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The DWMiniwad Club plays: Violence, SWTW, Waterlab GZD, Warphouse, and Vaporware

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1 hour ago, Cubefleet said:

Should the write ups be posted in this thread?

 

Yes, they should.

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Alright, I'll join for the first two sets. I know nothing about Violence so going in blind, let's see how it goes.

 

MAP01: Excavations (Violence)

PrBoom+ 2.5.1.4, HNTR-PS, no saves, 100% everything

 

Okay, first thing I noticed was the palette change. I really like the vibrant colors, they give an interesting look to the environment. There's also some graphics and sound changes that work well - I'm especially surprised at the sound changes since they're really hard to do well, the Doom sounds are iconic in my opinion. About the level itself, it's a short, nonlinear affair with some bouts of challenging combat. Depending on which route you take, you might be able to take a more aggressive approach thanks to the supercharge/megaarmor, though it's still a fast paced level if you opt for a less optimal path. Secrets are rather easy to find, I like how the berserk one requires having to shoot an Eternal Doom style switch. At the end there's the classic trope of "malfunctioning door, enemy ambush" that I always find fun. In short, a good level, curious to see what's next.

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I probably won't participate this month due to other reasons, but a venue for giving visibility to non-megawad releases (and particularly single maps) is a Good Thing, to my mind, so I hope this is successful!

 

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Violence

 

MAP01: Excavations

 

The visual design might be described as "sparse" but in that way that could only be very modern -- gorgeous and hi-fi textures, extremely bright colors, geometrically attractive shapes, and some"trickery" in the form of gradient fades and faux-3D rock contours (the imp obviously exists to get you to focus on that at some point :P). The theme makes me imagine a dystopic world ended by chemicals with gorgeous side effects, and the .ogg backing music fits it perfectly. 

 

A lot of what makes the gameplay sing is the pure joy of moving in open spaces. I've always felt that in order to describe a map's gameplay, you need to account for movement (among other things), not just which weapon the player is using and against which species. So in the outdoor areas, while I'm sniping zombies with my shotgun and chewing through fodder with the touched-up (but still equally powerful) chaingun, or lobbing rockets at the occasional mid-tier, the layout is set up so that I'm also SR40-ing around for bursts like I'm partly speedrunning it, and I'm generally rewarded for doing that. This is one of a handful of reasons Violence scales well to "high-skill play" even if you find it easy. 

 

If you know where the exit is you can leave with no secrets and roughly half kills, but discovering everything is pretty satisfying. Secrets tend to be easier to spot while still making you feel clever and observant for your discovery. You can end up overpowered if you explore all the optional areas and get all the secrets, but that is sort of the point too.

 

MAP02: Sinkhole 

 

The follow-up map is a lot smaller than the sprawling micro-odyssey of the opener, a choice also made by megawads like Valiant and BTSX e2. Also like those sets, "Sinkhole" isn't simply an opener pushed a slot back. It's got some bloody fights. Numerous facets of the map are designed to either prompt or reward pushing forward -- there's the turned-away shotgunners right behind you at the start (always check your back on a cold start, lol), the chaingun and bullet boxes placed like a carrot in the red key building, and the rocket launcher buried behind the crowd in the sinkhole showpiece fight.

 

MAP03: Offshore

 

This is one of the purest run 'n' gun maps I've played recently. Even by the standards of the set, everything is pushing you towards driving up the pace. There are no surprise archies released in dangerous positions, and only one PE appears -- so you're not going to regret setting anything loose. There are a few hitscanner encampments with no reliable cover but to make a mad sprint somewhere else. To offset that, you're given ample health and a starting blue armor, but the map is careful to keep its generosity from damping the excitement. Every time you're in a position to need health, you usually have to a) spot it, b) make a dash for it.

 

Naturally, movement is a big part of the experience here yet again. It's one of those abstract, "network of terrace" layouts, with clear lanes to make moving around intuitive, and getting around from tier to tier is easy thanks to convenient shallow stairways (probably not a pure coincidence, there are no lifts or slower moving floors). 

 

Fights like the four imps released at the plasma rifle, and the one key-pickup revenant, initially seem understaffed, but I think those are fine. If a trap isn't going to commit to being a more involved, truly dangerous fight, there is no harm in keeping the pace up. 

