Day of the Lords
That's it! I'm quitting while I'm ahead
No, not really. Glassman has turned out what must be the medieval map to end 'em all. It's huge, hard, gothic, hard, well put together, and did I mention it was hard?
Oh yes — Glassman's original map had a clip brush above a "rune gate" to prevent people taking shortcuts - a move that irritated speedrunners no end. As of the time of writing, the version available has it removed.
Architecture wuh buh buh...
It starts off like E2M2 (Gloom Keep), but Glassman has actually built a four-towered medieval castle with central courtyard. Each tower holds a rune, which you must collect before entering the "final oubliette." (Although you can't see it in the pic, the rune gate has symbols which light up when you collect the runes — a nice touch.)
But, before that happens, you'll end up sloshing around in dismal vaults, ride monster-riddled lifts and floating platforms, swim in the moat, scamper up and down and all around, and attempt to find the five secrets. Three of them are actually fairly close to each other, one requires a trick jump, and I haven't found the fifth yet.
Floors and bridges, sometimes even walls, may crumble without warning (thanks to a trick I've used myself) leaving you either stuck, or dropped right in it.
All regions of the map are interlocked extremely closely. The entire structure is riddled with gates that open onto regions already travelled — a blessing when you're low on essentials like ammo and health — and you soon will be!
Lighting is done by a mixture of animated wall lamps and torches, generally with enough lumens to see where you need to go, but also with plenty of deep shadows too.
The textures are from a pack called "Gnosis" by Undule, carry most of the detail, and look fantastic. The dull gothic stonework, offset with bright stained glass windows and matched with a wan, almost washed-out sky, lend the entire map an atmosphere of "gothic despair", to quote one observer.
And despair is what you'll be doing heaps of, because the gameplay is killer.
Gameplay skin of yer teeth
I was playing on Normal, and let me tell you: this is not an all-guns-blazing killfest. Ammo is just enough for the killing at hand, and woe betide you if you don't make every shot count. At a couple of points, there are generous caches, which are a certain sign of Trouble ahead. (At another point, a Quad is sitting in plain sight, and I shall let you work out what that portends.)
Most of the time, you end up (at least I did) trying to wear down fiends, shamblers and vores with shotguns or grenades, unless you get some infighting started. Actually, you do get a nailgun and, much later, a Thunderbolt.
Monster placement is almost supernaturally effective. At one point, you ride a platform past two dogs - and they can do quite a number on you in those cramped quarters. Another, you have to ride a pair of stone ring lifts past numerous packs of beasties who are less than delighted to meet you. Monster-jump triggers are well used to ensure you don't get complacent, and the interconnected layout generally means you can't escape pesky snipers... especially when the gates holding them back open.
If there is a beef I have, it's the ending. It took me some time to find out where the exit had appeared, and frankly it's not all that impressive. It can be argued, though, that the battle to reach the button that opens it is where it all happens.
Conclusion one word: Recommended
Day of the Lords is one of the more impressive recent Quake maps I've seen for some time. It's well worth downloading, gawking at, and testing yourself against.