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dobu gabu maru

The DWmegawad Club plays: Bloodspeed

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Well, likely won't catch up by the end of the month, but still pressing onward...

 

MAP31: Daemons of the Mind

99% kills, 2/4 secrets

 

A small affair with two wings, one in that Plutonia brown brick style and the other in grey ICKWALL/silver computer screen mashup with slime and crushers. I went the blue key route first and got kinda annoyed at the lack of supplies (both health and ammo), it wasn't tough but it was annoying as the margin of error was pretty low, as missing even a few shots or taking a few hits made the going rough. I liked the second wing much better, as the traps were more interesting and the secret berserk pack made life a lot easier. A bit too heavy on the 64-size grid in spots but decent for a speedmap.

 

MAP32: Fort Boyard

99% kills, 0/1 secret

 

A mini castle level, that's really just one big inner chamber (well, split into two real areas) and some long staircase/pathways on the outskirts. As others noted though, it does a good job visually appearing much larger than the actual playspace is. The lack of room to maneuver, especially in the middle portion of the map (when you're traversing the staircases or outside walls) can create some tense moments, but I always found myself with just enough room to dance around and survive. Another solid level, given the time constraints.

 

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Same here. Guess it's time to look forward for next month.

 

+++Alienated

+++MAYhem2019

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L29 – Iced Sanctuary

 

Having only recently returned to playing Doom after a long time out, this was the only author in this megawad that I recognize. I played StormCatcher’s map in Eviternity, Dehydration. So I was guessing this would be where the speedmapping ends, and the long journey begins. And so indeed it does. At ‘only’ 549 monsters it’s not as long as Dehydration, but is still very long. You can tell that StormCatcher spent a long time perfecting the finer details of this map too, with the sanctuary being very visually impressive, particularly the ruins that you pass by as you make your way to the RK door. What was also nice was thaty as you progress you open the map leading back to prior areas, without actually having to backtrack.

 

Gameplay wise there is too a lot of similarities with Dehydration, in that it starts very easy and slowly becomes harder and harder. However, although there are certainly hairy moments, there’s nothing that’s too hard. I found 3/7 secrets on this map, including the one where you platform up the waterfall, without reward :( (that is, unless I missed something)

 

The map starts off pretty fun and slowly begins to drag on a little, outstaying its welcome a bit. The final battle is limp because it is done in 3 stages, so it never gets too uncomfortable. But that aside, it’s still an impressive map 7.5/10

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L30 – A Harsh Message

 

And so comes the mapslot I always dread. I hate the Icon of Sin, and some of the other alternate bosses that megawads have thrown out I’ve found equally frustrating. So it was a nice relief that this was a normal map without one. Instead we have a snowy fortress, with the map split up into quadrants accessed through the central area where the player starts. A close-quarters battle with revenants right near the start is pretty dangerous if you’re too reckless. From then on things get a little easier but it’s not the end of the danger. As you progress you unlock each quadrant, with my personal favorite being the mini-maze with the megasphere on top, and the imps up top which can hide in and out of the trees. The northeastern quadrant is dangerous with revenants hiding in and out of view, and a spider mastermind for company.

The map is a bit of a switch-hunt, and I got completely stuck towards the end, after I hit the switch to raise the stairs in the starting area. I checked the official Doomworld thread for hints, thanks to @galileo31dos01 for the solution - I don’t think I would have ever got it otherwise. The final boss is a cyberdemon and a bunch of archviles, which can be completely skipped (but I killed them anyway). Not the best map of this set, but it’s a damn sight better than most level 30s I’ve played. 6.5/10

 

Overall

 

A fun megawad to play, and I’m glad I finished it. Though its speedmapping nature brought with it some errors (e.g. missing triggers), it’s clear in general that the contributors knew how to make good speedmaps, especially Memfis and Chaingunner who shared the majority of the maps between them. And to Shadowman too, for the first level Outer Base, this is the only megawad I’ve played where my favorite level is the very first one (though Memfis’ Translocation Research runs it close). The wheels fell off a bit in the last five maps (Iced Sanctuary excepted), but then I normally find that’s true for me personally when playing megawads.

