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General Roasterock

The Power Rankings: TNT: Evilution

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Map 01: System Control

 

  It’s simple to understand the importance of the first impression when it comes to introducing a WAD. Most players will not be cheating directly to a map somewhere down the line on a first playthrough. While the best foot forward is a relatively common strategy, it ultimately needs to perform the job of preparation for the mood to be expected throughout the set. 

  System Control establishes the community’s staple of the first map of a community WAD to deal with relatively few higher tier firearms, opting for an assortment of weaker enemies that can be dispatched with relative ease outside of the starting weaponry. It also standardizes the experience of the Berserk Pack carrying the flow of combat in a Map 01, handing it to you for free before the first door is even opened. Every monster in this map can die from a single Berserk punch, providing great encouragement to use it for the entire map. This contrasts with the opportunity to acquire better weaponry, such as the secret shotgun and non-secret Chainguns dropped from the Chaingunners blocking the Blue Key, but allows for more playstyles outside of exclusive melee. The influence on this order of operations can be seen on a wide variety of maps, most notably TNT: Revilution’s Uprising. 

  What this map does not contribute to in the wider scope is any form of visual uniqueness. It does not at all feel separated from Doom II in texture usage and geometry. Lighting is sparsely made use of, with the most extreme example being the first room, establishing a body of water that does not appear again in the map. It’s unclear as to whether or not the space is supposed to be realistic, as there are a row of computer terminals hiding the Blue Armor, but some of the terminals disappear behind corners of the wall, inconvenient to anyone wishing to view them. 

  “Sadistic” by L.A. Sieben is very powerful amongst the range of the IWADs’ collective soundtrack. Many of the track commissioned for Evilution are very much meant for flexible action, as they are used multiple times, and the song for System Control is no exception. For some reason, I consistently confuse this piece with “Into the Beast’s Belly”, another Sieben work, most likely due to their similar range of guitar pitch and the fact that the latter is in the Bucket remake for Revilution’s first map. The track itself is very heavy on midi guitar, doing its part in assisting the desired frantic flow that the layout itself can’t manage completely. Final Doom’s musical excellence comes entirely from Evilution. 

  As an opener, System Control presents competency. It provides a quick and engaging damage trade through a mundane base that has no ability to continue for more than two minutes, even with the optional navigation. It’s enough to stomach without swallowing.

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Map 02: Human BBQ
 

  The naming of this map already provides some pondering. The intentional abbreviation of the word “barbecue” to its lossy phonetics is likely done to save vital space, but the cut corner is still eye catching nonetheless. I have yet to meet one person who pronounces the level as “Human bee-bee-cue”. 

  What is right for complaint is the downright drab mood of the level. The texture choice has shifted from metal to stone, but the geometry still suggests outpost. There’s three different courtyards that all feature fields of grass, and they’re all connected to this brick laden structure housing a large variety of hellspawn. As a continuous experience, it makes little sense. As its own package, the stone ultimately blends together into a singular brown and gray area. The designer’s hand is visible, as many of the landmarks are arbitrary. There is only a singular pit of damaging slime in the beginning hallway that makes no recurrence anywhere else. The east pond exists to specifically make use of deep water effects through self referencing sectors, and the monster closet that alerts the pinkies has a visible sound propagation tunnel, a very common fault of the era. 

  The gameplay is rather alienating for neophytes, placing Chaingunners in very wide open areas without providing accurate weapons to dispatch them effectively. The main route suffers from a lack of energy, as a constant drip feed of hitscanners and Imps stands in the majority of your path. The larger fights, such as the switch that opens the midtexture window and the upper balcony of the exit courtyard, are highlighted with enemies that a Shotgun struggles to take down, making relatively tame skirmishes take forever to finish. This is especially true with the former, as the Pain Elemental is at such a distance that it will likely be able to spit several Lost Souls in the time that it takes for either a Chaingun or Shotgun to break through to it. 

  What this level attempts to do with its combat is make artifacts rather than flow. The secret room with the Barons guarded by an unmarked Blue Door is a glorified puzzle, making use of a line of switches that open teleports. These switches are, in the eyes of the player, completely random as to which teleport they open, and the third going clockwise will lower the upper left most platform temporarily, which can neither be seen nor heard due to sector and monster obstruction. Playing through the area is a strange experience, one that I only mastered due to memorizing which switch opened which port. Stranger still is that this level gives the player more than enough ammo to simply ignore the skill required to finish the optional excursion, and simply shoot the Barons to death with the Super Shotgun. Difficulty settings nullify this puzzle as well, with HNTR replacing the hulking Nobles with hitscanners, making the fight an appropriate breeze.

  What is there, then, to stop this room from being an artistic decision? That would be a very easy way to write off the use of this combination of switches, Barons, and a singular Hell Knight. The thing about the secret fight, however, is the purpose is so abrasively clear. Each teleporter only has one job. Each switch only assists in a single teleport’s execution. The design is crystal, without ambiguity, its uniqueness comes from the fact that it wants to be unique, and considering the fact that this nature makes it the most memorable part of the level does not bode well. 

  As for the other secrets, they are either directly in your face, such as the Computer Area Map, or completely against the grain of progression, such as the Soulsphere unlocked at the end stretch of the map when there will likely be less than half of a dozen of enemies left. Promoting exploration in general is fine, and the indentation on the Chainsaw room was enough to peak my interest at first glance, but it took me nearly a decade to connect the fact that the button in the Hell Knight closet manipulated that wall solely due to the nature of having to backtrack. 

  “Smells like Burning Corpse” is a highlight of the experience. A greater use of synth than most Doom levels brings out the downtrodden architecture very well. The title is a reference to the singular hanging body in the first area cooking over a cleverly hidden burning barrel, which is the only instance of a “Human BBQ” in the entire map. In fact, naming both the level and the track for an instance of theming that only appears in a single section of the level, making up around a dozen linedefs and two Things, doesn’t seem to be a very appropriate labeling. 

  This map is fragmented between ideas that suffer from isolation, and progression that lapses on itself in order to continue forward. Human BBQ longs to stay energetic, but does not provide the setting or balance to accomplish this.

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Map 03: Power Control

 

  The primary component Power Control is remembered for is its symmetry. The initial room is one that has two identical traps on the east and west ends, and the primary hub is made up of four spokes that contain monsters and supplies. This hub is nearly identical in each of its quadrants down to the types of monsters guarding the corridors. While this does make for an easier to navigate level for the most part, it leaves half of the enemy count in a singular place. 

  The combat as a whole in this map can be divided into two categories: the sprawling mass in between the center hub spokes, and the choke points placed down a number of narrow hallways. The former will mostly be handled through infighting, while also requiring effort to root the enemies buried within the building out of their hiding spots. This placement gives the upper hand to the hitscanners in the bunkers, and allows them free damage if the direct route of teleporters is taken. The rest of the map is almost a corridor shooter. The Red Door hides a group of boxy rooms, one that has a horrid section requiring a Partial Invisibility fight with a Revenant, The Blue Door hides a horde of hitscanners that can be funneled down the straight hallway, along with a very useless Arch-Vile walled off in the center, and the Yellow Door holds a group of Mancubi that are too little too late for a fully armed player with more than enough cover. The secret Rocket Launcher allows for one of these rooms to be completely removed from consciousness, and the Cell Pack that requires the wall inside of one of the outer teleporters to be checked is completely useless, as the Plasma Rifle is inaccessible in single player, and has yet to appear in the entire WAD. 

  The level itself is very much mired in metal. This allows for good secret design, as many of the metal panels are partitioned horizontally, which creates independent movement for a bifurcated sector. Power Control does not make use of this, instead opting for its secrets to act as doors, usually placed behind teleport lines. The rotation of the upper lip of the central building is a nice touch, giving the idea of energy transferral that the title instantiates more of a purpose than simply being a strong combination of words. This mood is further carried by the density of the monsters in each of the rooms. The level is otherwise primarily placed on flat ground, only elevating through a man-made structure. While this map does not use original music, the use of “Message for the Archvile” contrasts the romp of gore trailing the bodies of many low health zombies with a sneaky suspense that isn’t exhibited in any other element present. 

