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  • File Reviews

    • By CPL. Langster II · Posted
      I love this. But not enough for 5 stars, Yet. It's good in a fun aspect but bugs and mapping has its flaws.
    • By Cinnamon · Posted
      It's a good-looking map that requires some spatial thinking and makes some use of being "a ZDoom map." It did not have to be that, but it elected to (not surprising given its release date) but I'd rather wish it didn't, since the few times it actually comes up it feels jarring.  And while the environment is memorable, and the references are well-crafted and not too on the nose, the combat is as often lackluster as it's enticing, only the outdoor arena towards the end is somewhat memorable.   Worth a play for sure, but not worth replaying once beaten.
    • By D3rpyD00dlez · Posted
      I genuinely enjoyed this mod with its level design and music. It was challenging and interesting and it kept me playing a while after beating it to try to find anything. though I would say it was slightly repetitive and overwhelming with enemies at some moments.
    • By LouigiVerona · Posted
      Writing a review for Darkening 2 is tough. It's a beloved megawad, and for good reason. As many other reviewers have said, it is historically a very important project.   It was an important megawad for me personally. I fell in love with the first level in particular. The music, the realistic architecture, so reminiscent of the video games of the 90s... It all left a lasting impression. And it was one of the most beautiful wads I've seen at the time.   But I rarely played anything beyond MAP01. So this time I decided to go through the whole megawad and answer the following question: has Darkening 2 stood the test of time?   Obviously, you see what my rating is. So, in my opinion, the answer is "no". But why? Let's dive in. I'll start with the good.   First, the new textures and level design in general are very good. Obviously, as the Doom mapping craft is evolving, there are far more impressive wads these days, but some things in Darkening 2 are timeless.   Ola Bjorling's intro level is a classic. It creates such promise for the rest of the megawad, boasting both vast, mid and tiny areas, realistic objects (if that's your thing) and good gameplay. Exactly the kind of intro gameplay you would expect - not too intense, not too slow. The monster placement is solid, the progression is robust, some clever ideas scattered throughout the map, with many little side-tasks for the player, like the ending door which requires you to quickly hit the two switches. There are some annoying bits, like getting the yellow key requires one to swivel around a crate, but we'll get to that in a bit.   MAP05 is amazing. I played it two or three times in a row. It's one of those things that might be personal, but I just connected with that map. Not only is the design cozy and varied, but the final boss area is so well designed! The blue armor secret is just exquisitely devious. A very memorable level! Totally playable from pistol start, btw, which is not necessarily true for every stage of this megawad.   Even levels the gameplay of which I disliked, all had exemplary design. Everyone used the new textures to their full potential, and I liked the feel from the majority of contributions.   The music seems to be a point of contention. I am actually quite puzzled by this. I didn't feel that the music is bad at all. In fact, the MAP01 music and MAP05 music could be some of my favorite tunes from all of Doom. The previous reviewer complains about MAP09's music. I just listened to it, it's a lovely electronic track. I think I know what he means by a piano, but on my system it sounds like this very quiet arpeggiating organ. Nothing annoying, all very soft and well written. I am currently playing it on GZDoom, and also on Linux, so my experience might be different, but I played it on Windows on vanilla Doom back in the day, and as far as I remember, the music sounded the same. So, not sure what's going on there.   But that's where the good stuff ends. There might've been more points to discuss had there been new monsters and weapons, but those parts are stock.   Now, for what felt bad and/or outdated, because I suspect that in 2000 this wad offered acceptable gameplay. I played Darkening 2 on UV difficulty. And this could have been my first mistake. The balance on UV is generally very poor. MAP01 is fine, but as I said, it's not that intense to begin with. But starting MAP02, the only level that managed UV well was only the aforementioned MAP05. Yes, literally a single level.   The problem is the low amounts of ammo and health. Especially health. On some levels medikits are so sparse that I was on less than 20% health throughout most of the run. It's a pervasive problem, especially given that there are a lot of traps, liquid floors and lifts from which you could easily fall onto said liquid. And thing is, some of those could have been interesting little romps, but because of the medikit scarcity I had to nervously save before entering a new area.   