Prelude to Harkov's DefectionPrelude to Harkov's Defection
Imperial Admiral Harkov wishes to defect to the Rebel Alliance. Obviously we expect a trap, but if his wishes are true it would be a significant boost to our efforts.…
You've just received the Star of Alderaan. Shortly after leaving Mon Mothma and the Rebel fleet, your ship comes under fire from Imperial forces. You are no match for them, and eventually you power down and are taken via shuttle to Imperial Outpost D-42. There you will reside until Darth Vader determines your fate. Not willing to wait around that long, you manage to steal a blaster from an officer on board the shuttle, and once in your cell begin your escape.
This is a set of three levels, and probably one of the best things it has going for it is the continuity between the levels. I'll review them all at the same time, but each of the levels is very different. This is an excellent continuing mission and just about everyone will want to download it.
In the beginning of the levels, there is a new scrolling text, and a new cutscene, which is always a nice touch. There are also new briefings. The first level starts with you in a prison cell in the detention center of Outpost D-42. To escape, you have to crawl out through a grate in the back of the cells and crawl through an intricate set of sewer canals. I don't particularly like having to deal with sewage and dianogas, but this area of the level is very good looking, with a well-planned circular layout. After you find some explosives and bust through one of the cell walls, you wind up in a circular room with doors all around it to lead to crate storage rooms and other detention blocks. This is probably the main drawback of all three levels, though: repetitiveness. While they are still good levels, they often have several virtually identical areas, and this gets tiresome. Case in point, as elevators take you to several other circular rooms with similar layouts. Finally, though, the monotony is broken as you finally make your way through some barrack and control room areas, plant a sequencer charge in the base, and escape in a TIE bomber, after first taking care of some difficult competition. All in all, a pretty good level.
But your mission isn't over yet. You still have to make it into the outpost's TIE fighter hangar base to recover the Crow. With this in mind, the next level starts with Kyle landing (and abandoning) the bomber amid the cliffs on the planet surface, which is a pretty creative way to start a level, in my opinion. Like the first level, this one is huge, and, unfortunately, a little repetitive, but not too much. There is a good use of a gray cobblestone texture to form a main troop road that you find after trekking through the mountains for a little while. Following the streetlight-illuminated road, you must then make your way into various checkpoint bases to gain parts of a code that will let you gain access to other areas. There is a neat looking bridge over a deep chasm, and a nice texture that gives the windows little streaks on them, to give the look of light reflecting off them, and also to let you know that they are, indeed, solid glass. After all these trials and tribulations, the level ends at the entrance to the TIE base, and a very nice-looking entrance it is; the author's talented design has shown through again. Once more, the level ends with a bang with a fight between some enemies (including, like the first level, some Phase 1 Dark Troopers). The author had every right to put some Dark Troopers in here, and they go well in this area, not to mention ending the level nicely.
The third, and probably the best level begins where the second level ends. Kyle stands in front of the base, the bodies of his enemies around him. The author cleverly sets up invisible walls to prevent you from going back to the areas of the second level, which of course would have made the level far too big. Unfortunately, the many doors at the entrance of the base are locked, and Kyle must blast his way through several layers of solid rock in order to enter a ventilation shaft (another great, original idea!). From there, this excellent level has many interesting areas and enemies in it, and a plethora of new WAXes and 3DOs, such as an ATAT walker, various TIE spaceships, Speeder bikes, and Scouts, ATAT drivers, and TIE pilots. And this leads to the big thing that makes this level great: detail. The fact that this base has all these components is exactly what you'd expect in a large, fortified base. The ATAT and the TIE fighters have platforms or elevators to take the pilots into the cockpit. I think this is the first time that such attention to detail has ever been in a level. The largest entrance door of the base is for the ATAT walker, and next to the walker is the garage where the speeders, and the scouts, are waiting to scramble at a moment's notice. There are, of course, large barracks areas where the new WAXes can be found, and crate storage areas. The repetition of architecture is now down to near nil, with many fresh and original ideas now dominating the level. There are many floors to the base, and many different elevators-freight elevators and normal elevators-to take you to the many floors.
After planting a charge in the base, shutting down three tractor beams that are holding the Crow in the large, very neat-looking hangar bay, and surviving the many enemies, Kyle finally heroically escapes in a great finale. There is also an end cutscene with the author doing a voiceover, which is nice.
All in all, this is a wonderful, clear-cut storyline, and three wonderful levels that will provide a lot of enjoyment.
The story picks up right where Dark Forces left off, and the quality of the levels does a pretty good job of picking up there too. The three levels in this set tell the story of Kyle's escape from prison, the destruction of the base and the recovery of his ship.
The author has spread out the different story points in a logical fashion, so the whole experience doesn't come to a halt when one level gets over. Another he's done to keep the levels flowing is to use certain familiarities between levels to increase continuity. He uses the same style of architecture in the buildings to make it seem as if the whole area was built at the same time, and he is also sure that two things look the same from one level to the next. If you stop in front of one entrance, the entrance at the beginning of the next level is the same.
His attention to details seems to vary from place to place however. There are lots of spaces where I thought a sound was missing, mostly occuring in elevators. For instance, I would expect that when a large freight elevator is moving in front of me that it would make a sound like and elevator. In here it was noticeably silent. I also thought that some new sounds could have used some work; while interesting efforts, they lacked somewhat in quality. It was very obvious that they were new, and it jolted the game off it's tracks for a while, rather than add to the experience.
In other places the author has done a great job. I noticed that I couldn't walk right through the speederbikes as you can walk through other things in some levels. The hangars have several nice touches added to them, that even though they haven't been seen before, feel natural in such a setting. The forcefields also had a nice bit that occurs logically, but is noticeably lacking in other levels.
The real problem that keeps these levels from suceeding is the architecture. The first level is not much more than the same design repeated over and over with slight variations. The second level was better, but even then I felt like I'd been through places before. I can understand that the author might have wanted to make sure that a certain style of area got associated with a certain action, like shutting off a force field, but after a while it gets a bit repetitive and I start to pay less attention to what's going on. In order ensure the player is always entranced in a level, authors should try to always keep something new happening.
Not the best, not the worst. Some things could certainly be better, but that can be said for everything. I think you'll enjoy this three level set.