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dobu gabu maru

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

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MAP01 - “Outpost Mortem” by Ola Björling

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Now this is off to a much better start! The detailing has improved significantly, and the base in the mountains has a real sense of place and "realism" - compared to the simple architecture in the first episode. Resources are, once again, quite scarce. I ended up entering the base from the "wrong" side and quickly ran out of ammo with no Shotgun in sight. Ended up punching the first Sergent for his weapon too! The layout is quite cool, featuring a variety of floors and crate mazes to explore. There's some minor "platforming" too, and the yellow key took me a few attempts to sneak around that crate without falling off. I also liked the look of the furnace in the underground caverns and the mountainous skybox. I've always preferred a sky that shows something in the distance, rather than one with no background detailing. i.e. E1 vs E4 sky in Doom 1.  

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MAP02 - “Biotech Terror” by Jan Van der Veken, Derek MacDonald

This rusted, underground base can be summed up as "hitscanner hell". While the usual culprits, Chaingunners, are not yet present; there are plenty of Shotgun dudes teleporting around and ambushing you around every corner. There's also dick-all in the way of health, so getting unlucky at the start and taking a few hits can make you shit out of luck for the rest of the map. I died once right at the end because software mode did that 0.5 second lag thing and I ate a Rev rocket. Pretty mean level from Pistol Start, all things considered.

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MAP03 - “Binary Compound” by Adam Windsor

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Another nicely-detailed map, combining the gritty techbase and outdoor mountainous terrain. This episode seems to be very conservative in regards to weapons - with nothing more than the basic Shotgun and Chaingun making an appearance. Thankfully, this map is generous with health, armour and ammo - so you don't have to play as carefully as before. I found 2/3 secrets, both of which were a stack of health bonuses. Yeah, fun map.

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03 - well, this level uses over 150 textures and flats, and I noticed only one taken from the iwads (the animated slime), so of course it sticks out horribly. Anyway, this is a pretty nice map that conceals its linear nature well thanks to clever room layouts. The use of demon hordes is very outdated, the final hell knights are totally lame, and the blue key trap with revenants is just boring, but the rest of the action is steady and fun. And the music... I just can't get enough of this wad's fantastic soundtrack. All of it is so clever, unusual, and playful. There is even a Christmas-like part in Map03. :D This kind of masterful semi-comical experimentation is probably my favorite type of music. Most people can't pull it off: when they try they just end up being obnoxious and unfunny. But The Darkening 2 composers were different, and that's why its OST is so damn awesome.

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It is my hope that this thread will inspire some maps that use Darkening 2's textures because they are just wonderful to look at and run around in ...among? Whatever, you know what I mean. Definitely one of my personal favorite level sets out there.

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MAP03 Binary Compound

 

Larger than I expected for a Windsor map on the first go. It's his style still, easy-to-find secrets, hitscanners around. The demon rush past the first lift is interesting, as is the big room and the outdoor area following it, both can be quite rough as far as taking out all the enemies go. A bit of rock-climbing for the blue key, and then there's chaingunners close to the exit, with a trio of hell knights guarding the main teleporter.

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MAP04

Some of the progression in this map is a bit more obtuse than I generally like, but I somehow never actually found myself getting stuck. It was always fairly intuitive that "oh I climb on those boxes now" or "somehow I think I need to use that computer there". It does get some negative points for the unmarked key door though. Naughty map maker!

 

This is a gorgeously intricate place, with many moments where you find yourself with a fresh view of a previous location, or stumble into a place you glimpsed earlier. The texturing is rock solid, the outdoor vistas are swell ... basically it's a place that I can enjoy simply walking around in, in game, even when I am not shooting hellspawn.

 

Gameplay-wise it is solid, if not quite as deserving of accolades as the visuals. I do think the combat tends to be a little too direct, and the SSG+backpack feels like it really ought to have been delivered with a lot more fanfare than just being tucked away in a closet like it is. That's something we should have had to fight off at least a small fight of cacos for, or at least had a revenant guarding it.