The second problem, somehow more annoying to me, is that Darkening 2 demands loads of platforming. With all due respect and love that I have for Ola's MAP01, getting that yellow key was a huge pain for me when I first played it. These days I get it almost always on the first try, but back in the day I remember spending ten, twenty attempts trying to swivel around that crate in order to get to it. I even wondered, am I missing something? Is there a teleporter somewhere?   note: actually, you can get the key if you simply accelerate and jump from the opposing ledge. I think I remember trying it as a kid and not being able to get it, and I guess I assumed it was impossible. Maybe I didn't accelerate enough. For some reason I easily get it now. Either way, I don't think that it's a great idea to make the player work so much for a key that's necessary to progress. Just allow me to take it without having to spend years figuring out the best way to pick it up!   I do understand platforming as an additional effort to get to a bonus. I don't want it as part of the main gameplay. Doom is not Mario. And the game's physics, controls and camera are not designed for precision jumps and acrobatic tricks. It's tedious and frustrating, and too often in Darkening 2 you need to run across a thin ledge or swivel around something. And that's just so unnecessary. Maybe it was normal in 2000.   There is also an over-reliance on switches. You've got a door right in front of you or a lift, but no, go press a switch first.   One level in particular, MAP10, is especially bad at this. Almost every lift requires you to hit a switch and then run through a room and a couple of corridors to get to it. Why? Especially given how you then have to backtrack there several times and go through the same exercise over and over again.   Speaking of backtracking, boy, there's lots of it! In recent years the overall quality of level design has risen considerably. It's been a while since I was seriously stuck. In Darkening 2 this happened all the time. I constantly found myself not knowing where to go next. You grab a key and then run around, trying to painfully remember which door required it and where is it.   For some unclear reason, most doors are not color coded. A silver door requires a red key, a brown door requires a red key, and then some other door requires a blue key, only that door IS color coded. Why the inconsistency?   There is another thing to note about doors. Many levels exhibit an inordinate amount of fake doors. Perhaps, this is the realism angle that this megawad exhibits, but again and again you'll see a door, it won't open and is not supposed to be opened, and then a door that looks exactly like it will.   And, of course, when you find a key, it usually won't be near the door that actually needs it. In many modern levels you get the key, jump off the ledge - and voila, you're in front of the relevant door.   All of this makes you get stuck a lot, especially on later levels which are larger.   Unlike the promising MAP01, with its opening vista of the mysterious base, all other levels are cramped beyond belief. It's as if it was a competition on how to use less space. You get to MAP02 and see these tiny corridors. Well, that will be the rule throughout the whole wad. That's what most levels will look like, with very rare larger areas, many of which are still going to be mostly blocked off to the player by railings or filled with liquids. And within these tiny areas you'd have to fight off monsters.   The monster placement would've been satisfactory had it not been for those tiny rooms and corridors. Again and again you get a baron or a cacodemon right in your face, and there's nowhere to go. You are also constantly low on ammo, so it pays off to pace your supplies, making it plain boring to shoot down barons and cacos with merely a shotgun or a chaingun, while having to strafe around them in narrow spaces.   I have also forgotten how annoying lost souls could be, as I'm not seeing them as much in modern wads, but to be fair, in some levels they are used well, like in MAP05, where they notice you from afar and then come charging through the windows.   There is an underwhelming cyberdemon fight in MAP011, which is kind of baffling. It's not at all challenging, the area is again small, but you can run away into another room and come back at will. I was bored taking out the cyberdemon with my shotgun (cause the rest of the ammo was gone by this point), so I just ran past it into the exit.   