Man, I'm glad I didn't praise DragonsForLunch's CTSJ 2 map too much because every map here completely trounces it. It's a nigh-on perfect set of vanilla-minded maps that go hard on the twin tenets of interconnectedness and verticality, presented with a great sense of "just-right" aesthetics and enjoyably spicy combat. It starts great and gets better, peaking with a tremendous final map that's thematically and aesthetically impressive... and hella fun to play, too. And then there's the cute return to the start level, which I liked quite a lot.

Enemy composition is excellent, with the bigger fights requiring quick feet and reasonably snappy aim while juggling distant and up-close threats. My only real misgiving is how many of these fights rely on monster closets and slightly predictable Ogre use, but that's a minor issue that isn't severe enough to massively detract from the overall experience.

Really, really good stuff here. Highly recommended.

Played continuously on Nightmare with Ironwail 0.70. I usually shotgun start, but opted to play continuously as it seems that's what these maps were initially designed for.
Awesome episode with insanely good layouts and artistic direction. Every level is fun and beautifully crafted. An instant classic.
Insanely good combat layouts. Love the verticality and connectivity and sightlines. A delight.
I played this over the past week or so, and this was a fun episode! Just a bunch of solid, good quality Quake maps with great combat. Awesome work
Excellent episode. Also, thanks to Joel B for pointing out that you can return to the start map and explore after the end. I had completely missed that.
DFL has cranked out some polished, fun, and just really *playable* single-shot releases ... seeing this whole episode suddenly drop was a nice surprise, and I think it matched the bar he's set.

Everything in here is well-crafted. I think in the earlier maps the "designer's hand" might be a little too strongly felt when it comes to the combat and pathing, e.g. when a fight setup pushes you in a specific way and uses the same set of tricks/placements/mechanics from earlier fights. That's kind of a minor quibble though when it's still an excellent fight... and the latter maps open up and relax a bit in that regard.

Special props to tainted6 as an outstanding take on an "end map". I also enjoyed the denouement of going back to the start map to explore and look for collectibles... off the top of my head I can't think of another episode that's had a little treat like that, kind a post-credits scene almost. Neat touch.
Great approach to vanilla maps. Excellent job. I just don't understand why that crooked brick on the secret map explodes everything...
Excellent standard like Quake gameplay episode with interesting layouts and pretty fresh variety through out! Some maps are better but quality is quite similar with each anyways.

Only gripes I have with the episode are small texture issues here and there but I'm not looking that much for visuals. Gameplay is solid and fun. Maybe a bit too much monster closets as encounter designs but it was still all fun. You can use movement to "break" some maps with very nice shortcuts for speedruns.

Also triggering doors and systems from weapon pickups or powerups feels a bit off, its never a good feeling needing to progress by taking something. Thats just my preference.
Loved this, completed on Hard difficulty in 3 sittings.
A lot of tense fighting and great encounters with Copper definitely helping making combat more tight.
Really enjoyed the map design, deep atmosphere and the nice final map (home) touches, concluding a great episode.
Amusingly, in the second map I almost soft locked myself in the lava pit, having no ammo and very little health and having to go through the lift ogre and the 3 knights in the small room above the lift. Miraculously after many attempts and a bit of luck I could pass them without fighting and continue. Also, as denoted by another user, Fiend axing can eventually be a thing. Thanks to the author for making this fantastic maps.
Really cool episode. Play it. Now!
As for more details then the episode was growing on me. With every map I was more & more immersed and maps themselves at least to me felt more & more elaborate, lively, engaging. Some visual decisions are jaw-dropping - you will know it when you see it.
Encounters are very brutal. Twice harder then DOMA for example, while DOMA is twice harder than vanilla on its own. So Tainted Normal is like Hard-Hard of vanilla. But in general battles are fair, not hordish or something, no. Just brutal & challenging - multidirectional and most often combining hand-to-hand combat with ranged, so you have to move real fast and constantly - stop and you're dead 100%.
Anyway episode in general made in retro style, so it feels as quakey as possible. Very much recommended to all Quake fans
The detailing focuses on complimenting arenas rather than the level itself. Each level reminded me a lot of Fairweather's "Arrivee de L'etranger" with well designed encounters back-to-back. Really fun.
This is some wonderfully meaty, combat-focused maps that offer up a satisfying challenge! I've done 2 playthroughs now, first time on Hard and just now on Normal. There are so many different ideas in the combat setups, I'll probably end up making a video walkthrough just to break some of it down. High points for me are in map 1, map 2, and--thanks to its theme--map 6. Even in the weaker middle maps, there are some inventive setups that I may have to steal some ideas from.

There are a few areas where the episode could be better, though. Most of the environments are highly abstract, feeling closer to McGee's style than the more richly-themed castles of Willits and Romero. The art is also pretty vanilla (although the build quality is far cleaner than anything in id1), until the last level pushes the art up a notch and feels closer to CZG's Terra/"Witchhouse Mixtape".

I think the episode also would have been helped by a few pacing breaks. The combat is unrelenting, with only the occasional light platforming bit to mix things up. I'd have loved a couple more trap setpieces, a bit more playing around with the fantasy and mood, and especially some more buildup of anticipation and dread prior to combat. As is, the episode hits full speed quickly and then stays there all the way to the end.

Overall though, this episode is the kind of thing I've long aspired to make myself, but DragonsForLunch has beat me to it, and done a better job than I imagine I would have as well. This is an essential play for anyone who wants to study combat encounter design in Quake.
This is what Quake is all about, imo.

Aggressive combat. Nice level design and art. Lighting is a bit flat, and there's lots of small visual bugs, but none of that detracts from what's at the core: solid run-and-gun gameplay. Really cool final map, also - definitely my favorite of the set.

Note to players: this kind of combat design encourages aggressive play. If you try to back up and play slowly and defensively, you're sure to get cornered and overwhelmed. Just get in there and shoot everything hard. Prioritize killing shamblers. There's plenty of ammo on skill 2.

I personally like the approach to the episode's progression: no shotgun starts - just continue from start to finish. It means the beginning of a map doesn't have to start slow. The mapper can throw hard combat from the start, because they assume the player has weapons from the previous maps.

Of course, it can definitely get in the way of someone wanting to just play their favorite map or something, but the maps aren't super long. Just consider it all one big map. Speedmappers? RIP, I guess.

Congrats of this release, DFL. Fun stuff!
A lot of fun, the maps guide you in a satisfying way with regular tense fights and quad runs. The ammo feels a little sparse on an initial playthrough of the first 2 maps on Nightmare but this is fixed in later parts. Very visually pleasing too. Found almost none of the secrets in the main maps but I enjoyed hunting for all the backpacks upon returning to the start map.
Very good set of maps, early levels are very tight with ammo so axing shamblers can become a reality! However I liked the way this forces you to think about how to approach enemies. Ammo issues can also be mitigated with secret hunting and as the levels progress it becomes easier as you have more tools.

This mod also loves to lock you into fights so be wary, however nothing was insurmountable and it was a great feeling beating some of the encounters that initially seemed very difficult.

Highly recommend this one,