You know what the single biggest, most common problem is with Marathon levels? Being lost with no idea of where to go or what to do. This leads to downtime, and downtime leads to boredom! Boredom sucks!
KTA IV has a simple but effective solution to kill boredom where it stands.
Each level is very small and simple (less than 100 polygons), and there is no plot to slow you down. It’s pure, 100% carnage, because in order to activate the teleporter to go to the next level you have to…well, the scenario is entitled “Kill Them All,” so it’s pretty self explanatory.
But the action is about as streamlined as it gets, with no downtime, and no getting lost.
Because there are a whopping 52 levels, they are divided into six different chapters. The first level acts as a sort of hub, allowing you to play the chapters in any order. It is probably best to play them in numerical order, because the difficulty level does ramp up in the later chapters.
Each level is a Rebellion level, meaning you start with no weapons and little health. This keeps things fresh because you never know what resources will be available in a particular level. It also ensures the difficulty cannot become too easy or too hard based upon long-term resource acquisition.
A large amount of authors contributed to this, which is nice because it means there’s a lot of variety in the level design. I’ll just mention a few levels I found noteworthy:
“Power Word Kill” is a level that’s all about the rocket launcher. You get tons of rockets and the high ground, and down below you are large concentrations of enemies just waiting to be exploded. It’s the best case scenario for everyone who loves rockets.
“The limacon” has a truly bizarre architectural design. Pulsating lighting adds to the effect, and a huge battle against invisible compilers is just icing on the cake.
“Purple Haze” sets you on a small island with a central building. Opening one of the building’s doors will pit you face to face with a horde of powerful enemies, and the small available battle area means you’ll need to make good choices about where to fight and when to run.
“Polygons, Platforms, and Duct Tape” features a central room with a pool of water in the middle. As the player explores the level hordes of enemies will be released, and some of them will inevitably fall into the deepest parts of the central water pool where they will become stuck. This caused me some consternation because I knew I had to kill all the enemies, but there were so many baddies stuck at the bottom of the pool I was certain I would suffocate before I could punch them all to death. Plus, that would be really time consuming and boring. Later I found a flechette that could fire underwater and hasten the process, but still it just seemed like sloppy level design. Finally, at the end of the level, it was revealed that the two water pits were in fact platforms that would be raised so that all the trapped enemies would be released to fight again. So the water pit traps were not unintentional, as I first suspected, but I still think that this could probably have been handled in a better way.
“Victoria” is a level that’s all about the shotgun. Now in Bungie’s campaigns shotgun ammo was rare enough that most players would carefully hoard it, using it only in the direst of situations. But in this level your only weapon is a shotgun, and ammo is plentiful, so you finally get to go crazy with this seldom-used but powerful weapon. It certainly helps that the level features close quarters fighting with large clumps of enemies, which is where the shotgun performs best!
This combat-focused campaign is great fun, and well worth playing!
So this is a sequel to Marathon Phoenix. Some of the good things from Phoenix got carried over to this mini-campaign, but alas, some of the things that made Phoenix great are lacking.
Level design remains top notch, with one exception which I’ll discuss below. The “Dr. Tycho’s Castle” level really did seem to have a castle-style layout, complete with moats and parapets. “Compressed Output” had elegant architecture with some fun set pieces.
The secret skulls system that worked so well in Phoenix is back. And although many of the adversaries are standard Pfhor, others are special upgraded versions that provide an extra challenge. For example, one is a tan cyborg that’s capable of throwing grenades at high velocity at the player.
Unfortunately, two of the best things about Phoenix were its new weapon arsenal and its music soundtrack, and both of those are absent from Kindred Spirits.
Also, I had mixed feelings about the final level “When the Water Breaks.” The level is too complex for its own good. It must have been really difficult to make, but in this case more complexity did not equal more quality.
