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dobu gabu maru

The DWmegawad Club plays: Whitemare 2

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Trying to do a little bit of catch-up. I stopped tracking exact stats, though; it was just extra work that took a little enjoyment out of the process.

MAP09: UAC Outpost
100% everything.
Another fun little map with a couple nice surprise ambushes that sent me retreating frantically. I was a little disappointed that the outdoor scenery was all inaccessible.

MAP10: Operation "Blizzard"
100% except for kills; IDDT showed what appeared to be a group of monsters stuck in a non-functional teleporter room.
Fantastic map. The music selection was great; it kept me grinning even amid the waves of f@#$ing revenants. I kinda wish the exit reveal had some action to go with it, but the map on the whole had plenty as it was. Solid.

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Right, time for a catch up...

Map13 - “Inside Your Mind" by Iron Hand

Bit of a concept map this one. Quite surreal, could maybe have benefited from some creepy music. Very interesting scenery in the sections with the broken floor, the skinny maze was a bit of a chore on the eyes though. I get what the map maker was going for here, but i'm not entirely sure I enjoyed it. By the time I got to the main fight I was on low health and with no armour, so had to somehow deal with the revs without taking a single hit. I was starting to get eye strain from the general darkness as well, so in all I was glad when it was all over really. Nice to see something a bit different however.

Map14 - “The Pillar and the Pit" by Memfis

Bit more action in this one, I made the mistake of jumping off the starting ledge without getting the chaingun first time so there was a lot of running around with a pea-shooter trying to find a weapon. Second go was a lot plainer sailing. Stylistically this map was all over the place, but I enjoyed the unpredictability, and it had a kind of old-school charm with its quirky touches like walk-through walls.

Map15 - “Floating World" by Dragon Hunter

Wow, someone went for it. Its hard not to like this map with its ambitious scale and visual intricacy, even if the level of bridge-work verges on the ridiculous in places and the whole thing even makes my desktop computer struggle. It was fun to explore and interesting to fight in given the distances involved. The main battle with the cyberdemon was a bit weird at first with the monsters teleporting around at random, there seemed to be a lot of that going on actually - I'm not sure if it was to aid monster navigation with all the bridges or stop them clumping up in the wide open spaces, or just a quirky idea - but it didn't become too annoying and added a threatening unpredictability which made things enjoyably hectic at times. I'm glad the keys were easy enough to find, I didn't look forward to hunting them down in that massive landscape. Definitely sticks out from the rest of the maps like a fucking enormous thumb, makes me wonder what to expect from later maps.

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No offense meant by that mapname stuff Memfis and Shadowman, just a light jab in good humour :) Ookay, now where the hell was I...

Map10: Operation: 'Blizzard' by Shadowman

Majestic indeed. The classical music piece fits oddly well and it made me want to just dance around the monsters pacifist-style whenever possible. Enemies are mostly the mid-tier variety and the theme seemed to be battle in the front, Revs at your back. Hope you don't hate those bony guys since there are a lot of them here... It's not very packed at all but the relative emptiness at certain parts fits nicely with the atmosphere. Cool map, definitely liked it.

FDA is DNF because I suddenly started to suck hard late on my second attempt. Straight Cyber rocket into face in an open area and shot in the back twice by the same Rev later, which ultimately took me out of circulation.

Map11: Short Night by Chaingunner

Didn't enjoy this very much at all. Couldn't figure out the IoS-stuff in a few attempts so I gave up quickly. Turret Cyber controls the hub so better duck fast into the bowels of the map before you get plasterd on the walls. Side areas have Imps and Gunners for what I saw, nothing very interesting. Poor stuff.

Map12: Rotten Orange by Chaingunner

Miles better than map11 but still quite the ordinary introduction map to the second thematic episode. Looks quite nice despite being mostly brown and grey. Combat is very simple and very easy but not offensive either though. Didnt even know about the dreaded insta death pit until now so no deaths for me this time around.

Map13: Inside Your Mind by Iron Hand

Ehh, I can appreciate what the author attempted to do here but it just didn't do it for me. Yes, it's atmospheric, but that's about it since combat is non-existent. The gameplay consists of a platforming part and a maze part, neither of which are my most favored styles in Doom. Just meh, I'm afraid.

I'll edit in the FDAs or post again with thoughts on a few more maps a little later.

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MAP13: Inside Your Mind
89% kills, 0/1 secret

Interesting one, this. I do like the texture usage here and the design of the main open room, though the corridors were a bit bland by comparison (just too long). Like Mouldy, I took a lot of damage from the hitscanners early in the map when trying to get weapons, and as such had to beat the revenant trap without taking a single hit, which was a bit frustrating. After that, just a bit more anti-climatic corridor running. Half the blue door is unpegged differently from the rest, resulting in a really bizarre look when it's opening. Still, nice atmosphere.

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MAP13: At first I liked this map—the disheveled, shattered asylum is a cool setting, but that was before the obnoxious chaingunner from afar and that stupid stone maze. I was close to just clipping through it, opting instead to use IDDT after snatching the blue key (which had an absurdly rough fight for a map that doesn’t challenge you otherwise). Neat in conception, but painful to play.

MAP14: An enjoyable map. I think there’s more charm and challenge in MAP09 but this one serves up a solid experience with a couple of neat twists and turns.

MAP15: Boy howdy is this a big one. Very impressive scale wise with a lot of macroscale detail. There’s a lot of awkward encounters (the blue skull area was terrible to fight through with high steps and my bullets disappearing) and I felt that gameplay was wanting, due to the setting taking precedence for fun rather than well designed battles. Even in the dangerous yellow key are the warp lines nullified much of the strategy you could emply, especially with the cyber & AVs disappearing out of sight when you’re trying to target them down. That and I had to cheat to find out how to get to it, since there's some obscure platforming that saw me jumping into the frigid waters often. It's not a bad map, and is certainly the star looker so far, but not one I'm keen to play again.

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While I'm not playing the secret levels in this club, I've played them before and here are my thoughts.

