Boba Fett Storage FacilityBoba Fett Storage Facility
Closer scrutiny of the stolen plans for the SSSD Sovereign recovered from M/CRV Dana has revealed they were in fact a decoy. The ship's log shows that an A-wing left the ship over the planet of Tatooine. Intelligence is confident that the fighter was carrying the real plans; your platoon has been assigned the job of locating the A-wing and recovering the stolen plans.
"The Jundland wastes are not to be traveled lightly." - Obi-Wan Kenobi
No truer does that ring true than in this level. There's no city where you can meet people, no ship to pull you out if things get bad. It's just you and your platoon(some dewbacks, but they don't count) against the Jundland wastes. And that includes all of the inhabitants as well. The author has done a very nice job of recreating those few scenes we saw in ANH, and uses the stuff he's been supplied with in junction with his story and new materials.
One of the nicest things about the level is the opening portion. You open onto a scene of the rest of your platoon atop dewbacks searching the desert, and you get the order to move out. After some searching the information comes over the radio that other troopers have located the crashed A-wing in the other direction. And so you rush off to join the others. This is an incredible example of a very simple but effective way to pull the user into the level. It takes what could have been a very frustrating and confusing search into what feels like a team coordinated action. A possible step towards the multiplayer team stuff we could see in Jedi Knight.
The level after that tapers down a bit. You get to search through what seem like endless corridors and canyons, lots of small caverns for the plans, eventually coming upon a Jawa sandcrawler. The crawler is really well done, small and cramped on the inside like it should be, with some nice exterior views as well. But it feels kind of lifeless and uneventfull. Once you get over the initial excitement of fighting for the Empire and that nice team bit, the level doesn't have an incredible amount of other stuff to offer. What it all boils down to is a search through the sandcrawler and the terribly confusing wastes for the plans, and there's nothing else to grab your attention. The jawas keep coming and coming, there's no end to the little guys so there's not a question of not having things to shoot. But it isn't tough to get through, just rather annoying.
One of the things that contributes to the problem is the setting; you're working in the Jundland wastes, and that means there won't be a lot out there. It's a lot of rock, sand and grit that's all very similarly colored; by the time you get through you're sick of the color brown. But I don't think the author could do much about that. It's due to the nature of the surroundings, and the way it's presented is just how it should be. In that the author succeeds, but it doesn't help make the level interesting.
The Jundland wastes are a very boring place to be, and the Jawas certainly aren't the most interesting or toughest opponents in the world. That's the way this level is and that's the way it should be. So give the author points for accurately depicting it; it still doesn't come off great. But you have to admit it's certainly different and that's a nice change.
This is the second mission from the Hammer's Fist, a group of add-on levels creators who decided to make you play the role of a stormtrooper instead of Kyle Katarn. This alone deserves to be encouraged, for it shows one way among others to set farther the limits of the game, and to challenge the player on unexploited gaming territories. The briefing is personalized, with typical colors, Imperial insigna and mission reference code. Once you're in the game, you can appreciate to see that Kyle's hands were replaced with stormtrooper ones, which demonstrates that the author paid attention to the every single detail.
The opening sequence of the mission is impressive, featuring full-scale FME dewbacks and a stormtrooper platoon awaiting nearby. The author created new sky and background textures to simulate the boundless extent of the Jundland Wastes. Light and shadings were calculated to render a realistic atmosphere of troopers having to endure the anvil of the sun. Then it's up to the player to explore all surrounding canyons to try and recover the A-Wing. A good point here is that there is no hint that could lead you straight to the goal. Often, you may then wonder what you're going to find out after each corner. The canyons are the best I've ever seen in a DF level. Their architecture is most realistic and features a hazardous configuration that makes them even more true-to-life. Appropriate wall lighting and shading plus a new excellent rock texture add to the overall scenery, and you will appreciate the cool of the deepest parts of the canyons. They could be a nice place to rest if you weren't suddenly attacked by their hostile inhabitants. Tusken raiders and Jawas abound, staking out both in concealed caves and on terraces. The two distinct Tusken WAXes are very poor but the level author can't be blamed for that because they're simply not his.
After finding the abandoned A-Wing, you'll come across a sandcrawler, the best sandcrawler ever created in a DF level. Although you're not supposed to expect a sandcrawler (but you know about it just because you've read this review !!!), it adds to the unpredictability of the level, and breaks the monotony of the Jundland canyons. The vehicle exterior has beautiful textures and is well structured, although it looks a bit small compared to what was shown in the Star Wars (TM) motion picture. The author's interpretation of the interior is very believable, but there, more could have been done by recreating parts of it that were shown in the film. The interior here mainly consists of small corridors with adequate texturing and appropriate atmosphere, but without the variety of room configuration that can be expected in such a huge vehicle. Also, the use of JABSHIP.PAL for color palette damages some textures, but only specialists will notice. The mission ends in a quiet sudden way, after the player almost got thrashed by a nasty boss.
In a few words, I would say that negative aspects of the level consist of some technical stuff that was clumsily used (such as the NO WALL - HORIZON flag to simulate endless sectors, and the unadequate color palette). Also, the sandcrawler quickly runs short of interesting rooms to visit. Hopefully, positive aspects of this level are in higher quantity: a good script with nice development, realistic new textures, impressive architecture, and a Jundland Wastes level that turns out to be the best Jawa sandcrawler mission. This level is a must play for those of you who're willing to meet again the extraordinary world of Tatooine, all with the excitment and personalization a DF level can offer. Even if it isn't perfect, you will enjoy it and store it on your hard disk as a classic.