I will play every level in Rubicon X and comment on them.

For topics about the story, help in a certain level, game discussion, or finding/discussing content.

Post Aug 19th '09, 03:24

P15: Things may happen V

yep.

P16: The Ascension Factor
The Ascension Factor has the reputation of being probably the most challenging and exciting of the dream levels. As it happens, it's certainly the most straightforward of them: climb to the top of the stairs. This is the final turning point: you can go back to the Salinger plank by, once you reach the top, heading back down and reading the only terminal again. Or you can finish the Pfhor plank by taking the tempting teleporter.

This level is not easy. Knowing that the next level is a Rebellion makes this easier, as using the rest of your SPNKR, Mortar, and Maser ammo is definitely the way to go on TC. If you were an idiot and didn't grab any health from Bump and Grind, and then saved, you're going to have a monstrously tough time.

The entire level is just a gently curving staircase, which is fine for most of the fights, but there are some enemies with seeking shots and the gentle curve of the stairs makes it impossible to dodge them. The Enforcer horde at the very top of the stairs is pretty much a guaranteed death on your first run, because you just won't be expecting them and they'll get off enough shots to blast you right away. Cheap.

But other than that, it's pretty fun, if not exactly a masterpiece. It's definitely the most normal of the dream levels.

Level design: 3/5
Aesthetics: 4.5/5
Memorability: 5/5; everyone knows The Ascension Factor
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RyokoTK
Saint Paul, MN

Post Aug 19th '09, 03:52

P17: This hurts less than... uh...
oh. my. god.

This is unquestionably the worst level in all of Rubicon. Tycho, in his last act, teleported you into a cell on a prison ship, so Durandal's trying to rescue you. Naturally, your weapons were taken away -- again, another kick in the nads, but not as bad since you already lost your guns once in this plank not too long ago.

The problem is that this level is brutally, punishingly hard. The main enemy on this level? Enforcers. There are Enforcers everywhere. Which means you will be spending all your time either desperately trying to snipe Enforcers, and that's no problem since you have all this Maser ammo-- oh wait, no you don't. The game took your Maser from you. Enforcers are tough and frustrating enemies under normal circumstances; the possibility of being instagibbed by that lightning attack is always keeping you on your toes, but this level just takes it too far; there's just so many, and without your guns it's just a real kick in the nuts.

But alright. Problem the first: once you get out of your cell, you're already being attacked by a cadre of Fighters. (Apparently, they were originally Enforcers. Four or five Enforcers standing outside of your cell, and you have no guns and just a single bar of health. Even the Fighters will be giving you too much trouble for what it's worth, since you'll still be desperately looking for some goddamn guns. If you go too far into the level, you'll get mauled by a Hulk and sniped by an Enforcer, and sent back to the beginning of The Ascension Factor.

So you get your guns and find Durandal's first terminal. And your objective is... uh... you don't have one! Durandal's looking for a way to get you off the ship. It would be really, really nice if, for a change, Durandal just told you what to do and you could do it. The mission, in point of fact, is an exploration level, but even if you know that, you don't know what you're looking for. I still don't.

Fine. Get the guns, hustle past the Hulk, hopefully don't get shot by the Enforcer (a matter of luck, since the shots are guided, lol!). Maneuver your way through the next part of the level, and hope and pray you find the only save on the level. Take the wrong turn and get fried by an Enforcer? Back to The Ascension Factor for you, and better luck next time.

Once you do find the save and recharger, the level is just a very time-consuming test of patience and exploration, as you die enough to memorize where all the Enforcers are. (For example, so that you know there are two Enforcers waiting on the far side of a sludge pit that you have to swim through; even though it's toxic and will kills you, if you get out at the first opportunity, you'll get electrocuted and die before the damage fader from the lava goes away. You need to know to swim all the way to the far side so that they can't shoot you.)

Then it comes to the layout of the level: it's a fucking nightmare. There is, again, no organization whatsoever and no clue as to which corridor goes where, and since you don't know what your mission is, it's just a horrendous mess of hoping that next terminal is the exit. And compared to Bump and Grind, this level is bland and unexciting with lots of monochrome rooms (this room is all blue, this room is all brown, etc).

I can't even imagine what CLund was thinking. This level is not even remotely fun, and it has only a tertiary role in the plot; if you took the level out of the storyline, nothing would change, you'd still have all your damn guns, and you wouldn't have to put up with this immensely frustrating gauntlet of Enforcers. Even regular M2 Enforcers are tiresome after a while; this is just unnecessary bullshit. And if you aren't having fun, what the hell are you playing the game for in the first place?

