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  • 13_Banner.png?_cb=1670529501


    2084987713_6_gameplaymodcacoward.pngGun BonsaiToxicFrog

    Doom 2, GZDoom


    There's been a trend in recent years of mods that add stuff rather than replacing it, augmenting whatever else you have loaded with some form of additional functionality, allowing the curation of some towering Skyrim-esque mod load orders in pursuit of unique, personalized new ways to play. Such "additive" mods can be a bit tricky for modders to put together, depending on how much they're willing to try and account for all the weird stuff other mods do, but the end results can be a real blast upon Voltron-ing together a unique setup with your favorite mapsets. Gun Bonsai is the latest in a growing line of such mods, and it makes a strong, persuasive case for players to stand up and take notice.




    Simply put: Every weapon in your possession has its own XP bar. Fill it by damaging the demonic hordes. Once its full, you can hit the Info key to level it up and apply a new perk to it. Every now and then, you yourself will level up, letting you apply a universal perk to yourself like instant weapon switching. It's not exactly complex, but much like its inspirations in the modding fields of other games (like Duke3D's War of Attrition, which the author cites as inspiration), it's a satisfying gameplay loop that doesn't get in the way or break when stacked atop other gameplay mods.


    The perks you can apply to weapons are a satisfying bunch, ranging from electrical paralysis stuns, killed monsters dropping bouncing bombs, projectiles spraying hitscan bullets everywhere upon impact, doubled firing speeds, and so on and so forth. Some perks are elemental in nature – selecting one locks you out of all the other elements until you achieve mastery of that element through further perks and level-ups, adding a nice bit of extra strategy to consider when deciding which particular superpower you'll inflict upon the hordes next.


    One thing that caught me by surprise is its sheer compatibility with other mods. It's remarkable just how well the mod knows how to handle all the different weapons other gameplay mods can throw at it – while hurling a bunch of different weird things in its direction, I never had it suggest perks that didn't make sense (ex. hitscan perks for projectile weapons, or vice versa). Even with my own weird mods full of bad coding, inventory items and other potentially robot-confusing things, it always proposed stuff that worked. An impressive, understated feat!


    One valid criticism of Gun Bonsai is that it can quickly turn you into an overpowered behemoth. Which, I mean, yeah. That being said, it has an impressive set of knobs and dials to let you adjust the balance for the mod or playstyle of your choice, letting you decide for yourself the whens and hows of your newfound powers being doled out. That being said, I'd still crank up the difficulty or wade into harder maps than you usually play with this loaded, to close the difficulty gap a little and let you enjoy the deeper end of the Doom mapping pool without cheating or drowning.


    Gun Bonsai and Indestructable (over in the Mini-Mod Safari sidebar over there!) are the damn-nigh-simultaneous first releases by ToxicFrog. One can only hope they aren't her last, because as far as opening salvos goes, this is a pretty undeniable one!


    - Kinsie


    2084987713_6_gameplaymodcacoward.pngVoxel Doom@Cheello



    3D-ifications of Doom’s original assets and characters, it’s safe to say, have a bit of a bad rap. At best, they’ve been semi-competent but didn’t really look much like the sprites they were replacing, and at worst they were uglier than the truth with tree-trunk-stiff animations. As tools, tech and education have grown and more people have access to 3D software like Blender and the knowledge of how to use it, more skilled 3D artists have joined the community... and resolved to use their skills to pre-render sprites in the traditional Doom visual style, without ever letting a single polygon touch the game directly. Of all the curses that hover menacingly over the Doom community, the Curse of The 3D Models That Suck was one that nobody was willing to try and break.


    But, well, here we are.




    Cheello’s Voxel Doom takes the longest possible road, intending to adapt every single frame of every single sprite to a separately-crafted voxel model (ie. A sort of "3D sprite" made up of cubes – think the item pickups in Blood), each frame taking all the individual angles of the original sprite into account. This is incredibly labor-intensive, and a path that has yet to be completed (The Doom 2 monsters have yet to be finished), but the end results do something that has never been accomplished before in nearly two decades of trying to cram polygons into the original Doom games: It looks correct.


