Demon of the Well
Hmm, I didn't hate map 16, although I wasn't greatly excited by the proceedings, either. That kind of slower-paced exploration map is nice sometimes, although they need a lot of ambience to really shine.
Map 19 -- Satan's Fortress - 100% Kills / 90% Secrets
Here's Cell's biggest map yet, a red brick fortress (although one without a facade) with Inferno-eclectic innards buried in the cold earth. It certainly has that intangible 'End of the second episode' feel to it, helped along by the traditional use of "Shawn's Got the Shotgun" in this mapslot. I've got to say, though, that while there were things I quite liked about the map, it's aggravating to play at several points, as well, which spoils the overall impression. Most of these aggravating points stem from a single issue, that being general cramped-ness and obstructive detailing. Now, at this point in the mapset, it's plain that constricted corridors and otherwise movement-restricted battle areas are a part of Cell's general style; I don't have a problem with this on a fundamental level, and I don't agree with those that have held the position that Cell's previous maps in the set are cramped to the point where they negatively impact gameplay....but here, he went a bit too far this time, methinks. It's not so much small, curvy corridors (of which there are many) that are the problem, but some poorly-considered placement of detail props (esp. torches and braziers) and an apparent commitment to smallness for its own sake that are the main culprits. The central junction, which initially has a couple of arch-viles in the central cage, is a particularly egregious example of this--the four tiny caged daises and the steps leading up to them butt right up against said vile-cage, meaning that moving around to fight anywhere within the area they encompass is awkward and ill-advised (and there's a lot of fighting in this room). So, stick to the perimeter of the room, right? Wrong. The room itself is just barely big enough to contain the 5-cage arrangement, so there's only a narrow avenue around the outer edges of the four daises, and that avenue is clogged up with a bunch of torch decorations! The upshot is that any kind of fluid movement at all is practically impossible in this room, which makes fighting in it feel like using a riding mower on a lawn comprised of fashion mannequins made out of raw beef--e.g. "not fun." Why couldn't the room have been a little bigger? Failing that, would it have really hurt the aesthetic so much to leave out the torches along the walls? This junction is probably the worst offender, like I said, but a similar problem crops up in other areas, as well--the exiting tunnels, the mossy brick corridor near the 'specter cage' (incidentally, another problem, that, as it seems to take them forever and a day to all teleport out, even when the room's empty), the heart of the fortress where the giant skull switch is located, etc. All of this adds up to a map that at several points not only prioritizes aesthetics over gameplay, but actively sacrifices the one for the other.
That being said, it's not without its charms. On its own merits, the attention to detail is noteworthy, although the overall aesthetic theme of the map is maybe a little too eclectic to hit the sweet spot for me, and some particular scenes do seem a bit visually noisy, albeit feverishly spit-shined. The single best thing about the map is definitely its pile of secrets, though--secret-hunting here is a lot of fun, and full of great reward, to boot. The extent of actual gameplay that is tied up in secrets is not as pronounced as it was in map 10, but there's at least one unique hidden battle tucked away in there, in the strange hightech BFG shrine. Many of the secrets are very clever, relying on combinations of classic DooM item-concealment tropes; few if any are in blind wall-hump territory, but many have only very subtle clues to unraveling them, and the satisfaction from doing so is a reward itself. That being said, finding most of the secrets, as I did, will make you extremely powerful to the point where most of the actual big combats later in the map don't pose much of a threat, but given how tricky some of the secrets are, I don't think that's really a fault in this instance.
So, I guess I'd say it was a potentially very good map that was severely hampered in a few places by prioritizing interior decorating over more practical matters. One other thing, I noticed while I was IDCLIPing around the map to remind myself of the texture schemes before writing this post (I actually played it a few days ago) that Cell has built at least some of his monster teleport-boxes, which of course the player never sees, "in character." They're full of properly-aligned red brick, marble face murals, series of iron gate-channels, etc. I found this discovery inexplicably charming.
Last edited by Demon of the Well on Apr 19 2013 at 23:17