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  • Currently 5/5 Stars.

looks good Pepper HUD

cookedbread on Aug 6th, 2023, Version 1.0

looks good

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

It’s A Short Unconventional Scavenger Hunt Susannah Windows

MurgenROoF on Aug 4th, 2023, Version 1.0

Firstly, I should like to say that I played this on a Mac, but the launcher app that comes with the Mac download is an ancient 32 bit thing, meaning it will not run on modern Mac OS!!! Therefore, if you want to play on a modern Mac, you’re going to need to (counterintuitively) download the Susannah Windows version, then drag a copy of Aleph One into the Susannah Windows folder, and then launch that copy of Aleph One.

I suppose Susannah could be called a “Total Conversion” since basically nothing from the original Marathon game is kept. There’s a new menu screen with some rather cryptic options. For example, the begin “Begin New Game” option has been replaced with “Begin Life,” whilst the “Continue Saved Game” option has been replaced with “Restore Life.” And actually, I’m not sure how you could actually continue a saved game in this campaign, since there were no pattern buffers of any kind that I could see. Not that you really need them; it took me exactly twenty minutes to complete the entire campaign.

Anyways, starting the first level introduces you to this campaign’s striking aesthetic choices. The world of Susannah is a pure white world, with a few shades of gray to provide some sense of location. All of the graphics are new and simple. There is ambient music that sounds vaguely ominous and lends itself to the surreal setting. Movement speed has been reduced and there is no HUD. The automap is disabled. I found myself looking for my trusty pistol but…no! There are no weapons of any kind in Susannah because there is no combat.

Exploring for a bit, I discovered a blue data stream. Now, unlike many people, I actually read “Read Me” files, and one of the few things the Susannah “Read Me” stated was that to interact with the blue data steams you need to walk up to them and press the spacebar. So basically the blue data streams are like the terminals of this campaign. I do have to wonder how many people are going to be tripped up by this however, since the blue data streams look nothing like the typical Marathon terminals that players are used to (in fact, you can actually walk through the data streams, they are not solid!). So, I figure a few people will get frustrated and quit because they won’t understand what the blue data streams are. Should we have sympathy for such people? I kind of feel that they should have read the Read Me file, or heck even looked at the description given on Simplic7y, because the info is there as well. On the other hand, a dev should try and idiot-proof their campaign by making the gameplay as intuitive as possible, and I do feel the blue data streams were lacking in that regard. Perhaps they could have been more terminal-like in their appearance, or have some other way to telegraph to the player what they are.

In any case, interacting with the blue data stream led to some strange poetry and a teleport to a new level. There are four levels in Susannah, and the levels do have names if you look in the mapmaking tools, but you’ll never see them in-game (remember, there’s no auto-map!).

The new level featured new data streams with more bizarre poetry. Exploring some more yielded a floating black sphere. Walking up to it temporarily changed the lighting and caused the ball to disappear. So, pretty quickly it became obvious that the level was a scavenger hunt and the goal was to collect eight black spheres. There was even a sphere counter on the edge of the screen, showing that X of 8 spheres had been collected. Once all spheres were collected the blue data streams take the player to the next level.

This pattern of sphere-hunting was followed for the remaining two levels. Once the final black sphere is collected a huge blue data stream emerges and, with nowhere else to go the player has to jump into it. This triggers a teleport, successfully ending the campaign. But, what exactly did we succeed in accomplishing? The poetry in the data streams is so surrealist and obtuse that there could be many different interpretations. My own personal interpretation is that “Susannah” was an artificial intelligence that wanted to merge with the player for some undefined reason. The architecture of the final level even kind of resembled a computer’s circuit board, or perhaps some sort of cyberspace version of the interior of a computer. My one criticism of this campaign, which is actually quite minor, is that the ending was abrupt and didn’t really give a sense of closure, or even an understanding of what the plot was about.

Now for the most important question: Was it fun? Yes, I enjoyed myself for the twenty minutes of playtime. Unlike many Marathon scenarios, in Susannah I never got lost, frustrated, or stuck for any significant length of time. For the novelty factor alone, I rate this 4 out of 5 stars.

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

It’s A Short Unconventional Scavenger Hunt Susannah OSX

MurgenROoF on Aug 4th, 2023, Version 1.0

Firstly, I should like to say that I played this on a Mac, but the launcher app that comes with the Mac download is an ancient 32 bit thing, meaning it will not run on modern Mac OS!!! Therefore, as of 8/4/2023, if you want to play on a modern Mac, you’re going to need to (counterintuitively) download the Susannah Windows version, then drag a copy of Aleph One into the Susannah Windows folder, and then launch that copy of Aleph One.

I suppose Susannah could be called a “Total Conversion” since basically nothing from the original Marathon game is kept. There’s a new menu screen with some rather cryptic options. For example, the begin “Begin New Game” option has been replaced with “Begin Life,” whilst the “Continue Saved Game” option has been replaced with “Restore Life.” And actually, I’m not sure how you could actually continue a saved game in this campaign, since there were no pattern buffers of any kind that I could see. Not that you really need them; it took me exactly twenty minutes to complete the entire campaign.

Anyways, starting the first level introduces you to this campaign’s striking aesthetic choices. The world of Susannah is a pure white world, with a few shades of gray to provide some sense of location. All of the graphics are new and simple. There is ambient music that sounds vaguely ominous and lends itself to the surreal setting. Movement speed has been reduced and there is no HUD. The automap is disabled. I found myself looking for my trusty pistol but…no! There are no weapons of any kind in Susannah because there is no combat.

Exploring for a bit, I discovered a blue data stream. Now, unlike many people, I actually read “Read Me” files, and one of the few things the Susannah “Read Me” stated was that to interact with the blue data steams you need to walk up to them and press the spacebar. So basically the blue data streams are like the terminals of this campaign. I do have to wonder how many people are going to be tripped up by this however, since the blue data streams look nothing like the typical Marathon terminals that players are used to (in fact, you can actually walk through the data streams, they are not solid!). So, I figure a few people will get frustrated and quit because they won’t understand what the blue data streams are. Should we have sympathy for such people? I kind of feel that they should have read the Read Me file, or heck even looked at the description given on Simplic7y, because the info is there as well. On the other hand, a dev should try and idiot-proof their campaign by making the gameplay as intuitive as possible, and I do feel the blue data streams were lacking in that regard. Perhaps they could have been more terminal-like in their appearance, or have some other way to telegraph to the player what they are.

In any case, interacting with the blue data stream led to some strange poetry and a teleport to a new level. There are four levels in Susannah, and the levels do have names if you look in the mapmaking tools, but you’ll never see them in-game (remember, there’s no auto-map!).

The new level featured new data streams with more bizarre poetry. Exploring some more yielded a floating black sphere. Walking up to it temporarily changed the lighting and caused the ball to disappear. So, pretty quickly it became obvious that the level was a scavenger hunt and the goal was to collect eight black spheres. There was even a sphere counter on the edge of the screen, showing that X of 8 spheres had been collected. Once all spheres were collected the blue data streams take the player to the next level.

