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Map Title: Three Crystals
If DavidM were to be asked about 3 Crystals now, knowing him, he'd say "it sucks ass". 3 Crystals is an early release by the now well known mapper, and when judged by modern standards it may not seem to have that much to offer, but it's really not that bad.
The barely existent storyline of 3 Crystals sees you infiltrating a village to retrieve three crystals for your museum. On the way you must kill any who oppose you. Once you have the crystals, you must return to the starting point. Once the level gets started, there are no translator messages beyond a few extremely obvious hints from the mapper, and no scripted scenes either.
The upper village part of the map will be familiar in concept to anyone who enjoyed Na Pali Haven in Unreal. More closely built than the former, it's a pleasant and peaceful scene complete with plants, a fountain, and of course a Nali Cow. The architecture is serviceable but old-fashioned, looking somewhat low-poly. Towards the end of the map, in the vicinity of the tower (which, in a nice conceptual flourish, is visible from much of the level before it), the architecture is less detailed due perhaps to poly count constraints.
DavidM uses the SkyCity textures for the most part to create this familiar theme. They are generally well chosen for, although a couple of dodgy choices are made for some of the doors. The textures are normally aligned and scaled well, but there are some glitches on the ground and a number of wooden structures on which the grain is improperly aligned.
Traversing the village, the lighting is nicely done. The buildings are festooned with classic Unreal lanterns, and lens flares are used to good effect to give the environment a "twinkly" feel. Inside, David is quite adventurous with his use of coloured lighting, although it's often unsourced, leaves the player a bit puzzled. The lighting in the tower area, however, isn't quite so attractive due to the absence of lanterns.
Reasonable use is made of ambient sounds to bring the map to life. Typical of such levels, crickets chirp and water runs. The music (SkyTwn.umx, naturally), however, plays at a ridiculously slow speed on starting the map: I would recommend typing "musicorder 0" into the console to sort it out. This, combined with some framerate loss on slower machines and an unpleasant effect when looking down at the village from the top of the tower, brings down the score for technical execution.
Gameplay at first is very slow, with only one or two Krall around the village. Once you collect the crystals, numbers of Krall increase as you return to the starting area, but what the level really needed was a harder fight at the ending, because it's all rather easy, especially given the industrial quantities of ammunition that DavidM provides.
On the other hand, DavidM makes full use of the environment he has created to add interactivity: in the village, the player can smash various windows, and must traverse narrow ledges around the edges of the buildings to overcome obstacles.
3 Crystals is an enjoyable level to explore with a few secret areas in the village. It's short, but worth playing at least the once.
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