Demon of the Well
Map 04 -- Metal Descendants - 100% Kills / No secrets
Ah, yes, this map. As predicted, I had trouble getting started here; the room with the knights/crushers killed me a few times, and a few of the times where I passed it I was killed in the yellow key room...although, most of these deaths I attribute more to that first crusher room than the YK room itself (okay, and I.....also blew myself up once). It's neither the knights nor the crushers that were the problem, mind you, as basic sheepdog tactics will see them turned into so much infernal slurry before too long; no, it was the chaingunners. The fucking chaingunners. I swear I must've gone from 200% health to 30% or so in mere seconds several times on account of those bald bastards, and many of these injuries indirectly led to a number of deaths in the YK room (I wasn't picking up the medikits in the first area with the cyberdemon because I was leaving that whole lot alive in order to see how the random noblefest that happens there after the YK would go in that scenario). My usual approach had previously been to try to negate being eroded by a cloud of bullets by killing the chaingunners as fast as possible (read: charging and SSGing them in their windows), although it seems trying to weave through the crowd of knights/crushers (thereby using them as shields) is the better approach, despite being much riskier should one misstep. Anyway, first time I made it out alive with the key I was able to complete the rest of the map smoothly with no further deaths, though (incidentally, leaving that first cyber alive didn't make much of an impact in the long run), so it's definitely one of those that's nastiest at the start.
The repeated crusher concept gets easier and easier to weaponize in the player's favor the farther into the map one gets, to the point where the only members of that final huge horde I personally took an active part in killing were the caged mancubi (who are pretty damned pointless inclusions, by the way) and the last handful of stragglers. Of all of the main encounters, I think it's actually the imp horde with the large central crusher that's the most interesting--since you essentially have to play king of the hill on the little ring-platform between the crusher and the lake of spiky brown flesh that quickly floods the floor--but it's that last battle that's the most entertaining, dodging through, around, and under monsters and the tall crushers at approximately the speed of light. The chaingunner platforming bit, bane of so many, has the potential to be quite cruel depending on the whims of RNG, but it can also be cheesed very easily by triggering the gunners to appear and then hopping into the teleporter down in the lava, which will take you back to the start of the run and allow you to carefully peck them to death at range and at your own pace as you hop and skip along. Yes, I did this, too. It's not like me, but using my brain a little bit (also not like me) suggests that the reason I've probably tended to have a hard time with this map, which most other players seem to feel is one of the easier maps in the set (if not the easiest), probably comes down to my aggressive playstyle being a significant liability in these particular environs.
On the visual front, the theming is as strong and decisive as it is in any other Sunder map, but I don't find it nearly as striking as most of the others, either in terms of layout or structure. The lack of height variation in much of the action, which actually characterizes a number of the Sunder maps (although in most of them it's aesthetically disguised effectively or otherwise rendered a non-issue), is very evident here because the mechanics of the crusher gimmick sort of demand that most of the areas be open, functionally flat-floored, tall areas with the only real structural elaboration being token detailing set into the walls. Some of this looks nice enough, mind--the techlamp insets, some of the flashing/strobing/scrolling lights behind the wall-grates, etc.--but it's a poor substitute for the capricious geometric vibrancy of so many of the other Sunder maps. In some ways the play also seems more padded....the aforementioned mancubi cages, the droll noble slaughter after getting the yellow key, hell, the first monster group in that area in general, which seems totally unrelated to anything else in the map, and especially the blue key cyberdemon, who is easy to fight all by his lonesome, easier to ditch, and makes no real contribution to any other battle. The result is that the map feels more slapdash/less refined than many of the others, so much so that I will say this is probably the weakest map in Sunder's current form. Or maybe I'm just sore about those damned chaingunners, hell! You be the judge.