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dobu gabu maru

The DWmegawad Club plays: Down the Drain

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5 minutes ago, Benjogami said:

Let’s see if I have any more fun facts…

Wow, the Choke lore is deeper than I thought!

 

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MAP27: Lakeside Rentals

UV, pistol start, no saves

100% kills, 2/2 secrets

 

The classic hell aesthetic with red rock, lava, marble, and wood. It's a compact little map where you travel around the perimeter of the lava pool, and eventually get to the exit on an island in the center. Radiohead's back in the soundtrack, with a cool rendition of We Suck Young Blood. It fits well.

 

Really enjoyed this one. You start off with a shotgun and chaingun and come upon a room full of imps, revenants, and hell knights. I let the arachnotron across the pond take care of the bigger guys. Eventually you come across a very obviously trapped BFG, and you get to see tons of carnage with that right away. I'm curious to try whittling down the huge group of archviles that occupy the exit area with rockets here. I ended the map with tons of rockets so I'm sure that's a perfectly good strategy. I was able to take down the full group of them at the end regardless, but it got quite hairy.

 

Probably one of my favourites, has a neat layout and enjoyed the cool mini-slaughter nature of its fights.

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Maps in the order of preference - Final list

Spoiler

Map 20   The Top of the Bottom.

Map 28   Closing Crush

Map 26   Everyone Loves the Beach. (up a bit)

Map 14   The Perfect Human Cage.

Map 03   Private Island.

 

Map 23   Valley of Mirth (up)

Map 01   From: Unknown. (up)

Map 31   Down the Drain. (up)

Map 21   Niven’s Ravine

Map 25   The Three Buffets

 

Map 06   Baloney Town.

Map 02   Someone's Castle. (down)

Map 19   The Empty Box Abyss.

Map 17   Passive Social Test Lab.

Map 30   The Great Filter

 

Map 18   Slime Activation Facility.

Map 04   Kick the Can. (up)

Map 32   ww1.wad. (down)

Map 27   Lakeside Rentals.

Map 11   Cache Raiders.(down)

 

Map 07   The Perfect Gerbil Cage. (down)

Map 05   Rolling Down.

Map 29   Choke

Map 16   Vidhead. (up)

Map 13   Vet and process.

 

Map 12   Into the Tomb. (up)

Map 09   Forts and Alleys.

Map 08   Deep Tech.

Map 15   Doors of Opportunities.

 

Maps I don't care much about either way

Map 24   Designland.

 

Maps I sincerely dislike (in order of preference too)

Map 22   Pournelle's Hole.

Map 10   Here n There, Now n Then.

 

Writing a satisfiying final word proves to be harder than it seemed at first. It is either too long, or too disjoined...

For now, I add two texts about two maps, about which I wanted to say a few more words.

 

Map 23 Valley of Mirth re-evaluted

Spoiler

 

My initial few playthroughs of this map did not impress me much in the gameplay department.

However, Valley of Mirth has my favorite midi for fighting trough demon hordes. In all standard DSDA-doom soundfonts, the midi manages to sound even more epic than the original music from which the midi was made.

 

For the music alone, I decided to replay the map again. And this time, I decided a) - to get the secret at the very start and b) to not worry about the BFG.

And this improved my experience tremendously!

Forget about disabling the archvile closet, do not worry about the megasphere too much – Plasma Rifle is the main prize! It is the true gamechanger on this map: in long and narrow passages of Valley of Mirth, Plasma Rifle is the most convenient weapon imaginable. It is effective against both stray cybers and inconvenient pain Elementals. It is arguably better than BFG in some cases. And, unlike BFG, plasma rifle is not guarded by a gang of cyberdemons.

 

With plasma at hand, all my previous complaints are almost eliminated. I really underestimated the humble plasma rifle, when I was writing my original review. The map greatly improved its standings in my eyes, especially because I always love maps where the plasma rifle is strong. Doubly so, if BFG is also effective, but the plasma can compete.

