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Not Jabba

Not Jabba's Not the Cacowards Review Corner (Enigmatic Pink Edition: Unwelcome and Northern Powerhouse)

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Nice review of Mayhem Orange and Purple. Glad you liked my map. :)

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Bury My Heart Knee-Deep by @Ryath

 

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Ryath is best known for vanilla puzzle gimmick mapsets like the Cacoward-winning Absolutely Killed and the UnAligned series, so it's no surprise that Bury My Heart Knee-Deep manages to be equal parts experimental concept map and nostalgia trip. Bury My Heart is Ryath's largest and most ambitious map so far, potentially taking a couple of hours to play through despite a deceptively moderate monster count of under 900. The reason is that it's a fairly deep playing experience, with a lot to explore, a lot of optional content to puzzle out, and a lot of different ways to tackle its challenges.

 

Bury My Heart is crafted in the style of a Metroidvania, meaning that it's highly sandboxy but gives you specific item-hunting objectives that allow you to unlock large portions of the map when you complete them. Part of this is finding keys like in a normal Doom map (each of which will unlock several new areas throughout the map), but you also have the optional goal of figuring out how to access two sets of supply rooms, one containing Lite-Amp Goggles and the other containing Radsuits, which allow you to explore even more of the map's optional content. This map has a whopping 64 secrets -- including a mega-secret bonus arena battle that you'll need to find multiple hidden switches to unlock -- making it very likely that you'll find at least a few but very unlikely that you'll find them all on your first playthrough. Perhaps the coolest idea in the map is a set of storage closets containing useful items that are blocked off by forcefields. You can only open these using rockets, which means you have to decide whether to make the tradeoff of spending those rare and precious rockets to get the items inside.

 

According to the readme, there are even intentional sequence breaks built into the map that allow you to complete it without finding the keys, although I lack a speedrunner's eye and didn't find them myself. All of this optional content lets you theoretically tackle the map however you want and gives you lots of options for how you want to replay it. Do you try to find the way to complete it as quickly as possible? Do you go for 100 percent kills and secrets?

 

Aside from all that, the whole map just has a nice vibe to it. Ryath treats it as though you've never played Doom before, revealing each new monster like it's something special that you're discovering for the first time as you push deeper into the infested base. The initial lack of Doom 2 monsters also helps to firmly establish the Knee-Deep in the Dead nostalgia feel before moving on to include Doom 2's expanded content and open up more possibilities for gameplay. Each key has its own boss battle arena, with Pain Elementals, Cyberdemons, and Arch-Viles serving as your Ridley and Kraid for the day, and the spider enemies show up for a nice final fight that has you managing combat on multiple fronts.

 

Overall, this is a very enjoyable map, and the fact that its huge size is contained within vanilla limits is an impressive feat. The Metroidvania concept is a really interesting one, and I can't help but wonder how much further the concept could be pushed with Boom features, a higher level of detailing, and a set of custom resources, or ZDoom features and new items and monsters that emphasize the progression aspects. It's hard to say whether the simplicity of Bury My Heart is the ideal choice or not, especially since the mostly understated combat doesn't do a lot to push strategic thinking and emphasize the benefits of different approaches in a map that's theoretically all about choosing your own way to play it (though it does a good job with limiting your ammo and other resources). This map feels like a pleasant initial foray into a very engaging concept rather than something that's being explored to the fullest, but since it's the first of its kind, I think that's fair. For my part, I hope we'll see either a sequel or a spiritual successor someday.

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2 hours ago, Not Jabba said:

@Ryath

 

Hey, that's me!

 

Thanks for this review, @Not Jabba! I love reading these, and agree with all your criticisms of the map. 90% chance there will be a sequel in some form or another, though even I don't really know what that sequel will look like.

