My 2 Cent Take on Epic2
Epic 2 - Alexander S. aka Eternal
Vanilla - Solo Play - 16888000 bytes
First, a couple of caveats: Although the game is designed for vanilla DooM2, the author recommends prBoom-plus with "-complevel 2" and (G)ZDoom in "DOOM (strict)" compatibility mode, with jumping disabled. For OpenGL ports like GZDoom and GLBoom-Plus the author provides a hi-res skybox. I used GZDooM in "DooM (Strict)" compatibility mode with the skybox to play through this set of maps, and occasionally also tested them with prBooM-plus. I am an average player, so I played on HMP skill with periodic game saves. [In retrospect, I could have managed on UV, as I was routinely leaving behind various powerups.] I began each map with a pistol start, and did not use cheat codes (which occasionally meant playing & replaying certain segments of the game). I searched for secrets but, as much as possible, did not use the items provided. This was to determine if the finding of secrets was mandatory for the player's survival. In some extreme instances, I opened the relevant map in a map editor to figure out how to make progress.
Before I proceed to the map-by-map review, let me cover some aspects of the game in toto. The game has hundreds of new wall, ceiling, and floor textures - ranging from the ever-popular Egyptian theme to Alien to Tech. This requires some learning to recognize switches, textures that conceal secrets, etc. There are a few new enemies, all of which are mostly graphic edits of DooM2 enemies (i.e., no changes to their behavior). There are graphic replacements for health, armor bonuses (they provide 10 units of armor, and are always welcome), a couple of weapons, and many of DooM2 sprites. There is typically quite suitable new music, creepy and low-key at times (reminiscent of Heretic II) and fast-paced and frenetic at others. There are plenty of new, appropriate sounds. I didn't pay too close attention, but from what I saw, textures are properly aligned. Finally, architecture is mostly straightforward, but the clever use of custom textures, strategically-placed pillars, ledges, and alcoves gives the impression of detail. What is most remarkable is that the author has designed this game for vanilla Doom, meaning he could not go overboard in the detail department, and he had to rely on DooM tricks to create effects such as walkable bridges, requiring the use of multiple switches to create a single result, and so on. Working within these limitations he has created a map set that will likely go down in the annals of DooM mods as ... well, epic.
For those of you that don't want to bother with the detailed review below, here is a quick summary. The game has a very appealing look and feel, primarily because of the new textures, but enhanced with the new music and sounds. What the game "lacks" in architectural detail, it more than makes up for in map design, which is inspired and imaginative. These maps are largely non-linear, and require periodic backtracking. There are plenty of switch- or key-hunts, but they are for the most part not intrusive or frustrating. During the occasional instances when you may appear to be lost, checking the automap will quickly put you back on track. There is generally a good balance of ammo, weaponry, health, and enemies. Note that I omitted a mention of armor. That's because the author tends to hide the armor in secret areas. Nevertheless, while the gameplay is occasionally quite tough, it is fair. There is a plethora of secrets in each map, but for the most part an average player can get by without finding them. The game uses light and shade to good effect, creating an ominous atmosphere at times. This is in good contrast to the bright, outdoor areas with their blue, desert skies. My 2 cent take on this game: very well-made and enjoyable to play. Recommended.
Map01 - Entrance: Starts out slow, and maintains a generally low-profile pace throughout the map. This is quite in keeping with the first map in a megawad, and is not intended as a complaint. However, there is quite a bit of switch-hunting and back-tracking. Thankfully the map is fairly small and the process is not too confusing. The lighting is suitable for the level. While there is plenty of cannon fodder, a couple of the tougher DooM2 enemies make their appearance in this map, presaging the type of gameplay to come in future maps.
Map02 - Voodoo: The map design is terrific, with inter-connecting corridors and rooms, and areas that are visible but not immediately accessible. Secret areas are visible but require hunting for access points, making the finding of such secrets quite rewarding. However, towards the end I found myself lost and unable to find the exit; using the automap helped. [The problem was that a switch that had opened up became splattered with enemy blood, making it difficult to recognize as a switch.] Beginning with a pistol start could prove challenging unless you find the weapons & powerups in the nearby areas. Health is somewhat slim at the beginning, and may not be properly distributed for those who want to blaze through. Ammo is also quite sparse at the beginning, and there's an absolute paucity of armor (unless you find the secret). For opposition, the author brings out a few of the big guns in DooM2, once again signaling that things will only get tougher.
Map03 - Black Magic: Another example of a map with a relatively compact design and a lot of inter-connectedness. Of course, this means some back-tracking, but there are usually baddies waiting to shove a fang or fireball up your kiester when you return. The big secrets are in plain view, and being methodical will allow you to acquire them. Getting the computer map (in the form of a scroll) will definitely help. Once again, if you start with a pistol and don't find the initial secret, you may have a bit of a challenge at the beginning. Fairly soon into the map, however, you'll pick up more than the staple shotgun, and these weapons will be welcome as you encounter tougher villains. Again, the only armor to be found outside a secret is in the form of meager armor bonuses.
