the Bard formerly known as the Bard
No doubt many of you have been tirelessly refreshing the Doomworld main page, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the late /newstuff Chronicles #204. No doubt many of you who have seen hundreds of /newstuff Chronicles written will remember a simpler time when there was one reviewer who valued quality over punctuality. And since the higher-ups here at the definitive source for Doom news, information and development saw fit to let, AndrewB of all people grace the front page once more, it would only be fair to let the Bard formerly known as the Bard make a guest reappearance and touch you all in a way that only he knows how. A loving caress which cannot be provided by DVORAK keyboard users and people with the word 'DooM' in their interweb nicknames. I'm here to review eleven new wads today, and keeping in the old tradition, I'll take all the time I damn well need.
- Badgers DooM house: Special ZDooM Edition by VMOS
690kb - ZDoom (Doom2) - SP (map01) -(img) (img)
We're kicking off this week with a horrible acid trip of a map, a faithful ZDoom recreation of the author's surburban household. Set aflame. Infested with deathtraps and monsters. With an expansive marble torture chamber of a basement. According to the text file there is a long-forgotten plot, remnants of which show up in the scripting. In particular, the talking-to the player gives the giant badger texture that greets him at the beginning of the map. Seriously.
This reality-map nightmare is wallpapered mainly in original doom2 textures, but custom textures are used to create real-life objects such as computers, bookshelves, and small animals that are scripted to greet you with their small animal noises. Now, ceilings don't always fit the grid, textures are not always aligned properly, and some of the ZDoom effects (which are used for eye-candy as well as the map design, creating the illusion of a fully-3d two-story house) cause strange graphical anomalies. But to judge this map for it's graphical hiccups would be akin to criticising Picasso for his anatomical imprecision.
The gameplay is not the reason to play this map, but the ammo balance is tight, and I was forced to chainsaw or berserk fist my way through the nooks and crannies of the Doom House on several occassions. Given a very non-linear design, however, one could easily miss an ammo cache or two.
Badger's Doom House is one of the least worst "my house" wads in history. It is unique, filled with uninhibited creativity, and it comes highly recommended.
- Lava Arena 3 by BloodSkull
318kb - Skulltag (Doom2) - DM (map01) - (img)
Bloodskull offers a roomy Skulltag arena for you and your friends to throw down in. Lava Arena 3 is not wholly true to its namesake, as the only damaging lava to be found is a small seldom-traversed pool at the map's center. The action here takes place in several large brick rooms dressed in metal supports and rimming, light fixtures, and randomly-placed crates that thankfully are not too in the way of the player. The design that is sound for balanced deathmatch play, accomodating for one-on-one and FFA games, and also pleasing to the eyes. Also, lots of little pickups such as armor and medkits are strewn about for fans of -altdeath games.
Indeed, Lava Arena 3 would seem to be an accessible map for all kinds of deathmatch fans. But while this is a quality map as it is, nothing substantial would have been sacrificed in designing this it for doom2.exe or all limit-removing-ports compatibility. Skulltag/Zdoom features are either wholly visual (and the map looks good enough not considering a translucent texture or two) or add little of anything to the gameplay. For example, players may traverse a deep-water lavapit for the glorious reward of an ammo backpack, or grab the wonky Skulltag grenade launcher for more effort than it would take them to swipe the much more useful vanilla rocket launcher or plasma gun.
Skulltag players will enjoy the map, but people who DM with other clients or ports miss out for the sake of a lame mod weapon and a couple particle fountains.
- The Boss Monster Resource Wad compiled by TheDarkArchon
2781 kb - ZDoom - SP (map01)
A resource wad containing a number of different boss monsters designed to be used freely by modders everywhere. It comes with a ZDoom demo map showcasing all the big baddies.
- CREATORS Doom Graphics V0.9 re-released by FunDuke
76kb - Doom.exe
A 1994 sprite replacement, re-released into the archives for some silly reason. Useable for Doom, Doom2, or Final Doom, this wad turns the Former Human and Shotgun Sergeant into digitizations of strange bare-chested men in leather jackets. Moving on...
