Wednesday, April 1, 2020

ea Gothic 2 (EAGOTH2.WAD)

by Erik Alm

As I mentioned in the review for EAGOTH1, 2001 was a big year for Erik. His participation in the One Week Mapping Contest was an important stepping-off point for someone who was previously not confident in the worthiness of their work. Toward the end of the year he started a string of single releases beginning with Europa 1 and, shortly afterward, ea Gothic 1. EAGOTH2 is the speedmapped squeakuel to the latter. Another fast and furious Boom-compatible blastathon, Erik elected to utilize the MAP29 slot for this go around. Was he potentially filling the whole E3? Or is it merely another case of sky-and-soundtrack preference?

Like the previous entry, this level requires the Gothic DeathMatch II texture pack. The slice of Hell is a bit better lit than its progenitor but the aesthetics are otherwise comparable. The wallpapering isn't the only similarity; both maps share architectural and layout motifs that are evidenced in the connective tissue. Specifically, the central playing space consists of low-ground walkways with adjacent platforms running the length of the paired hallways. There's a huge difference in how you move through each microcosm, though. EAGOTH1's peripheral tier was essential to level progression, the means by which you navigated through the spokes of its cramped hub. In EAGOTH2, the platforms provide "secret" but crucial powerups that will soften the overall difficulty.

It's an interesting experience. The level design looks just as claustrophobic but the small-scale setpiece encounters are emblematic of the fights that Alm would come to be known for. One of the earliest battles is a proportionally sizable teleporter invasion of imps. The cozy outdoor courtyard has conspicuous twin gazebos that produce challenging enemies on several occasions, each instance leveraging the challenges of maneuvering in a cluttered space. The last two major encounters add a lock-in component to the invasions. The first is notable for carefully staging a pair of Hell knights to act as switch guardians while the latter is a simple but dangerous Baron brawl. The difficulty is mostly a product of the limited movement space and whatever weapons / ammo combination you might have at the time.

You get a bit of installed enemies serving as area denial hazards but most of the impact is centered around the two arch-viles in the wraparound SSG / rocket launcher hallway. A bit of deftness may be required. Personally, I messed up on my first run and accidentally lucked into a decisive secret via arch-vile jump. It's the only way that you're going to get the blue armor / Berserk combo on UV. In an interesting bit of difficulty design, the lowest skill level route is sealed off via a wall of torches. The BFG is an even more ephemeral pickup since blind players taking its teleport are likely to be dumped into a pack of revenant reinforcements, only to find out that the portal is good for one use.

If you don't like monsters penning you in and making you feel uncomfortable then you ought to take a look at HMP. Alm prunes away at his tougher encounters like a bonsai tree, nerfing fights in subtle but significant ways. The end result still feels meaty and action-packed and gives you more margin for risky play. HNTR is relatively thick with monsters when compared to the eerie EAGOTH1 but the difficulty feels more akin to an early level in a megaWAD. If you're up for a popcorn play through a minor Gothic outpost then it ought to serve as a fun little romp. The near-constant action ensures that "Shawn's Got the Shotgun" never feels inappropriate whether it's setting the scene of a lightly-armed fortress or a harrowing grind through entrenched evil.

I'm not sure what spans the gap between here and Scythe but, knowing his legacy, EAGOTH2 feels like an important milestone in the character of his level design. It's a big step away from his chunky, Hell Revealed-inspired combat and toward the style that elevated him to a quintessential author.


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