I'm replying to that but it's your thread. If you don't want that discussed here, call it.
Feel free, I'm not against some discussion at all.
There is a difference between alien and hellish. Surreal can but doesn't necessary have to be hellish. Weird is not hellish. Regardless of which culture or mythology you're looking at, Hell is a horrible place, usually a place/state of punishment or torture, eternal suffering, etc. Stretching the definition to hellish = alien means you'd perceive a great deal of sci-fi alien environments to be hellish. Likewise, if something is twisted and surreal, why not just call it alien?
This is just, like, your opinion, man.
Calling something surreal "alien" actually doesn't even make sense to me. "Alien" implies different, but still real. Like a landscape of a distant planet or a city of some other intelligent race halfway across the galaxy. Some structure, landscape, well, place in general, that doesn't make any sense, takes familiar elements and twists them beyond reason, constructs unfamothable things out of them? That's not "alien" at all, that's pretty darn hellish to me. Maybe it's more silent-hilly "personal hell" stuff rather than something that can be found in religions, a place beyond explanation where you are alone.
Some sci-fi environments can very well be hellish if the context permits. It doesn't need to be mutually exclusive. Like, the Alien hives in "Alien" could be both. They're pretty... "alien" (heh), but they make internal sense in being a bug-like race's hives. But, there's visual elements to them that look like they were designed to be scary specifically to humans (structures resembling spines, or faces, or whatever), and if you focus on that you can spin this setting to be very much hell.
Hellbound - Forbidden Archives
Okay, this isn't very hellish admittedly because it's just not atmospheric enough. This feels to me like a UT2004 deathmatch level and not something that is supposed to invoke any sort of feeling of atmosphere. I was imagining something vastly different - this is indeed something out of a fantasy setting and not weird enough to be hellish.
It has to clearly invoke the hellish, doomed feel without having to guess it. If I have to make myself believe that it's indeed something hellish rather than simply random, I consider it a failure.
There's random and there's surreal. If it invokes some sort of dream-like mood it's a success by me. Hell doesn't need to be so hamfistedly sinister, evil and imposing - it could very well be lonely, somber, even serene.
You may say Hell as a demonic realm is banal but at least it's clear. You start DOOM E3 and say "yep, that's Hell". You start DOOM II E3, ignore the sky, and it's pretty much any DOOM II level. If you didn't know it was supposed to be Hell, you'd probably never consider it to be based on how it looks.
Sure, but in any sort of game where you are expected to make sense of the environments there must be context that lets you know what to expect. In doom 2 it's pretty clear that anything weird is probably due to hell, in-universe (of course we know that many of the instances are lazy mapping). If you were playing a game in a realistic setting and things suddenly got weird without explanation, it could be the main character going insane, or something like that, or it could be another hell-dimension, depending on what the story hints at. In the case of Doom there's usually no need for hints as a hell-dimension is directly implied unless stated otherwise. I'll take more interesting versions of Hell over those that are so blunt that they're 100% clear even to people with no imagination any day, thank you very much.
To me a good example of something that doesn't necessary feel very evil but still delivers a message is the final level of Painkiller which is set in Hell. ... That's interesting, I think, ominous, but again, delivers a message, you get the point. You don't have to overthink it.
The final level of Painkiller was cool at first, but it's unbeliveably cheesy and feels more like a museum piece or a modern art installation than hell. I can't take it seriously either. I just imagine whoever the ruler of the place is setting up all those setpieces, grinning and imagining how much despair and regret it would instill in humans and how ashamed they would be of their own species. It's incredibly silly and doesn't work for me at all.
Re: 'Earth levels are twisted because of Hell's influence'. Honestly, I don't buy that at all. That seems like an after-thought, far-fetched explaination for something that fundamentally doesn't make sense. DOOM E1 / DOOM 3 did a good job at showing man-made environments being twisted by Hell. I don't like it when something is as unclear as in DOOM II. You see weird cities as a result of Hell's influence... but anyone can see anything there which means there's no real answer, no clear indication of anything. Any interpretation will do which means every interpretation is equally loose. That hits me as sloppy, not open for interpretation.
What's there even to buy? Of course, there is no place for any sort of misinterpretation with stuff like Containment Area where a techbase suddenly turns into a marble temple. Sure, it's clear, but it's also very banal. In Doom 2 however.. sure, in some cases it might be justification for lazy design but damn if it doesn't work amazingly if you accept it, which there is really no reason not to unless you are dead set on hating the game. When I thought about it, it turned my opinion on Doom 2 180 degrees. I see it now as Earth in the middle of total conversion to hell, not really there yet, but equally not what it used to be anymore either. The conversion isn't just demons laying marble bricks around human structures and pouring blood into the plumbing either, it's reality-warping. That's even pretty much stated in one of the intermission texts, I think in the one which comes between the more realistic bases (McGee's) and the less realistic (Sandy's), which is pretty good timing for that, too.
Doom E1 really didn't have anything being twisted by Hell, apart from the occasional candelabra. I'll agree with Doom 3 but again it's flesh'n'fire thing is juvenile and banal. I would have loved it beyond all reason of it went more silent hilly and started by making layouts of the base more and more nonsensical, mockeries of what a reasonable architect/enginner/whatever might have planned, started adding wooden structures for which there is no place on Mars, etc. As it is the nly thing that makes Doom 3 so atmospheric is that the base is so goddamn imposing and crushingly sinister in the first place. But it could be subtle, and not hit you across the face with every "evil" and "scary" cliche there is, and to me that would've been even better. Again, it's pretty clear from what little storyline there is in Doom that in-universe anything strange is because of Hell invading. You don't really need to know what was intentional and what was laziness to appreciate the resulting weirdness if you have the right outlook, which is trying to enjoy the game more even if it needs some justification that the authors could possibly not have fully intended.