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dobu gabu maru

The DWmegawad Club plays: Whispers of Satan

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MAP17: Some good verticality in the hub, it looked quite amazing after the endless same-y flatness. I didn't understand the theme, like @TheOrganGrinder I think that the map look like a collage of various areas that have little to do with each other. There are the same kind of generic rooms that we have seen in every map but this time we have some caves. Oh yeah let's use another boring horde of pinkies on a big flat area at the SSG, I'm not even sure you have enough ammo there on pistol start so you are forced to rush into the next room, for once something exciting happens. But only for a moment because the rest will put you to sleep. The final looks like it wants to give something else but it fails to deliver. The fight against the gasbags outside was nice and then inner part is your usual symmetrical place clogged with monsters on your front. Why the fuck do I have to press 4 switches to raise 1 stair? All in the same room. At this point I'm a being trolled.

Let's try to say something other that the gameplay sucks for once. Iirc Pcorf is also a big fan of Alien Vendetta, and many times here I had the impression that he wanted to make something similar. Many of the maps with heavy, incidental, frontal combats vaguely reminded me of AV but they are lacking the strong adventurous vibe of AV and its briskness even in the basic situations.

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MAP15: Temple of Water

100% kills, 3/9 secrets

 

Still a lot of the same hallmarks we've seen so far - hub design at the start, symmetrical areas, a long bending hallway that eventually opens up an ambush - but it's a lot nicer looking and more visually interesting than a lot of the other levels, thankfully. I really liked the outdoor portion of the red key leg and even the long hallway was nicely decorated. Took me a heck of a long time to find the secret exit, I knew where it would open (noticed the big white arrow) and figured it would be one of the lionheads not lit up, but the needed one was tucked away in a spot easy to miss.

 

MAP31: Space Station Skywalker

100% kills, 5/6 secrets

 

The Dark Forces texture theme is nice, and there's some good aesthetic room construction with the Star Wars-y huge vertical spaces, but take away the visuals and it's a sub-par version of what we've seen over and over in the last few maps... square hub to begin, repetitive symmetry, and a portion with a long bending hallway that opens up into an ambush. It doesn't help that the more interesting rooms come at the start and the bland rooms (symmetry, long bending hallway) come at the end. The monster placement is pretty boring given the heavy hallway design. Only real fun part was the cyberdemon awakening between the two symmetrical areas near the end, which helped make the second one play different from the first. Too bad they couldn't get a custom stormtrooper enemy in here or something.

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MAP32 - “Ultimative Geheimnis” by Paul Corfiatis
After the unusual theme of the secret map, for the super secret map we get a Wolfenstein tribute. I suppose if the wad is vaguely following the Doom2 theme as most megawads do then it's hardly unfitting, but it would have been nice to have something a little more unorthodox after Map31.

 

Anyway, as to the map, Wolfenstein style maps play much the same as most Wolf maps do - a case of exploring the layout whilst cover sniping Nazis making these maps a bit monotonous. If you have the chain gun then it's particularly trivial, a case of CG tapping them till they die. At least with all the weapons being present there are opportunities to mix it up a bit and go Tyson for a time. Also with them being hitscanners, the Schutzstaffel have always been pleasingly efficient at killing one another - encouraging the player to wantonly strafe back in and out of cover, fomenting the shooting and listening to the cries of 'mein leben'. The only possible danger to the player is hitscan attrition from being too careless, and I think most people will play carelessly because otherwise it will get too dull.

 

What I will say in favour of Wolf maps is that I think they do encourage the mapper to think more carefully about the layout of the level - with such limited options from the Doom engine available, it encourages more elaboration in terms of simple 2D layout to try and make the map more interesting, much in the vein of how 1024 maps can encourage authors to think differently about area re-use and efficient use of space, and vanilla limits mapping map discourage the extraneous use of details to mask an otherwise mediocre map. So in my opinion this arguably has merit as a mapping exercise, and this map in particular is not bad for a wolf map, although I generally don't enjoy Wolf maps so much overall.

 

Also, the sex dungeon is lifted from cybie.wad by Randy and Mandy.

