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

MAP07: I clearly remember the start and that I disliked this level, but this time I think it's allright. Actually it can be considered a nice simple variation of the original Dead Simple, even if this map is a series of rooms with flat combats. It's a nice idea that after the blue door you find the other mancubi you have to kill to progress.

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MAP07 - “Dead Simple II” by Nick Baker

gzDoom - UV – pistol start/saves

 

Dropping down from a cage sets up a theme here of sorts with captured marines and torture devices. Felt very outdated to me. I guess this did come out in '99 so what can I say? Kind of a weird delivery method for the "dead simple" encounters with the multiple large teleporting in groups and hallway cubby hole reveals but it’s a lot better than just having them stand around. I did like getting locked in with the 4 Mancs though followed by a large horde of telepinkies to deal with. Probably the highlight there.

 

Not too much else going on until the baron at the exit. Simple key find and very small doors that looked pretty odd to me. A little less time spent on gimmicky torture devices and more on the actual map maybe? I dunno. Not surprising to find the same mapper back to back here with the previous dark mine fuckery.

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MAP07 - “Dead Simple II” by Nick Baker
A very simple and rather flat and boxy level. This exemplifies my thoughts about the previous level by the same author being rather primitive. Strip away the theming and the neat but samey texturing finery and you are left with a very simplistic and short layout - essentially a hub, a ring and a spur. I suppose that's fair enough for a map07, especially given the name and I'm grateful it's not actually a clone of the original, but the level turns out to be a lot less vertical and interesting than the initial courtyard suggested. I guess the doom furniture is quite cute though.

 

Gameplay is similarly simple too, fights tend to be ahead of the player, there's an ambush or two which are very predictable (most notably the blue key pick up) and then a handful of monster closets with one or two mid-sized monsters in each. There isn't really much variety in the range at which engagements take place and only a modest amount in the height - it's like the mindset during construction didn't extend out beyond the current room.

 

In some ways I like that this map was a little less sophisticated than it's predecessor, in that it seemed more honest, but then I guess that means there's less to distract from that too.

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MAP08

It's not too hard to pick that this by the same guy as map03. The unnecessary fascination with 64-wide corridors is in full effect once more, for one thing. In fact, the whole map feels like it's full of unnecessary corridors of varying widths. You're constantly mowing down hordes as they come wandering around corners in front of you, or jamming up at doorways in front of you, etcetera.

 

There is nice use of Archviles again, as there was in map03, but they're about the only monsters that get used well. The tedious meat wall of demons with the AVs, for instance, is kind of pointless. Having a few of them and a few spectres and a mix of roaming imps or troopers would make combat in that area more dynamic.

 

I'm a bit leery of the use of computer banks as switches these days, at least for mandatory progression. I'd much rather an actual switch.

 

Also, that is some awful crate climb design that this map has. It's way finicky and also looks like ass.

 

 

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08 - this felt like living 100 years ago and seeing a Technicolor film for the first time. White lamps! Green lamps! Red lamps! Blue lamps! Yellow lamps! Unbelievable.

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3 hours ago, rehelekretep said:

04

haha I had the exact same experience

tricky map for me but I did want to replay it!

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MAP08 - “Discordia” by John Bye
gzDoom - UV – pistol start/saves

Blah, this one felt like a Wolf3D map to me but with slightly more detail and a few steps here and there. Some of the rooms were okay but most of this was rather dull and reeks of that old ID software design of having SS troopers stand around, mostly behind doors, waiting to be popped. Even the music felt muted as it’s bass warbles on while a melody from that era tries to mix up the repetition.

A very door centric flat planed base containing a warehouse box segment packed tight with demons and AV’s. An unusual mix of annoyances but manageable for the most part.

The doors though, oh my God. Hahaha, what is going on here?! Blue ones. Double red ones. Yellow and green ones. Even more green ones! Don’t forget the plain ones! Sometimes even two at a time. But wait, did I mention you get to open all of them over and over again? One at a time?? Oh my! Really exciting stuff… There were lots of computer panels to “use” for various other non-door doors as well. Get out of here with that stuff. I play Doom to open doors man. That’s my bag." *eye roll* That mechanic gets just as tiresome after a while. This map... sign of the times I suppose?

Anyways, I also had no idea how to get any of the secrets either. Not even sure I cared though considering I just gutted this out with my SSG and CG shooting fish in a barrel mostly.

My favorite part of this map was the dark BK fight with the peekaboo baron. Hahaha. I managed to get locked inside trying to take screenshots of him and then had to fight him point blank with strobe lights going on and off. Whoops! Not fun but cool idea if that’s what was intended.

