Friday, September 19, 2014

Back to Saturn X E2: Tower in the Fountain of Sparks (BTSX_E2X.WAD)

It's been a little more than a year and a half, so it's about time that we saw the Back to Saturn X Episode II beta. BTSX started out as a single megaWAD, but an abundance of contributors caused an internal split into what eventually became three "episode" megaWADs. Get Out of My Stations, the "shareware" episode, made its public debut at the tail end of 2012. It got a lot of flak for its techbase stylings, but it's one of my favorite releases of the 2013 season for its impeccable visuals and light speed gameplay. Tower in the Fountain of Sparks looks to be one of the top releases of 2014, and for good reason.

For the uninitiated, BTSX takes place on an abandoned research facility on Saturn X. Hell came to roost, and after radio silence from the resident UAC base, you're sent on what is basically a suicide mission since the chance of retrieval is slim to nil. After riding the Saturn X research railway you wind up at the docks, boarding the Unsinkable Fats Domino only to have it... sink, sending you to Swim With the Whales. At the beginning of Episode II, you wash ashore at the infamous "Shadow Port", continuing your campaign of carnage. This time, though, you're venturing through Saturn X's dark side, where the vast majority of its alien ruins lie. The old world is a strange place, harboring many things long-forgotten, most of all the mythical Tower in the Fountain of Sparks.

BTSX is back, baby, and with it a brand new theme. Where the first episode was primarily a techbase affair, E2 is some kind of unholy hybrid of gothic / ancient ruins, alien technology, and nature hike complete with cliff dwellings. There are even a few UAC bases hidden in here, though their character is rather unlike those that came before. This wonderful mixture of brave, new things makes for a megaWAD with lots of interesting architecture and set pieces, the perfect background of things to marvel at so that all those nasty monsters can catch you off-guard. Xaser's hub maps are a nice contrast to Essel's no-nonsense execution in Get Out of My Stations. They give you lots of places to explore and help to heighten the sense of adventure. Not that anyone really wanted to wander through entire abandoned hyper-realistic science installations in E1...

BTSX is also harder this time around. Things start out pretty mellow but the difficulty ramps up considerably as you play on and the more open areas make for plenty of snipers. There's also a full-on slaughtermap in the secret level slot named "Fireking Says No Cheating" and it owns bones, even if it kicked my ass all over the place. "Steeple of Knives" has a precarious balance which all but requires a certain order of visitation lest you find yourself beset upon by creatures of the deep. I'm sure more skilled players could work out the "hard" way, but screw that. "Perhaps Now the Vultures" is another exacting level whose glut of arch-viles will put a metric ton of pressure on the player as they sprint through the map, resurrecting previously benign monster corpses. As a whole, it may be more trappy than you can handle, in which case I'd dial it down to HMP. Really though, apart from the stuff mentioned and I guess the red key fight from "Unstable Journey" (since I didn't grab the BFG first), it's not nearly that bad.

I could sit here and talk about how gorgeous the levels look, but you'd be much better served by just loading these bastards up and playing through them yourself. I mean, pretty much every level is a winner, though fans of weird and wild stuff may want to check out Xaser's stuff, not to exclude the hard work of all the other authors, like Jimmy (an ancient temple that gradually fills up with water to get you to the exit across a desiccated desert), Use3D (some Mayan-esque ruins with a tale of two thrones and some cool underground tunnels), or RottKing (a spellbinding underground fortress with fantastic lighting and architecture). There are a lot of neat special effects to complement the visuals and the mixture of themes and materials will likely go a long way toward keeping Tower in the Fountain of Sparks from going stale, a common criticism of the first episode. The music complements the atmosphere nicely, a series of lush arrangements that reflects the more mysterious, ruinous atmosphere; Esselfortium's stable of composers knocks it out of the park again, unless of course you are completely hooked on heavy metal MIDIs, in which case, you're fucked.