Map04 - Sarcophagus: Very atmospheric map, with lots of darkened areas - much more so than the maps so far. As before, this map requires some back-tracking and finding switches, but nothing that would make a regular DooMer scratch his/her head. Playing from a pistol start is considerably more comfortable, as the shotgun and more powerful weapons are available in fairly short order. Of course, you get the commensurate bad guys to go with the weapons. There's a goodly supply of ammo and health, but in keeping with the earlier maps, armor is only to be found in secret areas. A couple of the secret areas are well concealed, and require an eagle eye and some light mental gymnastics to figure out. The traps are fun, occasionally intense, but always fair.
Map05 - Abu Gurab: You want killing fields? You got it. You start the map near a large, open arena with hitscan enemies galore. Then you figure in your mid-level bad guys, some of them with homing missiles, and you with just your shotgun, and you get the picture. This area requires some strategy - taking out a key hitscan enemy, getting other enemies to in-fight, making a bee-line for a critical powerup, and then weaving in and out of enemy traffic to reach your first serious weapon. I played this area several times before I succeeding in surviving the carnage. After that the fights were more pedestrian until you got to the red key area. That was a serious challenge, unless you want to take the "back door" exit that the author has provided. This map represents the first major departure from the style of gameplay in the earlier maps, and it definitely gets the adrenaline flowing. Moreover, it ramps up the difficulty level considerably. There is generally a reasonable quantity of health and an abundance of ammo (particularly if you're careful when it is warranted). However, there is a serious scarcity of armor unless you find the secrets. Speaking of secrets, a couple of the secrets are very poorly marked (or not marked at all), and the secret with the backpack appears to be unreachable.
Map06 - Revived Bones: After his departure in Map05 from the design and gameplay elements of the previous maps, the author is back on track with this one. The map involves exploration, with sporadic gunfights that are interspersed with intense battles and a decent number of traps. There is the usual back-tracking and switch/key hunting, but you're unlikely to get in over your head. Many of the inter-connecting corridors are very similar looking, so you may need to refer to your automap on occasion. Ammo is quite scarce in the beginning, and this shortage comes to a head when facing a nasty fellow near the fenced, yellow key area. [Tip: Don't shoot the caged imps like fish in a barrel; instead, use infighting to whittle down their numbers.] If you're observant, you'll find some ammo caches hidden away, which will make your progress much more smooth. There is a fair amount of health for the careful player, as well as strategic alcoves to which the player can beat a hasty retreat when faced with overwhelming odds. There are a whopping seven secrets (one of which - the area with the backpack & ammo - seems inaccessible), including areas where blue armor and a SoulSphere are in plain sight. In this map, however, the author gives you a standard kevlar armor vest near the beginning. You'll need it.
Map07 - Hell Guard: And .... we're back to open-arena, slaughter-fest maps. Reminiscent of Map07: Dead Simple of the original DooM2, this map is an open area with minimal cover, high-powered weapons, plenty of health/armor/ammo, and a few critically-needed powerups. [Tip: try to save a couple of these goodies for later. Yes, there will be a later. If you survive the initial onslaught.] The first round is mostly taking out some key hitscanners, then methodically eliminating the rest. The second round requires a bit of dodging and circle-strafing, but it's nothing that a seasoned DooMer hasn't done many times before. After picking up the blue key is when the fun begins. Swarms of ghoulies and assorted nightmares await you, and you need to rely as much on luck as on skill to survive. Grabbing those powerups that you saved from the first round will help immensely; you'll be glad you saved them for the final showdown. I had to play and replay this last battle many times over before triumphing. There is a single secret, cleverly marked, and it could prove to be a life-saver. [I didn't pick it up, and probably by sheer, dumb luck, I didn't need it.] This map will please some, and frustrate others.
Map08 - Karnak Temple: The map starts off quietly enough, with token opposition. However, in order to proceed further into the map with just a pistol start, you'll need to find a secret switch to obtain a heftier weapon. It's a well-concealed switch with a cleverly-marked clue, and perhaps the author intended for us to hunt for it, but some might grumble about requiring the finding of a secret in order to proceed. There's another secret nearby, which requires fleetness of foot to reach. Speaking of secrets, there are plenty of them, and in typical fashion the author has put all available armor in secret places. [Incidentally, I could not figure out how to reach the green armor.] Health is somewhat tight in the beginning, but becomes adequate at the end. The map is nicely laid out, with some back-tracking required, and switch combinations to facilitate progress. The fights alternate between easy with room to maneuver, and tight against tougher enemies. The final battle, despite the obvious need to generate in-fighting, is intense and requires constant motion. Even then (and even with the much-needed powerup), it's high odds that you'll run smack-dab into one of the assortment of fireballs, homing missiles, bullets, or worse, and have to read your own obituary. As with the finale of Map07, this fight will bring a big smile to the faces of some, and will piss the heck out of others. Periodic game saves highly recommended.
