5till L1 Complex
Lainos had a busy year in 2012, managing [B0S]'s A.L.T. in addition to publishing two single (but massive) levels. We considered both Object 34: Sonar and 5till L1 Complex, but in the end found 5till's impressive visuals and easy-going exploratory gameplay to be the more compelling release. 5till is gorgeous, haunting, and vast, taking place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where only the unholy remain. You'll travel through a lush mountain wilderness containing a
decimated valley village, but most of the fun stuff happens in a survival shelter, a futuristic compound that's meticulously laid out and full of monsters to fight. Once you get inside the front gate, you're free to explore the bowels of the city. You're also free to ignore most of it entirely, as you'll find out.
Action-packed megaWADs come out every year for players and demo-runners to whet their appetite. Maps like 5till are understandably less common, and when you make them this well, they deserve some notice. Sometimes, you just want to enjoy an adventure in Doom with a more free-form environment. That it builds upon the author's previous attempts in the genre is all the more welcome. The only real quibble will be source port performance, as 5till's generous placement of flora sprites makes the wildlands unplayable in many. Regardless, 5till L1 Complex is a map to be treasured.
Community Chest IV
If you're not familiar with the Community Chest series, it was conceived as a way for lesser-known authors to contribute to one of those blasted higher-profile megaWADs. This long-awaited installment (number four) isn't much different, headed by Eric "The Green Herring" Baker, but I see quite the star-studded cast. There are a ton of authors I won't deign to name because the list is too long. Those not immediately famous (from what I know) include Alice Jameson, Mithran Denizen, Cristoph, ProcessingControl, LordZ, edoanimus, Lupinx-Kassman (at least before this was released), C30N9, and Shadow Dweller. There's also veteran Adam Windsor, making for a pretty diverse crowd.
I can't compare this outing with the previous three since I haven't played them, but Community Chest 4 is a monster structured around a fantastic texture pack. Gameplay can be tough, and there is a variety of settings from techbase to Hell keep to city and even cyberspace. The new skin really makes these levels pop. There's a loose story, mostly built around Lupinx's "Interstellar Sickness" and "Shaman's Device" (the obvious highlights, and rightly so), but the mapset is focused on sharp visuals and rough and tumble gameplay, especially the stuff from Joshy and darkreaver.
CC4 wasn't the only Doom II megaWAD released this year. Some took more risks than others (Beyond Reality, A.L.T.), or played to a more specific audience (Survive in Hell). Community Chest 4's persistent excellence in aesthetics and gameplay let it stand above the rest to clinch a coveted Cacoward.
- The Kins & 300 Pounds
Let's face it: Everything's been done before. Given Doom's age, just about every mod idea you can think of has probably appeared somewhere. Even original, unique mods have concepts borrowed from everywhere, but therein lies the secret. The magic begins when the right mix of concepts is formulated, and with just a little nurturing, the end result can be a wonderfully unique experience.
Reelism is a testament to this fact, as describing its very nature takes some finesse. It's not really Invasion, nor is it a shuffle mod, but a deluxe combo that's tastier than the sum of its ingredients. The basic premise is that you've got five waves of enemies (and a boss round) to deal with, but to make things interesting, each round is accompanied by a trio of slot-machine reels that will each select a random gameplay modifier. The combinations can range from relatively tame (Double player-speed, Wolfenstein weapons, Doom monsters) to rather strange (Colored fog, ROTT's Dog Mode, Floating eyeball enemies) and beyond to simply ludicrous levels (Exploding enemies, weapon crate fountains, Bronies). Yes, those are all legal combinations, and that's just scratching the surface.
The crux of the mod's appeal is its vast variety: there are over thirty modifiers to choose from, with each reel occupying a different 'genre'. Reel One consists of general modifiers like thick fog, double firing speed, and low gravity, while the second and third reels determine weapons and enemy spawns, respectively. While this aspect is easily the mod's defining feature, the maps (while often simple in visuals) are also well-done and just as diverse: you'll encounter some standard (but grand) efforts, like cityscapes and massive bridges, alongside a few stranger works such as an jRPG-style map complete with a village and multiple dungeons. Each set of five rounds is capped by a random boss battle (the cast of characters of which I am not at liberty to spoil), and if you survive... well, you'll probably start yet another game and keep on playing, since the position where the reels of fate land will be just as surprising as the last time 'round. It's that sort of wad.
Of course, no gimmick can stand without proper execution. Fortunately, Kinsie and crew have knocked this one out of the park. Weapons and enemies are accurate to their source material but rebalanced to suit the gameplay style, and the mechanics are well-polished on both the graphical and playwise fronts. Weapon and enemy reels often borrow from other games, but the very nature of the mod means you'll feel quite at home mowing over nazis with a gorram tank or unloading your Ethereal Crossbow at a pack of imps. It's all pretty much free game here, and it's a bloody friggin' blast. Oh, and it has an enemy called Dog Pope. Dog Pope. If that doesn't scream awesome, I'll fist-fight a pack of hyenas*.
In the interest of full disclosure, my opinion on the wad might not be entirely pure since I technically have a map in the project ("Continuum of Discord" -- it's weird), but in all fairness I did submit it because I had played it and loved it. It's fun, it's addictive (yes, both ;), and it's full of love. I reckon it's hardly a stretch to call Reelism one of the year's top ten wads, though I might have to give the reels another spin just to be sure...
...Welp, just started another game and rolled Gunfinity on the first round. See you all in about five hours!
*Not that I wouldn't anyway.
- Doom The Way id Did
- Strife: Absolute Order
- 5till L1 Complex
- Community Chest IV
- The Eye
- Combat Shock 2
- Winter's Fury
- Base Ganymede: Complete
- Best Multiplayer
- Best Gameplay Mod
- Mordeth Award
- Mapper of the Year
WANTED: BEEFY CPUs
Our next two runners up, while impressive in their own right, boast some equally hefty system requirements. Enjoy... if you can!
Eternal tried to slide another map in just before the Cacowards deadline (a repeat of last year's Voodoo Guns). Frozen Time is a beast of a level for graphically advanced source ports, and a fun map with plenty of action including a finale at the top of a clock tower. Eternal provided some monster palette changes to echo his icy atmosphere. You should tackle this glacier-bound fortress with GLBoom and see whether you're physically prepared for the ride. It's definitely worth the ticket.
I'm not really sure how some people find the time and patience they have. How does someone wake up one day and go, "I think I'm going to make New York City today. Like, all of it." I'm not speaking hypothetically here: this thing is real. Though gameplay is a bit rough and it's glitchy as hell in some ports, Planisphere 2 is absolutely worth checking out for the visual spectacle of it all. Assuming your computer is manly enough to handle it.
Also, fun factoid: the author, Perro Seco, literally came out of nowhere with this map. His forum title on Doomworld is still "Registered just to make one post."
What Are We Waiting For?
There's an entire backlog of brilliance bound for release in 2013, and I for one can't wait to be crushed under its inexorable quality. How about you? They include, in no particular order: