Top Ten - Page 1
Back to Saturn X: Episode 1
I love the gameplay of Doom II, but I love it even more when it comes with a set of brand spankin' new textures to light up my eyes. Sometimes they're mixed in with the originals, like the Memento Mori series, and sometimes the replacement is complete enough to stand on its own, like The Darkening's E2. Back to Saturn X is firmly in the latter category. Esselfortium started
out doing the texture-making thing, then asked around to see if some authors wanted to make some levels with the pack. "Get Out of My Stations" is only the first, err, "shareware" episode, but there are two more oncoming releases crammed full of eye-popping textures with colors rarely if ever seen before in Doom.
These candyland riots all play in vanilla, amazingly, with the authors pushing the now creaking engine to the absolute limit... and finding new ones. Back to Saturn X has seen its fair share of discoveries, a result of the authors consciously pushing vanilla Doom to its limits; the levels are gorgeous and painstakingly playtested for both bugs and gameplay. That's right - BTSX doesn't mess around in its murder charge, and its encounters have been tweaked since release to be even more uncompromising. There's been more care poured into BTSX than most Doom releases, and it shows. About the only strike you can level at BTSX's E1 is that its techbase trappings wore down some players, but the future holds a world of fun.
Though it might take the BTSX team forever to cut the umbilical cord, Esselfortium and his common rebels move with surgical focus. Their dedication to gameplay, playtesting, graphic quality, and professionalism combine to create an experience that sets a new bar for the craft, and one of this year's best releases. It's too bad that I'm forced to wait to see what the future has in store for them. Bravo!
Doom 2 The Way id Did
- TWiD Software (Various)
Last year, Doom the Way id Did paid tribute to Doom's original trilogy, offering an entire megaWAD worth of Doom levels painstakingly created in an attempt to mirror the design processes of the original authors. It's only fitting that a year later Team TWiD released the inevitable follow-up, imaginatively titled Doom 2 the Way id Did. As before, the authors combined their
forces in an attempt to channel the philosophies of John Romero, Sandy Petersen, and American McGee. The result is a reel of thirty or so levels that could be dumped into the original lineup without raising many eyebrows... plus a few more essays about the composition of IWAD maps that should probably be archived in a repository for critical articles about Doom.
D2TWiD plays like the original, which is great, because that's what they set out to do. There's a level of professionalism that went into its development, though - the product of nineteen years of WADcraft - that leaves the finished product feeling smoother in some ways. I think that the authors did a better job of hiding their own idiosyncrasies, too. At least, I couldn't be asked to match up names with levels. I'd be hard pressed to pick out any favorites, mainly 'cause they're so diabolically fun to play through. About the best thing I can say is that you shouldn't skip past any of these offerings... at least, not before trying them once. D2TWiD's secret levels - drawing from the two shareware Commander Keen episodes - are a must-see affair, especially if you still have any affection left for Billy Blaze.
- Brian "Snakes" Knox
As the days grew longer and Brian Knox's sanity started to wane, I began to worry about more than just the fate of his magnum opus. What if he resorted to self harm or started drinking in lunch breaks?* What if he started to conscript infants to finish his work without pay?
Surely he wouldn't stoop so low. Oh, the humanity! But then, on the 21st of September, an announcement was made. The game was on. Immediately came the sound of source ports firing up everywhere; the roar of demons dying to the tune of Primeval riffs. All was right with the world again... and so too with Unholy Realms.
I love this megawad. It has all the marks of a classic but with a new and ophidian style of play. A measured approach to layout and progression that in some ways is comparable to Erik Alm's and in others the product of a more versatile method. Indeed, Snakes has come a long way since the release of Into Hell in 2010. His development as a level designer has lead him to create maps that are as accessible to the common player as they are true to certain schools of design, in which lovers of classics like Scythe 2 and Jenesis particularly delight. The visuals also impress with a confidence in familiar themes, and further stress that this is a project heavily rooted in traditional elements. It is the perfect marriage of old and new. Not without its hiccups, there are a few tendencies in the detailing and architectural department that strike me as odd or even messy at times, but since the primary focus seems to be more on the gameplay instead of appearances this kind of complaint is almost weightless.
It is in the nature of these kind of projects to last well into the future, as the purveyors of Almian produce will certainly attest, and I have no doubt that Unholy Realms will continue to be played for many years to come.
Guest mappers include Skillsaw and Khorus. No extra charge!
*Snakes is a strong and confident individual. Anybody who gets shot by Johnny on the count of ten and keeps all the change for himself doesn't walk away a weaker man. He's got the stuff.
- Espi Award for Lifetime Achievement
Top Ten - Page 1
- Back to Saturn X: Episode 1
- Doom 2 The Way id Did
- Unholy Realms
Top Ten - Page 2
- ZDoom Community Map Project: Take II
- Fuel Devourer
Top Ten - Page 3
- Forsaken Overlook
- Stardate 20X6
- Pirate Doom
- Swim With the Whales
- Eon Deathmatch
- Best Gameplay Mod
- Mordeth Award
- Mapper of the Year
2013 was yet another great year for releases, and since we liked last year's extended runners-up concept so much, we decided to keep it flowing and pick six more wads for your playing pleasure. How Sextupulous!
The Interceptors (Various)
There's been something of a vanilla renaissance in the Doom community, and Interception is another one of its outpourings. The final product was ultimately too flawed when stacked up against its more even-keeled competitors, but it's still a great play for levels from its more polished authors, and the experience will no doubt serve its participants for years to come, save phobosdeimos1, who sadly passed away during the development phase. Look to Interception for some down and dirty demon action with some unusual settings, particularly the demonic necropolis found beneath the earth's crust.
Team Progfic (Various)
2013 was another year of "high concept" releases, including projects like 100 Lines and the Monochrome Mapping Project. Hadephobia began life as Progressive Fiction, where its authors built the "story" of the megaWAD from map to map and from person to person. As a Boom mapset, Hadephobia doesn't push the envelope in special effects or combat, and the lack of additional resources leaves it feeling just a tad generic. If this is the foundation of future progressive fiction projects, though, it only figures to craft the first story using the original building blocks, and I can't deny that there's a definite, purposeful story carried through the entire thirty-two levels... even if half of it only makes sense while reading the .TXT.