 

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MAP18: Elements

 

So with a title like that and a theme that, per the Doom Wiki, is intended to combine aspects of both Hexen and Plutonia, I was all set up here for a map that invoked the classic four elements, presenting a colourful journey through a succession of themeed areas.  Instead, it's mostly a combination of a frozen wasteland theme and brick/castle areas that by this point will be pretty familiar to the WAD's players, and the level frontloads its most interesting content only for things to give way to more repetitive switch-flipping in the back half and what can only be described as a fractal hubspoke layout beyond the blue door.  Again there's a sense of good ideas that don't quite stretch to the extent that the map author wants or need, with the shortfalls in creative depth being filled in with rooms and arrangements that evoke the author's distinctive style but which just don't deliver variety of gameplay or interesting exploration on a map-to-map basis.

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MAP18: The ice at the start looked promising, a new setting, and I liked visually the final area (very cool those red crosses on the white bricks). The good stuff ends here. Another linear hubspoke, the first part you have to visit is a big courtyard with a symetrical building. That was passable, and with pointless arrows the mark the obvious. Dear god the rest, copy-paste and symmetry and its finest. At the YSK you have to clear the same room 3 times.

Thankfully the next map is by Aro so I'm going to play it at least but I'll probably stop there, I have had enough of this crap.

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5 hours ago, gaspe said:

MAP18: The ice at the start looked promising, a new setting, and I liked visually the final area (very cool those red crosses on the white bricks). The good stuff ends here. Another linear hubspoke, the first part you have to visit is a big courtyard with a symetrical building. That was passable, and with pointless arrows the mark the obvious. Dear god the rest, copy-paste and symmetry and its finest. At the YSK you have to clear the same room 3 times.

Thankfully the next map is by Aro so I'm going to play it at least but I'll probably stop there, I have had enough of this crap.

 

^^ I believe the latter maps of the wad are more highly rated, and in any case if you still find PCorf's maps disagreeable there are more Aro maps coming.

 

MAP16 - “Undervilla” by Paul Corfiatis
After the rather neat looking Plutonia episode, the next is kicked off by this map, which has the more muted and dreary vibe as others note and also seems more cramped too. Having never played Hexen, the textures, whilst not being totally unfamiliar, are something of a novelty to me though they do meld well with the Doom2 library textures. The mancubus shoot through walls are good little gimmick which is quickly picked up on and dealt with, but gives the map it's own motif.

With the tight confines and generally dingy light levels the spectres play a significant role, where in the library and graveyard particularly they are difficult to spot and there is more chance for them to flank you with there being greater access. Beyond this we mainly see imps, chaingunners and sergeants. The odd revenant occasionally adds a little bit of punch to the tempo of the map but otherwise I'd say it's quite slow and steady, which I guess suits the ambience.

 

I found both secrets, with the chainsaw one being in retrospect something I should have spotted sooner. The arch-vile crusher if you smash the window is quite random though - would that be the easter egg?

I don't mind this map at all, but probably the most memorable thing is the general aesthetic rather than the substance of the gameplay, due to it being quite short, yet also slow.

 

MAP17 - “Mines of Despair” by Paul Corfiatis
In contrast to the last level, and the occasional words I noticed when posting about map32, this level is far less dingy and cramped. We have tall light and open areas; the overall theme that this is a mine has quite limited resonance, I was expecting something more along the lines of Iikka Keränen's Map08 of Requiem. Still the sense of some kind of dilapidated subterranean structures is still fairly good imo. A benefit of more open spaces is that you get possible angles of attack via the monsters by default - the large area with the cacos comes to mind here, as you are attacked from distance and with the chaingunners up close, whilst the imp fireballs rain down and the cacos move in. A little bit of variety in ranges and spaces affects how the player must tackle them and helps keep play more varied.

 

The demon trap near the SSG is well signalled but also greatly neutered if you find the secret near there, not simply because of the invuln, but rather the doorway provides a convenient bottle-neck, particularly for a miserly chainsaw-wielding continuous player such as myself. I do also appreciate the imp trap around the megasphere secret. It's not dangerous but there is still fun from the desire to preserve health and of course the shotgun/SSG's reload time causes you to place your shots carefully and make them count to keep them getting to close.

 

Beyond this though, there aren't so many surprises, indeed there's a staircase with repeated revenant closets a la Map12 and the predictability does away with the surprise and is pretty contrived. Following the blue key, the latter parts are a bit less fun. We have a tunnel-ish area leading to the surface, with an open area that might be ok but tends to tempt the player to just camp at the entrance as with other fights in map 12 too. The final area feels quite different to the rest of the map and has the redundant switches to progress also. I don't mind the Arch-vile double-team at the end, though on their own they aren't too bad to isolate and deal with quickly, particularly if you have the BFG from the secret.

