Map 19: "Your Princess is in Another Fort, Asshole" by TMD
I think this map is okay, and probably above average for the set, but that it also fell very far from its true potential, through a seeming lack of effort more than anything.
Issues from start to finish are:
- The start is annoying but without being truly dangerous. There are perched chaingunners, and a couple of pain elementals, but realistically speaking, you're just going to take chip damage that feels largely random and fall back to the multitude of stimpacks and medkits to heal. The pain elementals are also going to make a mess unless you stay silent for about ten seconds and your first engagement is killing them quickly (starting with the rocket launcher).
- Yeah I bitch about pain elemental use a lot, but this is just another example of where the pain elementals can never really be more than a source of cleanup. There is so much space, so the lost souls won't get you, and there is a lot of ammo in the map too so they aren't really exciting as a source of ammo deprivation either: in my first playthrough I never used a single bullet and left with bullets at full capacity, so even if the PEs made an ungodly mess, the worst that could have happened was me tediously plinking away at lost souls for a minute or so. I just think 'modern mapping dogma' is bad at pain elementals. I'm not sure which 'influence' to blame. Erik Alm? I guess part of it is that when I watch streams and such, it's not uncommon to see someone desperately charging and losing awareness of all other monsters in an effort to get rid of similar types of pain elementals, not stopping until they are dead, in a sort of frenzied gasbaglust -- when you can often calmly drop back for short periods (1-5 seconds) and accomplish the same with much less risk. So it might be a case of people mapping around that sort of (often irrational) approach to tackling PEs. Because I suppose this sort of PE placement can be fun if you act as if every second they are alive, even offscreen, they are draining money out of your bank account . . . Maybe that should be a mod.
- This is sloppy. Either the whole thing needs to be traversible or it should be effortlessly readable that only the right half can be crossed, with the horizontal border on that step too.
- This first lift is situated poorly. Monsters (especially 'trons) clump up below, at angles that are awkward for fighting. If you get an unlucky bunching you have to just drop back down. Sniping all the monsters from the ledges is a lot less fun for me than point-blank jousting. One thing about this map is that it LOOKS like it'd be fun to play aggressively and set everything loose, but it actually sucks for that, largely because of shit getting in the way at awkward connections in the layout. I also think people overuse lifts in these types of 'pseudo deathmatch' layouts. Lifts slow down fluid movement. Since this juncture has to be crossed at LEAST twice -- three times if you decide to finish off the cyb, and and possibly more if you don't take a maximally efficient route through the map (unlikely in a first playthrough) -- it should be a set of stairs instead.
- The meatwall mancubus behind the red key door. Given that the player can avoid the upper-level combat by just dropping off at any point, and it's not like it's a choreographed set piece, I don't see why it's necessary to put an obstacle to rushing past this way. This manc annoyed me more than any other monster because it's so blatantly just 'meat in the way'.
- The two arachnotrons on the ledge past this door in the drop off are also awkward if you didn't snipe them earlier, since they can bunch up below the drop.
- The 40% health bonus secret, just before a non-secret soulsphere. This is easily made redundant. You can get there with 100 HP (especially after the nearby medkits). Since postponing the soulsphere pickup afterwards in the most dangerous fight in the map is not a good idea, a very likely possibility is that you just go 100 -> 140 -> 200. And if you save the health bonuses for later they are pointless at that point too, since the map will be practically over. This secret should be a backpack instead. There are lots of shellboxes around.
At this point the map hits its stride. I really enjoy the vile + other stuff skirmishes with the turret cyb in the middle. But still:
- The third PE. For me, it started infighting the cyberdemon offscreen while I was unaware (this being possible at all is bad design). It made an ungodly mess too. But I still had enough shells and bullets scattered around the map to kill everything. Apparently what is happening is that the PE can hear you from the other side of the map after hitting the switch (e.g. if you hit the switch then kill a manc). And then off it goes ... somewhere.
- Those mancubi on the lift cubes. These don't do anything gameplay-wise, really. In fact the only thing they can really do is interfere if you decide to take the elective fight against the cyberdemon up close with the SSG. Since fighting the cyb this way is among the most fun one could have in the map, I wouldn't give the player a reason to go around the map again (to dispose of the manc first). That would require yet another circuit around the map, and again the lift and the deceptively poor flow of the layout would show itself. (I say 'deceptively' because it looks like a good, fluid layout, but again it has too many flaws for that.)
Anyway, this feels like a three-hour speedmap, with at least two of those hours going to map design rather than gameplay. It could have been a genuinely good map after lots of refining. It feels really unpolished to me. But on the strength of its best fights and skirmishes, it's okay.
Ah another thing that I'm a fan of: you have the option of skipping the skirmish triggered by the YK switch, if you want to go past the cyb instead. Might as well do both, since they are among the more fun things in the map, but I like that kind of structuring.
Map 20: "Transformation Palace" by Argent Agent
What I liked: the fact that you can run out of ammo and it's really a good idea to choreograph lots of infights. (Training the cyb on stuff, particularly that goat horde and the cluster of revs, is pretty fun.) The layout and its transformations are cool too. I'm also a fan of that extremely inconvenient redundant soulsphere NOT being an actual secret.
What I didn't like:
- Caco/PE horde. The area is way too spacious to make them a threat. Also realistically speaking you aren't going to run out of ammo due to the PEs, but rather you're either going to use infighting well elsewhere and have lots of surplus ammo, or not use infighting at all and run out of ammo because of that. The PEs's particular mode of deployment (in a pack among a horde of cacos) ends up having a smoothing effect on how much the PEs can realistically do, because lost soul spawns are suppressed to some extent, and some lost souls infight each other or are killed by cacos. Cacos slooow lofting fireballs also do nothing in such a giant space. It exists just for show, and I normally wouldn't mind that tbh, but the rest of the map ends up being grindy enough that this particular grind is not something I appreciate.
- Ascension up Mt. Vile. This either stonewalls you due to lack of ammo or it's a tedious and awkward grind.
- The baffling secret distribution. Why is the backpack, which you really could use in the first 90% of the map when there are lots of cellpacks and such to pick up, all the way at the end, after which you don't really need it since you can just empty your load of 300 cells and then stock up conveniently again? That should be in the first secret instead. Furthermore, why is there no BFG9000? Three cybs vs. a PR here is the sort of thing that might be tolerable once when you are FDA-ing the map and don't want to die so there's some degree of excitement. And then it completely ruins the map's replayability (in a max context), because objectively it's a dull fight. A saving grace is that it's easily skippable.
- The lack of a BFG. x10000. Probably the map's single biggest problem, actually, even before the ending. There isn't a fight in the map that is actually interesting due to having the plasma rifle (with lots of cells) in lieu of the BFG (with fewer cells), rather than just 'a lot longer'. Designing the map around the BFG (somewhat later than where the plasma rifle pickup is, perhaps after the mastermind) would have been better. The same potential ammo scarcity angle would have been possible to pull off.
Anyway not a bad map though, despite what I think are numerous flaws -- the design is cool enough that I'll go through it in -nomonsters again.