Maybe we'll see another addition to Tower, just like the two that were appended to Stations. Maybe The Rusty Time Machine won't take another year and a half to see release (doubtful). In any case, BTSXE2 is in my mind a fantastic release, and one you really ought to check out. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Thank you to all the authors; it's been an adventure.


by assorted authors

Shadow PortMAP01
by Josh "Joshy" Sealy, Sarah "Esselfortium" Mancuso, and Boris "dew" Klimeš
"Shadow Port" kicks off where E1 left off, on the docks of Saturn X. This is a gorgeous Tyson-style level, if the opening berserk pack didn't clue you in. The chaingun becomes available pretty early on and I think the shotgun shortly after but I didn't explore in the right direction to grab it quick. There are lots of vistas to take in, but don't get too distracted or you might run afoul of one of several sniping revenants, not to mention tons of zombies you'll want to chaingun tap into oblivion. The western dock battle is a little dire given what your resources are at the time vs. monsters on ledges plus the demons and Hell knight on the ground, probably the nastiest fight I had. The Visplane Overflow is a very cool annex.

MAP02Underwater Explosions
by John "Tango" Oksasoglu
Ridiculously fun, checking out something that feels brand new with the ruins of Saturn X. This is a barrel-oriented level, first and foremost. Timing is key - if you don't think to line up your explosions, you'll likely run out of ammo. It's very satisfying, though, unless you have something against this distinctly arcadey gameplay. You're under pressure two-fold since the monsters are moving toward you and past the barrels you need to use to nuke them. The finale is delightfully devious, forcing you to take out the revenants quick so you can ease out and barrel the viles and commando snipers to death. There's also a classic arch-vile-with-demons-for-meatshields battle. Fast and furious.

Wings of ThornMAP03
by Brad "vorpal" Spencer and Xaser Acheron
A gorgeous gothic fortress inundated with water. The architecture is immaculate, with an irregular layout that shows a lot of imagination crammed into a scant ~100 monsters. The layout is also very open with all the windows and cages everywhere. In spite of this, the map seems claustrophobic considering the areas you have to retreat to plus a feeling of exposure from all the potential angles for attack. Most of the sneak attacks come from imps but there are a couple of revenants that might catch you off guard. Two encounters stick out in my mind. The yellow key fight is a great crossfire between revenants in your face and mancubuses from afar, stretching your attention thin. The red key trap is kind of annoying but the setup prevents you from just hanging back and then offing the commandos as you cut the pie.

MAP04Dirty Water
by Mike "Use3D" Alfredson and Richard "Tarnsman" Frei
A massive, exploratory adventure map in the continuing theme of ancient alien ruins. You have a lot of legwork to do but there are plenty of directions to run at the onset. Of course, the best thing to do is grab the plasma rifle, but you wouldn't know that dropping in blind. Heck, I didn't know until I'd sprinted through the temple and grabbed the shotgun and chaingun. You can pick a direction and run but ultimately you'll need both the blue and yellow key before gaining access to the series of catwalk-navigated sewers that lead to the exit. It's got a really cool story-ish thing with the two thrones. The gameplay is a mixture between wide-open outdoor areas that expose you to attacks from more powerful monsters and more congested indoor sections full of wonderful encounters with revenants and arch-viles and imps. I guess there's a spiderdemon too but it hardly registers. Standout fight for me was pretty much the opening blitz; once you get a foothold there isn't anything that devious to trip you up.

Tower in the Fountain of Sparks IMAP05
by Xaser Acheron
Xaser takes my breath away with this gorgeous intermission. I almost wish there was something to do besides take in the scenery but I'll take it to gawk at stuff like what I assume is the titular tower, an impressive gray megastructure whose derelict paneling reveals alien runes. Also watch out for a natural arch (nice cheat) and an ominous barred-in furnace.