 

I find this to be a reasonable map in the early-mid parts, though the design and fight design of the latter areas might be improved. It's in no way offensive though.

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MAP32: Ultimative Geheimnis

100% kills, 26/26 secrets

 

Gonna be honest, knowing this was gonna be a Wolfenstein level (flat, boxy, full of SS, not much else) I expected to hate it, but... it's actually not bad? I dunno, there was just enough variation in areas and monster setups to make it fun, as well as squinting at the automap and looking for slightly differently-colored walls to find all the secrets. Does a decent job of hitting the 'Doom as dungeon crawler' type of design, not being able to see what comes next and just going room by room looking for keys and weapons.

 

MAP35: Ein Lustiger Ort

12/50 kills, 1/3 secrets

 

I came upon the sequence break that @TheOrganGrinder mentioned where the 4th voodoo doll crossed over the trigger that opens the switches but didn't teleport, which unfortunately means a reset since the teleporting doll won't grab the key if it teleports after the key is lowered. Then I ran down a long hallway and hit an exit switch before all the cybers got in my way. It's a super-secret level so I can't hate it too much, but meh.

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11 hours ago, Sui Generis said:

The arch-vile crusher if you smash the window is quite random though - would that be the easter egg?

 

There is a reference to the Ghoul's Forest, near one of the keys. Very few players know about it. They will know about it now that I've mentioned it. But one of the secret maps in 2048 unleashed have an interesting texture and that wad used the WOS resources.

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MAP19: Cryosleep

 

So after no fewer than ten consecutive levels by @pcorf (and possibly as many as fourteen if you visit all the secret levels) we're playing another @Kristian Nebula map here, the last in this particular theme.

 

The name might suggest a more high-tech environment than the tangle of frigid caverns, canyons, and catacombs you'll find yourself exploring, but the level itself is perfectly in keeping with what this sub-episode of Whispers of Satan has offered so far: pervasive gloom; a mixture of brick, castle, and natural environments; and an overall sombre atmosphere.  There are a couple of points where symmetrical hub areas may prompt a groaning anticipation of the sort of repetitive construction the WAD has all too often fallen back upon, but things are a bit more varied than that here, each of the hub areas - one beyond the western door, the other beyond the red door - leading off into quite asymmetric spokes.  If there's a particular sort of place being evoked here I'd call it a sunken, frozen necropolis, with each spoke terminating in some tomb or mausoleum through which the switches and keys necessary for the player's progress have been scattered; the last such tomb has pretty clearly been breached from within, and houses the portal to Hell through which this level and episode connect to the WAD's final episode and the story's final act.  I suppose I'll have to wait until tomorrow and the intermission screen following MAP20 before I can offer informed comment on the decision to have the episode/theme change one map before the text screens that traditionally mark the transition from one episode to the next.

 

Also I will admit that I am not entirely a fan of the decision to tuck the single-player game's only rocket launcher away inside a secret area, though the presence of a multitude of rockets does at least to suggest to the player that they ought to have picked up a launcher by that point and should maybe go looking for one.  That's a matter of personal taste, though, and it does mean the level delivers quite different experiences during continuous play than from a pistol start.

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MAP16: Undervilla

100% kills, 1/2 secrets

 

Pistol starting this one after feeling too loaded up from the secret maps. Nice little map, reminded me a bit of MAP12 or 13 at first, but it is a bit different in that it's a totally linear progression instead of a hub. I liked the atmosphere, nice dimly lit library/Hexen mashup with a good MIDI setting the tone. Still a bit squarish for my tastes but not bad, especially given the small size and shortness. Perhaps not memorable but a good palette cleanser.

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MAP20: Inexorable Opposition

 

From the commingled Hexen and Plutonia stylings of the previous episode, we find ourselves arriving now on the shores of a classic red-stone Hell, where we're handed a super shotgun and told "there's the demons, get to it."  Coming as it does before the traditional intermission screen, it serves as something of an introduction to the two WAD authors' particular take on Hell, showing the player what's in store before telling them just where they are in the unfolding story - not that it's a novel or surprising environment or an unexpected progression in our hapless marine's tale of slaughter, naturally.

