The DWmegawad Club plays: The Darkening, The Darkening 2, & Crusades

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MAP02 - “Bloody Hell” by Jan Van der Veken

gzDoom - UV – pistol start/saves

 

This was kind of fun. Run around and get into fire fights in various buildings with windows, pillars and over-hangings while rocking to a M.I. remix of sorts, a fun map 2 with a few more tougher wrinkles thrown in. Visually a bit drab but I liked the smattering of red in parts. I liked the back area especially. Was a good contrast to the front area while still fitting in with the same locational theme. It felt like this whole map was a detour, outdoors to find a way to open up the base doors you start at. The standing dimensional doors were kind of neat. I’m guessing that with the heavy quake influences, the gray texture is supposed to emulate the starry void of some sort.

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ZDoom, mouselook, no infinite tall things, UV, constant save/reload.

 

MAP01: Scary

100% kills, 2/2 secrets

 

Well, the first map lives up to the title, as this one is quite gloomy. Very brown too in that late-90s/early-2000s way that was in style then, and the map even uses some actual Quake assets. Gameplay-wise it's pretty linear, though there is a weird and rather unnecessary backtracking to get the blue key. All the goodies (armor/chaingun) are given at the end after the fight too, pointless. I do like the secrets though. Toughest part of the map are the shotgunners at the start, those guys hurt.

 

MAP02: Bloody Hell

100% kills, 3/3 secrets

 

A fun little map with a nice and bloody monster-to-acreage ratio... had plenty of fun blasting all the small fry, and that was even without finding the SSG until after everything was dead (would've been nice for the baron, but, it's only one baron thankfully). Still very brown but there's enough detailing to still keep things visually interesting. Good use of the invisibility sphere too. I do agree with NMM that the area behind the red door is actually a bit anticlimatic, imps in cubbie-holes don't do it for me. I am sorry to say I didn't even notice the fake 3D effect until gaspe pointed it out... wasted on me as I was having too much fun running around shooting stuff to stop and look up at the scenery.

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MAP05

This is the start room I remember when I think of the original Darkening. No idea why, since nothing actually happens in it!

 

This is another map with lots of engaging with areas from multiple heights or angles. It's a bit more blatantly linear in its basic evolution, though, and there's very definitely a theme of "from the bottom first, and then the top".

 

Missed the supercharger and rocket launcher secrets in this one: the latter because you have to shoot the triggering corpse from one particular side. Which is a bit crap, IMO. Probably should have flagged all sides as triggers. Or at least the two at the right height.

 

The action is pretty straight ahead and simple, with only the revenant-behind-a-switch and teleporting archvile to really wake you up. Even then, they're more 'quick burst of adrenaline' than 'genuine threat'.

 

Looks-wise, it varies up the Darkening brown brick and metal by adding green brick as well. Which is ... well, it's something, at least! It also sports a variety of light levels, which is nice, even if there's not really much in the way of fancy work: just a few Dr Sleep lights really.

 

Viewing the map in DB2, there are some random decorations out in the void. Not sure what's going on with that.

 

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15FZCZsh.png

 

MAP03 - “Entropia” by John Bye

gzDoom - UV – pistol start/saves

 

Hrmph, didn’t like this one so much. There were a few funny visual tricks but overall a very short, cramped and unappealing experience. I did like the look of the armor mid way through but mostly just because getting diced with zero protection was getting old. There are three keys in this map. Why? That seems needlessly excessive. Each of them is stuck in a tiny room with not much to it. AV before the blue, Manc after the yellow and a Rev with buddies for the red. Weird choices and uninspired placements. Strange. Much like the texture on the step in the hardest rooms of the map. "Huh? Is that supposed to be blue for some reason?"

 

 

 

 

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MAP04 - “Relentless” by Travers Dunne

gzDoom - UV – pistol start/saves

 

So for being a city styled map of sorts this seemed pretty spot on with a good sense of place by having a way to traveling outside before going back in again. There’s a little bit of adventure/exploring with hopping from landing to landing, using a hidden lift, winding stairs and what not.