The beginning of this map had promise with being forced to run away from a PE into a zombie filled base but the overall layout and design was lacking IMO.

Edited by Demtor
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On 12/4/2017 at 9:04 PM, Capellan said:

MAP05

...

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

 

Oh I remember why I did that!

 

WinDEU 5.24 doesn't have full Doom 2 support. It doesn't know about some Doom 2 specific "things", like tall tech lamps and some hanging corpses, so those can't be inserted. If such objects are already in the map they can be copied though. So what I did was, I inserted the objects into the map with another editor (DCK probably), and then cloned the objects in WinDEU whenever I wanted to use them.

 

I must have forgotten to take them out when we released the episode.

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32 minutes ago, Jan said:

Oh I remember why I did that!

 

Well there you go!

 

Now we just need traversd and NiGHTMARE to pop by and we'll have an almost complete project reunion :)

 

Edited by Capellan
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2 minutes ago, Capellan said:

Now we just need traversd and NiGHTMARE to pop by and we'll have an almost complete project reunion :)

 

While I was somewhat involved in E1 I'm just here waiting to argue about the crate jumps in E2 map12 once you all get there. (Edit: git gud)

Edited by ukiro
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MAP07 - “Dead Simple II” by Nick Baker

Pretty sure I've heard this midi in MM2. Anyway, despite the name, it's not really a Dead Simple remake or sequel; rather, a compact and traditional key progression map which happens to have some Mancs and 'Trons in the 2nd half. Aesthetic remains very brown; to the point where I'm compelled to flush it down. Map's ok though.

Edited by Spectre01

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MAP01 - “Scary” by Jan Van der Veken

 

has been fun revisiting this one. atmospheric opener, lots of brown bricks, brown imps and some zombies, not brown. mix in some low drumming music and the arrow and floor textures to make it resemble quake even more. also an edge walk to that soulsphere behind a brown wooden fake wall. well the quakeness is obvious but not surprising considering when it came out. the gameplay isn't that scary after last month's speedmapping surprises, rather relaxing. i found it scary back in the day, though.

 

 

MAP02 - “Bloody Hell” by Jan Van der Veken

 

a courtyard with brick structures around it in the same subdued quake aesthetics with pillars to give it a 3d look and also the teleport gates taken from that game. i remembered how to get the ssg only after i had killed everything with the shotgun, so it felt a bit tedious for my taste. the blur sphere however was perfect for dealing with the hitscanners, so i didn't have much trouble with them, and the armor came at the perfect time. not much pressure on the player, even with the shotgun.

 

 

MAP03 - “Entropia” by John Bye

 

not a fan of tight brown corridors  connecting tight brown rooms, with mostly harmless monsters stuck in places. the archvile fight was the only brighter part of the map as he kept resurrecting zombies, giving me ammo. 

 

 

3 maps already, looks like i'm going to finish this at this pace  :p

Edited by Pirx

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MAP08: Discordia

 

After a couple of rather compact, straightforward, and brief maps, it's nice to see something larger in scale, more involved in layout, and in general just a bit more ambitious.  This one absolutely justifies the presence and use of three all keys in its layout, though I find myself in agreement with @Demtor that, for the number of doors here, locked and otherwise, it would be nice to have a few more of them stay open once used.  I did like the recurring use of elaborate-for-the era console or computer structures in place of regular switches; it has to be recurring in order to work as part of the intended progression, really, which makes the non-functionality of the two consoles a little ways past the yellow door somewhat bewildering.  I also quite like the use of colourful trim alongside the more muted tones that dominate the map; it feels almost like an aesthetic predecessor to the likes of Sunlist and its contrast-colour lighting strips.  The layout itself is a bit on the odd side, feeling kind of... lopsided, I guess?  With all five of the secret areas clustered within the completely optional north-eastern branch of the map.  It'd be interesting to see the development process of the level, the evolution of its spaces, and get a look at just how that came about.

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MAP04 - “Relentless” by Travers Dunne

 

Continuing on continuous, fun stuff, yessir, a respectable Doom map! I enjoyed it, I liked that run jump across the chasm, some fun traversal, enemy placement and whatnot was up my alley. Playing on HMP, compared it to UV, and I appreciate the tuning they did. Having 90 something enemies in Map 4 and 5 on HMP compared to 140 or so, overall a smooth ride. Sometimes, when Dooming, it feels like a miracle that I ended up where I was supposed to go after pushing a button by the way.