  This map uses a commonly seen structure in more amateur level design used to provide the illusion of open ended design: a central junction that branches off into different linear paths. Having a returning point does provide a recurring area in a map, but it is not refilled or reused with any form of significance. It simply acts as another point along the linear path to the next key door, or switch, or whatever point of progression may exist. That is how the central circular piece acts, and that is how this map acts.

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Map 04: Wormhole

 

  Oh goody, my first controversial opinion.

  Wormhole is a drag to play. For everything that it does for how people view the linear flow of time in relation to teleportation mechanics, it hacks away at the enjoyment of playing it through attrition alone. 

  To its benefit, what it does with its choice of setting is very much unique and thoughtfully put together. A very gamey techbase lends itself to be palpable for a great deal of ideas to be placed within it. The idea for Wormhole’s namesake is also interesting, having a rift in time teleport the player to an identical layout in the far future. This gives a lot of leeway for ways that the player’s actions can transfer in between realms, opening up new means of progression, or creating more routes for approaching fights. Wormhole does not do this. 

  What this level does with the idea is instead create a geometrically identical map past a FIREBLU teleport gate, adding little more than a cavern section drawn haphazardly and filled with seemingly random clumps of Cacodemons, Revenants, and Lost Souls. The mirror world is visibly downtrodden, contrasting the grays of the initial starting point with a great amount of brown. The appearance of age is what gives the level a feeling of time travel rather than simply appearing in another dimension, though these two subjects are interchangeable here for convenience. The primary issue with this execution is that it does not add anything significant. It does not create a meaningful contribution to the rest of the level. In fact, with how optional the entire setup is to exiting the map, it ends up weighing against the map by making the exit seem awkward. 

  Outside of the novelty, the map’s combat is incredibly slow and restricted. The heaviest weapon provided to the player is a Rocket Launcher, with its expected use being in between the many incredibly cramped and densely populated corridors. Without it, the reliance for clearing out dozens of pinkies, a handful of Hell Knights, and seven Revenants falls on either the Chaingun or the Shotgun. The SSG doesn’t appear until the very end of the optional route, and at that point is moot. This allows for a relatively small map to drag on for ages, as these very healthy monsters need a great amount of lead to be put down. 

  The setups for combat are questionable at best. Six Chaingunners that ambush the player upon picking up the Rocket Launcher only appear due to a strange zigzag line on the weapon’s platform, and are very easily skipped by those who know the line is there. A huge portion of the monsters are hidden in secret areas, only accessible through the secret sectors that act as gateways to these areas, and require backtracking in order to tag all of them. The recurrent trip to the future section of the starting area has no vantage entrance, requiring the player to labor through a horde of pinkies on either side of the stairs with bullet weapons, and a singular Arch-Vile that lacks the ability to make headwake due to its inability to mingle with the beefier corpses. 

  “Death’s Bells” for a level that manages to slow its pace down as such is a somewhat fitting choice. The song itself is very much made for suspense, with its namesake bells and assortment of strings. The track is a touch shorter than the other levels, making it relatively easy for it to loop within a playthrough, exasperating the repetition further. 

  For a player that does not care for maximizing efficiency in their experience, Wormhole does not provide an effective engaging challenge for casual pace. For those that do, the map can not be tackled at a relatively speedy pace without placing health and ammo in constant jeopardy. It is a clumped, depressing stream of DMV lines whose gimmick only means that you have to play it twice.

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Map 05: Hanger
 

  It is theorized that the strange title of this map is a play on words, taking the aircraft bay and combining it with “Anger” to set up a mood for the level. Without this explanation, it can only be assumed that this name is a misspelling of “Hangar”, which is difficult to grasp considering the first level of the original Doom was given that title with proper spelling.

  “Hanger” does an excellent job at constructing a fixture that a player is expected to exist in. The detailing is top notch, with rows of lights lining the hallways within the base, and metal supporting the structure throughout. The technology is clumped together, providing a sense of establishment when contrasted to the temple buried in the basement. The transitions between thematics are done very well, keeping the areas of structure together, and the backtracking navigation such as the alcove near the Yellow Key is very useful. 

  The combat is primarily streamlined, creating corridors that are filled with weaker enemies to be cleared out with a Chaingun or otherwise. The level is near linear, even for new players, and the struggle faced is nigh outweighed by anything that the secrets offer. These secrets are all clumped very close together to the point where a skilled individual can pick them all up within fifteen seconds, which is somewhat disappointing for a map that takes around five minutes. The high points of intensity are marked with Barons, being at both the Soulsphere and the final romp in the courtyard, and both areas are large enough to make the bruisers a secondary threat. 

  TNT maps have a very strange syndrome of creating obligatory branches that lead away from the flow of the level, in this case making use of the spiral staircase that hides an automap leading to the brick and mortar basement of the base. The ratio of risk to reward varies highly from map to map, highlighted with this instance rewarding the player with a Soulsphere at the expense of having to cut through Barons and Revenants, should they desire to stay. I have created several instances where I’ve instantly traded the added health due to a Revenant rocket, showing the ability for a map with as much attention to atmosphere in this set to still lay on the difficulty. 

  The level dips after the Blue Key room, as the rest of the difficulty comes from the spray of Chaingunners that are positioned at much better vantage points, specifically on the wall outside. Clearing them requires a very slow and safe corner fight even with the Partial Invisibility, as the barrels placed on their platform will likely only blow if the hitscanners destroy them themselves. Attempting to join the platform they’re perched upon is suicide, as the teleporter behind the Yellow Door puts you right in between them. Any stronger monster requires that you either find the non-secret Rocket Launcher, or take the better part of a minute whittling them down with the Super Shotgun in a relatively non-threatening layout. 

  “More” is a track that ultimately holds Hanger back, as it meanders along with plucked bass taking centerstage. It’s relatively mundane in comparison even to the original IWADs’ tracks, and it's very easy for this forgettable nature to harm the energy of a level. In this case, the constant assault given by the flying bullets is lessened without any intense accompaniment. 

  Accomplishing what Hanger did is relatively impressive for its limited usage and engagement. The flow of the map keeps a very minimal cast of monsters fresh throughout the playthrough, only stuttering at the very end where the ideas of the rooms have been exhausted. It is a grounded piece that keeps a relatively common theme under a confident light.

 

 

I’ll drop Map 06 tonight too since I was busy moving a condo yesterday.

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On 8/5/2022 at 4:25 AM, General Roasterock said:

Map 04: Wormhole

 

  Oh goody, my first controversial opinion.

  Wormhole is a drag to play. For everything that it does for how people view the linear flow of time in relation to teleportation mechanics, it hacks away at the enjoyment of playing it through attrition alone. 

  To its benefit, what it does with its choice of setting is very much unique and thoughtfully put together. A very gamey techbase lends itself to be palpable for a great deal of ideas to be placed within it. The idea for Wormhole’s namesake is also interesting, having a rift in time teleport the player to an identical layout in the far future. This gives a lot of leeway for ways that the player’s actions can transfer in between realms, opening up new means of progression, or creating more routes for approaching fights. Wormhole does not do this. 

  What this level does with the idea is instead create a geometrically identical map past a FIREBLU teleport gate, adding little more than a cavern section drawn haphazardly and filled with seemingly random clumps of Cacodemons, Revenants, and Lost Souls. The mirror world is visibly downtrodden, contrasting the grays of the initial starting point with a great amount of brown. The appearance of age is what gives the level a feeling of time travel rather than simply appearing in another dimension, though these two subjects are interchangeable here for convenience. The primary issue with this execution is that it does not add anything significant. It does not create a meaningful contribution to the rest of the level. In fact, with how optional the entire setup is to exiting the map, it ends up weighing against the map by making the exit seem awkward. 

