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Wednesday 10th May 2000:

SBE: "Scragbait Estate"
(Size: 2.20 meg. No Alternative downloads.)
Speedrun demo: Easy run in 1:18

The best of these current levels, a big stone/wood base level with an unusual touch: It's set in an outdoor/indoor complex, and the inside/outside design matches perfectly - hard to describe but you'll see how each area is set in a proper building. This gives a great sense of place and the outdoor area *is* impressive, reminsicent of Unreal village maps. Details are rather sparse though, and r_speeds can be high, so it might run slowly. Inside there are more diverse areas - caves, bridges, sewers and storage areas, but again the texturing can be plain (not sure about the stone/bright wood combination either) and more details are needed. Sticks to it's theme well and there is plenty of attention to the large scale design.

Progression round the map is complex, and finding monsters to kill to open doors can be very obscure. The gameplay is good overall, with some tricky combats especially earlier on - it gets easier as weapons accumulate. Some of the trickier combats demand a bit of thought and cunning to deal with well placed monsters, which is good. Items, especially armour are in good supply. A few areas have sparse enemy - including an easy ending - and unfortunately the outdoor section is grossly underused. An ambitious level with an interesting layout and design but it doesn't fully capitalise on it.

Gwynt: "Castell y Gwynt"
(Size: 620 k. Alternative downloads is link above.)

Medieval level with a mixture of mostly terracotta and some grey brick textures. Designs vary throughout, a few areas are cool, like the outdoor areas, but others can be both simple and cramped. Many corridors and some rooms are very tight, and you can get stuck on scenery during combat. Courtyards, a throne room, and catacombs are included, all on a small scale, they do look good though. Theme is a bit vage despite being medieval, as the styles and textures aren't always consistent, lighting seems odd too. Gameplay is quite good and there are some tricky combats, but getting caught up in tunnels can be annoying - and the monsters often can't fit. The biggest combats come from rooms with Fiends and Shamblers in - it's fun to keep dodging from the doorway and getting them to fight each other. Make sure you get the Nailgun as you'll run out of ammo otherwise - aside from that the item balance is good. The ending is lacking, once you complete the final task, you trek through the map with no monsters to kill. Quite good, more focus needed.

Descent: "Descent"
(Size: 8.70 meg. No Alternative downloads.)
Speedrun demo: Easy run of Des1m5 in 1:00

9 levels: 1 base, 3 medieval or blue medieval, 2 medieval/caves, 2 metal, 1 temple-ish. Caverns, underground streams and natural tunnels feature prominently, these are done nicely. Generally there are some sections of cool architecture in each map, but a *lot* of plain sections. Sometimes whole rooms are repeated elsewhere, other times the maps are noticably derivative of Id maps but plainer. Where the maps are more original, especially later on including the final level, they are better - some of the building fronts are cool. Maps stick to their themes properly and are usually well lit, and well made and spacious.

Gameplay is better than the design - lots of combats, but good overall balance, and the spacious rooms are amenable. There is nothing especially hard nor overly easy, the combats keep going nicely and it plays continuously. However, due to the design it can get repetive. Modifications include tougher, more damaging Scrags and DeathKnights (unoriginal but decent enough), and a multinailgun that fires a shotgun-like spread (powerful, useful sometimes). If the best design was squashed into 2-3 levels this would be excellent - plenty of good in this episode, just too much "filling".

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