 

My favorite part was early on when the music starts kicking in to its best part and you grab the PG to be greeted with two barons and change. Plus a surprise AV behind you. "Hot damn, time to get busy!!" The cacs floating above outside the fence line and more weenies below, all helped add to the tension too. If you flip the next switch before clearing things ahead of time you can find yourself face to face with a horde of bad things when a group of imps decides to sneakily join in as well as opening the next path to more wondering bits of pain. Great stuff. Nothing too crazy, besides the AV, but just enough pressure to keep you on your toes.

 

The SMM fight was a shocking delight as well. Can’t remember the last time I helped a group of imps take one of them down. Lots of health and ammo with just barely enough cover to handle things. Awesome. The exit area was a harsh surprise as well.

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05 - finally a legitimately good level. Refreshing use of greens and excellent pillar-based design. The balance is rather rough (holy hitscanner hell) but I enjoyed trying to survive. Still, I wish I remembered how to get the soulsphere and the SSG.

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MAP04 - “Relentless” by Travers Dunne

This map would be fun if the SSG was obtainable early, like in the previous 2 maps. As it stands, this is a prime example of awkward 90's pistol-start balance, where you're not given sufficient weapons/ammo early on, and are forced to skip enemies (like the two Barons) until you find something useful, which happens to be rather late in the map. The vertical aspect and progression is generally pretty cool, and the Mastermind was quite the surprise. The brown visuals have reached a critical mass at this point.

Edited by Spectre01
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MAP05: Hand of Doom

 

This one feels larger than it is, thanks to the modest dimensions of its many hallways which disguise the scale of the environment as a whole; likewise, the constant elevation changes and the thinness of the walls go some way toward diverting the player's attention from just how close together certain areas are.  I like it, it's a good combination of artistry and technical skill on display.  Opposition consists primarily of small fry with the occasional tougher monster putting in an appearance as a surprise or a walking obstacle more than as part of a carefully orchestrated threat; I think the closest thing to panic might arrive if the arch-vile gets loose from his preoccupation with the imp and zombie corpses in the room where he appears and instead manages to make his way to the corpse of the revenant, and that's going to depend on how far you let the ol' bag of bones wander before dropping him.

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MAP05 - “Hand of Doom” by Jan Van der Veken

Wew lad, that was some dogshit Pistol-Start balance, if you can even call it that. You're literally stuck with the Shotgun + Chaingun combo and no armour unless you grab all the secrets. The most useful one, that gives you the SSG and armour, is far enough into the map. The frequent use of Barons isn't fun either considering you don't have anything good to kill them with. Awful map. Ass 2 Ass / 10.

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MAP05: A shame because the supplies are a bit too scarce on the first parts, the secret RL seems a bit pointless and you'd better to pick the secret SSG as soon as it's available, but I dare to say that this is the best level so far. There's still a nice use of hieght variations, with some green to give a more fresh look, and some windows with views of areas you'll visit later. It's a very well contructed level on the whole.

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YufeW1Ch.png

 

MAP05 - “Hand of Doom” by Jan Van der Veken

gzDoom - UV – pistol start/saves

 

Oooo, this one was a cantankerous bastard. I spent a fair amount of time trying to get a decent good go for a mid way save point by the green armor that would have been nice. The secrets on this one stumped me pretty well. REALLY wish there was decent armor in this map that wasn't obtusely hidden in plain sight. Getting pot shotted throughout this map with VERY little health laying around was rough going. (“OMG, it’s a stimpack… GET IT!!”) Especially dirty was getting ported point blank into a wall of imps or waiting zombies. "Whew, ouch".

 

The design and architecture of everything was interesting with plenty of pillars to hide behind but they were usually so small it felt like trying to squeeze a tank behind a telephone booth. They did look pretty damned cool though, gotta say.

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MAP06

Well this map certainly takes the "dark" part of the name pretty seriously!