Map09 - Mystery: This map is a departure from the others in that it has extensive lava areas (most of which you can easily avoid treading upon) and, despite the use of relevant textures, has less of an Egyptian appearance. You will need to find all three keys to reach the exit, and you'll return to a "central" area to collect them. The author has very cleverly closed off certain paths upon which you've already trod, so that you don't get too lost. Also, the author wisely provides a computer area map. This map has very tall areas, steep stairways, and a different (and challenging) end battle. The armaments are more than adequate (but be prepared to pay a hefty price for the rocket launcher, unless you discover the way out of the author's very clever trap). The green armor you pick up near the beginning will soon start to wear real thin, as you wrassle your way through the hordes. Health and ammo are more than adequate. I was able to find only two of the three secrets [the blue armor behind the red key door, and the SoulSphere near the end], but I did not use the items. In other words, the map can be completed without depending on the secrets.
Map10 - Goldmine: Of all the maps in the set so far, I'd have to say this is the most complex, and, for those interested in exploring, the most rewarding. The map design is nothing short of brilliant, with alternative ways to reach your destination (in this case, the red key). There are even a couple of different ways to reach the secret area near the map start. Of course, "complex" also means "confusing" to some. The author makes an effort to reduce this confusion by providing a computer area map (which, even though it isn't in an area designated as a secret, is concealed). Despite the map, however, you'll be hard-pressed to get your bearings straight at all times. I actually found this level of disorientation to enhance the mood of the map, but others may not find it so. The "city-themed" area at the end is something straight out of Map15: Suburbs of DooM2, with the player required to traverse various "buildings" by jumping from window to window. And the rail car and tracks at the end are superbly crafted. There's plenty of health and ammo, and armor is found in a secret area near the beginning as well as in a regular area towards the middle of the map. I found the clue to the secret area with the rocket launcher to be extremely obscure, and played through the entire map without figuring out how to get the RL. (I later looked in up in a map editor.) The battles are modest, but what it lacks in adrenaline pumpage the map more than makes up for in design. Absolute kudos.
Map11 - The Tower: This map is appropriately named. A massive 3-tined tower dominates the landscape, which you enter, presumably, by riding on the rails. This is a nice continuation piece from the end of the last map, and this trend continues with the following map. This is very much like the maps in Duke3D, where one map "flows" seamlessly into the next as the story develops. And, as you'll discover, a story seems to be developing in this game as well. Some parts of the map have a mazy feel to them, but I consider this acceptable as it is in small doses. The one minor complaint I have is that there is a hidden switch one needs to find in order to make necessary progress. [This is in the area above the well with the secret.] The way back is blocked, and at first I thought this was a bug in the map. Then, through a process of methodical wall-humping I discovered the hidden switch. Entirely unnecessary, as the switch seemed to serve no other purpose than to open a door that could have been left open in the first place. The fights are not quite as intense as we've seen in some earlier maps, although you'll encounter one particularly large wave of medium and tough nasties. You get a complete arsenal, and by complete I mean just that. There is plenty of ammo, health, and armor to go around, and a full complement of enemies against which to pit your goodies and your wits. One of the secrets is a "gimme", while the other requires careful observation for the clue to its presence. The end of the map puts you in, what presumably is, the cockpit of a shuttle to an alien mother ship. The end text indicates what's brewing. Onward and upward!
Map12 - Alien Ship: Well, now. At the end of the last map we were expecting different, but this is something else! We've moved rapidly from the Egyptian theme and jumped squarely into the Tech theme of the game. As the map name suggests, you are inside an alien ship. As such, there are plenty of grungy metal and computer textures, appropriately stenciled with alien calligraphy (or is it graffiti? Heh.) This is a relatively vast map in terms of distances and area, and there's a lot of back-tracking required. Thankfully, the author makes sure there's never a dull moment. While most of the enemies are of the cannon-fodder variety (a cool RoboCop-looking, phase-shifting humanoid) there are plenty of the heavy hitters to keep you on your toes. Health and ammo are tight in the beginning, but there are goodies aplenty towards the end of the map. Light armor is available in the beginning, but anything heavier will need to be found in secret places (at least one of which is clearly visible). In this respect I feel that the author may be tightening up the gameplay too much, and not allowing for mistakes on the part of the player. Some of the encounters with the tougher enemies are in close quarters, and additional armor would have helped. Of the five secrets, I found all but one - the megasphere; some of the secrets did not have clues to their presence, and this may annoy some. And while this wasn't technically a secret, there's an area that you will completely miss if you don't pick up a particular powerup. The switch is hidden behind the powerup itself. Clever!
