Top Ten - Page 2
- Sverre Kvernmo
Sverre Kvernmo made a reputation for himself as one of id's Masters of Doom II as an 11th-hour entry after one of their initial picks had to pull out. He also kickstarted the now legendary Eternal Doom. After straying away from Doom's bosom, he's back, and of all the things he could have returned with, we got Plasmaplant. Based on a ghost of a concept from his ancient Cabal series, this single level firmly reestablishes Sverre as one of Doom's Masters while also picking up where he left off in Eternal Doom in terms of creating an astounding visual experience. And, uh, it's also incredibly dense with puzzles and traps, but what else were you expecting from the mind that brought you "Darkdome"?
The initial, atmospheric base section does a poor job of preparing you for the blue of eternity that follows. The dark environment may wear on some players and it definitely adds to the difficulty, but Kvernmo does a fantastic job of playing with light and shadow to create one of the more unique settings I've seen in Doom, which has among other things a phantasmal concert hall complete with a sector piano. If nothing else, it succeeds at establishing an otherworldly feeling that pervades the entire affair. Besides securing his position as a visionary, Plasmaplant also shows why he's often thought of as an utter bastard, with the UV difficulty being one of the most tricksy, trap-laden levels on the block. You'll need just about every secret you can get your hands on, check every hole in the wall for snipers, and be on the lookout for some sneaky stealth monster placement. When it isn't actively trying to draw every ounce of blood it can, you can sit back and enjoy the more traditional firefights in this deep blue hornets' nest.
Kvernmo may be an old hand at Doom but after about eighteen years it seems like his imagination has only improved. I can only hope that he continues to hang around and grace us with these impressive delights.
Shadows of Cronos
- Samuel "Kaiser" Villarreal
When Curse of D'Sparil was released a couple of years ago, I wrote a /newstuff article explaining how the strength of the mapset came from kristus's understanding of the powerup system, and how best it could be used to really plumb the depths of Heretic's potential - still very unexplored, I should add. At the same time, I found myself hoping that someone would do the same for HeXen, which also suffers from a misuse of interesting mechanics, albeit this time in a game that's focused more on emersion and puzzles than balanced gameplay. Curse of the Demon Lord, the pending follow-up to that iconic mapset, looked for the longest time to be the nearest blip on the radar... and then Kaiser happened.
I can't stress enough how big of a relief it was to play Shadows of Cronos. I had been so focused on playing and talking about Doom projects that I'd forgotten how much I wanted to see a major vanilla release for our favourite fantasy FPS, something that might yet inspire a wealth of wonderful mapsets in the future. Kaiser's own foray into the realm of Cronos is the perfect combination of old and new elements, being at once a very familiar experience with plenty of call-backs to the original game and an utterly reinvigorating one that eliminates many of the more oft-maligned aspects without suffering any drawbacks. The puzzles remain, but they are pithy and less obtuse, and far more satisfying. There is less time spent bumbling around in circles as you try to figure out where to pin the tail on the donkey. In short, none of the majesty and grandeur of the game is sacrificed in lieu of some seriously great gameplay, and the product is a HeXen that is... well, frankly better than the original.
I urge you to download and marvel at this undertaking, and not just because it's one of the only projects on offer for this underappreciated game. In the far-flung but not too unforeseeable future, when HeXen mapping lords over the darker corners of idtech 1, Shadows will remain as one of the greatest hubs ever made.
Monster Hunter Ltd. Part I/Part II
These two levels arrived on the archives with no fanfare or announcements; I first saw them bumped by /idgames comments. Presumably, the author's name carried a certain... reputation... that attracted potential players familiar with his work. Next time I see Didy release something, I'll be right there with them. Monster Hunter Ltd., parts 1 and 2, share this award because they both started as part of a single level but had to be split for technical reasons. They're two of a perfect pair, though, chronicling one particular episode in the life of a Monster Hunter Ltd. contractor, an individual who lives among the ruins of Earth and takes jobs for dangerous missions. This time, you're infiltrating an industrial complex in order to recover - wait for it - a piece of art.
Didy executes some amazing work, exhibiting masterful attention to detail. The ruined industrial complex is ornate without looking busy and has some cool visual cheats, like a room where blades descend to dismember anything caught below, as well as an arachnotron attached to a thick strand of silk. The initial approach, starting outside by a forested road and leading you past a campfire surrounded by zombies, has all the makings of a fantastic adventure map, and the rest fails to disappoint. There's certainly a danger in not recognizing a few of the puzzle elements like I did, given all the new custom assets, but it is absolutely worth your effort, including the winding-down period where you arrive at your office and travel to your little villa.
The second installment, dealing with the aftermath, is a fantastic showdown in an old world city. It's the perfect parallel to the more adventurous sensibilities of the first, with no shortage of special effects as the siege threatens to blow apart the city surrounding you while you track the incursion to its source. The combat is much more front and center and, for the most part, faster paced. Things slow down in the second half when you get to the area of the city overlooked by your flat, but Didy trades constant action for flashes of violence. Together with part 1, it's an amazing journey, one you shouldn't miss.
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
Itching for more? These megawad-length runner-ups ought to sate your appetite for some good ol' dooming.
Death. Taxes. Community projects. There are only a small handful of certainties in life, and sometimes I feel like there are even fewer projects that are competently assembled and quality controlled. Mayhem 2048 has its flaws like any other annual free-for-all, only here they're curtailed by a smash-hit concept and the handiwork of a Mionic Donut. For a guy like me who already has his mind set on what makes a good or bad limitation project, the idea of fitting maps into a 2048 space is neither here nor there, but there's no denying that it's a great framework for making bite-sized maps, and there are some real kickers in here!
Standout works include maps by Jimmy, Eternal, and Marcaek, whose map made me cry.
The Russian Doom Community is pretty good at surprising us with the occasional megaWAD, like Heroes Tales, A.L.T., and the original Whitemare. The sequel, which also has an appropriately seasonal theme, improves on the first in just about every way, including more maps. It still has some of the foibles of community megaWADs (which we love them for). Shadowman, Memfis, BigMemka and Dragon Hunter are the anchor men, providing a solid core of levels for you to play through as the other authors offer their own takes, spanning winter wonderlands, mysterious ruins, and such exotic locales as pyramids, tree-bound villages, and cities on the edge of forever. Just be wary of "Gloominarch's Realm" lest you wander into a major time sink.