review: arwop – A Roman Wilderness of Pain

before you read this, i feel i should warn you there are some spoilers in here.  i figure it’s long enough after the initial release that this should be ok, but if you haven’t played it yet, you may want to skip this post.

i know it says ‘review’, but these ‘review’ posts are probably more like commentary than a review intended to pique someone’s interest.

i initially played this map pack a few months ago, back when it first was released but never finished it (i got to the second map and hit a gameplay snag and gave up).

then sock started playing q1sp releases and i was reminded of this when he dropped his comment concerning this map.

so i decided to give this another go.

the first thing about these maps is that they are huge.  in both gross size and gameplay length.  i got a big surprised when i got to, what i thought was, the end of the first map (roman1) and found there was a whole other area with a visually distinctive theme.  a very pleasant surprise indeed.

tronyn has a very unique take on all the texture themes he chose to use.  some texture choices are questionable (q3’s block3b floor tex used as a brick wall) but not so bad that they are show stoppers.

a lot of the areas remind me of the rome levels in jericho.  very bloody but fairly wide-open and very cool.

gameplay is another story, unfortunately.  skill settings are way off (as per usual with tronyn’s maps– sorry man).  the readme is misleading as it just uses the skill descriptions that was in the 1997 quake manual.  easy is about what modern players consider normal.  normal is what modern players considering hard, and hard doesn’t even bear thinking on.  oh, if that’s not enough, nightmare is (apparently) even harder and hell (new skill level) features respawning monsters and other fun things of that nature. -_-;

i honestly can’t see anyone playing on nightmare without either playing super conservatively or exploiting AI shortfalls and geometry.  i suppose hell skill would have to be played like a speedrun since the monsters would endlessly respawn, unlike your ammo.

so, that said, after my first try on normal skill (this is the skill level i always use to play maps), i sucked it up and chose easy.  (incidentally, i got killed twice in the start map, once when i jumped into the blood looking for secrets and another time from the exploding barrels that i thought might have something in them, so you can see the kind of mood the map was setting, lol)

on easy, the maps are quite fun with some hectic fights but all doable with plenty of ammo and lots of weapon choices.  there are enough cells and nails once you get passed the first map, so that you rarely have to use shotguns and if you somehow do run out, you get the grenade launcher and rocket launcher not too long after as well.

there are a number of custom weapon in this mod but things are kept from becoming confusing by actually replacing weaker versions with their stronger counterparts.  for example, the SNG replaces the NG, the laser rifle replaces the laser gun, the chainsaw replaces the axe…

i remember being hesistant when kell was outlining how he wanted the warhammer to work in quoth.  ‘you want it to replace the axe?’ i thought.  it ended up working really well and does so again here.  the important thing here is that the weapon that is replacing the old one should not have any drawbacks the original one didn’t have.  for example, replacing the shotgun with the super shotgun would be inappropriate because the super shotgun has some serious disadvantages and fulfills a different role.

the most useful ones i’ve found were the laser gun (and later the laser rifle).  there are tons of cells, enough even to splurge and use the lightning gun for it’s higher damage rate from time to time.

the changes that allow melee weapons to kill zombies makes them a viable choice now.  i used the chainsaw quite a bit actually, and it’s very satisfying (although very noisy).

there are a couple of poor routes and item placements.  in particular, the silver key is hidden almost like a secret in the first level and is not required until much later.  you can play for a good 10 minutes before needing to open a silver key door while the key itself is available almost from the get-go.  what ends up happening is you are following one route and come to a complete dead-end with no idea where to go and you have to just search around for the silver key until you find it.

the second map has a similar problem.  near the start, you have to press 5 lionhead buttons to progress, but one of those buttons is up in an area i initially thought was a secret (it’s the ledge where the vore is in the building that has the green marble demon face from doom on the ground level).  i found it after much frustration by walking into a dark corner and finding a hidden lift (it was under the ground and not visible, and there are no items there to entice you to go there).

a final hiccup has to do with the final battle.  it’s very challenging but fun.  you fight a spell casting necromancer who can teleport around (indeed, the model is from hexen 2, and the AI is very similar to it as well) and he can resurrect dead monsters.  a very fun fight over all with a lot of movement and action.

the problem arises when you kill the necromancer.  as his parting gift to you, he summons a cyberdemon.  the cyberdemon uses typical AI that it is known for from Doom, but he also retains his insanely high health.  to make matters worse, it also starts a second monster spawner similar to Doom2’s level 30 end boss.  at this point, ammo is low and, although some ammo is spawned in to help, it isn’t really enough.

the weapon of choice, the thing you’ve been saving ammo up for the whole pak– the ice crossbow (fuck if i’m going to try to type out that ridiculous name) has a very poor rapport with the cyberdemon.  specifically, unless the ice arrow kills the target, there is very little feedback on whether you hit your target or not.  essentially, the ice arrow passes right through the cyberdemon (as it’s supposed to– the ice arrow can kill multiple monsters in a line) without letting me know if i’ve hit it or not.  not even any particles or a sprite.

ammo isn’t the only problem.  the ground is very uneven in this area.  there’s a pentacle built out of brushes embedded in the ground.  it’s very easy to get snagged on it.

essentially, the second phase of the boss battle would have been much more fun with a lot more ammo and proper clipping over the terrain (or turning the pentagram into a func_illusionary).

in the end, i cheated with god mode and chainsawed the cyberdemon to death.

something i appreciated a lot was the invisibility in roman2.  i wish i would see the ring more often in a situation where it matters instead of just tossing it out as a consolation prize in a secret.  indeed, i’d like to see some modifications to the ring.  maybe something like:

-picking up the ring causes all monsters actively chasing you to forget you

-attacking will awaken monsters, but only as long as you continue to attack.  not attacking for (arbitrary) 5 seconds causes them to forget you.

an implementation like this where the ring isn’t just an all or nothing could lead to some interesting fights.

anyway, the raft ride in roman2 is cool.  a little nuts, but not insta-death (at least, not on skill0 o.o). and all 3 maps have an excellent sense of place.  most of them are really just one gigantic area with structures built into it.  it must have been absolute hell to vis, but pays off by giving a lot of scenery to look at to produce a parallax effect with world geometry.  it makes everything very impressive.

so, in the end, we have one of those maps that should definitely be played although not quite a classic.

be wary of skill levels and don’t feel ashamed to pick easy mode!

ARWOP – Direct Download from Quaddicted

Release thread on func_msgboard

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