This pattern of sphere-hunting was followed for the remaining two levels. Once the final black sphere is collected a huge blue data stream emerges and, with nowhere else to go the player has to jump into it. This triggers a teleport, successfully ending the campaign. But, what exactly did we succeed in accomplishing? The poetry in the data streams is so surrealist and obtuse that there could be many different interpretations. My own personal interpretation is that “Susannah” was an artificial intelligence that wanted to merge with the player for some undefined reason. The architecture of the final level even kind of resembled a computer’s circuit board, or perhaps some sort of cyberspace version of the interior of a computer. My one criticism of this campaign, which is actually quite minor, is that the ending was abrupt and didn’t really give a sense of closure, or even an understanding of what the plot was about.

Now for the most important question: Was it fun? Yes, I enjoyed myself for the twenty minutes of playtime. Unlike many Marathon scenarios, in Susannah I never got lost, frustrated, or stuck for any significant length of time. For the novelty factor alone, I rate this 4 out of 5 stars.

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

Haha Konoko Textures

Spooky on Aug 4th, 2023, Version 1.0

Thought I might not like this but actually pretty cool. Made me laugh on Electric Sheep Three. Good choice of aesthetics suits the game well.

  • Currently 5/5 Stars.

wysiwyg Konoko Textures

helviusrufus on Jul 30th, 2023, Version 1.0

Puts a whole new face on the game.

  • Currently 2/5 Stars.

A Level By Level Analysis Fart Or Die!

MurgenROoF on Jul 27th, 2023, Version 1.3.5

The author specifically asked for reviews, but only two people have obliged him, so here goes review #3!

This is a short campaign by a novice mapmaker and, as such, it contains a lot of novice mistakes. However, it does have some redeeming features, and, if you’re in the mood for some simple carnage, it might be worth half an hour of your time. Now let’s take a look at the levels:

GASMINE You start by a terminal with some new terminal art. So far so good. But most of what the terminal tells you is either useless or irrelevant. You’re told to “make your way through this map quickly” but how are you supposed to do that? You have no idea where the exit teleporter is, and even if you did, it starts out as inactive until you’ve thoroughly explored the map!

The starting terminal also gives the (un)helpful advice that you should “avoid the Pfhor at all costs…until you can build your weapons inventory.” Too bad both hallways leading out of the starting room are completely clogged with enemies, so avoiding the Pfhor at all costs immediately becomes impossible. Aren’t you lucky though, that right next to your starting location are two of the most powerful weapons in the game, the flamethrower and rocket launcher! So building your weapons inventory to a satisfactory level takes all of three seconds.

It’s an unusual gameplay decision to give the player two late-game weapons right off the bat, but I was cool with it. I figure most Marathon players spend most of the time with their trusty assault rifle equipped — it’s very good but too much of a good thing can become boring. I liked that for this campaign I got to utilize some of the less-used niche weapons like the TOZT and SPNKR, and there was plenty of ammo available so I could keep on using them.

This campaign used a unique sound file. The sole purpose of this file seemed to be to give the bobs and player a different voice. How strange.

This level had some architectural issues. There was a window that was lacking a windowsill, so it looked bad. There was no sense of place; the window in the starting room faced east and displayed a mountainous landscape. But you know what was also directly east? A room! So how can these two things occupy the same place? In a surreal map not grounded in reality it might be fine, but the starting terminal doesn’t really set up any kind of surreal backstory.

COLON CLEANSE The starting terminal continued the trend of giving me bad information by warning me that the bobs on this level were not friendly. Except that a lot of them were, in fact, friendly. Strangely, these allied bobs were all of the miniature variety.

This level (and several others) had a problem with teleporting in enemies right next to the player’s location; this is both cheap and unfair. It becomes even worse when some of those enemies are suicide bombers (simulacrums) that deal massive damage if they can get within melee range and, with teleport-in abuse they’re basically getting deposited directly within their optimal combat range. Strangely, invisibility power-ups also teleported in at close range. These power-ups are fairly useless, but even so, it would be nice to allow the player to decide when to activate them, rather than just teleport-dumping them into auto-activation range.

Towards the end of the level are some doors that use transparent textures. In the Marathon game engine doors are not actually capable of reliably using these textures, resulting in a blurry graphical glitch that looks bad.

BREACH I have noticed that at the start of every level the player starts out right next to a terminal that provides the player with mission objectives and (usually) a map. This is a very good thing!

Use of sounds throughout the campaign could use some tweaking. For example, there is an alien ambiance sound in the starting room, but if the player moves just a few feet away towards the window that sound suddenly disappears, which is jarring. Sounds can be placed on polygons or as sound objects, and this would be one instance in which a sound object should have been used instead of polygon-based sounds.

Why are F’lickta fighting with the Pfhor on this level? Why are two door switches being used in lieu of a perfectly good uplink slot texture, which is in fact used for the third uplink chip?

The landscape texture used for the ceiling at the end of the level should not have height variations; this leads to strange-looking ceiling graphics.

At the end of the level the player is forced to backtrack to the terminal at the start of the level in order to be teleported out. But there’s a perfectly good terminal right there at the end of the level that should have also been able to serve as an exit terminal.

STINKARAMA It’s a Rebellion level, but at least the player is given a plot-based reason for why all their stuff got taken away. Major cyborgs are a pretty formidable enemy to be pitting against players with low health and no weapons, especially since the nearest pattern buffer is some distance away. I was able to survive, but this was an enormous spike in difficulty.

This was an Extermination mission, meaning the player must kill all baddies, but many of the enemies will not teleport in until the player is in close proximity. Most players are going to reach the end terminal, be told they failed to kill everything, then have to go through the tedious process of backtracking through the whole map just to find the handful of Pfhor that failed to teleport in. This is one reason why Extermination missions should be used sparingly. On maps with a huge number of enemies teleporting in, it only takes a handful of monsters not triggering to prevent the player from achieving the mission success condition. Blind and deaf monsters should be used sparingly and in conjunction with monster activation polygons. Reasonable zone borders will mitigate most monster trigger issues.

After achieving success, the end terminal congratulates the player by saying, “You have all the Pfhor!” I think the word “eliminated” is supposed to be in there somewhere. Much of the terminal text could use some basic proofreading. Just copying all the terminal text to a Word document and using the default spelling and grammar check functions would clear up all the most egregious issues.

SEWER STEPS Bwahahaha! In this level you get to eviscerate hordes of enemies using the TOZT and SPNKR. There’s so much ammo you can pretty much go wild, and it’s a nice change from most 3rd party Marathon campaigns in which these weapons are rarely available or can’t be used much due to limited ammo.

At one point a water texture is used for a solid floor. This looks bad.

The mission objective is to find seven alien machines; this seems a bit excessive since it’s very easy to lose track of which machines the player has visited. But, I can’t complain too much since I was able to beat the level in just a few minutes.

ZOMBIE MAZE Right at the start there’s a teleporter that will take the player to the bottom of a lava pit! This is hugely unfair, and means certain death unless the player has a lot of health. To make matters worse, there is no pattern buffer on this level or the previous level, meaning death here could kick the player back two whole levels!

At the bottom of the lava pit is a wall indentation that looks like it was supposed to be a switch, but the textures were never filled in so it just looks blurry and bad.

The oxygen recharger uses health recharger graphics, why?

There are several Mother of all Cyborgs on this level. These enemies are usually very dangerous, but here they are all harmless. Why? Because the ceiling height throughout this level is 1 World Unit, and MoaC enemies have a height greater than 1 WU, so they are literally stuck on the terrain.