 

 

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MAP03 - “Binary Compound” by Adam Windsor

gzDoom - UV – pistol start/saves

 

Wow, 3 for 3 so far. Almost night and day difference from The Darkening episode 1 to episode 2. I’ll be honest, 1 was a bit of let down and I wasn’t expecting 2 to be so damned good. This one was kind of a faster and more wide open mix of maps 1 and 2. Grab that shotgun and go go go!

 

Lots of good use of open spaces with plenty of choices to kill. The outside area between buildings was a nice touch. The lobby like entrance to the last area was neat. The final challenge with 3 HK’s was a good choice. By that time my ammo was starting to run dry but I had juuuust enough to handle it. Good stuff.

 

Also found the secret cubby which was kind of funny. Not sure if I missed something bigger but in any case I got a chuckle out of it.

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04 - worst song and worst map in The Darkening 2 if I remember correctly. The piano and the loud instruments are rather obnoxious, and the gameplay is very linear and simplistic. Of course once you find the SSG, barons start popping up, so it's not like the pace increases... I laughed at shotgunners that are neatly placed on crates, and this random hole was cute too. Again, why use iwad textures in a level with 95% custom graphics? Bad practice.

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MAP03: Binary Compound

100% kills, 1/3 secrets

 

An okay, unassuming little map, pretty linear but with some discrete chunks so it doesn't feel too bad. I also liked the use of the outdoor area to break things up, adds some variety to the level without feeling out of place. Combat was a bit uninspired though, and ending with the three hell knights was an especially dull affair. Only found the one jokey secret (lone armor bonus) unfortunately.

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MAP04: Vindication

 

This one's an interesting bit of design, built out of fairly complex rooms arranged and connected in often disorienting ways to disguise the fact that there's really only a single path through this loop-shaped level; with enemies perched on crates, popping out of computer panels, and tucked away in corner balconies to assail the player from all directions, what I'm reminded of is an arcade light gun game/rail shooter experience along the lines of Time Crisis as much as conventional Doom gameplay.  If nothing else the first four levels of the WAD have demonstrated quite radically different gameplay and design techniques, though were this any longer I think it might have started to outstay its welcome.  There's also a sense that the component rooms of the level are more memorable and distinctive than the map as a whole, which is a fairly anonymous techbase that doesn't manage to feel like more than the sum of its parts.

 

I don't generally like fiddling with the music settings but good grief was I tempted to here when the guitars cut in, though the rest of the MIDI was generally okay, fast-paced and restless and a bit jarring.  I don't feel it's the best fit for the overall tone of the level, which I would describe as cinematic in its presentation and thus a better fit for an accompanying track that's either more muted and menacing or else makes use of more classical orchestral instrumentation rather than distorted guitars and aggressively rapid synths.

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MAP04 Vindication

 

Weird music track, given it's December and it's got those bells too. It gets obnoxiously loud at one point though so I don't like it. When the music is so loud I can't hear the shots I make, it's bad. This is why I loathe Jailbreak too.

 

By modern standards, this is, well, a standard map. Not bad overall like the rest of the maps we've seen so far, and also we've got some interesting switch textures. Notably, that one with the small red writing that turns green counts as an actual switch, so be on the lookout for those in later levels, because they are common switch textures for this wad. And then there's the one with the red terminals and such, which in here open up a rocket launcher secret and a computer area map secret. The outdoor area on the east side of the map has a super shotgun behind a small wall in the southeast corner. Combat is of course getting harder, we start to see more of the mid-tier enemies, some in small clusters, plus a few baron duos, and the ending's got arachnotrons.

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MAP04 - “Vindication” by Anthony Soto

gzDoom - UV – pistol start/saves

 

An excellently designed base that loops around on itself in very interesting ways. Every single room shows top notch quality and is a real treat to go through. Even finding secrets was fun!

 

Plenty of enemies mixed together in a variety of ways. Good fun everywhere. A few barons showed up to say hi and make sure you put that SSG to good use. A surprise PE. Even a few fatty’s made their singular presence known. Don’t forget the well used CG snipers, “caught you!” Turret revs and teleport ambush revs as well.

 

I liked the variety of windows and opening through each section. You can glimpse more ares outside with some cute views. (I cheated with a jump for that shot to catch more if it.) Right from the start you can see the effort with the rocky lava falls. Wouldn’t set the world on fire now a days but I gotta think something like this in 2000 really stood out then.