- REACTOR1.WAD by Russ Walsh
49kb - Doom.exe - SP (E2M1) -(img)
A forgotten over-10-year-old tech base map uploaded to the archives for the first time. Everything that you'd expect from a 1994-era newbie map is here: poor texture choice/alignment, 'flat', linear, and uninteresting layout, way too much ammo, and excessive boss monster placement. What might have been clever then (staircase "arches" and fake exits) are gimmicky now in the context of such an otherwise dated map, making this wad good for a bit of nostalgia and little else. The best scenery to be found in REACTOR1.wad was captured in the screenshot.
- Technical by Macro11_1
48kb - Skulltag (Doom2) - DM (map01) -(img)
This is one of the more fetching DM maps I've had the privelege of playing. The author uses lighting excellently to add atmosphere to what is, aside from a texture misalignment or ill-chosen ceiling flat, a very well-concieved tech base featuring creative use of slopes and excellent architecture.
Mind you however, that a small overall layout and claustrophobic hallways make technical a poor choice for free-for-all deathmatching. Plus, an easily accessible megasphere upsets the balance and encourages camping and an "I'm king of the hill!" playstyle. The crusher that guards it is a lousy attempt at punishing a 200 health/armor boost.
Note that this is a skulltag map, as I saw no advanced engine listed as a requirement in the text file. It makes use of slopes and skulltag relics ("haste" and "drain") and weapons (the railgun and minigun).
Despite it's flaws, Technical will be worth a look for one-on-one deathmatchers when it is released in January 20004. Don't leak it, pls.
- GOTHMOG.WAD by Nathan Kidney
49kb - Doom.exe - DM (E1M1) - (img)
1994 wad re-release Nummer Drei: a Doom 1 deathmatch arena inspired by the ledges series of maps. Players frag in a number of cramped hallways and staircases branching off of a central arena, leading to small rooms and compartments where weapons and pickups can be found. Spawn points are placed in rooms disconnected from the rest of the map where the player can snag a free shotgun then teleport in to the action.
Pickups of all kinds are everywhere, and even barrels are carelessly strewn about. Monsters are alsoy placed liberally throughout the map, meaning if you want you could have a monsters DM (which apparently wasn't so unpopular a concept when this map was released) or a frag'em-all challenge in singleplayer if you really want to.
I could compare this map to something really ugly as a clever means of taking a stab at it's poor graphical everything, but it is a 1994 deathmatch map, so i'll not hold it to today's standards. Expect that the texturing is not consistent and that detail is bare-bones.
In closing: this is not a map for your average ZDaemon scrub, it is a map for people who have a boner for ledges.wad or 1994 maps in general. If that sounds like you, grab this, enjoy it with your similarly-afflicted friends and keep your non-dwango poison far away from mainstream client-server Doom.
- Metro3 by Carlos Guariglia
132kb - CDoom (Doom2) - SP (map24) -
A demo map of a giant railway the player can run on or go under, designed to show off the true 3D capabilities of boom-based port CDoom.
- Geo I by Agent Spork
6512 kb - ZDoom (Doom2) - SP (map01-map02) - (img) (img)
Agent Spork contributes two maps for this week, beautifully done single player adventures that send the player through a Quake-esque alternate dimension, complete with slipgates and 'one more switch to go!' scripted sequences.
Both of Spork's levels are visually stunning. "Unforseen Destruction" and "The Death Barracks" consistently sport a gothic theme full of deep browns and greys. They are intricately detailed, showing off metal supports and separators, ceiling and wall light fixtures, open-sky ceiling designs, decorative elements like pentagrams and pools, sloped architecture, and many other bits of visual eye candy. The mapper makes logical texture choices, and frequently uses atmospheric lighting. The player spends the better part of his playing time time indoors in a series of infested corridors, with the occassional grandiose main hall and precious few outdoor areas that showcase a gloomy animated sky replacement.
Haunting the second map (not the first, for some reason) are a number of new monsters to gut. Most all of these baddies are palette swaps or edits of other Doom-engine sprites, including a Heretic Ophidian/Baron of Hell splice and several new cacodemons, one of which makes the beloved one-eyed floating thingy terrifying in a new way.
