Another long review many will fail to completely read, but I don't care, because I want to take over the wordcloud... NO, JUST KIDDING!!
Titia's game. So way ahead of its time that it creates a whole new category I would call "RELATIVE GAMEPLAY", containing all possible feelings a player experiences from a game built with tools and techniques no-one has tried yet, and thus incomparable to anything else. This criterion will vanish as soon as psiko, teme9 and Walrus finally appear with their works, sculpted atom by atom for years already. I think what Titak presented here will become a standard for those builders, and - possibly - several more. I mean those silent we rarely hear from or maybe don't even know about. But as long as relative gameplay exists, it MUST affect the standard gameplay rating, and this is why it's so difficult to decide how much percentage of normal rating I should assign to it. So far, many might have failed to put a right mark into this field. By saying "might have", I mean I'll probably fail as well. For some time, I was also afraid overall hype on this levelset will make it overrated in all categories - because many people picked this level as their first custom EVER played, with NO knowledge about ANYTHING what has been built during past 10 years. Just few days after the release, over 20 people put their scores, half of them just starting their reviewing career. Then, something opposite occured: a single review denied efforts of 20 precedessors, throwing MoA off the pedestal and we call it democracy (WTF?). Sorry, but I can't leave this without comment. The reviewer probably didn't see a REALLY bad gameplay yet. Fortunately, after several more days, the rating has been pulled up again by some experienced reviewers (THANK GOD YOU ARRIVED AT LAST), and stabilized on a really fair level. Yes, I really think 9.88 was a PERFECT rating for this game, and I didn't want to change it, as it shows an already made conclusion - a great game, but not better than HM. This is why, wasting many hours of calculations, I decided to adjust my rating, for it to get as close to 9.88 as possible. If I didn't adjust, my marks would be:
And now for the actual commentary explaining it all:
SOUND AND MUSIC:
From all NG upgrades, unnecessary and necessary, useless and useful, strange and beautiful, wacky and cool, there is one ultimate doomer - a double-edged sword called New Audio Engine. When I call its name, it should cause loads of thunders played on both channels, with these channels being exactly the sides of the sword I am talking about. From a dangerously long time, I become more and more convinced that almost NONE OF NG BUILDERS CARES ABOUT IT. Everytime I noticed a switch on the wall, responsible for turning on the radio, I felt uneasy, and many times I was right. Folmann and Beethoven just don't work if played in the same moment. Both pieces written in two completely different eras, what means different styles, tonations and tuning. Yes, TUNING. It means Beethoven's "a1" is NOT 440 Hz. Rules of math doesn't allow these two pieces to play simultaneously in harmony. I know 80% of You don't care. But for those who do, such setup can be atmosphere-destructive. This hurts even more if we think about a lot of beautiful sfx this game has in later levels, samples of well-thought usage, almost perfectly coexisting with background music. So please Titia, next time care about that. I am pointing this out just because You didn't know it can be a problem to anyone, and other builders may not have an idea about it as well.
The review goes further and further. Many of You have probably stopped reading it right after the preamble, but I am sure Titia is still here, so mwahaha I'll keep talking and no-one will stop me. Now for I had something against sound, because it's only ALMOST excellent, now I will make some balance and tell about...
In fact, my review should end now. I can't complain about anything here. If You REALLY want spoilers, I will say about one thing that touched me the most of the whole game: the rain. There's a rain falling on the manor glass roof, and everytime I look at it, I feel extremely safe and comfy, just like if I had a pair of warm, fluffy slippers on my feet:
Oh, it's a pair of duck-shaped ones. Also when I think about everburning fireplace below that epic roof, I like it more than all screenshots Titak proudly presented in her WIP thread. If I can think about any comparison from HM, I would say jeep tires, covered in snow in front of the Tannhauser Gate, bring the same feelings. If the whole MoA prologue manor was supposed to burn down in the sequel, with only surviving part being the rainy roof, the level wouldn't lose almost anything from its atmosphere. Such places are to remember. They show realism is not about polygon amount at all. I said this a long time ago, but I repeat it for any game which deserves it, as an expression of highest possible appreciation for atmosphere I can ever give. It applies only to those builders who would be able to create an equal climate even if their games would have no polygons at all.
But those players who REALLY care about hi-polygon stuff, and look for such things, won't be disappointed as well. Even if You are one of those hi-tech freaks who discard any game having less than 20000 vertices per a level, I am afraid You can't avoid taking a look on this one. The ultimate argument would be: a month after playing MoA, when I finally managed to launch TRU, I saw the initial manor corridor and thought: "Hey! I've already played this!"