There are so many overlapping polygons that the automap quickly becomes useless. It also doesn’t help that there are locked doors everywhere, and it’s often not clear what will open them — sometimes it’s a chip insertion, other times a switch, other times it’s just walking on a particular polygon. As I wandered through the level, lost, I kept saying to myself, “Why do there have be so many stupid doors between me and the bad guys? Just let me smite the baddies already!”
In the southeast corner of the map I ended up strafing out a window that looked solid but was not. I ended up stuck in outer space, softlocked, and had to reload from a previous save.
At least when I finally did make it through all those horrid locked doors there was a payoff. The final battle was an epic one to be sure, with lots of fun carnage against a wide variety of enemy types.
In conclusion, Kindred Spirits is not as good as Phoenix, but it is entertaining. For those Phoenix players who were sad when it ended and wanted more, this is definitely worth a playthrough.
This is a major campaign which is all about combat. What sets the fighting of Phoenix apart from other scenarios is a plethora of cool all-new weapons paired with new enemies to fight and great level design.
The new weapons are more powerful than the standard Marathon arsenal. For example, one is a fusion cannon that functions like the standard fusion pistol except it lobs energy shells which explode on impact with a large radius of effect. In this way packs of hunters and other fusion-vulnerable enemies can be decimated.
Another weapon is a powerful crossbow that can be used to accurately snipe enemies at long range. Since the standard Marathon arsenal focuses mostly on close-range weapons, the ability to push out combat to longer distances is appreciated.
But don’t fret that the new weapons will make the combat in Phoenix too easy; you’ll need the extra firepower! That’s because the enemies in Phoenix also got a power upgrade! Although you’ll fight plenty of the standard Pfhor which you’re already well familiar with, there are a lot of new enemies that present new threats. None of these new enemies have new graphics, but they do possess different combat capabilities from the ones that you’re used to.
For example, there is a kind of super hunter in Phoenix that has a burst-fire attack that spews out a huge number of projectiles with a large amount of inaccuracy. Thus, you’ll quickly learn to avoid close range combat with that kind of hunter. There are also a few gold-colored boss enemies that you’ll learn to fear. And defenders are featured as a common enemy, which is nice because they were rarely seen in Bungie’s official campaigns, and even then they were allies, not enemies. Thus, most Marathon players have never had to fight defenders before, but in Phoenix you’ll fight a lot of them, and the challenge is welcome.
There are a lot of optional secrets to find in Phoenix, and even a unique skull system that will help you track them. Basically, every time you find a secret you’ll find a skull with it. Picking up a skull will tell you how many secrets are left in that particular level, letting you know how much progress you’re making towards 100% secrets completion (useful for completionists like me).
Level design is really top notch. Not only because there are some great set piece battles, but also because a lot of attention has been paid to aesthetics. For example in “Sanctum Sanctorum” you’re exploring a long-abandoned temple, and to reinforce that plot point you see one of the floor tiles has been torn out of the floor at the level start. It’s just little touches like that that show a high amount of attention to detail. You’ll almost never see just boring, featureless, rectangular rooms — everything in Phoenix looks designed for a purpose.
The campaign features a really great music soundtrack. I grabbed it and put it on my iTunes. My favorite song was “The Complex” by Kevin Macleod; it’s absolutely the sort of action music that would go along with storming a heavily fortified enemy base, which is what you’re doing when you hear it!
The story was entertaining enough. Terminals give clear level objectives. Unlike most Marathon campaigns, Phoenix features an active and dynamic antagonist. I did have one complaint about the end of the story though.
SPOILERS AHEAD! At the end Durandal shows up and effortlessly defeats the Pfhor. I felt this denigrates the accomplishments of the player. Because if you had a super powerful ally who could just show up and zap the bad guys, then was all the heroism of the player meaningless? Apparently this was done to link the plot of Phoenix to other Marathon mods, but I think it would have been better to just omit that plot point entirely. END SPOILERS
Other cool stuff that is unique to Phoenix or has only rarely been done before:
”Stone Temple Pilates” has cliffs that kill you if you fall off them.
“Shades of Gray” does a great job of building up a sense of foreboding before introducing a new enemy type.
