Mnar along the river Ai by Steamteck


Review machine: AMD K6-2/450, 196Mb RAM, Voodoo2 SLI @ 1024,768 Reviewed 02/09/00 Download (UK) (Russia)
Brief description:

Huge 3 level adventure set after Steamteckís previous levels which is backed by a good plot that ties in neatly with the gameplay.

Main review

Mnar along the river Ai is another quality level(s) from Steamteck, which has some great gameplay elements that will keep you interested right up to the end. The file size is pretty small considering the amount of things that have gone into it so its 56k-modem friendly too.

The first thing you need to do before playing the level series, is print out the read-me; it will help a lot on your quest to free Arokh and destroy the witch of Aranmor. Mnar contains lots of side quests, some of which you need to complete in order to progress and being able to refer to the read-me is a must.

On starting out, the first thing you will notice is that the first level is indeed huge. Itís a sort of non-linear design so you can go to any of the cities on the map in any order you like. They are positioned in a certain way though so that if you follow the level round in the right way, you will come to the cities in the correct order.

Talking of the cities and towns, they have been created with realism in mind like in Steamteckís previous levels. The ruined cities look great and they create a sort of atmosphere whilst you wander round. Indoor areas are reasonably OK with some new textures used in the temple interiors. The lighting is poor however, its all the same brightness no matter which part of the level you are in. This degrades the atmosphere to some extent but the rest of the level features make up for it.

The side quests involve getting a key from somewhere to open a tomb to retrieve a weapon of some sort; that sort of thing. There are plenty of places to explore too, which contain weapons and health potions plus other useful things that are worth taking with you.

The map layout overall was good, towns and cities are placed round a large inland lake set in the tropical world. I really liked the scenery in the open areas; palm trees, plants and the odd house or two broke it up rather than having huge expanses of land with nothing around.

Enemy placement was OK, knight guards protected the important areas and other enemies were placed in groups like they would be in real life such as grouped round a campfire or you may find some just wandering round. There are a few moments where enemies appear by a trigger, for example after coming out of a building; there is a wartock or two waiting for you.

Something else I want to point out is the level suffers from a problem that a lot of others have; black fog on a bright sunny day. It would be better if it was like the fog in the islands.

Overall, Mnar (the first level) is the best, it has great scenery, nicely done cities and towns and plenty of places to explore to make the gameplay all that more involving.

On to the second level, beneath the city of Krak-al-Shidda, the architecture isnít as good and the uneven lighting is more apparent, but however again there are lots of places to explore. The keys and items you need to progress are situated in realistic places, i.e. you will find the key to open the cavern where Arokh is held on a table in the guardís room. Again this shows the attention to detail in the level and the enemy placement is as good as the previous level, Mnar. There are more triggered enemies here though and sometimes too many appear at once. One thing I noticed, I didnít find Arokh but I got to the end of the level. The place where he was supposed to be was just empty. He appeared behind me though at the beginning of the third level. I donít know if this was a bug or not; Iím sure you should have been able to rescue him.

The third level in the series was also a good level. Without repeating myself too much, there are a good number of places to explore and its non-linear; however, you donít need anything to open the temple at the end. Itís worth exploring everywhere though as you will find more powerful weapons and the like. In this level, the triggered enemies worked quite well; you walked into somewhere that appeared empty but a group of death mages appear. Another instance is a dragon appears after exiting a temple, which resulted in a joint effort between Rynn and Arokh to defeat it Ė really cool bit of teamwork.

So overall, the series has tons of gameplay and reasonable atmosphere. The enemies can be a bit overwhelming in places but you get plenty of heath potions to collect. The lighting and texture stitching could have been better and the level architecture was a mixture of good and OK. Some layer problems were evident (take a look at the tunnel at the beginning of level3 from the air) but these donít interfere with the gameplay much.

I also experienced crashing when killing the Rimril wizards so I had to cheat / keep reloading save game in some places to avoid them. I donít know if anybody else experiences this though. I never found the Great Sea Serpent either and I had the bow, hellfire right until the end. I assume it only appears after killing a wizard so thatís why I never saw it. Also itís a bit slow on my system even with the fog right in. It can drop to a slide show in places.

Great gameplay but one or two issues that reduce the atmosphere to some extent.

Rating; Architecture / landscape: 8.5 Texturing: 6.5  Item / enemy placement: 8

Atmosphere: 7 gameplay / new ideas / enhancements: 8 bugs: slow, crashes on some systems.

Total: 76%





Screenshots - click to enlarge.