Monday, April 16, 2012

-MOON 02- by (LL)ATAN/Robert Peterson (reveiw)

After playing -MOON 01- and seeing its potential, I was excited to see what further levels of the series would have to offer. Hoping to see some of the flaws of the first level addressed, and wondering what common traits the author had in store, I was quick to dig into this second level of the series. After playing it through, I can confidently say I feel this level is an improvement over its predecessor. While some of the same points I made negative about -MOON 01- continue in this second level, it definitely seemed like a cleaner, better planned map in the end.

The themes still aren't entirely consistent, but this level is much less of an "everything but the kitchen sink" ordeal compared to the first. Textures are still rather mixed, but a bit less random than before. Also, lava and water are used more sensibly. While -MOON 01- could be eligible to have just about whatever the author felt like in this regards in its every room, this level largely sticks to lava, with water used in only one area (by the red key) that is separate from the rest of the level. The mixed textures themselves manage to fit in most cases.

I found this level to be a smidgen easier in difficulty compared to the first, but this might be partly because I knew from the start to use the heavy weaponry at my disposal. I found high-end missiles (Guided and above) to be provided a bit too excessively, and again there are especially a lot of opportunities to fill up on Guided Missiles and clearly too many Mega's outside of secrets (especially considering there isn't even a boss in this level, just a reactor, unlike the first), though having these powerful weapons did keep the frustration level down, but I think the balance could have been better for an idealized challenge. It didn't kill the fun though, and the generally enjoyable aspects of gameplay from -MOON 01- were generally carried over otherwise. The progression is still smooth, with no big puzzles, keeping things moving along - and this time the exit is not hidden, which I feel more appropriate.

Again, all that's here is a level; there are no other custom features. I'm starting a recognize a few trends from this author. First of all, is the already mentioned overuse of high-end missiles. Once the player learns this author provides them fairly frequently, it cuts the difficulty down, maybe a bit more than would be optimal at point; there are too many robots you could just kill with (especially Guided) missiles without even seeing. Secondly, the author likes to use Hornet enemies. Lots of them, and of both the green and red varieties. Fortunately this is one place in which the overuse of homing weapons works in favor, as if seen quickly they are often easily dispatched with a few Homing Missiles rather than having to chase them around. There are two Bandits again, one of which will start chasing you early and the other which appears late. Finally, the author definitely likes to put a lot behind the red door, so don't just think you'll find the reactor (or boss) right behind it.

All said -MOON 02- is definitely not without flaws but it's an improvement over the first in the series, and overall gets my recommendation particularly if you've already played all the bigger stuff.

The bottom line:

Positives - Another mostly enjoyable, and fairly long level. Reduced swings in themes compared to -MOON 01-, and somewhat better texturing overall. Smooth, flowing progression free of frustrating puzzles or slowdowns.

Negatives - Some trends the author appears to be getting in to aren't exactly the best, like over-providing heavy-hitting missile weaponry and using Hornets a bit too frequently. Also still a very "standard" level that lacks anything to set it apart from other maps.

My overall rating for this level is 62.5%.

And commentary is welcome, as always. :D

Download: You can find all levels in the -MOON XX- series here.

Disclaimer: All scores and critique reflect MY opinion and no author or player should take any offense or feel discredited if they disagree.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

About Me: Pumo :D

OK, so, this is my first article in this nice Blog (Founded by KakHome), where both of us, KakHome and I, are making a Blog partnership to write articles about Descent, from one side and the other.
Pretty cool, don't you think?

To be honest, it's the first time I write at a 'shared' blog, so I hope this will be a nice article.
As a suggestion from KakHome, I'm goin' to intruduce myself first, before anything:

<- Caricaturized version of me, drawn by: me :P

I'm Pumo (as many already know :P), also known as Torbernite, Pumo-Torbernite and, as a musician, as R.a.M. Land.
(You can also call me Ruben if you want, it's my real first name).

I'm a total fan of Descent, and specially of Single-Player (Much like KakHome :) ), and I'm an enthusiast of Descent modding and mapping, as a modder and level-author myself.