It’s only the third ‘Cacoward-eligible’ wad I’ve played this year (the first being SIGIL, which brought me back to Doom; the second being Eviternity), and I’ve nominated all three

Edited by Horus

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MAP16: Outskirts of Hell

97% kills, no map secrets

 

A continuation of the E4 theme from MAP15, with some marble now too. Still a small map but not as ridiculously so as that one, either. Lack of health and armor means playing safe is probably the best approach, slowly taking out the imps with the shotgun one at a time. This one had a lot of enemies stuck in unreachable cubbies which felt like busywork, and the red light trim on the door was confusing at first (especially since the first door you'll see with it actually is the red key door). Again, largely inoffensive but forgettable, though I did like the dimly lit tunnel area beyond the blue door.

 

MAP17: Hell Sunrise

100% kills, 2/2 secrets

 

Another relatively easy hell temple, more developed in length and size than the last two but medium-sized at most. In most level sets, I'd say it was a nice breather map, and the leisurely combat combined with the aesthetic design makes it a nice one to play through - it all holds together cohesively but every area feels like it has something different visually to look at and keep things interesting. The ending was a bit anti-climatic (I was prepared for another section behind the yellow door), and I realized I hadn't even found the blue key, which turns out to be a secret area with a soulsphere that took a bit of searching to unlock.

 

MAP18: Demonic Bloodpool

100% kills, no map secrets

 

Back to the phone-booth sized levels here, but a bit of a theme shift into a grey marble with lots of orange/red details. I really do like a lot of the little design bits here like the spiked ironworks surrounding the lava, or the skylight decoration in the hallway, but maybe I'm just a sucker for that Heretic/Hexen lava texture (orange seems rather unused in Doom textures, only for flames/explosions... maybe this is purposeful?) Despite the map's low resources I didn't feel the sting of stinginess, guess I was good at avoiding damage and didn't run out of shells until I was just about ready to telefrag the cyber.

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Map 29 -- Iced Sanctuary - 101% Kills / 85% Secrets

Saving the best for last, eh? This is a thoroughly enjoyable adventure-style level depicting the grounds of an ancient monastery or temple, complete with the nearby ruins of a tiny parishioner's village, nestled in the lap of some snowy mountains. To say that the visual and aesthetic presentation of the level is top-notch would be an understatement. Not only is the setting wonderfully realized, host to a wide variety of distinct locales which all fit naturally into the overarching theme--stone facades, an ancient forum, rickety old bridges with artistic latticework, dank caves and defiles, a secret crypt, the aforementioned abandoned village, a strange shrine to a stranger obelisk of sorts, and more--but each is carefully appointed with an eye for thoughtful scene composition, in both the smallscale, sector-chiseled sense and the broader sense of scale, vista, and contrast.

 

Compelling views, often from on high, across large, complex areas and into places visited much later (or earlier) in progression are commonplace, and every room, cave or chamber, no matter how minor its role in the overall scheme, has some feature or detail to lend it personality. The result is that the map's sense of place is superbly defined, not simply looking good but communicating a palpable sense of some buried, mysterious history. There definitely seems to be an implied story to the place beyond "it's an old temple and there are monsters in it", something of which I'm invariably fond; I wonder, what's with that relatively understated obelisk at the heart of it all, which looks to originate from an entirely different civilization and perhaps climate than the one which erected the monastery (I love that he casually used Doom II's stucco textures for this!), which in turn seems vastly older than the village and mine fittings and such dotting its outer grounds.

 

As aforesaid, it is at root a very linear level with set, on-rails progression (though I found at least a couple of major sequence breaks, neither of which appeared to be fatal--didn't seem intentional, but perhaps I'm wrong?), but never reads as contrived or overly chaperoned, in part because the setting is so consistently visually enchanting, but moreso because it's well-paced and strikes a pleasing balance between smaller, more convoluted areas and larger, open expanses that afford you a lot more license to stretch your legs and amble or occasionally climb around at your leisure. Several of the entertaining secrets involve parkouring about or poking around in out-of-the-way little nooks (the one I missed appears to involve an arch-vile jump momentarily blasting you into the hereafter, which in hindsight seems cleverly hinted), and as the level nears its end everything reconnects in a natural, satisfying way.