  Outside of the novelty, the map’s combat is incredibly slow and restricted. The heaviest weapon provided to the player is a Rocket Launcher, with its expected use being in between the many incredibly cramped and densely populated corridors. Without it, the reliance for clearing out dozens of pinkies, a handful of Hell Knights, and seven Revenants falls on either the Chaingun or the Shotgun. The SSG doesn’t appear until the very end of the optional route, and at that point is moot. This allows for a relatively small map to drag on for ages, as these very healthy monsters need a great amount of lead to be put down. 

  The setups for combat are questionable at best. Six Chaingunners that ambush the player upon picking up the Rocket Launcher only appear due to a strange zigzag line on the weapon’s platform, and are very easily skipped by those who know the line is there. A huge portion of the monsters are hidden in secret areas, only accessible through the secret sectors that act as gateways to these areas, and require backtracking in order to tag all of them. The recurrent trip to the future section of the starting area has no vantage entrance, requiring the player to labor through a horde of pinkies on either side of the stairs with bullet weapons, and a singular Arch-Vile that lacks the ability to make headwake due to its inability to mingle with the beefier corpses. 

  “Death’s Bells” for a level that manages to slow its pace down as such is a somewhat fitting choice. The song itself is very much made for suspense, with its namesake bells and assortment of strings. The track is a touch shorter than the other levels, making it relatively easy for it to loop within a playthrough, exasperating the repetition further. 

  For a player that does not care for maximizing efficiency in their experience, Wormhole does not provide an effective engaging challenge for casual pace. For those that do, the map can not be tackled at a relatively speedy pace without placing health and ammo in constant jeopardy. It is a clumped, depressing stream of DMV lines whose gimmick only means that you have to play it twice.

 

Fully agree with this. Always thought Wormhole was a very poor implementation of an excellent idea, that Going Down and Resurgence capitalized upon with much better maps.

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On 8/5/2022 at 5:25 AM, General Roasterock said:

Outside of the novelty, the map’s combat is incredibly slow and restricted. The heaviest weapon provided to the player is a Rocket Launcher, with its expected use being in between the many incredibly cramped and densely populated corridors. Without it, the reliance for clearing out dozens of pinkies, a handful of Hell Knights, and seven Revenants falls on either the Chaingun or the Shotgun. The SSG doesn’t appear until the very end of the optional route, and at that point is moot. This allows for a relatively small map to drag on for ages, as these very healthy monsters need a great amount of lead to be put down. 

 

Respectfully dissagree.

1) TNT:Revilution is not Plutonia. IMHO, it is wrong to assume that pistol starts are the intended way to play this WAD for the 1st time. 

2) Tricks like rushing for SSG and avoiding the chaingunners at the start may be missed by 1st time players. But arguably 1st time players should enter the map with full continuous arsenal in mind. Pistol starters may be assumed to already know the map.

3) Even without the SSG, we still have some fun fights. Together with cramped spaces, Wormhole also posesses a lot of straight corridors. Rocket launcher works just fine in such conditions. And you can also lure many of the monsters into big open rooms, where the rocket launcher works just fine.

4) For remaining cramped spaces, the shotgun and chaingun are good enough. And if you want something beefier - plan to get the SSG earlier.

 

For my part, I am not the biggest Wormhole fan out there, but I think that the above critisms are a bit unwaranted.

Edited by Azure_Horror

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14 hours ago, Azure_Horror said:

1) TNT:Revilution is not Plutonia. IMHO, it is wrong to assume that pistol starts are the intended way to play this WAD for the 1st time. 

Without really touching anything about “how people should be playing IWADs the first time”, I feel that there is more evidence that these maps are meant to be initially pistol start approachable. Even completely ignoring the balancing for players should they happen to have died in the middle of one the levels, it’s difficult to identify any form of transition or narrative point which explains that there’s a right way to play the collection. I feel the biggest argument that continuous has is the inconvenience that pistol starting has in comparison to just opening the game, which I don’t really have a point against. All I can say is that, since I’m looking at these after UV-Maxes, it’s beyond the scope of what I’m talking about.

 

14 hours ago, Azure_Horror said:

2) Tricks like rushing for SSG and avoiding the chaingunners at the start may be missed by 1st time players. But arguably 1st time players should enter the map with full continuous arsenal in mind. Pistol starters may be assumed to already know the map.

3) Even without the SSG, we still have some fun fights. Together with cramped spaces, Wormhole also posesses a lot of straight corridors. Rocket launcher works just fine in such conditions. And you can also lure many of the monsters into big open rooms, where the rocket launcher works just fine.

4) For remaining cramped spaces, the shotgun and chaingun are good enough. And if you want something beefier - plan to get the SSG earlier.

While that is a perfectly viable strategy, it requires ignoring a bunch of optional paths up front, and pushing through all the demons already blocking the corridors. It’s already inconvenient to have to navigate those tunnels, but the Super Shotgun makes the map almost boring, as every fight is now throwing shells down the line, only stopping for the heavier hitters in the alternate dimension. I also really don’t like having to go out of my way to make rocket launcher space when it’s a map issue, and not one that involves crowd control, but I can’t justify that beyond preference.

 

I might just play this set continuously one time through after I’m finished with all the difficulties in the last episode now that I’ve read this. While most modern mappers don’t give it a second thought, and I still feel that TNT is better balanced for pistol start, I would enjoy finding that perspective.

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Map 06: Open Season
 

  Upon entry, this map is unfriendly to those searching for a clean fight. The starting platform raises the player into a group of hitscanners, all either tucked away from view in order to sweep the choke point, or placed on high ground to challenge the singular Shotgun given at the start. Most of the attitude of a map can be determined just from how it treats the lethality of its monsters, and to what lengths it has to go to make them threatening. Open Season takes the quick and easy. 

  The majority of Chaingunners used in this map are hidden around corners with the hopes of being ignored, released into areas without expectation. Without the Super Shotgun, these act more as checkpoints, stopping at a gap in a line of computers to handle a singular Chaingunner or Pinky before continuing onward. A notable example is the Yellow Key trap, opening an alcove that reveals a singular Chaingunner across the pit of lava. A singular well placed SSG will render his placement useless. What makes their usage relatively strange is how well supplied the level leaves the player, including a free Blue Armor before any of the key hunting begins. 

  The majority of the map is very dark. Winding corridors of computer terminals create a very minimal visual style, and the open areas still manage to restrict a lot of movement. The latter of these is constantly revisited through the form of the ledges in the reactor room, requiring constant backtracking through the same area in order to continue. These ledges are either suspended over damaging floor, or incredibly tightly constricted to the point where navigating past monsters is impossible. Enemies are allowed to wander lackadaisical around the level, making for a very streamlined threat assessment for the entire playtime. This is even capped off with a singular tokenized Arch-Vile that poses no threat, able to be ignored completely as he is placed behind the exit line.

  “Agony Rhapsody” is what holds the level together. A bewitching tune that gives the less than stellar action purpose, it is incredibly short and somber, even by early 90s MIDI standards. The atmosphere the bells and strings elude appear criminally misused when placed in a level that is primarily computer corridor shooting. 

  With only the TNT established mood keeping the level within theme, Open Season is a mishmash of parts that do little to seek unity. The drip feed of hitscanners in a fragmented realm accented by the occasional heavy hitter in the first half does not provide near enough to make up the little cohesion that exists in this map.

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18 hours ago, Thelokk said:

 

Fully agree with this. Always thought Wormhole was a very poor implementation of an excellent idea, that Going Down and Resurgence capitalized upon with much better maps.

not to mention Skulltiverse's Map 15.....

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Map 07: Prison
 

  Prison is a disastrous flaw in TNT’s lineup. It sacrifices many positive qualities for an environment that ultimately collapses in on itself. It is painful to navigate, perform combat in, and even look at. The fact that it exists at all, let alone in the Map 07 slot while not making any use of the special actions (or so much as even including an Arachnotron), is a testament to the clamoring for maps that the team went through at one point.