Edited by rdwpa

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I've whizzed through Violence in the last hour or so, and may attempt some sort of proper review later if I can find the time. I was a bit surprised, as the author produced the very tough (but satisfying) 50 Monsters and contributed probably the most difficult map in TNT Resistance, but I found this wad to be essentially knockabout, good fun entertainment on the combat front, albeit of a fairly intense sort. Played the first three maps on UV, but things ground to a halt almost at the end of the third map, when I spent about five times as long trying to work out how to get the blue (purple) key as I had spent on mowing down the monsters. Couldn't for the life of me see the solution. Restarted that level on the easiest difficulty, and found that the key was this time placed in a location where it was easy to obtain. Then played through to the next level in continuous format, thus completing the mapset. Was actually surprised at how intense the combat was even on the lowest difficulty setting. Didn't actually die once in any map, but that purple key business was very frustrating...

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Playing on GZDoom, UV, Continuous

 

MAP01: Excavations 

 

Well AD_79 isn’t lying, this one does have a ‘chill and play Doom’ feel (unlike Chillax, you can actually chillax). The immediately obvious theme here is purple, a rather underused colour in Doom, so it’s refreshing to see a mapset dedicated to it. A lot of monsters have changed too, like the hell knight shooting purple slime. Most confusing of all, the green armor is now purple (I was expecting it to be the blue armor given its relative closeness to purple).

 

It’s fun, but nothing is all that challenging, except for the arch vile secret, which really had me scrambling, especially as I was out of rockets by the time I found it! I also liked the dropdown shoot switch secret. Missed one secret.

 

The purple isn’t the only thing different about this map. The music is also unlike the tracks you normally hear when playing Doom, and yet you can’t deny the music is fitting.

 

And as I read this back I realise I’m mixing British English and American English. This is what being a Brit living in the US is doing to me lol.

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MAP02: Sinkhole

 

This map has a bit more an edge to it. The start is easy enough, as is the RK area, but the real interesting bit is the BK section. Picking up the BK reveals a few monsters, but they are easily killed. Having dispatched the enemies, I wander up towards the BK door thinking that’s me done. And then the surprise trap that lowers you back down to where you came, revealing a whole lot more monsters. I think this trap was very well done because most traps in Doom maps are obvious – this one took me by complete surprise. And the battle was meaty enough to do it justice too – the arch vile is pretty menacing because killing it is not easy given (a) the lack of cover, (b) the enemies surrounding it. Again, the music in this map is well-picked and matches the fast-paced action. Did not find the secret.

 

MAP03: Offshore

 

And so we are greeted by an expanse of…yellow. Okay, so there’s a purple sky, but the yellow is the first thing that sticks out to me. Environmentally, this map is awesome, with the yellow liquid and purple sky contrasting well with the grey/black metallic central area and the blue/red lighting. The vast expanse nostalgically reminds me of Mt Erebus (yes, I know there the lava expanse in that map isn’t that big, but the young me thought it was huge). The combat starts off frenetic, with enemies constantly approaching you from both sides, not allowing you to get comfortable for a long time. Really enjoyable stuff.

 

After you clear the central area, things are a bit more underwhelming. The traps are small-scale and easily overcome, for both keys and the exit area. Also, the decision to employ cacodemon traps and worse still a pain elemental is questionable because kickback from your weapons causes them to retreat so far backward it’s an age before they are ever in shooting range again. And a missed charge from one of the lost souls results in a similar fate. Overall, a great map, but if it ended how it started it would have been an exceptional one.

 

Found the secret, but it didn't trigger for some reason.

 

P.S. I loaded this map up in the editor afterwards and noticed that the yellow liquid flat is named ‘PISS1’ xD

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So I made demos for three maps that will go to my youtube. The other map is for later since it's the longest. In a way this compresses a review that sadly disappeared into oblivion two years ago, where I praised every single feature and pointed out how quick and relaxing this one can be when in the right mood, though nowadays the effect is much clearer for me. There was a recent thread where people commented on their preferences about length in wads, all-short-maps megawads or Avactor-like sized episodes, etc, and I think as time went by and myself gained experience, that this wad cuts the rope after a fourth map seems a very wise choice to me. You can schedule a full playthrough in a session of 30 minutes to an hour, and that doesn't get yourself (too) exhausted. It also left me wondering what else could be done with that peculiar palette, which a year later was put to good use in mayhem18, and what AD_79 had in store for the future. But this is still nice to sit down and just play.

