DLC Review: Serious Sam 3: Jewel of the Nile

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Now, this is more like it. My disappointment in Serious Sam 3 didn’t leave me much hope for the quality of this DLC, especially considering the abject torment that is Legend of the Beast. But they found someone at Croteam who still remembered how the action in the First and Second encounters worked, and they let them loose on their current game. The result is three levels that do their damnedest to bring back the glory days of Serious Sam, complete with huge, open battles, a bristling arsenal, and plenty of destruction. There’s only so much you can do within the framework established by the third game, however, and you can’t get around the fact that you have to have the inferior Serious Sam to even play this little redemption arc.

So apparently, in the middle of Serious Sam 3, you have to activate two Sirian generators to get the Timelock going. I wouldn’t know, because Serious Sam 3 sucks. The premise of this DLC is that there’s a third generator or something that needs button-pushing, so Sam vanishes for like an hour and a half in the bad campaign to do some good campaigning. Dropping onto an Egyptian island, Sam must battle baddies and puzzle out ancient riddles to gain access to a McGuffin that then must be taken to another place, where… I honestly can’t believe I’m even pretending to recap the story in these reviews anymore. There are three levels, and Sam shoots many things in them.

And oh! What glorious shooting it is! The first level of Jewel of the Nile wastes no time in reassuring you with a wide-open island, destructible ruins, and wave after wave of baddies to blow up. You’re given shotguns, a rocket launcher, and the DLC-exclusive sniper rifle right away, along with plenty of ammo to take on the hordes however you want. It’s a magnificent return to form, echoed in the second and third levels with huge arenas and mixed armies of foes. The rest of Sam’s arsenal trickles in across the later levels, bringing back the glory days of melting Kleers with a ridiculous laser cannon. The challenge is tuned nicely, requiring you to watch all your angles for headless kamikazes and scorpion gunners, and take some time now and then to snipe a legion of harpies out of the sky.

There is no escaping the structure of Serious Sam 3, though, and there are elements that remain sadly mired in the present. Melee executions are hilariously unbalanced in both the base game and this, so some encounters can be thoroughly neutered by just mashing the kill button over and over. The maps are more open but still suffer from that 2000s terminally brown design aesthetic. And Sam certainly tries to be more entertaining in this one, but the attachment to the main plot in 3 keeps him from ever reaching his old heights. On the bright side, there are a few special additions in the DLC besides the sniper rifle, like a really fun mechanic to use in the final level and a towering boss that makes a fine capstone to the experience.

What you’re getting here is the action that really should have made up the majority of Serious Sam 3. Jewel of the Nile feels like the natural progression of the series through this era of gaming, instead of the awkward, stilted battles of the base game. It’s far from peak Sam, but it does recapture some of the old backpedaling magic. The real problem, then, is the scope and the access. Three sprawling levels is fine for a DLC mini-campaign, but the huge bump in quality over 3 really drives home how short it is. As for access, you have to have Serious Sam 3 to play this, the tiny good version of it. If you’re already saddled with it, there’s no reason not to pick this up and improve your experience. Otherwise, I’d have to say you’re better off skipping this entire period in Sam’s history, and revisiting the days when the battles were wild and the colors were free.

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