Monday, November 7, 2011

TDM FM Review: Dragon’s Claw

This is a review of one of The Dark Mod’s (a mod for Doom 3) fan missions. It may contain traces of spoilers. You have been warned.

Dragon's Claw Author(s): Bikerdude, Flanders
Version: 1.0
Date released: 10-31-2011
Other info: Halloween Speed Build ‘11 entry
Theme: City/Haunted
Download FM here

Whenever I see a Bikerdude mission, I instantly think that it’s going to be one hell of a lot of fun ahead of me.

Missions of the past like the fantastic “St. Alban’s Cathedral”, or the awesome “Caduceus of St. Alban” left me with a very positive perception of an author’s work who I admittedly didn’t like much to begin with. Bikerdude’s missions are in a way sort of like watching a Quentin Tarantino film. You dislike it the first time – you might even be a it bewildered. But after the second viewing, you understand the genius behind it. It grows on you and you appreciate it for the brilliance it is supposed to convey.

This mission is not like that at all. This mission is a poor excuse for an FM in comparison to the aforementioned ones. It’s the worst of Bikerdude’s mission’s I’ve played. It’s not that bad, but it’s not that good either.

The story sounds like it could be interesting. You’re a thief as usual who wants to get a hold of the legendary “Dragon’s Claw”, which is holed up in a section of town known as the Plague Ward. It’s walled off from the rest of the city, much like the Old Quarter was in Thief: The Dark Project. But even though they might be similar in story, there’s no comparing this FM for The Dark Mod to “The Haunted Cathedral”. I might sound a little harsh here, but bear with me.

Starting off in the city, I was in familiar territory. I expected to be able to pick any lock, open any door, and go pretty much anywhere, much like in the beginning of St. Alban’s Cathedral – a mission which I hold in regard, and like the best from this author so far.

But you can’t. Exploration is limited, and the only real area of appeal is the canal. There’s a bit of loot here, and a few guards. This area presents the most challenge you’ll face in this FM.


Hover mouse over pictures for captions, if available.

But this limited exploration actually detracts from the experience as far as being able to find the entrance to the Plague Ward is concerned. It’s an unnecessary distraction. Once you navigate your way around the underground, and make your way up to the plague ward, again things seem familiar. It’s like a lesser version of one of the undead missions from T2X, the unofficial expansions for Thief II: The Metal Age. Everything looks nice graphically speaking – at least on the outside. There’s some nice effects like low lying fog and dust particles, and even a rare sighting of a will o’ the wisp.

But there’s just a real feeling of laziness or incompleteness that lies behind the fancy texturing. If you were to look inside some buildings here, you just see black – well, I do. I don’t know if this is a graphical glitch, or it was intentional on the author’s part. Having a look through the official forum thread dedicated to this mission, Melan (who tutored Bikerdude, so some say) claims it’s a caulk texture, and thinks it wasn’t that good an idea to use it so generously.

And it’s here that some other major gripes of this mission come in to play. There are some severe slow downs (literally 0 FPS) during this part of the mission that either require you tap the forward key to move out of this slowdown zone, or just reload a savegame… again.

Again there’s the illusion of exploration here, as there are some places to go, but not much to do or find. There’s not a lot of interactivity on offer. It’s way too easy to get the main objectives and get out of there. But like most BD missions, there’s always a stash of loot somewhere that you never seem to find. This might make things trickier on harder difficulty settings.

Exiting the Plague Ward with my prize, I was on the way to the tavern to finish the mission, and then I was hit with 0 FPS again, but this time it froze completely, forcing an alt+ctrl+del solution.

I’m disappointed in Dragon’s Claw. It had the promise; the potential of a great mission, but just fell flat. I wouldn’t say it’s the worst FM I’ve played, or even the worst in the Halloween Speed Build competition. But it could have used a bit more polish and testing, bug-fixing, and a lot more challenge. Those undead lying around in the Plague Ward are far too easy to step around and avoid. They should have been upright and patrolling. I’d rather have a tough undead mission than one that hardly even tries.


+ Good story.

+ Level design is decent.


- Bugs, bugs, bugs.

- Practically no challenge whatsoever for the most part.

FM score: 7.0/10

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