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dobu gabu maru

The DWmegawad Club plays: Stomper

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Map 18 -- Assault - 100% Kills / 100% Secrets
Kind of reminds me of map 16 in some ways--vertically inclined, classic Doom II city texture theme, pretty easy gameplay, etc.--but I think this map's more satisfying than that one was, something I'm inclined to attribute to the way it regularly reuses space both for level progression and for combat, making the whole experience feel more substantial. The central open space is naturally the focal point of the progression; I liked the two-level keycard megapillar in the center of the yard, and also the way the periphery of the area is traversed at different heights during different phases of play (including entering it from a subterranean area upon first approaching it). NMN (you can tell this is one of his maps again) did a good job remembering to repopulate the major areas with monsters at various points during the progression (after getting each key, etc); naturally we see some attacks by flying monsters and assorted riffraff on the different periphery levels at each juncture (including a surprising pain elemental trio), but interestingly, most of the real opposition has a way of showing up in the behind-the-scenes access corridors that lead up to the higher levels. Some might see this as an odd design choice--a big brawl (or a number of them) in the large open area would certainly seem the most intuitive and most cinematic course, after all--but I actually kind of like it, it plays against expectations in the right way and at the right time in a mapset that has been largely defined by one particular style of action, at least for most of its 'middle episode' (map 10-ish to map 20-ish). Incidentally, the hitscan bombardment that defined many of the past levels is not nearly as pronounced here (though you do have occasional perched chaingun snipers and the like); there's a marked shift towards mid-tier monsters like hell knights, revenants, and cacos, especially in the various repopulation waves. Again, a well-timed changeup.

Aesthetically, it doesn't look like this is going to need as much spitshine as many of the other maps thus far--there are some somewhat odd-looking cutoffs here and there (e.g. the brown stairs that begin the ascending path towards the upper periphery of the main yard) and some questionable alignment on the bends/angles in the hallway leading into the room with the two roughly L-shaped platforms, but for the most part it seemed pretty neat/clean to me in terms of concourse, the only definite error I saw being that the undersides of the flashing tech panel strips above the opening leading into the grey stone room are untextured, meaning that their facades appear atom-thin from that angle. Other than that, some design choices seem a little odd to me--fluorescent light strips pasted directly onto a dirt wall in the first corridor off of the start room, a somewhat thing-bare aspect to the main yard (I think it could do with some marine corpses and gore laying around or something), but I guess these are largely matters of taste rather than real errors. Oh, secrets in this map go back to the pushwall-heavy style of the early maps in the WAD, but barring one obvious exception most of these are visually telegraphed either very subtly or not at all, so one needs to start applying oldschool 2D FPS secret-logic, checking the backs of cubbies that have walls of about the right size for a secret door, etc......or, one could just press Tab. Once again, essentially every secret shows on the automap.

Anyway, solid map, despite some presentational foibles.

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Map 19 -- Blacktown Powerplant - 100% Kills / 100% Secrets
For E2's stand-in conclusion (what with map 20 being absent and all), we get this, a very well-disguised keyspoke map with a straightforward exploration flavor, and a couple of important setpiece battles. Like map 18 before it, this one looks pretty sharp as far as concourse is concerned--just a few relatively subtle instances of plaster paneling textures being cut off sloppily over stretches of bending hallways early in the map, and some poor alignments on staircases in and choice of texture used over the entrance threshold to the yellow key room, as far as I saw. The main area of the map, featuring the protracted quest for the red keycard prissily perched at the very center of everything, is actually rather attractive, I think--it's a more modern take on the classic 'old city' theme we saw in map 14 (some players might also choose to see something of a Mordeth influence), lots of smoothly-blended beige mortar/plaster village-scape accented with lots of firesticks and techlamps and some manicured greenery, with some understated but tasteful lighting choices. A couple of the side areas (the player's start room, the yellow key room, the weird 'arachnatron lecture hall' room to the northwest off the central square, etc.) and the titular powerplant area to the north, by contrast, tend to look quite a bit more flat and basic in comparison, something I would attribute to an extreme scarcity of any lighting variation or effects in these areas.

The action starts off fairly slowly and steadily escalates to a smooth trot-along pace by the time the player is delving into some of the more populous side areas off of the central yard. Ammo was hardly scarce (not really a surprise at this point in the WAD, of course), but it seemed to be paced out in somewhat of a more measured way than in many past maps--there's a lot of it if we look at total amounts, but rather than there being big oversized caches of it in random rooms and corners as in many previous maps, it's scattered around as single boxes/cases all over the map, so I felt like I was picking it up at about the same rate I was spending it for much of the runtime (still ended up with a glut by the end, though, particularly of rockets, of all things)--so while ammo conservation wasn't really a thing here, at least I didn't feel like the game was coddling me.

As aforementioned, there's a simple nonlinearity/exploratory aspect to the main area of the map: the red key needed to access the powerplant itself is kept out of reach by a whimsical multilayered security device that requires the use of three switches to fully deactivate--one of these is reachable initially, and reaching the others requires the use of the blue and yellow keys to forge a path towards them through the deceptively complex central structure (this is what I mean when I say the area is a well-disguised keyspoke), said keys obtainable in any order by exploring the many side areas off of the central square. Most of the combat is purely incidental, continuing to feature mid-tier monsters fairly consistently, but upon finally reaching the key a fairly sizable contingent of chaingunners and mid-tier demons teleports into the area; given the relative complexity of the central structure (many pathways into and through it, etc.), this is probably the most enjoyable combat encounter in the map (I personally feel that there should be a higher number of monsters involved, and that a higher proportion of them should be shotgunners/chaingunners). The other notable encounter is the bizarre rotating floor battle in the powerplant to the north....due to the way Doom's physics work this isn't as complicated as a similar scenario might be in Duke3D or the like, for the most part it's a straightforward arena battle with slightly altered dodging mechanics. I wasn't very impressed by this, to be honest, but perhaps it would've been more palatable if I hadn't been preoccupied with the relative ugliness of the room--this whole northern area and especially this battle room are really crying out for some more interesting lighting (I'm thinking of flashing/strobing effects and stark contrasts), and probably much heavier usage of Stomper's custom textures, since the stock Doom II scheme here really doesn't do the theme justice.