MAP06Useless Inventions
by Bjorn "Vader" Ostmann
This starts out feeling like BTSX does E2M2 before spilling into a "Downtown"-esque outdoor section with a Hellish crossfire propagated by all sorts of window snipers. As can be expected, the indoor sections are incredibly congested three-dimensional mazes with sneaky lost souls flitting about as major spoilers. The outdoors fields a lot of the larger enemies, with a big wave of baddies that arrived after I nabbed that secret red key, I think. There is an entirely optional section of level that can net you a plasma rifle to make things go a bit easier elsewhere. In fact, the map is loaded with tasty secrets, plus a chuckleworthy "start to crate" computer screen. The last is in a pretty devilish exit room which has mancubuses stationed in sensitive areas, imps bordering the north and south sides, and a bigass wave of arch-viles and skeletons that you'll probably have enough rockets for, provided you don't get careless trying to take them out from the upper ledge. Lots of neat scenery past those fences. Fantastic level, and dangerous, too.

Shrine to the Dynamic Years (Athens Time Change Riots)MAP07
by Eric "The Green Herring" Baker
Baker takes us through this mixture of alien temple and watery grotto in a linear, action-packed adventure map. The combat is pretty light until you hit the underground river, where the sheer volume of monsters (mainly cacodemons) threatens to overwhelm, followed by a close-quarters pincer attack between revenants and Hell knights. You can relax, taking care as the crumbling caverns reveal some pesky zombies, until you reach the big courtyard which starts as a monsters-as-turrets fight before the switch pull inundates you with pain elementals that feel truly threatening. The blue key leads to basically the first big pitched battle where revenants teleport in from two stations as a cloud of cacos floats toward your position, plus one last gasp from evil as you make the summit of the shrine. Good fights, good night.

MAP08A Blue Shadow
by Matt Tropiano and Richard "Tarnsman" Frei
The layout reminds me of BTSX E1 with the abundance of waterlogged caverns that border the southwestern edge of the level but instead of an immaculate techbase we get this tricky, dirty alien ruin. Enemies are stationed to keep you from running circles around monsters and while some can be lured into a safe spot oftentimes you'll have to bite the bullet and weather the storm until you can take them out. And sometimes, like the arch-vile in the northeastern yellow key area, they'll come to get you! You'll be killing plenty of monsters before you grab a rocket launcher, so be sure and snag the SSG from one of those cots early on if you don't want to suffer like I did. The northeastern area showcases some gorgeous blue textures and a slowly opening network of hallways liberally staffed with monsters, culminating in a speedy shootout with an arch-vile, revenants, and a peanut gallery. Very cool and very punishing.

Adverse WindMAP09
by Adrian "DeathevokatioN" Hanekom and Sarah "Esselfortium" Mancuso
Back to something smaller with this output of brick and metal. It's pretty linear but has a kickin' rad layout full of great, cramped gameplay whose main feature is basically a big ol' Spiderdemon sitting on the other side of the ledge, locking down the upper tier of the main courtyard. When you finally get around to destroying it, there's a great teleport trap that basically functions because the spider is no longer occupying their teleport destination. The southeastern section is a bit of a claustrophobic nightmare but there's plenty of cover to keep you from getting shot and / or singed. There's nothing really pressing about the Spiderdemon trap since you can back right over that bridge and shell the monsters there. The mancubus trap looks cool but again isn't much of a threat, all things considered. A very fun map.

MAP10Eureka Signs
by Sarah "Esselfortium" Mancuso
Essel decides to give us a hugeass adventure level in something of a gothic castle style. You know that shit is on when you round that first corner and have a pack of revenants coming down the battlements toward you plus that arch-vile up in the blown-out tower. The rest of the level is full of similar moments of duress where aggression comes from multiple sources and you've got to deal with it all. An early plasma rifle (pretty much at the beginning) helps out but with all the demonflesh stomping around it won't be the only thing you use to clear this ancient manse out. There are an abundance of gorgeous areas to fight through, each with their own particular flavor and fauna, including a massive underground library. Arch-viles figure in regularly while revenants on down appear as Hell's basic ground troopers. It also has an interesting layout with progression that weaves through previously explored areas via key doors and other paths. Standout encounter: I love that opening shot plus that surprise fight just past the gate to the northeast. Also a shoutout to that pillar platforming bit right before the final leg of the dungeon.