 

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

 

Cool stuff, I like the texturing, very crisp good stuff. I forget whether some of the textures are Vanilla or not, I know the mod has new textures. I like that brick with green plants on it, forget where that's from, if not from Doom. This map plays well, I was a tad confused at times with all the switches and teleporting etc, but as is the magic of Doom I ended up where I was supposed to be. A wizard is never late.

 

MAP06 - “The Mines of Death” by Nick Baker

 

I like the ol enemies unaware with backs turned beginning, they didn't expect Doomguy! Knock knock! "It's quite cool" Gandalf once said, and this map is quite cool. I like the scripted progression stuff, moving parts and classy fun, and nice to have this more linear romp after the bigger couple maps prior to it. Good to have that contrast.

 

Cool that mappers from this are posting by the way!

 

Edited by PsychoGoatee
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MAP08: It was rather depressing. The music. The gameplay that makes you mostly go through corridors. The monotonous look. I must say that the lighting was excellent, everything was brown but it wasn't dull. I think that the colorful lights were used to vary a bit the look, but they were a bit too much.

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09 - this is the level I think of whenever The Darkening is mentioned. Very good memories of playing it on rhinoduck's server with fast+powerful monsters enabled and trying to come up with tactics for the traps. The E1-style base is probably the least original theme you can use, but when it appears unexpectedly it can be rather refreshing, especially if it's preceded by many copies of the same thing. The Doom 2 monsters help too, somehow they seem fresh in a typical Doom 1 setting. There is also an EVIL nukage secret that's so unfair I can't help but love it despite dying there once. It was so funny to discover the hidden lift, pick up whatever weapon was there, panic due to the sergeant appearing out of nowhere, and shoot at him only to find out that what I got was rocket launcher. Nice one.

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MAP09

Big black mark for the rocket launcher sort-of-secret, which is nonsense. Just slap a support3 texture on the lift, or put the teleporter at an accessible level to begin with, and it'd be fine, but as is: just awful.

 

Other than that, it's a decent little "corrupted tech base" map. I liked how the slits in the walls make the blind nukage run not actually blind: it gives you some idea of the layout and what you're aiming for. The baron and caco fights are also pretty good fun, with the close quarters applying more pressure than you'd normally get from those beasties.

 

It's interesting, actually, how minimally the new Doom 2 monsters tend to be used in The Darkening. Apart from a couple of arachnotrons and chaingunners, this could easily be an OG Doom map, and quite a lot of the levels we've played so far have been similarly oriented toward the classic monster palette. Map07 is obviously something of an exception, but even then it's comparatively restrained.

 

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MAP08 - “Discordia” by John Bye
Yes, it fits that this map is by the author of map03, but at least there is a little bit more evident to his mapping style here. It is clear to me now, particularly in hindsight the keys near doors in map3 that Bye is all about map progression in a very controlled, mechanistic fashion. Concepts such as open spaces, free movement and choice are all subjugated to the prescribed one true way forwards. I know that that is what a linear map is essentially, but this feels more linear than most, because of how cramped and constraining the narrow corridors are along with the numerous doors and room by room construction. Asides from the exit, there is rarely any foreshadowing of later parts of the map. It's like being a marble in a tilt-table maze.

 

The use of the arch-viles in the warehouse section made dealing with them tricky, albeit in a more time- consuming way. Certainly it made a demon herd more interesting. Overall, I don't care for this map much either. 2 and 4 FTW so far.

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MAP09: Military Complex

 

Aside from a handful of Doom II monsters putting in appearances and the hidden supper shotgun, this is very much a techbase in the classic Doom style that could, for the most part, slot neatly into Knee-Deep in the Dead at pretty much any point.  Again I'd agree with @Capellan that the rocket launcher not-a-secret doesn't feel like the WAD is playing fair, or perhaps has a sense of the unfinished or the afterthought to it; especially when both the rocket launcher and the super shotgun are tucked away in somewhat nested secret areas, this feels like a map that could be quite unpleasant to pistol start.  The monster-only teleport line toward the start is a nice touch that raises the pressure on the player in an unexpected way, and it gets a new lease on life if the battle with the barons much later into the level's runtime happens to drift in that direction too.

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MAP09: Fun level overall, even the fight with barons was well done. Obvious E1-theme with a little hellish touch with some marble faces. I died in the nukage at the RL, I didn't notice the sergeant at first and I thought you were required to do something somewhere else in the map before being able to escape from there.