Progression exploit/bug: All three of the switches needed to access the red key can be activated from the ground below their platforms, making about half of the map easily skippable. Additionally, lowering the metal post with the red key on it can be unintuitively difficult, since it only lowers if one 'uses' a particular face of it, which is visually identical to the other faces. Also saw one more instance of ugly texture alignment on the fluted wood trim on the tight stairway leading into the arachnatron conference room.

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MAP18 Assault (Here Lived The Damned)

Well, now this one is pretty short and easy with only 52 monsters on HMP (less than 100 Magnusblitz got?). I probably should be playing on UV now. This map seems to be some type of merry-go-round where I get the blue key, go around again, get red key, go around again. Of course the monsters want some fun, but other than that annoying pain elemental they were quite a sinch. A lot of monsters were on UV, including two archies at the exit. For HMP, try to make some UV monsters be in HMP as well, at least one of those archies in the exit could have been on HMP for example, the cacodemon on top of the tower and some revenants in the spiral staircase to the north could also be on HMP.

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Map16 - “The Bastion”

Very sandboxy map, I ended up at the exit with only about 2 thirds of the monsters killed. Its cool having so much optional stuff to explore, though the scenery didn't really inspire exploration and the fights were largely nonthreatening - dunno how much that is due to playing continuously, I imagine there is more incentive to look everywhere when you are hunting for decent weapons. But yeah, the surroundings are kind of plain and boxy, and texturing feels a bit slapdash. There was a teleporter for a monster ambush that had a cacodemon stuck on it, think it might be too close to a wall.

Map17 - “Outer Power Plant”

This turned into quite the labyrinth, fun though, maybe a bit switch-hunty at times. One thing I like about a lot of these maps is how big everything is, it makes you run everywhere which adds to the fast pace of the gameplay. The navigation is quite wacky in this map, taking you all over the place through strangely shaped rooms with arbitrary stairs, it all comes together pretty well though. I got lost a few times, and there is a feeling of backtracking through the ghost town towards the end, but with something so non-linear that will always be the case. Oh yeah, I appreciated the nice simple cyber fights too.

Map18 - “Assault”

Nice straightforward map after all the sprawlathons, the final room gave me a bit of trouble until i stopped playing like rambo and methodically picked everything off with chaingun. Nothing memorable but no complaints either.

Map19 - “Blacktown Powerplant”

heh, this is a map which didn't know when to end, I thought the red key fight was the finale but it kept going and going. I'm always a fan of the doughnut layout, works well here - although the switches to lower the platforms around the red key can be switched from the ground, which bypasses stuff. It doesn't matter how high switches are, if you are close enough to the linedef you can still activate them. And so, onwards to the final battle, and fucking hell that made me laugh out loud when the monsters came flying into the arena. That is hilarious. I toyed with the idea of circular scrolling floor myself and dismissed it as being probably annoying, but its not so bad as an isolated event here. Enjoyable map.

Wow I caught up..

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MAP19 Blacktown Powerplant (The Drunk Mastermind)

Interesting level, although once again a massive chunk of monsters seemed to be missing on HMP. Perhaps I SHOULD play UV, but I guess I'm testing for HMP to see what monsters could be on UV. After some opening I went into the hub which is quite nice, with the red key in the middle. A lot of optional areas are in here. There's a puzzle involved for the key however, and I need two other keys plus some knowledge of switches to reach it. Wasn't too hard, but I was quite unprepared for the double-sided ambush that came right after the red key grab. With it grabbed though, a secret in one optional area opened with an invulnerability, but I was too late to use it, and so didn't find a beneficial use for it as I went northward towards the exit. This is where design gets real good though, and the final battle is a washing machine style fight with imps on the sidelines and other monsters riding the ride with me. Quite fun and less difficult than the red key battle. I liked this battle and wished more were like it! Cool level, but it could be better suited on HMP. All the enemies in that southwestern vista could be on HMP (I only found three on that difficulty), the hellknight on the first elevator could be tagged for UV, the map's only arachnotron can be on HMP too. Try to find some encounters that could be suitable for HMP because it seemed quite easy on that difficulty right now.

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One more issue I just noticed in map 19: The small 3D bridge on the western side of the central red keycard area displays HOM effects under/around it if you look towards it from any kind of elevated vantage, ala through the small upstairs windows on the other side of the central structure.

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MAP19: Blacktown Powerplant
90% kills, 1/4 secret

Lots of beige and brown city textures here, but for the most part this is the facade before the titular power plant. Combat is pretty easy, I actually started getting lazy and taking stupid damage while grabbing the blue and yellow keys. Then when it's time to reach the red key (possible HOMs on that by the way, depending on what order you hit the switches in) the map finally shows some teeth, unleashing tons of mid-range enemies all around the central plaza. I fought for a bit, then decided to just run. The map even seems to call for this in a bit, since it allows the player to close the bars behind them, locking the monsters away.

Then begins the journey into the actual powerplant... while I liked some aspects of it (the texture used for the spinning part with the blue lights on it kinda makes it look like a spinning lighting effect), I agree that it's a bit underwhelming/flat looking, and definitely not as impressive as the power plant in MAP17, for example. It also feels a bit tacked-on, as the map definitely feels like it would end shortly after the red door (and a lot of the combat here is anti-climatic).

So, apparently MAP20 is supposed to be killing my evil father, eh...

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MAP15:
I had so much trouble getting into this one, I was immediately killed off a half dozen times before I gained any traction. BUT, once I got a foothold, this map was an absolute blast. Yep, lots of visual glitches (including some bad HOMs) and a monster closet problem (I had 6 dudes never teleport in) but the freewheeling always-on-the-run sandboxy gameplay was great. Fun fact: I found the secret exit first. Saved and then went back to get the normal exit and was taken surprise by the final wave of baddies. Good stuff.

MAP31:
Eh. Probably the first map in Stomper that I don't really care for. I mean, it's okay, but... Eh. I'll give myself a pat on the back for finding the secret exit all by myself, though I have to confess I used IDDT to see if there even was a secret exit, and where it was. (It was where I guessed it would be.) Too bad the secret exit itself is so busted, visually. On the plus side, I liked the music: it starts out sounding like Hexen, then turns into something completely different.