 

Only thing I didn’t like about this map was the exit set up. Seemed lack luster and only one spider tele’d in to get whacked.

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Surprised to read some of the dislikes for map 04 "Vindication." I get it though, fair criticisms on the linear gameplay. To me though, this is linear done well in that I barely noticed because I was having too much fun.

 

Music wise, it is a tad crazy but I just turned it down and mostly forgot about it.

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MAP05

Not as much a fan of this one. Lots of teleport-trap based gameplay, which for me tended to choke up the flow as it seemed better to advance cautiously, constantly checking behind me.

 

Looks-wise, it is another nice map, though perhaps a bit too corridor heavy. It felt like I spent almost all my time in 128-wide spaces and even when we did get rooms, many of them were only 256 or so across (or had movement constraints that kept them more narrow in gameplay than they look on the map). Having a few more open spaces and a few less hallways would probably have helped.

 

 

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05 - awesome French melodrama music. :D I'm picturing a woman in her thirties rushing to the airport, hoping that she can still stop her loved one... The map has an intricate layout and might initially seem rather tough depending on the route you choose, which makes it more satisfying to conquer it and gradually turn into your territory. This unusual connection between two corridors (most mappers would make it block the player) is crucial to the layout's success. I'm usually not a big fan of teleporter traps but I really like how they are used as a theme in this level. The teleportations even make sense most of the time, as the monsters tend to appear on designated platforms rather than random spots. A flawless map and another good example of how important music is in Doom. It adds so much!

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Still on Darkening 1, but I'll catch up! (not legally binding, accessories sold separately)

 

MAP07 - “Dead Simple II” by Nick Baker

 

This one wasn't that smooth for me, though I dug map 6 by this author quite a bit. This one ended up gameplay wise not clicking with me. Some interesting ideas and traps and whatnot, still solid design, not quite a slam dunk for me.

 

MAP08 - “Discordia” by John Bye

 

This map I really really dig, cool stuff! It does feel a bit like a late 90s FPS map, which it is, I often find that fun to mix into Doom. Something about the sense of scale and design, it felt immersive and appealing to me, just made the map feel unique, tough to articulate why I dug it more than others. I also really liked the music, was headbanging even. Catchy!

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MAP05: Melt-Down

 

This one's a nicely convoluted tangle of spaces with a very different rhythm to it than the preceding map, despite their superficially similar footprints; as @Capellan notes it makes pretty significant use of teleport-based traps an ambushes, which means a stop-start pace of progression with more time spent in each particular room or cluster.  I don't know if it's just a quirk of how the off-map waiting rooms are built or if it's intentional, but in both the central warehouse area with the broken ceiling and the northern control room with the blue switch, the monsters seemed to emerge from the teleporters in trickles or in fits and starts rather than in an overwhelming flood; it created a pleasant sense of wariness as I wasn't quite sure just when it had stopped or when it was safe for me to proceed or to explore.  I will say that I'm not a fan of the blue armour demanding an arch-vile jump through really I've only got my own trigger-happy tendencies to blame there.  Overall I'd say that this map has a stronger sense of identity to it than MAP04, and much better music, but the quirks of it make it somewhat less immediately fun for me.

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MAP05 Melt-Down

 

Fucking hell I COMPLETELY forgot how annoying the chaingunners were here. Layout from Wiles provides us with hallways and hallways, plus a few rooms. Some rather nasty teleport ambushes, like near the beginning or near the red key. That red key is in an interesting location too, I was given a radsuit, and the area where it's located (the key that is) is, well, radiated. Makes sense, but make sure to remember to get the key while the suit is active AND not take too long getting rid of the enemies that decide to warp in as you make your way there. Made that mistake a few times. Moving on from there, well, that switch in front of the yellow key is dumb. Does it really need to be shot? The blue switch area was tough, dealing with imps and chaingunners. The blue key area itself? A LOT tougher than I remembered. Goddamn, and you have to let the archie live to get that one secret here, but then you have snipegunners too. God this level was painful.

