Demon of the Well
UR Map 17 -- Missing Gamma Sector - 107% Kills / 100% Secrets
Ah, a fine map this, feels larger than it really is on account of all of the open spaces and the steady pulse of action in and around the blue-locked kiosk. The theme here is a distinctly 'early CC4' techbase--so, big chunky slabs of concrete and limestone, accented by mint-green masonry and pulsing green plasma lights--that has seen better days. It has been badly damaged, with messes of broken conduit cables and electrical detritus spilling through its cement skin in places like so many intestines out of a sunburst corpse, and to top it all off, it has been half-flooded in some nameless infernal fountainhead. While this is quite a bit less pickily-detailed than many of the earlier maps, largely a function of the more broadstroke/chunky architecture, I think it's actually quite possibly the most visually attractive map in the WAD thus far. Apart from the previously mentioned fact that watery ruins really float my boat (techruins still count as ruins!), the pale green/grey/silver color scheme is as much a success here as it was in CC4, especially juxtaposed with the deep blue of the water. I reckon what really sells it, though, is the way so much of the complex is immersed in deep shadows, really a striking contrast with the ever-present dusky orange sky (bet it looks good with the deep blue CC4 nightsky as well, too). To top it all off, there's a hint of the surreal and the sinister to help cement the sense of place, such as an ominous marble tower marked by towering plasma beacons in the distance (was Sector Gamma perhaps some kind of archaeological site?), and another cameo by the Icon of Sin in the yellow-locked area. The only chink in the armor is the very pronounced sky-cutoff/perspective fuckery in one small segment of the map, already mentioned by others and presumably something that will be tweaked in the final release.
It doesn't just look good, though, it's fun to play as well. Again, there is no SSG here, but there's an early rocket launcher and plenty of rockets to compensate. The fork at the outset presents an illusion of non-linearity, but generally speaking there's only really one right path to take. It's nevertheless a very satisfying installation to traverse, as it doubles back on itself at a few points, using small but persistent doses of monster reinforcement pretty much every time you pass through a major area. As aforementioned, I particularly liked the blue-locked kiosk area, which apart from initially having some fine arachnatron placement and housing the heart-starting pinkie ambush, is also the site of unpredictable monster warp-ins; the two viles seem pretty specific/scripted in their appearance, but at many other points there's a steady trickle of mostly lower-tier enemies into the area, teleporting in in threes and fours, sometimes minutes apart. And just when you think the area has finally been cleared out, you open the blue door and have to think quickly in order to deal with the last vile and his disarmingly large contingent of revenant bodyguards. The final battle is suitably climactic, though more in terms of spectacle than in terms of actual intensity, since the flooded arena is more than large enough to make standard 'run around and get them to kill each other' tactics viable, although at least some of the monster teleportation keeps you on your toes a little bit with some of its resultant sudden path blockages. From context I assume the cyberdemon was a mandatory kill (like the one in map 11) in an earlier beta; I think he still should be, honestly....replace the red key with a BFG, make it so that the player can climb up the water spiral to his perch, and voila, instant catharsis.
The corny/very video-gamey plasma rifle trap doesn't seem quite up to par with most of the other encounters, but this is more a presentational thing, as in pure gameplay terms it still works okay, mostly on account of the arch-vile that beams in. I like that there is a secret/optional key in the map, as well, although whenever I see this I usually hope for the locked area to be a little more weird/expansive than the one here is. Nevertheless, these are small complaints that don't really detract much from what is definitely one of the WAD's standout maps.
Z300 Map 17 -- Constriction - 100% Kills / 100% Secrets
Apart from the differing vines/sandstone/blood texture scheme, this is something very much like an extended remix of the elevated walkway segment from Skybase 300 earlier in the WAD, including the same over/under crisscrossing traversal. Unlike the Bruiser Fortress before it, monster density is more appropriate for this point in the WAD, although I reckon the four chaingunners found at various points are probably more effectively dangerous than pretty much everything else, since you face the first two armed with only a pistol (I baited the knight into whacking one of them for me, and then took his chaingun), and the two on the blood walkway are well-positioned. There's a lot of firepower concentrated on said elevated walkway over the blood pool, but it's only as dangerous as you allow it to be--there are radsuits in the blood, so you can fight it out from there if you like, or you can do what I did and just sort of ignore the bigger monsters until later, since only zombies actually inhabit the walkway proper (although I didn't find the secret until all monsters were dead as a result of doing this). Monster placement later in the map can be questionable at times, e.g. the 4-noble group blocking one of the keys, but at least there are no nobles in the exit chamber this time (revenants instead, but at least it's a change). There's an odd-looking lighting error on the ceiling over by the lift at the end of the blood walkway.