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  • 957279000_3_cacowardslogosmall.jpg?_cb=1

  • 6_cacoward.png?_cb=1544228975Avactor - @Eradrop

    Doom 2, Boom-compatible

     

    Avactor: End of the Fifth Circle, a sort of lavish spiritual successor to the author's earlier Hide & Seek, is without doubt one of the most grandiose adventures of the year. Set on a ring of mysterious islands host to a primeval deathcult, the game's distinctively stylized Mesoamerican/Caribbean jungle theme is immediately captivating. Equal parts genuinely inviting shady green tropical beauty and imposing, morbid monuments of unfeeling stone--all very Temple of Doom, if you will--I reckon it would be fair to say that no other WAD this year has offered quite so many vistas that compelled me to stop to drink them in, true, but more importantly, most of these are not merely cosmetic but fully realized, where the promise of adventure is not merely teased, but well and truly waiting for you to dive in, guns blazing.

     

    Avactor

     

    The magic of Avactor's wonderfully immersive realization of its world goes far beyond simply having a well-curated set of custom assets and lush visuals. While each of the ten featured islands could, broadly speaking, be fairly described as a stretch of jungle with some creepy old ruins in it, Eradrop wrings an astonishing amount of both narrative and level design mileage out of what at first seems a fairly static (if striking) theme. One barren, mountainous island houses a great ironworks in its molten heart; an ancient burial site lays a curse on the corsair fleet which despoiled it; a particularly charnel funerary complex is merely the gateway to a vast subterranean nether-realm older than human memory. More than scenic backdrops, each of these scenes is expertly paired with intriguing progression schemes and a veritable feast of clever secrets that make the settings come alive in a way that many fine WADs might well be envious of. Whether scuttling precariously along the face of a crumbling ziggurat while floating horrors belch death from afar, gradually reassembling a titanic bridge to pierce an ancient sanctum, or giddily racing through the fiery underbelly of an oracle temple which has just collapsed in on itself around you, every stage of the journey holds something new, remaining fresh and compelling all throughout its considerable length.

     

    This beautifully realized setting alone would likely have been enough to warrant the mapset a place of honor this year, but I was delighted to find that its "more is more" philosophy fully extends to its gunplay as well. Make no mistake, this is an incredibly violent WAD, and will see these islands of the dead blanketed with veritable mountains of fresh corpses long before all's said and done. The generally spacious, expansive design naturally invites great numbers of monsters (each sporting a fetching new getup ala Cannibal Holocaust), while the richly layered environments and cornucopia of weapons and ammo afford nearly endless scope for combating them as you see fit. Just as with the engrossing progression beats, Eradrop is equally surehanded in constructing marquee encounters on both grand and intimate scales, punctuating the general bloodletting with a wealth of truly memorable climaxes, often with truly imaginative staging. As something of an old hand at this, I was particularly impressed by the WAD's trap sense--no other set in years has managed to catch me off-guard as often, or to as successfully play upon my expectations of when, where and even how danger would be present, which meshes naturally with its "forbidden temple" theme.

     

    A triumph of location-based design, Avactor's depth, breadth, and quality of content epitomizes all of the best aspects of the "adventure map" genre while being bloodier than a Xibalba abattoir to boot. My kingdom for another canto!

     

    - @Demon of the Well

     


    6_cacoward.png?_cb=1544228975Dark Universe, Part 1 - Paul “@Payload4367” Dechene

    Doom 2, GZDoom

     

    In space, no one can hear you scream… or shoot… or singlehandedly take down a demon invasion. Paul Dechene’s Dark Universe aptly captures the most harrowing feeling of all - being left alone to deal with the demons that Hell has inexplicably decided to bring right into the spacecraft that was once manned by your fellow space marines, who just moments before were going about their day without fear or worry. With 6 full-length maps, Dark Universe leads you through a journey of fighting your way through a spacecraft on the brink of destruction.