Tower in the Fountain of Sparks IIMAP11
by Xaser Acheron
A return to the gorgeous hub, unraveling more mysteries of the hub as the curious alien metal behind the hole in the wall is gone, and that fence that Doomguy could have just climbed over has lowered, allowing you to inspect the previously visible ruined colonnade and inspect the tower itself, which opens up a portal to one of the exits you might have seen earlier. The newest bit of important scenery - that giant dam in the distance.

MAP12Demons are Real
by Paul "Skillsaw" DeBruyne
The first intro to the iconic glowing-crosses background. Skillsaw cranks out some Hellish castle ruins in his own style, liberally sprinkled with monsters and teleport traps that you will be hard pressed to clear since he's pretty good about sealing off most avenues of escape so that the way out is through. It's actually a pretty short map with a tight layout but the enemy numbers can be overwhelming with how they're given to you, like in that exit room, though that's largely dependent upon the order in which you use the exit switches. The action rarely lets up, with great fights like the water pit battle between the two towers and the blue key fight, which results in a pretty sizable pincer attack, though the opposition isn't as thick as the enemies that spawn on your run to the yellow key bars. Very cool midtexture cheat with those slanted corners on the starting area walls. And, uh, fantastic map.

Nation Gone DryMAP13
by James "Jimmy" Paddock and Richard "Tarnsman" Frei
A badass ancient ruins level with a solid hook. You start out in a dry and desiccated landscape and as you slowly investigate and pull levers you'll raise the water table until you've flooded the whole damn thing just to get at the exit, which is found in a cistern behind the beginning of the level. The whole thing is a hornets' nest of monsters that wake up and frequently sneak up on you. The opening hall is a great example as teleport lines prevent you from camping at one end of the hallway as monsters that reach them re-materialize right behind you. There are a lot of really impressive megastructures like the water vat you drain, the central junction with its archways, and the final area itself, the scene of a pretty nasty battle where the sniper arch-viles actually come down to party with you. I also love the fight in the west wing where the door opens releasing cacos like a clown car while you're trying to fend off bigger monsters. Fantastic map.

MAP14Shocker in Gloomtown
by Brett "Mechadon" Harrell and Bjorn "Vader" Ostmann
Mechadon and Vader combine their considerable talents to create this dense spiderweb of a map that would remind me of a Deimos level were it not for the absolutely stunning use of height variation to create several different tiers of play that must be investigated. The opening sets you up for desperation as you take on two angles of hitscanners plus (potentially) several cacos and then quickly morphs into a fairly nonlinear trek with weapon copies everywhere depending on which route you take and monsters attacking you from nooks and crannies everywhere. The red and blue keys are not necessary to finish but they can save you some time and ammo and even grant you your first BFG. Standout fights... Well, the early causeway battle with the SSG is a pretty good example of pressure that involves purely low-tier monsters (besides the overlooking Spiderdemon). I also love the finale, a dead drop into a cyberdemon fight where you have to clear zombies out so that you can continue to dodge rockets. The only problem is that the tension all but evaporates when the crowd finally things out. The eastern annex is very heavy with encounters, all of them great, just layered on top of each other. Very cool map.

The Theory of Broken CirclesMAP15
by Bjorn "Vader" Ostmann
Where MAP14 is an intricate but relatively constrained affair, "Circles" is a positively sprawling epic that takes place in a blood-filled network of canyons dotted by the "broken circles", segments of ruins built in a semicircle motif. You can go pretty much any direction you want from the onset just as long as you're aware that everywhere you go will be liberally sprinkled with enemies filled with unquenchable bloodlust. Some, like the Cyberdemon in the blue key room, are best left to their own devices until you get the tools for quickly slaying them. Given all the ledges and choke points, the rocket launcher is a superb weapon to use, and the plasma rifle is natch useful for those moments when you are in cramped quarters with revenants, arch-viles, or whatever. So many of these monsters are fed piecemeal that it's hard to pick any standout fights, but rest assured, with the connectivity of this level you will be fighting off monsters from all angles on an almost constant basis. Phenomenal.