 

Along the way there's plenty of action, and while the level never musters anything particularly vicious or epic its approach to its combat is generally effective for similar reasons as the setting itself is convincing; while largely incidental in nature, it's well-paced and varies in intimacy and emphasis as the surroundings dictate, and has a compelling cadence between more face/face battles and traps or ambushes. The thing balance, while quite adequate for the level's ends, is perhaps less well-judged; I felt that there was consistently too much ammo and armor given out (healing items seemed more on-point, but I hardly used them), keeping the player in a very dominant position most of the time, right up to the end. Most players will probably not find this to be a real problem--it certainly doesn't actively *impede* the action--but nevertheless, more tuning seemed to be in order to keep this sense of largess from dampening the thrills/excitement. Likewise, as has tended to be the case for all of this author's maps I've played to date, I felt that the final battle was a mite limp, again especially considering how powerful the player is by that point. Regardless, for most of the duration I was soundly entertained, despite these criticisms.

 

This is a great map, a fine example of how compelling the 'directed', linear adventure school of design can be--it takes more than attractive scenery, but also a strong sense of pacing for both action and thematic changeups, which the Iced Sanctuary delivers in spades.

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Alienated & MAYhem2019 is currently in the lead at three votes, but remember that the thread will only be made when the winner gets to four votes.

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@dobu gabu maru

 

I counted four, but my vote was hidden at the bottom of one of my levels posts, and was also edited. So for avoidance of doubt,

 

+++Alienated & Mayhem 2019

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Posted (edited)

Map 30 -- A Harsh Message - 100% Kills / 100% Secrets

....seems to be "2017 kinda sucked", more or less. Not disagreeing!

 

BeeWen is another relatively unsung Russian mapper, though I hope that changes someday with the eventual completion of Voyager et al, perhaps some other projects. Difficult to pin down in style, I've seen this mapper create many different types of maps with many different types of design emphases (atmosphere, puzzles, survival combat, etc.), but if there is a thread running through all of it I reckon it's that their maps tend to have a lot of moving parts and a lot of mechanical interactivity, often braided closely into core progression, as we certainly see in "A Harsh Message."

 

The level's overall progression scheme is straightforward enough: it's divided into distinct quadrants, each separated from the others by stone walls, visited in a set sequence before returning to the central hub, where new switches are periodically revealed granting access to the next. In practice, things are lot more involved. The quadrants themselves, save for the southwestern 'maze' yard (much shorter/simpler than it may sound), tend to be focused on fights with some background mechanical oddities adding complication or flavor, i.e. controlling the door into the SE gatehouse via switch, or the odd cycling "revenant batteries" jeering from the sidelines of the Mastermind yard. The level has a surprisingly pressuring start, throwing quite a concerted stream of opposition at you while you're still vulnerable and relatively lightly armed--I spent my last two shells on the final revenant to come tumbling down out of the disorienting 'lightning lifts' of the southern hub-extension and was somewhat taken aback at how hot the fight was, especially by this WAD's standards--but once you reach the second quadrant your power snowballs very rapidly, and the identity of the level shifts away from being defined by survival and more towards how you navigate its whimsical central structure.

 

The map certainly has its share of 'puzzles', most of which involve surmounting new/unforeseen twists in how progression plays out, diverging away from what at first seems like it's going to be a straightforward pattern. That's what I like about it, though (and something I like about BeeWen's maps in general) -- the progression scheme really is just as it initially seems, it's just that sometimes you have to do some lateral thinking to make it happen, whether by asking yourself if it might be worthwhile to see if you can squirrel your way up to higher ground, or if a given lift or door or staircase might have more uses besides the most immediately obvious one. This kind of stuff makes a level feel a lot deeper and more fun/engaging to navigate, and is one of the most underappreciated facets of mapping, arguably even moreso in modern mapping than in more old-fashioned stuff.

 

All that said, given the general nature of Bloodspeed, it's perhaps not entirely fair to hold the map to conventional m30 standards....but I'm going to do it anyway. While I liked the map, moreso than many of the others in the set, even, it is nevertheless disappointing that there's nothing about it (unless you want to really stretch and point to the little 2017 sector-coda) which distinguishes it as final map in the set, either in terms of tone or concept; it could've just as easily been m21 as m30, and this does send the whole WAD off on something of a flat note, though I suppose this is really more of a criticism pertaining to Bloodspeed writ large than to this specific map.

