The Anomaly 2: Water by Digs

Digs' sequel to The Anomaly substitutes medieval and runic architecture for the original's base style, and takes its predecessor's bizarre design much further. Whatever I say here will inevitably be insufficient in conveying the strangeness of this level, but to make the effort anyway, I'll say this: there are pillars of water used kind of like elevators in the layout, but that's putting it very simply for this type of feature soon becomes more complicated… there are curved wind-corridors, lots of pipes, grates and windows, plenty of walkways and interlocking rooms, tilted rooms and uneven floors and walls, and consistent use of strange and unexpected angles, and windows/skylights to the sky all over the place… the end result of this is that it really does become hard to tell which way is up and if things are tilted or you're just tripping (looking at the presumably square shape of your computer screen can help). The Anomaly 2: Water is designed in a manner that I can only characterize as fearless.

There are all kinds of cool touches in the architecture - demon mouth textures used for spike traps, and lots of other varieties on the usual lights/stained glass/gargoyles decorations of medieval/runic levels. Everywhere you look there is some cool, unique detail. In terms of a functional-seeming medieval/runic complex, yet whose purpose seems impossible to guess, digs seems to have taken a cue from negke here - and the result is great. The technical execution is impressive, especially the texturing - it must have been a fair amount of work to get all of this to look natural given all the strange angles the map uses. I should also mention the weird touches like images of monsters on the walls, and the few custom textures and effects are used well to create an even weirder atmosphere.

The monster load isn't excessive, and this is a good thing since the main challenge of the map is navigation. There are so many places to go that it can become quite confusing. The layout is somewhat non-linear, so you can usually find somewhere you haven't been before. There are TWENTY secrets, of which I only found a few, so this map deserves lots of replaying, especially since after you've played it once you will have some vague idea of the layout - though it must necessarily remain vague! It's like digs took the arbitrary nature of Quake's maps and physics and just went with it. So while the combat is reasonable, until the end (a great take on an old fight), the real issue is navigation. I suggest trying to keep in your head a list of doors/places you didn't check out, since for every one you take, you're neglecting one or two more due to the nonlinear layout. There isn't much instruction in what to do, and the map does demand some sneaky or unconventional movement on the part of the player. I used rocket jumping once but I don't think you have to. Anyway, while some players might get frustrated by the navigation, keep at it because the map is rewarding. I can't remember the last time I was so satisfied to find a button as finding the last of the five buttons in this map. This is a highly original, well-executed map which really is a must-play.

Score: 17.5/20