  Prison, as the name implies, takes place in and around a detainment center for demons. This setting includes three other buildings set within what can only be assumed to be a mountain range or basin, or whatever other solid brown geography can exist. Every building in this map is either perfectly rectangular, or jutting out from the formations of rock. These buildings are made up of either a single texture, or two layers of texture in the form of the western fort. The combination of the simplistic geometry and texture usage give these buildings a very amateur appearance, without any standout features whatsoever. 

  Being rectangular prisms, the structures are very limited for gameplay options, options that all fall flat on their face. The map starts with a Plasma Rifle, conscripted to kill the singular Baron and remain useless for the rest of the section, save the singular cell pickup past a bevy of Hell Knights. These ammo issues will continue for the rest of the guns, primarily from placing the Super Shotgun near the end of the level, and supplying the player with seventeen rockets without a Rocket launcher with which to use them. Missing the secret Berserk is an entertainment death sentence, as beating everything that can’t mince you is the only way to preserve a comfortable level of ammunition.

  The combat flip flops between anemic spacious areas that have Pinkies charge at you from half a mile away, and closeted asphyxiating bullet hell in the form of indoor traps, such as the cell block of the prison with the Red Key. The latter of these two are the more egregious, as said Red Key fight will have Imps and Knights tossing fireballs at the player from all sides. The secret Invulnerability is required to face this area consistently, and even then will undoubtedly run out before any considerable damage is done to the demon prisoners’ numbers. It is also worth mentioning that the demons are kept in complete darkness, meaning that any accuracy in their dispatch requires Doomguy to press his face against the bars to see where they are, not only opening him up to a close projectile from the focused cell, but also from every other monster firing at his back. Dealing with the entire floor requires either an arbitrary waste of ammo or health. 

  For anyone attempting to UV-Max the map, the horror doesn’t stop there. Specters will flood the open areas and lava gorges, requiring special trips to hunt down. There will more likely than not be a monster that takes the teleport back to the first area, essentially jamming itself in a sector that it can’t escape, and requiring a backtracking telefrag to dispatch. The western end of the map that raises the bridge to the prison island is completely optional, as one side of the large teleport pads will simply teleport the player onto the island. Multiple Shotgunners in the eastern complex are tucked away in alcoves that require tightrope walking just to alert. The amount of simplistic deviation that causes this map to drag on is staggering.

  The choice of instruments for “Soldier of Chaos” always seemed humorous. Having a singular picked bass and lead makes the song sound hollow and minimalist. There’s only a total of four utilized tracks on the entire song, and all of the instruments seem to be vying for a higher purpose in the composition. It is one of the few times where a MIDI pairing with a subpar level is appropriate. 

  In a way that only befits Final Doom, Prison is an incarceration of enjoyability, and gives even capable, experienced, and specifically map knowledgeable players twenty to life. It is poorly executed on every front, and leaves nothing to take away from.

 

I know I said I was going to include demos with these posts for perspective, but I’m out of town for most of this week. I’ll see about posting a pack sometime soon.

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Map 08: Metal

 

  Metal is a difficult level to remember. The vast majority of the layout consists of a very common metal texture, and the sprawling openness makes for landmarks few and far between. Yet still, the action is more than enough to preserve the quality it has. 

  The texturing divides the map into two distinct areas: the brick laden start, and the very metal base. Outside of the irony of a level titled Metal starting out surrounding the player with brick, the aqueduct only exists to drip feed individual mooks through tight corridors, and hide one optional lock in fight that gives nothing but kills and ammo. While being a strange addition, it does allow for a smoother transition into the neighboring room with the Partial Invisibility, allowing for a more seamless experience. The rest of the level is marred in sheets of metal lining every wall, only broken up by specific foundations within each of the rooms. The primary standout pieces here are the rooms with the cages and flaming alcoves, and the large ending arena with multiple vats of poison. The ease of navigability only stems from the fact that there isn’t that much level to see in terms of branching pathway, and the streamlined flow of progression takes you through even one of the map’s own secrets. 

  The arena before the exit is a specific oddity. Each of the ordinal corners must be accessed in order to open the path to the exit. The first one presents two switches: one on the left to create a lift to the ledge with the next area’s switch, and one on the right to activate the lift created. Pressing the right before the left will do nothing but waste three seconds of the player’s life, and it’s impossible to tell which is which upon a first playthrough outside of a lucky guess. What accentuates this issue is the fact that the next corner’s pair will reverse the order, creating confusion for players that expected consistency in the system. What is more chaotic is the fact that this system is all but given up on after the front half, with the third simply teleporting you to the top to attempt an ambush, and the forth opening a hidden compartment with a different lift. Both of these are attempting to break a mold that was never created in the first place, a repetition that was never repeated exactly the same. 

  It is nice to see spacious action that succeeds, and Metal delivers on that front with the Red Key fight, allowing for an easy suppression with the Rocket Launcher tucked away in the required secret. The Chaingunner usage is surprisingly tame for a Final Doom level, including one of the most harmless shelved away high above the stairs in the transition to the open jail room. They are more than stifled with the contents of the strangely uninspired secrets of the level, half of which are either in plain sight such as the SSG switch and Rocket Launcher, or are seated along very noticeable paths like the Soulsphere. The last arena shows them at their worst, perched high above most lines of sight, but the singular Partial Invisibility mentioned earlier is clearly partitioned for this area specifically. 

  “Into the Beast’s Belly” holds no bars, pretty much presenting the crescendo of its action right from the start as the synth pounds away. Despite being such a short song, not even clocking in over 1:30, it is constantly rocking the boat, demanding that the action that isn’t consistently exciting in the level be so. While it definitely shouldn’t be disregarded, it is easy to see that this work would fit well in any action centered map.

  What Metal has going for it is a gentle balance of serviceable looks, engaging action, and an overall positive existence. It is a step in the right direction, and a fine proof of competency with thematic pairing.

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Map 09: Stronghold
 

  The power that lies within Stronghold is exceptionally used for the duration of its stay. It is a barrage of action constantly streamed into the player’s face, and is a style of techbase so well produced that it would have created a renaissance of technology if more maps of the time attempted to replicate what it managed. What, then, makes it such a controversial piece in the eyes of so many individuals?

  To start, Stronghold has the highest enemy count of any IWAD at 297, beating out even Go 2 It at 206. This is due to the level being filled with hitscanners, including Chaingunners, compressed into very tight groups. These hordes are guaranteed to whittle away at Doomguy’s health through sheer probability alone, as the amount of bullets flying is practically undodgeable. There is hardly a break from the constant bodies being sent your way, and active players will barely have a second to release the trigger, let alone switch weapons appropriately. 

  The blessing in disguise here is that these zombies will constantly be dropping their weapons, and ammunition will never be an issue, allowing for worries of supply to be left behind. Health is plentiful, especially for those hunting for the map’s eleven secrets, all of which are relatively unique in their own regard save the line of terminals in the teleporter room. There are very few points where you will lack cover to deal with the tyrades of gunners, and the visual glory of lining a hallway with dozens of bodies is something that the original Doom titles don’t achieve very often. 

  One concern that is seen with the fight composition is how having to chew through zombie after zombie is on its own monotonous. This is why Stronghold is so significant, it handles the taut balance of Doom’s monsters in a way that makes the zombies dangerous. More often than not, the waves of undead will be coming from more than a single direction, nullifying both the rate of fire from the Chaingun and the spread from the shotguns as a crutch. This flanking is also possible on the player’s end, as the secrets provide safer vantage points against being overwhelmed, such as the alcove near the exit. Anyone that would rather play the map safe can make use of these with fruitful results. The largest issue with having so many monsters out in one place is the all ghost glitch, which is far easier to trigger here than any other commercial Doom product, but that is already an exploit possible with respawning monsters, and more difficult to execute without that feature active.

  This level manages to be very well fleshed out for a techbase. The walls are lined with green metal, occasionally breaking into a section of brick separated by support columns. This is a style that has caught on observably, as many techbases nowadays do their best to cram as many support beams as possible in order to break up their usual monotony. There are several abstractions that seem very plausible as a possible space, such as the secret teleport experiment room. The progression allows the map to constantly interconnect in creative and useful ways, assisting in the flow of the run and gun attitude. 