WASTE WATER It’s another Rebellion level, this time with no plot explanation given. Even worse, the player starts out right next to some hostile bobs that have been modified to shoot a steady stream of seeking grenades out of their pistols! On Normal difficulty a single one of these grenades will kill the player (since they start out with almost no health), and the starting area has very little room to dodge. Consequently, this was probably the single most dangerous section of the entire campaign. It is extremely likely that the player will be killed here, and since there haven’t been any pattern buffers for the last two levels, they’ll get kicked back all the way to Stinkarama! I figure most people will rage quit the campaign at this point, or else use the level skip cheat (as I did).

On the upside, it is a bit different to be fighting with friendly hunters against bobs. Additionally, some of the super-bobs can only be killed by specific weapon types. Variety is the spice of life as they say, and I can say this campaign has a lot of variety.

Remember on Stinkarama it was an Extermination mission and some of the enemies didn’t teleport in so I had to backtrack through the whole level to find them to complete the mission? Well, it’s the same deal here, except that after wasting time backtracking through the whole level I was pretty certain I hadn’t missed any enemies, but yet the mission success conditions were still not fulfilled. On a hunch, I decided to kill all of my hunter allies, even though the terminal had explicitly told me not to do so. Sure enough, the only way to complete this Extermination mission is to kill all of your allies! This could be fixed by tweaking the physics file.

PLAGUE It’s a pretty straightforward gauntlet, basically just one long hallway filled with enemies. The starting terminal provides more bad info by warning the player that only some of the compilers are friendly; actually all of them are.

The combat was fine, but after clearing the level an apparent exit terminal shows up. If the player approaches this terminal they’ll find it’s nonfunctional and they’ll be dumped into a lava pit with no way out. Also, the wall of the lava pit has unfilled textures, so it looks blurry.

Now the starting terminal does warn the player that if something looks too good to be true, it may actually lead to certain death. I suppose having a conveniently located exit terminal would be “too good to be true,” or at least not in keeping with the poorly placed exit terminals we’ve come to expect in this campaign! Instead the player must backtrack through an exceedingly long hallway all the way to the level start to teleport out.

As a general rule I am against certain-death traps for the player, even if there is some warning such traps exist (whether the warning in the starting terminal is sufficient is debatable). At least there was a pattern buffer not far from the deathtrap, so the player can recover without too much trouble (assuming they used the pattern buffer, that is).

TOXIC CLEANUP Speaking of deathtraps, this level has another one, which is even more unfair. The player has a choice of three teleporters; two lead to the next area, the third leads to certain death. The player is given no warning about this. It’s entirely based on luck if the player survives or not, and this is bad because survival should always be based upon the player’s skill.

The lone F’lickta in this level was hostile to the Pfhor, which seems unintentional. What is a F’lickta doing in the Pfhor main base anyways? Otherwise, the combat for this level was fine.

The story wraps up with total victory for the hero. But I still have no idea why this campaign was named “Fart or Die.” I assume the level names were connected to this somehow, but it was never explained in the story.

Final advice: Overall, the biggest weakness of the campaign was simplistic level design. Lighting was almost completely ignored, but lighting helps to make a level aesthetically interesting—use it! Elevation was also almost completely ignored; but differences in elevation create tactical challenges for the player. Most of the time I was shooting at enemies in a room with a height of one World Unit, which leads to bland firefights. I might as well be playing Wolfenstein 3D or some similar primitive shooter if there’s not going to be differences in elevation! The Marathon map editor gives us the power to create magnificent cathedrals, bizarre alien starships, and underground geothermal power plants. All of those locations lend themselves to fun combat, and all of those locations are dependent upon the use of varied elevations to work correctly as viable battlefields!

The campaign’s biggest strength was, ironically enough, also simplistic level design. By making small levels that were easy to navigate, the author avoided the most common pitfall of the Marathon mapmaker — creating levels that are so large and/or complex that the player ends up spending most of their time lost, trying to figure out where to go and what to do. Even Bungie was guilty of this mapmaking sin. For example, on the infamously complex Bungie level “Habe Quiddam” players probably spent 1% of their time in fun combat, and 99% of their time trying to figure out where to go and what to do; so much downtime is tedious and boring! But in “Fart or Die” I spent most of my time in combat, and there was very little downtime, which is a good thing!!!

I hope this review does not come across as overly critical; my intent was to offer helpful advice. There were problems, yes, but also plenty of potential, and every mapmaker was a novice at some point. Good luck with your future mapmaking endeavors!

Being able to rally however many players you want on-demand for any map you want to play on without the players saying "no" to it is a dream come true, and it's a good form of training at any rate that requires a different set of approaches and strategies to optimize your scores. It's enough to warrant competing with other humans for botmatch scores within different parameters, in addition to competing against people directly in netgames. There are of course some limits that we may overcome someday, such as not having different randomized color tables for the same weapon class, or the bots not being affected by liquid velocity. I've also done some personal modification to make bots drop their weapons upon death, since sometimes in netmaps (especially in the older netmaps) you can have an instance where there's only a little weaponry in a remote or hidden spot and you're forced to eat shit over and over because that causes bots to spawn already with that weaponry. Overall, however, this is a revolutionary invention for Marathon gaming that opens up many doors and allows an experience that even human deathmatch can't completely reach (though the same is also true in reverse). Take a look at the Lua script sometime, it's educational.

  • Currently 5/5 Stars.

This Scenario Rocks. Marathon: Istoria

Sharkie Lino on Jul 24th, 2023, Version 1.0

Already played three runs on it, and I loved every single one so far. This gives a level of variation to the game which has never been used before, and it's awesome.

Even when you do more plays, the different classes make you consider different techniques to try so that it's never just the same thing all the time, and that kind of variation in the gameplay is a lot of fun.

A lot of the monsters are tougher too. But not in a bad way, and it really considers you to try your spells a lot of times instead of always just the weapons. You will need to use some extra keys, but it's real easy and quick to learn.

Give this a play. You won't be disappointed.

  • Currently 3/5 Stars.

The Most Ambitious Marathon 1 Total Conversion Ever Made Marathon TROJAN

MurgenROoF on Jul 23rd, 2023, Version 1.0

This total conversion was originally made for Marathon 1 but is now compatible with Aleph One. It has new graphics, enemies, sounds, and music.

The best part of Trojan is fighting against a variety of new enemy types. The enemy animations look very smooth and are well done. It may be too late to congratulate whoever created these adversaries, but this is some of the finest sprite work that I’ve seen in any Marathon scenario.

I was also impressed by the large number of new music tracks; they are of generally high quality but are unobtrusive enough to not distract from gameplay. The soundtracks reminded me of Unreal Tournament in a good way; the beats are repetitive but catchy.

Unfortunately, the campaign is dragged down by constant switch hunts and many tedious puzzles. You had better bookmark the online walkthrough here, otherwise you’re going to be spending a huge amount of time stuck wandering around, trying to figure out where to go and what to do, and that’s no fun: https://marathon.bungie.org/spoiler/tm2/resources/spoiler/lvl01.html

Be aware that the above spoiler guide does not explicitly mention any secret areas, although it does show them on the map. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the levels! Minor spoilers ahead!