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Posted (edited)

The Kerberos Complex by @antares031 (Doomworld Mega Project 2017 map 24)

 

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Dividing a map into color-coded sections is a visual gimmick that goes back a long way, and it's no wonder; it's a simple way to make each section of the map feel like it has its own distinct mood, and often to make the layout easier to remember, while keeping a sense of cohesiveness throughout the whole map and keeping resource creation minimal by using recolored versions of the same textures. The trope probably originated with "Killer Colours" from Alien Vendetta, but there have been a host of other maps that improve on the formula: there's the high-tech neon Sekkusu, one of my favorite early ZDoom-compatible maps (and its sequel, which appeared in the first Newdoom Community Project); Eternal's artsy and surreal "Warp of Time" from Hell Ground; Nanka Kurashiki's adorable fruit-themed "My Fav" from JPCP; and now Kerberos Complex. It's worth noting that all of the aforementioned maps except Sekkusu were brainstormed for the Top 100 Memorable Maps list (with two of them making the final list and one of them on the runner-up list), so it must be a pretty damn good gimmick, at that. As for Kerberos Complex, it was overshadowed by the release of an immensely popular megawad by the same author -- and of course it wasn't really eligible for Cacoward consideration, as one entry in a 52-map community project -- but it's still an awesome map.

 

It's beautiful, for one thing: an ultra-futuristic techbase where each primary color stands out in bright contrast to gray stone and metal, full of flickering and glowing sectors that add that extra bit of atmosphere at each turn. Antares is one of the modern masters of creating detailing so layered and consistent that the map is almost dizzying, but without any of it getting in the way of the playable space.

 

The mapper's gameplay style is also fairly consistent, so Kerberos Complex plays a lot like the average Struggle map. Its difficulty on UV is generally equivalent to the midpoint of the megawad on HMP -- constant heavy incidental combat throughout the majority of the layout, but with a few big setpiece fights around the keys and an extremely intense three-part finale. That said, it doesn't use any of Struggle's Dehacked work on the weapons and monsters, so the pacing and monster usage are a lot more like what you'd typically expect in a modern Doom map. Although I like Struggle's amped-up take on Doom's gameplay, I enjoyed Kerberos Complex more than most individual maps in the megawad, partly because the style of both the visuals and gameplay feels a bit cleaner, and partly, I suppose, because I'm just a huge sucker for nonlinear megamaps.

 

The complex is very interconnected and sandboxy, so you can approach it pretty much however you want, and there's little chance of getting lost or hitting a dead end, because everywhere leads to everywhere. The central green area serves as a hub and contains the three keycards, while the big yellow, blue, and red side complexes each house a skull key of the appropriate color, which you'll need to survive a big arena battle to reach. Red is the most brutal, but it also awards you with the most easily accessible BFG. This arena also allows you to choose between two different battles via a multiple-choice switch selection, complete with a big sign that makes the decision factor really obvious (and borrows from "My Fav" in the process). That's something I really love about this map: the goals are mandatory, but it gives you plenty of options.

 

Once you have all the keys, you go back to the hub and initiate the final sequence of fights. I won't spoil too much of it here, but as someone who likes my biggest fights to be high-spectacle and high-intensity but still *relatively* low-stress, I found it very enjoyable. I hope you like Revenants, though, because this time you're out of options.

 

With all due respect to the rest of the mappers, I didn't play any of the other maps in DMP2017, but I think it's well worth downloading the whole thing just to play Kerberos Complex, and chances are you might find some other stuff you enjoy while you're at it. As a large stand-alone map, it stands toe to toe with the likes of Man on the Moon and Port Glacia.

Edited by Not Jabba

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6 hours ago, Not Jabba said:

The Kerberos Complex by @antares031 (Doomworld Mega Project 2017 map 24)

 

 

Much appreciated for the detailed review of The Kerberos Complex, Not Jabba! This is so wonderful gift for my birthday. :)

 

The basic concept of The Kerberos Complex was originally based on the MAP16 of Struggle; the green sector was designed as a central hub of other three colored sectors. I really liked this concept, and I thought it's pretty good idea for a giant non-linear level. So I decided to expand the idea for bigger, more complex level with boom-compatibility, so I could use more options than limit-removing. To show the relationship between those levels, The very beginning part of KC was designed to have the similar view from the MAP16:

