21st of April 2023
Orbital 2 | Single/Multi | Author: Jaap Menist | Download
Note: The included user.con is for the three-episode v1.3d. Either don't use it or copy the episode/map information into an Atomic Edition user.con file. Also, if you're unable to extract Orbital2.map from the zip, use something like WinRAR.
The Review: Orbital 2 is a 5-map episode from early 1997, but this review only concerns the last two maps, Orbital1 & Orbital2.
The first three maps (especially the third one) have some redeeming qualities, but ultimately they aren't worth
it unless you have some extra time in your hands. Each map can be played separately with a "pistol start".
The two Orbital maps comprise a four-directional space station. Today these two maps would be a single map, but back then the station was cut in two probably due to resource limitations. The maps aren't really detailed; few maps back then were. But they do have strong lighting effects, some interesting texture choices and, most of all, very lively environments with lots of special effects, exotic doors and moving sectors. The author has packed an impressive amount of corridors and rooms into a relatively small space, relying a lot on "old" room-over-room effects. It's very easy to stumble upon areas you haven't explored before, and yet it's not that easy to get lost. Five of the six key locks in the two maps are near each other, meaning your progress is rarely hindered by locked doors. Aliens are abundant across the station, waiting behind almost every door and corner. Moreover, they often spawn behind you, but usually in a way that gives you a chance to turn around and shoot before they do. There are some Battlelords too, and these are usually positioned so that you have to take them out quickly. Health and ammo are abundant (maybe even too abundant when it comes to portable medkits), so overall gameplay felt balanced.
The maps aren't without flaws. One tight section in Orbital2 has plenty of doors, including a bunch of exotic ones. I can appreciate the effort put into the section (most mappers are lazy with doors even though the game has an ample selection of them), but it's a bit annoying to play through, being cramped and including a secret door (which isn't really that hard to find via deduction). The map also has a buggy door that might necessitate using dnclip, but there's actually a shortcut nearby to get around it.
As a final note, the author seems to have an affinity for huge spinning sectors that can be raised and lowered, as both maps feature such a section rather prominently. They're rather elaborate, especially the second one that is also the final area of the second map; you need to navigate the edges of a spinning room to get closer to its center where an Emperor is waiting for you. It's a bit tricky but ultimate well worth the effort, as few authors seem to have the imagination to make sections like these anymore (or ever).
Conclusion: Playing the episode all the way through you can easily notice a considerable growth in the author's mapping skills. The two space maps that wrap up the episode may not stand out in terms of design in 2023, but they reek of originality and the author's knack for experimenting with the engine's various sector-based effects. (The author went on to make one more map, Lunaresc.)