Curse Episodes is a Half-Life 2 single player total conversion : a mix of physics based combat, puzzles and exploration. In the first episode you can explore an egyptian necropolis and kill mummies, monsters with a morning star.

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Jun 13 2009, 10:29am Anchor

Firstly, I'm trying to be constructive and apologies if anything appears otherwise.

The mod was, in short, quite tedious to play through.

I began with no idea what to do, and ended in a fairly similar state. Through trial and error I found that the only things I could do were to push things away or hit things with a club - and the respective keys. After that, it was merely a case of pressing buttons and hoping things happened. I had no idea what my end goal was, and no idea where to go half the time. I just pushed a button and then returned to wherever I thought lighting was a similar colour in the hope I could do something there.

The combat is very uninspiring. When I play an FPS, I want to have to think, manoeuvre and, most importantly, when the fight is over, I want to feel satisfied that I won it because I showed some kind of skill or intuition. Not because I waved a stick around and hoped it hit a lot of reskinned zombies. I think the deficiencies in your combat boiled down to a couple of things. First, there is no consequence to actions. You kill a room of zombies, then bing, a door opens and you continue - to somewhere further down the line where you repeat the same again, in exactly the same situation. There's no reward to surviving a particular battle, because you just get placed in the same thing again further down the line. If you look at single-player games like half-life 2, enemies are a constant threat - one could appear at any time and you dispatch them fairly quickly. Then, every so often, the action climaxes in a different combat situation. There is a real consequence for your actions - be it taking down a helicopter or holding off an onslaught of combine to some houses - once you have played through this situation, you feel you have conquered a battle, and that you are never going to have to deal with that set piece again.

This lack of accomplishment and sameyness of battles is, on a most basic level, down to the environments, enemies and weapons available to you. Near every battle occurs in a room of some sort, with a similar number of mummies around. There are only two types of mummy, and due to the lack of options, both are dealt with in exactly the same way - by running up to them and clubbing them. With only two weapons, there are only a pair of strategies to deal with enemies. You either shove stuff at them, or club them. In actuality though, it's far easier just to target a mummy, then swing your club around blindly until all they are all dead - so that's what I do. I have heard things about boss battles, which I evidently didn't encounter - why not? I've no idea how I could have gotten to boss battles (collecting scarabs or something?), and even then, why would I bother when I can complete the game without them? It's counterintuitive to ask a player to go further out of their way to collect things, just to fight a more difficult enemy. If anything, this should be the other way around - by doing more work, the boss is easier, doing less it is harder to fight. It should not be an option to completely bypass what sounds to be a key part of your game - and definitely not if the player has no idea how to encounter the bosses anyway.

There is no feeling of threat or purpose in the entire game - and this is probably down to the lack of storyline or plot. It's fairly confusing as to why you omitted a plot - lack of voice acting or ideas perhaps - especially when you have based it in such a fantastic environment that is rich with myths, stories and lore. Without this feeling, it was hard to be inclined to actually play without a final end goal like finding the treasure or rescuing a princess or something - it just felt like the game could continue as aimlessly as it did. It also made it hard to take anything seriously - I hopped through the game just stepping on switches, clubbing mummies and trying to get to where I wanted as fast as I could, because there was no atmosphere or anything to grab my attention and make me slow down and enjoy the game.

You seem to have taken a lot of insparation from the 3d zeldas - in terms of the auto-targetting system, and the sort of structure of the game. However, it lacks any of the character or nuances that make the zelda games so special and fun to play. The zelda games contain a plethora of different weapons that can be used to dispatch a multitude of enemies that are vulnerable to different techniques. The linear dungeon sections are interspersed with exploration, development of plot and development of your character's tools and techniques, and when they do arrive, each dungeon is sufficiently different from the previous to stay interersting. The puzzles in the dungeons vary also from the standard hitting of a switch, and often require some logical thought and deduction to succeed. The auto-targetting system in zelda stems from a difficulties targetting in the 3rd person perspective, and console limitations. Even then, it is more developed than the system you have implemented in that you can cycle targets (if you could in yours, I've no idea how), and enemies are sufficiently tricky to dispatch that even when locked on it takes some skill to kill some of the tougher enemies. I think this system is perhaps a mistake for a 1st person game.

From a visual perspective, the environments and texturing are fantastic, and deserve a lot of praise. However, levels sometimes seem quite two-dimensional, with absolutely nothing in the skybox - it kinda reminds me of doom in this respect. As low and uniform as egyptian buildings were, perhaps you need to utilise some artistic license in this respect to break up an empty skyline. I'd also like to see some external and more varied environments in the next episodes - maybe some big sprawling desert panoramas, or abandoned egyptian cities or something. Some sand somwhere would be nice.

I hope you take these constructively as it was meant. You obviously have a talented mod team that is capable of fantastic stuff, and with some more variety and direction curse could be fantastic.

Cheers,
Nocashvalue

Jun 14 2009, 9:22am Anchor

I would say this mod so far is spectacular.

I do agree that the combat system is a bit too easy compared to the puzzles, but fighting went from learning to fun and just before it got tedious they added arrow guys to spice it up. The dev team could make it more scary but they had a great ending anyways. I think the dev team was focused more on puzzles and visuals. The combat feels it's just to give my mind some easy killing while doing puzzles.

Since Nocashvalue didnt complete all the puzzles he wasnt able to see why the sky was just blue, its a great feeling when the blue changes into red, and then back again, it made me feel like i brought peace to the level.

The levels were very unique and its great seeing such dynamic levels.

When I installed this game I knew it was about puzzles and you're in some egypt area and your in trouble, its like when you play Left 4 Dead, the only plot is that your in a bad situation and you have to get out. There could have been more instructions, because I had to look through the controls to see if there were any actions I didnt know about. I really wish there was a story or like eventually have a Curse:Prelude or something, kind of like Portal and Portal:Prelude.

Cant think of anything else right now so~ Great mod so far and I cant wait to see the next episodes.

Jun 16 2009, 10:18am Anchor

Some quick comments, my time is limited:

I would echo the idea of walking around and being a bit lost as to what I'm really doing. How important is my (self-imagined) goal to jump on top of that floating hand (in front of the teleporters) to try to push it down? Is that a level or just decoration? Like that one window I stacked things up to get into only to find out it is blocked. :) I kind of figured out that making things happen in the green room is good, but I don't know why yet.

I love the nice 'exploration feeling' that I get out of this game. I like the graphics, too. I would echo that the combat is a little on the weak side. (Can I change my targeting arrow to concentrate on the nearest guy?)

Small oddity: with close captioning on, some of the close captioning comments are a little off-theme.

Nice game.

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