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MAP21 Chambers of Torment (Stand by Your Friend)

A pretty okay start to Episode 4. The hitscanners are stepping up their game quite a bit, but it's still not much. The generally open areas are really easy to get through projectile monsters without much intrusion. The 3d bridges contribute to the layout being quite confusing though, at least until I found the first key. Two standout areas, the prison block is the first one where I let out the monsters (while others are sniping through the windows) to get the yellow key. The other area would be the two exit rooms, which open up with quite a bang from chaingunners and their ground-floor meat shields. Firing a shot in this room caused everyone else to be alerted as well. Behind that room was the actual exit, again firing a shot caused some guys to pop out while I tried killing the arachnotron. Pretty neat. I found an invulnerability in a secret but didn't use it at all. HMP once again could stand to have more monsters. A few misalignments near the zombieman pens in the beginning, plus a few odd design choices. Towards the east, there's these indicators 2F, 1F, and B1. Plus there's what appears to be a sideways "T" in the room before that. Are they necessary or have any meaning?

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Map21 - “Chambers of Torment”

I made the mistake of playing map 32 directly after this one before making any notes, and now I can't remember hardly anything about it. It certainly wasn't bad though, I have a memory of feeling a bit lost in the circuitous layout at times, despite the attempts to add some landmarks, it all blended together a bit. But i had fun, I especially enjoyed the option of grabbing an invul sphere and just tearing through aggroing a ton of monsters (not sure if there was a specific reason it was there, but what the hell).

Map32 - “Ezxzentiel”

I missed this one the other day because I couldn't find the super secret exit and was a bit behind anyway. Its a cool map, though rather meandering. The layout isn't too over complicated, but the journey through it is a bit convoluted by a sequence of switch hunts that take a bit of sleuthing to understand what the switches are actually doing, and again I was tearing through it without paying much attention and ended up totally lost of purpose. My rambo boner was also destroyed somewhat when I realised there isn't really enough health around to play recklessly, and ended up crawling on my knees with low health and saves at one point. But I made it in the end. Good stuff.

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MAP21: Chambers of Torment
99% kills, 2/4 secrets

Despite being the start of "episode 4", which turns increasingly hellish as it progresses, this is a metallic techbase which would feel more at home in episode 2. With the jail cells, I suppose this could be some sort of biological experimentation setup, but doesn't seem to be a lot of chambers of torment around here. Lots of criss-crossing boxy hallways, with 3D bridges to keep the layout interesting. Can be a bit hard to get around at times, but thankfully the hallways are always straight so looking at the minimap and thinking "ok, this hallway goes here" solves the problem. Basically a big exploration for the yellow key, which opens up the blue key as well as a few weapon caches. Combat returns to being light, which is a bit of a letdown (I'm assuming there's no forced death exit intended between maps 20 and 21). The last room in particular is really crying for a cyberdemon or something, but nope, just some zombies and imps and an arachnatron. Meh.

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I had this draft left when I got bit busy back then. Time to start catching up...

Map 31
Visually doesn't strike me much, and monster count is what it is. Few low-tier monsters and mostly mid-tier ones, but it did chew through my megasphere which I picked it up in previous map.

Map 32
Can't be really sure what to think of this map. Layout goes sometimes from straight path into siderooms with ammo, possibly into new weapon and monsters too. As for the looks... I can't put a proper adjective to this map.

This level has some nasty surprises in the bag. Like pit that drops more than 24 units, and from the front, door opens and reveals arachnotron. Hopefully it doesn't start firing on you immediately.

Mostly, difficulty comes from health droplets from all around, making me scavenge map few times around, in hopes to get stimpack or two to get health above 30 or so.

Interesting map, it's all I have to say.

Map 16
More about industrial zone feeling, given by those towering buildings around. Initial area has few ways to go, but eventually, all leads to yellow doors, to presumed bastion.

This didn't left me much impression what comes for gameplay. Mostly, pitiful amount of enemies here and there. That's all that was left on my mind.

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Map22 - “Castle Crossack”

After seeing the map name I was a bit disappointed that it wasn't a medieval setting. Think I'm starting to get the techbase fatigue now, feels a bit weird to still be techbasing this late in the wad, but I guess there is a story going on that i've been ignoring. Its a decent map, feels larger and more complicated than it really is. I had the usual hassle of finding health rather hard to come by for ages and then all over the place later on. One of the things I like about these maps is that the gameplay feels quite fast and loose, but then the health doesn't really support playing recklessly so I end up struggling a bit. Well, thats my fault really. Anyway, the map... yeah its cool, more of the same kind of stuff, nothing massively wrong with it other than the slightly bland visuals. I think this will end up being my overall summation of the whole wad eventually.

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MAP22 Castle Crossack (Intruder Alert!!)

This is definitely one of the more fun levels in the set, I'll start with that. I was expecting to storm the fortresses here, after killing the opening crew, and what I find is...another UAC base? Complete with the UAC logo as some sort of wall decoration. How cute. Although not what I expected from a level with "Castle" in the title, I'm not gonna bitch about it. The map is very nicely interconnected, especially with a cool hub connecting to key doors and ways out of the nukage. The outdoor areas in this map where much more comfortable than what's inside, allowing me to mainly let the monsters infight at my will. Inside areas were chock full of chaingunner at most points and a lot of waiting for flying enemies to come down. The blue key trap was quite good, as was the Wolfenstein-y trap behind the blue door. Actually, there's a problem with this area, because if you missed the red key like I did and jumped down to the northern outdoor section, you can't get out. I'd suggest making linedef 1210 a regular door and not a red one (this probably means that the door won't be a D1, but that's okay.) The northern outdoor section was lots of fun though, as was the series of square rooms behind the red door over there. Having a monster open up a large swath of rooms certainly caught me by surprise, and was quite the fun.

Overall, I enjoyed this level a lot, even though the UAC base theme was unexpected for this castle level. Combat felt much more like HMP should for a level this far in the set. Just fix the red key scenario and that'll make me happy.

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Map 17
Quite intimidating map, especially the layout. Numerous hallways, facilities, pumps and pools, this is one helluva maze to go through, but it doesn't take long to get used to this map. I do dig the aesthetics of the map, various control stations, and the reactor area... More than passable through my eyes.