My main mod project is Pumo Mines : Kartsal Motivation, an ambitious Single-Player mission with 20 levels (17 + 3 secret) designed for D2X-XL port of Descent 2, with lots of new stuff, including custom high-resolution graphics, custom movies, custom weapons, custom high quality music, custom robots, custom sounds, new characters, and a completely new story and universe to unfold! (Nothing related to original Descent PTMC and stuff). Although right now, iIve only got the chance to make a 3-level release :P.
(It's a hard work, but it's somewhat like the opus of my life, so I'm always working on it).

If you want to check out the 3-level demo release, check this link to download it:
(requires Descent 2 and D2X-XL to play, so actually, it's not that 'classic' :P)

On the other hand, I do also work as a resident musician at a band on a young-oriented convention (dedicated to Japanese Animation and Comics, where I also work as exhibitor), and sometimes I also play at other events (note the main instrument I play is the Keyboard. Keyboards and Synths FTW!! :D ).

But also, on my free time, and mostly as a hobby, I compose music, not only for my Descent projects, but music in general, that's when I transform into: R.a.M. Land!

And I think that pretty much resumes who I am and what I'm doing here. I'm going to write some nice Descent articles from time to time along with KakHome, and I think the next one will be oriented to SDLDevil, the new version of our beloved old-school D1/D2 level editor, Devil.


And now, spam time (lol)!!
These are my websites if you're interested in both my Descent stuff and my music:

Pumo Software Website (With info about Pumo Mines)

Pumo Software Blog (Yeap, I do also have my own Blog)

R.a.M. Land Official Website (For all musical things)


Thursday, April 12, 2012

-MOON 01- by (LL)ATAN/Robert Peterson (review)

The -MOON XX- series is a series of 14 individual levels for Descent II, each a separate download. It is mostly a collection of levels, as many of them don't even have briefings. From a brief look the levels look to vary - so I have decided to cover each one I play in a separate review.

-MOON 01- is a large and mixed level, with a twisty overall layout. All the primary themes/elements from Descent II are used at some point, but it still doesn't seem too discombobulated. The main take away feature I found in this level was the enemy and difficulty factory. It was a very tough map for me to make through with one life on Hotshot, and while I first thought a couple of Mega Missiles right at the start (if you search a bit) was overpowering, they turned out to have their use. There are lots of robot generators (matcens) and only two or three energy centers throughout the large level. You will want to make use of matter weapons and at least a couple times I ran out of energy with none in reach without a fight.

Possibly the trick, which I didn't notice until near the end, is that there are a bunch of Green Hornets in the level that commonly drop a Guided Missile. I did not play the level this way due to not realizing it at first, but you'd probably have enough Guided Missiles to kill or at least get a glimpse at many of the robots and areas without taking damage. Doing this, I envision the level might have been easier, but it's not an intuitive strategy for me. There are a couple especially brutal rooms, the final room (which is a boss robot, although you can get an Invulnerability nearby) and also a very tough red key room with three matcens generating powerful robots being the ones I remember most.

Still, I mostly enjoyed the playthrough, and despite the constant change in themes from area to area or at times even room to room, didn't mind the way the level progressed. The author hid the exit in an unmarked secret, which I don't feel is in good taste, but on the other hand it only matters for bonuses since there's only one level and hence you aren't actually at a disadvantage in a later level from missing the exit.

-MOON 01- is possibly this author's first single player level. For that it's not bad at all and I do plan on playing more maps in the series. It's not a map I'd recommend if you're involved in a major campaign, but if you're getting bored this map (and series) seems worthwhile from the first look.

The bottom line:

Positives - I mostly enjoyed playing the level. It's large but not confusing and provides a potentially good challenge for those who like it. The random mix of themes, while also mentioned as a negative, combines fairly enough that it didn't seem over the top discombobulated. And remember it's possibly the author's first level.