Level design: 1/5
Aesthetics: 2.5/5
Memorability: 1.5/5; it's just a strange array of weird oblong rooms
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RyokoTK
Saint Paul, MN

Post Aug 19th '09, 04:54

P18: Rozinante X
This level is an explorer's grail: almost the entire level is unlocked to you, and there are multiple secrets for you to find.

It's time for you to gear up for your final assault on the Pfhor base. In getting your guns, you may notice a 3x canister and an Invincibility in a nearby room -- but the door you would normally take to get it is locked. Instead, you have to take a very circuitous route through a network of back corridors elevated above the rest of the level.

But that's not good enough. Anyone who's taken the Salinger Plank exit to the Tycho Plank will know what to do up in those upper corridors (there's a secret panel with some wires that will open a few doors), and that will open a hatch that will let you drop into the room with the 3x and Invincibility. A nice prize to people that remember the secret.

But that's not it! Instead of dropping down the hole you're supposed to go down, if you backtrack a bit, you will notice another door that opens into what I believe is an area only accessible on this Rozinante level. It's a huge swath of Pfhor ship including a few of the spawning vat things; you first pass through the room in a trench, and if you aren't paying attention you'll ignore it completely and pass on into some empty rooms before doubling back into the main area empty-handed. But if you make your way through the spawning vats, you'll find a Mortar Cannon! Pretty sure this is the only one not on a secret level, but this requires some serious exploration to find.

Even though the gun is pretty crappy, I love being rewarded for exploring.

Too bad about...

P19: Beg, Borrow, and Steal
This is another Pfhor nightmare level designed by the same guy that did Hex Level 73 (it wasn't Clund). The same rules apply: it's a huge maze of overlapping parallel corridors that all look the same and it's impossible to find your way around.

This one is much, much better though. Durandal actually gives you a piece of advice that applies: stay as close to the center core, and you will be fine. This is all the clue you need, really, and it's a perfect way to guide the player though this overwhelming level without actually painting a line on the floor for you to follow. The rules are pretty clear on the subject: stay to the middle. In order to finish the level, you need to find a piece of wiring to break, and in doing so you drop down a shaft which will deposit you on the periphery.

But that's okay! Even though you're totally lost in the bottom of this tower, you still know the golden rule: stay to the middle. So all you have to do is find your way back. Use the automap and a sense of direction and you'll be out of it in no time.

I can compare this level strongly with Hex Level 73, but this one is done right and that one is done wrong. This still isn't my favorite level, just because dark gray corridors are very boring and not conducive to a fun fighting experience, but at least it isn't painfully overcomplicated like its counterpart.

Level design: 3/5; ignoring Durandal's advice and exploring, unfortunately, does not yield anything at all. Which sucks.
Aesthetics: 3.5/5; there are a few open spaces, and they do look pretty good, but most of the level is just corridors.
Memorability: 4/5
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RyokoTK
Saint Paul, MN

Post Aug 19th '09, 05:09

P20: Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt
Here we go; we begin the final assault on the Pfhor High Council.

This level is the prelude to the final battle (Wading in Vitriol), and to be honest, it's pretty underwhelming. Compared to the last few levels (pretty much everything from Sodding the Logs onward), this one is a piece of cake. Pretty much, what you're doing is trying to climb your way through this Pfhor city to the high council area, and you spend the entire time jumping over pits of goo and sniping enemies in buildings. Think Frog Blasting, though now you have all the ammo you need.

Plus, this level's linear and is a bit more interesting architecturally. So basically, think Frog Blasting, but good and fun. Actually it's okay. Not great, but not terrible. Just a sort of calm warmup to the final battle.

Level design: 3/5
Aesthetics: 3.5/5
Memorability: 2/5
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RyokoTK
Saint Paul, MN

Post Aug 19th '09, 08:21

RyokoTK wrote:P17: This hurts less than... uh...
oh. my. god.


Hahaha.
If you haven't played Rubicon in its entirety these comments are simply insightful.
If you have these comments are hilarious.