 

Anyways, played on glboom+, an opengl configuration that looks good to me, keyboard only, except in map 03 for a moment, hate it when fliers do that shit. 

galileoisnotviolent.zip

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MAP02: Sinkhole (Violence)

PrBoom+ 2.5.1.4, HNTR-PS, no saves, 100% everything

 

An even shorter level than the previous though with about the same monster count, which indicates the fights will be more threatening. This prediction holds true due to clever hitscanner placement and the almost absence of armor, but it's still quite forgiving if you keep moving. The idea of this level consists in visiting the purple lake twice to pick up the red and purple keys (the latter teleports there after visiting the area beyond the red door and triggers a small teleport ambush when picked up).

 

Since the exit is beyond the purple door, we're done here right? Wrong, one of the large stone platforms leading to the door falls down as you reach its end and you're back in the key area, this time you have to fend off against a large group of imps and a couple revenants. I went around them and found a rocket launcher that allowed me to clear the area effectively. All that remains is to find the alternative path to the purple door through the cavern and exit. The secret was once again easy to find, though it requires a tricky jump to unlock. It contains a plasma gun that I didn't use, but I see how it can be useful for higher skill levels. Overall a really fun, bite sized level.

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MAP04: Violence

 

Over 500 monsters on this one, but this is not a marathon map, nor a slaughter one. Instead you start with a gentle opener, much like the first map, but it doesn’t take long to switch gears. The first big battle is a frantic one, with multiple species vying for your blood, and infighting not doing an awful lot to help you.

 

The rest of the map is somewhat non-linear, contributed to by the seven secrets on this map. It does feel like @AD_79 put significant effort into the secrets in this map, and it would be a shame if a player played through this map without finding any of them.

 

Rocket ammo is very plentiful, but also very useful – especially in the fun dark grid battle to obtain the YK. The final battle is similar rocket spam, but the greater number of hitscanners here make survival harder. I saw the exit with 100 monsters not killed and only 1/7 secrets obtained. I then, most unusually for me, went on a secret hunt and found a further four, and as I alluded to above, I’m glad I did.

 

Other points of note – first MIDI I’ve ever heard that actually has lyrics, which is pretty interesting. Also, like the previous map, the dominant colour isn’t really purple here – instead it is a mix of red, black, yellow and grey.

 

Overall

 

Since it’s only 4 maps here I won’t say much, but it’s a strong innovative mapset here that I really enjoyed. I should seek out more maps by AD_79

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MAP04: "Violence" 

 

It doesn't smack you in the face, because the monster use still has that "popcorn" feel to it, but this map is a tone shift, from run 'n' gun to more of you being an unstoppable, slow-moving juggernaut. It is longer than the three before it combined, not because of its monster count -- mostly weaklings that melt quickly -- but the intricate layout and secret hunting.

 

Every weapon stronger than the SSG feels like a bonus, most of the time. With so many outlets to stock up on power weapons and their ammo, the map plays out like a "power up" quest. Notably, the BFG is a free secret, no strings attached, in a map with tons of cells. Is it overpowered? No because the rocket launcher makes short work of big zombie crews anyway, and most of the dangerous fights would be solved just as well by using the plasma rifle (or chaingun) to cut an escape route. I think as a mapper, it's worth keeping an eye on possibilities like that, for unexpected ways for an ordinarily powerful secret to feel "balanced." 

 

These fights -- and many in the previous maps too -- aren't trying to be hard, but they still tend to successfully convey a feeling of danger. It's also instructive how little you might have to do to accomplish that. Early, there is a fight that warps one single pinky behind you, everything else teeming out of closets in front of you. It's just a little thing to keep you off balance, split your attention for a second, to make it clear that you can't fully predict everything. 

 

The barrel trap is off-type for the set imo. There is also no way to really to know what it'll do until it happens. At least it's early. 

Edited by rdwpa

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Not only is Violence a fun level it also proves that songs with lyrics can work in Doom maps.

Also, good thread idea.

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MAP03: Offshore (Violence)

PrBoom+ 2.5.1.4, HNTR-PS, no saves, 100% everything

 

A considerable change of scenery, we leave the half cavern/half techbase theme from the previous levels to find ourselves in the middle of a "golden" sea, overlooking a small island with some tech details. Given the open nature of the level and the beefy monster count (almost 200 enemies) you're likely to spend the first couple of minutes dealing with the hordes to eventually establish a foothold. As such, it's of paramount importance to search for better weapons than a chaingun or a shotgun to dispatch the midtiers roaming around quickly, to avoid being overwhelmed.