ARRIVAL: You get to admire a nice bit of chapter artwork before the level starts. Actually Trojan has a lot of high quality chapter artwork (8 pieces in all). Since this is a Marathon 1 scenario, there is no artwork of any kind in the terminals themselves; they are all text with the occasional map.

The storyline of Trojan is adequate. Basically, unknown alien forces suddenly attack a human colony world and it’s up to you to save the day. In terms of atmosphere this campaign definitely hearkens back to the early levels of Marathon 1. Trojan is the story of a desperate struggle against an overwhelming enemy force, panicked civilians getting slaughtered left and right, and (later) two unstable AIs entering the fray to both help and hurt your cause.

You start by grabbing an arsenal of weapons with new graphics and names, but which are functionally identical to weapons from the original game. And I want to say, thank you Trojan devs for starting me out with a decent loadout befitting a space marine! So many Marathon mapmakers make the mistake of starting their campaign by making the player wander around the early levels with nothing but a single pistol. I guess the rationale for this is that the devs want to start small and build up the action gradually. But such level design is actually just wasting the player’s time, because the only thing you can do with a single pistol is beat up on weak enemies. Thankfully, Trojan doesn’t make that common mistake, and throws you right into the action against substantial enemy forces. Hooray!

Something strange happened at the start of this level. I was outside, fighting aliens with two Bob marine allies. After winning the fight, I went inside the nearby building, and the front door suddenly closed behind me, crushing one of my Bob allies to death. Surely this couldn’t have been intentional?

There are quite a few unarmed Bob civilians running around this level. They have decent voice acting, and the sprite animations look great (perhaps even superior to the Bob animations from the original game!). However, this level consists of a lot of narrow corridors, and placing a lot of Bobs in a lot of narrow corridors is never a good idea!!! It means the Bobs are constantly getting in your way and causing traffic jams that require lethal force to resolve. Usually I try to save Bobs, but after a few minutes of playing Trojan I gave up any pretense of trying to keep the human body count down because it was way too much of a hassle.

Most of the new aliens were fun to fight, but the hitbox for the floating exploding mine creature seemed to be slightly off; direct hits would often not register. Thankfully these enemies are not much of a threat and take only a single bullet to kill.

There are destructible exploding barrels, like in Doom. So cool!

Near the end of the level there’s an infuriating puzzle with six switches that have to be hit in a specific order to open the way forward. I actually softlocked myself in this puzzle, because I thought the solution was to go into a room that had partially opened up, and use a grenade to hit a switch which would open up the rest of the room. Well, instead I got stuck, and had to restart from the last save point, which was at the beginning of the level. Sigh!!!

COMMAND AND CONTROL This is a pretty horrible level, because large parts of it consist of narrow dark corridors with gray textures everywhere that blend together. I guess the point of this was to create some sort of maze to frustrate the player? But mazes don’t work in Marathon! I mean, I’ve got an auto-map, you know? It just looks bad, aesthetically speaking, and there’s not much to do in the mazes except keep an eye out for the occasional monster closet that opens up.

Another bad thing: There isn’t a pattern buffer until the end of the level. So if you die…you are going to suffer an awful lot of retracing your steps, which is annoying to say the least!

I also have to say a word about the switch hunts. They are terrible. There are so damn many switches, and there is no reason for 90% of them to exist. This is a problem throughout all of Trojan, although this level does stand out as a particularly egregious offender. Many of the switches open some door that you can’t see, often on the other side of the map. Then you have to go through the tedious process of backtracking through the level to try to find what opened up. Most of these switches should have been set to “trigger only once,” but no! Most of them can be hit again! So you can screw yourself by hitting a switch twice that you were only supposed to hit once, thereby closing the door that should have opened. There are so many switches it’s easy to lose track of which switches you’ve already hit, plus sometimes the switches open doors that only stay open for a brief time before closing. So in those cases, you’ll almost certainly need to hit the switch a second time as you try to figure out how the stupid doors work. Throw in the fact that some of the switches are broken, and there’s more locked doors than you can shake a stick at (some of which are decoys that will never unlock or open) and it’s just one huge recipe for frustration. If it wasn’t for the aforementioned online walkthrough, I’m sure I would have given up on Trojan long before I finished, due to constantly getting stuck on the switch hunts.

THE ROACH FARM Your mission is to save a nuclear reactor. The architecture for the reactor areas looks good and seems reasonably functional/authentic. Since these levels were made for the Marathon 1 engine, there were significant limits on things like the polygon count, so the levels tend to be small and without the intricate design construction we’ve come to see in some other Marathon campaigns. But I think the Trojan devs did a pretty good job with the (limited) M1 mapmaking tools that were available to them.

One great example of this is a switch-operated elevator that stops at three different floors. I believe this may be a first for the Marathon game engine; the Trojan devs may have initially invented this concept, although other devs have subsequently copied the idea and incorporated it into their own campaigns. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, as they say.

I did end up softlocking myself by jumping out of a ventilation shaft into the central core area. It seemed like a good idea at the time…

CITIZEN CAIN This level stood out for having lots of fun combat, making it one of the best Trojan levels. There is only one stupid switch puzzle that’s likely to give you trouble, which involves hitting a switch to temporarily open a door, then hitting the switch again to make sure the door stays open. You only have a very limited line of sight to this door, and it took me some time to figure out what was going on.

The storyline is heating up, as a rampant AI makes his appearance. He seemed to be a knock-off of Durandal, with perhaps a bit more insanity, but his terminal texts were entertaining enough so I can’t complain.

I do have to complain about a ridiculous crusher trap, however. Flipping some innocuous switch, not unlike any of the dozens of other switches you’ve already encountered, triggers a lethal crusher trap. It’s almost certain the player is going to be killed by this stupid thing the first time they enter the area. Thankfully, there’s a pattern buffer nearby (hopefully you used it!).

FRYING TONIGHT! The player is forced to take a leap of faith, and jump into a small ventilation shaft that’s directly above a huge lava lake. But you don’t actually know that the door to this shaft is unlocked, because so many doors in Trojan start out locked, and it’s quite clear that if the door is in fact locked then you’re going to be taking a lethal lava bath. I have mixed feelings about this. I guess psychologically messing with the player spices things up a bit. But I’m not sure I agree with forcing the player to explore areas that seem to be so far off the beaten path that, if you’re wrong about exploring them, you’re almost certainly going to get softlocked or killed. Remember, just two levels ago I did something very similar to this with a different ventilation shaft and ended up getting softlocked!

In the northwestern part of the map there was a mini-maze which had a bunch of the floating suicide bomb monsters hiding in it, and because I was running into them at point blank range it was almost impossible to avoid taking damage. At least there was a shield recharger at the start of the maze, though not all players will be lucky enough to find it before they run into the bomb creatures. Aside from this, the combat in the level was quite fun, with several newer enemy types getting a chance to shine.

BOY ARE MY ARMS TIRED The mission objective is to kill everything. Now that’s a goal I can get behind!!!

There is another lethal crusher trap at the start of the level, even more unfair than the previous one, because it provides a possible avenue of escape that looks promising but actually results in certain death. Of course, the first pattern buffer is AFTER the almost-certainly lethal crusher trap, so I got kicked back to the previous level. Argh!!!