  “Sadistic” feels much better here than it does in System Control. The fast tempo is much better suited for the rapidity of the Chaingun than the slow hum of the Berserk fist, and the constant clustering of gunners does much better at keeping the stakes consistent with the music than the sprinkling that System Control uses. 

  There are few maps in the IWADs, let alone Final Doom, that I would call a rip roaring good time. Stronghold provides a grandiose sense of action, expansive yet well condensed layout, and music that fits the necessity for action. The culmination of these elements results in a fantastic map. It is well deserving of imitation and praise.

 

  Yeah I don’t think daily is happening. I’ll just put these out as fast as I can proof them.

  On another note, does anyone have a copy of that video that Jim Lowell put out on his time making Ballistyx for TNT? I found it a while ago but lost the link, and it’s not popular enough to pop up anywhere I’m afraid. His channel was something generic like “The PC Doctor God” or whatever, and he had a lot of interesting insight on the process.

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7 hours ago, Alfonso said:

Mount Pain has more enemies than Stronghold tho.

I guess that's my mistake for trusting exclusively what the port was telling me, but taking Lost Souls out of the questions puts Mount Pain at 290. It's contentious, but if the game doesn't consider Lost Souls in the monster count, I'm not either. 

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Map 10: Redemption
 

  Redemption passes by in a flash. It is so short, so bland, and so samey throughout, that it is difficult to talk about at length. It does not create any egregious faults, nor do its visual motifs create any repulsive emotion. Redemption, a title meaning a great reclamation of some status, simply exists on its own, separated from the engagement many other maps offer.

  The worst of its features are above and beyond the monster placement. Different types of demons attack from seemingly random locations and intervals. Monster closets continuously open up in the starting area, bringing spatterings of Imps and gunners to the fray. Pinkies and Revenants are held harmlessly in courtyards, unable to fight back as the player picks them apart with the early Super Shotgun. Two Arachnotrons bumble about in front of the Yellow Key, unable to work past one another to get a good line of sight in the room. Cacodemons sit humbly outside of the switch towers that activate the Yellow Key stairs, only awoken when the player peers out the window, and are very easily missable. The Yellow Key itself will cause a closet of miscellaneous grunts and one Baron to pour in, all unable to escape the confines of the room, and easily torn to shreds by the Plasma Rifle. Singular big monsters, such as the Hell Knight in the first ambush, and the Mancubus after picking up the SSG, seem to only exist to act as ammo sinks, when all types of ammo, including Plasma, are nearly impossible to empty. 

  The five secrets in this map are actually one: a Backpack hidden in the first lift. Many of the sectors leading up to the Backpack are marked as well, and are somewhat difficult to tag with speed. This is an error very frequently seen with sloppy sector splitting and grouping, and seeing as Thy Flesh Consumed faced a similar issue, it brings intrigue as to the technology and testing put towards this map. From a viewing perspective, Redemption is harmless, consisting of another myriad of metal split up by a pair of grassy courtyards. Its use of space is commendable, maximizing the square footage in order to make the eleven Chaingunners as threatening as they can muster. Otherwise, it simply makes for tight navigation of a level that is mostly one direction. 

  “Infinite”, while being a relatively satisfying atmosphere setter on its own, is unfortunately a humdrum downer that blends right into the rest of Redemption when used in this way. The map does nothing in terms of geometry, lighting, or any pieces of mood setting in order to warrant a slow piece moving it along, and unfortunately claims one of the longer songs on the TNT soundtrack. 

  While the entirety of this map is very easy to remember moments after playing it, considering that I had no idea what I was getting into upon opening it, I doubt that any of the few positive aspects of the misfired firecracker are going to stick.

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>The five secrets in this map are actually one: a Backpack hidden in the first lift. Many of the sectors leading up to the Backpack are marked as well, and are somewhat difficult to tag with speed

The rare id Anthology/Mac version and the Unity port fix that.

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On 8/12/2022 at 6:43 PM, General Roasterock said:

...

 

Stronghold provides a grandiose sense of action, expansive yet well condensed layout, and music that fits the necessity for action. The culmination of these elements results in a fantastic map. It is well deserving of imitation and praise.

 

My main introduction to Stronghold was around 2016 through the Nightmare runs, which is just a joy to watch, a slow dance that tells a compelling story in itself with how much backtracking over previously cleared areas you have to do. It's also one of those rare demos that you can feel the player's mental state, because Ancalagon, normally a very effortless-feeling player, has very 'procedural' movements here. 

 

Maps like Stronghold, and how it and its progeny (like TNT:R map08) are memorable and successful just by pumping comical overdoses of hitscanners at you, lend a lot of credence to the idea that mapping has a "normalcy" bias in that people tend to be averse to "gimmicks" and extremes and just want to follow some idea of standardness and dogma. (Even extreme maps, like niche slaughter, can sometimes feel standard within their own wheelhouse.) It seems like a lot of TNT's charm was is not having that dogma to fall back on, making everything up as they go. I like it sometimes when maps really commit to a bit. At least there's a lot of value in a map being That Map Where They Do X, for many Xs. Like: if you want a map where you can hop from one window to another, really distant one repeatedly and fight something right after the jump, [this map] is your thing; or if you want to use invul in incidental combat to charge through things recklessly and maybe get yourself into more trouble than you started, [this other map] is your thing. And Stronghold (or more likely its modern TNT progeny) is the designated haha funny hitscanner map for one's own personal catalog. 

 

The tone I read as a modern player (playing it on UV myself, to be super clear lol) is "funny" -- all these zombies packed into confines that might normally contain maybe 80 monsters, 120 if the mapper is feeling frisky. That's if you can see past the frustration. Though health is common and ammo is infinite, health bottlenecks that result after you get blasted down by a surprise or a mistake, far away from the nearest free or secret berserk, are very possible. 

 

Progression is kind of janky and weird in that old style. The technology is "new" after all; wiring up switches and doors to do logical, signposted things was not well understood yet. But I appreciate how there are switches that apparently do nothing but open and close one-sided bulletproof windows, which you can even toggle. There's that computer console downstairs that does two separate things. There are weird stairs that get built (which actually seem more like attempts at ladders being placed now that I think of it, being very steep "stairs" in the crate rooms). The 64-wide hallways (with that always comical "open door, get a 64x64 cube with one monster in it, rinse and repeat, another monster this time" setup) spring open madly. The technology is weird, which can be confusing when it's for progression, but it's fun when it's not. 

 

As ott and clunky as Stronghold is, it has an identity, it's trying to have an identity. And that counts for a lot. 

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12 hours ago, baja blast rd. said:

Maps like Stronghold, and how it and its progeny (like TNT:R map08) are memorable and successful just by pumping comical overdoses of hitscanners at you, lend a lot of credence to the idea that mapping has a "normalcy" bias in that people tend to be averse to "gimmicks" and extremes and just want to follow some idea of standardness and dogma. (Even extreme maps, like niche slaughter, can sometimes feel standard within their own wheelhouse.)

I feel as maps nowadays are going further and further into crafting more extensive and unique identities for themselves, at least on the expert level, the idea of the classic difficulty and design normalcy is nearly nonexistent. What makes most of these maps as impressive as they are is the fact that they are subverting from that norm of romping around green and gray spaceports like Doom II, the ideas are so far removed. Stronghold is as zippy as it is because of exactly what you’re saying. Dare I even mention anything Ribbiks has made? Mechanical Embrace could fill the thread with points by itself. Extremes are absolutely on the rise.

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Map 11: Storage Facility

 

  Storage Facility takes the crate maze from Containment Area and ramps it up, literally. The verticality offered by the signature crate storage is a level above the original id’s work. Navigating the stacks is only relatively difficult, as many of the paths will take you straight to the top, where you can use the high ground to your advantage and drop down into whichever section is desired. The blackout room has a Light Amplification Visor, completely neutering the intensity of having to dodge Mancubi in the dark, and supplying the player with a Plasma Rifle that ultimately is only useful on one group of enemies due to the lack of ammo for it.