The last level, MAP12, is probably one of the most disappointing levels I've ever played in my life. It might sound like an exaggeration, but notice I am not saying it's my worst - instead, it's my most disappointing. And it's disappointing because it's so beautifully made and is again designed by Ola Bjorling. I should've loved this level, which is meant to be the closing level to the saga. But it's really-really bad. It's like MAP12 takes all the problems of the previous levels and dials them up to eleven.   First, the level is poorly designed for pistol start. It took me many-many tries to get through the first encounters relatively unscathed, given my understanding that medikits are going to be few and far between. The very first room you're deposited in is a tiny room with two imps and with a cacodemon shooting through the window, while you have nothing but a gun. And the only way through this room is to shoot a switch, making it impossible to do it without basically getting killed in the first several seconds. So you have to dance around and try to tediously shoot down the imps with your puny gun, while avoiding their projectiles and the cacodemon in the back. And when you finally get through this, with your almost depleted gun, the very next narrow corridor features a baron. Of course.   You do get a shotgun and a chaingun fairly quickly, but whether you get a super shotgun quickly will depend on how you go about the map. You can get it quickly, or you can get it midway into the level. The placement of that super shotgun is very bad, in my opinion.   The second big problem is that the level chooses to make you navigate it through liquid floors: the stage consists of several areas which are mostly connected through nukage tunnels. So, you are given a bunch of radiation suits.   This adds literally nothing to the gameplay. If anything, it actually subtracts from it, and subtracts substantially, because first you use up your suits to navigate the level back and forth to even understand where you need to go. By the time you more or less figure out where's what, all your suits are gone. And given how low you are on health, you're basically forced to restart. Which means that there is no chance to beat MAP12 on your first try, it's just impossible due to how convoluted everything is.   At some point I gave up and entered the level with a nomonsters flag and iddqd, so that I could map out where everything was. And I have to tell you, I spent no less than twenty minutes finding all the keys and the exit. Think about it - twenty minutes on nomonsters and iddqd, and it still took me forever to find my way around. There was obviously no or inconsistent color coding of the doors, and many of them were far from where you got the key. In fact, between you and the door stood passages with nukage, so you would have to grab a radiation suit first.   One of the most frustrating things about this level is getting the blue key. If I complained about getting the yellow key on MAP01, this blows it completely out of the water. The key is in a room full of crates. And the amount of platforming you need to do is beyond reasonable. Ola positioned those crates at nearly impossible angles, forcing you to attempt it again and again and again. One bit is so difficult that even after playing through the level three times, I still cannot get it reliably. I counted that the average amount of attempts to get through that spot alone was over ten. And I am a pretty experienced Doom player. I dislike platforming, but I can do it. MAP12 challenges that notion.   Another problem with that specific part is that the crate with the blue key serves two purposes: it gets you the key, but it also let's you jump into the next area. And that's the ONLY way to get there. And if you would need to backtrack - and in a moment I'll explain that you might need to - you would have to go through all that horrible platforming AGAIN. There is no shortcut.   If previous levels put you in cramped spaces, MAP12 decides to turn it into torture. You are constantly in tight quarters, fighting barons, cacodemons and hell knights.   Once you go into that area from the blue key crate, you have to walk along a narrow ledge which oversees nukage you've traversed previously, and there's the opposite ledge which you can theoretically jump onto, but that would place you in the previous area of the map. As you pass through that ledge, to the side large sections open up, releasing six cacodemons right behind you. You turn through a narrow staircase - and bump into a baron. The staircase is too narrow for you to go around him, so it's either a health tax, shooting at him and powering through, or else you go back. Your retreat is blocked by a crowd of cacodemons, so if you want to spare your health, your only bet is to jump down to that opposite ledge and kill all the cacos. And then you have to go back and go through those crates again, spending fifteen, twenty tries to get through. Knowing all this, the most optimal solution is to walk through that ledge carefully, and as soon as cacos are released, run back. It's a beginner's trap, just like so many things on this map.   