Serpent Yards Remake
Author(s) : Knight_Christian
Game : Serious Sam 2
Type : Single Player/Cooperative
This level is a valedictory gift to our community by mapper Knight_Christian, who decided then that he wanted to move on to other things. It is supposedly to be a remake of the Serpent Yards from the core campaign of Serious Sam : The Second Encounter. Normally I raise my eyebrows at maps that are straight-up remakes of maps from older games, however this level is quite a bit more than it first appears.
Visually, the author does a good job at putting a new spin on an old level, adding extra bits of architecture and detail where necessary, as well as making use of Serious Sam 2’s improved assets like better-looking grass and trees. Some areas that were flat floors in the original version have a few elements of landscape topography like mini-hills and pools added. This results in one minor visual bug where the ground dips below the moon pyramid, allowing players to look under, and see into the rooms that are placed inside the structure. There are a couple more visual bugs like the fog effect added in the Serpent Snake pit, and the CSG holes on the underside of the Serpent Gate arch. The vegetation can also get in the way if you are not careful. Those bugs are minor though and should not detract too much from the experience.
What is interesting about the level is that it includes areas from the Palenque levels from the core campaign. There is one area where after you enter the Moon Pyramid, you are silently teleported into a catacombs area that leads into an underground room from Sierra de Chiapas where you get your first invulnerability powerup and Double Shotgun. (Large Armor for Serious Difficulty instead of Invulnerability.) The second extra area comes right at what normally would be the end of the level. It leads into a couple of rooms from Valley of the Jaguar before ending. These additions are very much welcome, and it brings a fresh twist to the experience of playing through the level again. Also welcome, is the inclusion of secrets in the level. With 26 of them in total to look out for, it should be enough to satisfy most secret hunters and level-explorers. What I do not like, however, are the bits of level geometry that the author uses to glue those extra areas together. They are comparatively bland, boxy and undetailed. I also dislike the exclusion of the trap with lasers triggering a wave of rockets, as well as the lack of the giant kamikazi secret. They are a few of the highlights of the original version of the level, and I am disappointed to see them missing.
Combat-wise, the first thing I noticed is that it is way too easy, and the reason for this is because the author is way, way, too generous with the health, armor and (to a lesser extent) ammunition pickups. There are more than a few instances where I saw large Health and Armor pickups stacked on top of each other as if to say, “I must max out your health and Armor after every encounter!” It was very rarely that my Armor count dropped below 100, and those instances were only because 200 Armor pickups are lying around for me to use at any time. It would be safe to assume that the author designed the level with the Health and Armor mechanics of the previous game in mind, but does not compensate enough to account for the much more forgiving Health and Armor mechanics of Serious Sam 2. Another thing about the fights is that they go on for slightly longer than necessary, perhaps to balance the amount of supplies you are given over the course of the level. This is not nearly as bad as the overly long fights from Persian Massacre as you are never starved for supplies. However this is something to keep in mind for those who do not like trickle-and-pressure types of encounters, or for those who prefer larger and shorter encounters.
In any case, there is no shortage of things to shoot at. Playing through this level, you are looking at killing around 1000 enemies in around 90 minutes. You can probably guess by now that the fights in this level are nothing like what you would see in the original version. The level takes advantage of the much larger roster of enemies that is available in Serious Sam 2, including the Sci-fi Orcs, Witches, Acid-Spewing Scorpions, Spiders and Primitives. It is likely that almost every enemy that you take down will be a different type from the last. More astute players might feel that each encounter gets stagnant towards the end, and that is because while each fight delivers no shortage of enemy variety, a good portion of them follows a specific spawning pattern/loop that repeats itself throughout the encounter without changing.
For the sake of full disclosure, I had a couple of mods installed during testing that made the game a little bit more challenging, including Danker’s Blue Biomechanoid and Gnaars mods. These mods replace the laughable Tanks and Primitives with the rapid-firing Blue Biomechanoids and hard-hitting Gnaars respectively. Even then, I felt that the level is too easy.
The choice of music for this level, considering its nature, should be pretty obvious. It makes me feel as if I am visiting an old friend. It fits just as well as it did the original version of this level, and I am glad that he went with it instead of trying to be original with the music.
Unfortunately, with Serious Sam 2’s inferior Netricsa system, and having messages normally handled via voice dialogues, it would be unreasonable to expect the level to include Netricsa messages beyond simple directives. Therefore, it will mostly be precluded from the evaluation, it is not like they are necessary anyways, considering what the level is. The author more than made up for it by adding a credit sequence at the end of the level explaining that this is his valedictory offering to the community and giving his thanks to those who helped him with the level. This may go some way to explaining why the level pack lacked a readme file.
Overall, it is a nice homage to a classic level. Staying faithful enough that it is recognizable as a remake of the original Serpent Yards level from Serious Sam : The Second Encounter, yet changing enough to keep the experience fresh. The level is very much playable in co-operative and runs well with various mods like Classic Serious Sam 2 and Insamnity 2, so this level should be a mainstay of most Serious Sam LAN parties that include Serious Sam 2 in its playlist. The combat, despite its flaws, is quite fluent and should give you plenty of entertainment. If you are really seeking a challenge with this level, I would recommend playing on a higher difficulty level and/or playing this level with the Classic Serious Sam 2 mod.