     

    Dark Universe, Part 1

     

    The premise of the gameplay of Dark Universe is, at its base, simple- as Dechene lists in the text file, “just find the switch that opens the exit and find the exit.” However, the world that he creates in Dark Universe is one that leaves you aching to be able to explore every inch of every map, scouring for ammunition and supplies to help you along your way to avenge your fallen comrades. The environments have a flavor much akin to titles such as Mass Effect, with high-quality texturing, lighting, and details that bring an eerie type of life to the ship. Perhaps most notable is the excellent and strategic use of GZDoom effects that really solidify the feeling of fear, and sometimes up the ante and make you carefully calculate your steps, lest you get sucked out of a broken airlock or hull breach and end up a victim to the cold emptiness of the infinite void. And watch what switches you press - you may end up in an even more terrifying parallel world.

     

    If the danger of being sucked out into the unforgiving field of stars wasn’t enough, every area of the map is crawling with demons, including a brand-new mechanical monolith that, while not as large as some of the other denizens of Hell, packs just as much, if not more of a punch. Something - or someone - lurks around every corner, perhaps, even, zombiemen that may wear the faces of your former colleagues. Watch your step, pay close attention to your surroundings, and keep your trigger finger steady and ready. Each step forward brings you to a fear-inducing final fight, with demons bursting through the almost supernatural barrier that had separated them from you- until now.

     

    Dark Universe combines the best of Doom’s underlying lore with many of the features and aesthetics of a modern FPS, bringing new life to the idea of fighting demons in space- and making it feel totally natural. The cherry on the space cake? This is only the beginning. We have much more to forward to in this universe, and while much of it is uncertain, one thing is not- it will be bloody, and it will be brutal.

     

    - @Major Arlene

     


    6_cacoward.png?_cb=1544228975The Adventures of Square: Episode 2 - BigBrik Games

    Standalone, GZDoom

     

    If you ask me, the Doom community is at the beginning of another mapping renaissance, a shift in the broader ideals of the mapping sphere. If the ‘90s were all about working within the classic limitations, the 2000s were about the exploration of greatly expanded limits and features, and most of the 2010s were a challenge-driven neoclassical resurgence, then the last couple of years have been about amalgamating all of the lessons from past eras and broadening our horizons to the point where they seem almost limitless. Even as many of the best Boom mappers are making products so feature-rich that they could be mistaken for ZDoom sets, the best G/ZDoom mappers are picking and choosing the features that best meet their design goals to deliver an incredible sense of consistency and polish. Either way, it’s become pretty clear that mappers are looking for something new.

     

    The Adventures of Square: Episode 2

     

    The Adventures of Square got its first Cacoward in 2014, so it may or may not be fair to say that BigBrik has helped lead the charge, but E2 certainly has its finger on the community’s pulse regardless. This is a game that pulls out all the stops and uses whatever features it needs to pull off wave after wave of new content and fresh ideas, all while remaining completely true to its nostalgic inspirations. It’s a game where you get to leap around in low gravity, manage a limited air supply as you traverse airless outdoor sections, and make epic escapes from a rising flood of molten cheese – and every concept is executed with such care and polish that it feels perfectly natural, right down to the respawning air tanks. Underlying the varied and challenging gameplay is the huge amount of flavor the team has injected into this episode (which is set on a moon made of literal cheese, for Chrissakes), including a never-ending supply of pun-laden one-liners and a dazzling array of enemies and items. Case in point for everything that makes Square awesome is the new Strongman enemy, which picks you up and throws you across the room or catches you with a grappling hook and drags you up close a la Scorpion from Mortal Kombat, all while spouting archaic insults at you.

     

    All of this is just to say that the Square team hasn’t let anything stand in the way of making their game absurdly fun to play. Every gun is ridiculously satisfying to use, every enemy is fun to fight, every map is a blast. Every inch of the game is dripping with character, from “basic” lunar settings like an orbital space station and an enormous cheese crater to really outlandish playgrounds, like a fake Wild West resort where the circle cultists dress up as cowboys.

     

    All in all, E1 may have already been the coolest Doom TC since Urban Brawl, but E2 raises the bar in every way. And if a small team of dedicated modders can make something like The Adventures of Square…well, what can’t the Doom community make?