Its got that whole "that's so true!" thing going for it.
MoppyPuppy
Lake Nebagamon, WI

Post Aug 19th '09, 09:37

From blasted frogs you can access the secret levels breathing nothing at all and canned air. I just did, yesterday.
Last edited by goran on Aug 19th '09, 09:42, edited 1 time in total.
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goran

Post Aug 19th '09, 11:12

I think you missed a level earlier... both iwannavacuums lead to rather tasteless secret levels, both of which I think have the mortar.
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Shadowbreaker
Melbourne, Victoria

Post Aug 19th '09, 14:28

Goran wrote:From blasted frogs you can access the secret levels breathing nothing at all and canned air. I just did, yesterday.


Huh, noted.

Shadowbreaker wrote:I think you missed a level earlier... both iwannavacuums lead to rather tasteless secret levels, both of which I think have the mortar.


Really? This must be new in Rubicon X because I don't remember that, how do you get there? I can do it from iwannavacuum 2.
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RyokoTK
Saint Paul, MN

Post Aug 20th '09, 02:15

P21: Wading in Vitriol
My comments from Drinking Vitriol mostly stand, but with probably half of the monsters missing, this level is not exceptionally difficult. The only kink in the gameplay are the Fighters with seeking bolts, but they move so slowly you have plenty of time to take cover and not get hurt.

This level, at least, is more enjoyable. The hardest part of Drinking Vitriol is the beginning, having to run past two Juggernauts and an Enforcer. This is not the case on this level, so you have a pretty easy climb to the first 2x recharger and from there the level isn't much trouble. The final battle is still rather hard, though.

P-Secret 4: Eat the Sword
This is the vidmaster version of the last level of the Tycho plank. As far as I'm concerned, though, this level is the easiest of the three (compared to Blasting Cherries and Drinking Vitriol).

That doesn't make it easy. This is also probably my least favorite of the three final levels; the bulk of this level has you worming through the architecture of Durandal's flagship, looking for his core so you can break it big time. This level is designed similarly to the Rozinante levels: a broad central space with a network of very crowded corridors on the fringes. On this level you fight a mixture of Durandal's Defender and Compiler forces as well as some AMDDs he managed to hijack from the Salinger. This gets irritating; Defenders and AMDDs both are the primary enemies, and they both are flagged to "stay with clear shot," meaning once they start shooting at you they won't move until they get shot. So you have to hang back and pick them off with the Maser. Over. And over. And over. And over.

In other words, the level is so excruciatingly slow-paced it's just boring rather than genuinely difficult. Eat the Sword (as opposed to Break the Sword, the normal version) has many many more enemies, of course, which means it just takes more time. Plus there are now Juggernauts as well (for the sake of being hard, which is legit to me at least), but all it does is encourage cowardly play on your part because you simply can't stay in the open rooms without being shot to pieces.

Really, the big problem with the level is the layout and architectural style choice. Most of the actual level is kept behind huge lattices adjacent to the open spaces, as you worm up and down through service corridors and such working toward Durandal's core. This is fine, but I think Clund forgot about one thing: monsters can still shoot through lattice. Certain shots pass through lattice more often than others, but it's all random. Specifically, it appears that Defender bolts pass through lattice about 90% of the time, but the only useful weapon on this level for these Defenders? The Maser, naturally. And you burn about half of your ammo on shots deflected by the lattice.

For all practical purposes, you can't attack the Defenders through the lattice, but they can attack you. And that's just shitty. Doubly shitty because there's almost no space to dodge in these corridors, especially the notoriously tricky Defender shots, so you just get chipped to death pretty quickly if you aren't obsessively methodical about the whole thing. Thankfully, at least, the Juggernauts can't shoot at all through the lattice, it seems; I think this level would be flat out impossible if they did.

So the bulk of the trouble through this level is just that it's dismally slow-paced, rather than genuinely hard or exciting. Who knew that taking down Durandal would be so boring and anti-climactic? Especially the final battle, which is in a tall circular chamber. This is actually the easiest part of the level; careful play with the Maser will put the Defenders to death long before they can truly threaten you, and even if you run out of Maser ammo, there's plenty of rockets too.

Meh. A weak finish to a kind of shaky storyline as well (the Tycho plank, that is).

Level design: 2.5/5
Aesthetics: 4.5/5
Memorability: 4/5
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RyokoTK
Saint Paul, MN

Post Aug 20th '09, 04:34

RyokoTK wrote:Really? This must be new in Rubicon X because I don't remember that, how do you get there? I can do it from iwannavacuum 2.


