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  • 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.

An Epic Campaign Eternal X

MurgenROoF on Dec 24th 2022, Version 1.3 preview 4

Note: I played through version 1.3 Preview 4.

Eternal is a massive 52 level campaign that’s essentially a love letter to the original Marathon trilogy. It’s a ton of fun and adds a lot of new content in terms of graphics, weapons, gameplay tweaks, and sound. In terms of quality I would say this is definitely one of the top three Marathon 3rd party campaigns.

Graphically the textures, weapons, and enemies have all been redone and they actually look much better than the original. There’s lots of new terminal art and it is of superior quality. Your motion spotter looks different; even the main menu screen has a new look. All Eternal textures look good, but the neon fluorescent Pfhor textures in particular look phenomenal.

There are also a bunch of cool-looking new weapons that are fun to use and generally handle well.

Gameplay tweaks: Oxygen now auto-replenishes in oxygen-filled environments, which is a great quality of life improvement! Your motion spotter now includes a compass, and the auto-map now tracks enemies, items, and even projectiles.

Eternal features a useful secrets counter. This tracks how many secrets are on the current level, plus how may secrets you’ve had the opportunity to find overall.

The campaign features autosaving by default. It can be disabled under the “Environment-Plugins” option.

Eternal has branching level paths. In the fourth level of every chapter there will be exits to two possible successor levels. I had mixed feelings about this. On the one hand I feel it’s good to give the player choices (or the illusion of choice, since all of the paths eventually merge back together).

But on the other hand, I felt the execution had some problems. For example, on “Sakmet Rising” it is highly likely that the player will run into a Hathor terminal shortly after starting the level, which will whisk the player off to the “Remedial Chaos Theory” level. The player might not even realize they have a choice of going with Hathor versus staying with Tycho and completing the remaining 90% of “Sakmet Rising.” It’s just so counterintuitive, and it means that anyone intending to play every Eternal level had better start by finding a spoiler guide so they can plan out exactly how they’re going to do it. I would suggest either making the branching paths more obvious to the player via terminal text, or getting rid of the branching paths entirely and making the failure path the normal path.

Sound: There are hours of new music, and most of it is pretty good. Many of the songs are evocative of the original Marathon 1 soundtrack, in a good way. For example, Eternal has a new version of Bungie’s “Rushing” song that uses, I think, brass horns? Well anyways, it’s a really kick ass song that lends itself to fast-paced combat scenarios, which is appropriate because when you first hear it a massive firefight is breaking out on the bridge of the Marathon! My favorite soundtrack was probably “Carbon” which I thought synced well with the chaotic situation at the start of Chapter 3.

The plot: The plot did not grab me at first; much of the early exposition was irrelevant and could easily have been cut. I fear new players might try the campaign, encounter an initial wall of text with lots of technobabble, and log out before ever seeing the strengths of Eternal. However, once the plot gets moving, it REALLY gets moving! Eternal ended up having my favorite Marathon 3rd party scenario story. Looking back on it, the narrative is pretty amazing in scope, and touches upon almost every bit of lore from Bungie’s official campaigns.

Time travel is central to the story of Eternal. Yes, it is a problematic plot device for many reasons, but I became OK with it once I realized it was actually an excuse to take the player on a walk down nostalgia lane, as you’ll get to revisit some iconic locations from Bungie’s trilogy. I loved how there was always a cool new twist to those locations.

Some of the terminal text is in the form of poetry; normally I would not say that poetry is a medium that lends itself to storytelling in the first person shooter genre. However, in this case, I would argue that there are parts of Eternal’s plot that could not be effectively delivered without the use of poetry. For example, the story of the level “The Manipulated Dead” has a powerful emotional payoff, but it simply wouldn’t work if normal word syntax was used.

Eternal has a memorable antagonist. Most Marathon scenarios don’t even bother with an antagonist, or if they do it’s just “Generic Pfhor Warlord #9735” who is out to conquer humanity, and how many times have you kicked that guy’s ass? But Eternal’s antagonist has all the hallmarks of a great villain — a personal connection to the protagonist, regular interactions with the protagonist, the ability to react to any setbacks the protagonist might cause, and just a generally interesting backstory and motivation.

Level design: Alas, there are too many switches that open stuff to who knows where. Too many levels devolved into a switch hunt, or trying to find what area the last activated switch opened up. Many levels require hitting about 20(!) switches to reach the end, which means there’s 20 different places for the player to screw up and get needlessly lost or stuck. The single biggest thing that would make Eternal better would be to tone done the switch hunts, or institute some kind of waypoint system to keep the player from getting stuck because they missed 1 switch out of 20. I used the “Eat the Path” plugin to help find where I needed to go, which helped but it was not perfect.

Level notes:

Tangent Universe — A somber level as the player witnesses the defeat of the human race on a space station close to the sun; there is great music to set the mood. On this level the location of the sun is used to good effect to cast shadows.

Enantiodromia — The terminal text did a great job of setting up Chapter 2, and your fight against Battle Group One. The plot of Chapter 2 was my favorite, because it felt like I was coming into this military stalemate and just singlehandedly turning the whole thing around.

Chapter 2 — The spaceport levels had superb aesthetics; the music, plus the ambient rain and thunder synced perfectly with the idea of fighting in a far flung alien outpost as massive Pfhor capitol ships loomed on the horizon.

Chapter 3 — I loved all the callbacks to Marathon 2!

Let Sleeping Gods Die —The spiral staircase was inspired.