 

Fortunately there's a super shotgun and a couple rocket launchers laying around, so as long as you keep vigilant you shouldn't have much trouble clearing the area. Should you happen to lose too much health, there's another megaarmor and a secret supercharge (well hidden) to keep you alive. After this the level loses a bit of steam and it's a matter of pressing switches and taking teleporters to make progress, though there's still a nasty trap at one point where two hell knights will try to block you after taking a teleporter, so be careful. The final area provides a small scruffle, I spotted a berserk in the distance so since I was stacked I decided to go for it and take down the monsters one by one for fun. Cool stuff, a level with high tempo yet still quite forgiving.

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MAP04: Violence (Violence)

PrBoom+ 2.5.1.4, HNTR-PS, no saves, 100% everything

 

400 enemies inhabit this level, yet there's no Cyberdemons and only one (pretty harmless) arch-vile. However this is still a tricky level, filled with nasty traps that got me killed twice. The first was at the very first trap, where I got killed by two high damage hits from a hell knight that I couldn't dodge because an evil demon spawned behind me. The second was at the "countdown area" where I spotted a switch in the distance that I shot, triggering the countdown - enemies started to spawn in and I was caught off guard by the exploding barrels that also spawned.

 

That one sucked since that switch seems to be completely optional, looking back it was an hilarious moment though. The secrets are well hidden and worth checking out for the extra fights, which tend to be more vicious than the ones found on the main areas. The hardest encounter in the level is probably at the yellow key room, I flipped the switch inside while at 200/100, underestimated the amount of imps and found myself at 25/0 before managing to escape their claws, thankfully the megasphere secret is nearby.

 

The final fight provides some popcorn action as I like to call it, it's really fun to use the rocket launcher to blow the hitscanners to smithereens quickly. About the music, first time I hear a song with lyrics on a Doom level and I think it fits in quite well with the overall feel of the set, didn't find it distracting like I thought I would. Anyway, a strong finale for this set, perhaps could've used one or two Cyberdemons in the last stretch to amp things up but it works fine as is.

 

Final thoughts:

 

A great levelset with a neat aesthetic feel and some cool tunes. The levels are all more or less fast paced but quite forgiving, with some interesting combat situations that can be solved in a number of different ways. There's some non linearity but you'll be hard pressed to get lost. All in all, if you have an hour or so to spare you should give this one a go, it's worth it.

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Playing Swim With The Whales on GZDoom, HMP, Continuous. Will switch to HNTR if things get too hard

 

MAP01: The Deep End

 

Lots of pretty blue stuff

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Swim With The Whales Map01:

Nomo thing with a couple interesting bits to it. One thing that this map does really well is make you feel like you are alone in the middle of the ocean. How the large structures get darker as they go down against the black background make the map feel much larger than it actually is.

 

This map is notable to me because it was the first time I had ever encountered difficulty settings changing the layout to make sections easier (the platforming bits). What I assume are midtextures on the lift ride up the tower is also a pretty sweet effect.

 

I have never really ran this map specifically before.. during d2all attempts of swtw I found that the stairs down to the switch which raises the platforms was the trickiest part. I ended up bumping the wall on the way down to make it more consistent. Generally yielded times of 14 and 15 with the rare 13.

 

I wonder if ribbiks also got violent because of the hexagon usage like gazebo with su14?

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MAP01: The Deep End (Swim With The Whales)

PrBoom+ 2.5.1.4, HNTR-PS, no saves, 100% everything

 

A really cool looking level with no combat whatsoever that serves as a glimpse of what we'll find in the next levels. You can exit in about 20 seconds if you want, but it's worth to explore every nook and cranny to admire the sights and collect all the items. There's a neat animation by the lift.

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MAP02: Ride the Dolphins

 

Lots of pretty blue stuff ;-P but no seriously, now we are onto the action. I have played very little of Ribbiks’ maps, having only finished the first three levels of Sunlust, but I am aware he is a master of the ‘challenge’ genre. And a challenge map is definitely what we have here, a series of encounters that are tough, although to be honest not as much a challenge as I was expecting, even though I am playing on HMP.

 

Thematically this starts where the previous level left off, with a very dark atmosphere permeated by the dark blues seen throughout this map. The music is very soothing, some would say it clashes with the difficulty and style of Ribbiks’ maps; I would say it actually provides a nice contrast to the high-octane action.

 

One of my favourite things about this map is that in most cases you can see what you are about to face – the dormant monsters frozen in action, you can plan and strategise how best to take on the encounter and survive, before you actually trigger the switch that activates the battle. I also think cyberdemons are used very well in this map, demanding precise movement. There's a lot of secrets in this map, I only found 3 of them though.

 

The final platforming section was also a nice way to end the map. Overall, pretty impressed.