I think you get there the same way on both levels. There's a remote room near the room with the chip in it, where you have to activate some hidden switch to get into.

iwannavacuum II leads to a really dumb map called "Tarboi", filled with enforcers.
iwannavacuum I leads to a really hard map called "The dotted line", filled with enforcers.
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Shadowbreaker
Melbourne, Victoria

Post Aug 20th '09, 08:46

Shadowbreaker wrote:I think you get there the same way on both levels. There's a remote room near the room with the chip in it, where you have to activate some hidden switch to get into.

iwannavacuum II leads to a really dumb map called "Tarboi", filled with enforcers.
iwannavacuum I leads to a really hard map called "The dotted line", filled with enforcers.


The dotted line just happens to be the easiest map ever conceived.
Just stay on the dotted line!

Well, there are some places where that gets hard to do. But once you got the obscure parts figured out and memorized, its the easiest level in the world.
MoppyPuppy
Lake Nebagamon, WI

Post Aug 20th '09, 13:34

Ah, here we go. Alrighty then.

S-Secret 4: The dotted line
This is actually a really clever level. The level is basically a maze, but there's a white line painted on the floor (and sometimes the ceiling) to tell you where to go. Stay on the white line throughout the course of the level and you won't be in any danger. Slip up and fall off the line and you're in trouble -- specifically, monsters teleport in. Usually Enforcers, who will quickly kill you outright.

There's a couple points near the beginning where the game gets really clever and makes you think for a second, but intimate knowledge of the engine will simplify things, as well as knowing that there is literally nothing to do but stay on the white line. Unfortunately, at one point this does require you to make a grenade jump. Requiring the player to know grenade jumping seems like a perilous road to go down for a mapper, but that's okay. (And if you don't know how to do it, you can walk up the stairs instead, and in this room you only have to fight a couple Troopers instead of a cadre of Enforcers; a very doable fight.)

Going off the line won't reward you with a whole lot, it seems, but there are some goodies to be found if you wish to risk it. Having plenty of Maser ammo (and you should, coming off iwannavacuum) makes this task much more tolerable.

Level design: 5/5
Aesthetics: 4/5 -- the texturing is really simple, but the lighting is bold and dramatic and gives the whole thing a nice touch to it without distracting from the objective at hand.
Memorability: 4/5; a unique gimmick, to be sure.
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RyokoTK
Saint Paul, MN

Post Aug 20th '09, 13:39

P22: Toadstools
This is the end of the Pfhor Plank. It's a final dream level, set in the ruins of the Chimera; as you climb through and out of the muck, you are chided by the terminals of your failure to prevent the Achilles virus.

In the original Rubicon, it was very reasonable to get sent to the Pfhor plank from the Salinger plank via taking the wrong exit from The Gators of NY. Most of the terminals would direct you to exit via the teleporters, which would send you to Hex Level 73 and condemn you to failure unless you somehow knew of the secret exit in The Ascension Factor. Thankfully, that bit of retardation was taken out and once you're on the Salinger, you're stuck (unless you bail out through Revenge of the Lysol Lady).

But still! If you never even knew about the Salinger plank, this seems like a kick in the gonads.

Anyway, this level's alright but it lacks the dramatic oomph of Hard Vacuum. There is a Looker hidden under the sewage that you start in, waiting to blow you up if you step on him -- and of course, dying early on here will send you back to before the Council battle on Wading Vitriol. (If you went through Eat the Sword though, no real progress was lost, as there's a save right at the end.)

Level design: 3/5
Aesthetics: 4.5/5; very creepy
Memorability: 3/5
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RyokoTK
Saint Paul, MN

Post Aug 20th '09, 14:09

On to the Tycho plank! There are two ways to do it: either betray Durandal by hitting him with his own virus on Rozinante IX (from the Pfhor Plank), or by giving Tycho the Achilles chip instead of Durandal on Rozinante XI (from the Salinger Plank). Sabotaging Durandal gives you more of the Tycho plank, as now you have to get the Achilles chip, so that's where I'll begin.

T01: Carpe *mumble mumble Latin*
Tycho intends to use you mostly as a tool for his own personal gain and for the defeat of Durandal. Tycho tells you that Durandal is hunting after the wrong Pfhor ship (Bump and Grind); the ship Tycho is on is really this giant battleship. Both of them have stupid Pfhor names I don't care to reproduce.