Later still there’s a 4 switch puzzle. I never actually figured out the solution to this one. After wasting much time on it, I eventually decided that grenade jumping across a large lava pit was easier than figuring out the puzzle. Which, I think, is a pretty good indication that the puzzle was too hard.

CAN’T BE TOO CAREFUL NOWADAYS The level starts out with an easy switch puzzle that turns into a difficult platforming puzzle that requires split second timing to pull off. Blah!

Later you’ll run into an apparent dead end, with nowhere to go except wading into a lava river or grenade jumping to some elevated ledges. This is, again, a case of the player put into the unenviable situation of having no clear path forward and no good options. I grenade jumped, but not every player knows about grenade jumping or can reliably pull it off. Jumping into the lava river will get the player to the same eventual location, but at considerably greater risk.

Towards the end of the map there is a switch-activated elevator that’s a soft-lock waiting to happen. If the player fails to hit the switch, which is quite possible since it’s on the far side of a pit and initially out of sight; if the player instead drops down into the pit…it will become impossible to backtrack (without some difficult grenade jumping), and unfortunately the player may need to backtrack because there are two switches that must be activated to complete the level, and one of them is before the pit. So…why does that switch even need to exist anyway? Just make the damn elevator initially active or replace it with some stairs!

NO MORE TV DINNERS Bob androids, yes! At first I thought they were enemies, like the Pfhor simulacrums, but then they ran up to the hostile aliens and started punching them! This level features the most intense combat yet, against large numbers of baddies, many attacking from elevated positions or unexpected angles.

There is a switch/platforming/crusher trap, but a nearby pattern buffer means the consequences for failure are negligible. There is also a rather bizarre puzzle which has two different solutions, neither of which are obvious. One solution involves dropping down to a teleporter in a lava lake. At first I thought the teleporter was part of a secret because it was so out of the way, but no, it led to the level end. I actually backtracked through the whole level to see where the second path led, but it turned out to be just some minor platforming that took me to the same place.

YOU WERE DEAD, NOW YOU ARE RESTORED Bob zombies! Now I’ve seen everything!

After fighting your way out of an amphitheater you encounter one of the most stupid Marathon puzzles imaginable. Flipping a switch reveals what appears to be an elevator. It even shows on your map as an elevator. But if you go forward, the door closes behind you and you get softlocked, with the only way out being suicide by your own grenades. Seriously, wtf! Terrible puzzle design, only slightly mitigated by a pattern buffer that appears right before the trap. There’s no way you could possibly solve or expect this trap without “a priori” knowledge. Even when you solve the first part of the puzzle, there’s a second part that’s also likely to softlock you because of the wonky way the solution switch works! Ugh!

This level is also notable for having the first difficult-to-find secret area. But here once again you’re likely to be softlocked, stuck in a room with no way out except suicide, unless you use “a priori” knowledge that could only have been gleaned from your own previous pointless death. It turns out you shouldn’t go to the secret area as soon as you find it (which would make sense), instead you should complete most of the level, then massively backtrack to the secret area, which makes no sense but it’s the only way to avoid getting softlocked.

Once you actually reach the secret you’re rewarded with the choice of four loot areas connected to four teleporters. Three of the teleporters send you to another loot area, whilst the fourth teleports you back to the main level. So once again you can get screwed due to lack of “a priori” knowledge, because how are you supposed to know which teleporters to take in which order? If you’re unlucky enough to choose the exit teleporter first you end up missing out on some prime loot through no fault of your own. Bad! Bad level design!

SAY BRO, ARE YOU WILLING AND ABEL? This level starts out strong with some intense firefights. Then it falls flat when you get into a ventilation duct system. I don’t understand what the obsession is with all these dark maze-like ventilation system areas in Trojan. They’re not aesthetically interesting, and there’s really no tactical aspect to the duct-based combat, because there’s almost nowhere to dodge and enemies just queue up in a line to be mowed down in any case.

But the most shocking thing to me is that grenade hopping was actually required to proceed. I was able to explore all the ducts except one, which required grenade hopping to reach, and I don’t feel that grenade hopping should ever be required of the player, since it is an uncommon skill that many casual players don’t even know about. I think this may be a bug or something that didn’t get ported to Aleph One correctly, since in the online guide getting to the elevated duct was a non-event. Also, in the online guide it stated that four blue switches needed to be activated in one room to proceed, but in my game only one of those switches would activate. I suspect that one of the other three blue switches that would not activate might have made the duct area more traversable, obviating the need for grenade hopping.

BIG PIG New cool-looking human allies and a big new alien enemy! Hooray! This is one of my favorite levels of Trojan. There is fun combat against challenging enemies, and no puzzles to slow down the action.

BURN! BURN! BURN! Another solid combat focused level. A few times I ran into an apparent dead end, but some quick backtracking revealed the way forward. This level also has one of the most difficult to find secrets in Trojan:

*Spoiler ahead It involved counterintuitively opening a door from the wrong direction, from a room that was adjacent to the actual door room. End spoiler***

DAMAGE IS OUR MIDDLE NAME This is a pretty straightforward romp through some alien-infested caves. There was one door switch that I had trouble with (it didn’t open at first), but after that it was smooth sailing and some fun combat. The final nuke detonation was a nice touch.

AGGRESSIVE MARKETING Three new types of challenging enemies to fight! Yes! Some cool new graphics as we explore the GenCorp ship! Yes! The storyline is getting interesting as you have to deal with a new hostile faction! Yes! A tedious switch hunt, with no less than six terminals that must be read for successful level completion? Noooo!

At one point a door in the southern central part of the map should have opened but did not. I’m not sure what the trigger for that door was, but after much backtracking on my part the door did finally open.

DEATH OF DRUMMAND This level is all about platforming, by which I mean using split second timing to make jumps to moving platforms. Failure usually means a dip in a lava bath, or the indignity of having to wait for a slow-as-molasses elevator to get back to the correct position. But…the Marathon engine doesn’t really lend itself to parkour of any kind. Marathon physics are such that even if you successfully make the jump, you’ll frequently bounce off the platforms you were aiming for. At least the most difficult section had a teleporter-out-of-the-lava nearby, to make the consequences of your inevitable many failures not quite so frustrating.

DOUGHNUTS FOR DINNER We’re back on the GenCorp ship, ready for some fun combat and not-so-fun switch/terminal hunting. I want to say that I appreciate the GenCorp ship levels actually look like a ship (from an architectural perspective, when looking at the auto-map) and I think that’s pretty impressive. Also, I probably should have mentioned this earlier, but I’d like to say that I appreciate it that in Trojan the devs were really good about warning the player that a terminal was about to teleport them somewhere, so they’d have the option to press escape to abort if they still had unfinished business in the area. This may seem like a small thing, but a lot of other Marathon campaigns have a problem with terminals teleporting the player without warning.

In this level enemy tanks make an appearance! But our arsenal has been upgraded as well, with rocket launchers that are quite formidable. There’s lots of heavy fighting on this level, and the challenge was welcome.

SAY IT WITH GRENADES Another combat focused level, and one of the best in Trojan, in my opinion. The reactor that you’re supposed to blow up looks cool, and I liked how after the detonation you see how it affected the lighting in the areas of the level you’ve already been through.