”Into Sandy’s City” is a neat concept for an underwater base level. There is an air-filled base surrounded by water, and to reach all parts of the level you have to venture out into a ruined flooded area of the base.
“Enchanting New Mexico” is a homage to Bungie’s “What About Bob?” In this level you have to outrun rising lava no less than four times! And it features a really impressive multi-story tower, which may have been a little too complex its design, as this is one of the few levels I got lost in.
“Escape Two Thousand” is a level situated high above a lava lake, and it’s all about platforming. I’m not gonna lie, I am not generally a fan of platforming in Marathon. But if ever there was an example of Marathon platforming done right, this is it. The whole level I was saying, “I can’t actually be meant to jump across the lava to that tiny little ledge, can I?” But a glance at the automap would confirm my path, and I’d probably have some very intense moments as I tried to find my footing and fight off baddies who might knock me off my precarious perch into the lava sea below. Did I get fried to a crisp a few times? Sure, but I had fun doing it!
“Vampire Killer” was my least favorite level of the campaign. The point of the level is to activate a switch that will flood the whole level, opening up new areas to explore. It’s a great idea in concept, but the execution was lacking. Firstly, there are a lot of waterfalls in the level, but after the water level rises the waterfalls are still there, and it just looks bad. This is a rare example of poor aesthetics in Phoenix, and though the waterfalls-under-water ugliness is found throughout the campaign, it’s especially noticeable in this level. Secondly, a bunch of bad guys will invariably get stuck under the floodwaters, rendering them harmless and highlighting how the Marathon engine does a poor job with underwater combat.
“Roquefortress” was my favorite level of Phoenix. There’s a great dichotomy between light and dark areas, and the soundtrack “Animosity” just syncs with it perfectly and made the plot premise of exploring an abandoned mining facility really come to life.
Every Marathon fan should check out this campaign, it’s great fun!
This campaign includes new tilesets, lots of new terminal and chapter art, and all new enemies. There is not a single Pfhor in this campaign, and let me tell you, it is nice to be fighting someone different for a change!!!
At first I wasn’t sold on the new enemy design; the initial rebels and drones you encounter aren’t very tough and are functionally similar to Pfhor fighters and drones, respectively. But the enemy design only gets better as you progress. For example, you run into an invisible alien enemy, but they aren’t like S’pht Compilers. Instead these enemies give telltale clues to their presence that you have to look out for. There is a humorous enemy — a pizza delivery kid, that had me laughing out loud when I heard his (her?) voice acting and saw how he (she?) attacked. Some of the later enemies are very tough and will test your Marathon combat skills to the limit.
And that actually leads me to my main criticism of this campaign, which has to do with the difficulty level. I played on Normal, and the early levels had me fighting weak enemies that weren’t much threat. I was seriously considered bumping up the difficulty to Total Carnage, but later events made that unnecessary. That’s because the later levels are actually really hard because the late game enemies are extremely dangerous. While the challenge is welcome, I do feel it’s important to note that the disparity in difficulty levels between the early game and late game is the largest I have ever seen in any Marathon scenario.
The storyline is about fighting a group of hostile alien rebels who have an anti-human ideology. It’s passable, but don’t expect to be wowed by the plot.
Level design is linear, which is good. In many Marathon scenarios I have the problem of having no idea where to go or what to do, but in TrAVel I very seldom had that problem. Each level is a series of self enclosed areas leading to one another. Clear level objectives, not much chance of getting lost, and no infuriating puzzles or platforming means this campaign avoids many of the most common Marathon mod mistakes.
There were a few minor architectural problems — a few unfilled polygons, and some buildings, particularly in level 2, that had poor use of the “landscape” visual feature. There was a point in one of the later levels where I fell in a pit and got stuck with no way out; I had to reload from an earlier save. But overall, this is a very unique and fun scenario worth checking out!
Nothing to see here, folks.