Map13 - Mebius: You're definitely in alien territory now. This is a concentrically circular map, and by circular I mean it in every sense of the word. It literally and figuratively made me go around in circles. Of all the maps in the set, this was the most confusing (despite, or perhaps because of, its compact size). I was constantly referring to the automap to figure out where to go next, and even then I was often at a loss. While I like the curvy design with its inter-connecting doorways, stairways, and lifts, it makes for difficult going. I didn't even realize that pressing the last switch enables the exit elevator until I stepped into it by accident and was surrounded by the "lasers". Once a player learns the layout (probably after playing through a couple of times) it will probably get easier to navigate, but for me it was rather frustrating. Gameplay consists of searching out switches and keys while trying to survive an onslaught of archviles. It was creepy and exciting at first, and the design of the map does provide some cover, but it started getting repetitive halfway through the map. Moreover, with a rapidly-dwindling supply of health, and only armor-lite near the map start, you face the last few archviles with no means to revive yourself, and can't afford to make mistakes. I found only a couple of secrets, and I gave up searching after a while. I'd have to say that I enjoyed the first half of this map, but the experience went downhill after that. I have to admit, however, that the author's method of "delivering" health bonuses when certain types of switches is pressed is very innovative.
Map14 - Orions (sic) Belt: Of all the maps, this is probably the most awe-inspiring (with its vast expanse of night skies) as well as the most puzzle-heavy. The architecture is back to the Egyptian theme with some alien themes thrown in, but is very well done. Gameplay tends towards eeriness-inspiring, with some large battles thrown in for good measure. Although the end battle had plenty of bad guys, it felt tedious to me, and my wrist began to hurt from the endless circle-strafing. You will do a lot of exploration, and quite a bit of back-tracking and switch/key-hunting. My biggest frustration came when I couldn't figure out the path to the yellow key. It was only after I opened up the map in an editor did I discover that a switch in a completely different part of the map lowers the column in front of the teleporter to the yellow key area. Moreover, the teleporter itself is not in a conspicuous place, and can cause additional confusion. And then right after I deposited the yellow key into the alcove, I didn't know what I was supposed to do next. I pressed the fire and the water switches, but I didn't realize I needed to keep pressing them over and over again. In my opinion, making the player guess as to what results an action has caused, does not lend itself to streamlined gameplay. There's plenty of health, ammo, and armor throughout the map, and a good assortment of weaponry (although it makes me wonder why the chaingun is available so late in the map). I would say that this map gets better with age - play it a couple of times and you won't be wasting time trying to figure out what to do next. [One possible issue with this map: an archvile and a bunch of imps are supposed to teleport in at the yellow key area. This did not happen when I played.
Map15 - Astral Base: You start out in utter blackness. But a single step sends you hurtling through time and space to deposit you on a star base. The theme has changed once again, and you are surrounded by crates, steel and concrete structures, and computers. The action begins almost immediately, and you'll have to be fleet of foot to avoid the many hiscanners, fireball hurlers, and one nasty homing-missile shooting pest. You plod along with minimal armaments for a while and then start picking up your heftier arsenal, all the while fending off the usual cannon fodder and the occasional heavy. There's plenty of ammo, a decent amount of health, and more than the average armor than this author tends to bestow. As with the earlier maps, the design is impeccable and the puzzles at a minimum. This allows the player to be firmly in the driver's seat; the computer area map greatly helps with the navigation. The author displays a clear command of the appropriate use of textures to convey a sense of complexity without using sectors for detail (and this has been his trademark throughout this set). The "final" battle is exciting, and the player can be best served by inciting monster in-fighting. [I put the word "final" in quotes because there are a few more baddies to mop up, and this almost seems anticlimactic. Although I expect that this was necessary to support the design for the final puzzle, which grants access to the first secret level. Speaking of which, your timing will need to be spot on if you're to make it to the secret level.]
