Top Ten - Page 1
Bet you're surprised to see this here, eh?
Mouldy's Going Down might strike us as a bit of a no-brainer for this year's Cacowards, and certainly there were no deliberations when we were totting up the numbers, but it's easy to forget the (relatively) humble beginnings of this project. Even after the release of his award-winning map The Eye, and making major waves in several of Doomworld's high-profile community projects, mouldy had yet to become one of the biggest household names, so there was no guaranteeing an instant hit if he decided to go the route of the one-man megawad. When the project was first announced in October of last year, thus, E1 managed a modest nod of approval from the community mainstream... but it also lit a small and sprightly fire beneath Doomworld that was soon to set the site ablaze with anticipation.
What we have here is a truly marvellous feat of ingenuity. The mapset comprises a series of disconnected ideas, all divided into separate levels and stacked under the concept of a single high-rise apartment complex. The TARDIS elevator, if you'll permit the comparison, transports you to a different idea at the end of every map, providing the overall experience with that much-desired sense of progression that many projects seem to lack, and an impending doom that gathers as your little steel box descends down, down, deeper into Hell...
The plaudits are for more than just mouldy's ability to provide a unique identity through concept, however, as within many encounters is an obvious mastery of voodoo scripting and deception, accompanied by a bizarre soundtrack to accentuate the crazed, disjointed panic. In Map26: Insanity, the player is teased and tortured as the walls collapse around him, warping in and out of darkness thanks to some impressive use of silent teleporters and light changing effects (take a look at that map in an editor - I dare you not to be impressed!). In Map20: The Mouth of Madness, the TARDIS collapses into the lair of an ancient evil, the way forward into the final chapter blocked by teeth and piles of monsters. It is a mixing of ideas and technical know-how that we rarely see in Doom level design, and it inspires in a way that I'm not sure any project has done before.
There is a small, saddened part of me that still longs for a different version of events; one where the descent past the apartment foundations leads us away from reality in a different direction. Into Atlantis, say... like a real TARDIS! But for God's sake, what am I babbling about... this is only one of the best releases this year. Shut up and eat your vegetables!
The Adventures of Square
- Bigbrik Games
Believe it or not, this almost didn't make the Cacowards. My cosine-conspirator, himself in the same set of contributors to Square, was diametrically opposed and positived that we wait until the project's full release before formulating our plot. We eventually reached a concurrent point, and now I get to tell you why The Adventures of Square is already the coolest Doom TC since Action Doom: Urban Brawl. No puns were squared... er, spared.
Square tells the simple story of a hard-edged equilateral rectangle battling an army of circular jerks while navigating the Octagon Trail. Supposing you don't die of dissymmetry, you'll be treated to many of the wonders of Shapeland. Jimmy and company have drawn a wide variety of locales for this squareware release, from crystal mines to bottling plants, paint factories, villages, cities, launch facilities, water-filled quarries, and SECRET ARCTIC LABS. Shapeland is just a cool place to visit, thanks to the level design exhibited by the astounding architecture, but there's a lot of cool scripted behavior you rarely get to see in Doom maps, like moving 3D bridges and a rising water table that you can swim in. The aesthetics have invited a lot of comparisons to Chex Quest, which is unfortunate, not to dig on Jacobi.
The graphics are cartoonish but it's clear that the dudes behind Square pulled from the BUILD era more than anything. The protagonist himself spouts constant one-liners and his opponents are just as cheeky. More telling are the classic cracks in the walls that yield to explosive ordinance. By the time I hit "Geometropolis", I was expecting to see a ton of joke billboards. That's not even counting the names of the enemies and weapons, which when realized will be the source of many a groan. The persons responsible for the balancing have done a pretty good job with the combat, which is immensely satisfying as slain enemies explode into goopy chunks of paint that splatter everywhere.
It's clear that Team Square has poured a volume of work into this teaser, and the best is yet to come. The only thing that terrifies me is how much harder the following episodes will be, because Cornered By Circles is not afraid to push you around. The only saving grace is your Doom engine speed, which you'll need. Square - he can really move. Square - he's got an altitude! Square - he's the rasterest thing alive!
Back to Saturn X: Episode 2
2011 became the year of the vanilla megaWAD, at least informally, due to the completion and announcement of a number of projects that, along with other releases, flooded us with more maps than we knew what to do with. Its legacy continues to dog us, mostly because of the continuing development of Esselfortium's fifty year-old baby. Back to Saturn X has been my most anticipated Doom project, no offense to all you other hard-working folks. Get Out of My Stations won me over with its stable of dependable authors and brand new resource pack, creating a distinct look and color for the UAC base on Saturn X. Tower in the Fountain of Sparks keeps my good will flowing with a few different authors and a more exotic series of locations. You'll get to explore castles, ancient ruins, and bizarre fixtures of alien technology alongside a handful of derelict research installations. It's everything I could have wished for... except maybe a few more levels.