Your goal is to survive as long as possible. At the start of each match you’re given a few seconds to grab weapons and ammo, then the enemies will start spawning in and they won’t stop coming!
The fighting is just about as ferocious as Marathon combat can get, and the search for ammo means you can never camp one location for very long. At first only weak enemies like drones show up, but the longer you survive the tougher the baddies get. The longest I’ve survived on the XBLA maps is 14 minutes, and by that time the map was filled with juggernauts, blue hunters, and red defenders!
Actually that leads to my one disappointment about this game mode, which is that it has no end and is un-winnable. You will always eventually be overwhelmed and die, but I think it would have been so cool if you could somehow survive against all odds to win. At the 14 minute mark the map will be so flooded with enemies that have enormous health pools that it actually becomes impossible to traverse the map to get ammo, so your doom is assured.
There are four purpose-built XBLA maps to play Survival on, plus you can play on standard netmaps. I did notice that when playing on standard netmaps that the monster AI would glitch out. To avoid this make sure to enable Aleph One Previous AI: http://simplici7y.com/items/aleph-one-previous-ai
It should also be noted that the four XBLA maps are specifically designed for Survival, but other netmaps are not. So it’s actually possible to hide on some of the non-XBLA netmaps and survive however long you want. But that’s not very exciting, is it?
Playing this game mode on solo maps will not work because you aren’t going to find enough ammo and the levels aren’t designed for it.
Enemies, ammo, and health spawn in randomly, which unfortunately can lead to luck playing a role in your lifespan. Basically, when a health canister spawns in, you want to take note of its location, and to hold off on using it as long as possible, because you’ll only get a few and you need to conserve them. But it becomes a problem when the health canisters randomly spawn in a bad location, like out in the open when red defenders with highly damaging homing shots are flooding the map. But, at least the high amount of randomization means that every game will be different.
In order to conserve ammo you’ll need to make the most efficient use of what you’ve got. That means the often ignored flamethrower actually ends up being one of the best early game weapons. But the flamethrower can become a liability when large numbers of flame-immune enemies start appearing. Tactically, it’s a really great thing to force the player to adapt their weapon use to reflect the enemy mix they are fighting; it means the player can never be complacent and just lazily stick to using just one weapon.
Bottom line: If you like combat, this is a fun game mode that’s worth trying out!
The good: *Short and fairly straightforward, so there is little chance of getting lost. There’s no terminal but there doesn’t really need to be one (until the end).
*The secrets are numbered and labelled. This is a great idea and I wish more maps did this.
*Combat was decent enough, with no unfairness. There are pattern buffers and shield rechargers available.
The bad: *Lots of enemies have trouble triggering. I think they are set to “Deaf?” Use zones for monster triggers instead. The fight by the x1 shield recharger can be trivial or difficult depending on how many monsters actually end up triggering.
*Ceiling lights are in the floor.
*A pervasive lack of ammo. I had to fall back to my fists at one point.
*The stupid canisters everywhere can block the player’s movement, which is especially annoying if you happen to be in combat.
*An abrupt ending that yanked me out of the level before I had a chance to fully explore it. I find some assault rifle ammo that I can't use, I think the nearby closet might have an assault rifle teleport in (because that would make sense), but nope! It's the level end! I don't even get to use the ammo I just found.
This is why terminals giving the player the option to “ESC to abort” a teleport are great for level transitions. This part may have been true to the original Heretic level, but it did not translate well into Marathon.
*Lighting could use some work, but the actual architecture is OK.
This is one of the most ambitious total conversions ever attempted in the Marathon engine, and there is really nothing else like it!
It transforms a sci-fi futuristic shooter into a medieval “Braveheart” simulator!
The download came with an application entitled “Blauwe Vingers” which seemed to be a launch application, but as of 2022 it doesn’t actually work with Aleph One. Instead you should play this scenario by dragging a copy of Aleph One into the BlauweVingers_MacOsX folder and using that to launch the game.
