Demon of the Well
UR Map 25 -- The Bitter Fortress (Anger) - 103% Kills / 100% Secrets
Hmm.....I see there's been some discussion as to whether map 22 or map 23 is the real 'breather map' of E3, but now that I've come this far I'd personally say it's actually this one that's the breather.
As was the case in Greed, Anger treats us to another small-ish, utilitarian Hell-bastion, although this one ascends towards its central point rather than descending towards it like the latter. If anything it's even more austere in both appearance and design than the Keeper's Castle was, being characterized by long, clean, unbroken lines which generally meet at right angles except for in the more finely-shaped northeast corner--indeed, on the automap it essentially looks like just a big square block with one crumbling corner. Its floor surfaces are generally as broad, flat, and unbroken as its walls. Even the decor is very spartan, with very little ornamentation in the vast majority of the fortress except for some modest torch-frontices in corners of the interior. It doesn't look bad by any means, but it's certainly unassuming, at least by the vivid standards of this particular genre of bloodcrimson-and-ashgrey Hell map....the most visually striking aspect is probably the strange natural(?) stone arches that rise over the outer walls. Music felt vaguely Heretic-y to me this time, although I didn't really notice it much after the first minute or two. I saw some small texture misalignments near the key pedestals, but nothing very noticeable.
But, yes, I think it's a pretty easy map, at least relative to its neighbors. Ammo is quite well-judged; I had enough but never felt well-stocked, but there's adequate armor and plenty of health afforded by the two easy soulspheres. This seemed like more than enough...because the playing surfaces are so broad and clean, and there's so much space in the area where 90% of the combat takes place, the marine can have a field day here. True, there's little real cover out here, but there are also few hitscanners (only one exterior chaingunner that I recall, and he was the first to die) and less of a revenant presence (hence less presence of dogged tracker-missiles) than in map 23, so a decently agile player stands a good chance of being able to avoid serious damage in most battles. In fact, I would go so far as to say that one of the two cyberdemons (or, hell, maybe both) probably could have done well as a spiderdemon instead, since this is exactly the type of environment where the unwieldy mastermind has potential to be a credible threat. The deployment of monsters in general also makes them quite prone to infighting, particularly where the heterogeneous group that begins materializing on/around the marble demonface slab on the middle terrace is concerned.
Speaking of monsters beaming in, something that I really want to compliment about this map (and a number of others in Unholy Realms, really) is the way that there's a sort of delayed activation to a lot of the monster teleportation--in the majority of PWADs (and IWADs, for that matter) this mode of monster deployment tends to be more or less instantaneous and generally has an obvious trigger; but here the actual appearance of monsters is timed such that the player has probably already left the area where the trigger itself was found. This gives this fairly pragmatic contrivance of gameplay a much more natural, cinematic feel (I particularly like the cacos that phase in from just over the ramparts), and enjoys a lot more scope for catching the player off guard. I really wish more mapsets would take this tack.
Anyway, I suppose it's true that things do get a bit clusterfuck-y around the point where the inner walls come down (as in several other UR maps, this is largely a function of the presence of arch-viles + little effective cover), but the invulnerability artifact handily negates the danger of this sequence. Sure, I guess it's a secret, but it's a very easy secret, and so I feel justified in taking its presence into account in assessing the map's overall difficulty. All else aside, I was entertained while playing this, but I wouldn't say it comes any closer to topping map 22 in overall fun-factor than the previous two maps do.
Z300 Map 26 --Valley of Brimstone - 100% Kills / 100% Secrets
Feels rather fragmentary even by the naturally small standards of a 300-line mapset, although some of the action in the main area is okay. Even with the map being as tiny as it is, the offshoot that you travel down to flick the big skull switch still feels rather like filler, but the placement of the cyberdemon in conjunction with the gasbags and the late-to-the-party arch-vile (surprised to see one used that way, that's very unusual for Paul) makes for a decent couple of minutes of combat. There's a big multilegged serving of ExitMeat blocking off the way out again....I reckon I've been habituated by years and years of PWADing not to be as put-off by seeing spider masterminds used this way (since it's hardly uncommon) and so somehow am not as troubled by it as I might've been if it had been a room full of Barons or something, but it's still pretty poor placement all things considered, since the doorway is too narrow for it to even by able to fire on you much unless you stand directly in front of it. I also didn't find the secret until after everything was dead, but killing everything's not too tough even without it, especially if you don't forget you have a chaingun like I did.