 

It's a level that once again has a somewhat "bitty" structure but I enjoyed its individual rooms, encounters, and challenges enough, and there's not a lot of repetition to be found; noteworthy is the fact that you're very quickly introduced to the fact that this whole series of structures is perched atop some precipice, overlooking... something, a lake of fire or a sea of blood or some twisted Hellscape far below and out of sight, waiting for you to descend to meet its challenges.  (I think that if you catch an arch-vile's attack just right you can be catapulted over the battlement into the plain of innards below, though I avoided that particular fate.)  I think what the WAD has struggled with so far is giving each of it levels a strong sense of identity, something which prompts the player to go "Oh, you mean X level!" or "Oh, the level where Y happened!" when thinking back on earlier adventures; with Whispers of Satan, Corfiatis and Aro have designated, defined, and carved out a certain idiom, but so far, those levels which have been memorable and distinctive from the greater whole have not necessarily been so for the right reasons (e.g. MAP09).  I feel that trend continues here, with a level that's a solid example of Hell-themed Doom but which I'm probably going to struggle to recall in any particular detail weeks from now.

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MAP17: Mines of Despair

100% kills, 2/5 secrets

 

Definitely an improvement in some areas here, as we get some much-needed verticality (even in spots where it's mostly just aesthetic, like the hub chamber, it helps a lot). I liked the progression of combat, though to be honest I was expecting a cyber or something in the plasma gun area, and the AVs to maybe jump in upon grabbing the red key instead of the exit room. Really liked the secret that crushed the imps for me in the RL room, always nice to get a beneficial secret that's more than an item.

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MAP18: Elements

100% kills, no map secrets

 

Gonna agree with the crowd here, I was pleasantly surprised by the opening, especially the large outdoor area which felt quite different from what we've had so far, but after returning back to the main hub the map takes a steep nosedive and it's back to the repetitive symmetry and switch-hitting, plus a cyberdemon meatdoor at the end. I do get the sense that maybe Paul was getting burnt out trying to make so many maps for this megawad as it seems a lot of these last few ones will have one or two interesting areas before falling back into the key hub and repeated switch-hitting tropes. I don't want to come off as overly critical about PCorf here, who I respect, but a good portion of this run of maps feels uninspired.

 

MAP19: Cryosleep

100% kills, 1/2 secrets

 

First Aro map since MAP08. Good use of the theme here, and the darkness (at least on my settings, playing on software ZDoom with brightness at 1.0) hit that sweet spot between threatening enough to slow me down but still being able to find my way around and shoot things once I knew they were there. Really liked the blue key leg, with the approach in the canyon and then descending into the crypt. Also a rather obvious shift in combat design, as the arch-viles are now used with abandon and there's more beef in general with barons and mancs. The descent into the hellish area (and the start of MAP20 shows we are definitely into hell, a bit surprising one map before the intermission text) looks cool too, though it does feel a bit of a weird coda gameplay-wise with only 6 enemies behind the last key door.

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MAP17 - “Mines of Despair” by Paul Corfiatis wos17-S01-UVmax-1259.zip

 

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This map's pretty cool. Good visuals, midi, and atmosphere combined with faster gameplay thanks to all those secret backpacks and BFG. The Pinky trap in the SSG room is a little excessive with just too many of the darn things to waste shells on. The next room with the staircase is the most visually interesting part and a good spot to use that previous secret invul to rush the stairs quickly, flip the Imp crushers, while negating Chaingunner damage. Two other sections have you fighting your way upwards, with the Revenant stairs proving the most dangerous due to how shooting up with rockets often turns out with Doom's autoaim. Final area is quite simple to plow through with the BFG.

 

 

MAP18 - “Elements” by Paul Corfiatis wos18-S01-UVmax-1424.zip

 

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Snow is still an underrated theme despite its recent rise in popularity. The first outdoor area looks great with its icy natural terrain in a wide open area. The indoor combat is where the map really dips in quality and falls prey to boring, symmetrical, Imp closets. The most offensive being the part where you do the same room three times. It's like the author went "Damn! This 12 Imp trap so good I'mma spring it three times!" There really is no need for such lazy padding. Despite having zero secrets, the shoot switch in the final yard gives you a ton of ammo + Megasphere via what I assume is a voodoo doll. However, the four Mancs followed by a lone Cyberdemon does not make for a climactic finale.

 

 

 

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MAP21: 2048 BC

 

One of my earlier criticisms of this WAD was that it didn't seem to have enough ideas to fill out its level count and intended real estate or running time, with the repetition of areas and activities occuring to some extent as a symptom of that.  And then we've got maybe three or four different ideas and aesthetics all in this one level, all clamouring for attention and for the space to be fully developed?  Some of them work better than others (I don't think I'll ever be a fan of tightrope walks à la MAP24: The Chasm or the route to the blue key here) and this is one of the few maps so far that I feel really wants to be larger and longer than it is, giving each of its sections more room to breathe than the confining layout of several 2048-unit squares of playable area really permits.