  The combat is oppressive compared to the past ten maps. The preliminary outposts before the storage building are hit or miss, but once inside, it is a gripping fight for space. The feeling of a wandering Chaingunner looming overhead just out of view never leaves until the map is cleared, and the use of placing a monster on top of a teleport spot, only for its death to uncork a flood of demons onto the crates is devilish. Revenants will act as roadblocks large enough to clog an entire gap, only to then deliver a near unavoidable explosive payload when Doomguy fights back. The amount of ammo and recovery in this level, including multiple spheres, is what keeps this threat from turning melancholic.

  It’s surprising how uniquely this map manages to reside in the set while using a majority of dull, common place textures. The crate maze, which should be the antithesis of creativity, is somehow brought into another degree of life with the new TNT logo brandished on their sides, as well as the spatters of blood on a select few groups to signal danger. The buildings that surround the center harbor are all distinct, each offering something unique in terms of pickups and fights, and they scale appropriately as the progression approaches the main attraction. The worst crime this map commits is the poor usage of the sky textures, as the Berserk building’s sky illusion slices straight through the other pieces of geometry at certain angles, making a rather unappealing visual conundrum.

  What is absolutely shocking, however, is the outdoor section that spawns an Arch-Vile in a pentagram, having the player execute an Arch-Vile Jump in order to collect an optional Megasphere. This is tech that is not utilized in any other paid Doom expansion outside of The Express Elevator to Hell, and it is done so in a rather difficult setup. Burning Barrels blocks many of the entries to the top of the crate, and the Vile is very prickly when it comes to attacking the moment it teleports in. It’s a very brave and risky position on a map that doesn’t expect anything of the sort outside of the singular sphere, and I greatly respect it for its own audacity, as well as being the cause of all of my deaths in this map.

  “Let’s Kill at Will” is above and beyond my favorite track used in TNT, and it’s a shame that it doesn’t reappear elsewhere in the WAD. The guitar riffs are the most memorable out of any new MIDI, and it is perfectly spaced out to match the back and forth action conducted. This pacing is a wonderful embodiment of the attempts TNT makes to create landscapes, to have contained stories within the progression of their maps. 

  What makes Storage Facility special is how it manages to take several commonly criticized practices and make them memorable, integral, and entertaining. It makes sporadic exploration, tight groups of numerous hitscanners, and the infamous crate maze into ideas that work, and its brave exploration of new combat and movement ideas is groundbreaking.

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Map 12: Crater

 

  TNT’s tumultuous struggle with creating maps with grandiose scale that also are able to entertain with their own intelligence take a very disappointing step from Prison to Crater. While the former is far worse in every regard, Crater shows that it’s not a one off flop, but rather a philosophy. The way that this map plods in many aspects can only be described as expected.

  For starters, for a map that sacrifices so much when it comes to action in order to create a better visual environment, Crater is ugly. It is designed on a supermassive scale, with rooms that have more than enough space to maneuver in with Doomguy’s incredible speed, but many of these rooms lack the detail to fill the space. Many of the sections, such as the crate rooms, feel like they only exist to fill in the holes that the lengthy repeating hallways create. Most of the textures don’t align properly, and the titular crater is a singular brown wall that repeats vertically all the way up to the sky. The drain tunnels that connect most of the base are incredibly boxy and underlit, providing nothing but missing kills, including an Arachnotron hidden behind a midtexture, for those that don’t find the singular Super Shotgun in a non-secret wall. The secret cavern that hides the humongous slimefall is specifically harsh, underdeveloped, and is a very unintuitive method of leading the player through an alternate route back to the main area after the level is finished, but also hides one singular Chaingunner past the lift of multiple colliding sectors that is very easy to forget about.

  Since the map is so open ended, it is tremendously easy for enemies to wander about freely. Considering that there are at least a dozen monsters that get woken up from the first gunshot, it makes for a rather rough cleanup, especially when this scenario is punctuated by singular placements such as the Imp in the lookout, or the Revenant hidden in a corner of the dark maze. Punctuated fights exist in the forms of rooms sealed off from the main passages, and all of them are well defused with the infighting capabilities of monsters like the Mancubus. None of these encounters are required outside of the Blue Key fight, and even that one has a very easily skippable second phase. The rewards from these fights are substantial, but still negotiable, with the Soulsphere being the only one of note, and the rest not being worth the trouble of moving through them. The actual crater that the title references is a barren, flat, boringly drawn area, housing a grand total of three Revenants and two Barons. They will only attack one at a time, save for the Baron and Revenant below the Red Key, and can easily be mowed down by the Rocket Launcher acquired not ten seconds before the first of these is encountered. All of the other combat past the Red Door is clusters of hitscanners, a drop of Arachnotrons, and one Arch-Vile guarding the secret lift. It’s nonsensical to say the least, and a strangely inconsistent misuse of multiple types of monster to say more. 

  Crater does not have its own music, instead coopting “The Dave D. Taylor Blues” from Doom II to relatively poor effects. Seeing as the level is already as open as it is, the nonexistent instrumental only serves to make an empty level even moreso. Without even mentioning the lack of care to give the map its own song, the depressing downward pitch swings depress the environment to levels I had not thought possible.

  As it says on the label, this level is a sinkhole created by a violent opposing force that rocks the foundation of what it is embedded upon. It devotes all of its time and effort into a factor of the level that it's not good at producing, and stands idly by as the rest of the combat and memorability suffers for it. There is no reason to keep a map that has no grasp on its own existence.

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Map 13: Nukage Processing

 

  At the price of aggravation, Nukage Processing provides some of the best intensity of the entire WAD. The difficulty is entirely surmountable with appropriate planning, and makes several open areas very interesting to move through. While there are some unfortunate issues, they do not have any impact on the wonderful feeling the flow creates. 

  Nukage Processing is a relatively concise idea: a plant that contains an unquantifiable amount of sludge with several computer rooms, generators, and a rocky courtyard. While normal traversal would take the player through a heap of hitscanners in order to reach the central nukage pool, and thus outside, the best secret in the level opens a secret passage that allows for the entire map to be open to exploration, creating a circle out of a straight line. This specific secret is what elevates the navigation, as it not only provides direct access to the Blue and Red Keys necessary to finish the level, but also to the Super Shotgun, which can be used to make short work of the zombies that line the base, as well as the horde of Pinkies roaming outside. 

  This map is incredibly daring with how it handles its combat, from littering temperamental barrels all over its most action-packed spaces, to releasing a Cyberdemon upon acquisition of the Blue Key. Mobs of zombies guard critical mechanisms and require substantial cover to handle appropriately, begging for use of the Rocket Launcher that is tucked in halfway through the map. However, ammo for it is very tight, leaving players with the delicate question of hoarding ammo for more threatening and time consuming beasts, such as the Baron rush that appears at the very end. This fight in particular can be completely ignored unfortunately, as the exit switch is visible and reachable before the nobles can even lower, but UV-Max players will have to contend with this conundrum.

  Thus, the best challenge of Nukage Processing comes in the form of its resource management. While there are indefinite amounts of shells and bullets thanks to the undead, health is something that must be remembered and tracked down. The level only provides four sets of Armor, two of which are locked away in secrets, and the singular invulnerability is tucked away in a lift in a way that limits its use to surviving the outside barrage a little longer. Health packs are spaced out across very wide margins. All of these facts make for a very unforgiving experience for those that try to roll the dice against the chance of being clipped by Shotgunners. Since this is exactly how I enjoy playing spacious levels, it managed to kill me a good ten times before I truly understood the order of operations, and evenly distributed the blame to the map’s cruelty and my own underestimation.

