Return to the Shadowlands

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Multimania
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Re: Return to the Shadowlands

Post by Multimania »

Okay — I've finished my playthrough on Easy (still on version 1.0, as I couldn't be bothered copying the newer version across to my Keen Machine).

Overall, I loved it — I particularly like the way it really does feel like an extension of the Shadowlands area. Little details like the Bounder village having tall houses cracked me up. The tone of the story is spot-on (if you'll forgive the pun), too. I think the Pyramids and the Islands were my favourite levels, but a lot of the "gate" levels like Backwoods Blockade were great, too.

Minor quibbles: a couple of the larger levels were particularly easy to get lost in, and when I did finish them, I sometimes didn't feel like I knew how I'd done it. The "optional area hand signs" helped a lot, though. And some of the one-tile-high platforms looked a bit off, as the bottom of them didn't have the normal border.

Some bugs I noticed — which are probably fixed in a newer version — are:
  • a platform in Backwoods Blockade which didn't appear to be blocked from below, and seemed to render the level impossible to complete if you let it disappear.
  • Also, in Pyramid of Footsteps, the bounder can get stuck in the blue door pit if you leave it and come back later, which isn't necessarily a bug, but does mean you might want to restart the level.
  • And in Pyramid of Fear theres an Arachnut which can get stuck if stunned on a slope.
  • Where there were jump-throughable tiles which connected to the ground, the rightmost tile sometimes looked "off".
Otherwise, it seemed to work great! I'm looking forward to finding the time to try another playthrough!
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proYorp
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Re: Return to the Shadowlands

Post by proYorp »

This sounds exciting! New content from the one and only Ceilick! So much for "Sign of the Vool" being your last Keen project, eh?

Hopefully I'll have a chance to play this in sometime less than several months. :dopekeen
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Ceilick
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Re: Return to the Shadowlands

Post by Ceilick »

Minor quibbles: a couple of the larger levels were particularly easy to get lost in, and when I did finish them, I sometimes didn't feel like I knew how I'd done it. The "optional area hand signs" helped a lot, though.
That's a great way to describe the feeling of wandering big levels, not knowing how you'd done it. I knew for sure this would happen is Reflectalus and probably Isle of Caves but opted to keep the maze like design. Were there any other levels that were particularly confusing or had you prove to losing your way?

I'm glad the warning hands were appreciated! They were actually a last minute design choice due to working on the keen 6 sequel tiles and contemplating how I would use the warning sign in that episode.

Thanks for posting those bugs! I believe at this stage all jump through platforms have been fixed. I'll update that goplat and the arachnut tonight when I'm off work. I think I'll make it more difficult for the Bounder to get stuck down there was well.

Did you find the secret level?
So much for "Sign of the Vool" being your last Keen project, eh?
Well it may still be my last project, it's just some other ideas are sneaking their way in before that happens :lol
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Roobar
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Re: Return to the Shadowlands

Post by Roobar »

OK since the game is already out and people have played it, now this will be a funny thing to show here.

In the beta I tested, you could do that:

Image

I was able to put all the bounders in that pit and that was the most fun and hilarious thing to do :). In the latest version, the pit is one tile shallow and bounders can escape. Why did you changed that? Please revert.
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Re: Return to the Shadowlands

Post by Ceilick »

I actually assumed players would enjoy herding all of them wherever without getting any stuck somewhere, but if corralling them all in a pit is more fun I'll change it back.
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Re: Return to the Shadowlands

Post by Syllypryde »

Ceilick wrote: Mon Jun 07, 2021 13:04 ......Did you find the secret level?......
I found it. I really liked what you did in order to reach the path to the inchworms. It is was rather clever, challenging and tricky. It took me awhile to figure it out. Even when you know what to do it is still not too easy to execute. I only have 3 levels left to complete... Jungri-La, Reflectalus and Sunken Sinkhole.
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Re: Return to the Shadowlands

Post by Ceilick »

I found it. I really liked what you did in order to reach the path to the inchworms. It is was rather clever, challenging and tricky. It took me awhile to figure it out. Even when you know what to do it is still not too easy to execute.
Sweet, hopefully the effort was worth it!

Version 1.04 is up, semi critical update includes:

-Changed slopes to flat surface in Arachnut hallway in Pyramid of Fear
-Extended platform in Pyramid of Footsteps so Bounder is less likely to fall to its doom
-Fixed goplat blocker in Backwoods Blockade
-Removed backup/unused level
-Reverted the pit in Bounder Town
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Multimania
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Re: Return to the Shadowlands

Post by Multimania »

Ceilick wrote: Mon Jun 07, 2021 13:04 Did you find the secret level?
I did, though not quite on that first playthrough: I'd worked out how to get to it, but getting that Bounder to behave took long enough that I finished the game and came back to it later.

I really liked the secret level: there's something special about it looking different from all the other levels which gave it that "forbidden knowledge" feeling. And it wasn't ludicrously, unfairly more difficult than the rest of the game, which secret levels sometimes can be.
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Re: Return to the Shadowlands

Post by DarkAle »

I finished my gameplay at hard and I have to say this levelpack is very nice. :love My favorite levels were Bounder Town, Whispering Woods, Reflectalus and Frigid Fortress and I liked a lot the new creatures and their behavior. I'm looking forward the next episodes :D
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Re: Return to the Shadowlands

Post by Ceilick »

Multimania wrote:And it wasn't ludicrously, unfairly more difficult than the rest of the game, which secret levels sometimes can be.
I'm glad to hear this since, in general and despite the larger levels, one of my goals was to keep the difficulty level true to the original games (with maybe the exception being getting to the secret level). I hope this has been everyone's experience on their preferred difficulty setting, and that none of the new elements I introduced had too significant a learning curve.

