'Southern Isles' by Steamteck
|Review machine: Athlon 950, 256Mb, ATI Radeon 64Mb DDR @ 1024,768 Reviewed 11/08/01||Download (UK) (Russia)|
Southern isles is a fairly straightforward 4 level ground / air series, again set in the tropical lands typical of Steamteck's levels. Two of the levels are set above ground and the other two are set in an underground tomb and in the hellish underworld. Your quest is revealed to you as you meet people throughout the lands who give you snippets of information that provide clues as to what's going on.
Southern Isles is very similar to other levels created by Steamteck; it has a large layout and a non linear design where you can basically go anywhere you want although you do need to complete certain tasks in a set order to progress to the next level.
Like mentioned above, Southern Isles is set in the tropical lands and you will find the usual tombs and villages scattered around the populace. I'd like to see a bit of a change in future level series though; Steamteck's levels seem to have the same theme and one level series is basically the same as another albeit with a different layout. Maybe have a level set in the north with snow capped mountains and rolling valleys; your goal being to find a dragon's soul crystal and lair then awaken it before a volcano erupts or something? Of course there would be the Orcs and Wartocks to deal with too...
OK back to the level in question, the plot of Southern Isles is nicely done; although there's no backstory to the series it will become apparent what is going on as you 'talk' to NPC's via text messages. They will often mention things that have been going on recently and generally point you in the right direction. There aren't any enemies to begin with as its designed that way but before long you will be waging war on both land and air.
The weapons you will come across are varied but a lot of them are well worn, which is not really much of a problem as you will soon find replacement for a weapon when it wears out. There aren't many enhancements to the weapons themselves, they're fairly straightforward but enough to get you through without too much trouble. As for health potions and other items, they are placed well and are plentiful for the average player to get him / her through to the end without cheating. Arokh's weapons are standard, you start off with the flame breath and pick up the poison later on in your quest.
While on the subject of weapons, the enemies you will encounter to try out your weapons on are the standard ones from the game with one or two modifications such as weapon changes, different breath attacks etc. There isn't too many of them in one place and they are placed well i.e. a knight guarding a powerful artifact and the orcs clearing out the houses etc. Best of all, the enemy triggers worked really well as Ill try and explain; when you start out the village is at peace and then the enemies appear just like you were there as the invasion takes place. Boats will arrive on the shores and Orcs will begin to kill the villagers. Its just as if you are walking / flying around talking to people and then suddenly all hell breaks loose. There are one or two difficult enemies around especially in the tombs of Atlan so I have a handy tip; make sure you have plenty of arrows before you venture inside!
On to level architecture and general design - the landscaping is good with hills and rocky islands protruding from the sea. There are a few parts where it just doesn't look natural though; it's square and boxy particularly the edges of the rock hill surrounding the tomb entrance. If this area were rounded off instead of having perfectly square edges to natural objects it would look much better. Also the islands have perfectly square edges in places. I liked the villages and the castle though, they look really cool, Steamteck does a great job of creating typical medieval villages and structures. The fortress and the surrounding area in the hell world is really good too; when I got to this bit I thought it was well thought out and it created a tense atmosphere as you explored around.
After completing all 4 levels I found that the texturing throughout the level series was generally OK but it wasn't very good in the hell world, there were lots of repeated textures producing the well known carpet tile effect. This is where there were big layer and geometry errors; the whole landscape in the hell world looked unfinished. Layers weren't joined up correctly and there was a lot of clipping bugs. The other levels were fine though apart from one or two places. Examples of this was you could walk / fly through gaps in the landscape that weren't supposed to be there into other areas or sometimes you would get stuck in a wall.
Level atmosphere was good helped by the great plot and the things going on around you. The lighting was alright in most areas which set the mood of the level. The only places where the lighting was a major letdown was in the buildings, particularly the tavern - it was too bright and uneven. There were hardly any lights around so naturally, this place should be in semi - darkness. It would be much better if it was dark, only lit by the light from the fire and the wall lights as in Drakan itself.
The tombs were OK, with some traps to try and hinder your progress but if you don't like traps, don't worry because they aren't that difficult. The lighting here was a bit too bright too and there wasn't enough wall / ceiling lights etc.
So, overall, Southern Isles is quite similar to Steamteck's pervious level, but its still a great level series that's worth playing and you will get a lot of fun out of it. The only things that let it down are the lighting and layer bugs.
Another good level series from Steamteck, go download it now!
Rating; Architecture & lighting: 7 Texturing: 6 Item & enemy placement: 8
Atmosphere: 8 Gameplay / new ideas / enhancements: 6.5 bugs: a few layer problems
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