MAP31Fireking Says No Cheating
by Josh "Joshy" Sealy, Sarah "Esselfortium" Mancuso, and Boris "dew" Klimeš
Of course, this episode would need a no-holds-barred slaughtermap. "Fireking" takes after newschool slaughter with its 1,000+ enemies, epic architecture, and dastardly enemy placement. It feels like there are arch-viles in every corner just to put you in your place, i.e. behind some handy cover. The first real objective besides getting out of the main chamber alive with your weapons is sniffing out the BFG; once you have that, you can start clearing stuff in earnest, though merely picking up the 9000 may sound your death knell. It's easy to feel overwhelmed when stuff like the yellow key switch unleashes a veritable horde of baddies through the main corridor along with a couple of arch-viles. Then, of course, there's the isolated pyramid of death to the north, which leaves you feeling totally exposed with the three archies on the southern pillar. The path you take after using the blue and red keys is a neat adventure back through the level from a different vantage point and has a classic "death by overwhelming imps" battle. The finale isn't too bad once you get past the opening setup and comes with a fantastic, floating monument. Very cool, and pretty tough.

Tower in the Fountain of Sparks IIIMAP16
by Xaser Acheron
Another alluring visit to the episode hub. I was initially underwhelmed because there isn't anything obviously different at first glance, but something is clearly up when you enter the tower, and after you cross through that canyon of bridges and natural arches, you get to investigate the creepy, deserted UAC base. The real surprise is when you reach the summit, though... Nice reveal.

MAP17Steeple of Knives
by Xaser Acheron
Well, uh, this is interesting. As soon as I arrived, I realized that I'd teleported into the structure witnessed at the end of the hub map. "Steeple" has a scant forty-seven enemies, but the delivery is via an arena, with you choosing the order of your encounters, the first one involving zero "interference". Personally, R / Y / G worked pretty solid for me. Battling pain elementals with the revenants / commandos was way more fun than trying to berserk them solo and the Cyberdemon is the perfect monster to deal with the end-of-map clusterfuck as it's pretty good at tethering the arch-viles while you hide like a frightened baby bird. The visuals are gorgeous as befits a map of this size.

Optional Bases OpposedMAP18
by Paul "Skillsaw" DeBruyne
This is an excellent fusion of UAC base and alien ruins from Skillsaw that largely plays like your typical hornets' nest with the occasional pitched battle. The onset is a crossfire with monsters everywhere and you hurriedly looking for something stronger than your starting shotgun. Once you get the combat shotgun or rocket launcher you can start to clear in earnest, actually spending some time looking at cool stuff like the step pyramid in the center of the map. I really love the irregular layout with all those dead-end hallways and nooks and crannies. There are three offshoots of the main area, each of which has a key. True to "Citadel", you only need two of the three keys to exit, but one of them has to be the blue, and you'll want to have the red and yellow to explore the optional area with the BFG. The map is positively thick with opposition, but there are a few individual encounters that stand out in my mind. The lowering walls in the western buffer zone start off a cool fight that pairs the uncertainty of columns with a couple of arch-viles and some other enemies; the revenant rush for the BFG is a simple but effective battle.

