By popular request, here are direct links to each part of my review/journal.
Chapter 1 - You are here. Just scroll down.
And here's the original text file. The formatting will differ, since it was formatted once as bbcode and once as rich text.
So, I downloaded Eternal X and have been playing through it. What I like to do these days is keep a big long text file of all my thoughts as I'm playing. General comments, specific bugs, and sometimes a ramble about the plot. Because I tend to write volumes of text, I thought I'd make a separate thread. I'm playing Eternal 10.0.1, and I've never played Eternal before, so I have no pre-existing opinions or knowledge of the scenario.
Let's get started, then. Here are my notes from Chapter 1.
Prologue & Chapter 1
The first thing I notice is there are no interface options to adjust the crosshairs, even when using the default theme. That's a problem with Aleph One, not Eternal, but it should be added back in to the engine, because messing with your preferences file in a text editor is much less convenient.
The Far Side of Nowhere
This map was big, bleak, and dreary. The first terminal has good information but is super long. The map didn't provide good clues on where to go next, so if I didn't have high expectations for future levels, I might have gotten bored and given up. I mean, atmosphere is great, but it's a game: it still needs to be fun. The central hourglass of liquidy stuff looked nice.
Deja Vu All Over Again
As a suggestion, if Hathor's software is still mostly contained within the player, the player might get information (e.g. terminal text) without having to log onto a terminal console. We did this a few times in EMR, using lua.
Your hand changes sizes noticeably between your fists and the shock staff.
The S'pht compiler bolts look great! In fact, all the high-res projectiles look much better.
The textures only show a passing resemblance to the Marathon. Let's see if that's explained later in the game...
Though the player is coming from the future, I expected an explanation that the Enforcer weapon had been studied and analyzed, before it appeared as a 'normal' weapon with a proper name and working ammo counter in your HUD.
You may want to re-assess weapon balance. In this one level, I've picked up over 30 staff charges, and each clip lasts for a really long time.
So far the music is excellent, building on existing themes in Marathon while being unique and mood-setting.
You 'breathe in' through the left speaker, and 'breathe out' through the right speaker. I love the little touches like that.
The wasps and lookers are notably smaller, which I like. In the NW corner there's a big light on the ceiling shaped like the Marathon logo, and the wasps flitter around it just like real insects. That's great.
I'm disappointed the ceiling lights and standing lights can't be destroyed. They were undestroyable in Infinity, but Bungie made destroyed sprites for them anyway.
Whoa, some of the best Pfhor set textures I've seen. Though maybe I'm just happy to see some COLOR at last .
The Enforcers punch you. Too bad there isn't an accompanying animation.
The shock staff can push enemies over ten yards back; even hunters go flying.
I really get the sense that the Enforcers out-rank the fighters, because they get a better weapon, something I didn't get from the original games.
Hmm, Troopers still drop a weapon even when killed with grenades. Usually explosives destroy a monster and his weapon.
My overall impression is, what a fun, pretty, well designed level. Now let's see why I was sent into the Pfhor ship...
One thing that may or may not be worth fixing: if you use 3rd person view, you see the player is still holding the old weapons: the Trooper rifle looks like a flamethrower etc.
The game crashed shortly after command-entering back into fullscreen, just after the framerate recovered from loading the textures in again. The log is recorded in Eternal Crash 1.log.
What a contrast in Tycho's demeanor and outlook compared to his later, rampant state. Though I also have to wonder if he timed his message to me to take just long enough to read that I'm in danger of suffocating .
glitch: The switch controlling platform 322 doesn't light up when activated.
So, it seems the scenario is nonlinear. I hope I have time to examine the replay value. It's also clear now that Hathor used to be a Battleroid before she became an AI: I look forward to seeing how that came about.
I notice the S'pht compilers also have a gray color table. I think gray is overused in Marathon scenarios; it's the lazy way to make a new color table.
It's sometimes evident what photoshop filters you've used to enhance the textures. For instance, a number of textures seem 'fuzzy' which, while detailed, doesn't really feel right.
Durandal says he's apathetic about humanity one way or the other. I don't think that's accurate: he speaks multiple times in the original games about what he does or doesn't owe the humanity that created him.
It seems odd that I hear wind and loons inside the Marathon.
The area around polygon 138, once you get the platforms running, is actually enough to drop my framerate from 30 to 20. Now's as good a time as any to say I'm playing on a 2.16 GHz MacBook Pro. 20 frames per second is playable for me, but on lower hardware that could get down to unplayable rates. I'll have to experiment with mipmap settings to see if that helps.