Both are large Dragon Hunter levels. MAP31 has an open cemetery and a nice looking star-filled chamber with a number of teleporting insurgents. The cemetary has a lot of outside detail too it, and even a face on the automap. The star area is cool too. But since you're only on five of the stars there, I don't see the point of the rest of the stars other than excessive detail. There's no regular exit in this map, which irks me, I want two different exits on MAP31 as well as MAP15. But at least the secret exit isn't glitched, unlike the original Whitemare's MAP31.

MAP32 is essentially a huge slaughterfest map studded in green with lots of places to go and enemies to kill. Thin pathways too, which may irk some since monsters usually teleport around a lot while crossing. Getting out of the starting chamber unleashes hell. Almost all of the "islands" have slaughter to them, the eastern one with the fuckload of pillars is probably the most memorable one of all of them with the spiderdemons and teleporting fools but generally I found each "island" to be filled with lots of carnage and fun. I guess both of the maps are better than MAP15 though, imo MAP32 is the best of this Dragon Hunter trilogy.

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Map14: The Pillar And The Pit by Memfis

And here's another one from Memfis. It's pretty good although I did like his first one better. This map is bigger in size, still rather small mind you, but the monster density seemed a little too small for my liking. The big outside area especially could have used some more to it, like a handful of more Cacos or a Rev or two somewhere around the ledges. The Archie was also surprisingly non-threateningly placed compared to Memfis' usual AV placement. While there aren't really any tough situations to be faced, health seemed a little sparse throughout so you'll probably see yellow percentages in the later parts of the map. The berserk must be the lone secret but I couldn't figure out how to get it, not in the FDA or in my second playthrough just today either. Quality map all in all but lacked some bite in my opinion.

FDAs, maps 10-14.

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Map 14 -- The Pillar and the Pit - 100% Kills / 100% Secrets
This is more expansive and also less tightly tuned than Memfis' earlier map. Presumably named for the small red brick pylon in the initial watery junction and for the fall into the dark, dank grotto with the yellow key and plasma rifle, it's a highly abstract setting of zimmer, water, iron, and a touch of tech here and there. It seems to evince some of Memfis' nascent fascination with WADs from before the turn of the millennium, in both subtle and unsubtle ways. There's another Klem track used for the BGM (or maybe it's Shaw, I admit I still often get tracks by the two of them mixed up, even after all of this time and despite the fact they're hardly interchangeable stylistically), and the earthy-yet-techy texture scheme is certainly redolent of some choice megaWADs of yore, etc. Memfis periodically makes maps that have these same/similar influences (I've played several of them, and I'm sure some of you have as well), but something about this one makes the influence seem more pronounced. Some have pointed to the use of illusory walls, which is something that one just doesn't see very much at all in PWADs these days, it's true; but I think what really cemented the impression for me was the western area with the off-kilter Y-shaped cement walkway that eventually rises out of the water. Something about this area seems distinctly non-Memfisian--I suspect it's how tall/wide the room is, contrasting with the author's usually very measured/regimented use of vertical space, and perhaps the way the area is traversed in a sort of crisscross pattern, as opposed to the terraced layouts that tend to prevail in many of his other maps. Whatever the case, the contrast definitely makes the map feel a lot different from many of his other maps, whether this was the intention or not. Of course, in other ways it's still very familiar, ala its use of a broad range of bright/lively colors, like that odd little blue rock pillar in the grotto.

As aforementioned, combat/supply balance are much more laid back here than in map 09; there's a bit of a bum-rush to face when one first drops into the area with the yellow key, but other than that it shouldn't cause most players too much worry, at least assuming they don't let the handful of little surprise chaingunner moments tear them up too badly. Incidentally, I did find the one secret (I think it just had some bullets in it) but also never picked up the berserk pack; I think I assumed it would lower to the floor at one point, but since it never did (or it did so very late, at least) and I never really needed it I sort of forgot about it until Veinen mentioned it again....I sort of figure you're probably supposed to get it through an athletic grab or the like.

Again, this feels like a complete map and compares favorably to a lot of the earlier maps, but I personally also think I'd say that I liked map 09 more.

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MAP14: The Pillar and the Pit
100% kills, 1/1 secret

Another Memfis map, and this one feels quite different from the first. Whereas the first was quite obviously a techbase, with the gameplay designed around carefully-designed setpieces, this one has the old Doom II-style abstract design, as well as the less choreographed gameplay, as most monsters sit in rooms normally. There are a few teleport ambushes, but nothing major, and the fights rarely get more bloody than one or two revenants or hell knights at once. Aesthetics-wise, it's definitely all over the place, with every room featuring an new texture. Very old school.

I admit, I'm not really impressed or tickled by these styles of maps, so for me it's just an inoffensive breather map, which is fine. My main sticking point would be that it really doesn't fit with the rest of the WAD, which generally seems themed around aesthetic choices, custom textures, atmosphere, and the like. I do like it's re-use of areas, though, and I also liked the trick with the secret though, activating the berserk pillar and giving a view of it, but quickly teleporting the player back - almost like using a camera monitor in another room ala a more advanced game.

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Oh, so that's how that works. Clever indeed.

Map 15 -- Floating World - 103% Kills / 81% Secrets
Now, this is splendid. Just the sort of scope/scale I most enjoy. Not surprising that it comes from Dragon Hunter, author of the highlight map in the original Whitemare and one of the best from Sacrament. Depicted here is a post-apocalyptic cityscape that has been partially subsumed by an ice-choked sea; much of the diorama/panorama scenery consists of the upper stories of shattered skyscrapers and office buildings, while the marquee play areas include a broken highway, an observation deck, and a small suburb, not to mention a few sojourns out onto the ice floes themselves. Visually it is quite a spectacle, and while its representational/daytime setting means that it's perhaps not quite as striking as some of what we saw in "Arctic Heart", it is nevertheless a pleasure to survey the city from any number of vantage points, particularly the aforementioned observation deck. The music track is well-chosen, although it does have a rather jarring (though brief) stylistic shift in it near the end of its loop (which is fortunately quite long).