Towards the end of the level there is an elevator that, once taken, forces you to engage in a lot of pointless backtracking. It’s actually useful once you destroy the reactor, but you’re likely to encounter (and use it) before then, which is not a good thing. For the purposes of utility and streamlined gameplay, this elevator should only have been activated after the reactor was destroyed.

ELECTRIC As soon as the level starts you’re hit with a very cheap ambush, as aliens swarm you from multiple angles and you have almost nowhere to dodge their attacks since you’re precariously perched on the edge of a lava lake. Basically, before the player even gets their bearings they’re probably already taking significant damage. Players could easily be killed by this ambush, then have to replay the entire previous level because there are no pattern buffers on the GenCorp ship! That would really suck, and it’s a pretty good justification for why this sort of instant-ambush-at-level-start is always a bad idea.

As far as the theme of this level, the devs must have said, “Hey, let’s make a level where half of it is so dark the player can’t see a damn thing. Then they’ll have no choice but to use the infravision power-up that most people ignore because it’s so horrible!” Unfortunately, even the brightly lit half of the level has problems, since at two separate points the player must locate a secret door to proceed. Why??? I mean, for secret areas, sure, make the player take the time to search for a secret door. But for just normally completing a level give the player a break; there’s no reason secret doors should ever be mandatory.

Speaking of secret areas, there is one in this level that requires a large amount of grenade jumping to reach. Grenade jumping is a rare skill that few players possess or even know about; even for secrets I’d argue that grenade jumping should never be mandatory, though I’m sure some people will disagree.

LUNE NOIR The alien ship graphics are great; even the sounds of the alien doors are cool. I liked the new fusion weapon (retrieved on the last level, but probably first used here), and the new rapid fire alien weapon. There is also a new alien enemy type that looks suitably bizarre and, let’s face it, variety is the spice of life. I’m really impressed with the huge number of different enemy types that can be found in Trojan.

This level has some pretty horrible switch hunts. But even worse, at one point I thought I was softlocked because I seemed to be stuck in an area. Even tabbing all the walls looking for secret doors did me no good. So, I was forced to consult the online spoiler guide, only to discover I should have tabbed a weapon shelf in the center of the room, which was actually a secret elevator that led out of the area. There is no way I ever would have found that without the spoiler guide!

SAVAGE STREAK The graphics for the alien command center looked great. The combat was mostly fun, and there were several clever ambushes.

Unfortunately, there is a part where you are forced to drop down into a river of harmful alien goo. Even worse, this happens far, far away from the only shield recharger on the level, so you pretty much have to do a bunch of tedious backtracking to get health before even attempting this. Even if you do take such precautions, it’s still quite possible to be killed by the goo, because once you drop down to hit the necessary switch, it’s not at all clear where you have to go. Looking on the auto-map will basically tell you a general direction to escape, but that’s it. And once you’re in the goo river and taking constant damage your entire freaking screen will be turning bright green; in my case I actually ran right past the hidden exit teleporter and died because I couldn’t see the damn thing in time.

EAT YOUR MICROWAVE Aside from the normal tedious switch hunts, what sets this level apart is a fantastic boss battle that takes place around an alien monolith (the alien computer core).

There is also, unfortunately, a teleporter puzzle that’s more annoying than dangerous. There are five teleporters situated around a pool of harmful alien goo. Of course only one takes you where you want to go, and the rest teleport you all over the map, necessitating lots of tiresome backtracking. You have no way of knowing which teleporter is the correct one, so trial and error is the order of the day. Because you’re taking damage from the alien goo, it reduces visibility on your screen and it’s easy to get confused about which teleporters you have already taken. So yeah, I was not a fan of that puzzle.

NON DORMIT, QUI CUSTODIT Big plot revelations and even bigger firefights lie ahead. Appropriately, since this is an epic mission to retrieve the alien Macguffin that everyone’s after, it has one of the best soundtracks in Trojan.

Unfortunately, some of the monsters in the level had trouble triggering and just ignored me. For the most part, Trojan has been really good about using monster triggers correctly, so this took me by surprise. The lack of enemy aggression made some difficult fights easy, including the boss battle for the artifact. Since the huge boss monster was ignoring me, and I got typical non-combat hit registration sounds and graphics when I fired a few bullets at the boss, I mistook it for just some impressive-looking flavor graphics. I then left the room and the artifact behind, completed the rest of the level, then had to consult the online guide to find out what to do next! Fortunately, my second visit to the boss did result in an epic battle. But there’s no way to retrieve the alien artifact without grenade jumping, and you know my feelings about mandatory grenade jumping (grenade jumping should never be mandatory to complete a mission!!!).

I do have to give plaudits to Trojan for having an entertaining variety of mission objectives. So many Marathon campaigns fall into the tired cliche of “there’s some aliens here, go kill them.” But Trojan has mission-based gameplay that syncs with a fairly interesting story. In Trojan you get to grab alien artifacts, fight fun boss battles, destroy a giant monolith, and even detonate a nuclear bomb. How many other campaigns have even attempted such things?

There is an incredibly difficult-to-reach secret near the level start that’ll have you tearing your hair out.

*Multiple spoilers ahead** It’s pretty obvious from looking at the auto-map that there’s an elevated ledge at the top of a mining shaft. The only way to get up there is to pull off an extremely difficult rocket jump. It took me probably 100+ tries, and when I got up there I was face to face with an angry alien and had no choice but to drop back down again or be killed. So I kill the alien, make another 100+ attempts before getting back up there, only to find…a blank terminal. WTF? At first it seemed like a cruel joke by the devs, but then I got to thinking, “What if the terminal is tied to the success of the mission?” So I grabbed the alien artifact, came back, made countless more attempts to rocket jump up to this stupid ledge a third time…Ugh! My suspicions about the terminal were correct, and I was taken to a secret level…But really, the amount of effort to get to this secret was kind of ludicrous. For some of Trojan’s secrets you really have to be a glutton for punishment.

LOVE PUPPY 23 (secret level) It’s a vacuum level, which might not be a big deal except there are several puzzles to figure out, which will cost you precious time and air. So yeah, you’re going to have some suffocation deaths.

Also, pretty early in the level there’s an unexpected lethal crusher trap that will almost certainly kill you the first time you encounter it. Everything about this level seems to be designed to punish the player for not having “a priori” knowledge about it, which I feel is unfair. To add insult to injury, since there’s zero pattern buffers in the entire level, that means you’ll get kicked back to the previous level and have to do the stupid rocketing jumping thing a hundred more times to re-enter the secret level.

Hah! That was a joke. Even the most masochistic players wouldn’t torture themselves like that. I just used the level skip cheat after my first death on Love Puppy 23. Apparently the devs realized that was what people were going to do, so they helpfully provided a bunch of weapons and ammo at the level start; in this way level-skippers have a fighting chance for the combat portions of the map, rather than having to struggle with just a single pistol. *End spoilers***

HAVE GUN, WILL TRAVEL There are no less than three enemy factions on this level, hell bent on killing you and each other! That is so cool!

In the eastern part of the map there are two lava bridges to choose from. If you end up choosing them in the wrong order you can end up…well, I wouldn’t call it a “softlock” because it is possible to escape, but still, it’s quite difficult, and it may not be immediately apparent just how much trouble you’re in until you’ve cleared out the eastern part of the map and come back to the lava bridge to find it missing! Then you’d better hope you’ve got a lot of health left so you can survive an extended lava bath, which is the only way to recover. The bottom line is, you may lose a lot of time and progress simply because you made a rather innocuous choice about which bridge to take.