 

Not a huge fan of this, on the whole. Three keys is way too much for the real estate the map actually offers, and there's a part of the map that's only accessible once. It shouldn't ever actually manage to break the map: it's just something I don't like.

 

We've also got a fair bit of back-tracking in this one, sometimes of the "well there is nothing else to do" variety rather than the "I know there's a door and now I have a key" type (though it has that too). At least we do get some teleport-based monster restocking to give us something to do during some of that backtracking.

 

We also have some turreted monsters in areas you can never reach. I'm not generally a fan of this and it's at its worst when it looks like an area you should be able to get to. The revenant balcony is a big offender here.

 

Didn't get the megasphere secret. Spotting the difference between rrock01 and rrock02 in the light levels of this map is basically a non-starter.

 

 

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06 - looks like a level made in 2005 by Karthik Abhiram or one of these guys. Short, linear, with cramped spaces, teleporting monster traps, and emphasis on elegant realistic micro-detailing (crate with a hole in it, fallen rocks blocking the way, wooden arc in the first area). It's basic and it makes me nostalgic. This is what I wanted my maps to be like when I was beginning to learn mapping. I'm glad I played this today.

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Hey @Demtor , are you using a mod or something to get the blood on the marble face looking sharper? Or is it just the brightmap effect?

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Nothing like a map set I've been meaning to play for ages to lure me out of hiding! I play prboom+ continuous on UV with saves because dying makes me sad. Here goes:

 

MAP01 - “Scary” by Jan Van der Veken
A very simple, occasionally boxy little opener. I think this level certainly shows it's age to a more modern sensibility, with somewhat austere architecture, but it's tasteful in it's quake theme and I appreciate the things like the signposts to help improve flow once the player needs redirecting. The fake exit and area (well, level really) re-use is quite important, as even for a Map01 this would've been very insubstantial. Moreover the ambush provides a much needed surprise and variation in the gameplay. The first secret allows for a Doom Map01 style chainsaw run if the player desires, otherwise this map is very simple and very brief.

 

MAP02 - “Bloody Hell” by Jan Van der Veken
This is a bit better; two slightly more open courtyards with a few narrow corridor warrens coming off them. The courtyards are probably the more interesting part to clear out as you are more likely to encounter enemies at differing heights and ranges and there is more of an element of cover use and target prioritisation. The corridors are correspondingly far less interesting, having elements of simple (but attractive for the time) detailing (eg. the skylight and the Quake style portal) and gratuitously oldschool mechanistic progress (ie. the descending walkway to the pit, with teleport to the opposite side purely to make it rise up again. I only picked

up the SSG secret at the end of the level because I didn't feel like Baron dodging whilst secret hunting. Oh well.

 

MAP03 - “Entropia” by John Bye
The stone textures and E1M2 music in this level almost made this feel like a (very much milder) Plutonia level.

 

This is a slightly strange map in that though the level is divided by a spacious courtyard, most of the gameplay takes place in rather cramped spaces in the two opposing structures. Indeed much of the fighting is at short range with weak enemies in tight spaces which lends itself to corner sniping. The herd of demons in the courtyard is liable to cluster by the door, meaning that if you have a chainsaw from Map01 (or the easy secret SSG you have a grinding door camp as you can't get out.

 

With all this considered, I don't think I've ever been so happy to see an archvile as the one that appears at the yellow key! That was a good surprise and added to the Plutonia flavour. Easily the highlight of the gameplay for me. All in all this is a modest map at best, although there are some pretty nice lighting effects for the time.

 

MAP04 - “Relentless” by Travers Dunne
This is a fairly decent and more open map. I appreciate the thought that has gone into making areas wrap around the open-sky areas. This map has plenty of foreshadowing and interconnection which I generally hold in high esteem. It's interesting but although this level came out 2 years or so later, I don't find the flow to be as slick as say, Requiem Map04. I may be biased since I played Requiem at a much earlier stage in my career and perhaps was more easily impressed. The AV trap was quite well telegraphed - nobody sees such a conspicuously advertised plasma rifle lowering on a pillar in an open space and doesn't expect the worst. It has the potential to be quite harmful given the limited cover afforded in the vicinity.

