Overview Vondur does Kell
He's given us Shadowfall, Castle of Koohoo and a slew of good DM maps. Now, after about a year of work, he graces us with another SP.
Vondur tends to almost brutally (Brutalist?) rectilinear design, but manages to avoid the menace known as the "box map." This works well with the "four-square" architectural style associated with Kell's "Knave" texture set, since four-square architecture was a keynote of Contract Revoked.
The result is, of course, grey brick and stonework offset with pale wood and colourful highlights; red windows, red sky, red checkerboard floor and blue arches. Lava also adds colour and uplighting. Floors are flat, as are ceilings, walls meet at right angles, all feeling solid as all get out.
There are a couple of jumping bits, including one right at the start, but leaping about isn't the issue. You have to go searching for first the silver, then the gold key, not to mention snagging as many of the nine (yes, nine) secrets along the way as you can find.
Generally, custom maps have less secrets than fingers on one hand; Nastrond has a whopping nine (have I mentioned that already?) All are very nice to find, some almost essential (for instance, that one in the spikeshooter room.)
I do have some gripes. For instance, it would have been nice if there had been a tenth secret that turned off the spikeshooters. Basically, those spikes travel faster than you, and if you're hunting for health or armour, sidestepping's the difference between life and death.
Also, there is a Perforator perched in an out-of-the-way spot in the middle of the precipitous stairway over lava. It's not exactly a secret, but it can be hard to see, and the Perf's pretty important to staying alive.
As mentioned previously, there's a trick ending reminiscent of Matt Sefton's Jawbreaker, but this is hardly condemnation. It's still highly effective, not to mention slightly more nervewracking in this incarnation.
You'll learn very quickly that armour sitting all by itself, or with a side order of ammo and health, is usually booby trapped. Backtracking is usually via shortcuts, either by dropping into previously visited areas or via teleport.
Actually, there is enough ammo about to allow for a certain level of panicking, but it can be very tight sometimes. I did end up having to axe an ogre close to the start (because I didn't spot how to euthanise another one.)
There are at least two setpiece "closed room" combats you have to win in order to proceed, one of which (Obelisk of Death) is positively frightening. On the other hand, some have complained that the endgame is too easy. One reason for that is the "hourglass" shape of the room - literally, too much cover - and another is the lack of enemies spawning in behind you.
Of course, first you have to reach the ending.
Some people have tried to compare Nastrond with its contemporary, Day of the Lords, but a better comparison would be against one of Kell's original Contract Revoked maps.
Vondur's produced a challenging map (with or without secrets) that uses Kells' texture set in the canonical fashion, but also tosses in some ideas not seen in Kell's original maps. Despite a couple of oddities and a somewhat easy ending, it's a keeper, folks.