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Swim With The Whales Map02:

Really like the start of the map - you are entering some sort of palace in the sea somewhere.

 

I can't remember if I have ever played this map casually or not. Maxing this map it is pretty much rng hell in every room.

 

Starting off with the secret rocket/plasma fight. The cyb has to start infighting with everything within the first few seconds else it is a reset because the goal here during a run is to use as few rockets as possible while doing the most dps - which means the cyb has to actually infight things immediately. Most of the time the cyb will shoot some hks but then none of the hks/barons actually hit the cyb or they do hit the cyb but the hk/baron that does is so close to the cyb that the cyb just shoots the base of its pedestal rather than shooting the cows below. The revs are kind of whatev here. Generally they pose no threat.

 

This secret fight is super consistent if you play casually and just spam rockets - I would guess - rng comments are strictly for running the map.

 

-

 

After leaving the rocket/plasma fight there are a lot of incredibly annoying things which can happen:

1. The trap at the start breaks and a hk teleports late behind you (in the area where the vile is on that ledge) and blocks you from killing the vile. This is a reset.

2. The vile attacks immediately after you tp in and hits you (this is most likely death since leaving the secret area with 100 hp is beyond good luck)

 

Generally if one of the above doesn't occur you will live through this section and be able to kill the vile. I notice 5 rocket viles a lot here. It is probably much rarer than I think but they really stick out like a sore thumb and linger in my mind. Luckily you run by the vile again later when picking up the non-secret rl so you can snipe the fool when running by.

 

Sometimes the hks or manc will block you from leaving after you kill the vile. Luckily this doesn't happen too often. After that it is just grabbing the ssg and heading up to the soulsphere so you can start the rng roll of the room.

 

-

 

In my most recent demo I rerouted this room to charge the secret with the revs next to the dudes spawning in to give me a higher probability of getting good infights with the cyb - this is still perceived mind you.. it feels more consistent rng wise. The problem with this is that the odds of surviving is less. Anyways if you manage to survive running by the cyb after aggroing the revs it is a run up to the switch to open the way to the mastermind fight - the point of this is to release the cacos in order to start more infights (hopefully).

 

-

 

After surviving the start of the map odds of survival are quite high. I don't think there is any rng when surviving the following bits if you wanted to simply beat the map. So it is basically all on you if you die now.

 

The first fight up the lift is simply 4 revs to start off with.. no biggie. The annoying bit comes when the vile appears. If the vile decides to not attack and just run at you the fight gets spicy because you wont be able to los the PEs which were also released and kill the vile with rockets consistently. During a run this is a reset because the vile probably juked your rockets but you can still manage this just fine casually.

 

Shooting the switch to open the way to the soulsphere secret is quite annoying. It is helpful to setup an angle before hand to make sure you wont lose any time screwing around with your angle - shorttics.

 

-

 

The fight with the cacos/barons/viles/revs is generally pretty free. You can get terrible luck if you are charging the viles early. If they decide to attack immediately you are stuck hiding beneath them which means that the cacos are all coming in from behind. Best to just wait a bit longer and then deal with the viles here. No rng in this fight really.

 

Running this bit all you have to do is make sure a few of a barons infight with the revs. If that happens then it should be a pretty solid fight assuming everything else dies in an orderly fashion.

 

-

 

Secret plasma fight is whatev. Just shoot things with rockets. I like to finish the final PE with ssg because I don't have to worry about dying and I can get some more efficient rockets off when fighting the hks in the fight immediately after.

 

-

 

Fight leading up to the mini-cyb orgy is whatev. Just shoot the chaingunners with a rocket -> revs with rockets -> finish off remaining hks with rockets/ssg. I prefer to leave here with 20 rockets.

 

-

 

Mini-cyb orgy is really just a circle strafe fight until it is over. You can get caught out if one of the cybs walks around the back of some pillars so you have to watch out for that. Leaving here with 100 cells is great. Need those to deal with some revs later.

 

-

 

Returning to the start is when you find if you have won the infight lottery or not. Hopefully most of the shit is dead and the vile is also toast. You can get lucky and telefrag the cyb. Other than that it is all clean up with ssg and grabbing the blue armor secret and invuln secret prior to the mastermind bit.

 

-

 

The mastermind fight is pretty tough without invuln? I cannot say because I can't remember playing this casually without invuln. With invuln just squeeze into the area with the viles and kill them -> spam everything down with rockets and plasma ending up with killing the mastermind and - hopefully - not having to wait a full lift cycle when heading back up because of a mistimed mastermind death.