But these traps have only just begun. The march towards the end is a series of these traps, so the best advice is to save every single step.   Immediately after this ordeal you get into a room with yet more crates. This time the platforming is easy, but as you jump off into a tiny-tiny corner, you see a baron right in front of you. AGAIN. There is no way to kill him without dying or losing most of your health. The trick that I found is to platform your way onto another crate and wake the baron up from there, then kill it from a distance.   And, by the way, not only does taking out these barons and cacos takes time, it depletes most of your carefully saved ammo. I was finally in a good place at that stage, but these three encounters foced me to enter the final several rooms with barely anything, but cells.   As you enter the final areas, you see an invisibility power up. Don't take it! It's another beginner's trap, designed for you to lose even more health: there will be no more hitscan enemies, instead only revenants and barons, and using invisibility with barons is a bad idea.   The final battle is bizarre. By this time you get the BFG (through that room with the crates and the baron). You then get stuck with a cyberdemon on a relatively tight ledge (yes, again, large monster, little space), but it's wide enough that you can navigate around him, grab some ammo and use the lift to get to the final area, where for the first time since MAP01 you again get a relatively large area. The battle is trivial, you just run around, shoot you BFG and the monsters kill each other. There is the Spider Mastermind which you won't even notice, cause it's surrounded by Arachnotrons who quickly kill it.   The cyberdemon is stuck on that ledge. It cannot shoot you from there, so you just kill it either with the leftovers of the BFG or rockets from the outside. It's tedious. I don't understand the reasoning behind that. Why put a cyberdemon there? Unless the expectation was that the player kills them on that narrow ledge?   And then comes the very final area. You drop into a cave. Deeper and deeper you go, through a claustrophobic passage. At one point I thought it was a dead end, but you can actually squeeze yourself into a corner and drop further down. Then there's a panel with the Darkening logo. You open it and a tiny room full of imps greets you. Imps fire multiple projectiles at you, but you are stuck, there's nowhere to run, so you have to kill them before they kill you. The obvious thing, of course, is to use the BFG, but the problem is that in that claustrophobic cave had to be a specter, of course. So, you are very likely to enter that final room with a shotgun. Again, it's trap after trap after trap. As you enter the room, an archvile is lowered and more imps will come out. The room is tiny and the only way to hide from the archvile is to have the bars that surround it stand between you. One small mistake - and you're likely dead, because you lost so much taking hits from the imps. If you get lucky, you'll kill it, and you're done.   So, it's tiny spaces with lots of monsters till the very end.   Now, obviously, when you know all that, the level is not that hard. In fact, after mostly writing up this review, I went back and beat the level in exactly thirty minutes, with 100%+ health. But that was after studying this map for hours. And yes, I still got stuck on the platforming bit, I still had to backtrack, and the second time around I just jumped it over, because jumping is not blocked.   In conclusion.   Darkening 2 is definitely staying on my computer forever. It's got sentimental value for me. But it's not the wad I'm likely to replay much. MAP01 and MAP05 are great, and I've got this morbid love for MAP12, having had to dissect it for so long, but the rest is forgettable.   It's an important era of Doom mapping, and a huge step up aesthetically from previous megawads. It also has character. The gameplay, for what it's worth, is done in a similar vein. It feels like a megawad.   But it's also vastly outdated, and its gameplay and even functional level design is no longer on par.

      It's absolutely fine if you enjoy it anyway, I know I do. But if you are completely new to this, do enter the dungeons with open eyes.
    • By Ofisil · Posted
      A competently made map, for sure, but fun? It's way too long and repetitive, with same-y combat & ambush scenarios used again and again, and with way too much enemies, and not that much of a challenge, even for me who isn't exactly fond of "SUPER HARD WAD #9263!!!!11!. You can cut the whole thing in half, and then cut THAT half in half, and it would be a better map. Is it bad? No, just a little bit above average, mostly because it drags a bit too long.