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UnrealSP.Org 8th Anniversary Speedmapping Contest
Fourth Place: "Enslaved" by Kaka
A very nice map indeed from Kaka. It had a nice mood and feeling to the whole place - that of Na Pali Haven, but with more atmosphere. However I believe the game play lacked some, and there were many BSP issues which made it impossible to play without have to cheat by using Ghost mode or Fly mode.
The build was very nice, both indoor and outdoor architecture. The custom meshes for grass and trees was also a nice touch, however it seriously killed the FPS when taken in all at once, even on my own machine (Quad core and GeForce 8800 GTX) =P. But everything still looked spectacular. The gameplay wasn't anything special, and was the normal "get a better weapon and get a stronger opponent to fight" type of run and gun style. The ending was a bit weird to, where you are just suddenly killed by randomly appearing Skaarj while a Nali watches you die... ooook lol.
At the end of the day though, I find it to be above the average map, and is a very beautiful piece of work, geometry wise. If Kaka can manage to punch out the bugs (most noticeable the BSP issues) and give a better story line/ending to the level, this will definitely be on my recommended list.
A SP map release from The Chosen One lead designer Kaka. With screenshots of TCO constantly impressing Unreal players, this is something we really wanted to try when we heard about Kaka participating in the contest. It's a big, large map, taking place on a Sky Island invaded by the Skaarj. You have to escape from it, but aside from that, the story is almost nonexistent, and I was extremely confused as to what was going on.
Regarding the architecture, the terrain is absolutely fantastic. All of the indoor structures are detailed as well. Lighting speaks for itself as well. Personally, I'm not keen on the textures used. NaliCastle.utx and SkyTown.utx makes a visually weird combination, and the grass looked like a pile of goo. Other than that, Kaka makes use of other details such as grass decorations and algae on the surface of lakes; details that I found either overused or ugly to look at. Poor effort has been put into the sounds. It's rare when you hear one, so you're left with the music tracks, which aren't enough to cover fantastic places such as this one.
But beyond the impressive build, you will find a multitude of problems related to the gameplay and the technical execution. There are a lot of BSP bugs and visual glitches that get in your way; also, prepare to stand heavy FPS decreases - my game was imploding at a certain point. They ruin the gameplay, but the gameplay itself is already poor; as the author stated, it was done in one day before the end of the contest, and he was not surprised by the ensuing complaints.
It is not fun, and it's repetitive. Then, on certain occasions, you'll encounter big groups of Skaarj, like the Infantry ones, that will make your life a pain, especially when the framerate is low. In one place you can find 200 Skaarj spawning in one spot, or Nali that you actually have to kill because they continuously summon Skaarj - I found no warning about this, caused by the absence of a real storyline. The last battle is utterly ridiculous. You may able to make it through it if you're insane, but you'll then give up and go in God Mode - something which I really despise having to do.
Fortunately, the author took note of all the problems and will fix them for the compilation release. And by then, it will become a monster of a map.
If you want to see what to expect from the visuals of The Chosen One, check it immediately. Otherwise, prepare to save your game and to cheat: you'll die a lot, and you'll probably get stuck somewhere. Another work punished by poor organization and lack of time.
A staggering entry for six weeks' work. Kaka is an incredibly talented mapper. He has a natural ability to create truly mystical and magical settings which put one in the midst of the Unreal universe. His architecture is incredible as is use of textures and implementation of lighting and sounds. The man has an uncanny eye for detail and at it really brings me back to the "original Unreal experience", if there is such a thing.
So... is Enslaved all of the above and more? Well, yes and no actually to my mind.
Story is pretty basic... not necessarily a good or bad thing given the map as a whole. The setting is absolutely incredible... no doubt about that from anyone I would think. Architecture and lighting are obviously top notch... and look at that night sky! Scripting of events is good... and there are some nasty surprises. Sound usage is good... ambients are used well... but I kind of wanted a bit more in some areas.
However... all of this is marred by a plethora of problems. BSP problems abound in this map... fall-through areas, blocked passages, faulty movers. I guess considering the six week build and the complexity of the level this pretty much is a given... but it will detract from the score. Also... the gameplay... oh the gameplay. To my mind the gameplay is ludicrous. Extremely unbalanced even on low difficulties which really detracts from the many positive aspects of this monster from Kaka.
Overall... an excellent entry unfortunately marred by score cutting bugs.
Welcome to BSP Hell!
My understanding with this map is that Kaka ran it right down to the wire in terms of time. As such, it's worth mentioning at the very beginning that this map requires a lot of fixing, and isn't presently playable without some use of Fly mode and Ghost mode due to BSP errors. Due to said errors there are also some massive HOMs, and a non-colliding lift. The map's score will take a slight hit for that, but I would like to focus more on other aspects of Kaka’s creation.
Like Waffnuffly's entry, Enslaved is huge. Kaka has created, in only six weeks, a simply enormous amount of real-estate, consisting of a large sky island with no less than two villages with accessible interiors, landmark buildings and networks of underground tunnels. After being teased for years with intriguing screenshots of The Chosen One, it's great to finally play a Kaka map.
However, despite stunning visuals including specially made custom meshes and textures, the map also feels unfinished. Ambient sounds are very scarce, to the point that the map only really feels like half an environment. Music alone isn't enough to carry this map's singular atmosphere. Meanwhile the map's story, which involves the use of telekinetically enhanced Nali to summon armies of creatures, is not explored in nearly enough detail to make sense.
Gameplay, meanwhile, is in need of significant work. For much of the map, the combat is sparse, creating quite a plodding gameplay experience, with several long combats against Brutes in the early stages draining the Dispersion Pistol's ammo to zero. However, at regular intervals the combat spikes massively in difficulty, including attacks by huge armies of Skaarj. I didn't work out the link between the Nali and the spawned Skaarj due to the lack of explanation of the story, and it caused me some difficulties; unusually, I actually found myself avoiding fighting some creatures all together (which wasn't in itself a bad experience), but that wasn’t always possible in the map's more unfavourable environments. The final fight, meanwhile, is absolutely absurd in its intensity and should probably only be attempted in God mode.
With a few more weeks' testing, bug fixing and balancing and the adding of more ambient sounds and story events, Enslaved could really be something special, but in its present form it lacks playability.