Now, the map isn't holding much your hand, giving very few medkits, and if you happen to get buckshots or decide to tank hell knight projectiles, you better be light on your foot. I had some troubles with cyberdemon fight at the blue key, due to having health reduced to single digit, thanks to some bullshit provided by revenants on that cliff. Thank goodness those stairs weren't damaging, otherwise I wouldn't make it.

Regarding damaging floors, are some meant to be harmless or what? Like that area with rising nukage fountains, there's steps to move across the nukage, but it doesn't damage you. Oversight?

Found 2 out of 3 secrets. But there's lot of stuff that's mystery for me. Seems like there were more secrets than those three... (Obvious one was that plasma gun.)

Map 18
123 enemies. I got impression that the map is supposed to be somewhat standard Doom trip. Why the hell this map was difficult for me? I guess I am growing too old already...

Layout is dull simple, proceed, hit switch to get platform up, grab key, next platform, hit switch, grab key, proceed to exit after hitting switch. All too simple.

As for the layout, it didn't left me much impressed. Standard city textures, nothing memorable for me.

Except the humiliation I did for myself.

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MAP22: Castle Cossack
97% kills, 5/5 secrets

Another oddly-named map here, as the interior is largely techbase, even with lots of UAC detailing (such as a huge UAC sculpture, and a UAC embossed floor). To be fair, the outside layout is sorta castle-ish, with moats, walls, etc, but... yeah, ok, this isn't a castle.

Combat is still easy-peasy, for the most part, though there's a couple of interesting areas, such as the blue key ambush or the large false-wall setup by the red switch. Still, I'm definitely finding myself hankering for something more than just chaingunning zombies and imps for most of the map. As mouldy says, this map feels like it'll probably make for a good summation of the whole WAD - decent layouts, underwhelming difficulty, bland visuals, some good points but overall feels kinda bleh, especially stretched out over a megawad.

Oh, and the secrets were pretty silly this time too... three of them are in plain view, one is just behind a corner and the last one is just going around another corner nearby. Not exactly "secret" by any means.

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Warning! Very long post incoming! Apologies for being, like, a week behind you lot, but... well... I got lazy. So here's me catching up once again...

MAP09: Flow Control 96% kills, 83% secrets
I love non-linear maps, though I did get a bit lost in this one - but it was my fault for missing an obvious door. I can be real stupid sometimes! If I were the author, I wouldn't be using those slow rising/lowering lifts around the edge of the map just outside the main 'flow control' room, as they ended up slowing things down if I needed to go back through there. I had some trouble with the 'door room' in the south-west area preventing me from getting 100% kills, and I think there was a secret that I missed in there too. None of the doors would open no matter what I did. I flipped that switch probably twenty times and still nothing - might want to look into that. I am using ZDoom by the way.

MAP10: Toxic Yards 100% kills, 100% secrets
Another fantastic non-linear map - although this one was a fair bit easier than the previous one in my opinion. I also got a bit lost in this one until I located the first key, but then everything went smoothly. If I were to make some changes to this one, I'd ramp up the difficulty just a little bit.

MAP11: The Bloodtower 100% kills, 83% secrets
The first thing I thought of when I entered this map was Doom's E1M2. As I played, I noticed that the whole of the first section has some not-so-subtle references to E1M2: the first room, the area with the red key, the method to get outside that area, and the computer maze. I also said hello to my first arch-vile (with my double-barreled shotgun of course). I really, really hate it when authors have 'one-way' areas where you can't go back, so I am very thankful that the lift that separates the first and second areas can be reset.

Then we have the second area, which is covered in beautiful curvy walls, silver walls, and those lovely computers - as well as some pretty nasty combinations of demons (I got a bit careless and almost got wasted by some revenants). I've always loved maps like this. I did end up playing for quite a while trying to find the last secret, but I never did. According to some other posters, it's bugged? Overall, great map with lots of nice twisty and curvy hallways.

MAP12: Grand Gate 100% kills, 100% secrets
I spawn in, and I'm looking at a wall. Great way to begin! I swivel around and open the door to the outside, where many demons await. Running around like a headless chicken, I look for somewhere safe, and eventually I find a door which I open to reveal a room with some nice archway architecture (well, as nice as you can get without slopes). I grab the key, head into the yellow door, and fight my way through some tight hallways. A few rooms later, I see the main feature of this map: the huge 3D bridge.

This map makes clever use of 'fake' 3D bridges and rooms-over-rooms, and does a pretty good job at it (except for one indoor area where I could walk forward and fall through the floor). There are also, some nasty texture misalignments everywhere (especially noticeable on some of the bridge supports). Aside from that, it was super awesome to see those fake 3D floors used like this!

MAP13: The Slums 96% kills, 100% secrets
This one had some impossible monsters, just like MAP07. I don't know if it's just ZDoom being iffy or if it actually is the map, but 10 of the monsters never teleported into the playing area. This map was pretty tough to beat, but I enjoyed it. Perhaps a little more health wouldn't hurt! Still, there's way too much ammo - especially shotgun shells.

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Map 19
A lovely little town. Starting, what I suppose it being town hall, we got residential area, market place or shop block, park, movie theater, even the swimming hall could be found. Layout is more of exploration, after red key it is just straight to exit, mow down the opposition.

Level feels bit sleepy when you come in. Shotgunners here and there, some hell knights, cacodemons and mancubuses populate area, sometimes giving you some traps, like trying to go right side, you start brawl with mancubus, and good Lord if you happen to backpedal without knowing who's behind you. Everything is simple.

That is, until you go get red key.

I expected some battle. But it did take good amount of beating to get sense how to approach this. Getting stuck on props didn't help either, and revenants made more trouble than they are worth of. I scrapped the thought of reclaiming the central area, even if it is defendable, but the monsters teleporting in caused too much hassle to defend it properly. Only proper place where I can defend myself somewhat was that right corner building with window and two doors, one to main area and another back to residential.

Clearing out, and proceeding to the actual power plant. Clearing methodically every room and hallway, we got ourselves a disco. Or, just a merry-go-round floor. One thing that bitters me is that I don't have access back to previous area, leaving me only 26 health, being fool in that central area.