The scenario was created in Dutch, but I played with an English translation by replacing the Dutch scenario file (Kaart.sceA) with an English language scenario, which can be separately downloaded from this same website:
This allowed me to understand the gist of the story, although cutscenes, chapter art, and spoken dialogue were still in Dutch. But that’s cool, if anything it adds authenticity to this scenario. It’s apparently based upon real historical events that happened in Holland in the 1500s and I really liked how the player is given a pivotal role to play in the story as it unfolds.
The first thing you should do upon launching the game is to go into the Options menu (“Spel Opties” in Dutch) to enable weapon crosshairs and to set the graphics settings to “highest.” The crosshairs are useful because some of the missile weapons you’ll get are difficult to use without them. And pushing the graphics up really does make a difference.
When you launch the game you’ll be treated to a cutscene, the first of many. When transitioning between levels make sure that you don’t accidentally hit any keys or move your mouse, because that could cause you to skip a cutscene! After the cutscene you’ll end up in medieval Holland! You’ll see things you never thought you’d see in the Marathon engine, like slopes and many cool-looking 3D objects (not 2D sprites). You will also eventually see some really impressive rainstorms with lightning!
It did take me a moment to get accustomed to the new controls. Walking up to someone with a book or star over their head will trigger a dialogue when you press the spacebar. The map is enabled with Tab. And there are no save terminals, you can save whenever you want by pressing Control-S.
At first I was just walking around town, talking to people. It was basically a walking simulator with optional history lessons thrown in. But then abruptly the game turns into a “Braveheart” simulator! Dudes will be trying to stab you left and right, and you’ll be stabbing back! There’s a large arsenal of cool-looking medieval weapons for you to find and use.
I played on Normal difficulty and found the combat to be fun and fair; since you can save whenever you want no one should have trouble beating this scenario.
Fairly early in the campaign there is a branching path, which is clearly described to you in both dialogue and on the auto-map. You can choose to either go out into the rainstorm or keep exploring some underground tunnels. The rainstorm has no combat but it does have a x2 health power-up. The underground route has a lot of combat, but it will give you a rapier with a lantern several levels earlier than you would otherwise get it. The lantern is cool because it will light up the dark passageways for you! Since this is the only part of the campaign where that ability is useful, I STRONGLY urge you to choose the underground path. Or just control-S to experience both paths.
Later on I briefly got stuck on a mission in which you’re supposed to rescue someone from a burning building. I took too long and ended up suffocating from the smoke!
MINOR SPOILER AHEAD In order to get past that part you have to break some wooden barrels to move on. I didn’t realize those barrels were breakable at first. END SPOILER
After beating the story missions I noticed there were a bunch of multiplayer maps. I think Marathon multiplayer is mostly dead at this point, but if you’re curious you can use the standard level skip keys (Control+Shift+New Game on Mac) to see the multiplayer level design. Each of those levels has its own soundtrack, and the main menu also has a catchy tune!
This really is a stellar effort and deserves the maximum score of 5 out of 5 stars.
This one level scenario provides a really cool looking Inca-themed tileset. It includes new sounds and new terminal art. It really deserves 4 stars. But I had to subtract a star due to the final puzzle.
Level design is aesthetically pleasing. I felt like I was exploring a ruined temple. There are Pfhor to fight but the overall combat difficulty was low.
There are puzzles but I felt the difficulty level was acceptable. There are also deathtraps but they have hints as to their location so they aren't too unfair.
However, the map's final puzzle/deathtrap was simply ridiculous. Yes, there's a spoiler ahead, but you might as well read it because you'll never figure this out on your own.
In the final area you hit a switch which opens up a new area to explore. If you go explore it, you will be soft locked and unable to complete the level. Even worse, it will not be immediately obvious that you're soft locked. That's because the new area will have a switch protected by a deathtrap. But you can trigger the switch without triggering the deathtrap, leading to the idea that the switch opened up another area somewhere in the level. I wasted an hour combing through the already completed level trying to find what that switch opens.
