Fuzztail looks at – Ancient Empire [SSC TFE]

Ancient Empire

Author(s) : Armern
Game : Serious Sam : The First Encounter
Type : Single Player

First efforts are always hard to judge, as a lot of the issues could be attributed to inexperience and lack of knowledge of the editing tools. Back in the day, that, as well as the novelty of fans making maps for fans, could be used to excuse the mistakes of beginner efforts. With that in mind, I will go into this map, trying to be as lenient as needed.

The first thing that pops out to me is that the fight in the beginning is exhausting, as you’re not given enough ammunition to deal with the harpies, and the electro-fishes that pursue you as you swim to the next area. This could be a good thing, or a bad thing, as one could be swamped with a seemingly endless wave of electro-fishes as they try to kite the horde around with only their pistols. The statistics that appear at the end of the level seems to suggest that there are at least 200 electro-fishes that spawn in the starting area. However, this could also be used to push players into the next area where there are more supplies to deal with the horde, and to escape the fishes. Unfortunately, the overly large and open geometry of the pool in the starting area tends to push players into being swamped, forcing a battle of attrition with your revolvers. “Giant pool floating in limbo” doesn’t lend itself too well to gameplay-complimenting architecture.

The fights are not particularly interesting or challenging either, giving you mostly homogeneous battles with gnaars and headmen outside of the pool at the beginning. On top of that, there is little to no thought put on enemy placement as they seem to be placed randomly with no spacing, so I often see what appears to be a single enemy turn into multiple copies of itself as soon as they see me. There is 1 fight at the end of the level that is interesting, as it pits you against more than 1 or 2 types of enemies, including the highlander boss. It should be emphasised that the author really….REALLY loves Gnaars. It’s almost fetishistic.

To its credit, it does have a sort of interesting gimmick in that there is a room with a tilting floor and seemingly endless gnaar spawns. The way to move forward is to use the tilt and the alcoves on the side walls to drop down to a hidden room below and collect artifacts that open the door to the next area. There’s also a Gnaar NPC right before that room that gives you health and armor. (Although you probably will never need it.) Unfortunately, that Gnaar NPC tends to bug out, and you often see him wandering the room with the tilting floors, clipping through the floor, walking against the walls, and pushing items pickups out of their positions. It’s a pretty hilarious bug.

With regards to exploration, the beginning of the level offers several paths to take, and the final area is open enough that you could explore the terrain. It is unfortunate though that there is no difference in the encounters and items rewarded between each path taken at the beginning, and that there is nothing of note to explore and discover at the final area.

The visuals in this level are pretty stunning, there is a decent amount of detail and creativity in the geometry and texturing. There is quite a bit of effort being put into this level, and for a first time mapping project, it is quite laudable. There is not much variety, unfortunately, because the level itself is so small compared to other offerings. There are some nice examples of egyptian architecture throughout the level. And the landscape at the final area, for a 2001 mapping effort, is nothing short of stunning. Even though the hill in that area could easily be exploited to funnel enemies into a sloped wedge where they cannot get to you from below when you are at the top.

The level uses music from the Hatshepsut level from the base campaign, and it it oddly fitting. It also uses a voice clip to voice out the Gnaar NPC, which is one of the weirdest soundbites I have ever heard in a custom level. Basically, fitting music with a touch of weird voice acting.

There are no networking options, but it has a couple of NETRICSA messages that are filled with grammar errors. Considering that English is not the author’s first language, some leeway will be given. One odd thing with how the file was packaged is that the readme appears to be inside the .gro file included in the zip. It contained informally-written data on the level, the author, his contact info and installation instructions.


Overall, for what it is worth, it is a fun and simple romp through the creation of a novice map maker. Some of the author’s sense of humour shows through in this level and you can definitely do worse than play through this map. The experience is average or fair, and I would recommend playing through it at least once.

Overall Score : 60% Fair

Download : [Link]

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