As one might expect, the map's play is heavily exploratory and sandboxy in nature: the main goal is to collect the three security cards, which will allow the marine to override the quarantine measures sealing off an access tunnel out of the city, and there is an optional sidequest to find the three skull keys (with one of them shown directly to you right before the standard exit) to unlock an additional battle and passage to the secret level. As far as I can tell you can do most of what there is to do in almost any order you wish, and supplies and weapons are scattered generously enough around the map to render any itinerary reasonably viable. Given the vast open expanses of terrain to cover, a great deal of the combat is necessarily incidental in nature, and while there are a goodly number of demons present most of them can be ignored/evaded (or hell, fought) at the player's leisure, with infighting bound to take a heavy toll. Fortunately there are a few key setpiece battles to keep the ball rolling, ranging from a confined melee with a bunch of imps in a strange infested control room to the bloody free-for-all with a horde of phasing monstrosities in the little gated community. I also want to make mention that this map uses the spider mastermind twice, both times to good measure (especially the first), by either providing scant cover and a lot of fire coming at the player from different angles, or by having a wave of weaker monsters designed to prevent the player from using the terrain to avoid the spider's gaze. Between this and some of Daddy Longlegs' other appearances thus far, Whitemare II seems to be maintaining a pretty impressive batting average for effective use of this very difficult/inconvenient-to-deploy monster.

There are some oddities/technical issues with the map worth mentioning, however, probably dependent to some degree on which port one plays with. Using Eternity, I myself sessioned the map in one go, and I never encountered anything remotely resembling the sort of blockmap issues that accompany a map exceeding the size boundaries; indeed, to my knowledge (which is admittedly far from expert), this map should be nowhere near to violating that limit. What I DID encounter was a lot of clunky 3D bridge shenanigans over by the observation tower (lots of noisy moving sectors, a medikit that suddenly materialized in empty space five feet beyond the bounds of the walkway, etc.), a number of floating/hovering/otherwise misplaced objects (most notably a tree clipping through the base of one of the large icebergs near the tower), a blind spot or two in the otherwise damaging water, an inscrutable crystal sector over on one side of the highway that nearly saw me kill myself when I fired a rocket into it thinking I had a clear shot at some imps on top of a nearby building, and a harmless but unsightly camera object over by the highway exit leading towards the tunnel out of town. None of this proves disastrous to the experience (although that rocket incident could've been a lot worse), but collectively these issues do hurt the immersion a bit. Granted, the recommended port is not the one that I used for the proper playthrough, but a quick test shows that several of these issues are present in PrBooM-plus as well (esp. the displaced objects), so they are a real factor, however small.

That aside, this is nevertheless an engrossing adventure, well worth the price of admission.

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map14 was actually inspired by map02 of Robert Chapman's Odyssey (cool wad but not all maps are playable from pistol start), no idea if it's noticeable or not. I think it's my most successful 4 hour speedmap.

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MAP11: Short Night

Pretty much hated this one. I dislike IoS-style maps to begin with (really, it's just the demon-spitter I loathe) and this is super-cramped with a Cyber in the middle? Gah. I actually noticed and blew up the barrel in the spitter-chamber right away, but wasn't sure what to do next, so I dropped into the side passage. Was the final switch necessary to open up Romero or something? I couldn't even tell. I eventually battled my way back out with lots of rockets and a ton of deaths, then, just for the heck of it, unloaded a blast into the spitter-chamber again. I heard Romero roar, and knew I had it figured out, but man, it didn't make me feel any better about the map. Oh, and I got hit right at the end as Romero died. The first time I actually died and moved onto MAP12, but I wanted to keep my arsenal, so I reloaded and tried again, and this time I managed to win with 1% health left...

MAP12: Rotten Orange
100% everything
So this map really doesn't give you much health, does it? As mentioned, I started with 1% health, which made this map more challenging than I'm sure it would be otherwise. Otherwise, mostly unmemorable.

MAP13: Inside Your Mind
100% everything
Love the theme here. I dig the psychological-horror maps, like Unloved or Strayed From Sanity (from NDCP). The gameplay was...well, it was okay. I actually didn't have too much trouble with the revenants thanks to my plasma gun. The long narrow corridors sure got old after a while. That first room is really cool, though.

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Posted my review. Spoilers, of course, but I was pleasantly surprised. Some interesting authors I've never played before and great works from vets.

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Map31 - “Pillars of Creation" by Dragon Hunter

Starting in a lumpy graveyard we go through a series of vast arenas that fill with a trickle of monsters, not many in the first few but building to a finale in a strange dark zone where death rains upon you from bloody miles away. After an initial what-the-fuck moment where I kept falling into seemingly invisible holes I started to get the gist of that final area, I certainly had plenty of opportunity to get acquainted thanks to the endless deaths that occurred trying to survive a blizzard of missiles from all directions. Quite fun though I have to say, once you get to know it. I did try activating all 3 ambushes at once but that way madness lies, so went the methodical extermination route in the end. Entertaining stuff

Map32 - “Green Madness" by Dragon Hunter

heh, this was quite an epic one. Seems like i was living in this map for a sizable period of my life. Lots of interesting battles and twisty catwalks. So much stuff that I can hardly remember any of it to talk about, but the 3 mastermind battle in the forest of columns sticks in my mind. I get the feeling some of the secrets involved dropping down off ledges, i wasn't keen on doing that though. I usually hate narrow catwalk stuff but these weren't so bad (at least I wasn't expected to fight on them). Now I need a cup of tea after that...

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I’m not out of this yet!

Map06 – Vida Rota by [BoMF]Devived – Kills – 100, Items – 100, Secret – 0. Death Count – 11

Well, this one kicked the shit out of me, taking advantage of both my poor skill and my refusal to camp for more than 15 seconds. But I thought this map, though well laid-out to kill me personally, achieved its difficulty in some annoying, gimmicky, perhaps dickish ways. First, very dark. Very dark. I did myself no favors by passing up the opportunity to play during a deep morning overcast and instead waited until afternoon, when it brightened a bit. This magnified the effect of the darkness.