By late in this level, I'm coming around to the idea that the shock staff is your 'workhorse' weapon, with nearly unlimited ammo, but it isn't the best weapon. Another thing that occurs to me is that you can stun enemies for a good 2 seconds with one hit, making the name "shock" staff appropriate.
Gee, too bad the hunters don't drop they shoulder cannons as a useable weapon, but I don't hold it against the scenario that they don't.
Shouldn't the gray mothers-of-all-hunters always explode, like in the original games?
The shock staff weapon-in-hand sprites could really use a facelift. A dithering pattern is very apparent.
I would've liked to see an animation for the Hunter punching you. C'mon, they've got these big sharp stabby arms; put them to good use
A small typo: "There no way to even try to access it." should be "There is" or "There's"
And in conclusion...my gosh this level was enormous. Are they all going to be this long?
Roots and Radicals
Whoa, that 'radar screen' looks awesome. Very clever, very convincing.
Hmm, I didn't think there were fusion BoBs on the Marathon...
Heh. I fired grenades into the circular room with 4 switches instead of taking the teleporter first.
The fact that the battle rages endlessly in this level makes for an almost comical number of Trooper rifles littering the ground, enough to slow the game down.
Oh no you don't...I purposefully didn't pick up Durandal's primal pattern. I wanted to ignore him and continue following Hathor, hoping for a branching storyline. But Hathor still acts all hurt as if I'd betrayed her. It seems I have no choice but to switch sides, but it was presented as if I did have a choice.
I do like the concept that the battle rages on, while the player rises above it with better things to do, very much.
The Tangent Universe
Hmm, where am I? When am I? Why is my helmet display different (i.e. extravision)? I sure hope I don't have to fight anything while under the trip-o-vision .
Shouldn't the 'outdoor' lighting for this level reflect the giant sun shining from the west?
Hmm. These 2 MADDs open up an airlock to come in, yet I still don't start using oxygen. I think that could be changed dynamically with lua.
This map crashed on me the second time around, too. See Eternal Crash 2.log.
If this is indeed the exact same level, and not a different copy of it a la the Electric Sheep levels, then that was exquisite. That was masterful. Not just a single level to indicate the path was a dead end, but a huge, significant chunk of the game dedicated to what is a dead end. And by going to the actual same level, it really feels like you're going back in time, moreso than in Infinity. I love it.
Once you play this level the 'right' way, it ends up having a G-4 Sunbathing feel to it: running back and forth in vacuum hitting switches in a radial-shaped area of the ship.
The moon in the landscape appears to have an atmosphere. Did we colonize the moon? And if so, shouldn't there be some green on there?
Core Done Blew
Gah, atrocious pun!
This map has a lot of solid panes of glass. I would've used a semitransparent texture to make it obvious which openings have glass.
The fog was quite effective. For the first time I can recall in an Aleph One map, the fog wasn't oppressively dense, yet it still obscured far-off parts of the map I presume the mapmaker didn't want me to see.
Hathor migrates over to Tycho's core to avoid her own destruction. Her logic, presumedly, is that Tycho wouldn't want to kill himself. Yet Tycho dismisses any need for self-preservation almost immediately, in the same terminal. On the one hand, it makes Hathor more human to assume Tycho wouldn't be willing to die. But on the other hand, Hathor is an A.I. that is on par with Tycho, probably superior given the advantage of her ability to time travel. So we would expect her to anticipate Tycho's quick decision that he is expendable.
Heart of Fusion
Well, I managed to get myself stuck. I had the bright idea of waiting until the 2 troopers around polygon 831 opened the door while I waited in the room to the west that overlooks that area. Then I lobbed grenades to hit the switch in front of polygon 842. How clever I thought I was...until my grenades hit the switch twice, raising the platform just enough to block my exit from the shaft, and killed the troopers so they couldn't open the door again. Thank goodness I didn't save after that!
"Welcome to my mind." That makes me laugh .
The end of this level really drives home the fact that Durandal and Tycho are modeled after the same Traxus template. It's curious just how similar their architectures are, though, since Tycho said this area of the ship had been repurposed many times.
I think the problem I have with the textures isn't too much gray, per se. It's that most textures are monochromatic. That is, they use only one, occasionally two hues for the entire texture. If it had more variety, I think I wouldn't mind the mutedness as much.
I'm confused from the terminal text on what this Cybernetic Junction is, and what you need to use one.
To Sleep Perchance To Dream
Boy, this level is killing my framerate, now down to 15 fps.
I'm anticipating by now that whenever there's a level with permanent extravision, it indicates no combat (I really hope!), and it's a 'failed future' ending.
Nice to see someone else making use of multiple landscape images per level.
Chapter 2 comments coming whenever I finish it.