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MAP10

I like some of the cacodemon use in this, as their ability to drift down from above or behind and give you a surprise is employed. It's also a technically slick map, with the Quake-ish lifts and the use of fake ceilings to create light effects that only apply at ground level.

 

That exit, though ... it's rather abrupt and unmarked. Not a fan of that.

 

 

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MAP08: Discordia

100% kills, 3/5 secrets

 

My immediate impression was the same others have reached - "oh joy, more tiny-ass brown corridors from the guy who gave us MAP03." I will say though that the actual combat kept me fairly entertained despite so many 64-wide corridors... a large part of that I think is the large use of hitscanners, who kinda make their own fun regardless of the layout, and then mixing them up with a few bits of 'shoot the hapless large monster' which feels cathartic after being ripped apart by bullets.

 

The ammo balance feels very off to me, as there were two places I ran completely out of ammo. First was the demon/AV area, which is normally a monster combination I like, but it doesn't work here because there's no room to move, and mixing a resurrecting monster with ammo scarcity isn't a great idea. After a few re-tries I ended up needing to high-tail it to the key and ammo up on the boxes, which itself was annoying because of this motherfucker right here. Yes, the toughest enemy to defeat in this was a fucking, incorrectly-textured, foot-high box, because the way it's designed force you to basically make a diagonal jump onto a 16-wide area. While getting shot by imps. Ugh. The other area was later on near the Pain Elemental, but at least there were a bunch of hitscanner corpses nearby so it just became a game of being able to grab the ammo without getting killed, which actually was fun. After that you can find the secrets which makes the player hilariously overpowered so the rest of the map is over quickly.

 

Despite all the brown the lighting is pretty well-done, and I'm okay with the use of the computer consoles here since they recur throughout. I think it would've been better if the very first console was required to open the door as a teaching moment, but overall it works.

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MAP09: Military Complex

98% kills, 1/3 secrets

 

I know KDITD has been done to death, but done well it still brings some joy to me, and this one does a good job of really capturing the feel, with stuff like the low-height doors, being able to see the nukage/outdoors through windows and slots, or the skylight in the main corridor. Unfortunately it all came to a grinding halt with the baron fight at the end, as I didn't have either of the secret weapons and basically had no choice but to run away. I finally ended up cracking open DB to figure out how to get the RL just so I could kill stuff, which wasn't fun. Put the RL in a normal spot so you can actually fight the meat and this level would've been near-perfect for me.

 

 

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10 - good design with unique ideas everywhere: elaborate lifts with holes, destroyed walls, ceiling detail. The level suffers from feeling like a series of unrelated rooms though. The gameplay is bad at the start (killing so much with only shotgun) but gets progressively better. I was so happy to find some grass here, and I'm glad tomorrow this brown wad will be over.

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MAP10: Under Earth

 

(Or Underearth Outpost according to the automap?)

 

After some levels toward the middle of the WAD that felt neither fully realised nor intentionally abstract, it's a real treat to find a map that so lavishly depicts its intended setting, a largely subterranean base adjacent to a small natural cavern, all of which is attentively detailed and has a great sense of thoroughness to it.  The gameplay is pretty workmanlike with a focus on close-quarters shotgun encounters versus exactly the sort of foes that make that sort of combat fun, though tougher opponents occasionally pop up, with just enough verticality present in certain encounter areas to give the cacodemons room to play.  The final encounter has the potential to get hairy, with a pain elemental and an arch-vile catching the unwary player in a potentially lethal crossfire, though the relatively cramped confines of the room seem like they should lay the strongest claim to any pelts taken there.  I feel the abruptness of the exit highlights the flaw in using ash-type textures to simulate the swirling starfield portals of Quake; here it's just not especially clear that the arch-vile's circular pit is intended to represent just that until after the player has stumbled into it and been presented with their tally.

 

Were I awarding points I'd feel compelled to deduct a couple for the secret-tagged sector 101, which is inaccessible due to the sector height and contains nothing that would invite a player to climb atop it even if it were accessible.  I can't help but feel that it represents a half-finished idea that was neither worked to completion nor thoroughly removed, or else an uncorrected error, unless there's something I'm completely misunderstanding in how the geometry of that area is intended to function.  It's especially perplexing when it feels like the plasma gun and the gloomy passage/drop-down through the warehouse both feel like decent candidates for secret areas, yet neither is marked as such.

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MAP08 - “Discordia” by John Bye

Had to restart the map after jumping out a window and to the exit early on. This is my favourite map in the set so far, with a nice midi, and larger scale than the previous levels. It does suffer from largely being made up of rooms (packed with hitscanners) connected by very narrow hallways. The warehouse area is somewhat bizarre, with 3 Viles trying to make their way past the, highly ineffective, Pinky horde and up the stairs. It was also nice to see some textures that weren't variations of brown.