OK, so that’s one element, others include auto-aim fuckery by placing monsters high and also penning them far enough behind the edges of escarpments to guarantee a shitload of misses, and much wasting of ammo for anyone trying the direct approach by killing everything the second they see it. I was getting maybe 2 hits out of 10 shots on that first elevated Revvie. This was done to force the player up the back way, where they’d find . . . elevated Chaingunners in the darkness! They chopped me to bits. We also have Spectres in weird places in the darkness. I’m guessing 6 of my deaths were “Good at Doom!” suicides when, for example, I was lining up those Barons for rocket surgery, and a Spectre appeared from out of nowhere with the evident desire to see us die together. A weird kind of affection, that. And let’s not forget a shitload of trees to get stuck on, architecture to get stuck on, and so forth. Yeah, [BoMF]Devived reached deep into the mapper’s bag of dirty tricks for this one, but at least it was dangerous for a player like me. ;D

The map looked good and flowed well with an organic feel to it. A good job was done on the landscape and the terraced cliffs. The music is an old fave from Quake 2 – my 2nd favorite shooter of all time – but it seemed to be looking for a high-detail techbase. All in all I can’t say I loved it, but this map earned my respect and spilled a lot of my blood.

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Map07 – Ice&Fire by Kashtanka – Kills – 100, Items – 95, Secret – 0. Death Count – 1

I found this quite enjoyable, propelled as it was by Mikko Tarmia’s fantastic music; dark, ominous, menacing and moody. Really, it sounded like a cross between a pair of Bernard Herrmann tracks, from Psycho and Vertigo. I really do love those Herrmann compositions – perpetual fugues forever!!!!!!

Obviously, this is a Dead Simple map, and I number myself among those who still enjoy checking out variations on this theme. This was a pretty good one, albeit rather easy for someone playing continuous. I can tell it would be a better challenge on pistol-start. My one death came on my first experience of The Bigass Trap After The Mancs Die. I zigged when I should have zagged – several times – and that led to my demise. On the second try, it was a simple matter to start some infighting and then hide behind the far column by the crates – yes, camping! – and floor the Plasma Gun’s trigger until it was safe to come out for the mop-up operation.

Though a bit easy, this is still a good-looking and nicely executed map with a killer music track. I was well pleased.

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Map08 – Frozen Acid by BigMemka – Kills – 93, Items – 92, Secret – 66. Death Count – 3

This was a corker! Woulda been brutal for me from a pistol start. This is a pretty badass map with a nice layout and some nasty traps. And then there’s that music, from the game Hitman, and allow me to remind you all that Hitman was created by Amigans! Yes, IIRC it was a combination of the demo groups Cryonics and Silents who pooled their talents at making efficient engines and went on to fame and fortune by switching platforms. ;D Yes, there was no hope by that time of buying a Ferrari on the proceeds of an Amiga game, though Team 17 rode Worms from its origin on the miggy and thence to consoles and the mighty PC itself! But I digress . . .

But about that music, I hope the Hitman crew mentioned Edvard Grieg somewhere since the main melody is from Ase’s Death. And I guess we’re Hooked On Classics with Whitemare 2! Fine by me. Sheesh, I was inspired to listen to a bunch of Grieg and imagine what it might be like to make a map for In The Hall of The Mountain King. ;)

But anyway, this is a rough go unless you come in continuous and well-armed. The Rocket Launcher is placed in such a way as to expose greedy players to crossfires, and there’s a fair number of high-tier enemies to deal with almost immediately whichever direction you choose. Good teleport traps are sprinkled throughout and the challenge is relatively constant, though luckily, there’s some thoughtful cover provided against the very large number of Revvies you’ll encounter.

Everything leads up to The Big Reveal of our dear Spider Queen herself, as she is belched up through the floor by forces unknown to man. Now it takes real mapper’s chutzpah to push a Spider Mastermind up through a brick floor in the certain knowledge that players will gleefully mock the sheer absurdity of such a thing. BigMemka, consider yourself officially mocked! ;D

The first go at BigSpidey caused one of my 3 deaths, another came after I triggered the front-and-back Revvie trap at the bridge. The other came by Chaingunner at the Blue Key trap.

There were some annoyances, for example a radsuit in front of a computer panel that is really a switch. Ugh! And then, up above where the Zerk is, why was it so hard to make the lift go down? And filed under God Only Knows Why This Happened, at the outdoor Soulsphere column, one of my rockets went straight into the floor, as if there was a monster hidden there, but there wasn’t. I often comment on the oddities and aggression of Risen3D’s auto-aim, but this was bizarre even by that standard.

Overall, I really enjoyed this map. It looked cool and it was rather vicious. And on my second attempt at Spider Queen’s Lair, I got some infighting going, found the switches, and ran away screaming like the gutless coward I am!

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Map09 – UAC Outpost by Memfis – Kills – 107, Items – 100, Secret – 100. Death Count – 2

I’ve read about how Memfis did not name this map, but nonetheless I can’t help but to observe that there’s probably been a million maps named UAC Outpost, but I doubt that any of them were as good as this little classic. I really loved this map. This was so fucking good. Short, sweet, and well put together, as is typical for Memfis, whose maps often seem like exquisite little machines that operate perfectly. Everything about this map is excellent, from the active floor line to the tastefully decorated ceilings to the rather savage traps. Really choice texture flow and a great-looking techbase all around.

The only sour note is provided by the music track – hardy-har-har! - which is intensely irritating with its skreeing high notes for us poor saps who play with headphones on! :D After a bit of this torture I IDMUSed to the wonderful track from Frozen Acid.

My 2 deaths both came at the Yellow Key Trap until I said, “Fuck it!” and hauled out the Plasma Gun to light those jagoffs up. I’ll have to try this from pistol sometime as I think it will be a snorting, roaring challenge for me. Well done!

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Slow going for me, haven't had much time to play recently. I'm still at it, though.