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MAP06

This is more like it. There's still a lot of trap based gameplay but the level switches up the tempo and the stratagems a lot more than map05 did. I liked both the archvile encounters, as they provided a good mix of cover options and riff-raff for the vile to rez. Heck, I even liked the revenant ambush, and revenant ambushes are about the most overdone thing in PWADs.

 

I also liked that depending how you progressed through the level, you had genuine chances to bushwhack monsters, rather than the other way 'round.

 

Map looks great, but that's pretty much to be expected at this point in the WAD.

 

There's an area in the eastern part of the map that has been fully detailed, but isn't actually accessible by the player. Jan has employed it as a source of teleporting monsters, but given the attention to texturing and layout, I figured there must be a juicy story behind it. And then I started map07 and realised that it's from that map, so it's just for transition purposes. Not so juicy after all! :)

 

 

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06 - very cute midi once again but perhaps its composition is not varied enough this time. The layout is well-structured but I feel like something important is missing here... I can't pinpoint it exactly, but it's sort of like the level doesn't have a beginning or an end in terms of flow. It lacks some magic that previous map had. Still, it's enjoyable.

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Just finished The Darkening 1!

 

MAP09 - “Military Complex” by Jan Van der Veken

 

Solid Doom map, I had a brain moment where I got stuck after teleporting into the poison slime pit. Didn't figure out which wall to hump. This map also doesn't have original groovin' music, looks good though. Has that cool vibe of going around a small winding base that is classic Doom.

 

MAP10 - “Under Earth” by Travers Dunne

 

Good map, and love this music, by David Shaw says the wiki, very cool stuff. Nice looking architecture, fun map to traverse. The room with the Archvile in the middle gave me trouble (many deaths), and the teleporter in the corner was a nice touch. Solid stuff.

 

MAP11 - “Stone Tyrant” by Adam Windsor

 

Very cool map! A lot of eye candy, pleasing architecture, I like it. I also liked how this was a shorter one key map, since the last map of a set is often 200 enemies etc, and it paired nicely with the CyberDemon fight. Overall I dug The Darkening, a solid mapset that didn't overstay it's welcome, fun stuff.

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MAP04: Vindication

100% kills, 3/3 secrets

 

This one definitely espouses some more modernized sensibilities, as it is a quite linear path through a base with close to zero chance for deviation. Linear can be fine as long as the journey is interesting, but I think the main problem here is that almost the entire map is small room after small room separated by a door (often switch-activated or key-activated) with 2-3 enemies in it. This means that the linear nature of the map becomes obvious because the gameplay feels like little bite-sized chunks being fed to the player from a conveyor belt. The map looks nice (though a bit generic in that Quake 2-ish vibe of this WAD) but the dull combat made me wonder if there was every going to be a payoff. The answer in the end was no, it just sorta ends. Not bad but not good (and I co-sign on the MIDI being annoying, far too frantic and an ill fit for this level).

 

MAP05: Melt-Down

100% kills, 1/3 secrets

 

Coming off the heels of MAP04, I think this is a better example of how a linear level can be fine as long as the journey is interesting. Though the first half lets you go some different directions, everything after the red door is very linear, but the variation in areas helps. Definitely had to play cautiously in this one between the chaingunner snipers and the teleport squads (which I agree sometimes trickled too slowly for my taste), but that's fine. This one definitely had more character than the preceding map.

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MAP06: At the Heart of Decay

 

I would say that in general, and perhaps with the exception of MAP02 and its compact brevity, this second episode has raised the bar from The Darkening quite a bit; there hasn't been a bad level yet.  That trend continues here, with a twisty techbase that seems to combine the best of MAP04's strong component rooms and cinematic presentation and MAP05's freedom to roam.  In terms of visually vivid areas I think the one that stands out for me is the hallway toward the exit, with its tall windows on the north wall giving an almost cathedral-like scale and airiness to it before it narrows and plunges through layers of technological buttressing as is approaching some kind of airlock or reactor containment vessel; earlier than that, something as simple as the hallway that descends as it coils back on itself gives a remarkable sense of worming into the map's innards and passing from the relative safety of the level's outer regions to its more dangerous inner sanctum.  The air vents or service tunnels on the western side of the map are likewise a nice addition, with the odd angles and interconnections and the presence of dangerous slike puddles helping to keep that tangled little cluster more interesting than the repetitive and anonymous claustrophobia that other attempts at similar passages can often descend into.