     

    - @Not Jabba


  • 2018 Cacowards


     

    Espi Award for Lifetime Achievement

    • Erik Alm

     

    Top Ten - Page 1

    • Avactor
    • Dark Universe Part 1
    • The Adventures of Square: Episode 2

     

    Top Ten - Page 2

    • Preacher
    • Dimension of the Boomed
    • Struggle: Antaresian Legacy
    • REKKR

     

    Top Ten - Page 3

    • Maskim Xul
    • Doom: The Golden Souls 2
    • UAC Invasion: The Supply Depot

     

    Multiplayer Awards

    • Quake Champions: Doom Edition

     

    Gameplay Mod Awards

    • Guncaster
    • Netronian Chaos
    • GMOTA

     

    Other Awards

    • Mordeth Award
      • Total Chaos
    • Codeaward
      • Doom Builder X
    • Machaward
      • Mr. Friendly
    • Creator of the Year
      • Revae

  • RUNNERS UP


    Exomoon - @Deadwing

    Doom 2, MBF-compatible

     

    Exomoon

     

    The follow-up to last year’s Moonblood takes all the best things about its predecessor and distills them into a purer, more memorable experience. The mini-sandbox Plutonia combat remains, but with even better shaping and a selection of new and modified monsters designed to scratch the itches of that particular gameplay style. What really shines about Exomoon, however, is the deep sense of implied lore that runs through the mapset, bringing together all of its wild and weird settings (floating honeycomb islands in reddish voids, massive funeral vaults, magical techlabs, sandy excavation sites, lunar void temples…) into a sweeping backstory that’s full of smashed hope and unfathomable loss, carrying with it a palpable but enigmatically alien mood that colors every step you take. Words can’t really capture it – if you really want to experience this interactive novella/space-age jazz concept album, you’re just going to have to play it for yourself.

     

    - @Not Jabba

     


    Man on the Moon - @Yugiboy85

    Doom 2, MBF-compatible

     

    Man on the Moon

     

    Man on the Moon, the sequel to Traveling to the Moon, continues the story of the hope to explore space without getting ripped in half or filled with bullets from demonic presences still filling every crevice you poke your gun into.

     

    While the map boasts over a thousand monsters in the normal course of its play, it avoids the frustration of excessiveness by pacing each fight in interesting and unexpected ways. All the while, new areas are opened up to explore, along with more monsters and a shiny new weapon or two, not to mention a possibly nasty surprise - or ten - waiting for the right moment to catch you.

     

    The final bridge reveals a tower that seems to hold the switch to the exit. Instead, it’s a bum-rush descent into the cold core of the moon, all while hellspawn try to stop you, including some baddies plucked from the Realm667 bestiary.

     

    Yugiboy85 does an excellent job of combining crisp aesthetic with some of the most down-and-dirty, brutal fighting anyone could ask for. We’ve gone to the moon now; what’s next?

     

    - @Major Arlene

     


    Umbra of Fate - @YukiRaven

    Doom 2, GZDoom

     

    Umbra of Fate

     

    Umbra of Fate illustrates that balancing aesthetics, storytelling, and combat can be the most difficult balancing act of all - but it can be done, and done with passion, grace, and style. Like its predecessor, Shadows of the Nightmare Realm, Umbra combines the best of GZDoom’s capabilities with all the elements of style and combat that create an incredibly immersive experience.

     

    YukiRaven takes a lot of care in creating the world of Umbra - every facet of it is rich with color and detail, creating a surreal atmosphere that you can be lost in for ages. Each fight is unique and varied, with well thought-out enemy placement and use of intriguing custom enemies that further solidify the anxiety-inducing atmosphere that you wander through in hopes of reaching a more peaceful place. Along with the twisting and winding architecture, the lore of your story unfolds, hinting at the fact that you have fallen into a world that you will be hard-pressed to escape alive - or with your sanity intact.

     

    - @Major Arlene

     


    RECOMMEND ME A... COFFEE BREAK MAPSET


     

    The DBP series, which ran for a good chunk of this past year, gave players a monthly dose of small mapsets featuring classic Doom gameplay, with an emphasis on working within a specific theme. Monuments of Mars, set in a series of sepiatone bases in a hellish Martian landscape, is the most free-flowing and fast-paced of the series, offering players the gameplay equivalent of flying down a steep hill on a bike. Coffin Curse, by contrast, used its library/crypt theme to put more emphasis on whimsical details and atmosphere, with more treacherous and gimmick-oriented gameplay to go along with it (who doesn’t love barrel-themed maps?). Either one is an excellent way to spend a lazy afternoon.

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