Map31 - Osirion: I am reviewing this map seemingly out of sequence, because I played it right after Map15. Let me start off by saying that of all the maps I've played so far, this is the one I liked the least. There is chronic shortage of ammo, and if you don't acquire the berserk pickup (via the obscure switch), you will be left with little more than your unpowered fists. In one instance I was facing four Hell Knights and one Baron of Hell with six shotgun shells and 41 bullets. [Admittedly there are two boxes of shells at the back of that room, but until I discovered that I felt like I was on a suicide mission.] Even the shotgun is concealed, and must be searched out. It gets progressively worse, and I was left facing a revenant, two mancubi, and a bunch of demons with barely enough ammo for one mancubus. This was after I had been splattered a half-dozen times by a teleporting cyberdemon and decided to make a run for the room with all the baddies. It was fun the first couple of times, but wore thin very quickly. It would appear that the finding of secrets, which themselves are not easy to come by, is necessary to succeed in this map. A disappointing counterpoint to what is otherwise a well-designed map. [EDIT: I went back and made a deliberate attempt at finding the secrets, and I have to admit it made things much easier. Right up until the final battle, of course. At that point you need an angel on your shoulder to survive. Heh. Even though I managed to complete the level, I stand by my earlier opinion of this map - the finding of secrets should never be made an integral part of your survival.]
Map32 - The Harbour: And because I managed to find the super secret level without cheating, I am reviewing that level in this sequence. Compared to the previous maps this one is like a stroll by the seaside. Wait a minute! It is a stroll by the seaside - you find yourself at a harbor, surrounded by the blue waters, fending off the usual pesky hustlers and low-life. The map starts off real quiet, and then the pace picks up. Most of the resistance is light, but watch out for the snipers in the turrets. [Tip, don't bother wasting your ammo on them until you've dealt with their masters.] The weapons/armor/ammo/health balance is decent, but you may want to watch your ammo use in the beginning. Overall, this is a short and sweet level that doesn't stand out in any way, but is a fun romp.
Map16 - DNA Replicate: Now this is DooM gameplay at its best! Take a relatively straightforward map layout, throw in plenty of room to retreat, sprinkle a goodly supply of weaponry, ammo, health, and armor, and top with hundreds of the things that make you wake up at night screaming in a cold sweat. This map will make you run, dodge, back-pedal, and keep your finger pressed on the trigger. What makes this map unpredictable is the number of archviles that always seem to make their appearance in the thick of the corpses that you piled up as you laid waste to the demon spawn. But I say this in a good way, as it requires some learning and some strategy and some luck - all the elements of a good game. [Many people, however, will find the respawning chaingunners in turrets extremely annoying. It was cool when the author first used it in the earlier maps; at this stage it was more of a pain.] The texturing is mostly grungy industrial, with a smattering of tech, but it suits the level. After the last couple of levels I can say I truly had fun on this one.
Map17 - Hologram: This is another short-but-sweet map. There's a central hallway that connects the four main areas you must visit, and some back-tracking is necessary. Most considerately, the author makes sure your return trips are never boring. The kicker comes at the end, when you discover a rocket shuttle waiting for you. Constructed entirely of sectors, this is a reasonably convincing-looking bit of hardware. Most of the fights are quite pedestrian, but the clever placement of enemies and obstructions in the yellow key room make for painful choices, and your ass is going to get kicked around at least a little bit no matter how you play it. There is an adequate supply of health, armor, and ammo, but the heavy weaponry is only to be found in secret areas - one of which mocks you by being so close and yet so far! There are a whopping seven secrets, but applying keen observation will help you find most of them.
Map18 - Gunman: Your rocket shuttle deposits you on an asteroid, and you mostly explore canyon-type environments. The map starts off very quietly, and the battles build up until the finale, which you honestly ought to try out without one of the key powerups. There's plenty of health, weaponry, and ammo, and a decent amount of armor, and the opposition is mostly of the weak- to medium-strength variety. However, watch out for enemies in turrets and ledges behind you. The map design requires exploration and some back-tracking, but the author has connected some of the areas, minimizing your back-tracking. There are four secrets, but I was able to find only one of them; regardless, the level was quite manageable. It makes me wonder, with the light gameplay, whether this ought to have been one of the earlier maps. However, of course, there's a semblance of a story-line going on here, and this is just one map in the sequence.
Map19 - Escape: This is a fine example of a city map - nicely textured buildings, street lamps, trees & greenery, and darkened alleyways where the things with long claws and fangs lurk. The streets that define the city blocks intersect and create a nice feeling of connectedness, and more importantly, allow you to beat a hasty retreat when things heat up. One of the cool features of this map is the "swinging" doors in the apartment building (achieved by instantly rising/lowering sectors, at which the author has demonstrated that he is quite adept). Health is tight in the beginning, but ammo and armor are plentiful. All of the available weapons in this map are collected by normal means (although one of the lighter weapons is to be found in a clearly visible secret area). You start out surrounded by the hitscanning, phase-shifting Robocops (still called Nazis in this game, by the way), and you need the available hardware nearby to avoid losing too much health. After that it gets more manageable, and you soon pick up heavier armaments - which also means that you face meaner and tougher nasties. Gameplay is nicely balanced; even the end battle allows for staying put and taking out the enemies as they come through the doorway, or rushing outside and dodging the many, many attacks until you reach the safety of the city block corners. Another very enjoyable map.