Negatives - It may be a bit frustrating in difficulty in Hotshot (or especially above) for some. The Guided Missile strategy, if it does work, is not an intuitive one. Themes are mixed rather randomly overall, without a lot of area to area consistency. Personally I don't think it's appropriate to put non-secret exits behind an unmarked secret door. It's just a level, with no "extra's" of any kind.

My score for this level is 57.5%.

Once again, all commentary, suggestions, and/or feedback is welcome. :)
Download: You can find all 14 -MOON XX- series levels here.

Disclaimer: All scores and critique reflect MY opinion and no author or player should take any offense or feel discredited if they disagree.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

First review!: Phobos Encounter

Well here's my first review for the blog! This one will take a look at the classic 4+2 secret level campaign, Phobos Encounter, for Descent II by Kyouryuu (earlier named Razor Blade at the time).

Phobos Encounter was released in the fall of 1997, and was the author's second single-player campaign, the first one Chasm also being worth a look. However, Phobos only improves upon what was already good with the former. You get six new levels in total, two of them being secret. The designs are excellently and variant throughout the levels, and they are all of a fitting length. Each of them end with a boss robot, the final being Dr. Phobos himself which the storyline revolves around. The difficulty progression is seamless, as the first level is fairly benign for the most part while there are quite a number of challenges to conquer later on, but a good player can always survive through skill and strategy.

Phobos Encounter offers traditional Descent II type game play, as you find the keys to unlock new areas, all while fighting the considerable (and increasing) robot resistance along the way. There are no non-standard objectives, but the levels and story both flow well. You must encounter the Trac Research Complex, Altaridge Falls Mine, and Magmarock Excavation sites before gaining access to Phobos' compound itself, the fourth and final level. In addition to the normal Descent (II) robots, Phobos Encounter includes three brand new custom robots in addition to the four bosses. One of the custom robots, the BlueX (which is quite a literally fitting name by the way) can come in variant forms, firing different weapons, so you must pay attention to it and properly work against whatever weapon(s) it carries.

A brief account of each level follows:

The first level, Trac Research Complex, starts off partly Descent I-like before later switching to more a Descent II mode. Still, it's a fairly simple and symmetrical three-story complex and definitely the easiest level, with no true challenge until the boss robot at the end (aptly called RedX). The main hub hallway of the complex looks quite nice with a flickering light pattern and in addition to connecting all areas, contains access to the one energy center you'll have for most of the time.

Level 2, the Altaridge Falls Mine, is filled with flowing water, as the name would suggest. The level is probably the most spread out of the four - while it isn't linear per se, it's probably the one containing the most distinct rooms and least connectivity, with each area being relatively separate. The difficulty increases significantly here, watch out! Despite the lower connectivity each area flows well and nothing seems as if it was thrown in out of place. Also this level has the teleporter to the first secret level, but if you don't look quickly for what you might have triggered, it's very easy to get locked out of - hint, no second chances!

The first secret level has a Pumma Sphere-like theme, with a little water. Though not that large, it is heavily guarded and once you enter it, you must destroy it before you can reach an exit, unlike many Descent II secret levels. There are some very valuable goodies but require finding some switches and hidden doors to reach.

After the Altaridge Falls comes the Magmarok Excavation, a generally red hot level as you would expect, though the actual amount of lava you'll see is a bit less than hardcore lava-themed levels. Although there are many individual, non-connected areas, the level is much more "centered" than its predecessor around a pair of intersecting outer rings (which will give you trouble if you hate proxy mine droppers) and a central inner room as well. There are few shields in this level besides those dropped by robots, so you must conserve in the most difficult level of the series yet. Watch out behind the red door, because the boss is going to catch you WAY off guard of you aren't prepared! The entrance to the second secret level, which is comparatively easier to find than the first, is also here.

Secret Level 2, like the first, must be destroyed before you can exit, but on the other hand a good majority of it is optional to explore. It's by no means easy however, with comparatively more resistance and fewer rewards compared to the first secret level. One of the main areas, one that's optional to explore, might spark a sense of deja vu to those who are familiar with Counterstrike!'s first secret level.