Ammo/monster balance has obviously been thoroughly thought out. The player is at times forced to be miserly and save shots, while other times made to rely on melee combat or encouraged to engage in reckless fragfests after finding a generous ammo cache. However, Spork relies on some tired gameplay design cliches. For example, teleporting new monsters into already-traversed areas and forcing the player to backtrack. Or painfully obvious, red-key-on-a-string traps. Also, thanks to a thinly-augmented arsenal and abundance of thickly-skinned baddies, fights are drawn out for an excruciatingly long time sometimes, and you may find yourself wishing for a cell-based weapon that never comes.
Thusly, people lacking an affinity for the Quake-inspired style may find themselves bored by tiring gameplay, but any fan of the gothic style will find Geo I a welcome addition. I would consider it one of this week's highlights.
- Beyond Death by Dan Stefan Oprean
852kb - ZDoom (Doom2) - SP (map01) -(img)
This hellish single-player map was originally designed to be one of the later maps of a now-defunct community megawad, but has now been released as a stand-alone map for your dooming pleasure. Beyond Death consists of several large 'sections', each of which have been given names that are scripted to appear every time you teleport into them.
A treat for the eyes, Beyond Death has been designed the way a hell map should be: with creativity taking priority over obsessive detailing. Among the 'zones' of the map are: A large canyon overshadowed by a giant abstract structure which casts a patterned shadow on the ground. A cavernous area housing a lavapit crossable by way of a simply grand 3d bridge. Heck, the hell theme is even broken once as the player teleports into an area so Quake-inspired it uses Quake texturing, don't ya know. Despite all the good ideas however, the lighting job is quite shoddy, and adjacent very bright and very dark areas give the map an amateurish look.
While I encourage doomers to give this map a peek, I would not discourage a god mode, I'm Too Young to Die!, or nomonsters playthrough. Considering the relatively small size of the map, the mapper saw fit to extend the playtime by dragging battles on forever through the sheer multitude of monsters present, particularly towards the end of the map. To deal with the massive threat, megaspheres and health/ammo caches are placed carelessly and extensively. The 'gameplay' usually involves hiding your doomguy in a corner and picking off the flood one by one as they come at you. This is not fun and I imagine most people would rather simply play a short map. Download Beyond Death to look at, first and foremost.
- Hordes of Chaos 3 by Udderdude
1887kb - ZDoom (Heretic) - SP (E1M1 - E1M5) -(img) (img) (img)
Whip out your firemace and clip-on elf ears, my favorite wad this week is for one of my favorite first-person-shooters ever, the vastly underappreciated heretic. Udderdude has taken five maps from a number of other Heretic projects and given them considerable touchups, then packaging them all as an extremely-appreciated gift to starved fans of the fantasy FPS.
Every map here is largely loyal to the original Heretic formula; fantastical battlegrounds are created with not much more or less detail than there was to be found in the original Heretic mapset. Were it not for the ZDoom scripted sequences and visual effects, and for the introduction of items and monsters from other doom-engine games (such as Doom's monsters and Hexen's dark servant pickup), Hordes of Chaos might seem like an official expansion to the original game. That is, in my eyes, a very good thing.
E1M1 intros HoC3 with a number of scripted fights and a boss battle you will fight with a Maulotaur dark servant by your side.
E1M2 is a dungeon crawl the player will complete with the use of a trusty firemace and a zillion maceballs.
In E1M3, the player will enter underground caverns and cross rivers low, as well as scale high cliffs and towers.
E1M4 is a maze of a sewer complex where there's more than just stink to worry about.
E1M5 is a fiery map that invites players to cross lava-lakes on narrow bridges and to fry their enemies with a generous supply of inferno orbs.
The gameplay varies just as much as the map designs; you will fight through spacey battlegrounds and cramped corridors, on high platforms and thin railings, through environmental traps, against a hidden enemy, and every time you will do it with a different arsenal, guaranteed by the loss of all your weapons at the start of a new map. Ammo is plentiful on low-medium difficulty settings and tight on higher ones. Weapon placement is logical; you may already have an explosive phoenix rod, but be given a crossbow before entering a congested hallway. Battles do not draw on too long and ironliches and other tough baddies are used appropriately.
Honestly, the worst thing about Hordes of Chaos 3 is the presence of imps and cacodemons. This is a godsend for die-hard Heretic fans, a worthy play-through for anyone with the Heretic IWAD, and a great way to finish off this week of reviews. This is Liam, signing off -- and remember: cool kids don't upload stuff on saturday!