Map20 - Anomaly Zone: Are you frikkin' kidding me? Six cyberdemons near the start point and me with just a pistol? That's like a 10-year old getting into a mixed martial arts ring with six heavyweights. Thankfully the author saw fit to make the bad guys face the other way, and gave a general sense for an escape route. Can you say "Run! Forrest! Run!"? Anyhoo, it all turns out well, thanks to the modicum of decency buried deep within the author's core (and six giant crushers). As with earlier maps, you start off slow, and then you get thrown into the mix. And boy, what a mix - imps, hell knights, cacodemons, and revenants. You get an assortment of powerups and weapons, and a decent amount of ammo, health, and armor. Still, this fight is not going to be easy. And then, after giving you a chance to catch your breath, the evil author throws in a few archviles in the midst of the corspes that you so gleefully generated. Swine! But all joking aside, this makes for some fine running, dodging, and blasting away, and I quite enjoyed it. In the final battle it took me a while to figure out the strategy that the author intended. Clue: there's only so much ammo lying around. The theme of the map is a mix of alien and tech, with some lava caverns thrown in, and the texturing works reasonably well. The ending is well "scripted" for being done using only vanilla DooM tricks.
Map21 - Shore Dream: Because of the violent and unexpected end at the conclusion of the previous level, you start off with ..... well, I won't spoil the surprise for you. You are presumably in some sort of dream state, as the prior INTERMAP text and the name of this map indicates. It's (mostly) straightforward to navigate this map, as there are only two primary areas. Now here's the rub: note that I caveated my previous statement - finding the blue key can be quite frustrating, and while I can admire the technical innovation that was used in keeping the key hidden, requiring you to find two hidden switches in order to proceed is a cheap shot. The other complaint I have is that there is chronic shortage of health and no armor in the middle stage of this map, and making the slightest mistake will cause you to walk with a limp and wince at shadows the rest of the way. On top of which, the author has seen fit to surprise you with a couple of mid-grade baddies until you can reach the end stage and get some health. I was facing them with a mere 9 units of health, and just a shotgun and chain-saw. Speaking of chain-saws, this is the first map where you get one during normal gameplay (i.e., not in a secret). The environment is a mix of sandy sea-shore, rocky canyons, and some nicely-built structures. I'd say this map is a mixed-bag.
Map22 - Mummy Tomb: As the map name suggests, you're back in an Egyptian environment, and you're underground somewhere. The map starts off real slow and creepy, but the pace certainly picks up. Fair warning: Whenever you come across goodies, look over your shoulder for an exit - the good stuff always comes at a price. Actually, this is true for keys as well, and the author's penchant for dropping archviles in the midst of a pile of rotting corpses that you so excitedly racked up, will be sure to toss a spanner in your plans for speedy progress. Sometimes you've got to back out gracefully, and at other times you've got to stand toe-to-toe with the sucker. [Actually, circle-strafing might better ensure your continued survival.] For more timid players there is typically a back door to the most punishing battles. The final battle was quite satisfying. There's a decent amount of health and ammo, but the only armor early on is in a secret place. Initially, all you'll have is a chaingun, and even the shotgun is only to be obtained in the middle of this mission. Therefore, without the double-barreled shotgun you're up shit creek. [You can pick up the rocket launcher, but little good it'll do you in close quarters.] The DBS is within reach but requires being observant for a switch in the area. The map design is superb, with nicely connecting areas that never give you the feeling that you're lost. I could only find three of the four secrets. Overall, a wonderful gaming experience.
Map23 - Oasis: This is a map that is sure to have something for everyone - plenty of sniping and ducking, circle-strafing, back-pedaling while frantically squeezing the trigger, and darting in to pick up goodies and to promote in-fighting. You get some of the weapons and a major powerup almost right away, but you're missing a key part of your arsenal - the trick is to gird your loins, keep your head down, and dash out among the fierce and angry hordes to acquire it. As with all good fights, you'll sacrifice something to gain something else - in this case the opposition will probably shave your head down and tar-and-feather you, but it'll probably be worth it. Many of the fights are on a grand scale, while others are in tight quarters with heavy weaponry; I found all to be tough but generally fair and not frustrating. The author freely exercises his tendency to spawn archviles where they're likely to be the most troublesome, but I found the situations to be manageable by being fleet of foot and quick with my trigger-finger. The map design is excellent, architecture (cleverly) looks more complex than it really is, and the visuals are spectacular. No shortage of health, armor, and ammo; and the secrets hold some powerful goodies (although I only found one secret). Easily a map that will find itself a permanent place on your hard drive.