While the first episode remains inextricably bound to Essel due to her contributions plus smothering and coaching, BTSX E2 is undeniably the Xaser show, as his hub maps take you on a brooding, atmospheric journey through the dark side of the planet, assisted by a wondrous soundtrack. While they're still devoid of enemies, Xaser's work surpasses E1's in its ability to instill a sense of adventure. Part of that is thanks to the presence of several recognizable superstructures witnessed from the hub that you later visit in person. One of those said buildings serves as a silent sentinel to your progress, and your repeated sightings build your anticipation until it appears as the centerpiece of the finale. His one "normal" level, a joint venture with Alien Vendetta alumnus Brad Spencer, ain't too shabby, either.
The team also escapes the techbase trappings of the first episode through a variety of gameplay styles that work to differentiate the project from what many felt was by-the-numbers Doom II. Right off the bat you'll have to crawl out of the sea of dead and journey through Joshy's "Shadow Port", whose sense of place and pace starts things off with an adventurous feeling as you make your way to the SS Visplane Overflow. Immediately after is Tango's ridiculously barrel-laden followup, "Underwater Explosions". There's even a full-on newschool slaughtermap, "Fireking Says No Cheating". You always run the risk of theme fatigue given that E2 is composed mostly of the alien ruins of Saturn X, but I think that this is a much more visually varied mapset, even if (and perhaps because) the authors smuggled in a crate warehouse.
The second episode also comes with a solid step up in difficulty. If you think you're going to just stroll through and enjoy the sights on UV, think again. The traps and staged encounters are harder on the player than the original, as many have discovered on their own, but with practice you can move past it and heal. Paired together with E1 it becomes part of a much broader curve that will presumably carry on through the third episode, The Rusty Time Machine. Will there be even more slaughter levels? Will we ever see the finalized release of E1? Will Esselfortium and company determine the Anti-Fun Equation? Only Time will tell.
Espi Award for Lifetime Achievement
Top Ten - Page 1
- Going Down
- The Adventures of Square
- Back to Saturn X: Episode 2
Top Ten - Page 2
- Shadows of Cronos
- Monster Hunter Ltd. 1/2
Top Ten - Page 3
- Mayan Mishap
- Urban Brawl: Dead of Winter
- Thy Flesh turned into a draft-excluder
- 32in24-13: A Thanksgiving Without Burgers
- Rage CTF
- Best Gameplay Mod
- Mordeth Award
- Mapper of the Year
As always, plenty of awesome wads came out this year, making it tough to narrow down the list to just ten. Here are a few that very nearly made the cut.
It's funny how you sometimes don't realise you want something until it's sitting right in front of you. Take minimalist German architecture for example. I know, right?! Me too!
Bauhaus was a serious contender for this year's main awards, and it's easy to see why even if you're not prepared to play the thing. Its clean and creative interpretation of the early 20th century movement looks absolutely stunning, but it also lends unsurprisingly to some very interesting gameplay concepts, if mostly through progression and interaction with the environment. Although it peters out a little bit before its memorable conclusion, Bauhaus stands out as another of 2014's more interesting projects, and another quality stamp on the resume of didy.
If this silly little blurb doesn't convince you play Big Memka's Bloody Steel, then I'm hoping the screenshot above might. It's absolutely crammed with candy and oil spills; an industrial contortion of twisted shit and metal that's fused into an abstract design by Russian sensibilities. Handicapped by stuffing though the mapset may be, there's too much character winding through its halls for you to merely glance it over. Give it a spin! You might end up feeling a little overwhelmed by the adventure (it's really bloody hard once it gets going and occasionally unfair - those pop-up monsters are a real hoot), but if nothing else you'll walk away feeling enlightened by the stoic march of... Kavinsky's Roadgame.
Nothing like a bit of French house to brighten up your industry.
MOST PROMISING NEWCOMERS
There seems to be no shortage of enthusiasm from the modding community when it comes to this wonderful game. Whenever Doomers retire, new guys come in with fresh ideas and add to our rich tapestry. Well, it's more like a massive museum complex full of tapestries, but you get the idea.
BigMemka is the freshest face from the Russian community, rounding out part of the backbone of Whitemare 2 and following his own predilections with the promising Bloody Steel. Tuxlar broke new ground with You Dig, showing incredibly ingenuity, while also trying his hand at some more traditional takes on the Doom experience. Lastly, jmickle started out with something of a charming TC before plunging headfirst into the seedy underbelly of texture creation and is currently working on the gorgeous Orange is the New STARTAN. Though they may be ranked as the MOST promising newcomers, EVERY newcomer is promising in the eyes of the archives. Try it! You might like it.