    The new voxel models look like they were there from the very beginning. From a distance, you’d be forgiven for thinking you forgot to load the mod. But then you get closer and see the angles you’d never be able to see with the original sprites (gazing up at monsters above you, staring down at their corpses, figuring out what the hell the Baron’s death animation is doing…) and the additional perspective-based distortion from getting up close to a 3D object (particularly visible on the Pinky), and you realize that the most incredible bit of work that Cheello has accomplished with this project has been to effectively make himself invisible.


    Every previous attempt at 3D-ifying Doom’s assets has been very much filtered through the author’s subjective interpretation of the original sprites, or some other overarching artistic objective like "What if Doom, but Quake?" as they tried to figure out how to make everything make sense in 3D. While this is of course also true of Voxel Doom, it never actually looks or feels like it. Not a single cube looks out of place. Every single thing, even the bits that weren’t visible in the original sprites, looks and feels like it had always been there, as though someone had broken into Id and created 3D scans of the original clay-and-latex models, even for the characters that only ever existed as sprites. This might sound a bit pretentious-art-nerd-y, but there’s a sort of “truth” present in these models that has never quite been present in previous attempts.


    Voxel Doom is a subtly-towering achievement, both in the sheer amount of work put into more or less sculpting every frame individually, but also in the sheer immense quality of that work. That it may also serve as a useful resource for future modders, allowing them to bend the Doom bestiary into new and interesting animations and poses is also very significant, but it almost seems secondary. Absolutely worth packing on your next trip through the IWADs or a vanilla/Boom mapset, to add a little extra depth to your adventure... Visually, I mean.


    - Kinsie

  • 2022 Cacowards


    Espi Award for Lifetime Achievement

    • Frans P. de Vries


    Top Ten - Page 1

    • The Magenta Spire
    • Jumpwad
    • Ozonia


    Top Ten - Page 2

    • Elementalism: Phase 1
    • Dust Devil
    • Malevolence E1
    • Don't Turn Your Back on the City


    Top Ten - Page 3

    • KDiKDiZD
    • The 10x10 Project
    • Overboard


    Special Features

    • Doomkid's Jamal Jones contest
    • Greenian
    • Doom CE
    • Promising Newcomers


    22 More for 2022


    Multiplayer Awards

    • Horde and Hordamex
    • FrantikDM2


    Gameplay Mod Awards

    • Gun Bonsai
    • Voxel Doom


    Other Awards

    • Mordeth Award
      • KDiKDiZD vanilla tech
    • Codeaward
      • Ultimate Doom Builder / DoomTools
    • Machaward
      • Doom RPG port
    • Dootaward
      • Ozonia OST
    • Creator of the Year
      • Deadwing



    Not all mods are complete gameplay overhauls. Here are some smaller, yet perfectly-formed mods that have caught my eye over the past twelve that deserve a quick shoutout.


    Loot Markers is a simple little utility that makes items appear on the automap once you see them. This helps with making getting 100% items slightly less of an exercise in soul-sucking tedium, as well as helping scrounge up spare health pickups after a big fight.


    Bullet Time X lets you make like John Woo, simulating the slowing down of time in a much more complete way than I’ve seen in any other GZDoom mod so far, replete with pitch-shifting and even world elements like doors and lifts slowing down!


    Hexen Unofficial Update aims to sandpaper over some of the more notorious flaws in Raven’s ever-divisive switch-hunt-em-up. Finding a locked door highlights the appropriate key on the automap, the Mage has been heavily rebalanced, and those Centaurs are now considerably less immortal upon raising their shields!


    Indestructable adds a lives system and second-wind mechanic, briefly turning you into an invulnerable time-freezing whirlwind-o-death upon getting wasted by a wayward fireball. Useful for turning the tables on those slaughtermaps that you really want to play but have a moral aversion to savescumming through for some reason.


    Friendly Zombies gives you a pair of gun-toting, text-chat-abusing undead buddies to hang out with, with a proclivity for digging up new weapons for each other and a host of customization options, to the point of being able to give them silly names of your choosing!


    Stray Doom is about cat and cat-related products.


    - Kinsie