Not as inventive as HM. I know Titak can do better. For example: There is a locked door. We dive 6 squares away and we find a crowbar for it. On the other hand, we have the NG eitr pad jump, being the only swan dive in the whole levelbuilding history which is survivable from height of 20 metres. Back on the same hand, almost every single door (forgetting for a second about the crowbar door mentioned a while ago) is supposed to open with a key. Green key, sapphire key, blue key, manor key, basement key, crypt key, chapel key, oh give me a break! Why not to find some kind of ancient hammer in the basement and smash through a fragile door? Why not to burn a door with a torch? Anyone ever thought about that? Oh, wait, someone did... there was a door unfreezing in No Xmas without a tree... whatever - why not to break through a window instead of using a door at all? Again landing on the other hand: we make some steps further and behold devil horns + angel halo, obtained respectively in Evil and Good levels, supposed to unlock a spinning Good/Evil portal, which all brings old good classic themes we feel really familiar with and comfortable in. It's like that in the whole game. Jumping from one hand to another, and somehow both hands manage not to collapse. Totally lame solutions mixed with absolutely genious ones. Anyway, I played the game two times, and I will SURELY do it once again, because I love it.
What now? Ah... OBJECTS
Are You still here, readers? Nah, it's getting more and more silent... If You managed to reach this point, it means You are extraordinarily patient (make a level because You are able to) and God bless You for that. Maybe He'll reward You with a detailed anthurrium, or a nicely shaped vase. Or He'll give You a huge telescope, if You like watching stars... Or a glass of banana/orange/coconut juice. Or a swimming pool, furnished with nice round lamps hanging on its walls, surrounded with nice pillars and a fish statue, plus a leafy chandelier hanging above the water. But actually, He won't have to give You any of the above - as all of these has already been given here. What really deserves a WOW, is the fact most of these objects don't lose details even if watched from a really, really close distance. Of course, the greenhouse rules in this field and it's a good idea to roam there for several minutes just for pure fun, what I of course did. Actually, it was Titak's garden what served me as a "benchmark" when I was testing FullHD upload to YouTube for the first time ever. And I really can't imagine a more pleasant place to perform such test. Let's build such garden in real world and make a TR meeting camp there. I reserve a place for my tent right under the first palm to the right of the entrance (the one which will NOT bomb me with coconuts).
Themed artifacts. Is there anything more a classic raider needs? Yes, it is: using them to get MORE themed artifacts. As it is expected from a greater reward, bonus artifacts are even more detailed than those required to obtain them. As it is NOT expected, two normal secrets in the manor are connected: if You don't find one, You don't find both the bonus and the other normal one. This should never happen. It's actually one of the worst possible setups.
Apart from official secrets, there is one more thing which should be counted as such: the trophy room. Its design made me truly smile, however I'm afraid no-one who doesn't know HM won't get it. And this is another reason why You should NOT choose MoA as Your first custom level ever played. You should also NOT try to lure the skeleton into the elevator, for him to shatter the grate with its sword - the dead guy won't go downstairs, as the steps are 2-click steep. Hmm, so why did I even try it? Never mind - it's NOT the proper way to get that cross, so don't waste Your time. Think of something really... REALLY different. If You have no clue what the above means, get to the last level and find out.
Scary and funny in the same moment. Unfortunately, spiders tend to get stuck in the cave architecture, so they aren't challenging at all. After You kill those, wait for a moment before progressing further. Behold their details, as they don't vanish after death, and look around: some of them hang on the cobwebs and threaten - a rare case when a static is considered an enemy. I tried to jumpswitch one of them, however with no effect. Take a closer look, admire, etc, etc... And don't enter that particular dark alcove...
Four years of building make four hours in statistics. I'm impressed and terrified in the same moment. Was it all worth it? Many must also wonder if Titia has any real life at all. But tell me: what is real life? If level building is UNreal, it means this game doesn't exist at all. If the game doesn't exist, WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU PLAYING RIGHT NOW?? Yes, sometimes virtual life is as real and solid than physical one. It's just made of a kind of matter physics don't apply to. The only force linking it to our reality is a lot of hard work.
Does this hard work, performed to make a short, but well-crafted game, equal a bunch of levels made in haste, anyway lasting for hundreds of hours? I currently watch progress in building HyperSquare, and Antonio has recently said finishing all cinematics will take several more months. God Almighty... If patience and devotion equalled life strength, many of us would have no power to breathe at all. Most of us would just shatter into pieces if only touched by someone else. If this happens to me one day, I will have no objections if someone brushes my scattered meshes from the floor, throws them all into a forge bucket and forms them into something I never imagine to become. Go Titia, and make our world prettier!" - DJ Full (04-Mar-2012)