Phobos Command Center is the fourth normal level, and also the final level, where you encounter the madman Dr. Phobos himself. The last of the three new robots only makes an appearance here, but it is one small yet deadly creature! Infestation is top of the line here and the challenge just gets tougher and tougher as you approach the final boss. The design is mostly symmetrical, like the first level, with a couple areas that could at least somewhat be considered central. You'll know when you're about to awaken the final boss - it's one big final arena.

Summary: Overall, Phobos Encounter is one of several Descent II missions that remain a classic and must play for any fan. It may consist of relatively standard level designs and objectives, but the whole thing was made to a professional level of quality. Oddly the author omitted any ice level, for all you see is some lava outside of the Altaridge Falls water mine, but in the grand scheme the lack of including all the themes isn't that important when dealing with this quality level of design. This campaign should keep you solidly entertained and interested from the opening story to when the credits roll, at least assuming you don't make the mistake I made for searching Level 2 literally for DAYS on end for the hidden teleporter before I finally looked in an editor and figured out I had missed my (one) chance to see the secret level! And it can't be a full review if I don't mention the soundtrack, which consists of four excellent, fitting all new midi tracks and a new final credits track to boot. This classic campaign has clearly stood the test of time, and you'll probably be left wanting more once it's over. And fortunately there is more - but that's a topic for a future review, not this one.

The final verdict:

Positives - Very good and varied design. Challenging, classic gameplay with a couple nicely done new robots. Should easily keep one interested the whole way through without any problems. A good unfolding storyline, well done briefing scenes, and finally a great custom soundtrack.

Negatives - Not much, the ice theme is never used and the level progression is totally standard Descent, maybe the custom robots look just slightly less professional than the original bots, but that's all really just picking tiny nits.

Overall I give this mission a score of 90%.

Download: Click here to download Phobos Encounter!
Website: Visit the official Phobos Encounter webpage!

Disclaimer: All scores and critique reflect MY opinion and no author or player should take any offense or feel discredited if they disagree.

P.S. As this is the first review, I'd like quickly explain my "scoring scale":
-Missions rated 30% or less are generally quite poor or even bad overall, and not worth looking into. As I only look to play and review generally decent or better levels, you probably won't see this score very often.
-Missions rated 30-50% are mediocre overall - ones that I could only recommend potentially if you're bored and have nothing else to play.
-Missions rated 50-65% are generally ones that lack anything special and are at or just a bit above average, but worth playing nonetheless, especially if you're bored.
-Missions rated 65-75% are solidly good and recommended without being truly special or among what would be considered "classic".
-Missions rated 75-85% are strongly recommended, with usually just a few minor flaws.
-A score at or above 85% indicates a mission that is, in my view, essentially a mandatory play for any Descent fan. Missions rated at these levels offer the real full package, with at most a small handful of minor nitpicks. Generally only campaigns or large collections will receive scores at this level.
-Scores are assigned in 2.5% increments.

All Descent I/II missions are played using DXX-Rebirth unless otherwise noted.

Finally, especially being my introductory review, any thoughts, contributions, and/or suggestions would always be greatly appreciated. Thanks for reading! :)

Monday, April 9, 2012


Hello, my online name is KakHome. I play a lot of games and currently the one I'm playing most is the sometimes overlooked Descent series. My favorites are the first two, despite the third being more technologically advanced. In a way these games are still somewhat unique in the shooting genre in that they are among the only ones to give the player a full 360-degrees of movement - i.e. no gravity. Yet, these games became somewhat under-popular IMO. There are only a limited number of sites still open on the web that cover them, and few if any I know that do reviews. My goal is to do some reviews of Descent I and II levels that properly highlight the ones that deserve attention, in my opinion. I am strongly geared towards single player, so that's what the focus will be, for the time being.

If another Descent player would like to join or contribute to this blog, I am open for suggestions! Simply email me at (ignore any gmail account reference as it's a secondary address of mine) or drop me a message at (username is KakHome).