Map 20 21
Skipping map 20, going to 21...

Only thought what came to my mind: Corridors, and corridors. Now, it is not a navigational hazard, even with 3d floor trickery, but it sure as hell is tedious to go around, and when you happen to take wrong turn, you might lenghten your route with that.
Few lab areas, two prison areas, and monsters caged. Lovely. I started to run around, see what's coming, lot of chaingunners around. If you don't see them in time, they'll rip you happily apart. And the hitscanners generally are probably biggest threat here, chipping health slowly but steadily. There are some imps, mancs and cacos (not forgetting those bloody revenants) getting few hits, but mostly, it was hitscanners on my end.

Other than that, map was bit light, considering the amount of routes and yards laying around. Pretty all right map, on my end.

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MAP23 Grindhouse (The Rider of War)

Eventually I expect to have some sort of slaughterfest in a megawad, like it or not, and where else but a map that has a name that practically advertises it as one? It has it's fun moments and it's very frustrating ones.

Beginning was very rough, it was a good thing I saved rockets for the four archviles and the imps on the higher floors. The fragfest was quite a large one at that. Heading northwards into a very interesting area, with arachnotrons and other monsters, with constantly moving walls making rockets a virtual no-no. Very good usage of arachnotrons there, and honestly my favorite section in the map. After that, the berserk and some kind of staircase which is somewhat reminiscent of Doom II's The Pit spiral staircase, except quite frustrating since the lines lower not only the platform in front but the one you're on. Boo. A fork after that, I went towards the center of the map to find a few areas, including a switch which crushes the archies that were on the platform. You know, there is nothing I absolutely hate more than finding out a crusher could kill some monsters that I already just wasted ammo against, especially given the amount of time it took to get to the switch that would crush them. There's a secret in this area, where there's about eight caged archviles, this time I pressed the switch first instead of wasting ammo.

Arguably the most frustrating moment for me came when I had to wrest the blue key. Getting through the crushers was okay, but with NINE archviles running Pamplona right behind my back, plus two annoying imps right next to the key, I was definitely gonna take a dozen tries at this. Yes, some of them get caught under the crushers, but it doesn't do as much as it should. This is where I spammed rockets when I knew they'd come out, quickly ridding the imps then hiding in a corner spamming the BFG til bust. Jeezus.

Of course it won't stop there, the metal area behind the blue doors was almost as devious, with numerous fireballs homing in at me from the cages. Pretty hard to avoid but at least there's plenty of room to manuever. The red key is guarded by a lone cyber who is easy to dispatch before finally leaving this nasty zone. I believe it's possible to grab the key without triggering the cybie though, maybe make the trigger lines around the key wider (you can't leave without triggering the cyberdemon anyways, since he hides the switch to leave). After using the red key, we go around the borders to open up roomfuls of enemies formerly hidden at the central room's upper floors for the yellow key which is fun. The finale is probably my second favorite area, as I am riding across the conveyor at high speed to get ambushed by lots of monsters. Pretty neat level overall, and a good difficulty ramp-up. Of course the nine archies in the crusher area might be too much for someone who doesn't have the BFG.

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Map23 - “Grindhouse”

um.. wtf?



was going pretty well up until this point, map has more of a hellish theme going on and some evil set-ups, but this? Am I missing something here? I'm trapped in a dead end by half a dozen archviles, the only weapon that could possibly get you out of this alive is bfg, and thats assuming you happen to have ammo for it. At this point I didn't even have rockets, so its game over for me. Whats that all about?

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Map 20 -- Union Halls
"Crantime?"

Map 21 -- Chambers of Torment - 100% Kills / 75% Secrets
Naturally, the absence of map 20 means that we're missing what may be an important development in the megaWAD's overall thematic progression, but near as I can tell, the setting of E3 is not the traditional Hell/Otherworld (at least not initially), but rather a return to the techbase theme, after the loosely city-flavored trappings of E2. It's a different flavor of techbase than what we saw in E1, however.....it looks old and abandoned, a decaying husk of a complex, as opposed to the dingy/shabbily-maintained but seemingly still operational air of the early bases. Something that I found interesting (though I'm likely reading far too much into it) is that this and the next few maps all feature the UAC logo and its offshoots far more prominently than any of the early maps did (in fact I don't remember when the last time I saw the UAC symbol in Stomper actually was), and they are placed/displayed analogously to the way demonic iconography often is in traditional Hell settings.

Structurally this map is highly orthogonal, but it also fields quite a complex layout, comprised of many long, straight parallel hallways that meet in a number of imbedded junction points, binding together a couple of modest open yards. The corridors bend and fork and split so often and so tightly that learning the layout is liable to involve at least a little bit of getting lost; as the crow flies there's usually little distance between where you are and where you need/want to go at any given time, but actually navigating between points can be more involved than it may appear--some of those multifunction junctions are pretty tricky. No homages to any IWAD maps that I noticed here, although there are some callbacks to ideas used earlier on in Stomper, most notably the presence of an erstwhile armory (ala map 09) in the form of the western cell block. Others have mentioned that the map doesn't really seem thematically in line with its name; for most, the title "Chambers of Torment" probably calls to mind some sort of dungeon/slaughterhouse theme. There's not much evidence of torture/torment here, although there does seem to be a loose prison/holding cell theme in place--the armory and yellow key prison wings, the revenant pen in the western yard, the (un)dead bodies in the elevated cages in the first branching hallway, etc. Perhaps this part of the installation was a holding area for test subjects before the complex fell to ruin? A lot is left to the imagination here, largely a function of the generally simplistic/rough visuals....there's nothing wrong with a map being abstract, but this map is going to require an aesthetic facelift if it is to more effectively a convey a sense of being something other than a knot of unfriendly hallways. As it is, lighting is a bit flat, texture selection seems a bit slapped-together, and there are more of the basic concourse issues we've become familiar with over the course of this playthrough--cutoffs, misalignments (particularly on metal supports and on the hexagonal panel texture covering the blue key pedestal), etc.

