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Sunday 28th March 1999:

Middle: "The Middle Evil"
(Size: 2.00 meg. Alternative downloads: Middle / Middle)

Aaaaah, this level - very much a level of two halves - the architecture and design half is absolutely superb, while the gameplay half is, for the first half of the map, ridiculous and frustrating. But we begin, as always, with the architecture and style of the level. And what a style it is - a stunning gothic medieval complex dressed in some excellent custom textures - unsurprisingly with a style of this quality, the theme of the map is also perfect. The textures used make this map special, they are all very good and detailed - in particular the windows are superb - and they work very well with the design of the map. The architecture lives up to the style/textures - it is actually done rather cleverly, as there are few really complex designs or structures, but what is there looks great due to prolific use of arches, angled roofs, buttresses, and of course textural details. Of course, there are some nice structural details and designs too, spread throughout the map. So the map looks fantastic - could it's design get any better??? Well yes it could, in addition to the looks, there is the atmosphere and layout, and both of these are excellent too. The atmosphere is enhanced by dramatic lighting *and* lightning, a new sky and ambient sounds, all of which give it a spooky and gothic feel.

The layout is interesting, with some exploration and a lot of interconnectivity once you open all areas of the map - the whole map feels large, but it's overall shape is quite compact. There's plenty of backtracking through areas to complete various tasks, and later on in the level, monster reinforcements are well used. There is one problem with the progression - a hidden switch needs to be found at one point - it's not obvious at all, and the situation is worsened by the gameplay problems at this point - not good and it can cause frustration. And now onto the main cause of frustration - the gameplay. For the first part of the map, the gameplay is ludicrously difficult, simply due to a severe lack of ammo - you cannot kill all the monsters you need to, and have to spend a long time avoiding very dangerous monsters until you get enough weapons, much later on. This situation is worsened by scarce health and a solitary green armour in the whole map, and because the "skill settings" make very little difference to the number of monsters. In one situation I can appreciate what the author is trying to do, and I don't mind a bit of monster avoidance, but I did not enjoy the first part of this map (apart from a few isolated combats), and had to save and test tactics repeatedly.

I enjoy the immersion of playing through a level for a first time, and the continuous replaying here spoilt that. This state of affairs continues until the rocket launcher, and after that, it's great and a whole lot of fun - you have good weapons, some powerups, and enough ammo - with just the right monsters to soak it up. I do think the very end is rather easy, but given the horror that came before, I can live with that =). So what to make of all this??? Well, if you are extremely 1337 and like the axe, or enjoy having to figure out how to play a level over many attempts, then you should love this...if you are just a normal player, you are likely to find the gameplay very frustrating at some points - then, I would say the architecture alone means the level is worth a look.

Q1M2: "Q1M2"
(Size: 500k. No Alternative downloads)

A level with an interesting history behind it - it was given to me by Borsato, who says he downloaded it a long time ago, from a famous mapper who may now be a professional....the map came with no text file or details - all very mysterious =). So as far as I know, this site is the only place on the net you can find this level, which is one reason I decided to review it. Of course, the level is pretty good and is worth playing - that's the other reason to play it =). However, it's not really great, and is a bit dated and simple. It's a traditional medieval style level, with a mixture of grey brick, yellow brick, terracotta and some metal details - as well as a fair bit of water, which plays an important part in the level. The level has a decent overall theme, with varied sections in design and looks, but overall it all works together as a medieval level. The architecture varies too, some of it is good and impressive, some of it is rather plain and adequate. Highlights are the small start room, and in particular, the large underwater sections at the end - not only is this a good design, but it's being flooded makes it a nice touch, and my favourite bit of the map. Other than that, the architecture is okay, with some nice details and lighting, but just not that interesting.

Though it's a small map, there's a few secrets (all obvious), and a bit of exploration in places, which is nice, though exploring the wrong way can leave you facing Zombies without explosives, which is awkward. Gameplay is quite good, though nothing special. The level sticks to medieval monsters and uses them fairly well, there are some good uses of Scrags and DeathKnights which give the most interesting and challenging combats. Aside from that, the gameplay is just normal shooting monsters, and not that challenging unless you end up in the Zombies/no grenade launcher situation - the end is easy as you might guess! In particular, exploring the level tends to yield results that make it easy. Still, it's well balanced and is fun to play through, and some sections do give it interest - worth checking out since you won't find this level elsewhere.

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