Hub 2: Darkmere
|Castle of Grief|
|Deathkings of the Dark Citadel|
|Map name: MAP08
Cheat code: visit08
Treacherous swamps have become even deadlier. The rot and the mire obscures many dangers as well as the means of progression.
The entrance is blocked by trees. Cut them down (or burn them) to clear the way. After you fight a few ettins, you will come to a large porch building in a misty swamp infested with stalkers. There is nothing of value in the swamp, so you should proceed into the porch. Inside, there is pottery on top of raised platforms - as you proceed inwards, the pots drop down and break to release afrits. There are a few fléchettes scattered around. At the northern end is a wooden door, leading to a vestibule. There are a few crystal vials to pick up, along with Amulet of Warding for the mage or a porkelator for the cleric. To the right is a window overlooking more swamps inhabited by a new enemy, the stalker boss. This variant of the stalker can shoot damaging acid projectiles, making them more difficult to deal with.
To the left, the vestibule opens into a large killing floor covered in slime, with numerous stalkers in the muck and afrits flying around. Looking around, you will see many corpses hanging from the ceiling. To the north, there is a sealed stone door and monsters lurking behind the windows. To the west is a raised walkway with ettins, a prominent Icon of Korax, and maulotaur torches. This puzzle can be confusing, but it is straightforward if you know what to do. The second maulotaur statue from the left/south is unlit - light it up, and the Icon of Korax will slide open, unleashing a few more ettins (and afrit for the mage). The chamber within has several discs of repulsion, a Serpent Staff for the cleric, and a skullface switch. Press this to open the stone door to the north. Inside are narrow branching stairways with ettins, centaurs, and a slaughtaur for the mage. To the west/left, there is a wooden door you can open. Behind it is a skullface switch that opens the stone door to the north. This reveals another skullface switch which in turn opens the eastern stone door.
This door opens into a new area of the swamps, full of ettins and few afrits. The area is mostly occupied by a bungalow. A river passage to the southeast is full of stalker bosses. To the north is a portal back to the Shadow Wood. Near the portal is the entrance to the bungalow, leading to a vestibule. There is an Amulet of Warding for the fighter, a stone door that is "barred from the inside", and a sun/moon switch at the northwestern corner of the room. This switch is easy to overlook, but it is required for further progress. Once it is pressed, you should move on to the eastern portion of the swamp. It is most convenient to go through the southeastern passage. Alternatively, you can backtrack to the vestibule behind the slimy killing floor - you will discover that the window has opened up, and it leads to the same general area. Here you will battle a number of stalkers and stalker bosses. There are crystal vials under the portico near the opened window, and on the eastern dock. The dock also has a porkelator artifact for the mage. In the far south is an ascending passage with crystal vials and quartz flasks. It leads back to the beginning area - a convenient shortcut now that the bars have opened.
Back at the eastern dock, a fort looms in the fog. The slime flows off of a precipitous cliff - be wary of the current. If you have not done so already, you must press the sun/moon switch in the bungalow to the northwest in order to raise a bullhead switch. Pull the bullhead switch, and the drawbridge lowers. Many monsters await inside - green chaos serpents for all classes, centaurs for the fighter, and ettins for the mage and cleric. There is another bullhead switch just inside the castle that can be used to temporarily lower the drawbridge from inside the castle (i.e in a deathmatch). Inside the bailey, you will see a tower, a gibbet, and various doors and stairways. Your first order of business is finding the castle key, which will let you into the keep. Go through the wooden door to the northeast, and you will enter a storeroom with ettins, crystal vials, barrels, and a well. Jump down the well and you will land safely. There is an afrit, mana, and skullface switches set in the wooden beams. Press either of these and the well water will rise, and you will "hear a door open in the distance". This is referring to the stone door in the bungalow, located upstream in the northwestern swamp area. Head back there now, to the vestibule with the sun/moon switch, and the formerly barred stone door will be open. Inside the main room, there is a green chaos serpent, and many items - health, mana, fléchettes, an Icon of the Defender for the cleric, and most importantly of all, the castle key. With this, you can progress further inside the fort. Head back there now and take the winding steps up to the battlements. While you are up here, it makes sense to defeat the green chaos serpents along the allure. There are fléchettes along the northern parapet, and crystal vials to the south. Once the area is cleared, it is time to enter the keep. The castle door is right at the top of the spiral stairs. Inside, there is a green chaos serpent and a centaur. Once these are dealt with, you can enter. There is a central podium with an Icon of the Defender for the fighter, a bookcase, and suits of armor. The suit of armor to the north, next to the entrance, conceals a sun/moon switch. Pressing this will open the stone cellar door at the bottom of the descending stairwell to the south. Simply go back down and cross to the other side of the bailey to find it.
Down in the basement, there are a couple afrits, crystal vials, and a porkelator artifact if you are the mage. Behind the wooden door, there is a dining hall full of ettins, as well as afrits coming out of the fireplaces. To the left of the east wall with the Icon of Korax, you will notice an empty fireplace. There is a false wall you can push back, opening a narrow corridor full of mana and an ettin. You will come to a bullhead switch, simply pull it to activate the lift. This brings you to a new floor, with a crowd of green chaos serpents and centaurs to contend with. There is also a quartz flask. Beyond the floor indentation and maulotaur statues is a long aisle with burners on the floor. As soon as you approach, walls slide up and traps activate, creating a zig-zag gauntlet with streams of poisonous darts to run through. The burners are inactive for now. At the opposite, symmetrical end of the room, you attain the swamp key. The walls have changed shape and the burners are now active, blasting out fireballs in a consistent waving pattern. You now have three narrow corridors to choose from - two with erupting fireballs, one with darts. One of the fireball corridors will allow you to pass (but will sometimes teleport you back regardless), the others will teleport you back. If one corridor teleports you, try alternating between the fireball corridors until you get through. Make sure to use careful timing - if one runs just behind the stream of fireballs, it is possible to take little to no damage.