Map24 - Hentiamenti: This map is a combination of vast open areas with scant cover, to rooms and corridors where you're in uncomfortably cramped quarters with some nasties. The map design is quite good, and while there is some back-tracking required, there's enough to make your return forays interesting. The map is navigable with relative ease, and if you find the computer map in the well-marked secret area then you're in even better shape. Gameplay starts in a thoroughly frustrating way, with a paucity of ammo. I was left facing a hell knight and a revenant with 2 shells and 28 bullets. In the end, I maneuvered around until I got them to fight each other, and mopped up the winner. After that things got much better, and I picked up some heavy weaponry with accompanying ammo. Still, it's in your best interest to generate in-fighting, particularly in the vast, open area with little cover. And then there's the teleporting cyberdemon. Now let me say right up front that I vehemently detest this device. And when the author makes a puzzle out of the situation, I like it even less. After numerous failed attempts at luring the bastard to its DooM (TM), I finally opened up the map in an editor and figured out what the player must do to lure the cyberdemon to its own personal hell. To the author's credit, you are provided a back-door escape if it gets too tedious. Speaking of which, after this point I began to find the fights just that - a slog. Whether my opinion was tainted by the lack of ammo at the start, or it was the struggle with the cyberdemon, or whether it was the constant ducking and hiding in the open areas, the rest of the map held little appeal for me. And what's with the completely hidden puzzle to get out of the blue key room? As for the other aspects, health is aplenty and light armor is to be found right at the start and then at the middle of the map; if you get lucky with the secrets you'll have plenty of health and armor later too. Definitely not my favorite map.
Map25 - Per Nefer: Things start off quiet. Too quiet. But not to worry - the pace picks up, but with mostly light opposition in the beginning. You pick up a shotgun not far from the start area, and this will be your workhorse for a while. [You can find a "weapon" in a secret area near the start if you're observant, but I left it alone. You can also see the DB shotgun, but must reach it through a secret area. I did try to play the map without this weapon but I increasingly found it to be a pain in the butthocks, and I broke my no-picking-up-secrets rule.] The map is well-designed, and despite the inter-connectedness, I was rarely lost. You can exit the map early and avoid some of the fights, if you wish. [For example, I didn't pick up the blue armor when making my way towards the exit, and reached there with only about 70% of the monster count. I went back and picked up the armor, did my duty as a soldier, and found that I was still short on the monster count. It takes some exploration to find the secret areas, and secrets within secrets. Aside from the author's choice to keep the DB shotgun in a secret area, I found no fault with this map. Because of its difficulty level, however, perhaps this would have fit better earlier in the map set.
Map26 - Luxor: Can you say "insanity"? "Nuts!", perhaps (heh)? You start off in a wide open arena with strategically-placed cover, and dozens of homing-missile-toting and triple-spread-fireball-firing and just-plain-fireball-hurling hell-spawn. It's an adrenaline rush for sure, as you scurry to avoid the wrath of the angry masses. There's plenty of health and armor, some decent heavy-weaponry, and more than enough ammo. [Although I wonder why the author chose to spread around so many cell packs, as the relevant weapons are not available until later. Perhaps this is a concession to those that did not use a pistol start.] After the initial battle there is a lull in the action until it picks up with a vengeance in the red skull area. You can easily find yourself cornered with little room to maneuver, and the running-and-sniping won't serve you well at all. [Perhaps this fight might have been easier with the BFG to be found in the secret area, but I couldn't reach this secret. [Is the leap even possible?] Also, at skills of HMP and below there is a key powerup available, but I chose not to use it, and I did just fine.] However, the fight with the arch-viles behind the yellow-key door and the cyberdemon released by the switch there were purely gratuitous - the author should have allowed the cyberdemon to climb into the pillared arena instead of being stuck where it could be sniped to death. After that the fights were less exciting and felt like they were just thrown in to slow things down. In summary, the fights in the beginning and the middle are memorable, while the rest seemed just like filling.
Map27 - Ammut: If you thought the last map was insane you should stay away from this one! [Just kidding, of course.] You plod along until you pick up the red key, and then all Hell breaks loose. [Tip, duck for cover from the big bad guy at the blue pool, but find a quick way back to kick up some vicious in-fighting.] And if you thought that fight was bone-crushing, wait until you actually step through the red key door! At skill levels HMP and below you'll get a much-needed powerup - at UV I can't guess how a player will survive while still making the game fun. The cyberdemons at the end (plus the couple of heavy-hitters at the exit) were more of a nuisance, but one of them allowed for some in-fighting. You pick up a powerful weapon right at the start, and then a couple of lighter weapons in short order after that, and with ammo and health being generally plentiful you'll stay in decent shape for the first part of this map. [Considering the amount of ammo you'll use at the finale I question, however, the author's decision to put the only backpack in a secret area.] You also get light armor near the start and blue armor (which, with this author, always comes at a price dunnit?) later, which will be supplemented by top-of-the-line powerups later. There are 3 secrets, of which I only found the backpack (which I did go back and use, despite my no-using-secrets rule). I'll say this about the battle royale at the end: it's brutal, but if you make it through it's very satisfying.