Anyway, think Rise Robot Rise: Fighters and Hunters will fight for you, and you have to overthrow all the Enforcers on the ship. Of course, these being Rubicon Enforcers, this is no easy task, made more difficult by the fact that Tycho isn't going to give you any ammo. Since you probably haven't had any substantial ammo boosts for a few levels now (your guns got taken away before Okefenokee Tourist Trail and you haven't gotten much ammo since), you might find yourself at the end of your rope. I was, anyway; by the time I was done I was completely out of Maser ammo and just about out of AR ammo too.

The level itself is okay, but it's huge. It plays out sort of like This Hurts Less Than.. Uh.. but less crappy, since you at least start with your guns. The mission is basically the same, though: wander around the halls of this enormous ship killing too many Enforcers for your own good until Tycho decides you're done. The only difference is that you have to survive on shield canisters since there aren't any rechargers. Yikes.

Aesthetically it's pretty bland; bright lights, sure, but the geometry is extremely repetitive and the texturing and lighting are pretty poor.

Not exactly a great way to start the Tycho plank.

Level design: 2.5/5
Aesthetics: 1.5/5
Memorability: 2/5
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RyokoTK
Saint Paul, MN

Post Aug 20th '09, 14:13

T02: Like home this ain't I
This is the surrogate Rozinante; it's just an enormous black room with a gentle curve in the belly of Tycho's new ship.

Everything that Rozinante got right, this level gets wrong: rather than being a pretty and fun little playground for you to roll around in between levels, this is just a huge empty space. And you start about a mile and a half away from the terminal, for no good reason, since not only is there nothing to do, there's nothing to look at either.

So it's just a bland, unimpressive exposition level. And guess what? You still don't get any ammo.

There is at least a 3x recharger you can grenade jump to, if you have any of that left. Tycho chides you for wasting time when you do it, too, which is actually kind of amusing.

Level design: 1/5
Aesthetics: 1.5/5
Memorability: 1/5
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RyokoTK
Saint Paul, MN

Post Aug 20th '09, 17:36

I find Tar Boi to be a rather charming level. Sure, it's just another "Big Enforcer" level but the terminals are really great, amusing and tragic (the weeping Enforcer picture was so, so sad) and the architecture is pretty good in most places.
Meta

Post Aug 20th '09, 20:56

Even for the Volunteers, Carpe *mumble mumble latin* was annoying. Completely devoid of terminals and on the easier settings, it's incredibly tedious hunting down enforcers to finally get shots of the exit terminal.
I have been wading in a long river and my feet are wet.
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L'howon
Somewhere outside the Citadel Of Antiquity

Post Aug 20th '09, 20:59

Well if it helps, the real mission is just exploration as you can't have an extermination mission just for one type of monster. (At least without lua, and I doubt Clund used lua.)
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RyokoTK
Saint Paul, MN

Post Aug 20th '09, 21:14

RyokoTK wrote:Well if it helps, the real mission is just exploration as you can't have an extermination mission just for one type of monster. (At least without lua, and I doubt Clund used lua.)


Oh, I already did it. That's good to know either way though, thanks.
I have been wading in a long river and my feet are wet.
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L'howon
Somewhere outside the Citadel Of Antiquity

Post Aug 21st '09, 23:50

T03: iwannavacuum II
Seems to me to be the same as the other one, so I won't comment. But it does lead to a different secret level...

T-Secret 1: Tarboi
What is it with Clund's obsession with these awful damn Enforcers? This level is essentially two large kidney-shaped rooms in a Pfhor ship of some fashion.

This level is just miserable and annoying. You spawn in a pit of the toxic Pfhor tar with a Looker just barely visible under it, marching toward you. First of all, the tar doesn't cause a damage fader, so you might not even notice at first that your health is slowly draining. By the time you stop looking around at where to go, the Looker will blow you up and maybe kill you. Really, what is that all about? That's just an unnecessary, dickish move, since obviously once you know about it it's trivial to dodge.

The rest of it is picking off Enforcers with whatever Maser ammo you have left after iwannavacuum II. (Actually, in this regard, TC is easier since you can carry so much of it, whereas you can only carry 3 batteries otherwise.) While most of the Enforcers are on elevated ledges around the outside of the kidney rooms, the ceiling in the middle of the room is low and blocks most of their shots.

Once you take down the remaining Enforcers, there's nothing left to the level, though there is the obligatory Mortar cache and a 3x recharger near the end. Don't think the 3x is a reward, since you get one at the beginning of the next level too. No biggie.