As far as the action goes, this is another variation on the default Stomper theme of quickfire hitscan attrition. The layout is fairly well-suited to this: while the many disparate hallways may be deceptively mono-purposed from a navigational standpoint, that nigh constant presence of windows creates a multilevel fire-zone of many areas, and because so many of the corridors bend back on themselves at different height levels, one often finds oneself sprinting past a bank of attackers only to end up passing by them again at a different elevation moments later. The main danger, as in so many of the previous maps, is that health aids are fairly scarce (armor's not that hard to come by, though); ammo continues to be a bit excessive if we look at the map as a whole, but this isn't as pronounced as in some of the earlier maps, and early on from a pistol-start there's actually a couple of minutes of relative ammo austerity. The main shortcoming in the combat is also the same as in several of the previous maps, that being that the map really has no real climax or standout encounter, and only one pulse of monsters that lasts for more than a moment (that being the stuff let out of the cells when accessing the yellow key)--it's all purely incidental, and there's a suspiciously low amount of opposition in the area beyond the series of irregularly-cycling gates at the end of the map. It's only the start of the episode, so it doesn't need to be a full-bore fireworks show just yet, but I'd say it definitely needs a little something-something to spice it up.

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Map 22 -- Castle Crossack - 100% Kills / 100% Secrets
I'm with Getsu Fune on this one, I found this to be enjoyable despite being visually very plain and seeming almost as thematically out of synch with its name as map 05 was. The area's status as a "castle" is highly questionable, even in that loose/abstract Doom way--it's more like a generalized nukebase, really, despite the chunky grey stone facade. In contrast to the tangles of parallel hallways that defined map 22, this is a more room-based affair, comprised of a series of large chambers, most of which have a distinct (if sometimes understated) theme to them--there's the unfolding box room to the north, the crate room to the west, the central bridge core vaguely reminiscent of 'nataS ot etubirT' (Requiem's map 06), etc. Within these rooms the play's not too dissimilar to the rest of the general Stomper idiom--again, lots of overlooking hitscan snipers, occasional bursts of mid-tier Doom II monsters, etc.--but I felt that flying monsters were utilized more effectively than in many of the other maps, particularly the way small groups of cacodemons tend to path through the facility and various outdoor yards in unpredictable ways via the various windows and elevated hallways, especially in those cases where they are released in the distance in response to some (seemingly) arbitrary progression milestone. Generally speaking, I feel like this map does a good job of steadily drawing the player deeper and deeper into hostile territory via a well-paced stream of opposition, that often seems inclined to meet you halfway rather than always waiting for you wherever it is they were initially placed. I also felt that ammo balance was amore on-point here than in many of the other maps--apart from having a pile of rockets at the end as a result of not finding the RL until very late (I'd suggest putting more than one in the map, as in map 09), I was often burning through bullets and shells slightly faster than I was accumulating them, which is usually a satisfying sensation. One thing I would recommend changing is removing the monsters that appear beyond the fence on the periphery at a few points--as in the similar imps in map 06, they don't contribute much or at all to battles and essentially just pose a timesink for a player seeking maxkills.

On the visual front, this is quite plain, even minimalist in a lot of places--it's a markedly 'vintage'-looking map even by the standards of a set that has tended to have a markedly oldschool aspect to its visuals. The architecture is chunky and broadstroke, not something I generally have a problem with, but it's hard to ignore the number of vast undetailed/unarticulated surfaces that characterize the map (particularly in the outdoor areas), and the light level is distractingly uniform over most of the duration. I wouldn't describe it as 'ugly' per se, but it's definitely a bit of an outlier. One could see this as an issue with this beta version of Stomper as a whole--there's a lot of visual inconsistency at play, with some scenes/maps feeling somewhat incongruously styled/detailed in comparison to the other maps.

One other strange design decision is the 'secrets' here--they're anything but, a weird contrast with map 14's conspicuous lack of secrets. Not sure that map 14 having no secrets is really a problem, but the ones here definitely don't qualify if things like the plasma rifle and blue armor in map 17 aren't tagged as 'secret.'

Map 23 -- Grindhouse - 100% Kills / 100% Secrets
This map's batshit crazy, almost but not quite in all the right ways. It's another sudden unexpected change of pace, and it remains fairly unpredictable throughout (both of which are good things), but there are some issues.

Aesthetically this is in the broadstroke style of the previous map, and perhaps Alter's map 17, featuring a lot of large-ish, generally orthogonal rooms where exchange of fire sometimes takes place over some pretty significant distances. Like many of the Stomper maps, the visuals have a decidedly old-school cast to them somehow, something I'm starting to view as being as much a product of texture selection as of the actual map shapes--this one uses an unusual combination of various types of metal (including the rare beige boilerplate texture), rocks, wooden crate siding, and lava. Basic concourse seems fairly well in order here--I didn't spot a great number of misalignments or things of that nature, although the semi-translucent false wall that (barely) conceals the entrance of the first computer area map secret (there probably shouldn't be two of these, really) bleeds into the ground in a most unsightly way.

Apart from representing something of a spike in general difficulty, the map is notable for featuring a selection of zany setpieces. Some of these I felt were quite clever, ala the room to the north with partitioned path and madly-slamming shutters--apart from being visually amusing, the shutters also cycle fast enough that they don't reliably interrupt the firing sequences of the arachnatrons in the area, adding a surprising degree of unpredictability. Other entertaining scenarios include various instances of crushing canned arch-viles into mage-paste for no particular reason, and dashing around the upper gantries bombarding some nascent monster-pillboxes with tons of rockets late in the map. Others don't work out as well, though....I think it's neat that you can get the drop on half of the caged opposition in the exit area by entering it through a secret, but all the same this setup involves a little too much cage-clearing demon-janitoring for my liking, and infinity-tallness rears its ugly head when you need to jump off of the conveyor for the first time. Additionally, after hitting the switch to lower the final barrier, the player is made to backtrack and ride the conveyor one more time in order to reach the requisite landing, but no new opposition or twist is introduced (other than the lone 'tron in front of the exit door, I guess), which seems less than ideal.