 

 

Map 17 Passive Social Test Lab (UV, pistol start, with saves, as usual)

 

I really want to ask @Benjogami, how this map came to be. It is looks like the most spontaneous map of the set. My favorite element of the map is slightly missaligned geometry of many diagonal walls. Doom monsters can walk only in 8 different directions, so all those offset walls make the demons go in slightly weird patterns. Given that the map naturally encoursges a lot of monster herding, those weird pathing abnormalies are noticable.

 

All in all, this map seems to be set up to create a very polarising first impression. Even with cheats, it is hard to find that there is a BFG until the very moment you reach it. The same is true for the location of yellow key. We also have that two archviles crowds, many roaming nastiness, imcluding revenants, viles and cybers. And the name is an incing on the cake: "It's just a prank, bro social experiment".

 

However, the name should read in different way: "patience, diligence and resolve will lead you to success". The map has surprisng amount of hiding spots and convenient quirks, which the player can use to their advantage. Only one truly hard challenge is required for reaching the exit - the vile horde near the end. The great archvile fence is also somewhat brutal, but it is not hard. However, it does require a lot of patience and diligence. Finally, cyberdemons can be avoided by careful movement. The passages on this map are wide enough to allow it.

 

In the end, this map was extremely memorable, and had quite a few suprising gameplay tricks. Really wish it had one invulnerabilty somewehere... Choosing an annoying part ot skip could have sped up the playthrough, while making additional room for planning!

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29 minutes ago, Azure_Horror said:

I really want to ask @Benjogami, how this map came to be. It is looks like the most spontaneous map of the set.

Yeah, went into it with a mostly empty head, just started drawing lines. There are a lot of other maps like that, but 17 turned out pretty different, so I suppose I did have some kind of plan, or maybe it was just that I started with the big strokes. That's a common way for me to map, where I'll draw the whole map or the biggest features first, in a low resolution chunky kind of way, and then chisel it down to add the smaller layout features. I find that when I have no ideas to go on, just slapping something down will usually get the gears turning.

 

For this one, I remember stalling out after doing most of the lines, but when I came back to it on another day the gameplay happened pretty easily. I didn't have any ideas for gameplay on that first day other than "open map with wandering monsters." I'm pretty sure the long vile cage was drawn and even populated with viles before I conceived the puzzle. If the little hallway that opens up to pass you through to the red key looks haphazard, well... it was :D Some of the best ideas occur while testing!

 

I don't think I even considered the gameplay for the post red/blue door area until the first area was done.

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map 15: DNF

 

    A quirky map that runs with its concept.  Hallway full of doors: leading to surprises, goodies, and danger.  Mostly danger.  I've seen maps or at least portions of maps with a similar idea but none that takes the concept to the extreme this one does.  For instance, the triggers for opening the doors varies.  Some are opened by walkovver lines, some are opened by switches that raise out of the ground (and can be used early if you know they're there, which seems intentional), some open up via switches in other rooms, and so on.  There's also the puzzle element, both in working out how to progress and orchestrating a sequence to gather sufficient arms to prevent being overrun by more monsters than one has the ability to handle.  The first group of archviles facing a key sets a tone for this level to not recklessly charge in guns blazing.

    I never actually died to that first archvile pack; it's other stuff on the map that got me.  Being caught under a surprise crusher was the most memorable of them.  There's also hellknight sandwich when rushing for a rocket launcher and being shredded by chaingunners.  I haven't devoted enough time to this map to route and dissect in but there's more depth to this than first appearances would suggest.

 

map 31: DNF

 

     Hahaha, this is monotonous monster grinding raised to an artform.  I can find amusement in the setup even if it takes a certain mindset to make a serious attempt at playing it.  Whereas similar maps like Nostril Caverns and World Orifice play more like linear corridor grinds, this one takes a bit more routing to come out victorious.  I believe it's Roofl who did a good writeup on the overall strategy to win this so I'm not going to bother retreading that ground.  I see value in utilizing the teleport lines to alert smaller groups, then retreating over them so that monsters pursue the player and can be eliminated without alerting more in the square they came from.