 

-

 

The final fight is only spicy at the start. If neither vile attacks straight away you can easily die during a run because you really can't use rockets at the start. Rest of the fight is just dealing with a few monster tp bits and NOT messing up the lift on the way up.

 

 

Overall:

This map is a pain to run but is nice to play for fun. Almost zero rng in this map too which makes it a good map with which to chill out. Great look and midi. Visuals have definitely inspired a few map sets (linked the ones I can remember below). There is one more made by Nirvana but I feel like it was more inspired by map03 so I will link that later.

 

 

 

 

 

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Sharing my playthrough of Violence:

 

Spoiler

 

 

Also, for those looking up for more AD_79 maps, he made a whole megawad called 50 Monsters that I've seen people in twitch playing it and looked like contemporary Scythe-ish gameplay. If that's your thing, what are you waiting for!

 

Other stuff he made that I did play that I recommend:

 

- Map02 in TNT Revilution

- Map16 in 1K Lines CP

- Several collabs in Mutiny, particularly maps 11 and 14.

- Map02 collab with Alfonzo in TNT Resistance.

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MAP02: Ride The Dolphins (Swim With The Whales)

PrBoom+ 2.5.1.4, HNTR-PS, no saves, 100% everything

 

The action starts in this level, which takes place on a gorgeous castle in the middle of the sea. While the monster count isn't too intimidating (a little bit over 150 enemies), they're used excellently and almost all the setpieces pose a significant degree of danger. I found myself skipping some supplies since I didn't need them at the time, yet I ended up using almost all of them by the end due to mistakes. I liked how it's possible to analyse most of the traps before triggering them, this allowed me to plan a strategy on the fly and successfully execute it in order to get through painlessly.

 

I ended up dying to the second to last trap before the dark blue key due to stupidity, on the second attempt I cleared it unscathed. The only room that I found tough was the Cyberdemon room. I had no problem dealing with it on the centre of the arena or on the scrolling floors, but the bastard always seemed to start firing right as it was being teleported back to the centre of the arena, hitting me every time. Somehow I managed to survive and the rest of the level was smooth sailing. The secrets were really cool and contain a few more supplies, some of them are guarded so beware. According to the wiki, there's a BFG9000 somewhere but I was unable to find it. Shame, since it would have made the Cyberdemon encounter so much easier... Either way it's a great level, very good looking and quite challenging, though it's rather forgiving as long as you don't mess up too often.

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Swim With The Whales

 

Badass set. m01 is basically a narrative frame with neat sights. Brief intro maps are a strong way of segregating intro stuff off to its own map -- freeing the player of the need to ride a 30-second lift or whatever at the beginning of a proper map. You have your cake and eat it too. If you plunge into the exit "portal," you'll witness trickery that simulates view depth -- in the space of a narrow tunnel. Ordinarily, it's a monsterless map but with MP or with -solonet, it has some Tyson action. Sort of "solo-net as alt game mode."  

 

m02's gameplay has a lot of abstraction porn to compliment -- the structure, the secrets, etc. -- but the main appeal for me is that the fights are good. Abstractions are sexy, things you can tell your professor -- "Swim with the Whales is amazing because it has a donut layout with numerous clever secrets!" -- but that stuff lives or dies as the basic moment-to-moment experience does. Gimmicks are cool, but the two-cyberdemon fight where you circle-strafe (!) works because the arena is shaped perfectly, pillars placed in the right spots, that it happens to be an enjoyable fight to actually *do*, not because the cybs teleport away and back fancily. And stuff like that. Doom is always a kinetic experience, and I think this map captures that well. 


Gameplay happens to be pretty far from "slaughter," I'd say. It's a Plutonia++ sort of deal where monsters skew heavy (although plenty of imps, cacos, HKs, etc. exist too, not only as interstitial fodder and light fare but also as dangerous monsters -- because just using a narrow cast of monsters like revs/mancs/viles/PEs/CGers/cybs and a few more would grow repetitive, and thus detrimental, even in the cases where it might be "locally optimal" to use mostly the sharper stuff). 

 

The "monsters as dormant statues" trope is in abundance, but also a few fights will use monsters themselves as "alternative weapons": from a cyb, to a row of revvies, to CGers (2x). Can't do that in every fight but it's a neat way of mixing stuff up occasionally. 

Also: m02's midi is my favorite of all time. 

 

m03 is a monstrosity. Where m02's secrets are convenient boosts and sightseeing stops on a full tour, you need at least half of m03's for it to be not a nightmare. (Especially to skip that platforming section -- holy shit.) If you really route it out, only one fight remains unreasonable, I'd say: that BFG four-cyb moshpit, which is a bit much. 