 

There's a good mix of traps at keys and general monster encounters, including the red key. The spider mastermind was probably intended to be dispatched with the plasma rifle, because there isn't much cover if it is allowed to manouevre much. I found the SSG and some judicious corner camping did the job with acceptable losses. The last trap can be surprisingly nasty if you aren't prepared (as I was) with the combination of chaingunners and PEs being pretty injurious. It's a good and well-judged trap though because unlike the other two it isn't so clearly expected, at least to me anyway. The level concludes with a raised vista allowing you to see where you came from which I like. Good stuff

 

Out of curiosity I replayed this from pistol start and appreciated the increase in difficulty as the player is forced to scrounge for ammo a little more early on.

 

MAP05 - “Hand of Doom” by Jan Van der Veken
After the fairly fast paced and trappy previous map, this is a far more sedate affair with more of a focus on distant monsters sniping. For me it encourages more conservative covershooting play. I'm going to have to give credit to some of the architecture, particularly the column/ribs above the five doors in the south west. That kind of thing is not so special nowadays as it would have been at the time but nonetheless it looks good and would have been excellent in early '98, a little over 4 years after Doom's release.

 

One of the two routes to the red key becomes redundant except for completeness, and I expect the barons lurking around there will be summarily dodged and ignored by pistol starters, especially without an SSG or much rocket ammo. Also, the three teleports to the imp chambers are not very great gameplay - you get dumped point blank in front of imps and any attempt at dodging teleports you back, leading to a slightly tedious teleport abuse tactic in order to avoid much unnecessary damage. Also the use of the arch vile in this map was a good deal less effective than in the previous 2, I think, as once the danger is identified there is a ready made escape route through the corridor, but the length of the corridor makes ducking in and out of cover more time-consuming.

 

All in all, although I respect the appearance and layout of this map, I am a little bit less impressed by the gameplay.

(and I missed one of the secrets in the larger slimepit just off the starting area this time.)

Edited by Sui Generis
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MAP06 - “The Mines of Death” by Nick Baker

Can't see shit / 10. Also, is that Megasphere obtainable? I dunno Torn.

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It is, but that secret is really obscure (try finding a slightly different looking texture in that cave).

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MAP06: Mines of Death

 

Yeah, I'm going to have to call shenanigans on that secret; I don't feel that the WAD is playing fair there, especially when it's not even subsequently flagged as a secret sector.  I also find myself in agreement with @Capellan that three keys are too many for the relatively small area the map occupies, much of it consisting of linear hallways to boot.  Overall I can't say that this one impressed me, it didn't deliver either entertaining gameplay or a well-realised environment.

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MAP03: Entropia

100% kills, 1/2 secrets

 

One boring long brown hallway crawl around a boringly empty brown courtyard. Pointless use of keys too, as they're often located only a room or two away from the door they open, which means they could've been replaced by a switch instead. The see-through cage door is cool though.

 

MAP04: Relentless

100% kills, 2/2 secrets

 

So far the most relentless thing has been how relentlessly brown everything is, though at least this one had some semi-interesting encounters and good traps. Definitely wasn't expecting a SMM this early, though I wished the imp horde alongside it came out quicker. Could've used the SSG earlier, there's a bit too much beef for my tastes to only use the single shotgun on.

 

MAP05: Hand of Doom

100% kills, 4/4 secrets

 

Yeah this one was not fun from a pistol start. Lots of chaingunner snipers + not much health + no armor = no bueno. Things get a bit better when you finally liberate a chaingun, but I still found myself camping corners a lot due to lack of supplies. There's some ammosink barons too (at least I was able to telefrag one). The layout is pretty interesting though despite the orthogonality, and hey, now we're up to using green in addition to brown.

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Hello hey...