Map28 - Ogdoad: For those that are looking for a map in the vein of TeamTNT's Eternal DooM III, you've found it. This is a vast castle surrounded by ocean that lends itself to exploration and admiration and, possibly, frustration. The architecture stays within the limits of the original DooM2 but the interior looks magnificent. Initially you won't need any keys, leaving you free to roam around the place (some particularly nasty critters, notwithstanding). However, you'll need to find a whole boat-load of switches, some of them hidden, many to essential areas and items (which I didn't particularly like). Even with the automap it's easy to get lost and you'll find yourself constantly back-tracking to figure out where to go next. [And by the way, requiring wallrunning to make the required jump across to the ledge near the stairway [1216, 4768] was not cool.] This problem of figuring out what to do next gets progressively worse after you pick up the yellow key, when you realize you have to retrace the entire map to find the newly-activated switches that were dormant at first. [While the author deserves credit for the technical aspect of this puzzle, the in-game experience leaves much to be desired.] Soon after the start you'll pick up armor and a couple of weapons with plenty of ammo and health. However the DB Shotgun that's seemingly within arm's length is in a secret area; the rocket launcher too is in a secret area. And while the chainsaw and backpack are not technically in secret areas, to get there requires some tortuous exploration. "Tortuous" being the operative word. The fights are mostly manageable until you pick up the yellow key. After that they tend to be derivative, and I felt like I was just going through the motions. The less said about the end fight, the better. [Did I mention I hate teleporting cyberdemons? How about one that's followed by a teleporting Spider Mastermind?] This map gets points for looks, even for map design, but not so much for gameplay.
Map29 - Mortuary: Let me start out by saying that, by this time in the game, I'm mentally worn out from marathon sessions of exploring expansive areas and battling epic (sic!) hordes. It did not improve my mood when I saw the beginning stats showing more than 550 enemies - and that would be before the stinkin' archviles do the dirty. [The final count, by the way, was 803.] But I kept my head down and I pressed on, and I was very pleasantly surprised. There's plenty to explore, and it's pretty much all open at first but then you start needing keys. Oh, those keys, starting with the blue one! But the author doesn't believe you need just keys to have fun - pick up a conveniently lying around megasphere and enjoy the show; press an innocent-looking switch and have a blast; try to shake hands and make peace ... oh wait, that's the US State Department. Never mind. Anyhow, you get the idea. The battle in the tall, three-tiered "library" was tense and exciting, and requires some strategy (can you say "monster in-fighting"?) and luck. There are three other real battles to speak of (plus minor skirmishes, although hordes of mid-level baddies with the assortment of archies thrown in can scarcely be described as "minor") and the first two are virtually identical in concept - you're in a locked room with dozens of revenants, hell knights, cacodemons, a few archviles, and a cyberdemon teleporting in. The final arena with three heavy-hitters was manageable even without the available powerup. Speaking of which, there is a healthy dose of megaspheres, soulspheres, and armor (some of which are in secret areas, and most of which I was able to manage without) and an almost unlimited supply of ammo for the virtually complete arsenal that you're given. [Curiously, you get the shotgun last of all. Heh.] There is some back-tracking required, but later in the map the author helpfully provides teleporters to take you back to the precise location at which you need to be. At no time was I more than mildly bewildered or confused. Overall, I found this to be an extremely satisfying map that is destined to be played and replayed.
Map30 - Amenthes: This map starts off very quietly, and gives you the opportunity to catch your breath and recce the surroundings. The first structure you come to is a beautiful pillared pavilion, but the resistance so far is mostly of the token variety. You gird your loins and step onto the lowering platform. Again, things are quiet, but the megaspheres, cell packs, and BFG on the pillar are definitely not meant as decorations. All Hell breaks loose (well, at least some of Hell breaks loose) when you pick up the BFG, and then some more of Hell leaks through after you're done with the first wave and dispatched the Commander Keenes. The rest of the map is a standard Map30 end, where you're faced with a different incarnation of the Icon of Sin, this time hiding two Boss Brains. Not much tension here, and the final heinous villain is easily dispatched in an anticlimactic battle. Nothing more to see here. Move along.
At this point, the two of you who are still reading this probably need to take a potty break, so I'll wrap it up. Epic2 is a magnificent product into which the author has obviously poured a lot of effort, imagination, and love. All of this shines through in the care with which the maps have been crafted and the attention that has been paid to creating intense and enjoyable gameplay. For those of you that have not played this yet, go forth and do so. For those of you that have already played it, what are you waiting for? Play it again, dammit!