 

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MAP09 - “Military Complex” by Jan Van der Veken
This level is pretty simple and shares the theme, music and the central hub with offshoots type layout of the original E1M9.

 

I don't have much to say about it on continuous, but on pistol start it can be fairly rough initially, with the teleporting shotgunners and depending on whether you can get the chaingunners to fire on themselves before either of them hit you. The slime run to the secret shotgun can be fairly punishing when you don't know how to activate the lift (although there are medkits to help alleviate the damage). Also you'll end up rocking the single-barrelled shotgun for a good part of the map with several demons to whittle away at the red key trap. The baron release will be pretty time-consuming if you didn't have at least one of the SSG or rocket launcher.

 

All in all, this is unremarkable on continuous (where the effects of a limited arsenal are not felt) but can be quite good snappy fun on pistol start. I didn't think to check back at the SSG location after finding the secret radsuit and switch, in spite of it appearing on the Prboom+ automap in a different colour and I didn't see any other way of to the soulsphere without SR40 off of the nearby crate top. Not a bad level, but too reliant on the player finding the secret weapons to deal with the barons.

 

MAP10 - “Under Earth” by Travers Dunne
This is a pretty damn good map regardless of how it is played. The scale of the automap relays how compact this level is, yet it manages to get a good amount of gameplay out of a relatively small amount of map. The verticality in this map in particular deserves praise both in varying the incidental encounters and employing

cacos to their strengths with them floating down from above. I feel like NiGHTMARE should have been forced to play through this map before finishing Map07, for example. I also appreciate the use of the dark crates section to tie together the earlier and later sections of the map. In fact I think I need to shoot off more praise to say that in general the gameplay is just well paced and well judged. I was surprised to see that the plasma rifle was not accessible by anything more elaborate than a SR40 jump off the top, having discounted that as probably not the intended route, and then the same is not marked as a secret. Likewise, I didn't see a way to access the one actual secret (nor indeed any obvious reason or reward to do so, beyond 100% secrets.

 

Finally that last fight can be pretty bad, particularly if you either neglect to collect (or fail to remember you already possess, if playing continuous) the plasma rifle. I ran to the other end where the AV with the narrow pillars as cover appeared, perfectly judged to pin me for the remaining monsters to finish me. I enjoyed the trap there, although if you remember the PR and actually use it to eliminate the initial monsters then it degrades to a formality. I agree with the sentiments about the unmarked exit though.

 

Also it's nice to hear the Requiem map03 midi reused as I am fan of that map too.

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MAP11

Oh hey, it's my map. Looks-wise, I'm pretty happy with it. Not sure the "the secrets are done in tech while the rest of the place is medieval" idea works all that way, but I like the gimmicky unveiling of the megasphere, the compred details, and some of the other little visual touches.

 

As far as gameplay goes, it certainly has its issues. The linearity I can live with, since it's not of a kind that requires a lot of backtracking. I even quite like that it asks you to do a quick hop across the main hall to get to the red door, since that's a reminder of the main hall right before you are teleported back for the final battle. On the other hand a lot of the combat's a bit meh. Turreted barons and HKs isn't exactly dynamic, especially given how long you wait for the SSG and RL. I do like the loop around and leap to the red key, though. Hopefully the player has spotted the key earlier and has an "aha!" moment there.

 

The cyberdemon is laughably easy to cheese, especially on continuous, and that's exactly what I did. I'd forgotten the final monster in the exit room, but let's face it, he's just there as a road block to make it harder for the player to just skip ol' cyb.

 

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11 - design-wise this felt almost like a classic Doom level with no artsy detailing or overwhelming brownness - nice! Structurally it's really simple though and the boss battle with that megasphere provided is almost laughable by modern standards. Not much to say, could have been worse I guess.

 

Overall The Darkening is a rather weak wad that I had fond memories of because I only played in it multiplayer, and multiplayer makes weak wads much more enjoyable. It feels like a collection of short B-sides with barely anything substantial, the gameplay is often tedious (SSG please?), and all that sucking up to Quake just makes it really outdated. Only maps 05 and 09 felt like legitimately good levels to me, plus 02 and 10 were decent but too small. I'm glad DARKEN wasn't a particularly influential mapset: imagine if everything made after it was so fucking brown! That would probably kill Doom for real. I'm so looking forward to playing the sequel and seeing some colors.

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