Demon of the Well
Map 13 -- Underearth - 100% kills / 100% secrets
Another relatively small breather map after the previous outing. It's pretty unassuming, but I liked it more than most of the maps filling a similar role in the above-ground episode. The fight for the first skull key against the large group of demons is fun from a pistol start--the SSG is more than capable of dispatching them all while protecting the marine completely from harm, but the catch is that without carryover ammo, the player won't have nearly enough shells on them at the time the trap is sprung to handle the situation, requiring them to use their speed to nab shells a few at a time out of the rooms the demons came from to finish the fight. The drop into the dark bloody grotto was also fairly interesting, as the tactic I used to handle the specters in a similar situation on the previous map didn't work here, as this time they were unwilling/unable to enter the pool of light where I first hit the floor. This required me to zip around the periphery and use sound and other clues, such as the impacts of cacodemon and imp fireballs, to locate and blast the specters. Beyond this point, the map pretty much becomes a corridor-sweeping rocket-fest, which given the light opposition, makes for a quick wrap-up. I don't remember a lot about the map's aesthetics at this point, to be honest, which generally means they were serviceable enough.
Map 14 -- Vertigo Plant - 103% kills / 100% secrets
It seems that uptempo starts where holding one's ground is not tactically viable are a hallmark of franckFRAG's style, as I noticed a similar tendency in all of his maps for 3 Heures d'Agonie. For my part, I like playing a situation like this from time to time, where you have to run deeper and deeper into dangerous territory, all the while stirring up more and more shit, until managing to find a weapon, an ammo cache, an easily-defensible spot, or some other thing that eventually turns the momentum back in your favor (or at least levels the playing field). In this case, I was eventually able to get a handle on things after taking a chaingun from a dead zombie, and picking up the rocket launcher shortly thereafter. There are a lot of powerful monsters in this map, from the seemingly omnipresent spiders on floating platforms to a couple of instances of teleporting revenant squads to the arch-viles in the watchtowers to the cyberdemons at the halfway point and the finale, but beyond the first few minutes, fFrag has been very generous with ammo and weapon placement as well (particularly cells), meaning the player is usually well-equipped to handle them. The secrets are powerful, too, although a couple of them apparently involve the risk of death via falling. Indeed, the danger of falling is probably not going to be very popular here, and this is not wholly unreasonable. I was fortunate enough not to fall to my death while playing, but I remember looking around after dropping down to leave the area where the mastermind is fought for the blue key and thinking "If I had walked off that blind ledge you're led towards a little slower, I'd have had to restart the map. That sucks." Apart from this, though, I found all of the challenges pretty above-the-board, although I kind of wish the first cyber had been able to leave his platform when I lowered it for him (I had initially suspected he could be telefragged with some exploration, but no dice). The second cyber is going to drive players who took unction at the phasing cyber from the end of 'Alpha Tower' up the wall, as he has the same trick up his sleeve (hell, maybe it's the same one, rebuilt and refurbished to vex you anew), but there's more space here and a much more convenient safe spot available to counter this, too. I found the secret BFG after I'd already killed him, and so happened to be holding it when I approached the exit, which pretty much negated that last trap. That last trap, hmmm....that is going to have at least a few people screaming "BULLSHIT!" at odd hours of the night. Again, I find I can't really resent it much, though, as it looks like it can be safely backpedaled away from, and it is also heavily telegraphed on the map screen if one happened to find the computer area map ( by far the easiest secret, incidentally...hardly even 'secret' at all).
Aesthetically it was very "second episode of a Doom WAD", with a mix of a large number of different materials--wood, stone, brick, marble, vines, slime, the odd computer section, etc. It's also more well-lit than a lot of the previous maps. I like gloom, myself, but I had no qualms here, and this was the first time I really noticed the new E2 sky texture, which gives a nice sense of humbling scale. Since the map's freeform texture scheme doesn't really resemble anything in particular and its name is pretty vague to boot, I imagined it to be the ruins of some ancient observatory or scientific post turned hell-nest, positioned on a rocky pass leading down into Romero proper, patrolled by a detachment of gunspiders on hovering platforms in an attempt to keep the protagonist from advancing any further.
I quite liked it, myself, but the rude awakenings at the map's beginning and its ending certainly won't be to everyone's taste.