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Unreal Gold

Review: Vodojem / The Reservoir

One of Nikola's highest achievements thus far

Project information

Vodojem / The Reservoir
Nikola -(DOG)- Genyo
Unreal Gold
Single Map

Main review

As 2015 slowly came to a close, Nikola decided to strike for the third time and grace the players with another piece of SP goodness. The map, called Vodojem (czech for "The Reservoir") (ignore the "2", as it is likely a version number) is a single map outing, ancient in theme - and a return to the roots, as it features one of Nikola's favorite themes: water. It's a genuine dungeon romp through-n-through, with a clever puzzle or two thrown in for good measure. It's also one of Nikki's better works by far.

The adventure starts on a medieval-looking courtyard shrouded in darkness (bad "TiT:Medieval" lighting vibes present, luckily only here, so carry on) and upon investigating the surroundings, walking down the spiral staircase to what seems to be a tomb, our nameless adventurer goes back up to find the large floor missing, opening the way deep into the titular aqueduct. So far, only random pests have gotten in our way but that's about to change, as the area onward is filled with even more pests, a large contingent of Krall, some Skaarj and Brutes thrown in for good measure, all arranged in such a way that there is not a single boring area in the entire level. Aside from that, some doors require the players using their gray matter to open: there are two torches that activate stuff if flares are thrown inside them, one tile on the floor needs a crate on it to remain pushed down and an occasional lever is bound to open something. The layout is mostly linear but it never is confusing and the translator tips should be enough for most to be able to overcome these obstacles. Points of interest are once again marked with envelope icons, question marks and exclamation marks, which after Jeges Base seems to have become a staple of Nikola's way of getting the players' attention to clues and it helps.

As said before, the combat encounters against numerous Krall and their supports are fairly challenging, with the main highlight being the main drain tank area, which can get pretty hectic at times. Only around half of the Unreal arsenal is present herein but unless the player is extremely wasteful, that should be perfectly fine for the most part.

The Aqueduct exploration begins proper

Despite the underwhelming starting area, almost immediately the level turns into a true visual spectacle. The aqueduct is huge and the passages are wide open spaces with epic arches and columns, various tiles in frames and plenty other features. Custom texturing seems prevalent, which makes the level look quite fresh when compared against the many that rely on stock assets. The lighting in the small tomb and the aqueduct itself is much better than in the starting area and the ambient sound layer, albeit a tad poor, gets the job done as well. The music is mostly custom, with one track borrowed from Tomb Raider Anniversary and another from Amnesia. It lends to the heavy atmosphere of the place the player explores. The official expansion's Journey track kicks in the final area of the game, getting the player pumped for the confrontation that's happening on-screen and giving hope that the horrors of the Reservoir are almost behind them. There's next to nothing to explain the adventurer's motivations for venturing into the area and the one Nali we meet says that not many humans have reached his sanctum, adding to the feeling of accomplishment. Upon accessing the inside of the main drain tank, some final pest control and a bit of swimming, the player ends the level by hopping on a boat that would take them to the next grand adventure.

The main drain tank; the arena of the final showdown

It's also worth noting that there's next to no technical issues. While there are no visual cues of torches being activated by the flares (something that might throw the player off a bit), there were no BSP issues, no questionable texture alignments and the only killzone I found was in an unreachable area I cheated my way into out of curiosity. Hint: don't walk into the globe in the tomb early on. The teleporter on the boat could also use a larger collision hull.


Nikola's final 2015 release is one of her highest achievements thus far. A grand sense of scale of the location and palpable tension during exploration lend to the feel of a high-stakes adventure. The level is fairly long and a pleasure to play, with the puzzles being decent enough to slow the player down, while at the same time not hard enough to be considered cryptic and annoying. The progress feels rewarding and the action progresses gradually until the inevitable climax that is the drain tank showdown. Highly recommended.

Download Link:…

Build (37%)
  • 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 (29%)
  • 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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