Map 31 -- Pillars of Creation - 102% Kills / 50% Secrets
Hmmm....I'm of two minds about this one. The setting here is weird as hell, and sure to be memorable for that reason. Initially, it's a dingy old graveyard (with some pretty naff-looking sector mounds) in a vastly oversized hillfort, which is apparently nestled between two huge volcanos, both of which happen to be in full eruption. Oh yeah, and there's a huge green spaceship floating in the sky above. Or something. The color palette is sort of similar to what we saw in 'Rotten Orange', but I don't think it works as well here--sort of soiled and messy in an unpleasant way--which is probably largely a function of the lack of lighting (it is outdoors, of course). There's also more mp3 music here, but whatever this track was it apparently utterly failed to make any kind of impression on me, as I don't seem to be able to remember anything about it as I write this; suffice to say that it must not have been as wacky as the map's forward-face. Despite the memorable scenery, though, I really don't think this part of the map plays very well. It's vast, flat, and sparsely-populated, and apart from the first arch-vile (who is kind of a dick, really, I'll give him that) there's not a whole lot going on, it's probably best to run around and trigger the first couple of progression points if you can, because you're stuck using the basic shotgun to slowly kill a lot of unthreatening mid-tier monsters otherwise. The SSG shows up with that first vile; distracting him while you dash for it so that you don't get fried is about the best this area has to offer.

The map does a 180 when you take the large teleporter on the rise, though--you end up in a stylized abyss amongst the titanic stone pillars upholding Creation (which Creation exactly, none can say), your task being to activate a few switches so you can escape. Easier said than done, though, as the area is chock-full of powerful demons who will be firing at you from dozens of different angles at any given time (the arachnatrons are particularly effective here)--that is, when they aren't blinking around between the platforms. To make matters worse, actually changing platforms requires a little bit of waiting and then a bit of zigzag catwalking (catrunning), although in truth falling down once is probably for the best, since it nets you the BFG. Anyway, there's so much shit flying around here that it's hard to completely avoid damage, so you'll need to make efficient use of the powerups here--interestingly, while the blur sphere is usually more of a help than a hindrance in this kind of situation, here the distance between yourself and whatever's firing at you will often be great enough that the unpredictability of the blind-shots' trajectories will be less taxing on the reflexes, and so using this artifact will tend to significantly reduce the amount of fire coming at you, at least for a little while. It's an interesting battle (moreso once the cyberdemon twins join in), to be sure.

So....the first half of the map kind of sucks, but the second half's pretty entertaining. Hard to call, really.

Edit: Oh yeah, that blue armor in the graveyard REALLY seemed like it was supposed to be secret, but I couldn't get it to trigger when I first found it (after lowering the platform the armor is on, I mean). Running around the map with IDCLIP to look at the scenery briefly before writing this, however, I did manage to trigger a secret sector on the wall near the armor, so there might be another bug to squash, there.

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MAP15: Floating World
81% kills, 4/11 secrets

Oh god my framerate... software ZDoom does not agree with this design. And we're back to the snow, for absolutely no reason at all.

That said, it is pretty good looking, though as Demon says, not quite as good as Arctic Heart IMO. Like that map though, it does have a few major areas (plus some platforming) so it's not too terribly hard to navigate. The blue keycard is basically lying out in the open, and the red keycard is at the end of an obvious path/ambush. Took me awhile to get to the yellow one, as the path here isn't quite as obvious (requires a blind jump or two) but I eventually figured the pathway out to the middle of nowhere (and that pentagram) had to be something important. I'm not a fan of the fight for the yellow key though, as it mainly just consists of running around in circles waiting for the wall to drop, and it's not even clear that's what you're waiting for (there's no "massively tall wall moving downwards" here, the wall just lowers after enough monsters teleport in and activate a voodoo doll trigger). Blargh. More happily, I was able to get the blue skullkey through some platforming and blundered upon the red skullkey, so the secret exit was mine. The secret exit is similar to the yellow keycard ambush though, just easier (run in circles and wait). I had a few issues with bugs, at one point I fell through a walkway and had to restart, at after grabbing the blue skullkey I was stuck inside the building because the trigger to lower the walkway is on the staircase.

So, overall, pretty, and impressive, but not exactly my cup of tea. But nice to see and play through now and then in mixture with other maps.

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Map 32 -- Green Madness - 105% Kills / 50% Secrets
Well, it certainly is very green, and at least moderately mad. This is a large open slaughter-sandbox set on a green island surrounded by greenmarble shrines, iridescent greensteel power nodes, and strange greenstone rock formations, all floating in a massive cataract-confluence of several greenpoison rivers. Some of the fulldark/fullbright lighting collages (e.g. the yellow card battle) are a little jarring, and I can't say I'm a huge fan of the tree sprites--that is to say, that they were even around in the first place cluttered up the visuals a bit, in my opinion; the sprite art itself was fine. Those niggles aside, though, I do find it to be another visually attractive map under Dragon Hunter's belt, though as has been said before I am personally quite inclined towards generous (even oversized) space/scale. The mp3 music was a nice complement to the action as well--at first it sounded like it might be one of those pompous, grim overtures that are popular in battle royale maps like this, but it shifted effectively into some nice, smooth, unobtrusive night-techno that went well with the freewheeling gameplay in short order.

Yes, 'freewheeling' is a good word for this, I think. Despite the 1,000+ monsters, for the most part this is really not a terribly hard map. Don't get me wrong, there are a couple of fights that can be pretty nasty, mainly the fight for the yellow skull on the distant park-island and the 'forest of pillars' fight (I died on my first attempt at the former and was nearly killed in the latter), but even these become a lot less formidable once one sees what powerups are around and what triggers are involved. Indeed, the map is positively lousy with ____spheres (including a few V-spheres), and there are a fair few combat armors and of course a shit-ton of ammo as well (thankfully not skewed entirely towards cells); this, combined with the fact that most battles afford a ton of room to run (although a couple invert this somewhat) means that the action, while bloody, is usually pretty manageable, at least for players accustomed to this general style of crowd-control play. It kind of reminded me of a lot of New Gothic (Movement 1) in that regard; yeah, there are scads and scads of caterwauling hellbastards to be fought, but so many powerups and resources are provided that you stand a pretty good chance of beating them if your fundamentals are sound, even if you make some big mistakes.

Incidentally, the fact that you can play the fights in any order you want is pretty nifty, and will probably do a lot for the map's overall accessibility. My favorites were the aforementioned pillar-forest fight (Whitemare II continues to excel at spiderdemon usage!), the point-blank brawl against assorted beasties on the tiny ruinous marble tower (first part of the red skull leg), and the cacoswarm that shows up at some point during the loooooooong catwalk section, this latter more for absurdity than anything (e.g. SSGing a caco and sending it hurtling clear to the other side of the vast map). One issue, which may actually be an intended speedrun trick (although it's a pretty oddly-placed one if so), is that the fight in the forest of pillars can be skipped entirely--it's supposed to lead you towards the blue skull, but you can just strafejump over to it from partway up the climb towards the yellow card platform.