MAP19Unbaited Vicar of Scorched Earth
by Richard "Tarnsman" Frei
"Scorched Earth" has a biiiig secret, one that you may miss entirely, which I did. When I reached the exit, I realized that I'd blew by seventy or so monsters. There is a hidden route that takes you through many of the backdrops you fought through earlier in the level with harder monsters, more exacting placement, and a BFG as your reward, plus a megasphere for your troubles. As for the main event, this level is another fusion of tech and ruins but is dominated by lava that actually burns. Rad suits are a must lest you suffer unwanted attrition. There's a "Nation" transformation toward the end where your return to the opening area finds it completely swamped with molten rock. That is your opportune moment. Combat feels awkward because it's weighted toward rocket launcher shenanigans since the combat shotgun has a late appearance, but you'll see just how useless it would be with the enemy positioning Frei uses. A great example is the pit of lava you drop in to just south of the start zone, plus many rocket sniping opportunities. An action-packed blastathon.

Speedtraps For the Bee KingdomMAP20
by Richard "Tarnsman" Frei and Sarah "Esselfortium" Mancuso
Frei and Essel pool their talent together to craft this, an enormous adventure level that takes you through watery canyons, underground cities, and... bamboo villages? Right off the bat, you know you're in for a world of hurt, since your first weapon is the plasma rifle and you work your way backward through the list, of all things. Cacodemons and revenants are the smallest creatures you'll fight and everything on up appears pretty much regularly with arachnotrons and mancubuses sitting on ledges and columns everywhere as a way of making you move around constantly. Thankfully, the authors saw fit to give you plenty of room to run around in, which keeps areas like the southwestern lake from being a true projectile Hell. The long, outdoor trek is your average canyon crawl with interjections from the "speedtraps" that are this level's namesake. The big ledge climb up to the exit is one of the more memorable moments, but the one that really sticks with me is the crusher room in the underground city. Wicked cool.

MAP21Bulldog Skin
by Adam "Khorus" Woodmansey and Sarah "Esselfortium" Mancuso
Refreshingly, a Khorus map is still a Khorus map. It looks sweet as Hell of course, since this is starting to use a more infernal texture scheme, and Woodmansey's architecture is always a star. The opening is about as chaotic as you can expect but you have plenty of cover to soak up arch-vile fire, plus a berserk pack, so just keep light on your feet until you snag that rocket launcher. The outdoor area looks dangerous but the peanut gallery is more of an annoyance than anything. The castle's dual Cyberdemons are way more worth your worry, but that blue key ramp works pretty good as a shooting gallery stand point. Bonus points for reusing that teleporting Cyb for the finale's shootout. Short and sweet.

by Matt "RottKing" Cibulas
A fantastic underground ruins level from RottKing featuring exploration in a gorgeous irregular layout, terrifying traps, and tons of claustrophobic fighting. There are some larger rooms, too, but if you have problems with close-quarters skirmishing you'll probably suffer. There are enemies stuffed into every nook and cranny just waiting for you to stroll on by plus some nastier setups for you to chew on. Arch-viles always stick out in my mind, like the exit guardians or the pair in the sewer section, but Cibulas does other nasty things like pin you between a wall of barons and a small section of unexplored crypt that is a little jarring the first time around. That series of fights at the square of columns to the far southwest is pretty cool, too, with a finish that requires some slight finesse if you want to lay down rocket suppression fire. The arena finale is a good show, but it doesn't really get hectic until you open up the gate, unleashing two mobs of fliers and the gate guardians, creating a tricky setup that I navigated by parabolic arcs through the crowd. Don't miss it.

MAP23Tower in the Fountain of Sparks IV
by Xaser Acheron
The final visit to the hub map is a refreshing, atmospheric visit with almost no retreads, apart from cutting through the familiar central tower via a giant fissure created by God only knows what. There's a lot of eye candy you should take care to look over, like that gorgeous lava cascade cavern or the ominous burning building at the end. It's all building to something, but what...?

