Shaky Grounds pt3: Epicenter

by Merlijn v. Oostrum


(95) views since August 2020


Released: 2020-08-27
Mode: SP, COOP
Difficulty Settings: Yes
Featuring: 1.4+, EDuke32
Sound/music: Music
New Art: No
New Cons: No
Score: 98

Review by ck3D on 04 September 2020

"Very rare are Duke 3D user maps so chockfull of surprises that the mere act of writing a simple review risks instantly slipping into spoiler category. And Shaky Grounds Pt. 3: Epicenter just so happens to be one of those (urban-themed) pieces that tells its own story - or its own chapter of the story more specifically here - as written by longtime Build engine narration legend from the Netherlands, Merlijn Van Oostrum.

The author not only lives up to his legacy here with more stellar design, clever texture applications and good taste as far as general visuals, but also pushes it even further in terms of gameplay flow - navigation is made clear from the beginning to the end of the level, ensuring you'll never get stuck despite the existence of a constructed plot, but also dotted with moments of build up then release. It's hard to think of any map since Red 4 and Red 5 (not coincidentally also by Merlijn) with such a progressive sense of immersion - here your whole ride will be punctuated by atmospheric moments of tension and bouts of all possible kinds of action, including some particularly ambitious explosive surprises (jack-in-the-box style - except your brain will be the box).

Just like the previous installments in the series, Shaky Grounds Pt. 3: Epicenter is a magnificently-crafted city map but also and most importantly, one of the evolutive kind that's only too rarely seen. Here you can literally expect the urban landscape to move around you as you go, and lots of thinking and technical effort has been put into the implementation of a ridiculous amount of effects to make sure your time in this map will feel so coherent and live, with some surreal props thrown in for good measure; for brief moments you won't be sure on which side of the screen you belong: 'here you go weird' as a certain saying goes, but only the best kind of.

If around the time of its release, Duke 3D was popularly regarded as a more interactive Doom, then the whole Shaky Grounds series so far can similarly be viewed as a more dynamic Roch. If ever needed, with that map set, Merlijn reminds us all that pseudo-realistic, complex (or Kompleks?) environments don't have to be static, and discourage authors from using terrain effects that originally made a lot of the strength of the Build engine - if anything, they may in fact make for just as many opportunities to push them, thereby inviting the exploration of new dimensions in Duke 3D mapping as opposed to repeating old tropes. Each and every installment is a piece of art and instant classic.

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Other maps by this author:

Clear the Coast
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Hell Awaits
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Lorch - Abducted
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Operation; Get Bike Back
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Red 1 (The long road)
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Red 2
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Red 3
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Red 4
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Red1: Poisoned lands
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Red2: Alien occupation
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Red5: Lonely mountain Complex
Released: 2005-02-14
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Shaky Grounds pt1: Apocollapse
Released: 2016-09-09
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Review: Shaky Grounds pt1: Apocollapse
Shaky Grounds pt2: Tragedy
Released: 2017-10-26
Score: -
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Review: Shaky Grounds pt2: Tragedy

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