Demon of the Well
UR Map 11 -- Death - 100% Kills / 100% Secrets
Quite a name for this one to live up to, if you'll pardon the inappropriateness of that phrase.....and it certainly does its best to do so. The surroundings are clearly themed around the idea of being buried alive, replete with dismal tombs of stone and iron connected by snarls of passages hewn from cold earth, all suffused with a suffocating darkness. Gone is the relative openness of the corrupted earthbases from the past few maps; combat throughout this ordeal generally takes place at point-blank range, apart from a couple of tall-ceilinged chambers that stand out in the mind more by dint of contrast with the general claustrophobia of the environment rather than as a result of being truly 'large.' I feel that the rainbow-nightmare syndrome was reigned in fairly well here, with a pretty dedicated red/brown/black color scheme. Again, the music track is effective by virtue of not overstating its presence.
As one might have surmised, the place is lousy with traps. Death-traps, you might even say. Most rooms have been designed to spring ambushes that place the player in a very inconvenient position, and there essentially are no 'optional' encounters. In a sense it's a little bit nerve-wracking, but of course, that's the point. And after all, it's not like you'll be unarmed, as the player is given a choice between the SSG and the plasma rifle at the outset. There's also a rocket launcher, though its ammo is quite limited and the tight confines make it fairly difficult to use safely in many situations.
As for myself, I chose the plasma rifle (simply because I feel like I seem to use it less than any other weapon in Doom, save for the chainsaw and pistol) on my first run, and it served me well. I think Snakes has done a pretty admirable job of balancing these two choices, with some encounters markedly favoring the SSG, and some similarly favoring the PR (and remember, none of these fights are optional). For example, the plasma rifle really saved my ass from the last barb of the southwestern cross-shaped trap room (I flat-out failed to see it coming, instead predicting a clusterfuck upon actually grabbing the blue skull), while a temporary ammo scarcity had me pining for the SSG in the chambers overlooking the imp-pillar room. Still other encounters I reckon I'd have been fine with either weapon, like the arch-vile tagteam room or the final cyberdemon battle. And, for posterity, I did a replay with the SSG instead, and found it an adequate tool as well, albeit one that took a little more time to make use of in a few places. The main point is, I do feel like the choice of weapons is actually a genuinely relevant one, although not one so crucial that it vastly effects the overall survivability of the level, which I assume was the intent.
While I'd managed to avoid being killed up to this point Unholy Realms, it seems that fate was not inclined to smile upon my marine, and in the end the level made good on the promise of its name as he was promptly torn apart upon using the last portal. Suits me fine, I like to see death-exits used as both narrative tools and enforcers of episodic gameplay (though of course, I generally prefer to pistol-start everything anyway). Incidentally, the story text is once again cut off at points in Eternity (and presumably in ZDoom-family ports, as well).
Z300 Map 11 -- Simbattle - 100% Kills / 100% Secrets
I agree with Dobu about the music track here, quite liked it. Unfortunately, once again I can't really say the same for the map itself. Of the two halves, I actually kind of prefer the first one, oddly enough....maybe I've got some kind of latent fetish for the seldom-seen Super Mario bricks, who knows. Something about the way this sequence of dead ends gradually unfolds into something larger is compelling in a way, I suppose. Come to think of it, this actually reminds me quite a bit of some other PCorf map (something from PCCP, perhaps...?), which uses a very similar gimmick and I believe even the same texture scheme. The second half? Well, it's a big square yard with stuff in it. Exercise a modicum of patience and a lot of said stuff will kill a lot of the other stuff of its own accord, and then you can squash a few spiderbabies and leave. I guess if you know beforehand that there's a mastermind in the central box you could have a little fun and let him/her/it do most of the dirty work for you, but I didn't know and so just BFGed him and left. Yeah, about the best thing I can say for this level is that it gave me an excuse to listen to that cool MIDI for a few minutes.