The real elephant in the room, I suppose (man, I sure seem to have that expression on my mind a lot lately....some of the associated imagery is starting to become a little unsettling, let me tell you), is the blue key trap. I'm all for nasty throatslitting traps that would have many players angrily calling "bullshit", but this scenario seems genuinely imbalanced in its current iteration. There is nothing in the map, not even in a secret, that allows the tide of viles to be mitigated with any kind of real efficacy--no BFG, not many cells for the plasma rifle, very few rockets in the map up to that point (although there are a ton later on), no powerups that precede the encounter, etc. The only somewhat reliable way to handle the situation is to learn when the viles emerge, and then dash past them back into a previous area--there is a monster-blocking line at the entrance to the area which renders them so many necromantic sitting ducks. Suffice to say, disposing of them in this way feels most cowardly and unsatisfactory, but there aren't really many other options. My suggestion for this fight is to either make the hall longer while providing some extra rockets or plasma (so it takes the viles longer to corner the player, and the player can wear some of them down with artillery on the way there) and/or to make the various crushers into slow-crushers (possibly with shorter cycles), which will stop/kill some of the viles if the player has the nerve to lure some of them into beginning their casting animation while standing in a hazardous spot.

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MAP23: Grindhouse
100% kills, 4/6 secrets

23 maps in, and Stomper finally grows some balls. About time! This map pulls no punches from the start, with a cage of 4-5 Arch-Viles right outside the start door, with a large posse of imps across the way on a high ledge to blast the player. The central part of the map is filled with these high ledges, and it makes for a nice look.

The arachnatron/demon area with the Focus-style moving panels was absolute genius, probably my favorite moment of the entire WAD so far. The demons work well as meatshields, both for you and the arachnatrons, but meatshields that want to bite you and can't be totally ignored. Great setup here.

Like Getsu Fine, I rocketed all the AVs, so it was bit annoying to find out that the cage at the start could be crushed later. Of course, that didn't stop me from doing the exact same thing to the eight in the secret area. Ah well, I'm playing continuous so I had plenty of spare ammo. The blue key area is a bit ridiculous... the crushers don't work as well as one might think, I toyed around with trying to abuse the corner and use the BFG. After failing that a couple times, I instead made the decision to run towards the Arch-Vile pack and back around the corner to the rest of the map. I intended to just whittle them down over a larger area, but turns out there's a block monster line that allows me to kill them with rockets with impunity (granted, if playing pistol start, no RL yet). The rest of the map throws plenty of enemies at the player, including a (pretty easy) Cyberdemon battle and hordes of imps (it almost feels like the author made the map, then decided, nah let's add 100 more imp snipers). There's a nice part where hitting a switch 'opens up' several chunks of the above-ledge parts, giving the player more freedom but also revealing more enemies, good use of space. There's a weird conveyor belt setup at the end that fizzles a bit, but not bad.

All-in-all, a pretty fun experience... Stomper might just redeem itself yet after 22 maps of fairly decent but bland gameplay/design. The blue key trap probably needs to be scaled down/reworked a tad, and there's this horrible graphic error, in addition to a bunch of unpegged doorsides.

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Ok, added rocket boxes to the blue key section and a medikit behind the said blue key, decreased number of archviles to 6. And the terrible texture bug happens on software renderer because the midtex goes into the ground, fixed that.

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never knew about the monster blocking line before. I probably coulda used that.

MAP24 Twisted Keep (March or Count to Death!)

A pretty twisted map this is, although nowhere near as difficult as the slaughterfest before it. I can truly say that we are in the Hell levels now though, with the hellish architechture being shown. Also, the music track totally screams "Countdown to Death" in melody. It's got a pretty rough beginning and a lot of big meat in it too, and very few cells to deal with some bigger guys. Lotta rockets though, so that's good. Either the red key or the blue key is needed; I got both. In either case though, I am fighting a cyberdemon. Neither fight was that bad, although I wasted my cell energy on the red key one first. The central area has a lot of big meat that hurt me a lot, and after one of the keys, a spiderdemon shows up in this area as well. I'm not sure, but I think the right area, with the archviles on pillars, is completely optional. Still, a nice tough level, a little like Plutonia in difficulty.

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I'm playing along silently, liking the mod a lot, hoping that the author chooses to heed some of the advice in this thread while ignoring a lot of the rest of it - I suppose I'm beginning to prefer weird, idiosyncratic level packs to community-approved ones.

it's cool that the levels stop being fair at MAP 23, made me think of Whispering Winds, haha

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MAP32:
Not much to add on this one. Fun, long, and quite brutal in places. I was running around with single-digit health quite often. The stuck Cybie seems odd (I offed him from behind the switch with my BFG--his rockets couldn't get to me). I agree the invul sphere seemed pointless: I only uesd it to go back into the "main" portion of the level to hunt for secrets. (Speaking of which, that the only connection between the beginning of the level and the main body of it was an unavoidable passage of damaging waste irritated me a bit.)

MAP16:
I appreciated the sparse monsters here, it just made for a nice breather map after MAP32. I got this weird bug by the triple set of doors (between the western and northern areas) where the ground raised up in front of the doors--not high enough to be an obstruction, but the sides were enormous HOMs.

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MAP24: Twisted Keep
99% kills, 1/2 secrets

Is this... green marble? Red brick? Red rock? Did Stomper finally give us a hell map? Well, the layout still feels like it could be a techbase or metal factory in a lot of areas, but the change in scenery is definitely appreciated. There's also a general move-on from the hitscanner brigade... there's a few chaingunner snipers, and a few sergeants, but overall it's mainly hellspawn instead of the undead.

This map has a lot of "optionality" - either the red key or blue key is required, not both, so the player can choose to either trek to the north part of the map and trade rockets with a cyberdemon for the red key, or trek to the west part of the map and play column peek-a-boo with some Doom 2 monsters for the blue key before running from an unleashed Cyberdemon (ok, you can fight him if you want). There's also a sizeable amount of ammo closests in the blue key area, as well as an eastern area to explore for a RL, which seems a bit weird since one is also provided in the blue key area.

Overall, combat isn't bad, though it's a far cry from the madcap of the previous map and more in line with earlier maps. The cyberdemon in the red key area is pretty easy to beat by abusing the columns, and the one in the blue key can be safely avoided. The rest is pretty standard 'fight as you find it' fare.