All in all it's a pretty enjoyable map that makes a conscious effort to provide a lot of variety in its horde-based fights, and its relatively forgiving difficulty curve and winsome visual theme might help it appeal to those who don't usually truck with this style of gameplay.

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MAP16: Didn’t like this one that much. While the visuals were very pleasing I felt that combat was quite tame and boring, which is surprising since Shadowman won me over on MAP10’s frantic battles. I think the SSG should’ve been handed out sooner to make the grind through the cacos less dull but even then it just felt like there were too many beefy enemies and too much space, so I left a good three score to have the run of the place while I fled.

MAP17: Interesting map, reminded me of Hexen. The combat was super clunky but it gave the map a bit of a puzzle vibe for me, in the sense of “how the hell do I hit that damn spider all the way over there?”. I’m not a fan of all the monster pop up at the end (the cacos above you that come down felt like a dick move), but it was at least enjoyable in some sense for me.

MAP18: Didn’t enjoy this one either. Way too much pressure off the bat that doesn’t let up, and while it’s usually welcomed in pistol starts, struggling to navigate the environment was a hinderance that soured my experience. I wound up save spamming to avoid being sent so far back if I accidentally jumped down the wrong ledge, and played it largely pacifist since it seemed like such a hassle to clean up the dozens of monsters sniping at me from afar. Also, please no more distant chaingunners :(

MAP19: Another map that didn’t gel with me. It had one trick it used half a dozen times (rev horde and AV) and it wasn’t entertaining with them warping everywhere. Neat setting, but again the gameplay left me wanting.

May not stick around if the next couple maps don’t move me, as the longer the maps get the more I feel I should spend my time playing something I know I'll enjoy.

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MAP16 Mystery Island

And Shadowman is back with this relatively less offensive outing. Guess it's a good breather after MAP15 (or MAP32!) It's probably the easiest Shadowman map I've played too, excepting a few introductory maps from his "Hellfire" saga. I did add two bots who just ran around the water at the start and nothing else, although one of them killed a caco once I grabbed the blue key. Shadowman has us in a linear climb until reaching a temple, then a few hedge mazes before the blue key. Interesting progression by climbing up to the ledges that couldn't be reached earlier. Most of the monsters were cacodemons or small fodder that I used only the chaingun and chainsaw (not forgetting infighting) making things pretty easy. Hedge maze wasn't bad except for spectres cornering me. Behind the blue door, it seems as though I've stumbled into some Egyptian-like textures. I thought we were done with Epic 2 lol.

Anyways, the most interesting fights were the teleporter ambushes obviously, with the one in the garden and the one in the temple being the most interesting of the bunches. Nothing is too tough with utilizing infighting at the right moments though. I guess the archie in the final ambush (who was outside the temple) resurrected a lot of enemies though, because I was too busy inside! Oh well, it's a fun and easy map. Probably my main complaint was a right-click failure with my mouse sometimes. -_-

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Map 16 -- Mystery Island - 109% Kills / No secrets
If the last map was a free-for-all, this is more of an endurance match. Not that it's particularly long, mind, it's just that the action is a bit on the survival/attrition-oriented side. Assuming that you fight monsters as you encounter them, the ration of ammo provided for the first half of the map or so is pretty tight, or at least it feels that way--I don't think it's actually as tight as the balance in map 09, but since you don't have the plasma rifle handed to you at the outset in this (indeed, you only use shotgun/chaingun for quite a while) the relatively limited number of shells/bullets you have access to always has you fretting over the next big chunk of demon HP. At one point I released a cacoswarm while messing around in that hedgerow area on the western part of the island, and I really didn't have the ammo to actually kill them, and so they ended up chasing me all around for the next several minutes while I made progress towards the rocket launcher, including during/through the first teleporting assault force; finally killing them was the turning point in the map, and so I'd say they are really the most memorable encounter here for me. Oddly, once you hit a certain point the balance almost instantly gets a lot more lenient (maybe even too lenient); after the red skull/SSG/megasphere cornucopia, you are suddenly drastically overpowered for the rest of the map, even when the viles start appearing all around the temple grounds while you're inside. I think the shift here is a little clumsy, but it is kinda interesting to play a map where you spend most of it having to show a lot of respect to low/mid-tier demons, and then the last part of it crushing more powerful foes like helpless insects.

Map 17 -- Abyss of Death - 98% Kills / 75% Secrets
A mixed bag, not unlike BigMemka's previous offering. The general setting here is cool, with that same Hexen track (from Darkmere, or maybe Shadow Wood now that I think about it) that I seem to like more every time I hear it. The outdoor areas are for the most part very easy on the eyes, with tastefully-shaped natural terrain, a pleasing sense of scale, and a very cool skybox--nice to see he hunted down something different, instead of just relying on Doom's classic E4 sky (which probably would've worked well enough for the intended atmosphere, granted). The visuals start falling apart a little bit as one makes it farther into the map, however--some of the texture transitions in that green cave before the blue door are god-awful, and the indoor area behind that door suffers from some pretty garish texture combinations and some strange alignment choices, as well. To some extent this was a problem that BigMemka's first map also had (incidentally, the outdoor areas were the most attractive there, as well); he seems to feel obligated to use a whole bunch of different textures together on/in his buildings, and the result is often a somewhat messy-looking presentation, even though the structures themselves are generally clean enough.

There are aspects of the gameplay I appreciate--I like how dangerous it is to make it through the killzone of the first bridge, which requires some kamikaze play since you just have shotgun/chaingun and not much health to fall back on, and it seemed clever that the best way to deal with the ambush on the cliffs just beyond the red skullkey is to leap into the chasm, take the teleporter, and thus soundly flank your attackers in a matter of seconds--but it is perhaps too reliant on a certain type of setup. This is a map where, given the environment, very conservative play is often the only real choice; in a sense it seems like a lot of the fights don't just give you the option to exploit them, but seem to be designed with the exploits as the 'correct' solution, which makes the action feel more artificial than it otherwise might.