 

And yeah, routing it out is part of the "to do" -- as much as or more than most fights in a vacuum. It's kind of an interesting take on the challenge genre thing. The Sunder school says don't provide secrets because they either disrupt the balance or are mandatory for it. Ribbiks seems to be mapping "beyond himself," in a way, like, "You show *me* how to play the map well."  I haven't tried to seriously play everything in this map without secrets, but the two-cyb + horde of stuff fight with archviles overlooking it is actually beatable with no BFG. (I had the BFG at this point and always do, but this time decided experimentally to not to use it.) Based on that, it would be interesting to see a run of this map that just refuses to get any secrets. Call it a "naughty max" :P. 

 

Basically every weapon gets some love in this one, from the CG and SSG, to the RL and PR and BFG, even some 'zerk in realistic casual play that finds it. (The whole "hoard cells for BFG by not using PR" is averted, because you don't have the luxury of avoiding PR unless you route out a way to get a relatively early BFG.) But yeah, CG and SSG. SWTW is instructive if you are mapping harder stuff, tend to skew towards "RL, PR, and BFG are the only weapons," and want to learn how to savor the smaller guns. It kind of works because Ribbiks is really good at tension and this slow, meditative pace. But yeah, SSG-ing HKs and other mid-tiers, and CG tapping various snipers, becomes the brooding downbeat between the big mean fights. Pretty satisfying.

 

That cyber would track me down and snipe me if I didn't dedicate a paragraph to him. He periodically shows up in various fights -- "hello old friend" -- and generally is both an asset and a serious source of danger. The cool thing about him is how he manages to be so oppressive, considering cyb rockets are straight projectiles and he's firing it from far away. It's a good study in "latent danger": a monster doesn't have to be all that likely to hit you, on any given attack, to exert serious pressure. The consequences just have to be relevant. 

 

Aesthetically, both of the main course maps are at this exceedingly high level of "serviceability," but not more. I get the sense I'd love them more if I were around back in 2013 to play it when it was contemporary. But a lot here is in a particular mode of abstraction that has been done a lot by the author, then moved on from by the author [but not by the entire scene :^)], so my 2020 impression is it's stylish and tidy and largely beyond reproach as far as choices go, but bland at times; it's good, but not great. (And 2016 was somewhere in the middle.) I do really like the various fishrocks you can climb onto, as well as the scale/structure. m03 in particular excels at that; the broader vistas are cool, especially when you can behold big chunks of the map as one piece. The atmosphere/structure carries a good chunk of aesthetic weight and lifts it past just design/concept. Also, the puny m01 is actually somewhat dense with stuff that is neat to look at.

 

As a bonus send-off, m31 gives us Entryway, a MIDI of Eiffel 65's "Blue," and a bunch of generally enjoyable comic, high-energy fights. The dabadee, err, I mean difficulty of these fights generally is higher than all but a handful in each of the previous maps, and... hmm... okay fine, I just shoehorned this observation in for the silliness that started this sentence. Rough around the edges, but it's a bonus map so that is far from reprehensible.

 

Edited by rdwpa

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MAP03: Swim With The Whales (Swim With The Whales)

PrBoom+ 2.5.1.4, HNTR-PS, no saves, 100% everything

 

After the previous level and seeing this one had three times as many enemies, I was expecting it to be a lot harder than it ended up being. I did play very cautiously (but not enough to end up overwhelmed) so I managed to survive on my first attempt past the five minute mark, taking just over an hour to complete the level. The hardest moments for me were the hectic start and the first arch-vile trap, the only times that I died. There's a lot of tricky encounters throughout the level but if you ration adequately the supplies that are provided you should have no trouble.

 

The five Cyberdemons appear in three different moments, the first and toughest one is at a clever lock in trap with hell knights on windows sniping you while you have to contend with the boss and a few barons of hell. The other two moments are high pressure as well, but pretty manageable if you're able to assess the situation quickly since you have a lot more space to manoeuvre. Lots of secrets, it's worth to look out for them because they contain useful supplies and some cool optional fights.