 

Spoiler

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It's also worth mentioning that the colorful spiral monuments were inspired by @Manbou's "A resplendent emerald green"; MAP27 of Japanese Community Project. The first time I watched the similar decoration from MAP06 of that wad, I thought this was really cool idea as a decoration. And after I beat MAP27, I really wanted to design something, based on those floating spiral sculptures around that enormous emerald-colored realm. And yes, speaking of JPCP, I did borrow the idea of the adorable question from "My Fav" by @Kurashiki. To me, that part actually made me smile in a really good way, and it was one of the most memorable moments of the entire wad. So it's no wonder I decided to pay homage to it.

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I love reading these kinds of reviews! Thanks a ton, Not Jabba. Always makes me glad when people enjoy my schlock work!

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5 hours ago, Nirvana said:

Nice to see some long-form reviews on here!

 

Ditto, imagine if we had a hub (organized, navigable) for stuff like this. I mean we have, but they come and go, and/or are buried knee deep in the forum.

 

Anyhoo, carry on with the writin' and reviewin' sir

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Vorpal said:

 

Ditto, imagine if we had a hub (organized, navigable) for stuff like this. I mean we have, but they come and go, and/or are buried knee deep in the forum.

 

Anyhoo, carry on with the writin' and reviewin' sir

 

One pipe dream idea I had but dismissed since I definitely wasn't up to the task was to grab reviews from the Doom diaspora (many of which are now defunct except on archive.org) and throw them together with stuff like Dwmc and the more longform reviews now appearing in the new frontend. Something like a Doom meta critic. It's a neat idea but I'd have to give up my own endeavors to even attempt it and I have no inkling of the infrastructure required, lol

Edited by kmxexii

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Posted (edited)

Under a Freezing Sea by @A.Gamma

 

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Under a Freezing Sea is the first solo release by A.Gamma, though their mapping credits go back as far as the Hymn community project for Heretic. The Hymn map is strongly driven by setting and exploration, and this moderately large single GZDoom map follows in a similar vein but gave the author more of a chance to shine and started to earn them some well-deserved recognition last year. It's one of those GZDoom maps that plays similarly to a classic Doom experience but adds more depth to many aspects of the game through its advanced feature use, particularly the sense of narrative and the layout.

 

The map begins very quietly, with the first few minutes of play being virtually monsterless. You hunt around, pick up a couple of basic weapons, and wonder when the other shoe is going to drop as you attempt to find a way to restore power to the base and access the rest of the map. This section sets the mood and also introduces you to some of the basic mechanics of play, including the first of the map's underwater sections. It's nice and creepy and uncertain, though some music might have done it good.

 

Once you restore power and enter the underwater portion of the base, you're immediately hit with some pretty heavy combat, including a turreted Cyberdemon right in the central room where you start out. The combination of slow opener and sudden hot start is pretty cool, and it forces you to immediately start moving around the base complex. The vast majority of the map is accessible right away, but no matter which way you run from the start, you'll have to do some work to carve out a foothold, as the opposition remains pretty steady throughout the base and there are tough monsters waiting at most of the key points where you might otherwise be able to take a breather. It's not too tough, but it's nice and active. There are also several custom monsters thrown into the mix, including that hanging torso turret and a variant of the Hades Elemental, and a couple of monsters that populate the underwater sections.

 

The feature use is pretty good in general, but the underwater areas are the most interesting and distinguishing part of the map. The combat is fairly light down there as you might hope, but the unique monsters give these sections a sense of being their own unique thing. It really adds an extra layer to the map (literally), since you are able to go down into the water and resurface in different sections of the base, adding a much stronger sense of three-dimensionality than would have been achieved with the 3D floors/ramps alone. You can run out of air and gradually drown underwater, but there are bubble spawners that refill your supply, which eliminates the aggravation of having to go back to the surface for air and helps to make the swimming mechanics feel more integrated with the underwater combat and exploration.

