Skip to main content

Review: The Once Great Temple

One of the earliest custom creations for Unreal is a fairly decent level

Project information

The Once Great Temple
Marty Howe
Single Map

Main review

The Once Great Temple. This brings back memories. The level which I am about to review right now is one of the first custom maps for Unreal I played. Back then I was awestruck by what I considered sheer beauty and despite it being a relatively short experience, it has remained one of my favorite custom levels for the game. Its author, the already experienced in Quake I & II mapping veteran Marty Howe states in the readme that it's his first level created with UnrealEd.

One of the few irregular terrain areas. Others are flat.

Sadly, it shows. On one hand, we have impressive, irregular valley walls, Nali houses and various other detail such as a bridge over a chasm or sad remains of temple walls, but on the other hand there is no skybox to speak of, there are at least 2 BSP errors, some plants are levitating above ground, the water in the small pool is still despite the omnipresent sound of wind and... terrain is practically flat. As for the texture layer -- due to the skybox's absence the level's "ceiling" looks strange in terms of texture alignment and in one spot we can see a sharp change between the grass textures. Quite simply, it's as if someone drew a straight line and said: Grass A grows only up to this point, from now on we stick to Grass B. But aside from these two flaws, the level has a very nice feel and it's especially nice to see that the houses have a bit different texturing than normal. All this is properly lighted, but then again, it'd be hard to mess that up, it's an outdoor level with a broad daylight setting, so one does not need to apply any fancy lights to anything.

Soundwise, it's actually pretty good. There is some ambience near the pond and there's omnipresent wind sound. Dusk.umx is the music used and it's as if this track was made with this very map in mind. Now that's rare.

The author has obviously wanted his map to look like an authentic mountain valley with a Nali village and Skaarj transport area. Well, I hate to say this, but he failed on all three accounts. First, valleys don't have such flat surfaces. That's for once. Second, Nali villages usually have a church, a well, or a sacred structure nearby. This village has none of these -- the temple might have been here thousands of years ago but now there is nothing left of it, so there's no purpose of a village nearby. Third, Skaarj transport areas usually don't have broken bridges just levitating in air.

The titular once great temple from a distance.

The storyline is repetitive, but well implemented. You pass through another region of Na Pali while trying to find your colleagues who have moved forward and disappeared. You heard of a Skaarj teleporter nearby, so you decide to investigate. Along the way, you find the bodies of your colleagues, with various comments on the Skaarj and their teleporting device, you also find Nali diaries complete with phrases such as "steel chariots" or "Sky Demons", adding up to the Unreal feel of the level. Progress is fairly quick due to lack of opposition: all you have to do is kill a dozen of Skaarj Warriors, I haven't met anything else besides that. You have to be careful though: the cargo lift later in the map does not work, so you have to jump down -- you must have the assault vest and be in a fairly good condition in order to survive that jump! Too bad the author did not think of a lever that'd make the lift go up.


One of the earliest custom creations for Unreal is a fairly decent level, worth giving it a try. There are many more better levels, but it was one of the first and deserves some respect.


Build (22%)
  • 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 (22%)
  • 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.

Other reviews