Now that you have the swamp key, your objective is complete. There are locked horn and cave doors concealing puzzle switches, but you need their respective keys. If you already have the other key(s), refer to the puzzle switch section(s) below. If not, head back to the northwestern bungalow and use the northern portal to return to Shadow Wood.
Horn Door puzzle switch
This puzzle switch requires the Horn key, which can be found on the Wastelands. The Horn Door is inside the fort, so first you must go there. It is easier this time, as shortcuts have opened up. To the right of the porch, the slime river tunnel is unbarred, and it also has health pickups. Alternatively, you can go through the open righthand window in the vestibule within. Either path will bring you to the swamp directly outside the fort.
You must take the southern stairwell to the basement and enter the dining hall. This time, you will enter the southeastern fireplace, to the right of the Icon of Korax. Inside, you will see a skullface switch hidden on the righthand wall. Press this, and the brick wall will open to reveal a secret passage. You will fight ettins on your way up. At the top of the stairs is a landing with combined mana, quartz flasks, and a crystal vial. Straight ahead is a cliff overlooking the sheer drop by the slime falls. To the right, there is a chute leading down to the vestibule outside the dining hall - you will take minor fall damage if you use this shortcut. To the left is the Horn Door which you came for. It opens by rotating slowly in a clockwise direction. While it is possible to get crushed in it, you should be able to get through without any difficulty.
On the other side, you find yourself in a canyon. Turning left and going clockwise, there are two crevices containing fléchettes. They are guarded either by afrits, or by a single afrit and centaurs if you are the fighter. Other than that, there is not much else on the low ground. To the right of the entrance, going counterclockwise, you will see an ascending stairway on your left. There are brown chaos serpents to contend with on the stairs. At the top you reach the high ground, with two areas separated by a gap. On the other side is a crowd of monsters guarding a portal - mostly ettins, along with either afrits or a centaur for the fighter. On this side is the puzzle switch you are looking for. It is located to the south, near the ledge, next to the impaled corpse on your left. With your objective completed, you can either jump the gap and enter the portal to the Wastelands, or backtrack to the fort. From there, you can seek the other puzzle switch if you have the Cave key, or head to the northwest portal to return to the Shadow Wood.
Cave Door puzzle switch
This puzzle switch requires the Cave key, which can be found on the Caves of Circe. The Cave Door is inside the fort, so first you must go there. It is easier this time, as shortcuts have opened up. To the right of the porch, the slime river tunnel is unbarred, and it also has health pickups. Alternatively, you can go through the open righthand window in the vestibule within. Either path will bring you to the swamp directly outside the fort.
The Cave Door is located in the southeastern corner of the bailey, opposite the drawbridge. Inside is a lift activated by a bullhead switch. The lift brings you to the top of a castle wall, from which you must drop down to the muck below. You will take a small amount of fall damage, but that is unavoidable. Having left through the postern, you will soon enter a cave inhabited by afrits. There are branching paths to the left/west and right/east.
If you go to the left/west, you will climb an ascending staircase that opens out onto the sheer drop by the slime falls. As you approach the edge, a magic blue starry bridgeway appears, providing a shortcut between the cave and the swamps. This path is not necessary - if you choose to use it, proceed carefully. The magic bridge is solid, but there is a gap between the lowest step and the swamps, so make sure to jump.
The righthand/eastern path winds around before opening onto a cavern full of afrits. Four other paths branch out from the central chamber. Three of these are dead-ends that lead to pitfalls. The correct passage is second from the left, westward, to the right of the crystal vials and three mushrooms. The entrance is flanked by two winged demon statues - the righthand/northern statue conceals the puzzle switch that you need. Further in, the passage descends to a portal leading to the Caves of Circe. At this point, you may choose to enter the Caves, or backtrack and take the blue starry bridge to the swamps. From there, you can seek the other puzzle switch if you have the Horn key, or head northwest to take the portal back to the Shadow Wood.
- An Amulet of Warding is outside the map at -1488, 2400. The item is close to a switch found north of the rolling slime bottomed room, and would have appeared either for clerics or in co-op play.
- An Icon of the Defender is outside the map at 1744, 2288. The item is close to a well, and would have appeared for mages or in co-op play.
- An Ettin is caught by level geometry at 2304, 1616.
- On hard difficulty, an Ettin at -1184, 2592 is tangled with a Centaur at -1200, 2608.
- Sometimes a centaur gets stuck in the raising floor in the swamp key trap, and survives longer with its invincibility shield. If it doesn't die by the time you reach the swamp key, the floor will continue raising and not lower for the second half of the trap. This can block one of the escape corridors, potentially preventing escape without the use of a Chaos Device.
Areas / screenshots
Routes and tricks
Castle key door skip
- The central tower in the first castle room is locked and requires the castle key. In the south-west corner of the tower, there is an open window, which allows a jump from the nearby rampart. Jump from around (1780,1746) to the open window in the central tower.
This level contains eight spawn points:
- facing north. (thing 80)
- facing north. (thing 81)
- facing east. (thing 382)
- facing north. (thing 383)
- facing east. (thing 520)
- facing south. (thing 521)
- facing north. (thing 583)
- facing south. (thing 588)
Inspiration and development
The pre-release screenshots of Hexen released by John Romero two months before the game's release include up to three images which may be of an early, unfinished build of Darkmere - the second such shot is confirmed as being of Darkmere by Romero. The other two shots are uncertain as they do not exactly match any architecture present in the final level. It is possible that those two shots are instead of a cut level referenced in notes by the game's composer, Kevin Schilder, which was called the Black Crypt Swamp.