Perhaps Now the VulturesMAP24
by Richard "Tarnsman" Frei
Sort of a BTSX version of "Hunted", except not really. It's a gimmick map with a lot of arch-viles and a lot of dead monsters that demands a lot of respect because the longer these sorcerers stay alive, the more bad things you have to put down. There really aren't a lot of monsters initially but that arch-vile trio at the beginning more or less sets the tone of the map, with all the crazy action building up to a horrifying finale where the viles start to come at you fast and furious while you're in a courtyard with four pillars for cover. If you give them too much leeway, you might as well cut and run; I got stuck in a deathlock with four running around, resurrecting monsters and ended up restarting altogether. I think the root cause was one of the blue key guards sneaking into the teleport followed by a really clumsy recovery. Very cool and very devious.

MAP25Unstable Journey
by Brett "Mechadon" Harrell
An absolutely enormous, basically nonlinear adventure from Mechadon. "Unstable" is huge and uncompromising with plenty of ambushes to keep you on your toes and monsters stationed everywhere as you hunt down the three keys required to open up the exit, which is actually near the starting area. The red key's area is the largest by far, an outdoor canyon trek that finally culminates in a massive teleport ambush that you'll really want the BFG for. The only catch is that the BFG is locked behind some blue key bars in another part of the map. Don't despair, though, as you can probably survive long enough to escape via the normal exit and return to clear the shit out once you've got it. That's what I did, anyway. Each key has its own ambush, actually, increasing in scale from yellow to blue to red. The yellow fight is a congested game of splitting suppression fire between two targets while the blue is a good ol' fashioned choke of imps and cacodemons. There are also about eight hundred demons to clear while you make your way between things, so you'll be very busy when you're not sightseeing. Excellent stuff.

Beneath a Festering MoonMAP26
by Xaser Acheron
At long last, the terrible secret of BTSX E2. Chekhov's tower, if you will. It has the cinematic sense of some of the more atmospheric levels with that glimpse of the ending techbase area from the beginning but its navigation of three (plus one) tower tiers is immediately unlike anything that has gone before. The whole outing is full of close-quarters fights that leave the player exposed on several fronts, especially in some of those tower floors with all those roaming pain elementals and damage floors. The secret basement showcases the depth of the planet's corruption in a bit of arachnophobia that's pretty fun, though killing the revenants is a bland mop-up. It's just a cool as Hell adventure level that ends with an impressive visual of the Fargate, whose ambush tries to shove a handful of arch-viles down your throat. Thankfully you can wander off into that base area for some goodies that should pretty much defang the battle entirely. Kickin' rad, man.

by Richard "Tarnsman" Frei
A pure preview of things to come. You're not on Saturn X anymore...

This post is part of a series on
Doomworld's 2014 Cacowards

The Top TenBest MultiplayerRunners Up
Going Down32in24-13Bauhaus
The Adventures of SquarePushBloody Steel
Back to Saturn X: Episode 2Rage CTFMayhem 2048
PlasmaplantBest Gameplay ModWhitemare 2
Shadows of ChronosDemonSteeleYou Dig
Monster Hunter Ltd. 1/2Mordeth AwardThe Wailing Horde
ResurgenceDoom 2 in Name OnlyReconstruction/
Mayan MishapMockawardDecomposition
Urban Brawl: Dead of WinterBrutalist Doom
Thy Flesh Turned Into a Draft ExcluderMapper of the Year


  1. Why do you think this megawad (both parts) is getting all the hardship on Doomworld (i.e. the 'I have to confess' thread, mainly)? I can't decide if it's legitimate or if it's 'fake hate' from the community towards such a big project (that has happened before, KDiZD and Stronghold for instance). But a good timely objective review in any case, as always. :)

    1. idk why, i like it a lot, if they don't then they don't. a couple people might be pushing an agenda but i think that the majority of the people that say they are dissatisfied are, in fact, dissatisfied, and i wouldn't worry about what other people think. unless you are brandon, they cant hurt your opinions.

    2. Yeah, it boggles my mind. I can only assume there was a bunch of drama around the first release? And fair or not, E2 has been pretty hyped--by which I only mean that fans of E1 were hyped for the second episode. I dunno.