 

There's a lot to like about Under a Freezing Sea. I enjoyed the underwater arctic base setting, and there are some good secrets and a good general sense of explorability. It feels like a continuation of the classic tradition of ZDoom maps -- stuff like Knee-Deep in ZDoom and Genesis of Descent -- but updated for modern players.

 

 

 

Diabolus Ex by @Arvell

 

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Diabolus Ex's sources of inspiration should be fairly obvious from the title, if not from a first glance at the starting area. It's hard for me to judge exactly how much of an homage the map is, or how successful, because it's largely drawing from games I've never played, expecially the Deus Ex series. The cyberpunk vibe is very distinctive, though, and handled with a lot of flair.

 

There are a few things that Diabolus Ex does really well. The atmosphere and the attention to the setting are top notch. The map takes place in an office building at the heart of some corporate skyscraper hell of the future, though it happens to be populated with Doom's usual roster of demons. As you pierce through the opposition on your way up from the security checkpoints to the data storage vaults and upper offices to the final battle on the roof, you'll also make a couple of side trips into that colorful, abstract sort of cyberspace setting that's such a hallmark of cyberpunk games. All of it feels really vivid, never more so than when you find yourself out on a balcony staring out at the gorgeous sky, which shows the rest of the city far below you -- but even the more basic areas feel like a real place that's lovingly rendered in full detail. I had initially assumed that the texture set must come from games like Deus Ex, but it appears to have all been custom made by Arvell, and it adds a lot to the feel of the setting. The music also synergizes really well with the map -- it's one of those tracks that fits the theme so well and has so much mood to it that it's virtually impossible not to feel immersed.

 

The gameplay is an area where I think the author struggles a lot more, probably just because they're relatively new to the game; I don't think they lack the creativity or design perception necessary to make great maps. Most of the layout and combat design in Diabolus Ex is fairly basic and trivial. There are a lot of theoretically great ideas about different ways of approaching the map -- alternate routes for observant players, entire optional sections of the map, and so on -- but for anyone who's spent a lot of time playing Doom, the secrets are all extremely easy to find on a first pass, and the combat isn't nearly tough enough to push the alternate playstyle options or routes as interesting options; they're simply something you go through for completion. One fight against an Arch-Vile and some Imps contains a Megasphere and then a secret Soulsphere right afterward -- if I recall correctly, because the author and their testers found the fight pretty difficult. The final battle is against a Spiderdemon and a handful of minions with lots of cover -- not a challenging fight under normal circumstances, but particularly easy if you've accidentally stumbled onto most of the map's secrets already, including a BFG.

 

I have mixed feelings about Diabolus Ex and don't think it got a lot of love among the Cacoward judges, but my impression is that it was one of the two most popular snubs of 2018, along with Tangerine Nightmare. So if this sounds like your kind of thing, you shouldn't miss it. I think it is especially likely to appeal to newer players, since those who still find the basics of Doom combat to be challenging are likely to appreciate the intentionality and depth that went into the level design.

 

 

 

Doom 3: Primary Excavation Site by @DooM_RO

 

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Here's one I did love, for the most part. Taking some of its cues from Doom 3, Primary Excavation Site is designed as a survival horror map and intended to be played with running disabled, which brings the player down to a much more human level of vulnerability. Combined with an initial lack of resources and a thick, heavy atmosphere, this vulnerability makes the map feel truly scary and pushes you to think carefully about how you play it.

 

The aforementioned atmosphere comes partly from lighting, partly from the sense of realism, partly from the uncertainty of your situation, and partly from the creepy ambient music, all of which work together really well. Mostly dark with a few internal lights still working and some stronger outdoor lighting, the base feels truly dead, and that mood combined with the survivalist nature of the gameplay makes every dark corner come alive with potential threat. You start out in a nearly empty barracks area without enough ammo and weaponry to combat all of the enemies in the immediate area, which forces you to explore quickly and try to find a way forward.