Towards the end of the level you’ll face some of the most tactically challenging fights in all of Trojan, as you face off against powerful juggernauts whilst high atop a narrow walkway with a lava lake below. Your only avenue of retreat will descend into the lava after you’ve crossed it, adding to the fun. I actually had to plan out how I was going to fight my way through this, and felt a real sense of accomplishment when I succeeded.

FROM OUR BACON MENU The level is based on a central hub that you keep coming back to as you open up more parts of the level. This is solid, professional level design and I enjoyed playing this level. The combat was tough but fair, which is what you’d expect from the second-to-last level of the campaign.

DANCE THE LAST WALTZ WITH ME You get to see some new graphics for the Hades ship, get to listen to a good soundtrack, and even get to fight bobs! There is not a single pattern buffer on the level, but this is acceptable for the final level of the campaign. The epilogue tied up most of the plot's loose ends, though it seems there were plans for a sequel that never materialized.

In summation, this campaign features some great combat, a decent story, and new graphics/sounds/music. There are definitely some rough edges, particularly regarding some puzzles and switch hunts. But if you’re a fan of Marathon 1, this is definitely a total conversion worth checking out!

  • Currently 5/5 Stars.

Let the carnage begin Marathon: Istoria

helviusrufus on Jul 20th, 2023, Version 1.0

While this is not my cup of tea (I dont particularly like facing hordes of enemies) and there is lots o new stuff, I like it because it's fun to play. The new stuff is easy to accommodate, there is an intelligent story, and it is fairly easy to make it an exploration game with combat rather than just fight after fight. The scenery is visually pleasing and the little touches like the exploding enemies delight. The revisiting levels on demand is an excellent feature. If you are low on O2 but want to explore, you can go forward until you find O2, fill up, an then go back and explore.

  • Currently 5/5 Stars.

Bzzzt I'm a Fetch Marathon: Istoria

hypersleep on Jul 15th, 2023, Version 1.0

Audacious, fun, overflowing with imagination. Play it.

  • Currently 5/5 Stars.

Loved it! Apotheosis X

visagi on Feb 19th, 2023, Version 1.1

I haven't played much of Marathon in a long time but picked this up after a binge of other old-school shooters. In the last month I've played Unreal, Dark Forces, all of the Half-lifes, and then this, and I can safely say I liked Apotheosis the most! It's amazing how well the core Marathon gameplay holds up. I still think I miss a bit of the punchieness of the original arsenal though. Extra praise for aesthetics and level design. The story was alright, but felt a bit like a retread of Marathon 2 from what I remember of that. But I'd much rather play this than go back to Durandal.

  • Currently 5/5 Stars.

Art (Update 2/9) Apotheosis X

ihatelivinginthisplace on Feb 8th, 2023, Version 1.1

So far I've been extremely impressed with everything here - really feels like a brand new game.

I was thinking it looked like Phoenix but then that it looked like Rubicon and then I went "screw it" and realize it's its own thing.

UPDATE: I forget I'm playing a Marathon scenario at times. It'd be a good game to promote independently of the trilogy.

  • Currently 5/5 Stars.

Easy on the eyes Gentle Flashes MML

Iritscen on Feb 7th, 2023, Version 0.1

Pickups and other flashes don't normally bother me, but in netgames the constant pickup flashes are pretty hard on the eyes, so this is a welcome solution. Note that it does not work for the original Marathon scenario however as the effects IDs are different.

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

Great mini scenario Deus Volt!

hypersleep on Jan 20th, 2023, Version 1.0

These 6ish levels almost feel like lost Double Aught maps in the best way possible – Angular, rambling architecture that tastefully employs the base textures with handsome lighting and composition.

The maps sprawl and fold back on themselves. There’s a few moments I was left pondering what to do next, but the solution was never difficult to arrive at. I appreciate the attention paid to creating flow, with hubs and landmarks that make navigating these massive, non linear levels a breeze.

Resources are everywhere, I had every weapon except the rocket launcher by the end of the second level. I didn’t mind, I’ve spent decades with these weapons and there’s no need to learn the ropes. Let it rip.

On Total Carnage, there’s a gradual and steady increase in difficulty that will take you from melting the Pfhor during the intro to really having your reflexes tested by the time you reach the end. The fighting is great, with lots of brawls, surprising ambushes and layered encounters. The author understands how to craft layouts that highlight the monster behaviour and allow the player to manoeuvre in response to the challenge. It's the exact approach to combat that I love.

It ends on a cliff hangar, I hope this means we’ll see more one day. I was surprised at how engaged I was by a “classic” scenario in 2023, and I think that’s testament to the author's hard work here.

  • Currently 5/5 Stars.

Eternally Cool Eat The Path

Spooky on Jan 18th, 2023, Version 1.1

..only the genius possess and the insane lament

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

Definitely better! Apotheosis X

Sharkie Lino on Jan 17th, 2023, Version 1.1

This update definitely addresses many of the issues I had experienced in the previous release. Admittedly, the second time playing a game tends to be easier than the first because you're now more familiar with it and know more where to go. But this time there was a much better amount of ammo for the fighting. The challenge was still there, but it was MUCH more manageable this time to fight what you had to. I also took advantage of the exploding barrels especially if there were any Hunters nearby.

There weren't any instances being like "Well what the heck do I use now?? There's nothing left!" (Especially on All Things Uncertain). I'm really thankful that you chose to not have the last level make you lose all your stuff anymore, that was really infuriating last time. Said level still being a vacuum is still kind of annoying, but I didn't die once from running out of oxygen, so I guess I can't complain all that much. The race up the stairs was still tough, but more manageable.

Everything had much more of a balanced feel to it, and that helps gameplay tremendously. The updated sound effects especially for the power-ups and the grenade detonations are a lot better.

Maybe the only thing that still sounds "off" is when the Troopers fire the grenades. It doesn't sound much like a firing sounds but more like a "release of steam" for lack of a better term. The sound also I think sounds too much like part of The Great Fen's soundtrack (which is already known that I dislike a lot) and it kind of makes me look around because I think something is being fired at me. I guess if the track is to stay, I can just shut the music off during that level if I play the scenario again.

I would say that in All Things Uncertain, the starting area needs to be looked at more. When you rise out of the pit, and you move away from the Enforcer about to fire on you, he goes inactive, so then the two things that teleport in to help you, just teleport out immediately instead, and you don't really have anything to take him out. While the level itself is MUCH better compared to the previous version, I would still say it could use maybe just a "tad" more ammo only because of those fast scythe-wielding (whatever they're called) monsters that are used in it, and the one that drops in near the end where there's that Enforcer waiting by the terminal I feel is a bit of a cheap shot.

This is more of a personal opinion, but I still wish there were more 2X rechargers, instead of just that one on the second to last level. Admittedly I'm not as hard about that as I was last time, since ammo amounts and cheap monster spawns were taken care of now and really changed the gameplay, but I still feel for some of the scenario's mid to later levels, I really feel the player deserves them. Not all rechargers of course, but some here and there.

But overall, this was definitely an improvement over the previous release, and I had a much more positive time playing it.

  • Currently 5/5 Stars.