    I did make a serious stab at this to see how long I'd last.  Some archviles got loose before I was ready and destroyed me.  There's a clear sense of advancement in how many squares on the grid you control which can be appealing.  And each sector where the resident archviles are eliminated provide a sense of escalating victory.  There's an almost meditative aspect to the room clearing so this can appeal to those in the mood for such an experience.

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MAP28: Closing Crush

UV, pistol start, no saves

100% kills, 3/3 secrets

 

A hellish cliff area with some classic demonic architecture, including a "Mt Erebus-ian" fireblu building. A nice open layout that doesn't contain any keys, the goal is to just hit a switch guarded by a cyberdemon and then reach the exit which is swarming in hell knights. Countless other threats in between. The midi this time is a driving Nirvana midi, suits the map's action well.

 

The hardest part of this map is basically figuring out how to get started. I probably died to this map more than any other just doing that. In the starting area there are 4 columns that lower in revenants when you get too close to them, with each column also containing some items. My method of choice was to chaingun some of the imps at the start, and then go for the SSG and make sure that I trigger the rocket launcher revenants on the way. I just kill the imps to make sure I have more room to grab the rocket launcher and hightail it out. I then go inside the cave with the marble architecture outside to grab the rockets, but make sure not to trigger the teleport ambush by getting too close to the door. I then use these rockets to take down the archie that gets released, and use whatever else on the rest (as well as rocket the remaining revenant columns).

 

From here the rest of the map still isn't much of a cakewalk. I had a nearly successful run fail due to running out of ammo. In my successful run, I mitigated this danger by just running through the hell knight cave and grabbing the soulsphere, and then letting all the hell knights gather at that soulsphere cliff. You can then lure a cyberdemon rocket over to them and he should kill all of them for you. Saves a ton of ammo. From here on it's less strategizing and more "just don't die". If you applied the strategy with the cyberdemon killing the hell knights earlier, you should be able to get away with a little bit of ammo wastefulness (lord knows I wasted a few BFG shots against that archie that opens up with the hell knights).

 

One of the tougher maps, but goes by relatively quickly and has a steady flow. Another one of my favourites of the set, had a lot of fun with it.

 

MAP29: Choke

UV, pistol start, no saves

100% kills, 0/1 secrets

 

MAP29 eschews the common epic penultimate map formula, and gives us a cute little gimmick. One red brick fortress full of hell knights, and one green marble fortress full of revenants. It seems quite overwhelming at first, especially because only the SSG is within reach from the start, but it's really not so bad. I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off for several minutes before realizing you can alternate opening the doors on each fortress quite steadily and rapidly without the arena getting too overwhelming (and there are a lot of megaspheres in case of error). Eventually you'll be able to get a rocket launcher to help speed up the cleanup process. The cyberdemons are the most chokeable (lol) part. They are quite awkward to kill, particularly getting that first BFG, but once those are dead and you have their keys you are done. The midi choice is coo, the very solemn Exit Music (For a Film). Nice little reference to the lyrics in the map title as well.

 

MAP30: The Great Filter

UV, pistol start, no saves

25% kills, 0/0 secrets

 

One more Radiohead midi closes us out. Of course, within the confines of midi Like Spinning Plates doesn't sound nearly as wild as the original, but it's nice. The level itself is a small hellish cave with a blood fall in the center and a ton of monster spawners. I didn't bother killing the 4 cyberdemons because doing that allows the room to get too crazy and makes it very difficult to finish the level, so I settled for just speeding through it (one of them got telefragged though!). To finish the level, hit the big tall megasphere switches in reverse order of height (of course the less smooth order of hitting them), and if you do it fast enough you can get to the Romero-head at the center of the bloodfall and punch him out. The timing is quite tight, and those cyberdemons are menaces. Probably the truest to 90s mapping, it's an IoS level that I didn't enjoy much at all. Guess you can say I got filtered (groan). 

