, players who take time to explore and read translator messages are rewarded. If you don’t, you might even miss out on the ASMD! There’s also a little inside joke concerning a fanfic here, which is together with the legless krall from map 1 quite humorous! The town is a well-conceived location complete with a church overlooking it and a misty sea. Again though it suffers from somewhat bland lighting compared to todays standard. If Hellscrag ever feels obliged to finish the pack more contrast would be nice.
The player arrives by boat at the third and final map. The most conceptually grand (To use Hellscrag’s own terms) of the three, with a giant mercenary installation looming in the distance. Storywise it’s the least interesting, apparently you are trying to find some kind of vessel there which will get you off the planet. Other than that you won’t find anything other than the standard << Access Denied >> messages. You could regard the third map as an intro, the player must find a way into the mercenary base. When you actually get to the entrance you will realize there is no fourth map. It’s a pity no such map was ever made but we’ll have to live with it :) The map is effective the way it is, an intro to what should’ve been the climax of the pack. Architecture is yet again pulled of decently, the lighting is yet again too bland and adventurous players will yet again be rewarded (a FlakCannon this time).
So it’s time for us to reach a conclusion, no wait.. I forgot a few things on the list!
Hellscrag paid great attention to sound in all three maps and I also really like the choice of songs he made. StarSeek.umx is a track you won’t encounter much in other SP packs, which is a shame because it really is good and a perfect match for the first map. The second map uses a hardly ever used songsection from Spire.umx, and the third map uses the upbeat Neve.umx which fits greatly.
The gameplay only really gets tough at the third map where you’ll have some close quarters combat with Mercenaries and ample space to move. The Krall and Gasbags from the previous maps are not that hard, though health and armor is pretty scarce to compensate. All in all I found it too easy to complete but novice players should have some difficulty.
Now it’s really time for the summary. Visuals are as expected pretty sub-par nowadays, but the architecture is decent even for today's standards. The story, while unimaginative, is achieved in an attractive fashion and even leaves room for a few jokes. Gameplay is on the easy side. Sound is definitely good! Altogether it’s yet another stroll through the lands of Na Pali, but an enjoyable one at that!
So there you have it, quite a drop in the (even for the time) generous previous score and it’s sound that saves the day! I would still agree with the former tagline though. A healthy choice for your hard-drive!
A Note from Hellscrag:
I'd like to thank Frieza for giving this pack what I regard as a pretty generous review! I was never fully happy with the pack - map two was made in nine days - which is why I never got round to finishing it. If I were scoring it myself, I'd knock a few points off for architecture, sound, conceptual grandness and the story (since the pack happens to be unfinished).
*Note that only the Unreal Archive uploads are checked to be the newest and most compatible/stable download link.
ArchitectureImagination, realism and detail of structures used in the design of the level.6
TexturingUse of textures in the level. Technically speaking, alignment and scaling. Choice of textures, and quality of any custom textures used.6
LightingLighting of the level: does it look cool? Use of light colour and other effects, and sourcing of lighting (no light out of nowhere).4
SoundUse 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.8
Technical ExecutionTechnical soundness of the level, i.e. no visual glitches, no random deaths or other gameplay bugs, and a good framerate.7
Conceptual GrandnessScale, imagination, awe & originality of design and layout, physical foreshadowing of future areas.6
Story ConstructionBacking story & progression via translator, subplots, and script of voice acting where applicable. Logical choice of opposition.5
Story ImplementationProgression of the written story via the events of the level, and performance of voice actors where applicable.6
Gameplay AweQuality of scripted sequences, originality and staging of combats. Maps that force the player to "learn by dying" will be penalised.4
Gameplay BalanceBalance of weapons and items to creatures, including difficulty settings. Most importantly, fun factor.6