This level is just dumb. Secret levels should be fun and exciting, or at the very least quirky and interesting. This level is neither; at this point I am well sick of Enforcer-laden levels, and there is just no content to this level in any way. Visually, the level is dreary; the most attractive point of the level is actually the light blue fog which is used well with some decorative blue textures. Blue is a color that doesn't really manifest in Rubicon texture sets, so this is at least a unique color choice. But the geometry is completely uninspired, and other than that there's nothing even worth commenting about.

Just a stupid level, but at least it's short.

Level design: 1.5/5
Aesthetics: 2.5/5
Memorability: 1/5
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RyokoTK
Saint Paul, MN

Post Aug 22nd '09, 00:12

T04: Like home this ain't II
Nothin'.

The Tycho plank relies far too much on complete player knowledge of both the Pfhor and Salinger planks to make any sort of sense, which might make sense, but "meta-writing" is not, in my opinion, a good story-telling strategy. Tycho tells you that it's time to take down Lysander (Core Wars II) because he created Achilles. The Security Officer didn't know a goddamn thing about the Achilles Virus at all if he came from the Pfhor plank and didn't visit the secret level Breathing Nothing At All, and in one level he's captured it, and in another level he's toppled Lysander.

If you had never played the Salinger plank, this plank starts off as a bizarre amalgam of non-sequiturs; first you capture a ship for Tycho, then you steal a chip, then you blow up a completely unknown third AI. Additionally, between iwannavacuum II and Core Wars II, the Tycho plank covers the entire ground of the Salinger plank in two levels.

Speaking of the two planks, I dislike how this plank is represented as "less good" than the Salinger plank. It seems to me that Tycho wanting to completely annihilate all record of the Achilles Virus is the best possible solution for humanity. Sure, you destroy Durandal, but what do you owe him anyway? Durandal retaining the scientists and the knowledge of the virus still gives him a potential weapon against humanity, having the key of humanity's downfall in his sole possession. In fact, with the rest of Dangi dead, no one at all even knows about it except him.

Yet that's the good ending. Whatevs.

T05: Core Wars II
The same level as Core Wars.

While I appreciate how sensible this might be, it's annoying and tedious for Rubicon veterans to have to play exactly the same level in two planks. I mean, I'm pretty sure even the monster placement is identical, which is ridiculous. This seems like the kind of place where coming up with some bizarre plot contrivance to put the player in a different area to accomplish the same objective (destroying Lysander) is the best way to go.

Edit: this level is actually a touch easier than Core Wars I because Like Home This Ain't II has a 3x recharger and Rozinante Whatever has only a 2x recharger.
Last edited by RyokoTK on Aug 22nd '09, 00:14, edited 1 time in total.
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RyokoTK
Saint Paul, MN

Post Aug 22nd '09, 01:04

T06: With utility bills like these...
The Tycho plank finally diverges from the Salinger plank at this stage: in order to erase all knowledge of Achilles, especially before Durandal catches on and finds it, Tycho wants you to fry all of the databases on the Salinger.

One word describes this level: Maseriffic. Between a horde of Maser turrets and more Maserbobs than on any other level, this level punishes you for every false step. This level is kinda Space Questy: you find out how to progress through the level by picking the path that doesn't immediately kill you. This, naturally, is a... slightly irritating philosophy toward level design.

Tycho begins by telling you that the databases are downstairs from the room you start in, and there's the elevator right there. But there's a couple huge rooms you can romp around in in the upstairs area if you like. Here's a tip: don't. The main room is a gigantic cross with two Maserbobs at each end and no cover whatsoever to dodge from there. But alright, if you have the tenacity to take down all these guys (a good use of Maser and Rockets worked for me), guess what you get? Nothing. There's one room with a sort of self-aware crew log that's mildly amusing but absolutely not worth the effort. Rubicon has taken great strides in killing my sense of exploration.

The first real part of the level is a network of brilliantly lit corridors with equally minimal cover and Maser turrets at the far end of most of them. Maser turrets here follow the same rules that they do on Core Wars: break a wire, you shut one down. The idea, then, is that you have to evade turreted corridors until you find the wire that breaks them in a sort of twist on the conventional switch hunt. The problem is, dying when you find a metaphorical locked door is frustrating and idiotic. But once you know the rules, this part just takes time and a keen eye for these wire panels.

