The Triamid Ruins was the winner of the UnrealSP.org 10th Anniversary Speedmapping Contest. It won the contest handily, with the judges giving it a score of 84% and the community vote averaging out to 88%. Originally, it was only two maps; the final release, however, is three maps consisting of a playable intro map, the main map, and an ending flyby. Accurately described as "70% bigger than before," The Triamid Ruins is comparable to Waffnuffly's The Last Fortress in its scope and scale. The pack is a reminder as to why Turboman is one of the best mappers around.
As in the original map, the player takes the role of an archaeologist on an assignment to investigate some strange ruins on a distant moon. Things don't go as planned when you find that the team you were supposed to meet up with has mysteriously disappeared. Naturally, since you're already on the ground, you get stuck with the task of learning what happened to your colleagues.
The story is greatly expanded from that of the original contest map. You'll find records left by the missing archaeological crew detailing what they've learned about the ruins, along with rare "...I heard something behind me" type messages, and eventually you learn about the ruins' origins and purpose. Spelling and grammar are fine for the most part. There are a few typos here and there, but nothing so serious that it makes the messages unenjoyable to read.
The architecture of The Triamid Ruins is top-notch. There wasn't a single boring location in the entire pack. Turboman is truly innovative in his use of decorations, making tree trunks out of squid gibs and using shards of glass to give areas extra detail. The pack is chock-full of "holy crap" moments, and it's fairly easy to forget that you have a mission to complete while exploring the vast ruins. At times I was fondly reminded of games like Metroid Prime.
The Triamid Ruins' greatest strength is its atmosphere; lighting in pack is fantastic. In every area, it was well chosen and makes the pack all the more breathtaking. With a pinkish-purple sky and a number of moons and suns in the backdrop, the player is constantly bombarded with a sense that they are on an alien moon. The pack has a lot of cool scripted events, and to quote Mr. Prophet's review of Liberation of Na Pali, "you truly get the impression that at any point, the level can come alive and swallow you." Ambient sounds were frequently used in the ruins so that there was rarely a quiet moment (except for when there was supposed to be). Dynamic ambient sounds were not used, but the atmosphere doesn't suffer for it.
Out of everything The Triamid Ruins had to offer, I was most impressed with the texturing. Turboman was able to take a variety of textures from different texture sets and combine them in a way that was convincing. Beyond that, he makes use of a number of rarely used textures that make it even more impressive. Texture alignment is very well done, but there are a few areas where the floor textures could have easily been aligned.
No map pack is perfect, and The Triamid Ruins is no exception. From a technical perspective, there were a few problems. The ship that drops the player off flickers due to its complexity. There were two instances where BSP holes blocked my advance, but it was possible to get around them without too much trouble. Considering the map's detail and scale, it runs surprisingly well.
Enemies mostly consisted of "critter" type pawns: mantas, flies, tentacles, and devilfish are the main foes you'll encounter. The monsters may manage to do some decent damage, but it is generally easy to recover lost health. Aside from the liberal amounts of health available, there are opportunities for the player to get three superhealths throughout the pack, so taking damage is practically a non-issue.
Even though it's not really amazing on the gameplay side of things, everything else in The Triamid Ruins is fantastic. The atmosphere and scale will pull you in, and it won't let go. It's a testament to some of the amazing things people can make for a 15 year old game. It pushes the Unreal Engine to its limits, and even though there are some technical ramifications for that, the pack is so engrossing that it doesn't matter.
*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.10
TexturingUse of textures in the level. Technically speaking, alignment and scaling. Choice of textures, and quality of any custom textures used.9
LightingLighting of the level: does it look cool? Use of light colour and other effects, and sourcing of lighting (no light out of nowhere).10
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.10
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.10
Story ConstructionBacking story & progression via translator, subplots, and script of voice acting where applicable. Logical choice of opposition.10
Story ImplementationProgression of the written story via the events of the level, and performance of voice actors where applicable.10
Gameplay AweQuality of scripted sequences, originality and staging of combats. Maps that force the player to "learn by dying" will be penalised.7
Gameplay BalanceBalance of weapons and items to creatures, including difficulty settings. Most importantly, fun factor.7