Skip to main content

Review: The Return Home

Solid in almost every area but not remarkable

Project information

The Return Home
Eric 'Swartz' Evans
Single Map

Main review

This map was going to be part of a trilogy, yet it's actually supposed to be the middle map. Despite that it's the one that was designed first and the only one released. Despite it's age I don't think I've ever played this map before, and it made for a nicely pleasant surprise.

Swartz apparently worked on multiple maps (including Quake levels) before releasing this one, and it shows; every aspect of the build is solid, if not necessarily remarkable, and builds up a compact mine/terrain map well. Architecture is about Unreal quality throughout (including some nice small details like wires running to electrical boxes), and with some original touches like the strange "bulging" house. Beyond some misaligned textures on terrain and curves texturing had no issues. The lighting is well implemented, but doesn't make much use of colour or other effects to spice it up. However, the end of the level uses some cool effects and the sky is very distinctive with it's powerful use of colour; some might find it a bit much, but I found it the most striking part of the level. Sound use doesn't go beyond generic but there's sounds where there should be. Unfortunately the music use drags it down; Wargate is used, which is okay in itself, but a significant part of the level uses the action songsection and it goes on for way too long. The only technical issue I noticed is some doors not opening in the way their texture suggests they should.

The main mine entrance

The layout is pretty linear, but there's localised bits of interlinking, and a nice return over an earlier section towards the end. Unfortunately you are way oversupplied for the opposition, and there's pretty much no challenge at all. It also ends anti-climatically as the level finishes just when you're ready for a final encounter. While the combat gameplay isn't anything special, the thing that stands out here is the use of other gameplay; there's various small puzzles (including one or two optional ones) and environmental hazards and similar are used throughout.

Alien skies

There's little backstory established, but messages throughout the map build up a plot of the Skaarj coming from a gate that has been opened in the mine. There's also a sense of progression throughout and it does have a climax, despite that climax not having any challenge.

The mining facility


Solid in almost every area but not remarkable (with the possible exception of how early it came out). There's some nice variety added to the gameplay that makes up for the too-easy combat, and it builds up a basic story and progression. Too bad we never saw the rest of this series.

download link:

Build (31%)
  • 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 (17%)
  • 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