This Exists NEFX Netmaps

Meerjel01 on Jan 15th, 2023, Version 41

Look. I love you. But I'm already pregnant.

:(

  • Currently 3/5 Stars.

Great Architecture, Unpolished Gameplay Portal of Sigma

MurgenROoF on Jan 1st, 2023, Version 1.1

This is an eleven level campaign notable for its highly detailed architecture, linear level flow, and incomprehensible story. There are new weapons and new graphics, but much of the gameplay is unpolished.

First, I have to mention the architecture. It’s clear that a lot of effort has been put into it. You’ll almost never see simple rectangular hallways or square rooms. There’s lots of neat little touches, such as artistic wall indentations used to create unique-looking rooms, or waterways that flow sensibly into a central reservoir. There are also some neat mapmaking tricks, like being able to move/swim through some waterfalls to reach an adjacent area, or finding secrets hidden behind illusionary walls. Lighting, often ignored by many mapmakers, is consistently used to good effect in this campaign. Overall, the map structures have some of the most attention to detail I’ve seen in any scenario, and it’s almost a shame because many of these beautiful areas are sparsely populated with enemies and the player will spend little time in them.

Combat would be fairly easy if not for a pervasive lack of shield rechargers. Save terminals are plentiful, however. Many of the Pfhor enemies have a new look and generally they are more dangerous than their vanilla counterparts; however, they are also encountered in smaller numbers. There are a few instances of unfair teleporter ambushes in which enemies suddenly appear right next to the player, but overall combat was fun and reasonable.

The level flow is one of the biggest strengths of this campaign. Unlike many Marathon scenarios, the player will not have to waste a lot of time looking for switches or trying to figure out what to do next. This is because the levels are designed in a linear manner; thankfully this is done in such a way that it does not feel forced. There are a few times that a switch opens a door out of line-of-sight; thankfully when this happens there is often a helpful terminal nearby that will use both text and pictures to show specifically what door got opened by what switch. But unfortunately, that’s pretty much the only good thing I have to say about the terminals in this campaign.

The storyline is incomprehensible. After playing through all eleven levels I still have no idea what the Portal of Sigma is, or why I was sent on a mission to capture and/or destroy it. Spelling errors abound. Perhaps the developer does not speak English as his first language, but this is definitely a case in which finding an English-speaking proofreader would have been helpful. Or heck, even just using a spellchecker could have done wonders in terms of legibility.

The lack of polish shown with the terminals extends into the gameplay, and it’s probably most obvious with the new weapons. Pretty much every weapon has either been replaced or remastered, but the execution is lacking. The new arsenal includes a cool-looking chain gun, a triple rocket launcher, and a railgun that can shoot through multiple enemies. But some of these weapon graphics actually blink out of existence during certain animations. Even worse, there is actually inconsistency in how the weapons function! For example, the chain gun usually has a moderate rate of fire and can shoot two grenades at once. But sometimes, due to some sort of glitch or bug, the fire rate becomes insanely fast, only single grenades are shot, and the ammo capacity is suddenly reduced to about 40% of the normal maximum.

There are several later levels in which swimming is necessary to proceed. This wouldn’t be a big deal except I don’t think there is a single oxygen recharger anywhere in the second half of the campaign. By the final level I was down to just a few seconds worth of oxygen left. I fear that some players will end up getting stuck, essentially softlocked, because they’ll exhaust their oxygen supply and have no way to replenish it.

Level notes:

Ghar’hima Ship: What was the point of giving the player health and a pistol in the first level if it’s just going to be immediately lost in the subsequent Rebellion level? The force field was cool.

Suenagaku – This is a secret level that’s clearly unfinished. Half the level is unpopulated, and much of the remainder consists of elaborate corridors that lead to dead ends. There is a secret area that can only be opened by smashing some wires that are already smashed (this magically makes them whole again!). The newly opened secret area shows dev-specific text on the automap.

Todo lo que queda: In the fight against three blue hunters, one of them got stuck on the terrain.

All Good People: The battle inside the water tower was spectacular. The architecture was some of the best I’ve seen in any Marathon level.

Dream a Prophecy: This is a secret “Vidmaster” level that can only be reached from One Mint Julip. Apparently there was also a way to reach it from Destination HELL but the terminal was never activated? It’s the hardest level of the campaign and the challenge was welcome.

All Those Spooky: The final battle was anti-climactic. The player cuts through a few weak fighters, some F’lickta, and then reaches the victory terminal? Seriously?

  • Currently 5/5 Stars.

I love where this scenario has come. Eternal X

Sharkie Lino on Dec 26th, 2022, Version 1.3 preview 4

I first played the original version (or at least close to it) of this scenario back around 2005 or 2006. Of course I didn't understand the story at all. I guess that can happen when you're an impatient teenager, but I remember really liking that I was playing a new Marathon scenario, and it was really fun to check out. I finished it with the sense of "That was interesting....but what just happened?", but to be fair, that's pretty much how Infinity was for me, for the longest time too.

Didn't really play it again for a long time until either last year or early this year when I was told to check out 1.2.1 which was the newest at the time, and I was totally amazed by it. How advanced and updated the levels, and just so many other things looked, and some things I actually did remember from that first version looked a lot better and let's say "more alive" afterwards. You could really see just how much work was put into this.

When the 1.3 previews rolled around. I decided to check them out because I'm the kind of guy who is always interested in seeing how something has changed from last time. While I know 4 previews can be a bit much, each one brought something new to the table, and I loved it. The new usage of color just about everywhere compared to 1.2.1 really stood out to me, as well as the updated monsters, and updated landscapes. The work done on those was phenomenal. I also like how some parts of some levels where in 1.2.1 I would be like "It would be cool if you could get in there." Then low and behold, 1.3 does just that. The usage of tracks switching up for a lot of the levels was a fantastic idea to give some variety.

The use of sounds in general are put to VERY good use for all of the levels, and especially for making all platforms ambient, which plenty know I talk about. Being the sound freak that I am, that was one of the first things I noticed from 1.2.1 when I watched some of the demo videos, and I was so glad to hear it.

I am glad that some terminals were broken up in to different ones too because while reading can be nice, just one LONG terminal can be a bit tiring, and I'm glad that was taken care of. I'll admit, I do miss the ability to get a boatload of fusion ammo on that one level, but that did not really affect my play too much for Preview 4. In fact, it was actually more fun to use some of the other weapons for a change. On that note, it's nice that on TC, there's plenty of ammo. I know, some will say it's excessive, but still, the fact that you actually HAVE it is nice. This is where some other scenarios really miss their mark; there's no carnage because there's nothing to fight with! Fists? Sure, good luck with that, and while this has nothing to do with Eternal specifically, please, DON'T enforce ammo limits on TC players. That never should have become a thing.

Side note, I love how The Midpoint of Somewhere came to be. I always found that level cool, and was really happy to see it become something with combat, and a lot more involved. Fantastic addition. Honestly, all the additions from Preview 3 to Preview 4 are good ones.

I'm definitely understanding the story a lot more than I used to. Do I now fully understand it? Nope :P but maybe that's part of the enjoyment. Each time I play it, I hope to understand more, like I did with Infinity.

It's awesome how far this scenario has come since the mid 2000s, and the work put into it since then really shows. A fantastic job all around.