Friday, February 06, 2015

Review: Nocturnal - iLOW3D

Title: Nocturnal - iLOW3D
Creator: Ipank7000

Dos Version Released:
Length: 30 Levels
Level Format: Episodic (3 episodes)
Story: Original
Graphics: Original + New 
Sound: Original + New
Special Features: New weapons, new enemies, enemy blocking tile, changed ceiling colors, teleporters, limit to the amount of weapons you can carry, sniper + scope, MG42's, and other features. 

Initial impressions: The first level is an outside level, which is a nice change of environment from the first three episodes. It's good to see that Ipank still changes up the ceiling colors, as this is an aspect that is, at times, forgotten by mappers. Which is unfortunate, as it is an important element of a level's aesthetics. The return of the limit to the amount of weapons you can carry is a welcome one, as the feature adds a different tactical element to the gameplay (though you rarely run out of ammo; once you've picked up a backpack you will most likely stick to the weapons you possess). Overall, the game starts off really well. It is familiar, yet different from the first three episodes.

Gameplay: The mod is quite easy in the beginning of the first (technically fourth) episode, but around the sixth - seventh level is where the mod shifts into a different gear and the difficulty goes up a notch or two. From that point on, the mod is full of action as the traps Ipank employs in his maps become bigger and more dangerous. Thanks to the variety of enemies used in this mod, these traps keep on being a challenge and provide some tense shootouts. Just like in Trilogy, the limit imposed on the weapons is an interesting feature that adds a new layer to the game. Especially in the first few levels of the second and third episode of this game, the choices you'll have to make can be a challenge. However, once you've found a backpack or two this choice becomes a lot easier as you can carry more weapons, causing the tactical element to evaporate altogether. This is unfortunate, and perhaps for a feature mod it might be interesting to have either fewer weapons to your disposal, or to create more sequences where certain weapons are needed.

Mapping: Just like last time, the mapping is the highlight of the mod. It still feels close to the original, but more as an expansion in the line of BJ Rowan's Totengraeber. Ipank7000, who has steadily become one of the best mappers in the community, once again creates some interesting traps and level designs. However, as fantastic as the mapping is at times, the mod does fall into repetition. There are multiple scenarios that keep popping up (dodging mines, snipers in the corners of rooms, trapdoors with enemies coming from them, overreliance on symmetry, certain room designs) that do slightly hamper the experience. While the game usually gets itself on the right course again with a fantastic action-packed level or two in the final halves of the episodes, the repetition is noticeable and unnecessary. With a little editing, this could have been prevented. Cut out some of the levels that repeat scenarios, and you'd get an amazing 20 level mod. However, I should note that the casual mod enthusiast might not be as bothered by this as I am, and the repetition still doesn't prevent the mod from being a lot of fun to play. It just feels like the number of levels was fixed, but that there weren't fresh ideas for all of them.

Likes: While not without its flaws, the mapping is still fantastic. Overall, the game is well balanced and keeps the player on its toes with interesting traps. The mod never gets boring, and is always quite action-packed and challenging. The enemies add to this, as they're a varied bunch that can be dangerous alone and even more dangerous when mixed with different types. New additions, such as the snipers and the rocket launchers, fit the mod really well and add their own challenge. Their respective weapons also add a new dimension to this game, I love the way they're implemented. Finally, the outside environment is done really well. I really dig that light blue + green floor color combination.
Dislikes: The biggest dislike is the one I've already discussed in the mapping paragraph of this review. The repetition of certain elements & sequences and the overreliance on symmetry hamper the experience a bit. Apart from that though, there really isn't anything else I dislike. Even the STG enemies, who I mentioned in the review of Trilogy as unnecessary, are put to much better use this time around. And overall, I'd say that Nocturnal improves almost everything compared to Trilogy. It's just that the mapping could have used some more editing to cut off the fat of this mod.

Ron's Score: 8.5/10
Difficulty: Quite challenging
Best Levels: E1L1, E1L6, E2L9, E3L2 & E3L9 
Worst Level: None, just some elements within the levels that bother me.

Wrap-up: This mod is an improvement over the first three episodes, but while the mapping is at times fantastic and the mod is filled with levels that are challenging and full of action, the repetition of certain mapping elements does hamper the mod a bit. However, the mod is still tons of fun and totally worth playing. I would recommend every Wolfer to give it a shot.

Where Can I get it?: You can download the mod HERE or by clicking on the screenshot at the top of this post. You can read my review of Trilogy - iLOW3D HERE.

Disclaimer: All reviews are only my opinion when playing the mod and are not intended to discredit anyone or the hard work they have put into creating their mod.

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