 

I do wonder to what extent this level represents the player's arrival in @pcorf's thematic "comfort zone," with its lavish envisioning of Hell and its explosion of different ideas, compared to the occasional awkwardness of earlier techbase and brick maps; maybe this is an environment that comes more naturally to him or provides more inspiration or opportunities to be creative, maybe I'm reading too much into a single map when I don't really know enough about the WAD's editorial or creative processes, but either way there's a boldness present here that wasn't as prominent in earlier levels.

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MAP18 - “Elements” by Paul Corfiatis
So Pcorf warned earlier in the thread that this was another symmetrical map, and this warning is borne out. Also, it's almost as though when producing it he knew that I appreciate the imp trap from Map17, as here pretty much the same trap is used again beyond the blue key door three times!

 

Ok, that aside, we have a fairly simple modest length map with a snowy/hexen-ey theme you really don't see very often, which is cool. The snowy vista on the other side of the first teleport is great, and the map generally has a good few layers of polish on throughout. The combat in the outdoor vista, although making appropriate use of cacos was a little staid and undynamic though - as you deal with the immediate monsters and cacos there isn't really anything else other than the elevated imp snipers to take out and there aren't any surprises. The key area itself is trapped and a little more interesting, although the AV on exit is neutered by the monster blocking line, thereby granting easy cover. It loses any threat value or possibility of resurrection and easy cover is granted. It just becomes a speed bump.

 

A further example of a not so well employed monster is the ending cyb: it is encountered singularly without other monsters to distract from or complicate shooting it; it is caged in and pretty much guaranteed to take your rockets, and; there is again easy availability of cover due to the side walls. Dealing with it is simply a matter of holding fire and occasionally strafing a few taps one way and then the other when it fires back. There is no case of having to constantly re-assess where it is safe to attack from as the cyb roams, nor is there any need to manage other monsters or indeed try and sow infighting. It's purely just sideways a bit, tap fire button, and then sideways a bit, fire again. In fact if you replace 'press fire' with 'press switch' then that does sound like the modus operandi of the many of the layout/side quests. Sadly, it's feeling very barren.

 

The area beyond the red key door was a little better, I think. Although there is still the s word and a silly amount of redundant switches (seriously, you press two switches to enable you to press two more switches?!) there is at least the revvie release, which is at least not immediately presented. I do not necessarily say it's a surprise as some trap is expected and it's evident there are monster closets. Still revvies are good in that sort of more open area. I think I have to agree with @gaspe and @TheOrganGrinder - I'm not sure what order these maps were made, but the fizzling of creativity layout-wise in the mid-teens is disappointing after the earlier maps, particularly 14 and 15. Perhaps if these were made earlier then the subsequent ones may be post-mapper's block and be more creative.

 

Not an amazing map overall, although I like the theme - the sector work for the broken window early on is quite impressive. Those arrows were generally excessive and unnecessary though.

 

MAP19 - “Cryosleep” by Kristian Aro
After the long mid-wad stretch of maps by Corfiatis, we see Nebula returning, with a map riffing off of the naturalistic scenery elements of his previous maps to introduce icy caves. The level feels like a change consequently and the naturalistic environment inoculates the level against the plague of symmetry too - although a latter area beyond the key door does feature this in a hub-spoke arrangement, it's relatively brief and the rest of the level offsets it. Also the mixture of tighter passages in the caves and the big open canyon.

 

I did find the map to be a bit slow-paced in places, particularly the second series of caves after the canyon with the stream of monsters in low-light levels always ahead of the player tending to encourage gradual play. The hub-spur areas beyond the first key door were better though, with the more varied directions of attack and ranges at which combat can take place, plus there was more frequent use of traps to mix up gameplay too. I had no problem finding the secret rocket launcher, but in spite of spending a long time looking the secret soulsphere completely eluded me. The ending area with the gradual passage down into a hellish little outro is a good bit of in-level story telling which I appreciate, although I don't much care for the one way lift, as I often leave power ups and ammo boxes for later so as to ensure I get the full ammo/health benefit from not picking them up too early.

 

In general I think I like this level although it's perhaps more the theme (and impressive sector work with the caves and broken ice floes) that appeals most, though the gameplay in the latter areas is ok too.

