Demon of the Well
Map 07 -- Hollow Icon - 102% Kills / No secrets
Essentially an abstract, city-sized casket housing the tortured remains of millions upon millions of ritual sacrifices, ostracized clerics, fallen martyrs, and other assorted casualties of faith, this titanic edifice of ancient wood and cold iron brims to its very foundations with the collective malice of its silent tenants. Silent, but not quite still; the twisted spiritual energy of the suffering damned stirs and foments as one trespasses further into their unhallowed sanctum, warping reality in increasingly drastic ways--walls and floors bleed and shift, holy symbols are limned in an unnatural red nimbus, and ever-growing hordes of slavering monstrosities are manifested to run amok on the mortal coil, carrying out the vengeance that the Icon's real inmates never knew in life. It's all very striking, and I'm surprised I didn't remember it better before now....this is the first map where we really begin to see 'the' Sunder visual/architectural style, combining the scale of the locales seen in something like 'Metal Descendants' with the strange, irregular cuboid geometry first seen in 'Dreaming Garden.' The solid ruby-red highlights outlining so many of the inset details in the walls and other surfaces of the map are one of the WAD's most defining features, and one of those most often imitated in kindred WADs today. Again, lighting is rather flat in much of the play space here, but flashing/scrolling/shimmering effects on a lot of the inset details, as well as the amorphous convention thereof, make up for this somewhat.
Any reasonably intense mapset stands to benefit from a breather map here and there, and Sunder is absolutely no different, regardless of its generally megalomaniacal bent. Despite the fact that the monster count in Hollow Icon approaches the 3,000 mark, it is really something of a breather map between the backbreaking ordeal of 'Grinder' and the more grandiose slaughters characterizing forthcoming maps. Nigh on half of the map is characterized by smaller, one-shot battles taking place in average-sized, discrete rooms; basic crowd-control skills should be more than enough to see many players through these. In some ways this slow buildup establishes tension, with the player waiting more and more anxiously for the other shoe to drop; it first seems to do so in the blue key battle, but despite the much larger number of monsters involved here, this is still a fairly easy fight, with the small-number of arch-viles being the most credible threat; there's lots of ammo, a convenient back passage for switching from one side of the chamber to the other (although a cyberdemon just might troll you by entering it sometimes), and of course, the much welcome debut of the BFG 9000. Another thing I noticed about this particular fight, and which is also true of the bigger fights that follow it, is that while the spill-terrace topography of the floors cannot necessarily be navigated with complete freedom, they are infinitely more conducive to fluid movement than anything in 'Grinder' was, which goes a long way towards explaining why this map is far easier than that one despite fielding around four times as many monsters.
After a certain point map progress becomes a very linear series of exponentially larger fights, with the final and only truly threatening one placing you in the middle of ~2.5 small armies converging from 3 sides, with an artillery division of sorts taking up a fixed position on an elevated platform in the fourth direction. While infighting will naturally account for heavy casualties here, it's never going to be quick enough a process to keep you from being swamped, so you'll have to take matters into your own hands to some degree. The two main complications here are a cloud of terribly bothersome pain elementals at the back of one army that eventually end up seriously hampering movement on one part of the battlefield as the fight progresses, and the fact that ammo and health, while present in adequate (though far from generous) quantities, tends to be spread out in small pockets, so you'll sometimes be compelled to travel to parts of the field you'd probably rather not visit at particular moments in order to keep your BFG juiced up/your rocket stock topped off. My own fairly reliable strategy for success here is to use rockets for as long as possible at the outset of the fight, with prime targets being the herds of pinkies (who are good blockers that can also eat a ton of BFG rays if they're still around in large numbers later on), particularly those that come from the massive closet to the south; after firing somewhere in the neighborhood of 100-125 rockets, the hordes of smallfry are usually starting to close in on me back near the entrance, at which point I break out the BFG and start charging the arachnatron division on the hill before targeting the PE clouds, using the teleporters in the closets to get the least obstructed approach to supply drops as the situation warrants. I find that the rev battalion near the exit tends to make very little impact on the battle most of the time (at least doing it this way), since they initially have that layer of imps between them and you which acts as a sort of fleshy 'grace period' before you have to start worrying about many tracking missiles as you move about.
It's not Sunder's most artful or involved map, and it has some pretty nonsensical monster placement in a few spots (read: utterly useless spider masterminds), but it's entertaining enough, and really is an excellent study in Insane_Gazebo's aesthetic sensibilities if you stop to look at the surroundings.
Last edited by Demon of the Well on 05-08-14 at 09:54