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Map 24 -- Twisted Keep - 102% Kills / 100% Secrets
Yup, all of a sudden it's Hell for real, now--malignant red earth, charred masonry, stretched skin, brimstone, the lot. Something about the hub area with the wooden walkways over the pits of brimstone seemed vaguely Monster Condo-ish to me, but other than that I see nothing resembling an IWAD homage, something I'm glad we seem to have left behind us at this point. Well, except for the music selection. I quite liked this track--dig the sinister dulcimer--but it took me a few cycles before I recognized the paean to 'Countdown to Death.'

Thematically this is pretty abstract in a typically Doomy way, but it works well enough. It's difficult to tell which part of which structure is the actual 'Keep'--my best guesses are that it's either the cylindrical building where the player starts, or the modest marble blockhouse that hosts the exit. Despite the casually varying texture selection, there is a subtle unifying element tying many of the areas together, that being the recurring theme of using narrow walkways or footpaths to traverse stretches of harmful terrain--there's some variation of this at work in every one of the map's areas, except for the wooden library to the west, and even it has a token lava pool in front of its 'storage' wing. I'm fine with all of this, but there are a few aesthetic choices I didn't care for, mainly the use of peanut brittle plastered on the walls in the eastern area with the arch-viles on pillars, the transition between corpsetech and iron plate on the plus-shaped pillar in the upper left corner of the hub, and the static red blood-popcorn-fire-whatever-wall used on the outside of the mastermind's enclosure (I never seem to like seeing that texture used on anything but the tiniest of recesses). In terms of concourse issues, I didn't see a whole lot of them in this map, pretty much all of the ones that did stand out to me were in the hub area: there's some bad alignment on the stretched skin textures where different facets of the walls on the periphery meet, more bad alignment on the sides of the stair sections of the wooden walkways, and the faces of the marble steps that lead out to the arachnatron/imp ledges are textured in marble skulls on the east side (which looks fine), and in a neutral tan stairstep texture on the west side (which doesn't). Finally, there is no way out of the lower lava pit on the right side of the red dividing partition, which seems like an oversight, as there is a way to get out of every other lava pit in the area (indeed, in the level).

On the combat front, we're continuing to see more of the move away from zombies towards more traditional hellspawn--lots of imps (particularly as ledge-staffers), lots of the Doom II bestiary, and yes the odd chaingunner here and there (no troopers or sergeants that I recall). The odd thing about the monster selection here is that, despite the recurring theme the level has of traversing lava via rail-less/wall-less walkways, there are very few flying monsters of any kind present....I think I remember encountering a lone cacodemon at some point, but he was in a hallway, not in one of the lava/walkway areas. Maybe this is one of those calculated quirks (ala no secrets or items in map 14, etc.), but seems like a missed opportunity to me. There are also several of the big boys around, as well. The cyberdemon in the library is a very straightforward one-on-one fight, nothing special, nothing to offend. I didn't care for the red key cyberdemon, that area is set up so that you essentially have to trade fire with him from afar (there's actually a trap of sorts designed to trap you on the walkway with him, but it doesn't actually let him corner you or anything), which seems pretty boring to me, though in fairness that's the way a lot of players feel about the kind of straightforward fight one has with the other cyberdemon. I did like the spider mastermind, actually--it can move around fairly well, and it can still attack if you try to hide behind the wooden walkways in the room (they aren't quite tall enough), so fighting it involves using the thin central partition for cover while moving to and fro on the walkways. Not at all difficult or complex, but felt right somehow.

The optionality aspect of the map didn't really occur to me while playing, because I went to the vile/pillar area first, and then found the red and blue keys before I actually even saw the exit setup. I'm the sort of player who often prefers to do a whole map even when it's not required, but I'm sure many players will appreciate that several of these E3 maps are perfectly content to be short, or medium-length via optional content.

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Map 22
This... is very, very bland, and boring looking map. Not the most inspiring map in the set. Repetitive wall texturing, low detail with exception of the UAC logos. Gives feeling of speedmap.

Layout on the other hand, is more interesting, with some ways to go, although every route is going for one key at time. Almost every part of the map connects to the central hub area, and you'll become familiar to which route goes where.

Combat focuses with balance of hitscanners and mid-tier monsters on certain points. Start itself can be nasty if you don't expect chaingunner at the entrance. Speaking of chaingunners... There is awful lot of them, especially when you get past blue door.

One of the more cooler ambushes was when you go to hit switch in that northernmost building, when you think you can hold fort on that entrance when suddenly, rules change. Walls open, and monsters decide to pour out that way. Really neat, I say.

Map 23
Not much to say about layout, but I like the map. And I like the few gimmicks thrown here. The mobile shutters area was pretty fun, with arachnotrons trying to shoot you, and some imps here and there, trying to get hit on you. Hitscan weapons are the tool of choice in here, but it is not 100% reliable.

Combat is pretty good here. The starting area, with monsters on the ledges can give slight trouble, especially if you try take mid-tiers from the ground level. Past the blue doors, imps that roam around can be little annoying, but they give some content in here. Mostly, I had good time.
But that pass when you need to get blue key? Jesus Mother Fucking Christ. I suppose you should try lure them into those crushers, but better said than done. Had to go and read here if there was any special trick to deal archies or some secret passage out there. Nope. Just be fast enough to get out from the area.

Flaw in red key area: The bars will close on you again, if so badly happens. And the switch is 1-time, too.

Map 24
I like the layout here. Aside from two routes to the ledges where you saw arachnos and imps, you can open two other doors once you have cleared the areas. And the progression is "either this or this, or both," giving you option either take red or blue key. Neat.

When I saw the monster count, "Pretty light map coming," I didn't take count for cyberdemon, or mastermind. The blue key area fight was pretty alright, minimal arena, like in previous map, except no backup for cyber. Red key can take some time, if cyber decides to spend his time moving around instead shooting rockets. And the small finale, mastermind... Not much to say about. I spent that time playing peekaboo with rocket launcher, since I wanted to save some cells.

Not much to say about the map.

Map 25
Now, I call this lightweight, for few reasons; lightly populated and the music.

99 monsters. That's not much. Especially, when majority of monsters consists of mid-tiers along with imps and other low-tier monsters. As far as the layout is concerned, it is nothing more than a linear path to exit, cutting through the starting area to make it even more compact.

And same as previous; Not much to say about the map.

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