 

Final thoughts:

Knowing the author going into this, I did indeed expect to get clobbered and maybe have to turn down the difficulty at points. But to my surprise it was mostly accessible, although a few maps still did kick my ass a little bit. The visuals for the first while were a turn-off, but they do grow on you and serve up some nice-looking maps (my favourites being the techbase episode and our brief adventure into the void). The midi soundtrack is great, I'm biased as a big Radiohead fan but the choices also didn't clash with the maps which was nice, often being great complements.

 

The gameplay in this one is really what makes it stick as memorable though. Many eccentric and varied choices, often times definitely done with the intent to annoy, but always pulled off this ample competence. As some have said, I don't think anyone will like everything there is to offer here, but there should be something for everyone. I was enjoying myself far more often than not. MAP27, MAP28, and MAP17 are some big highlights off the top of my head. I also wanted to give a special shoutout to MAP15, one that I wasn't super sure of at first but as it sat in my head after doing my writeup I realized I remembered enjoying it a lot more than I may have said. Some initial frustrations rubbed me the wrong way, but it was a fulfilling map to unravel.

 

Overall, I really liked this one a lot. It's a nice merge of vintage and modern sensibilities, and had a ton of memorable stuff. Great wad.

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Finally wrapping this wad up!

 

Spoiler

Map23: "Valley of Mirth"
288/293 kills, 1/1 secrets


Damn this map kicked my ass. It's an open brawl throughout while you're under the line of fire of several snipers, you can't really lay siege to the enemies due to the spreading out of your resources into caches and the heavy handed opposition. This map has an addiction to archviles, if it weren't for some writeups I read here I wouldn't have pieced out the secret and crusher stuff, dunno how you would intuit that on your own. I like the MIDI here, suited for the fights and the whole final sequence is pretty fun granted you use your invulnerability to get the BFG quick and partake in the mayhem. I found the automap gap to be a bit disgusting but the archvile closet being a pin the foot seems to be about to step on made me laugh. This is a map which was definitely rough to play, no doubt better on replay but definitely well crafted and I had a fun time overall.

Map24: "Designyland"
179/179 kills, 6/9 secrets


I was expecting this map to be tedious and full of annoying platforming but it was really not. I enjoyed this map a lot infact, it looks rather pretty too. The platforming didn't feel too obnoxious and the resource starvation wasn't too severe. I do have two issues though, the first being that baron group which felt comical for how annoying clearing it is and the second being that progression feels rather obtuse. Otherwise, it's another really solid level.

Map25: "The Three Buffets"
127/127 kills, 2/3 secrets


Quite a breather of a map. It seems all the missing ammo from previous levels were dumped here, there's an excess of ammo here infact. Not complaining though, this was just a good bit of decompression. The strange corridor with damaging floor was well, strange but not too much of a bother. The baron fight was actually pretty cool due to the tight layout of the map and health of the barons, I saved it for after getting the plasma rifle. Overall, this was a good bit of decompression.

Map26: "Everybody Loves The Beach"
118/118 kills, 0/0 secrets


Indeed we do. I was not expecting a map like this in dtd and frankly, despite my liking of the more strange aspects of dtd, I really loved this map. Again, ammo is placed in caches with the most essential ones being located across a sea of lava that is damaging on a few islands. You can't camp there since if the enemies pour onto the oceans, you can't actively fight on the lava oceans only and if archviles do, your chances of survival dim. I infact did this saveless, took me about 6 tries or so but it is a load of fun to do. Constantly moving, picking apart the opposition with some devious archvile use that can mess you up with how dangerous aiming for cover can get, retreating for resources since you don't have a backpack, all of these lead to a fun gameplay loop that is both exciting and satisfying to play.