Edited by Sui Generis

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MAP20: Inexorable Opposition

100% kills, 1/4 secrets

 

I too would find that this one lacked a memorable identity, I played it earlier this morning without writing notes and forgot about it and had to a quick whirl through again. There are some nice bits here and there (I liked the outdoor PE canyon, for example) but it lacks cohesion. There's also some weird progression, such as going down a long linear path, reaching a megasphere and then... going backwards because there's nowhere else to go, but thankfully a new area has opened up with a switch that you hit and... I dunno, let's go backwards again, oh okay the blue key is reachable now. Same thing with the red key, where the BFG is given to the player for free and then nothing happens, in a bit of a fakeout. Takes awhile before you reach the cyber it would be useful for.

 

MAP21: 2048 B.C.

100% kills, 3/4 secrets

 

It's still a hub (though one you can visit in any order, which is nice) and relatively flat-ish, but I agree that it feels like PCorf was much more in his comfort zone here as the areas feel better designed and thankfully avoid the hallway/symmetry/repetitive switch tropes. The small size does make it feel constrained - this layout/theme easily makes it feel like it could be a big hellish city rather than a bunch of small setpieces - but better too small than too large I guess. Does lack a climax, as after grabbing the third key the player is just accosted by a small group of imps.

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MAP22: Soul Disruption

 

Well, that was no walk in the park, was it?  There is what feels like a pretty sudden increase here in the scale, complexity, and challenge of this map compared to what's come before, and I don't know if that represents a spike or hurdle after which the pace will settle down again, or if this indicates that we've ascended to a new plateau of map size, running time, and intended difficulty within the WAD.  The next few levels will confirm that one way or the other, I suppose.

 

The music used is a remix of The Demons From Adrian's Pen, from the original Doom's E2M2, and I found myself looking for similarities between this map and Containment Area.  Maybe there are echoes of the latter map's marbe crossroad of corridors in the central hub here?  I feel that I'm reaching.  You've initially got a bit of freedom to wander and I feel the gameplay is made easier if you do things a little bit out of order, for example clearing out as many of the monsters in the western node as possible from the relative safety of the enclosed walkways before you've picked up the yellow key and made your way to the platforms above the blood reservoir for a bit of parkour.  Still, ultimately the keys have to be collected in the order yellow, red, blue, and it's not so non-linear as it would like you to believe, leaving the layered corridors around the hub feeling a bit redundant.  I'm not a fan of ASHWALL textured over large expanses of wall as in the final area here, with shapes and structures disappearing into the blur of its too fine-grained textured, but it's a relief to emerge from the extensive underground corridors and gloom of the earlier parts of the map into an open-air battlefield for the level's closing minutes of carnage.

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A small bit of trivia: MAP22 was the last map created for the megawad, and I made the remix by myself. There is a secret room that has weird floating heads and a guy on a bicycle. The heads are the logo of the psybient band Shpongle and the guy on the bicycle is Albert Hofmann, the swiss scientist who created the psychedelic drug LSD and accidently dosed himself with it and bicycled home when the drug hit him hard. The whole area is a sort of a tribute for creativity, since LSD contributed to various big inventions of our time and had a fair deal in the creation of computers and therefore, indirectly also DOOM. :D 

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Thank you for sharing that!  I wasn't sure quite what to make of that area when I found it, something about the picture of Albert Hofmann put me in mind of a stained-glass window, and not being familiar with the band Shpongle I took the floating heads to be some kind of medieval gargoyle or grotesque - it's a little reminiscent of the seven-eyed goat "seal" from Argento's La Chiesa.

 

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MAP20 - “Inexorable Opposition” by Kristian Aro
And so we now enter hell, with a pretty neat and competent hell keep type map. The map is fairly constrained and corridors based, in common with Aro's earlier techbase maps, though we do get the odd open area or larger room helping to mix things up and helps dispel the feeling somewhat. The layout can be seen pretty early on to be hub-spoke again, but I found the individual spurs to be pretty competent and interesting in their own right. The drive by arch-vile teleport at the megasphere courtyard is a good, unexpected way to trap that area, as even though it's not necessarily as effective as a traditional trap, it surprised me and also got a hit in on me before warping away again.

