level: sigma quadrant
author: samuel 'kaiser' villarreal
email: svkaiser AT(NO SPAM) gmail DOT com
click here to download the map
3D gamers edge gold award winner!
- exceptional action
- great layout
- innovative inventory system
- high level of realism
- excellent gameplay flow
- cool "plot" concept
- great architecture
- wicked challenge
- lack of scripted events
- not quite up-to-par with previous releases
-note- this review is based on playing at skill level 1
kaiser is back again with his third level in what is now revealed to be an 8-level expansion pack entitled "escape from demios". 'refueling station' was map 2, this map is map 3, and T-lab complex is map 5. and to think that some people make fun of the order in which george lucas released star wars.
for those who have played kaiser's previous efforts, this level is a less-frills, more straight-forward D3 experience. it doesn't feature as many cool scripted events as the first two levels, and the atmosphere has more basic creepy/frantic feel to it. while this isn't necessarily bad, i did miss the level of anxiety that was present in those maps. sigma quadrant features kaiser's expected excellent architectural design: highly realistic environments, tons of attention to every detail, and cool machinery. the sigma quadrant is a very realistic location with a fantastic layout that the player will immediately become immersed in. the player can also do some hardcore exploring and find a total of three secret areas. the end-game screen will let you know how many you find (it also liss you kill count, and tells you the total number of enemies). locating them all adds to the fun and replayability of the map.
new to this map is an excellent inventory system that wasn't present in the other "Escape" maps. it allows the player to quickly and easily see what items they are carrying (such as keycards) and it also allows the player to carry around up to three med-packs. this is a very useful feature that eliminates the annoyance of having to backtrack through the level searching for health that was left behind. a big kudos to kaiser for thinking of such a cool addition to his gameplay, and executing it flawlessly.
another new addition in this level is the beginnings of a plot. reading the various PDAs will fill the player in on a story involving some viral problems. this leads to the addition of "invisible" creature models, which look very nice. there is also a very cool lab room with a "creature" floating in some unknown fluid which the plot focuses on. i know this all sounds very vague, but i don't want to explain away what little plot there is. i was thankful to see that there was an actual story shaping up, especially if kaiser plans to finish all eight maps and release this as a full-blown expansion pack.
where this map truly shines is in the action. there are some downright amazing battles to be fought within the sigma quadrant and each one is a oodles of fun. as you approach the end, you will encounter two massive fights, and then the final battle. the two big fights leading up to the endgame are as good or better than the final battle many amateur maps offer. and the end battle is just insanely fun. and this is all on normal skill. crank it up a notch to hard (veteran) and this level is brutal from start to finish. i'm always happy when an author includes skill levels. it makes his product playable for a wider variety of players, and replayable for those of us who want to try it again on a harder skill.
while i have no real complaints about this level i had to drop its score just a bit lower than the previous two kaiser maps. 'sigma' features the same level of high-quality design that its predecessors did, yet it just isn't quite as exciting as they were. it lacks the innovation, risk-taking, and scripted sequences that push those maps over the top. perhaps this is a result of releasing the maps in such a strange order, or of experiencing this level outside the context of the larger story. in any event, this map is excellent and i recommend it unreservedly. but i also felt compelled to express my mild disappointment. the only real flaw i found in this level (and this is getting extremely nit-picky, i know) is that the PDAs for Patrick Fargo and Jason Preston both had the user's "sent" messages located in the "inbox" of their email program.
the end result here is that kaiser has released another exceptional level that we should all be very thankful for. to be granted such high-quality gameplay for free is a real treat. thanks, kaiser, and i certainly hope you do complete this expansion and release it in its entirety someday.