  The true issue that keeps this abrasiveness from being completely acceptable is the poor secret design. Five of the six secrets in the level can be triggered within the first forty-five seconds, and all reward mostly sparse ammo and crucial health in order to keep above the torrent. While the shortcut secret is very much intuitive with it being a jutting crate in the middle of the wall, it does not provide any kind of physical reward for its discovery. The rest of the map’s secrets are all hidden behind random panels that blend seamlessly into the rest of the texturing, and are only intelligently discoverable by mashing the walls. The entire process feels very much like an afterthought, punctuated by the fact that the Computer Area Map at the end will reveal all of them. Not only do these secrets need no more intuition to access than knowing where they are, but it kills their usefulness if the map is already over. 

  “Death’s Bells” returns for this map, and it brings the atmosphere of Wormhole to its knees. This level manages to give the strings a more panicked quality with how much needs to be done in order to succeed. 

Aside from this, the song stays mostly unengaged in the workings of the level, phasing in and out of consciousness as the combat swells.

  While not being a visual wonder, or a level that managed to hide items well, Nukage Processing is a feisty wakeup call to the player. It is uniquely challenging, memorably balanced, and a fine proof of the ability for modern maps to put pressure on how management is done with supplies.

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Map 14: Steel Works

 

  Steel Works is composed primarily of oddities. While very much identifiable as its title, there is a large portion of the map that is made of strange hallways and tunnels, filled to the brim with as many Things as possible. While not necessarily a bad experience, the enigmatic presence of this map leaves a lot to talk about.

  In fitting with the name, Steel Works is composed nearly entirely of sheet metal that surrounds a variety of crushers pounding away at liquid material. These crushers are incorporated into the level in the forms of both detailing and environmental hazards, along with the liquids they churn being damaging floors, some of which are mandatory to traverse. The level never forces you to take damage from these hazards, but it is possible to miss the Radiation Suit tucked away in the back corner of the room with the massive crusher section. This does not include the secrets that require pain floor crossing, but this is a tradeoff for extra supplies rather than the way forward.

  What is less notable about the map is that it joins the long line of TNT levels that unleash hordes of Zombiemen, Shotgunners, and Chaingunners, and call it a day. The gameplay for Steel Works involves holding down the trigger on the Chaingun and watching as 176 Undead drop dead without protest. The most difficult challenges that this map can offer are taking out the inopportune Chaingunners, getting the drop on two individual Pain Elementals, and making sure that your eyes don’t glaze over for the rest. Not even the Spider Mastermind that ends the level is a considerable threat, as the danger from its stature is completely negated by the tons of cover in the starting room. 

  Moving throughout the space is strange, the entire level tasks the player with collecting the Red Key and doubling back the way they came to use the Red Switch at the start. The back tracking phase is made interesting through the repopulation of every area but the issue is that this mechanic acts as an excuse for sealing away monsters, such as the nonsecret Chaingunner compartment in the lookalike small crusher room, behind walls that take above average platforming skill to reach. 

  “Cold Subtleness” is unconventional by even TNT standards. Many of the instruments outside of the bass are uncommon for IWAD music. Even if Steel Works needed another unconventional element, it’s hard to match the twinkly wonder of this song to the harsh lifeless factory setting, or the sprays of viscera released from hundreds of demons. 

  Attempting to take all of the map’s pieces in at once rounds it out to a rather mellow vista. There is only cold monotony in the environment, combat, and at times even the music. Just like an untempered and cooled metal, Steel Works is dull, but mostly harmless.

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Map 15: Dead Zone

 

  Dead Zone is a horrendous mess, a class of its own, a contorted mass not understandable by many. It fails on nearly every front, and is not funny enough to make up for its bumbling nature. The entire map takes place in an abstract building surrounded by an outer ring, unique to those unfamiliar with deathmatch, but also bringing upon a new set of unmet challenges.

  We’ll start on combat with the objective issues: Dead Zone has two enemies that are completely unreachable without an exploit. The tag that raises the sector that allows a Cacodemon and Pain Elemental to close in does not exist, leaving the two flying demons trapped in the pit. It is possible to lure a monster over to that area, and use their body to autoaim a rocket in the direction of the pit with the hopes of having the splash damage wake them. This technique involves staying alive in the hellish crossfire for long enough to guide a demon into position, manage to hold it in place long enough to take out the Rocket Launcher, and not have the body of the target block the splash radius in order for it to reach the two hefty beasts, making the entire ordeal an incredibly calculated, high skill ceiling gamble. For brevity’s sake, these two monsters can not be killed. 

  The other 94 enemies that populate Dead Zone either have free range to wander the entire expanse, or are sealed away in compartments that Doom’s enemy behavior will not allow them to leave. Every Chaingunner in this level acts as a turret, dug into the walls in groups in order to catch any wandering player that doesn’t path to kill them first. Singular Revenants walk along the edges of the walls, acting as intense sources of damage whenever they can squeeze a missile through a window. These Revenants are placed in front of skyboxes that will slurp up any explosion that it shot their way, meaning the only way to fight them is to skate below their feet and hope they can be damaged enough before the wall of projectiles careening towards you catches up. There is a singular Arch-Vile sitting in a cage that is borderline harmless to anyone that is able to move. 

  The central setpiece for the map is what is one of the worst teleport trap in the IWADs: a collection of eleven Imps, two Pinkies, a Spectre, and an Arch-Vile. It’s placed dead center in the structure, allowing the Vile to wander wherever it likes should it not be killed immediately by the assortment of firepower provided. These locations that the Vile can travel to include the strangely complex branching hallway sealed off by a door, allowing this demon to resurrect a fine assortment of ghost monsters for anyone not expecting them. The entire assortment is held within the same very wide closet, so it is entirely impossible to know which of the bunch will appear first. The chances of getting the Arch-Vile first and having to deal with it as more monsters close in, and getting it last and having it teleport directly on top of the corpses are entirely equal in the eyes of dumb luck. 

  Navigation on this map is surprisingly horrid for something as open ended. Several switches around the base do seemingly nothing, it is very easy to launch yourself off the center platform only to have to find one of the jutting lifts to bring yourself back, and the secrets range from odd to encrypted. The many snaking tunnels that connect certain parts of the structure are completely arbitrary, existing sometimes to only hide a singular Imp, or one powerup. The mechanism for accessing the Partial Invisibility is lowered by pressing a switch a good forty feet away from it, but will then raise again after the sphere has been collected, even though there is no reason to use it again. Acquiring the BFG involves using a switch that’s on the other side of the map, facing away from the pillar that the weapon is perched upon. The secret exit isn’t even marked as a secret, despite being hidden away inside of the Berserk secret, not rewarding anything for multiple layers of convolution. 

  It is surprising how ugly the map is. Even ignoring how easy it is to peer down into the holes that contain several monster closets, the geometry of the techbase can only be described as completely random. It combines a nukage pool, computer storage, multiple lookouts, and even a body of still water all into a single building, only serving to create thematic whiplash. The entire outer wall is coated in a singular brown texture, clashing with the jutting grays where the lifts sit. There’s a strange affinity for circles in the construction, with two and a half being noticeable upon first entry to the center, strangely detailed in comparison to the rest. 

  “Smells like a Burning Corpse” feels disingenuous here, without purpose. Both of its uses are on maps below par, bringing its synths to a grating conclusion. There isn’t much to say in regards to its purpose, as it feels like this map is using it to create action that the player has to enforce by sprinting around the entire island in order to wake everything up. It’s one of the few maps in TNT that I feel would work better with a more laid back atmospheric piece, something that can bring out the isolation that this map presents. 

  Dead Zone is a shambling husk of an experience, deaf to the world of level design, and daft in its application of its fellow creators’ principles. It’s a mangled mess that strains to make a threatening environment by piecing together a handful of elements that do not work. From producer to consumer, it is a waste of time.

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On 8/7/2022 at 11:58 AM, Azure_Horror said:

Respectfully dissagree.

1) TNT:Revilution is not Plutonia. IMHO, it is wrong to assume that pistol starts are the intended way to play this WAD for the 1st time. 

Yeah, most people play continuous, and this probably applied to most of Team TNT. Maps may be designed around Pistol Start, simply because that's way easier to do, and you kinda have to be able to beat a level if you're playing with original behavior where you lose everything and start the level over when killed, unless you manually load a save.