 

For some of the secrets you have to be somewhat good at platforming, but thankfully none of them require SR50 or very precise setups. The final area contains the last enemies, you can inspect the area and plot a strategy to deal with it since none of the monsters are facing you. The first wave isn't too difficult, but it's easy to take lots of damage and health is limited in this area, so be careful. The second wave is where things can get tough, but fortunately Ribbiks did a magic trick where he turned two Cyberdemons into a single one, which made things a lot easier (the other Cyberdemon got stuck in a teleporting closet somehow, not that I'm complaining :P). To finish things off, four revenants that I berserk fisted one by one since I was feeling cocky. High pressure and high quality level all around, an excellent finale.

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MAP31: ??? (Swim With The Whales)

PrBoom+ 2.5.1.4, HNTR-PS, no saves, 100% everything

 

We're not quite done with SWTW yet, there's still the bonus level left to play. Every time I see the words "bonus level" it's a hell of a ride and this is no exception! The MIDI is an excellent choice for this party. The fundamentals of SWTW are all here, yet compressed to about five minutes of playtime. First, we have the crusher seen in MAP03 that makes it easier to kill the revenants guarding the black key. Then we have a lock in trap for the dark blue key, a staple in this set though this one is quite easy to deal with, unlike other instances.

 

The light blue key presents a somewhat unfair situation like the Cyberdemon arena in MAP02, a cramped room where it's really easy to get overwhelmed by the monsters spawning in - you have to squeeze past the mancubus at the entrance and make the enemies infight to have a chance to survive. The best was saved for last though with a whole batallion of zombiemen spearheaded by two mancubi, easily disposed of with the BFG9000 or with just about any other weapon you have. I decided to use the SSG on this jokewad setpiece for some very satisfying multi kills. Great fun!

 

Final thoughts:

 

A challenging set with gorgeous blue levels, very secret heavy and with lots of clever combat situations. Monster count is not too intimidating but every single one of them is placed very well and is bound to give you a lot of trouble. With that said, I was expecting this to be harder, perhaps I'll give it a go in the future on HMP. I've watched the UV Max demos on the DSDA and while UV doesn't look borderline impossible it's still beyond my current skill level. But I digress, this is a wonderful set by Ribbiks and well deserving of its Cacoward!

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Vaporware 

 

Eternity Engine is one of those ports with criminally few maps made specifically for it. While not too far removed from classic ports in feel and general specs, it can do a lot of extra cool stuff, which aren't just bells and whistles but are very viable for artistic expression. I was already familiar with portals and the capabilities for 3D architecture and multi-story design. Vaporware not only took my appreciation of that further, it also introduced to me, in a concrete way, a handful of new ideas. 

 

To begin, holy fuck this train

 

To continue, holy fuck this vista

 

Despite showcasing EE features at every other stop, as a map, it clearly is much deeper and richer than a feature showcase. There is a a strong sense of journey and place, beginning with a train ride into a cargo facility that ends up feeling limitless, like just one structure in a boundless complex that dwarfs you. That rocky vista of a distant facility and various hints of the unreachable inner machinery of the map both play a substantial role in creating that impression. It's interesting how, some detritus and wear aside, the facility is clean and brightly lit and textured in pleasant materials (as opposed to gritty ones), but because of those implications, I found the lulls in the action kinda scary. Scale plays a strong role in the map in more subtle ways: there's a very marked contrast and alternation between areas on the larger side and tighter ones, between feeling cramped (or cozy) and exposed, that had a say in the emotional character of the map for me. The baseline visual design throughout is pretty competent, a lot of emphasis on "texture strip" design with an abundance of both standard idiomatic detailing and more concept-driven stuff. (Although, sure, the hex-tile play might not make the cut just a few years later.) Undeniably, the main structural attraction is the multi-floor progression, how you rise through many stories of the complex.   
 
I thought the combat was really good, which I wouldn't have expected if you told me it's largely conventional early-game stuff that is more like light accompaniment for everything else. You're fighting mostly ragtag bands of low-tiers (and once in a while, some managercubuses). The map hits this tight balance of giving you enough slack and space to do a lot of enjoyable things -- for me, lure low-tiers to barrels, line up dual kills with shotguns, mix two or more traps in the same area, pick off loiterers through windows, and so on -- while not lacking threat or pressure. A complaint would be that you only get two weapons. This map was too beautiful (and short) for me not to want to replay it, and considering it's a linear map, I was craving something else the second time around to put a different spin on the fighting, possibly a melee weapon. That might be a side-effect of this being at one point just one map of a planned set.  

 

This is far from a comprehensive description of the map's offerings. I left out the custom enemies and some of the visual niceties. Anyway, this is bonus content because I know not everyone has EE downloaded, but if this intrigued you, pound that li--, err... download the Eternity Engine and give the map a go yourself.

Edited by rdwpa

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