Map27: "Lakeside Rentals"
112/112 kills, 1/2 secrets 

This is a rather traditional map, there's nothing too strange in it and the lighting here feels more deliberate. The map overall looks rather pretty and the circular layout works to the benefit of the central gimmick. Going around the map to dodge the archviles and hunting for more supplies, engaging with more and more enemies, it's pretty standard fun. I'd suggest cleaning out the circuit with your rockets before raising the bridge as the archviles might get overbearing.

Map28: "Closing Crunch"
183/183 kills, 3/3 secrets


This map can be rather rude on first play since you'll be scrambling for supplies tripping linedefs which bolster the opposition, a trend which continues to the end. I didn't enjoy the huge hell knight cavern because it felt rather tedious to grind out with my rocket launcher and the baron usage can get heavy at times when you don't have enough resources. But overall, I had a good time with this map and from what I've read of other writeups, it probably gets better on replay.

Map29: "Choke"
162/162 kills, 1/1 secrets 


I find the concept of this map rather interesting, especially coupled with the lore tidbit benjogami shared about this but the actual map itself was extremely boring. It's just waiting for the enemies to infight, you can speed up the process with your rocket launcher but that's not too entertaining either. Opening the doors repeatedly gets annoying and I don't know how to reliably lure the cyberdemons out to infight until later in the map. Of all the things I expected the penultimate map of a wad like drn to be, being boring wasn't on it and unfortunately, that's just how I feel about this map.

Map30: "The Great Filter"
4/4 kills, 0/0 secrets


I wish this map was as boring as the previous map because this map sucked. It has the exact same problem as traditional icon of sins except you remove annoying precise aiming with a frustrating movement sequence. Of course the ideal order is the much more awkward one to pull of, good luck if you get blocked by enemies you have no reliable way to predict spawning in and redo it again. What a disappointing ending to this wad. 


Final Thoughts on Down The Drain

I had dropped drn.wad a few times on prior playthroughs, including the one immediately before this one. It can be hostile at times, especially on blind playthroughs, but I think it improves much more on replay. I had described the combat in this wad as "hostile skirmishing" and I think a much more suited example would be map23 and map28; but overall, the combat here definitely felt unique and mostly enjoyable. The atmosphere in drn can be rather unsettling at times, best exemplified by the quiet ending of map12, the large expanses of nukage in map19, the somber MIDI in m29 and more. I think it was mostly this sense of loneliness that permeated across alot of the maps. I think from my perspective, Benjogami succeeded in establishing a "melancholic bitterness" in this wad if I could best describe it, stuck in hostility lamenting a world now lost down the drain (horrible pun intended, Im sorry :P). Each map also felt distinctive and with a lot of creative concepts which while not always landing, were atleast unique and had some charm. However, some maps were better in concept but often got frustrating and I did not enjoy playing them; 08 and 32 come to mind. But reading what the club wrote, these maps I disliked were often liked by others while maps I liked were also disliked. Infact, I don't think there was any "universally" panned map, barring maybe map32. The MIDI selections here were also pretty unique, with the exclusion of map19's track I didn't know a single one of these compositions (other than e1m1 for m32 too ig). I wouldn't recommend the wad to everyone truth be told, you have to expect unfairness at times and also be prepared to be spun around a couple of times. But overall, I actually really liked this wad overall and I'm glad I stuck to the end. Excellent work Benjogami :)

My least favorites maps were unfortunately (from least to worst): 17, 30, 32, 08, 31 (also the hardest)

And for my favorites:

5) Map06: Baloney Town
4) Map27: Lakeside Rentals 
3) Map19: The Empty Box Abyss
2) Map15: Doors of Opportunities
1) Map26: Everybody Loves The Beach

(Honorable Mentions: 02, 10, 12, 14, 23 (second hardest), 24, 28)

It's already a few days into December here and I've started playing Overboard so, see you all in the December edition of the DWMC! :)

Edited by Monsieur E

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