How deep the rabbit hole goes — The water pillar in this level was another thing that I didn’t even know was possible in the Marathon engine.

Second to Last of the Mohicans — A working conveyor belt! Another thing I’ve never seen in the Marathon engine before!

The Incredible Hulk — What a great way to explore Marathon lore. The events are mentioned in the official trilogy, but now we get to be an active participant in them.

This Cave is Not a Natural Formation — Some really great looking architecture in the initial arena and the northeast cave area.

Frog Blast the Vent Core — I liked the lighting, the bridge, and the smashed up part of the ship.

This Message Will Self Destruct — My favorite combat level. You’ve acquired an arsenal of really powerful weapons, and now you get to use them against hordes of powerful enemies.

Where Giants Have Fallen — Wow, the circular ascent was really clever! I probably could have grenade jumped up, but I wanted to take the scenic route, listen to the poignant music, and reminisce over the epic journey I just completed.

Thanks so much for making this, I had a blast playing it!

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

A really unique mini-campaign Megiddo Game

MurgenROoF on Dec 20th 2022, Version

It’s a 3 level mini-campaign that’s notable because of the new texture sets.

The first level takes place in a corporate office complete with cubicles and 90’s style desktop computers. Graphically nothing like this has been done in any other Marathon scenario; it really does have a unique look to it. Seeing hostile aliens teleporting into a corporate board room or coming out of a washroom provides a…I guess you could call it a culture shock? Basically you’re seeing a huge dissonance between “normal” things and unnatural sci-fi things that don’t normally go together.

Even better, the terminals in this level are hilarious! It’s not often you see humor in Marathon scenarios, let alone humor done well, but these jokes were actually funny. The humor is situational; the Pfhor are attacking a small business and the human employees are in a state of panic, but corporate leadership is more concerned with profits and deadlines than the welfare of their staff. It’s poking fun at contemporary office work culture in a way that had me laughing out loud more than a few times.

Unfortunately, the mission objectives for this first level (and indeed all levels in Megiddo Game) were overly convoluted. Your first objective is to smash four wall panels, but they use new graphics so you’re not even sure what you’re looking for. Even worse, the wall panels are small and easy to miss. You are given vague directions to three of the four panels, but still you can expect to spend most of your time on this level trying to figure out what to do next, not fighting aliens.

Another part of the level requires you to find a pretty well hidden underwater passage. Such a thing might be OK for a secret area harboring extra loot for the player, but no, this is a mandatory part of the level.

For the level finale the player makes their way to the office roof and fights a fun battle against a large enemy force. I was a little puzzled to see a possessed drone among the regular Pfhor drones though, as that drone fought as my ally during the battle. That was probably a bit of erroneous combatant placement by the mapmaker.

The second level of Megiddo takes place on a derelict alien ship and uses a totally new texture set which looks awesome. This level also contains numerous secrets, but each secret is cleverly revealed to the player beforehand. Basically you are shown the secret loot cache, but it’s currently unaccessible, then as you progress through the level you can try and figure out how to reach it. This sort of baiting with hints is I think the best way to handle secrets, and it makes finding them the most fun.

The third and final level takes place on the Pfhor homeworld, and once again features a new texture set with some spectacular graphics. The creator of this campaign went on to make Tempus Irae, a famous Marathon campaign based on Italian Renaissance architecture, and in this level you can really see the architectural genius that led to his later successful endeavors. For example, part of level three contains a majestic Pfhor temple with spiral fluted columns that wouldn’t be too out of place in Tempus Irae despite its alien origins.

One last note — do not use HD texture plugins with this campaign because they are graphically incompatible with the new textures. The readme warns about this, and I can confirm this warning is valid.

This is a really unique campaign that’s worth checking out, just make sure to find a spoiler guide in case you get stuck.

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

Great concept, great execution! Kill Them All IV

MurgenROoF on Nov 24th 2022, Version 1.00

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!

  • Currently 3/5 Stars.

It’s a complex mini-campaign Kindred Spirits

MurgenROoF on Nov 24th 2022, Version

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.

  • Currently 5/5 Stars.

A really fun combat focused campaign Marathon Phoenix

MurgenROoF on Nov 23rd 2022, Version 1.4.1

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!

  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

It’s almost a total conversion TrAVel

MurgenROoF on Nov 22nd 2022, Version 1.0

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!

  • Currently 1/5 Stars.

It's a readme. CARNAGE VILA 46! README

MurgenROoF on Nov 21st 2022, Version 3.0

Nothing to see here, folks.

  • Currently 5/5 Stars.

It's really intense! XBLA Survival

MurgenROoF on Nov 21st 2022, Version 2.1

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:

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!

  • Currently 2/5 Stars.

Some good, more bad Heretical Cyborg

MurgenROoF on Nov 20th 2022, Version 1.2

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.

  • Currently 5/5 Stars.

Marathon Meets Braveheart Blauwe Vingers - Mac

MurgenROoF on Nov 19th 2022, Version 1.2

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.

  • Currently 3/5 Stars.

Great except for final puzzle Vacation in Vilcabamba

MurgenROoF on Oct 19th 2022, Version 1.0

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.

  • Currently 5/5 Stars.

Really useful Eat The Path

MurgenROoF on Oct 18th 2022, Version 1.0

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!

  • Currently 1/5 Stars.

Too many softlocks Gemini Station

MurgenROoF on Oct 18th 2022, Version 2.0

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.