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MAP07

A map07 with a bunch of mancubi but no 666 tag. Feels almost like a missed opportunity, really.

 

So as usual for the set, this is a great looking tech base. That's more or less a given for any level of Darkening 2. This one also cracks out some faked slopes using self-referencing sectors and angled mid textures. I admire the effort, I guess, though I'm not convinced it really adds anything to the map.

 

Combat-wise, this is a bit of a meh experience. Most of the action is serviceable, but there are no really memorable encounters, and the crate room full of imps is frankly an exercise in tedium. Plus the second blue armour in that area is way overkill. I exited with 186 armour and I never even picked this one up.

 

 

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07 - looks like a test map made to get the hang of the texture pack. Many different themes and technical tricks are combined in a way that doesn't work well (it has that random experimental laboratory feel to it), and the overall flow is pretty bad, with numerous moments of confusion. What the hell was that crate maze switch? Why is the only SSG hidden in a secret? Who wants to look at all that brown? Not really good. But at least it's not a Dead Simple clone.

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to wrap up the darkening ep.1, MAP10 - “Under Earth” by Travers Dunne is an enjoyable map with a nice sense of place, and MAP11 - “Stone Tyrant” by Adam Windsor your cyberdemon showdown map.

 

overall, some stronger and some weaker maps (those by john bye, mostly). while jan van der veken had a strong showing in terms of aesthetics (even with the dominant brown theme) ammo starvation while playing his maps annoyed me to the point that i switched to continuous, for which the mapset was probably intended. 

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ok, so on the the darkening ep.2

 


MAP01 - “Outpost Mortem” by Ola Björling

 

the imp swarm plays its role well, it drives the player into the building to find better weapons than the dinky pistol he has when he comes down that steep hill. we leave the brown theme her and go for one more inspired by quake 2 or half-life, as the industrial facility and the crates with the darkening logo suggest. rather large for a map01 and highly non-linear. thanks to ola for chiming in  here. not much opposition, great for bashing their heads in with berserk.

 

 

MAP02 - “Biotech Terror” by Jan Van der Veken, Derek MacDonald

 

looks great with that ceiling at various heights and the sky shining through, see demtor's screenshot. perhaps not surprisingly given its authors. a kind of storage area, but without the mass of crates. while you don't run into anything heavier than some hell knights, the health starvation vs a large number of hitscanners makes up for this, as the teleporting sergeants fire before they're even fully visible in the teleporter, so i was down to 8 hp and thankful for even a stimpack. the stairs at the yk / hk trap are another nice touch.

 

 

MAP03 - “Binary Compound” by Adam Windsor

 

as some have written about this grimy industrial theme: i like it, much better than shiny new tech. that texture pack is something that makes the darkening 2 stand out. and that curvy architecture is much more pleasant to look at than your bunch of rectangular rooms. getting the keys involves some straferunning (yellow), parkour between crates (red) and walking a narrow path (blue)  also, plenty of hitscanners, but rarely in a threatening surprise, more like a welcome source of ammo. the chainsaw is given here, very welcome for handling imps and cacos, even those 3 revs, as i found shotgunning them boring, would have preferred the ssg at this point.

 

 

MAP04 - “Vindication” by Anthony Soto

 

great map. gives the ssg and puts it to good use. there's also a rocket launcher, necessary against those pesky 3 revs on a ledge. missed the secret opening sound first because of the weird music, the only not so good thing in this map, imo. 
surprisen chaingunners, but never unfair. revs and some barons now. the way to the exit leads back to the starting point. 


 

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14 minutes ago, Pirx said:

MAP03 - “Binary Compound” by Adam Windsor

getting the keys involves some straferunning (yellow), parkour between crates (red) and walking a narrow path (blue)

 

I think you're getting your maps mixed up.  There's no yellow key in the map and the red key is at ground level, behind a crate.  No parkour required :)

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