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Old 04-01-2009, 03:01 PM   #1   Add To Ignore List  
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Default [SE SP/Co-op] Village of the Cursed

Village of the Cursed

Author(s) : Chris "toastar" Young AKA RatBoy
Game : Serious Sam : The Second Encounter
Type : Single Player

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With Second Encounter still fresh on store shelves, the community had high expectations for the first true Single Player map. We wanted something creative, clever, elegant, and most of all, something that would capture the frantic fun of Croteam's maps. RatBoy took this challenge before anyone else (I'm not going to count the poorly received 2400 Gnaar map), and the result is The Village of the Cursed. And to put it simply, it delivers in droves.

In this map, Sam will fight through a small Gothic town in Poland, featuring a residential area, a spooky canyon, a medieval castle (with dungeons!), and finally, a large battlefield. The map is fairly large, and took me about 40 minutes to complete on Serious difficulty. The plot may not be Shakespeare, but it does give the player an incentive to complete the map, and it is advanced nicely by well placed Netricsa messages.

The architecture and visuals are generally excellent. Structures are well constructed, and moreover, they're unique. You get the distinct feeling when playing that you aren't just in another part of Croteam's castle; this level feels like a distinct area of Europe that Sam hasn't been to yet. I also didn't notice a single visual bug (except a couple incidents of z-fighting that few will ever notice), which shows an impressive level of polish. That said, the architecture in some areas doesn't quite measure up to what you might see in Croteam's Gothic maps. Some rooms are overly blocky and not that interesting. My biggest problem with the visuals was the terrain; in most areas it looks unnatural because it is composed of so few triangles. Don't let these minor niggles turn you off the map, because overall, it looks excellent.

http://i421.photobucket.com/albums/pp292/Xenon797/Review/th_01.jpg http://i421.photobucket.com/albums/pp292/Xenon797/Review/th_02.jpg http://i421.photobucket.com/albums/pp292/Xenon797/Review/th_03.jpg http://i421.photobucket.com/albums/pp292/Xenon797/Review/th_04.jpg

The gameplay is what's most important, and it's where this map delivers. Minor creative choices that worked really well jumped out at me all over the map. I'll give you an example. In the second room you see a double barreled shotgun. When you get close a werebull spawns on the other side and will run at you. I found myself frantically trying to beat the werebull to the shotgun, which was a lot of fun. In fact, most weapons spawn unique and interesting waves after you pick them up, waves that not only require you to use the weapon you just got, but also switch to other weapons in the middle of the fight. The pacing of the map is excellent, and health pickups are provided at regular intervals (but not so many as to trivialize the map). The final battle is also a lot of fun, but I won't spoil it here.

The combat is split up by a series of clever puzzles. There are 2 jumping puzzles that are completely unique and difficult, but both have secret ways to make them easier. See the screenshots for one example. The other puzzles consisted of finding keys to open doors. These puzzles are simple, but give the player some larger sense of purpose in the map. There are also plenty of secrets to reward players who like to search every corner of a level. Some give you health and ammo, but unlike many other maps RatBoy takes it a step further to give us unique, creative, and downright funny secrets. One example (without trying to spoil too many of them) is a Sirian Soldier with a teapot on its head.

The music is the default Second Encounter creepy castle music, which works well for the map. A couple larger battles switch to the Summoner boss battle music, which effectively gets your blood pumping for the coming slaughter.

There were a few gameplay aspects that I frankly didn't like. I'll mention the most annoying one first. The map forces you to take a 10-15 minute detour to find a key to open a large door. An arachnoid spawns behind the door before you get the key, so for a solid 15 minutes you hear the arachnoid scream every 10 seconds or so. By the end I wanted to strangle a kitten. Another problem I had was that there were just too few enemies in the map. Rarely do you see more than 10 enemies on screen at once, and never more than 15. There is never an Onslaught Battle, where you have to hold back an advancing mob before you die, and most encounters are difficult only because a few enemies spawn all around you. That brings me to another problem: difficulty. Even playing on Serious difficulty I didn't find the map all that challenging. I'd imagine it would be almost trivial playing it co-op.

But like I said before, these problems are mostly minor. On the whole, the map is alot of fun, and I'd strongly recommend it to anyone who hasn't played it yet.

Overall Score : 84/100 Good

Last edited by Scorpion777; 04-04-2009 at 03:30 AM.
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Old 04-02-2009, 01:11 PM   #2   Add To Ignore List  
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Default Re: [SE SP/Co-op] Village of the Cursed

This is a pretty good review, though you have left out a couple of details that need mention :

- The castle section tends to make the fighting conditions pretty cramped, which takes a bit away from the experience.

- The map is not playable on co-op. I have tried before, but the map simply won't show up in the map select list when opening a co-op server.

I like your review all the same. Keep it up, I look forward to more.
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Old 04-02-2009, 01:21 PM   #3   Add To Ignore List  
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Default Re: [SE SP/Co-op] Village of the Cursed

Cramped areas for fighting isn't bad in my opinion, but of course that depends on how intense/big the fight is.
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Old 04-02-2009, 02:08 PM   #4   Add To Ignore List  
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Default Re: [SE SP/Co-op] Village of the Cursed

I agree with Fiendian here, cramped areas can have exciting battles (plenty of examples in Croteam's maps). It's a pretty personal thing so I didn't mention it. It was more the lack of enemies that bothered me. But thanks all the same for the advice, I'll keep it in mind in my coming reviews. If someone else wants to review the 2400 Gnaar map I'd appreciate it, I couldn't get it to work on my machine.
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Old 04-02-2009, 02:21 PM   #5   Add To Ignore List  
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Default Re: [SE SP/Co-op] Village of the Cursed

No problem dude. Always willing to help a fellow reviewer out.

BTW, I don't think 2400 Gnaar fight is worth reviewing. XP
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