 

MAP05 Hand of Doom

 

This one...not so much. More imps than before, but by this point this one is nothing like you have seen before. There's hitscanners on the high places, as usual, imps across the nukage pond, and imps in just about a few other places. Nothing really exciting, but at least they aren't busting the balls like they'd usually do. It's designed far batter than the previous maps, and the layout is easily adaptable. The secrets are actually rather hard to figure out too. I managed to telefrag that arch-vile.

 

MAP06 The Mines of Death

 

THIS is an interesting music track, an unused version of an Icarus theme? I'm sold. Creepy too, fits well with a creepy map like this. Surprised John Bye wasn't the author here, since it would also fit in one of his maps like the ones in Cygnus IV. Not a whole lot can be said about this one, other than using three keys for a short map and being relatively mild, until the red key grab. Then it does what Requiem MAP11 did, in a way, populating previous areas as you make your way to the exit. No secrets, but one hidden megasphere.

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What is the connection to Icarus again?

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15 hours ago, Spectre01 said:

Hey @Demtor , are you using a mod or something to get the blood on the marble face looking sharper? Or is it just the brightmap effect?

Sorry, it's been so long I can't remember where I got it but it is just a brightmap effect specific to Doom 2 assets. It's named "AltBrightmapsDoom2.pk3" and it works so/so depending on how much of the original stuff the creators change in the wad. For instance, some of the button lights can be off if switches are changed and such. Nothing huge when it doesn't work but when it does... ya, it looks stellar.

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Wjyn7H7h.png

(can you spot the hidden imp?)

 

MAP06 - “The Mines of Death” by Nick Baker

gzDoom - UV – pistol start/saves

 

These have to be the most basic mines I’ve ever explored in a Doom map. Very, VERY dark caves. They provided some extra challenge with a few more enemies repopulating later to come out of the dark at you but kind of pointless otherwise especially for a very short map.

 

The AV fight after the RK in the main opening area was the most memorable part with a few interesting looking spaces but not a whole lot else going on here.

 

Like others here, not to keen on the box with the megasphere sitting in it. I can't believe the amount of time and effort that it must have taken to make that. All spent for something that adds nothing to the overall gameplay of this map. Yikes. At first I thought it was just for looks but from reading other comments, I see there is a way and I too missed it like so many others. It's completely useless anyways considering it’s so close to the exit! *SMH* 

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MAP06: A very simple (and basic) attempt to a more realistic theme. I quite liked the mood, also thanks to the music but there's not so much to say.

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MAP06: The Mines of Death

100% kills, no map secrets

 

I hate myself so I decided to play this at 12 noon when sunlight bleeds through the edges of my blinds right next to my computer monitor, which makes it nearly impossible to see anything dark in Doom... but it actually wasn't that bad, thankfully, since the mines portion is pretty short. The whole level is pretty short, actually... if anything it might've ended too soon, I enjoyed it for the most part. Only thing I didn't really like was the slow trickle of enemies near the red key while the AV runs around and does AV stuff down below. Also the large group of enemies in the mine entrance that can't move because of the block monster line there. Three keys feel like a bit much (and the yellow one is right next to the door) but at least the weapon/monster order is done properly this time IMO unlike some of the last maps.

Edited by Magnusblitz

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MAP07

Despite the unpromising map name, this is a rather less cloney Dead Simple clone than the average. We've got a much more base-like layout, and a variety of other monsters to mix up the mancubus and arachnotron battles. Sometimes said other enemies are actually very handy for obstructing the "main course" monsters, in fact.

 

Visually this is probably the most un-Darkening map so far, with a fair amount of brown1 around the place to give it a much more techbase feel than the average level in the wad. There are some engine tricks at play to give the impression of true 3d in places, too. I'm not sure they were really worth the effort.

 

Found all the secrets in this map, but one of them wouldn't register for some reason. I think it was the one that's not really a secret, when you grab the red key.

