The caravan moves on! This time around, we begin nibbling on the undeniably massive modography of an eminent Mac Wolfer. It really does not even begin to cover the extent of his contributions of the community.
But what exactly am I talking about? It's Castle Xeen by Josh Mills. Fundamentally, Castle Xeen is an extensive, 40-floor mapset that came in more than one version over time. You get every version currently available, of course. The mod comes with a rather unusual story: in 1944, a literal god called Xeenmoofy descends upon our beautiful Earth and declares that the Nazis are right. He promptly moves on to build his namesake castle, stashes Hitler safely in the castle's deep bowels, and fills its corridors and halls with roughly 10 thousand Nazis. As for the player, you're Hans D. Fritz, a relative of B.J. Blazkowicz and also a French soldier who managed to get himself captured while drunk. You are now in Castle Xeen. Having just liberated yourself from the guards, it's time to clean the place up.
The earliest version of Castle Xeen I have in my possession is Xeen 2.0. Since the series involves no new graphics (other than an episode thumbnail), we of course focus on mapping, which in this version is largely rectangular (although with some departures from the norm) and featuring absolutely massive hordes of enemies, with ample ammo to fight them. The high number of 40 maps is just a little bit deceiving, as it's not uncommon to see designs repeat, with just some (or all) enemies replaced; levels 4 and 6-10 are especially egregious in this regard. Designs vary from very small to very large and despite the overall rectangularity, keep things fresh by making full use of Third Encounter graphics and features.
The other, most recent version around is Castle Xeen 3 (not 3.0). Based on what I was told, it's merely one month younger than the preceding version. Xeen 3 replaces some unfortunately subpar floors from the original with new ones, reportedly taken from other mods by Josh Mills, like Castle of Lost Souls. In my view, it's an improvement. The very first map, for example, is clearly superior to most offerings in the original version, reminding me somewhat of some later, "compact" levels by the same author. Layout reuse is less common in this version, although it still happens (see maps 12 and 36 for example). There seem to be slightly fewer enemies, which still means that maps are heavily populated, so as always, watch your step and be prepared for long combats.
Both versions 2.0 and 3 come with demos. As far as I can tell, the demos are simply a selection of 8 maps taken from the full version, meant to when your appetite. You can say they're redundant, but I'm including them so you can see which maps Josh Mills picked as representative of the whole thing.