 

 

***********************

 

On that note, I think I've been pretty transparent in my assessment that Bloodspeed broadly lacks the magic of many of its predecessor projects from the Russian scene, which were built on a core of speedmaps but augmented and curated to produce a generally much more consistently designed and intentionally paced experience. Bloodspeed, by contrast, is (with a handful of obvious exceptions) more of a 'true and honest' speedmap set, with much looser theming, and much less elaboration on its core material, which is composed largely of very conventional and often very broadly similar small, short, simple maps with very basic gameplay, on both the combat and traversal levels. The WAD absolutely has shining moments, of course, maps which likely would've been lynchpins in that older production style; yet, to me, a 30-level megaWAD where 20 or more of those levels might as well have been conventional map 02s or 03s or thereabouts is not a particularly appealing prospect; players with more of a fondness for casual coffeebreak-style maps will likely warm to the set much more consistently, though I think regardless of taste most would agree that it's very uneven in quality, which only underscores the power that theming/other stage-dressing can have in those older projects.

 

My top 5 maps from the WAD, in no particular order:

Map 09 -- Point of Accident

Map 29 -- Iced Sanctuary

Map 27 -- The Edge of Reason

Map 13 -- Moments in Doom

Map 30 -- A Harsh Message

Edited by Demon of the Well

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MAP29 fda: Seems that my wish got granted in the end and I got to play a level that is more in fashion of Whitemare 1&2. This is a speedmap that was heavily reworked, the original level had only the Stonehenge-esque structure (that is the exit now) and few caves around it that weren't as detailed as now. But it would have been a shame to waste that architecture gem, and you could argue it isn't even anymore the biggest shot in the visuals. This is a long, linear, beautifully detailed adventure and like @Demon of the Well pointed out to me one of the strongest feature was the variety in the places you can explore but everything is coherent and fit naturally with the other locations and everyplace does its work to build the whole theme of the map. I thought that the walls that overlook the ruined village were only therefor decoration, I was a nice surprise to have also a tour there. It was rather annoying to have my fda journey ended by a rev missiles that was shot kilometers away from me but few unwise moves put me low health before too. I agree that the level is also rather generous with the ammo, but on pistol start the lack of the backpack for a good part require you to manage a bit the boxes of shells and ammo. The SSG comes so late for me. Overall I liked the gameplay and the ideas were allright but after a while I didn't liked how much the map is and it feels scripted. And you can play with the predictability at your advantage and even have some ridiculous situations like I did at the YSK where I was able to escape behind the closing bars and trivialize the whole encounter. But at least the author was aware of that  and you can open the bars and avoid to get stuck.

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MAP30 demo: I gave up after the third av closet at the start was opened, I didn't have any clue of what to do and I started to think some triggers were messed up. Turns out that I missed a walkover lift to uncover a switch but I was misguided by the noises of the moving platforms nearby. The tradition of the Whitemares is kept, obviously snow themed, and the Christmas tree is there. As a MAP30 it lacks that closure feel, or that something that give more the impression that something was accomplished but this map would fit on any slot. BeeWen as always is very careful and good at making the architecture, and the ammo balance is quite unforgiving initially but it gets better as you progress, with some more tricy part but overall it's a very pleasant level.

 

Overall it's a very good megawad. As I said before I missed the longed adventures and how the Whitemares dared to venture into less conventional maps and ideas and so giving the sets their distinct charm whereas here the biggest focus is given to short and very polished maps but that to me they are as striking. And I don't mean to undermine the works of the biggest contributors of the wad: Chaingunner and Memfis that are both very good and talented mappers that showed us their mapping sensibilities. Short maps were present in the previous compilations too, I think that there was a sort of missed opportunity to place some more oddballs alternated with the quick affairs, which I think is a good approach. And again as I said before this is all a matter of what I like in Doom maps. I'm very glad that the Russian community was able to gift us with this set. For the reason that I stated above I think that this mapset would be more "digestible" for the players who aren't into maps that play weird or the extremely long and atmospheric journeys.

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