 

Speaking of exits, the final act of this one – grab the red key, go upstairs to flick a switch, return downstairs to kill the final boss monster – is a weak effort. I'm especially amused to see in DB2 that the 'easy' difficulty enemy is a revenant, when on HMP I got a hell knight. I'd suggest that a much more substantial enemy count was needed for this final fling.

 

Not sure what the point of the switch to close you inside the chaingun secret was.

 

 

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07 - in 2014 I wrote:

Quote

The map is okay for max [speedrun]: I like the SSG action in many parts but I wish the RL was given a bit sooner, specifically before you kill all mancubi. The monster teleporters could have been much better as well. And what's the deal with the map07-like "forced" secret? First of all, it isn't really forced as I managed to miss it at least one time. And why is it necessary when there are other secrets in the level?

 

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MAP06 - “The Mines of Death” by Nick Baker
A spot of themed corridor crawling in the dark eh? I don't mind it I guess. It's perhaps for the best, that the actual mines section of the level is very brief, as it would get tiresome pretty quick. Although it does feature nice stalactites/stalagmites and the like and the broken megasphere crate is (as others noted) impressive and ahead of it's time. That's a good thing because asides from these and the odd midtex 3D effect, this level is quite bare. The environments in which you fight are nearly always corridors and the map actually feels quite primitive without the decorations. The gameplay is straightforward and I thought the way the blue key door leads smoothly to the yellow is neat. But really using all 3 keys like this is a lot of show for relatively little game time. As with several of the other maps, this one features an arch-vile, and I think this one is less well used as you immediately start in a safe place making the only slightly tricky part being how to approach the courtyard to be able to kill it. The potential thrill of being surprised and significantly endangered is abated.

 

I obtained the megasphere just by wallhumping, since the map and especially the surrounding area where the secret wall was likely to be is small. Strange that it isn't marked as secret though.

 

All in all, this is so so - not bad but not amazing.

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MAP07: Dead Simple II

100% kills, 3/3 secrets

 

I think it takes some brashness to label a map "Dead Simple II" for a WAD made in 1999, surely there were hundreds upon hundreds of "Dead Simple II"s floating around five years after Doom II.

 

That said, as Capellan points out, this one is surprisingly non-Dead Simple-ish, despite the name and start. In fact, except for killing mancs and arachnatrons, there's not much in common. Unfortunately part of that is because the combat is tepid as all get-out, I almost kinda wished for something more like the original (egad!) The trick with the coffin door is cool if also subtle and easily missed, and yeah, some weirdness with the extra secret sector around the red key and the pointless secret chaingun switch.

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MAP07 Dead Simple II

 

Dead Simple is an anthology of coffee beverages.

 

And so this map, the one that will use the MAP07 tags whether or not you like it. And it's not necessarily a good map in a way, quite boring since you don't get to fight the mancubi right away. There's a few interesting side rooms, apparently this is a torture chamber area (you can even close one of the trap doors on some poor sap). The mancubi need to be watched out for, since they teleport to two rooms, and then there's the one's past the blue key doors. The arachnotrons, in contrast, were underwhelming.

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MAP07: Dead Simple II

 

With a name like that, plus the all-to-familiar opening vista this is a map that doesn't exactly create high expectations for itself; it would have been something of a challenge, I think, to disappoint.  And even without those lowered expectations I think I'd have been happy to call this a decent map, though there's some occasional weakness in direction, a sense after killing the mancubi in the eastern room and the subsequent swarm of pinkies that it isn't really clear what you've just achieved or where to go next; at least after clearing the western node it's apparent that, having the blue key in hand, your next objective is the blue door in the starting courtyard, with mancubi deployed along the way as an obstacle (and are the dropping walls and reinforcement sergeants in the blue key room intended to create noise and disguise the teleportation outside?  Because that's a neat little bit of design and messing with the player's sensory information, if so).  Whereas the clearing of the eastern room didn't do anything visible, and ultimately it's on the player to decide to backtrack and wander and see what might have transpired elsewhere in the level.

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