 

Backtracking along the spurs is necessary but kept reasonably interesting via the additional monster releases when retracing one's steps. The chaingunner closets are an ok example of this, but the cyb release at the final key pickup is best, with the overlook of the area where it emerges giving a good, cinematic reveal and then the way to engage it made trickier by the corridor, which if you're not quick (or fortunate) the cyb can start walking down, constraining the player's room for manoeuvre and making the splash damage from the rockets a great deal more dangerous. I found 3 of the 4 secrets, partly by automap and partly by chance, as the secrets are all of the shifted wall texture type and I tend not to be eagle-eyed enough to pick up on small texture offsets.

 

Others have commented that the map was not very memorable - whilst I accept it is not exactly epic, I got a Hell Keep vibe from this level, in large part due to the starting area but also to a degree from the more heavily corridors based layout. Also I personally found the ash and flesh columns area with the pain elementals was fairly memorable as an interesting piece of architecture, as relatively few levels use flesh textures very extensively.

 

MAP21 - “2048 BC” by Paul Corfiatis
Now this is a better Corfiatis map - it takes a similar secret sauce to Map10, having separate areas but linking parts of them in a larger area, making it feel larger at least at first than it actually is. The initial vista of an open city like map is impressive, with it's multiple options and several interesting places to explore. Of course this fades a little bit later on as it becomes apparent that this is a hub and there's only three or four places to go, but nonetheless it makes the map feel less like you're on rails.

 

The spurs of the hub lead to separate areas but each one has something interesting (and asymmetric) in it, with a nice hellish feeling cavern that stuck out as memorable. I am with the @TheOrganGrinder that I'm never going to be the biggest fan of 'The Chasm' style of tight walk-ways, although a minute dose on odd occasions is ok for the sake of variety - it helps that the architecture with the big open area with ceiling cross beams is interesting. It does indeed seem a pity that each of the three areas was not expanded more, as others have said, although given past experience I fear that this may have simply led to more repetition and symmetry. I'm divided as to whether the map stayed as relatively varied as it is by @pcorf's conscious efforts or merely by virtue of the different areas being small and not mattering too much if they displayed symmetry, as all three were different. Probably I think the author deserves the benefit of the doubt.

 

In any case this is a pretty good map, though Corfiatis has made good techbase maps too I think in the E1 episode and an E2 themed map he did. I found all four secrets, none of which were of the much used misaligned texture type, and I feel struck a decent balance between requiring searching and puzzling to find, versus being too easy. Also I appreciated the music too.

 

All things considered this one's a pretty decent entry for me.

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MAP22: Soul Disruption

100% kills, 4/4 secrets

 

Lots of hallways here, but there's some good interconnection and some variance in how you can approach things (such as clearing out the snipers in the west area through windows from afar before going in) which helps keep it interesting. And of course, aesthetically, few people can spruce up a hallway and make it look nice as Aro. The remix track is pretty good too. The last area opening up into a non-orthogonal outdoor area is nice too, though the battle was a bit of a letdown - all the different monster types were kinda stuck in their own areas and the cacos were pretty slow coming in, so I felt like I had to take care of them one at a time instead of really getting into the thick of it. Still, nice looking map, and some cool areas like the western wing.

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MAP23: Pathway to Elysion

 

After the somewhat free-roaming start to MAP22, this is a rather more gated and guided experience, with a clearly-defined early objective ("get the yellow key to unlock the exit door,") and a succession of obstacles and arenas placed between the player and that objective.  My earlier sense (from MAP21) that this particular theme is more firmly within the map author's comfort zone and realm of experience returns here; maybe that's just aesthetic, maybe it's more the case that, this late in the WAD, the gloves are off and there's no need to be restrained in dealing with the player.  I enjoyed the "warren" of imps at the start, small twisting passages separated by waist-high walls that permit bullets and fireballs to pass even as imps pop in and out of sight in unexpected ways, and later in the map there's a lift that's so unnecessarily long that it clearly is necessary, separating cleanly the temple and blood moat above from the void environment beneath.  Overall it's a good level and I feel like I've been offered a chance to catch my breath a little, after the preceding map sapped my strength somewhat.

