The Top 100 WADs Of All Time: 1997

1997 was the last big year for Doom, with lots and lots of big projects being released -- 8 of the 10 wads chosen this year are episodes or megawads. In a way 1997 saw the end of the reign of "WAD teams," large groups of otherwise unrelated individuals working over email and websites to complete Doom projects. Additionally, all of the visual tricks the Doom engine had to offer had been found by this point, and level authors had free reign to play with them.

Requiem - Various

Requiem is another one of those 'givens' that pretty much was on the list before we even thought of the list. Yeah. Anyways, Requiem features quite a pool of talented authors, many of whom work in the game industry now. With the likes of Adelusion, Iikka, Dario Casali, Adam Williamson, Adam Windsor and more, Requiem is something of a superstar among megawads. On top of the talent behind it, Requiem, as you'd expect, showcases some of the finest Doom maps seen at the time and some excellent gameplay. So to summarize, if you haven't played this, you really need to. (Cyb)

Eternal Doom - TeamTNT

Eternal Doom remains famous for one thing: the massive, massive maps. The average map in Eternal Doom is about four times the size of the average stock Doom map, and takes much, much longer to complete. Actually this is the subject of many complaints about Eternal Doom. In some cases you have to hit a switch and then walk across the map again (which can take a good ten minutes) to get through the door the switch opened. These sorts of puzzles, coupled with the huge size of the maps both annoyed some and delighted others. Either way you can't deny that all the maps in Eternal Doom are quality, and if nothing else the massive size of the level data (which is the largest collection of level data to date) is impressive enough to warrent a spot here. (Cyb)

Gothic DM - Many

Although several WAD authors had experimented with aesthetics, Gothic DM is probably the first WAD ever to place it at the forefront. While as a deathmatch WAD it is still very fun and playable, even the text file makes it abundantly clear that the focus of the megawad is not on intense action or stunning gameplay, but on "extremely detailed maps... Doom 2 just never looked this good!" This was true: Gothic DM was the best-looking set of Doom levels ever made, at least until its sequel was released. However, unlike its sequel, it did not sacrifice brains for beauty. GothicDM then stands at the crossroads: it's one of the last of the intensely playtested, gameplay-centric deathmatch megawads, and one of the first where beauty of texture and architecture became the major focus. (Ling)

STRAIN - Alpha Dog Alliance

The most important thing I can say is that it was well balanced. Very well balanced. Stupidly well balanced. How many megawads had a whole team dedicated to playtesting? As opposed to most WADs where the flow of monsters and ammo is approximate, the STRAIN team planned everything down to the smallest detail: the first appearance of each monster, each weapon. The result is the gameplay is tighter than a drum and there is a real sense of accomplishment at finding, say, the rocket launcher on Map09 for the first time, or dread at first catching glimpse of the powder-white Demon Lord. Unfortunately, many of the new textures are somewhat short of pretty, leading many to give up early. Don't. This is a megawad which rewards your attention, and I can think of no greater crime than using cheat codes to destroy the perfectly honed balance the WAD's creators attained. For those interested, the official STRAIN page can be found here. (Ling)

Mordeth - Gaston Lahaut

Gaston Lahaut's Mordeth TC remains one of the most atmospheric WADs ever made. It's a mere six levels, but their architecture and design is so stunning that you won't mind. Indeed, with the inclusion of many new monsters and effects like drifting fog, Mordeth feels vaguely like Doom but more like some peripheral universe, trapped between medieval and futuristic sensibilities. The style of the WAD is so unique that some authors have even attemped to make "Mordeth-style" levels; creating a new genre is a rare feat indeed. (Ling)

Talosian Incident - The Black Star Coven

On a team that includes names like Malcolm Sailor, Ola Bjorling, Dave Shaw and John Bye, how could this wad not be cool? While not amazingly detailed or laid out, Talosian Incident manages to bring with it some pretty nice atmosphere which is in large part thanks to the music. The maps also have specific flow from one to the next, meaning the ending area of one map is the starting area of the next. While this is hardly necessary for Doom maps, it does make you feel like you're actually progressing, rather than being shoved into a random location with no real reason to be there, nor a method of travel to it. The wad also has some very early attempts at smoothed lighting which gives the maps a little more personality. (Cyb)

Dawn of the Dead - Jan Van der Veken

From one of the masters of the Episode 1 theme comes, uh, an Episode 1 replacement. Jan does an excellent job with these maps, which all have the feel of Episode 1, without seeming like duplicating it. The maps are something of a challenge, but not too hard with plenty of health and ammo to keep you occupied. Sadly, DotD is unfinished with E1M5 being a small placeholder map. However, even with that fact, Dawn of the Dead is still a stellar mapset and earns its place in the star-studded year of 1997. (Cyb)

Hell Revealed - Yonatan Donner and Haggay Niv

If I could pick one word to describe Hell Revealed, it would have to be 'hard'. In fact if you give me a few more words I'd like to stick some adjectives before that word. Hell Revealed partially authored by one of the greatest speedrunners in Yonatan Donner (he's one of the guys behind Doom Done Quick, Doom 2 Done Quick and Quake Done Quick) Hell Revealed is about as hard as you'd expect from someone with as much skill as Donner. In 97 the number of monsters and skill required to beat HR was pretty much unmatched. Nowadays it has some competition from the likes of Scythe and AV, but it's still a favorite among COMPET-N guys, and as a megawad it's quite nice, though you'll probably want to knock down the skill level if you aren't some sort of Doom god. (Cyb)

Hell's Eventide - Marty Ihlen, Travers Dunne and Rick Clark

Only very rarely will you see a single map with more than one author, and only very rarely in those cases will that map be as good as Hell's Eventide. The wad was passed around by Marty, Travers and Rick with each adding a new part (and refining others) until the end result that is Hell's Eventide. While the map has three authors, it's not disjointed in any way and each area feels like it's part of the whole, and not made by a different person. The gameplay is also quite excellent, with some tough battles and traps that will challenge most Doomers. Perhaps this map never got the publicity of all the other huge releases in 97, but it still deserves a place here, and I think you'll agree. (Cyb)

Chord_ng - Malcolm Sailor

Never before have 76 monsters posed such a problem. While the monster count may not look too threatening, rest assured you'll probably get your ass kicked all over the place. Part of the reason is around 50 of those monsters are chaingunners who feel the need to teleport in at the worst possible times and destroy you. That aside, the map looks great, as you'd expect from Sailor. My only gripe was the annoying moving platforms that give you access to the offshoot areas (where the keys are), but I'm a bit impatient and I've been reviewing maps for the last week (this is one of the latest reviews done) so I'm sure most people who aren't going out of their minds will not find fault with them. Overall, excellent map and one you should not miss. (Cyb)