The main part of the level is the database library in the basement. The first half is pitch black and loaded with Maser turrets, Maserbobs, and regular Bobs. What I discovered in playing through this level again? Maserbobs don't even light up when they shoot at you. There is one part near the end of this section with a single Maserbob in the middle of a totally dark room. It is absolutely impossible to see him and there is no way to not die. Not only that, but in dying, you won't even figure out where he is, because again, he doesn't light up; you have to actually die a couple times to find the bastard.

Maserbobs are pretty much the equivalent of Rubicon Enforcers, only they lose that idiotic lightning attack for an even more powerful long-range attack -- the Enforcer bolts you at least have some faint chance of dodging.

I really have to wonder, did Chris think this level was fun when he made it? At the end of playtesting, was he satisfied with the experience? Because being instagibbed over and over and over until you figure out the right steps to pass through the level is like getting the Golden Gun on the Egyptian level in GoldenEye: completely fucking impossible outside of idiotic persistence. There's just nothing fun about fighting these guys, and nothing satisfying about killing them either. Since most of the time, by the time you kill the first Maserbob, you've stepped into the field of view of another goddamn Maserbob, so you just die again anyway.

Awful. Awful, awful, awful. I am happy to be quit of this nonsense.

Level design: 1/5
Aesthetics: 3.5/5 for some crisp, clean architecture. Sometimes simplicity is the best way to go.
Memorability: 2/5
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RyokoTK
Saint Paul, MN

Post Aug 22nd '09, 01:14

T07: Things May Happen VI

T08: The Descension Factor
Are you kidding me? Chris reused a dream level. The amount of enthusiasm he demonstrated in creating the Tycho plank is... phenomenal.

The Descension Factor is about the same as The Ascension Factor, but... backwards. The monsters are in the same place as before, but with some minor tweaks. For instance, there's only one Enforcer at the top of the stair instead of two or three, I forget how many. The difference is that the door between the exit and the Enforcer opens slowly enough that the Enforcer gets enough time to open fire on you and kill you pretty much every time on TC.

This level is also harder than its counterpart in that there's only a 1x recharger on the With Utility Bills Like These, but you can start The Ascension Factor with 2x health. This level is just damn, damn, DAMN difficult on TC.

Like The Ascension Factor (and, for that matter, Revenge of the Lysol Lady), returning to the beginning after you finish the level brings you back to another plank. But in this case, I believe it takes you aaallllllllll the way back to Hairy Legs, where you have a more distinct option between the Salinger and Pfhor planks. Only this time you have an enormous pile of cool guns to completely trash that damn Juggernaut at the beginning with. Oh wait, no you don't, because Tycho never gave you any goddamn ammo.
User avatar

RyokoTK
Saint Paul, MN

Post Aug 22nd '09, 01:31

T09: Like home this ain't III
Make sure to get the 3x recharger again.

T10: Attack of the Wheenies
This is actually a kind of interesting level. Tycho discovers one last clone of himself back on Pfhor Prime, so we're back there. (By the way, this just continues this weird series of non-sequitur story arcs. Where are we going with this plank?) But he doesn't know exactly where it is; the nearest entry point is over a Pfhor hive.

This level and the next level both use respawning enemies as a gimmick. Tycho at least has the decency to tell you that you can't win the fights. Respawning enemies is always a difficult tool to use correctly, since the player's natural instinct is to kill things (after all, it is a shooter), and if they keep coming you suddenly realize you've been wasting your time and ammo. But I believe this level, at least, does it right: your goal is just to reach the end of the level, but it's a seemingly endless maze of corridors and it's difficult to find your way through.

Yet the level does it pretty well, actually; though the level is horribly confusing to look at, with corridors stretching on in every direction, but the level (sometimes discreetly, sometimes not) pushes you in the right direction, either with barred corridors, ledges you can't reach, or monsters such as Hulks blocking the way. Since by this time you know to avoid Hulks, the game just gestures you to the end of the level and you aren't here for long.

So this level isn't too bad, and really it's pretty short. It's not even that hard if you actually believe Tycho when he tells you not to fight the Pfhor. (If you didn't learn your lesson from Utility Bills, you deserve it.)

Level design: 3.5/5 for a risky gimmick done right
Aesthetics: 3/5; the look is kinda nice but it's repetitious as all hell, and it gets old
Memorability: 3/5
User avatar

RyokoTK
Saint Paul, MN

Post Aug 22nd '09, 02:10

Oh boy, here it comes!

I can't wait for the comments on the level that comes next.
MoppyPuppy
Lake Nebagamon, WI

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