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MAP24: Ultimate Hatred

 

Despite the rather fierce title this is a map that presents itself in a more cerebral fashion, demanding three keys of the player but immediately presenting those keys as the close-to-hand rewards for overcoming a series of small-scale encounters in rather confined quarters, rather than as the distant results of a lengthy quest or extensive search.  Coming into this map flush with resources from the previous level I very quickly squandered that advantage in the eastern node, though I'll chalk that up to the presence of hard-to-see, hard-to-hit shotgun sergeants in the dark just as much as my own sloppy play.  Once you're done with the keys (and I'm happy to call the blue key sub-node a nice bit of design, with an apparent-but-costly solution and a secret second route that spares you the pain of an arch-vile's flames) it's on to a multi-stage arena battle, the centrepiece of which is a Spider Mastermind that I found a bit temperamental about actually putting in an appearance.  Then it's down another long elevator to a lobby that hints luridly at the dominant theme of the next map.  Didn't I remark that MAP23 felt like it was giving me a chance to catch my breath?  And having done that, here I absolutely let my guard down as the intensity stepped up once again.

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MAP23: Pathway to Elysion

100% kills, 3/5 secrets

 

Still very orthagonal, but it kinda works here, at least for the first part. I too enjoyed the 'imp warren' and felt it had a good strategic choice on when to grab the berserk pack if you're playing from pistol start and need to make a choice between health or ammo. Once you reach the fortress and the yellow key room things are a bit more ho-hum (not sure that manc + 2 pinkies encounter was worth repeating) but it all looks nice and plays fine enough. For me it's really about the setting the first few areas create.

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MAP24: Ultimate Hatred

99% kills, 5/5 secrets

 

I suppose the title is supposed to be a homage to E4M2 Perfect Hatred, and while the texturing scheme is somewhat similar (white caves, marble with blood and brown metal) the layout is nothing alike. Bit interesting in that the 'get the three keys' hub section is just the middle part of the map, as there's a beginning section before you get the SSG and then the arena fights in the last section. It likely plays much differently if you're playing pistol start and aren't good at finding the secrets as there's not a lot of armor, lots of chance to take shots from angry hitscanners and I was running dry on ammo for the last fights. Definitely would've appreciated having the blue armor/rockets/plasma but didn't find those secrets until searching at the very end. I guess the blue key bit is okay, at first I despaired that it was a required AV-jump but thankfully there is a (fairly easy to find) secret if you kill the AV first like me. The SMM was very buggy in coming in, only coming in about 1/4 times that I tried it - I wonder if it's a problem with a one-time firing trigger and if the player is running up the stairs too fast they'll block the teleport.

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MAP25: Vulcana

 

As I mentioned back toward the start of this month's playthrough, this isn't the first time I've played Whispers of Satan, though it's been long enough, and I've played enough other WADs in the interim, that even during this second visit I'm still finding things to surprise me as though I were coming at the whole experience fresh.  As regards this level in particular, I actually played @pcorf's Vulcana II, MAP7 of Community Chest 4, before I so much as touched Whispers of Satan and Vulcana here - which I suppose is a little bit like watching The Empire Strikes Back before A New Hope.  I remember similarities between the levels, a dominant theme of darkness, red stone blocks, churning lava and glowing-hot rock; I don't remember the specifics of navigation and gameplay, but I've been rather looking forward to revisit this level with the Club, even if it's one that sticks in my mind for perhaps silly reasons.

 

I actually ended up doing this one in two sessions, breaking briefly just after collecting the red key due to the map's size, length, and monster population; this is an ambitious level, all fierce encounters and visual spectacle, and if I didn't know or hadn't been told that this map was by the same author as MAP09 then I probably wouldn't have believed you - or, at the very least, I would have assumed them to be vastly more separate in the author's career than is the case here.  Gone are timidity and reflexive cleaving to convention; gone too, largely, is the tendency toward needless repetition, to the extent that it sticks out quite painfully when it does occur (the multiple switches at the end of the 'abyss' node; the four towers with switches and identical garrisons at the southern end of the map).  Instead, this map serves up as varied a series of obstacle courses as the theme permits, with massive caverns, claustrophobic labyrinths, looming canyon walls, and lakes of fire and brimstone all set within a Hellish/volcanic environment.  The trick that was served up with a teleporting arch-vile on MAP17 returns here, except it's a Cyberdemon whose roar fills your ears at the very start of the map and who returns at the last minute to block your escape.

 

If I've an observation overall, it's that the map feels a little bit "back-to-front," serving up its most spectacular environment (the abyss area) right at the start of its running time and populating it with relatively low-key threats; there's a part of me that feels as though it's a natural environment for great swarms of cacodemons and for devious revenant snipers atop precarious perches, that it ought to be the venue for the level's climax rather than one of the very first areas through which the player makes their way.

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I think I can second that series...perhaps get momentum going...

 

+++Witness of Time/Monument/UnWelcome

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