Last Arena is a fairly large and open map that was designed for the Burial Grounds Mapping Competition, and also takes notes of inspiration from Frank Herbert, Ridley Scott, and the Discovery Channel, according to the readme.
This map comes with a neat little story in the readme, which ties into the lore of Quake 3 with mentions of the Vadrigar and their dominion over the Arenas Eternal. It carries with it a melancholy tone that it shares with the map - a sense of bygone glory and echoes of the past, a feeling that is even more relevant today with so few people playing Quake 3 or making maps.
Even the design of the map itself is dripping with juicy worldbuilding. The Red Armor courtyard, for example, resembles a classic gladiatorial stadium, complete with what seems to be spectator seating and even a podium from which the ruling class likely observed and relished in the bloody battles from long ago. Now, one of the two mighty columns has collapsed and destroyed a wall, while the remaining one casts its shadow upon the other; almost symbolic of a powerful warrior defeating their adversary - the victor getting to bask in the evening glow of the setting sun, watching upon their triumph, while the loser crumbles away into the darkness and nihilism of eternity. Underground, one can also find multiple jail cells, presumably for incarcerating prisoners of war, criminals, and other subjects awaiting their fate in the battlegrounds above.
Visually, as you have probably guessed from my previous descriptions, this map has a very obvious ancient Roman vibe to it, with lots of stone pillars, torch lamps, and engravings featuring some of the most prominent Quake 3 characters like Klesk and Xaero. The architecture is not overly-elaborate, but the design is clean and consistent with great lighting. My biggest issue is that there does not appear to be any ambient sound whatsoever, which is a big disappointment for a map that is otherwise replete with atmosphere. It would have added so much to the map if the author included the howling winds and the crackling of the torches.
Last Arena is profoundly open with hallways fit for giants to traverse; the epic scale blends quite well with the sparse detail and general emptiness. Fans of popular Rocket Arena 3 Clan Arena maps like Theatre of Pain and Overkill will feel right at home here. There are several key rooms, including the aforementioned Red Armor stadium, the Mega Health chamber, a large outdoor area with the Quad Damage placed below a crusher similar to The Very End of You (q3tourney6), two open rooms with the GL and RG connected by a large elevator, and a room at the bottom off to the side with a regenerating health pool. Clearly signified, cool blue-lit teleporters help ease the tremendous size of the map and make travel between rooms more convenient.
Gameplay is generally fluid and enjoyable; as mentioned before the teleporters help speed up the movement, making it easier to get access to weapons, health, and armor, which as you might imagine in a map this size are quite spread out. Thankfully, the health is distributed just enough to leave you on the edge of your seat, but not begging for it like a drop of water in the desert. There is also the health regenerator of course, but besides being risky you really do not want to waste time in there, especially in an FFA game where other players will get the lead on you while you are taking a bath. The RG is very powerful thanks to the long corridors, but it's also at one of the lowest points in the map and you will have to do some traveling to get back into a good position for fragging. The openness also lends itself quite well to the LG.
The Quad Damage crusher is a nice touch, though the trigger for it is not obvious; you have to fire at the Quake 3 symbol above the angled jump pad leading to the Quad platform, which isn't clear especially when the same symbol is used for purely decorative purposes elsewhere, even in the same room. If the symbol was glowing in some way to differentiate it and make it clear it was a button meant to be shot, it would work better. It is also a little annoying that the RL in the same room is on a platform on a staircase that you have to walk up to and back down; I would have liked it better had it been in the middle of the courtyard in that same room, right in front of the crusher, where it is easier to access without breaking gameflow.
As a bonus, if you're a level designer, the .map source file for Last Arena is included in the .pk3 under the ..::LvL Open Game Source License, so if you are interested in studying it or making your own version of it, then the gates are wide open for you.
Last Arena is more than just a map that's fun to play on. This map is like poetry, with subtle details alluding to a long history of what had been before the Vadrigar set up shop and made it into yet another one of their interdimensional venues of calamitous combat. Given the author's inspirations include the author of Dune and the director of Alien, I can't say I'm surprised. I wish more maps had the kind of rich lore that Last Arena has.
Reviewed by EmeraldTiger