'Search For Arokh' by Suburban
|Review machine: Athlon 1200, 384Mb, ATI Radeon 64Mb DDR @ 1024,768 Reviewed 20/12/02||Download (UK) (USA)|
Search for Arokh is a large mainly ground level in which Rynn must find Arokh after suspecting he has been captured. The level is set after the PC game ended and the storyline also fits in with the events of D: TAG so it could even be set after that if you have played the game. The level features a variety of locations and lots of scripted events and traps to keep the player interested throughout the level. There is also a German version of this level available at www.planetdrakan.com
Search for Arokh was created by a German player and all the texts were originally in German only but with the help of Lady Slag over at PlanetDrakan it has been translated into English; you may notice that the readme and in game text is difficult to understand but its still easy to know what is going on. The storyline like mentioned above could be set after either of the official games and sees Rynn and Arokh traveling the world of Drakan hunting down the last remnants of the Dark Union. One day Rynn wakes up finding Arokh gone and after going back to the farmhouse she visited the day before begins to suspect he has been captured and she sets out to find him.
After the cool Star Wars style introduction, the enemies come quick and fast so you have to run into the nearby house to get information on your quest. The map is a non linear design and you can go anywhere you want but its recommended that you follow NPC's instructions as you get them to make your life a lot easier. A map is provided in the zip file which you can print out; a first for a player created level and it works quite well as long as you get your bearings first before you set out. If you are stuck, look carefully around the village and you will see arrows indicating the paths to the North, East etc. Quest clues and NPC conversations are presented in the normal text pop-ups where you have to press space once you have read them.
The difficulty of the series is just about right; there are plenty of enemies to kill, mainly consisting of Orcs, Wartocks and Scavengers plus a few Dragons - a tip; always make sure you have some arrows! Also you will notice a large Wartock camp near the village where you start; its recommended to keep away from there as advised by the dying warrior you meet in the farmhouse. You will get your chance later, trust me. Health potions are abundant and skilled players may find they will have a large number left at the end of the level but for the average player it should be enough. The weapons you will come across are just fairly basic swords and bows which you will have to hunt around for - the Wartocks and Orcs carry the standard weapons which you can't use. Overall though, they should be enough to get you through the game without too much trouble.
Gameplay wise, this is a fun level to play through, there are some cool scripted events such as ambushes, traps etc and some fully working machinery such as a crane delivering explosive barrels. You can see the Orcs using the crane and it looks incredibly realistic - something not seen often in player created levels. After you have killed the Orcs, you can use the crane yourself via a few levers to move the barrels around, pick them up etc and then drop them to blow open the wall. Another cool thing I found was in one of the pyramids; they were in darkness and you had to hunt around for a light switch in each room to make the torches along the walls light. This seemed more realistic as in a lot of fantasy games even Drakan itself there are always lit torches in deserted tombs and caverns which seems silly, it makes more sense to have a switch of some sort to activate them. Sound wise, there isn't many ambient sounds, a few placed here and there particularly in the mines would have made an improvement to the atmosphere.
The traps are sometimes frustrating and there is, in my opinion an unnecessary amount of levers you have to pull in the mine to progress which made it seem more like a prison than a mine. Also a key you need to get to open the inner tunnels is obtained from an enemy outside the mine who only appears after you have been through the first part which led to me wandering around in circles for ages. It pays to check areas where you have already been as even though you have killed everything, more enemies appear on a trigger after you have completed a certain event. The outdoor areas are much better and there are paths that lead to each of the major locations so its not difficult to get lost and there are a few obstacles in your way which you must overcome. Some of these such as the windmill seem to be just put there to stop your progress rather than serving a useful purpose - I mean the windmill didn't do anything other than try and cut you up.
On to level architecture and design - there is nothing special here, the landscapes are fairly average but one or two areas look great such as the forest and the pyramids. Level design is consistent with the land its supposed to be set in which is a mountain region in the winter - there are no excessive mixtures of tropical and mountain world items which is good. The indoor areas are fairly boxy and don't look as good as what I've seen in other levels. The lighting is fairly average as well; its too bright in many areas such as the mines and the pyramids which should be naturally dark. The level also has black fog against the island evening sky which looks odd, it would have been better if white fog were used instead. One or two little touches are apparent such as in the forest you will find a cart and a couple of adult skeletons and a child skeleton nearby which is obviously a family who has met a sticky end with the scavengers. There are also no cut scenes and the level is ended by a text message appearing when you get to a certain place which you can cancel by hitting space and continuing around the level. I would have preferred a cut scene at the end - something to finish off the story. Overall though the map is huge and offers a wide variety of terrain and places to visit which makes it more interesting to play.
Item and enemy placement is pretty good; the enemies seem to be doing some sort of task rather than standing around looking stupid. There are a few that appear on a trigger as if you didn't notice them and they caught you by surprise. There is also a massive scripted Wartock fight which made me laugh, you can either leave them be or kill them, the choice is yours. Explosive barrels are well placed so that you can use them to your advantage to take out nearby enemy troops for example there is a Army commander parading his troops of Wartocks backwards and forwards; wait till the group nears the barrels and shoot an arrow at them and Boom! As mentioned above, weapons and health items are well placed, no problems here. As for keys, there were two rune keys I never managed to find a use for and I definitely explored every square inch of the map - maybe parts of it were cut out? One more thing I'd like to mention here is after you get Arokh, there are loads of Dragons that suddenly appear which seems as if they were simply placed there just for Arokh to kill them. The same map is used for both levels but with different enemies. It would be much better if there was an area of the map only accessible via Arokh which is only populated by dragons.
Overall, this is a fun map to play, it does have a few drawbacks and the frame rate can drop considerably in certain areas but its well worth the download and will keep you occupied for a good 5 hours or so, maybe longer.
Rating; Architecture & lighting: 6.5 Texturing: 8 Item & enemy placement: 8
Atmosphere: 9 Gameplay / new ideas / enhancements: 7 bugs: none
More screenshots - Click the images to enlarge.