More crucially, though, the map seems to be broken. On my initial play with Eternity, I found that the easternmost red door cannot be opened from the outside; a trigger line or something on the door threshold (perhaps the one that springs the teleporting viles & co. ambush) seems to eat all of the 'use' keypresses. Unfortunately, this error persists in PrBooM-plus, although it probably works in ZDooM. There also seems to be at least one broken monster teleport, and I found that while looking out of the torch-lined windows in the building behind the blue door back towards the starting cliffs, a strange gray null texture is visible in the sky at one point, a type of error I've seen in other games but have only encountered rarely in Doom.

Map 18 -- City on the Edge - 80% Kills / 100% Secrets
Heh, this map is kind of a bastard. It seems to be very much in the spirit of 'Caverns of the Damned' from earlier in the mapset; that is, something of a linear slalom through a monster-filled obstacle course of sorts. Even the setting is kind of similar--here, it's a dusty autumnal canyon system (the titular city only shows up in the most perfunctory way at the very end) flooded with lava, as opposed to the series of lava-filled ice caves from map 04. Again, the map hardly seems designed for maxkills, although it may be possible here with very careful ammo rationing and religious use of the secret berserk pack; myself, I ended up leaving a lot of monsters behind, esp. the SSG barons and many of the mancubi and arachnatrons on ledges. I don't feel too bad about it, though....the map is pretty good about imparting a certain sense of cinema to the proceedings; that is, you don't feel like you're leaving enemies behind simply because killing them would be impractical, but rather because you're always under pressure, and that you need to keep moving or meet a quick death. This works well given that the layout is essentially a racetrack in design, replete with lots of little jumps, climbs, and other undulations that require you to maintain speed in order to keep moving forward. In that sense, navigation is the real core focus of this map, not combat per se, which is something I'm quite at ease with in small doses. I was tempted to leave the spider mastermind at the end behind as well, but for my honor I used the tiny amount of cover available to ultimately trick him into firing at a distant hell knight on a cliff while I gave him a plasma enema with my remaining cell ammo; there was no other practical way for me to kill him without being killed myself, and so again, I salute Whitemare II for continuing to make good use of the much-maligned spiderdemon.

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MAP17 Abyss of Death

Okay, I did a run of this earlier, but lost my nerve because my mouse buttons wouldn't work properly and I replaced it.

I'll just say this bluntly. I hate Herian's monster placement. What does Herian have to do with this? Well, the monster placement there has a lot of sniper monsters, like chaingunners and arachnotrons, in very far away places I know I won't reach in the next few minutes of the map. Unfortunately this map has pretty much those same placements. Also, it has HUGE height variation, which here isn't a good thing. The canyon's TOO deep, and there are cacos and lost souls there who take forever to get up. Not only that, but all four secrets involve a dumb luck drop of sorts onto some platforms, then lava walk into a teleporter. It's almost like a lost level of Herian in that regard. Big Memka, I hoped that it would've been better X_X.

So yeah, I'm getting sniped at whilst crossing bridges in basically another linear map that proves long because of the snipers. The chaingunners and arachnotrons in particular, plus the revenants in the large building, piss me off the most. And of course those flying monsters are too slow. MAP17 also has pop-up monsters, not a fan of them since they're always in front of me. The inside of the large building shows some promise with a few spectres from both sides. I lured them across the bridge and lo, they can't get to the other rocky end due to a monster blocking line. Things aren't too tense then on, although there were a few surprise cacos in a higher-up cave. The tensest moment occurs right after the red door, where ambushes from the fore, the back, and the far away occur. I had to focus on two archviles, but also stay on the higher floor as well. Once all the enemies on the higher floor are dead, I let the other monsters just kill each other. You're gonna have to wait to get 100% kills here. A very bad Herian-like adventure I wouldn't wanna play again.

MAP18 City on The Edge

A.L.T. MAP21 was by ChaingunPredator too, that's actually not a bad map. This on the other hand...

Was this map even playtested at all? There's barely any supplies to stock up whilst baddies chip away at me right from the get go. Even if I start running for more there's barely enough to satisfy the needs that I desire. There's a berserk secret, but it won't help much due to almost every monster being on ledges far, far away. Like MAP17, there's that Herian-like monster placement of sniper enemies in places very far out of reach. Especially the arachnotrons and mancubi, heck one of them is completely out of reach, meaning I can't shoot him and he can't shoot me either. The flow is "climb the rocks" and is actually surprisingly linear, but the visuals are just brown, gray, vines, and lava all over which is just incredibly dull and ugly. Yeah, I think this map is probably the worst now. The author tries to save the bad visuals with the "city in the lava" thing as well as the cemetary at the end, but I just can't unsee this brown all over. The music is also obnoxiously loud that I can't really hear what's going on around me.

Usually when sniping monsters, I tend to use only the rocket launcher or the chaingun depending on the monster, and I also use autoaim. But the latter fails me, and when it doesn't, my rocket doesn't hit the target. Given the low amount of ammo, I was struggling and had to ignore them. I found out the biggest source of ammo in the map to be a wooden area near the cemetary, that there's only one way to reach, by getting out the cemetary and looping back around hopping a post on your way there. I didn't find it to be much worth given I ran past the enemies attacking me there (there's a really nasty archvile somewhere inside the cemetary). So even the cemetary wasn't fun, again with Herian-like snipers and a number of monsters in all directions when I can't even find decent supplies. I don't even remember seeing a spiderdemon as I just ran to the exit. ChaingunPredator did have extra player starts at least, but with only one bot distracting a few imps from attacking me, what was his use? :D

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Gonna skip the secret maps for now while I catch up, been doing pistol starts anyways so no biggie.

MAP16: Mystery Island
55% kills, no secrets

The overall aesthetic is pretty nice, a simple rocky coast hiding some greenery and a monster temple. And I like the layout design of having the player continue to advance by moving across cliffs he couldn't access before.