      I'm enjoying E2, but not as much as I did E1. Some of that is due to the "pressure" of playing along with the Megawad Club. I took a break after MAP12, but I'll revisit it later and play at my own pace, and likely enjoy it more. Also, though, I miss the techbase theme of E1; even if it overstayed its welcome previously, it was so clean and polished and functional.

      I just can't believe there's still a whole episode left to be revealed. (And I'm super looking forward to skillsaw's forthcoming second secret map for E1.)

    3. btsx is a high profile project with a lot of well-known authors workin on it that has some overlap with team twid, another high profile project team. there is some bad blood between them and some other community members over some past incidents which is kind of sad since its a community that is bound together by a love of making and then playing doom content but it is what it is. it is probably far from being a major factor in why its getting hate but some of the comments have been so obviously insulting that community drama has definitely been a factor, and will probably continue to be.

  2. BTSX is so high profile, that people find tiny things to criticize and treat them like major criticisms...

  3. I've been holding off on doing a proper playthrough of this. Skimmed through some maps, and honestly, quite a few of them feel unpolished.

    1. feel is notoriously difficult to pin down. what levels felt off to you? im sure the team wouldnt mind some extra notes.

    2. Late reply ahoy! I gave in and decided to play through it now (Stuck on E2M31 atm), and Its nowhere near as unpolished as I stupidly thought. So far, E2M04, and E2M13 are the only maps I've found to be a bit under polished in some areas, though they're still mostly good.

    3. glad to hear that you are enjoying it!

  4. I'm hoping E3 will go full blown Hell Revealed on our asses from the get go. I'll be surely disappointed if I don't see an Arch-vile or two on E3M01.

    1. Considering how challenging E2 can get, E3 going the lategame HR/AV/SoD route sounds very likely.

    2. i don't think that we're going to get a slaughter megawad out of btsx e3, but it will probably be even nastier, yeah

    3. I don't expect them to go "Resistance Is Futile" and "Post Mortem" tier, and I certainly don't expect the whole mapset to be slaughtermaps. But I honestly do think E3 should do some AV-styled slaughters in the final clusters. It would be very underwhelming, otherwise.

    4. IIRC, The the difficulty progression of BTSX is meant to be like AV's first 20 maps (likely excluding the final 10 because of how ridiculous it gets). So I imagine BTSX E3 will mostly be within the level of challenge found in the 14-20 range, maybe a couple that exceed that (E2's secret map certainly exceeded it).

  5. Where as in E1, I succeeded at doing every map from pistol start with no saves, I simply could not do that with E2's map31 and map25. They are both huge to the point that its no fun restarting from the beginning after dying 50 minutes into them, so i gave in and used saves for them. They are still very cool maps, though.

    1. i imagine that btsx e2 would definitely put me through my paces in hardcore mode.

  6. Maybe it's a bit odd to talk about it this late but I overall liked BTSX EP1 more than EP2. I can't really explain why; BTSX EP2 has more different environment for you to immerse yourself in but I couldn't hold my concentration by the time I got to the half way point of this megawad. EP1 was comprised mostly of tech-based theme but I feel EP1 has a more cohesive design throughout the megawad.

    I dunno. Maybe I'm just weird.

  7. Really hoping it won't take too much longer to see a release for E3 (and perhaps updated versions of E1&2).

  8. how many episodes are, im sorry jajajaja

    1. I dunno what this comment was originally getting at since it seems to cut off to laughter mid-sentence and the comment that the author deleted indicated a pretty good grasp of how many episodes BTSX has. I know that there is an E1, an E2, and an E3. Way back when I used to hang out in IRC I also heard rumor of an E4 but I forget whether it was supposed to be something made out of BTSX rejects or if it was supposed to be an invitational for folks who didn't get a chance to participate in E1 thru E3. For some reason I vaguely remember a sort of arctic or frozen tundra theme but I'm pulling details out of my head that I heard back in 2013. I don't know whether E4 is still a thing and if it is whether it still resembles what I heard of so long ago.