And after a couple of agonizing hours, lots of deaths, and anger the sequel to Stardate 20x6 is finished, at last, also on HMP.
Starting with an introduction to the wad just like I did with all the others, Stardate 20x7 is a challenging wad with the color purple at the center which sets the overall tone, mood and atmosphere. It features a new menu background, a few new sounds for some weapons, some new enemies, new textures, and a new soundtrack.
The majority of the levels in the wad are very challenging, which is also its main problem. The kinds of challenges you face when playing the wad are neither fun nor enjoyable most of the time. The first levels, or rather, half of them, have cruel enemy placements and traps that force you to take damage at best, or die all the other time. Worse yet, there's a lot of resource starvation in these levels which offer you only the minimum for survival, you rarely, if at all find yourself with a higher percentage of health/armor and ammo when proceeding to the next levels. You will also resort to the Berserk and nothing more on quite a few occasions thanks to this, often against tough enemies. Thus, the gameplay in the sequel is radically different from that of 20x6 which provided both fun and challenging gameplay, whereas the sequel lacks the fun element most of the time and wants to keep you on the edge of your patience. In fact, it can be said the only thing the two have in common is the theme, and nothing else.
The new enemy introduced is a purple, flying Baron who attacks the player with fire and lots of homing rockets. He is only seen once during normal play near the exit of a level, his attacks being very difficult to dodge, and seems to have around the same health the standard Barons has. He could've been used in more instances than only one, but I imagine an efficient and interesting usage of the enemy would be no easy task considering how deadly he is.
The difficulty curve is basically nonexistent, or, if there actually is one, it works backwards. It starts very difficult and only after finishing the first 4 levels it becomes more tolerable when the style changes a bit and the resource starvation ends, along with less cruel encounters. Finally, some fun can be experienced. Similar to its predecessor the final levels are more slaughter oriented with the final map being slaughter with almost 1800 enemies. Another problem is that the first few levels are also difficult to navigate, They feature some interesting puzzles but it's also extremely easy to get lost and spend quite some time figuring out what you're supposed to do or get back on track without circling the areas you've already been through a number of times. While most of the levels are architecturally beautiful, there isn't anything that really stands out or catches your attention like the predecessor did with some sights when you found yourself outside.
There isn't much else to add this time, so to sum things up if you're familiar with HR2 the first levels are similar in terms of difficulty and gameplay style, from my POV anyway, minus the mediocre, boxy design. I would honestly not recommend 20x7 to anyone. It's without a doubt targeted at veterans or very skilled players in general, but frankly, I genuinely doubt even they would have much fun playing this, or not the first few levels anyway. Even HMP which is the recommended difficulty is ludicrous. I've seen some videos of the first few levels on UV and I... don't even know what to say, I can't understand how would anyone have any fun playing them. I would recommend the levels from MAP05 onward and pretend the previous maps don't exist. If you expect the sequel to use the same formula seen in 20x6 but improved with something new brought to the table you're going to be very disappointed, so unless you want to experience the duology and not just stop after completing 20x6 I can't find any good reason for why you should play this. My thoughts on 20x7 are negative, it barely gets 3/5 stars from me purely for being interesting, good looking, with some good puzzles and solid second half.
Datacore is one of those mappers you can rely on to create a short, decently playing, all-in-all fun map. the map like all his other work never overstays its welcome, and provides a thematic consistency that you can clearly see in the color scheme. if you like blue, this is a nice, fun quickie. when you want to take a break from hardcore slaughtering or anything else for something short, simple, to the point, and to the focal point, this is the wad to do so.
For players who enjoyed the original Doom, this wad set would appeal to them more than anything. The design is dedicated around the original game and in the styles of John Romero and Sandy Petersen. If there is one thing this wad truly does accomplish more so than anything, it is that the maps could pass for official id releases. For players who are new to trying custom wads, this is a decent one to begin with.
There are a number of maps that truly feel like you're playing a sequel to the original Doom. E1 follows the tech base style of Romero's level design from the original game with faithful renditions. The maps are mixed up, so they don't come off as copies to the original game's levels. Reactor Core feels like a legitimate sequel to Computer Station from the original game. Each level contains tons of secrets that are well hidden and some have hidden keys leading to doors, much like the original E1 had. The boss map with the barons is a faithful rendition that turns up the challenge a bit for expert players of the original game.
I personally found E2 to be more interesting than the Romero style maps. The textures offer a blend of tech base and the hellish look but it's more fluid in this wad as the levels progress. As the player progresses, the levels begin to look more and more hell-like leading up to the boss map with the cyberdemon The intermission screen fades into darkness the closer you get to the last level. The E2 levels do not so much feel like sequels and faithful renditions of E2 from the original game, but more in a way of carrying that torch to design levels that are similar. There's a couple moments where the influence can be felt back to the original game, but not every level will remind the player of a specific level. The cyberdemon fight itself is made more challenging with the use of teleporters. E2's secret level is the best in this wad offering fast paced combat.
E3 is where things begin to really change compared to the original game. The hell levels have a lot more going on to them and overall, feel much bigger than that of the original game. Chapel of Scorn is the one map in the whole game that sums up Sandy Petersen's level design style more than anything. It has an outside area resembling Sough Of Despair while the inside is similar to Unholy Cathedral (and contains a new secret puzzle that is something he would've done in the original game). Towards the end, Depths could be considered a weak level compared to the original game's level in it's slot (Mt. Erebus) but by this point, that's more of a nitpick than a criticism (my only real complaint is that the Mt. Erebus style level is a secret and not in the level order). The textures for E3 have never looked better than what you get here in this wad. Unlike the original game, the Spidermastermind boss fight is a legitimate challenge here since you can't just run up and BFG blast her. The boss stage involves crushing ceilings and a moving platform making for what feels like a grand boss battle.
Overall, I would rank this map set a 5 out of 5. The love is felt back to the original game as the team involved for this wad pay tribute to id's style of level making. For Doom players first venturing away from official levels and trying community projects for the first time, this is most definitely a good place to begin with custom wads.
Lovely looking level with some great features. The weather alone is awesome! Very playable, no cheap traps or anything like that, just solid gameplay. Also had the noise from the "Shadows" from Babylon 5 coming from the strange skull trees. Solid all-rounder.