 

The design does feel slightly uneven to me, in that there are a couple of spots that are inordinately frustrating. The opener makes you shoot your way through a couple of Imps and a Demon in a very narrow, dark hallway, which is kind of a dick move when you're not expecting it and is most likely to cause you to restart the first time just because you have to react immediately to get through it. Early on, there's also a pitch-black (though thankfully pretty small) nukage maze with Spectres that almost made me ragequit the map. But as bad as those spots may sound, the rest of the map is nicely designed, with combat that's challenging and engaging as long as you respect the map's terms and play it without running. You always have just enough resources to keep pushing ahead and keep yourself alive, and the map encourages exploration and active secret hunting over trying to engage with all the opposition as soon as you encounter it. Each area you conquer feels like more of an accomplishment than it might in a normal Doom map, and each new section you discover feels all the more threatening for the danger of whatever it might contain in conjunction with the enemies you've likely left behind you. Toward the end of the map, the resources at your disposal start to even out more and you feel like you have more power over your situation, so you can go back through and stomp out anything you might have missed and engage with the last few fights/sections feeling like more of a badass, which is a satisfying way to conclude the map.

 

I think the survival horror concept is a pretty cool take on Doom's core gameplay, and Primary Excavation Site mostly executes it well. Although Dark Universe does the same thing better in many ways (and for the record, I also recommend playing DU with autorun disabled), Primary Excavation Site pushes you a lot harder in the early part of the map, which suits the style of design very well. I've played very little like it in Doom, mainly because Doomguy's overclocked speed makes it difficult to appreciate true horror, but I would be interested in seeing more maps designed this way.

Edited by Not Jabba

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Ah, years. They're all the same anyway, right?

...I mean, I don't know what you're talking about. The post clearly says 2018 and has definitely been that way forever.

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@Not Jabba

 

Hey Jabba! I am really glad you enjoyed the map. It seems like you played it exactly as I designed it to be played. I'm glad disabling running was the right choice.

 

What I wanted to achieve was combine the design principles of classic Doom and Doom 3. Too many Doom 3-inspired maps play too much like Doom 3 and too little like the base game. I am not very knowledgeable about how source ports work but I am in principle a vanilla/boom mapper. There are a few GZDoom features I find indispensable (such as aligning flats) but in principle, I like the stark, spartan beauty of vanilla and I can't say I'm crazy about slopes and fancy lighting. If I want those features I will just map for Quake.

 

Recently, I have decided to create a whole episode based on the principles developed in the map. One map is already finished and the next one is underway. I'm really kind of a slow mapper so it's going to take a while. The episode is going to contain 6 Tech Base maps, 2 Hell maps and 1 secret map. The map you played is going to be part of it too, as a mid-episode map though it makes me sad it won't have a pistol start as it was designed for it. I have also made a few slight but important changes to it though such as removing the Revenant at the start and visually improving the final area of the map. So if you liked this one, I'm sure you will like the next.

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@Not Jabba I loved reading your review! I always enjoy reading reviews or watching people play my maps, and yours was particularly fun and well written.

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@Not Jabba
A bit late to the party, but thank you so much for an in-depth review :)
I appreciate the feedback!

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Thanks for the review NotJabba! Not sure if I would've discovered Northern Powerhouse otherwise, I really love maps that change the palette like this one and Stardate 20x6. Always looking forward to seeing your in depth reviews on maps that haven't gotten much attention lately.

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@Not JabbaFor what it's worth, British politicians in recent times have used the term "Northern Powerhouse" to describe the latent economic potential of northern England and highlight the benefits of investing in its infrastructure, as it has multiple major cities and a lot of industry that have generally been neglected over the last 40-50 years. 

 

Although it has multiple cities, it also contains a lot of wild, generally inhospitable hills and near-mountains between the cities - a sheep standing on moorland, as seen in the titlepic, is a very common sight in the wilder rural parts of northern England.

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^yep :3 that's part of the point - they pay lip service to the importance of this part of the country but what they mostly wanna do is frack it and overfarm it to bits giggle. so the level is sort of a rant.

 

thanks for the great review notjabba

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