Which is unfortunate, since the gameplay is otherwise quite poor and frustrating. Right off the bat, we've got the "monsters insta-pop from solid ground" mechanic, which I absolutely hate, and becomes downright insidious later in the map when it's used with hitscanners. The main problem, though, is the lack of weaponry provided to the player - I had faced two revenants, 10 cacodemons, a few hell knights, a few demons and a bunch of imps/zombies and still only had the regular shotgun and a chaingun to show for it. Sorry, but if you're going throw huge swarms of cacos, revenants and hell knights at me, give me the goddamn SSG! At this point I got frustrated and started just running through the level, finally picking up the SSG by the red key, but at that point I had so many monsters running around the island that fighting was no longer an option, so just continued to sprint ahead and blast my way through with the plasma gun. Boo.

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MAP14: The Pillar and the Pit

Loved it. This probably hits my sweet spot for size/difficulty of a map in a megawad: not too big, not too small, not too hard, but not a cakewalk either. I don't mind other styles of map, but I like the majority of a megawad to fall into this zone.

MAP15: Floating World

Another solid entry. Maybe a little sprawling for its own good (where do I go next?) especially given that I was unable to zoom in/out on the automap for whatever reason (at least in GZDoom.) That fight in demon-town was intense, but thankfully never quite reached punch-your-keyboard levels of frustration (though it was a close thing.) The secret exit wasn't too difficult to find, especially as I found most of the skull keys before the normal keys. That final archvile by the exit was a kick in the teeth, though; I kept getting caught on those obnoxious projections on the corridor walls and roasted as a result.

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Map16 - “Mystery Island" by Shadowman

I enjoyed this, the music really helps create the atmosphere of a creepy island. Starts off quite sandboxy with a large open layout to forage for ammo in. My only complaint is that there is a lot of meat to grind through before you even get the chaingun, plinking away at cacos and hellknights with shotgun is fine in small doses but maybe an earlier rocket launcher with limited ammo would have spiced things up a bit. Some of the rock textures didn't join up very well, but on the whole it was nicely laid out and looked pretty cool.

Map17 - “Abyss of Death" by BigMemka

Nice theme to this map, skirting around a cliff edge next to what looks like a bottomless ravine. There's a fair amount of distant hitscan sniping to contend with, not too bad though. I found the best way to deal with the first almighty snipe-fest at the bridge was to just run across it and fight your way to some cover, then clear it out at your leisure. I enjoyed the visuals and most of the fighting, though the archvile finale was to much to deal with for me as I was on low health, seems you can just escape to the exit anyway so I left some monsters behind. I appreciated that the abyss of death was not quite as deadly as the one in map 12.

Map18 - “City on the Edge" by Chaingun Predator

heh, at first i thought this was one of those "in at the deep end" kind of maps, but its more like a race to find the finish before the bullets catch up with you. There may be enough ammo to kill everything, I couldn't say for sure though as stopping to fight any monster results in death. As does stopping for anything else. Just keep running and dodging and mountain-goating your way over rocks and pillars. Falling down isn't deadly, but its usually quicker to die if you do. So, a hectic bullet-dodging gauntlet-running trial-and-error memory test. But its hard not to like it when its so action packed and looks this nice. Not a map that encourages fighting or forgives mistakes that's for sure.

Map19 - “April" by Marat

Ugly map, glitchty design and a bugged door that wouldn't open, back and forth switch hunt gameplay and fights that i ended up circling around mostly. One bit I did like was the snow melting into the muddy floor. But otherwise not my favourite so far.

Map20 - “Gloominarch's Realm" by Arsenikum & BigMemka

Fuck this map. The warning signal was the switch on the inside rim of the coffin near the start, which I had to find in doom builder. I feel bad slagging off a map that someone has clearly spent some time on, but it seems to be so full of bullshit gameplay and bad design choices that it is unplayable for me. The point where I went into god mode was trying to climb up some microscopic intestine steps for the millionth time with damaging/slowing floors and monsters shooting at me. Slowing floors are the worst fucking idea in a doom map, sorry. Then I heard a monster spawner... in a map with over a thousand monsters? So i blasted my way through a series of rooms that I'd have no chance surviving if not invincible, trying to figure out what the hell I'm meant to do while the whole place is filling up with pain elementals and lost souls. After getting lost in various rooms of bullshit I stumbled into a teleporter that transported me into a pitch black zone with no automap lines, and at that point I couldn't be bothered to play this map any more.

I can see that the map makers know how to build maps that look cool, but from the little I saw of the gameplay its a mess. Oh yeah, and what the hell is going on with the alignment of this cross?

Map21 - “Fires of Darkness" by Kashtanka

A tricky map, firstly because of the precarious and exposed start, teetering on a pillar surrounded by angry monsters, and secondly due to the dark section. This is black to the point where you can't see the enemies, and the area is littered with trees that you constantly bump into trying to escape missiles. I'm not really a fan of gameplay that increases difficulty by hampering visibility and navigation, but its not too bad here. Saying that, I wasn't in the mood to hang around killing everything once i stumbled on the exit switch.

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MAP17: Abyss of Death
95% kills, 1/4 secrets

Somewhat similar in theme but not quite the same as the last one, good placement here. Also like the last map, the start is a bit of a pain due to not having the required weaponry, but this is more due to the snipers than just being a meat grinder. Unfortunately, dealing with the snipers is hard because there's very little bullet ammo through the map, and the rocket launcher doesn't come until later (and you'll need it for the finale). I did appreciate that most of the ambushes were good old fashioned monster closets or teleporters, but then there's a bit with insta-pop monsters, just because. The blue key building was quite difficult with most of the baddies on a height above you, but pulling the spectres out of the way first makes it manageable. The final battle is a good one (with the arch-viles behind you and hell knights ahead of you) but the two arachnatrons at the end were a bit of an anti-climax.

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MAP19 April

Imma disagree with others and say this was actually a fun map. The visuals here are pretty much the same but the gameplay is quite fun. Maybe I just enjoy running around having enemies try to attack you only for them to infight. I just ran around pressing switches (which were hiding in corners, buildings, etc.) Only really killing archviles since they like to spoil the actual fun. I notice that enemies are often teleporting to other sections of the map to intercept me, but again, since I'm fast and letting everyone out, they end up hitting each other. This map is a real fresh sense of actual spring indeed. Didn't have any technical issues with the map either.

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