 

When asked about it regarding Plutonia, Dario actually said that they intended the maps to be playable Pistol Start but also that the levels were expected to be played continuously, and they kept that in mind.

 

You can find stuff like Cell Packs in a secret in one TNT level as described, but with no weapon to use it with. Sure, there's no use for it at the moment, so for purely Pistol Starting it's useless, but you will eventually find a Plasma Rifle in a later map, and thus those Cell Packs really pay off. There's no way that this was not the intent with this secret.

 

On 8/7/2022 at 11:58 AM, Azure_Horror said:

2) But arguably 1st time players should enter the map with full continuous arsenal in mind. Pistol starters may be assumed to already know the map.

Agree.

 

On 8/7/2022 at 11:58 AM, Azure_Horror said:

For my part, I am not the biggest Wormhole fan out there, but I think that the above critisms are a bit unwaranted.

I do like Wormhole, but I'll have to admit that the gimmick is a bit halfbaked in its delivery. Carrying over stuff for continuous play definitely helps with the combat though, obviously.

 

This thread made me reconsider the level somewhat.

 

On 8/8/2022 at 2:58 AM, General Roasterock said:

Even completely ignoring the balancing for players should they happen to have died in the middle of one the levels, it’s difficult to identify any form of transition or narrative point which explains that there’s a right way to play the collection.

I don't really think that point matters. The game lets you carry over stuff between levels by default, so clearly you're supposed to be allowed to do it, just the same it lets you save and load, so you can bypass the behavior of starting the player with no stuff after they die.

Importantly, also, the Doom 95.exe which Final Doom shipped with allows you to pick any map in the .wad to Pistol Start as you please.

 

Thus I deduce that it's up for the individual player to decide their approach.

 

On 8/8/2022 at 2:58 AM, General Roasterock said:

I might just play this set continuously one time through after I’m finished with all the difficulties in the last episode now that I’ve read this. While most modern mappers don’t give it a second thought, and I still feel that TNT is better balanced for pistol start, I would enjoy finding that perspective.

I recommend that you do if you don't usually play continuously. Potentially give it a run with Fast Monsters enabled, if you think carrying stuff over makes things too easy.

 

On 8/9/2022 at 3:55 AM, General Roasterock said:

Map 08: Metal

Cannot agree at all, I think Metal is a bad level, the combat isn't engaging and the progression and exploration is unfun, the mandatory secrets piss me off and the map is just not that nice to look at.

"Into The Beast's Belly" is a favorite track of mine, but I remember it better for Mt. Pain and Last Call.

 

On 8/15/2022 at 12:00 AM, General Roasterock said:

Map 10: Redemption

Cannot agree more with this one. It's interesting just how uninteresting and bland Redemption is as a level. It isn't bad or awful, but it's not exciting and fun either, it merely is.

 

Playing Perdition's Gate a few years back, I noticed that quite a lot of the levels were very similar to Redemption, like down to design philosophy, and I did not have a very good time (having one bland map as filler is one thing, but dozens of them...!). I guess I like Tom Mustaine's compositions far better than his levels.

 

On 8/27/2022 at 4:15 PM, General Roasterock said:

Map 15: Dead Zone

I think Dead Zone is an enjoyable level overall, I like the teleport trap in the big circular room, I like all the cramped and narrow tunnels hidden in the walls. Progression is maybe a little awkward though. The unkillable monsters is not a big deal to me.

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9 hours ago, ChopBlock223 said:

The game lets you carry over stuff between levels by default, so clearly you're supposed to be allowed to do it, just the same it lets you save and load, so you can bypass the behavior of starting the player with no stuff after they die.

I am completely fine with saying it's completely a player preference and leaving it at that, but it's undeniable that pistol starting every level has been possible since the original executables, and saying that saves for weapon preservation are an option also rules in the opposite. I have no real way to portray its importance outside of establishing it as a basis for my diagnoses. 

I'll drop a writeup whenever this continuous run gets finished, but it is about as I expected with the change of tactics. Fast Monsters is definitely a good idea to offset that, but at some point I feel like I'm going to drift to far from my original basis. Ultimately I don't think it matters outside of just having more information.

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Map 31: Pharaoh

 

  The lumping of this map in with the greats of TNT is confusing. It’s definitely unique in comparison to the past fifteen techbases, but the Egyptian theming does not exist beyond a few hieroglyphic textures and bricks that have aged like milk. It’s an absolute goober of a map, one whose goober nature makes for an actually enjoyable experience.

  In yet another motion of WAD incompetence, Pharaoh does not include the Yellow Key in single player. While being completely necessary to UV-Max the map, the key only shows up on multiplayer. The only way the map is even exitable is through a maneuver that allows you to skip straight to the final Shotgunner fight, but this skip omits nearly the entire map. It is impossible in the original release of the level to complete the entire thing outside of multiplayer. This does not include the fact that the switch that raises after the Red Key is acquired can be pressed before the teleport block raises, which is another softlock that is less discussed. Final Doom was sold for money.

  Despite being a level that prides itself off of a completely new locale, the Egyptian architecture is made up mostly of Doom II’s brick textures, and relies very heavily on open spaces to grasp the feeling of a vast journey. The ceilings are raised very high to the point of nigh obscurity. Outdoor areas are comprised entirely of singular rock textures, seeming a bit too evenly distributed to be true cliffsides. Some of the wooden buildings are built quite intricately, such as the switch that begins the outdoor brawl, but they are too few and too far between.

  What really sticks out about this map is how it seems to flow on buffoonery. To provide an example, one fight teleports two Arch-Viles one at a time in a large open room through a handful of cages. This room is guarded by Shotgunners that not only have the high ground and are entrenched within buildings, but they are completely covered by opaque midtextures, entirely obscured from view, despite being able to still shoot back. Using the two switches at the back end of the room will raise two rectangular rocks at the opposite end. These rocks are also switches, despite having zero texturing indicating such, and they raise a large chunk of land back in the fountain room that leads to a secret sector. In order to reach the switch that opens the door to continue progressing, the player must perform all of the above actions. Strange is an understatement. 

  This is not the only instance. The room with the Yellow Key hides a switch in a completely unmarked wall that does nothing but open the booby trapped coffin, and release eight more Spectres into the dark tunnels. You can find a Blue Armor in a secret, only to be given another one immediately after the Pain Elemental fight by the Blue Key. The levitating Cyberdemon, while being interesting in a combat sense due to the splash from its rockets being much more prominent on the floor, is a visual that is unmatched at any point in the map. The secret exit is hidden in the armory that is located right next to the regular one. It's an abstract kind of Egypt that only rides the train of thought.

  “Legion of the Lost” is above and beyond the highlight of this map, but its presence is already spoiled by the fact that it is also the intermission music. That being said, there is nothing like it in any of the commercial Doom releases. It speaks of adventure, solace, and an untimely peace known to the strong. The idea of an Egyptian level being married to a piece that evokes emotion so unlike the Doom norm would be groundbreaking. The only issue is that the level in question has a gray sewer, a flat field of Mancubi, and a missing Yellow Key.

  While the combat is well stated, even fun in the Red Key fight, Pharaoh does more to be odd than it does to be good. A vast expanse of land and imagination could not save it from its own hubris and extraneousness. Still, its shortcomings are magical on their own, and its discourse gives it every right to be remembered.

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The mistagged Yellow Key is on iD Software, Team TNT actually caught that error and sent a fix in many months before release, but for whatever reason this update was only reflected in a minority of Final Doom releases (the Anthology Box is fixed I believe). There is also a small patch one can use, though I don't know when that was released.

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On 8/30/2022 at 11:42 PM, ChopBlock223 said:

The mistagged Yellow Key is on iD Software, Team TNT actually caught that error and sent a fix in many months before release, but for whatever reason this update was only reflected in a minority of Final Doom releases (the Anthology Box is fixed I believe). There is also a small patch one can use, though I don't know when that was released.

Looks like the patch dates from January 1997:
http://teamtntmemorial.doomgate.de/bugfixes.htm

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