A goal related to difficulty was to prevent Keen from gaining ludicrous amounts of ammo, something that is hard to balance across difficulty settings. Hopefully ammo felt relatively scarce but fair.

Other goals include:
  • Using more doors than I typically do, with the theory that if they lead to small rooms the player is less likely to get lost or feel confused.
  • Using enemies in new and creative ways and combinations. I feel I only really succeeded with the Mad Mushroom and Bounder.
  • Including more secrets, which I feel I did to some extent, but with that said, I'm really bad at including secrets, so I still want to improve this in my design.
  • Creating new enemies that blend seemlessly into the setting. The Badoing is one of the best creature ideas from Keen GBC and felt necessariy to bring to the pc. The Stingaru, which began as Keen GBC's Arachnu, was intended to be a counterpart to the Lick and Poison Slug, forming a kind of triad of most common inhabitants. Also I wanted something purple in the shadowlands lol. The Gnostiki Witch Doctor began with the intention that someone wears those green blow pipe masks lying around (You can see the first iteration in the downloadable Extras), but evolved into the rare, secretive jungle inhabitants you see.
  • Creating what feels like a genuine extension of the Shadowlands. Included in the extras file is a complete map of the original Shadowlands joined to this new map with a few additions to blend them more seemlessly and interestingly together.
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Re: Return to the Shadowlands

Post by Soul Monster »

Hi Ceilick, I just finished playing through your mod on normal mode, and I really enjoyed it! My favorite stages in the game are Bounder Town, Dunesville (which, in my opinion, felt like a lost id stage), Whispering Woods, and the secret level, whose name escapes my memory at the moment. In fact, I ended up replaying The Pyramid of Footsteps 3-4 times in order to find the correct way to access it once I figured out what you're supposed to do (The bounder wouldn't cooperate either). I do have to agree with Nisaba that I enjoy the smaller levels more. Not saying the bigger ones are bad, but like others are saying, it's easy to get lost pretty quickly in them.

As for the new creatures, I like them! The Stingarus and the Badoings (the latter of which caught me off guard many times) fit in nicely with all the classics, and the Gnostiki Witch Doctors were genuinely terrifying at times, especially when I found out that they can jump onto other platforms.

And of course, the music. The music in this game is awesome! It's not every day we get new music in a Keen 4 mod set in the Shadowlands, and it was nice to hear some new tracks that were able to successfully replicate Bobby Prince's style. By the way, if it wasn't mentioned already, where was the leftover Robert Prince song used?

If I had to nitpick, maybe this is just me, but there were a lot of times where I was running very low on ammo, and often worried that I would run out.

Overall, This is a great mod, and I look forward to the sequels, whenever they come.
Last edited by Soul Monster on Wed Jun 16, 2021 0:12, edited 2 times in total.
Ceilick
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Re: Return to the Shadowlands

Post by Ceilick »

Thank you for the full review, Soul Monster!

I'm actually surprised Whispering Woods has been a popular level; it underwent several revisions and in the end I still felt the design would be boring. I'm glad I was wrong about it!

I must have been really lucky when I tested the Bounder, I didn't seem to struggle with it nearly as much as others have mentioned, but I also knew exactly what to do.

Creatures are one of my favorite things in Keen games so it makes me really happy to hear that the additions were liked! I'm really glad you wrote out your experience with the Witch Doctors; I purposelly designed the level so that players wouldn't learn about their jumping behavior until after an encounter or two.

The Bobby Prince outtake is in the Sunken Sinkhole, it's titled 'Dopey'. The 'Extras' downloadable folder includes this track as well as all the other songs composed by Xky Rauh.

Regarding ammo, did you ever get stuck because of it, or was it a case of needing to be more careful with how much ammo you spent? I actually hoped to create a situation where players needed to be more consciencious and actively manage their ammo.

Lastly, I've already begun work on the sequel and I'll probably create a thread about it later this week :D
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Re: Return to the Shadowlands

Post by Soul Monster »

I reloaded one of my save games and replayed the parts where I ran into the ammo situation (The Whispering Woods). Playing through those stages again in the same order (Reflectalus, Bounder Town, and Whispering Woods), I didn't run into that problem this time. I think what happened is that while navigating Reflectalus for the first time, I ended up doing a lot of backtracking which meant stunning the Arachnuts multiple times, and while playing through The Whispering Woods, some of the Treasure Eaters beat me to the extra ammo in the stage. Even on my first try, I didn't run out, I just had to leave some stuff behind because I had to save my ammo for where it was required over what was optional.

Also, that's exciting news that you've already started work on the second game! I'll certainly be on the lookout for the thread regarding it.

By the way, I'm new to the forums, and I just want to say, thank you so much for the Universe Is Toast trilogy! I have a lot of fond memories playing those games ever since I found out about them back in 2010/2011, and even if it's an unofficial ending, it finally provided closure to the original series. They were also my introduction to keen mods, and I've been playing mods like these ever since! So Thanks!
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