Let me just save you some time, it opens nothing. The correct course of action is to find a hidden switch in a dark, obscure corner of the final part of the map. If you ever leave that area of the map you won't be able to get back to it, which means 99% of players are going to get soft locked at that point. Hope you have a recent save handy!
There is a clue about what the hidden switch looks like in the initial terminal message, but it's a moot point since most players will never even see the switch unless they know exactly where to look.
Basically, after you encounter the map's one blue hunter, you need to be keeping multiple saves so when you reach the final puzzle you won't get soft locked.
This is one of the most useful plugins for Aleph One, because it directly addresses one of the biggest problems of Marathon: getting lost with no idea of where to go or what to do.
During the 1990s, being lost with no idea of where to go or what to do was pretty common in first person shooters, including in Bungie's official campaigns. But modern shooters will usually give the player a waypoint to follow and a mission objective on their HUD telling them what to do when they arrive at their destination.
While some purists may disdain this modern-day holding of the player's hands, the bottom line is that unnecessary downtime sucks, modern shooters are streamlined to provide lots of action with little downtime, and Marathon falls short in that area.
What Eat the Path does is provide more streamlined gameplay by showing the player the location of their next likely objective. This can be depicted both on the auto-map, and visually with a trail of floating lights to follow. The player has to manually trigger these hints, so it can be used as much or as little as you please.
Although the plugin will not work 100% of the time, in my experience in using it on over a dozen different scenarios it has helped most of the time I have used it. It's not just helpful if you get lost; it can also help you find secrets. If you don't like the objective it sets you can choose a new one.
This is a huge help that will save you time and, if you're a completionist like me, it will help you fully explore every level!
So...this scenario was made quite some time ago (1997?) but it seems the conversion to Aleph One compatibility may have broken some things (or maybe they were already broken, I don't know).
And it's a shame because this is a pretty ambitious project that tried some things that I've never seen attempted before with the Marathon engine.
The first combat level starts you out with no health or ammo fighting troopers, hunters, and even a juggernaut in enclosed spaces. It was pretty unfair/hard, even on Normal difficulty. The pervasive lack of health, saves, and especially ammo becomes an issue later in the level, when you must stop an auto-destruct sequence from triggering by using grenades to smash some wiring. The idea is really cool, especially since if you're successful the computer console will display a big "OFF" message, but the execution sucked; I reached that area with almost no grenades!
In the next level, "Gemini B" I almost got soft locked because a door in the southeast corner of the map permanently closed which prevented access to parts of the level. This was after I accidentally fell off a platform that for some reason was set to only trigger once. I was however, able to find an alternate, if convoluted, route and complete the level.
There was also a juggernaut on this level that will completely ignore the player. However, if the player presses a switch it will create friendly drones that will attack the juggernaut. Creating allies is a cool concept, but once again the execution is flawed. If the neutral juggernaut is killed by the drones a new one will spawn in, and this time it will actually be hostile to the player!
"In Partibus infidelium" had some really clever level design, including a system of pressing switches to toggle teleporter destinations, which would be reflected in a nearby teleporter "flag" which was actually a series of cleverly placed paper thin platforms. This level had problems too, though. Parts of it seemed like they should be reachable, but weren't (the entire northeast part of the map). Plus, flooding the hangar bays with radioactive goo would kill the player, but not damage any of the hordes of Pfhor at all. Surely that could not be intentional?
This level also had a clever ambush with a semi-new enemy type.
"Taurus = torus" was a fun level with no problems.
I got soft locked on "Aquae Perturbae" apparently because there were two uplink slots, and if you do not put your uplink chip in the slots in the correct order you cannot proceed.
Softlocked again on the next level "Deep Doodoo." Also, some of the bobs on this level are also neutral, meaning that no one will attack them and they themselves will not attack.
A cool concept on "Gauntlet." You have to run across the map while getting showered with grenades. You can escape on a waiting spaceship that is well designed (it hovers, even!).
Although this campaign does have some interesting concepts, as of 2022 it is broken and you have a high chance of getting soft locked while playing.