October is here once more, and with it come the familiar round of pumpkins, mysteries, hauntings and region and parcel builds with a spooky twist. To be honest, I’m not actually much for all the kafuffle that goes with Halloween, as I’ve noted in the past; however there are one or two exceptions to my overall lack of enthusiasm, of which the most notable is probably the annual Calas Galadhon Halloween build – and 2022 is no exception.
Every year, Tymus Tenk, Truck Meredith and the Calas team bring us worlds of wonder to explore in the form of their Halloween and Christmas wonderland builds as an adjunct to Calas Galadahon Park, and each year we are gifted with (generally) two regions of mystical / seasonal delight. Mixing an atmospheric setting rich in places to explore, scenes to uncover, rides to enjoy and events to attend, all knitted together by the weave of environment settings, soundscape and supporting music, these builds are always and genuinely a highlight of Second Life.
For October / Halloween 2022, the team present Gardens of Shadowfell, a journey to a realms which although probably not modelled specifically after any element of Tolkien’s mythology, carries with it something of a sense of Middle Earth during the Second and Third Ages, mixed with hints of other franchises to offer an engaging potpourri of elements deserving of careful exploration.
As with all of the Calas themed builds, this is one in which it is very important visitors not at least some of the guidelines regarding a visit, all of which can be found at the landing point – with the most important perhaps being:
- Make sure you Used Shared Environment (via World → Environment).
- Make sure Advanced Lighting Model is active via Preferences → Graphics).
- Enable local sounds.
It is suggested that those who can, should also enable Shadows via Preferences → Graphics. This is worthwhile if you can, but I would suggest you’re not losing a lot from the experience if you cannot, as the general look and feel of the regions is just as atmospheric with shadows as with. For those who would like to see Shadowfell with shadows enabled, but may find it hard going, pulling any high (128m+ draw distance down could help boost performance – particularly as the overall design of the build works with moderate draw distances.
In terms of exploration, Shadowfell offers two primary means: on foot, following the paths winding through the regions; and via tour boat (available a short walk from the landing point). I strongly recommend you take the time to use both; the paths and trails offer the most comprehensive way through Shadowfell – including a journey through the caverns; while the boat tour misses the latter, it has its own features and views of the setting that are unique. I would also suggest, perhaps, that when exploring on foot, the accompanying music track is turned off during a first visit. Instead, turn the music on for the boat tour (and for subsequent visits); in this way all of the local sounds can be fully appreciated when exploring. Finally, and as per the guides at the landing point, keep an eye out for the eye-in-hand tapestries along the routes – they offer teleport opportunities to additional sit points and locations that you are unlikely to otherwise reach.
This is a place very much of two halves: the landing point directly adjoins a walk that takes visitors through a dark realm. It’s not Mirkwood by any shape or means – but in places it carries a Mirkwoodian vibe. Here the trail winds under the boughs of bent intertwined trees and along an ancient stone path that passes over strange, misty waters on the back of stone bridges. Follow the route correct through trees and mystical quarry, and it will bring you to the entrance to the caverns.
As this entrance here is open and without a great lake before it, there is no need to ponder riddles before suddenly crying, “Mellon!” or fear what might emerge from the waters behind you. However, the first part of the route through these caverns is not as simple as may appear; and those who fail to Touch at the right place might be fooled into retracing their steps prematurely….
The caverns proper are one of those places where I wish Second Life allowed us to set music streams via altitude – for within them, we move from a suggestion of Middle Earth and Tolkien to what might be called the Realm of Ridley Scott; a place that ideally suits the music of Jerry Goldsmith, as written for Scott’s 1979 Alien (a film which, the first time I saw it a good few years after its release but still on the big screen, fairly scared me out of my knickers!). These are tunnels made to be walked to the haunting strains of Goldsmith’s theme from that film (in fact I actually did this during a visit, with a little help from You Tube, even allowing for the spiders along a part of the route and their suggestion of Mirkwood again!).
Beyond the caverns, visitors can travel onward to where the path is partially drowned; its stonework visible just under the glowing waves, stairs descending to it and rising on the far side of the water indicating it is still the way forward. Cross the waters brings you to a very different realm (and over a region crossing). If the first part of the journey gives a sense of travelling (in part) through Mirkwood, then here lies a suggestion of that great forest before it fell into darkness, and the times when it was known in elvish as Eryn Galen, or Greenwood the Great.
Here, while there are still creatures of darkness / mystery lurking, so too are sights more pleasant: rabbits might be found frolicking, whilst further on is a great and wild garden of exotic flowers and plants filled with a sense of a mystic presence. This is a place in which, gardens and ruins alike, there is an unmistakable elven feel – and more than one path to explore. It is also where several of the tapestry teleports can be found – although they are not exclusive to this part of Shadowfell. The platforms and pavilions they access offer a mix of places to sit and opportunities from private dancing.
The individual scenes to be found throughout Gardens of Shadowfell are many and varied – from the Alien-esque elements up in the caverns, to the orcs busily at work through to the zombies wandering here and there and the crocodiles waiting to waylay boat tours and more, time is needed to appreciate all of the detail and care poured into this setting – care and detail that are Ty and Truck’s annual hallmarks. And , of course there are the little touches of humour awaiting discovery – like the Gollum-like alien sneaking his precious way among the face hugger eggs, or the zombie worried about her broken nail or Mickey Mouse, who pops up quite unexpectedly with a happy greeting whilst simultaneously looking a little lost and bewildered…
I could wibble on and on about Shadowfell, but in truth, it’s best you go see it for yourself – and check the schedule of entertainments set for the pavilion there as well!
- Gardens of Shadowfell (Mist, rated Moderate)