Welcome to a very special edition of /newstuff Chronicles. Doom's tenth birthday was expected to bring a deluge of major releases, but several anticipated projects failed to materialize, leaving TeamTNT's long-awaited Daedalus occupying centre-stage unchallenged. The selection of other wads this week certainly does not disappoint though. There is a demo release of the awesome Flashback, several 10th birthday wads, a comeback map by the legendary "prower", a promising two-map demo of a megawad for Evilution, and several other maps that are well worth playing, such as a third Zdoom map in the past month by Udderdude - in my opinion his best so far, but see below for Ultimate DooMer's review...
Note: Due to the special nature of this week's /newstuff Chronicles, I received valuable assistance from Ultimate DooMer, deathz0r, Cyb and Bloodshedder. They each reviewed some of this week's wads, and are credited individually; all other reviews are by me.
- Daedalus: Alien Defense by TeamTNT
19,313kb - Zdoom 2.0.60 - SP - Hub-based megawad - - - - - - - - - - - -
How fortunate we Doomers are. Daedalus is a professional-quality add-on by TeamTNT, yet it has been presented to us for free. "Phenomenal" does not begin to describe the amount of work that must have gone into this project. The text-file gives the build time as "only" four and a half years, but I'm sure Doom2000 (the previous name for this project) was being planned well before 1999.
Daedalus features totally new textures (as far as I am aware, no textures from the original game are used), a lot of new sounds, great music by Rich "Weeds" Nagel, and usage of just about every advanced Zdoom feature, to provide an experience quite unlike anything else so far made for a Doom engine.
Many of you will remember the Hub 1 release at the end of 1999, which appeared just as everyone around the world was worrying that the millennium bug might cause some major catastrophe - or else was blind drunk. Some people found that hub rather frustrating, with the objectives somewhat unclear, and some of the puzzles only solvable by trial and error. I am happy to report that the new version of that hub, while fundamentally the same, is far more fun to play: the objectives are explained better, and the player is provided with more useful information - a lot of effort has been put into making Daedalus more user-friendly than its demo version. It can still be a bit frustrating if you can't find all those codes though, and if you're not paying careful attention you can find yourself going around in circles.
The gameplay is rather challenging, mostly due to the scarcity of health - you are rarely mobbed by a mass of monsters. Most of your time playing Daedalus will be spent trying to work out what to do next to accomplish the mission objectives, and I found the monsters almost a distraction, rather than the main point of the game, as is the case in most traditional Doom wads. The hub system is well implemented - the levels are interconnected in all manner of ways, and the graphical display when travelling between the levels is slickly presented, and varies from hub to hub - sometimes it is travel tubes, while at other times it is moving walkways, etc.
Every so often, I found myself looking around at the surroundings, and just thinking "Wow". The variety and quality of the architecture is breathtaking, whether it is moving machinery, natural surroundings, a spaceship or (as in a few maps) just something utterly weird.
So, does Daedalus have any negative aspects? Unfortunately, yes. Some of the puzzles are just too obtuse. Several people have found themselves completely stuck at certain points, notably the second microgen in the second hub. Even those people who have managed to find it, seem to have done so by accident, and following a frustrating trial-and-error search around several levels. I don't want to give an outright spoiler here, so I'll merely provide a general tip: if your path to something you need is blocked by an object (especially one of an unusual colour), it may well be that you can remove the obstacle directly, by pushing it or shooting it. I suppose this is a general problem facing designers of puzzle-based gameplay. If you make a big sign telling the player exactly what he needs to do, then there is no point putting the puzzle there in the first place. However, if you make it so the player can only solve the puzzle by being a mind-reader, then that's a fail too. Consequently, the designer tries to leave subtle clues, but it must be very hard to judge what is too subtle, especially when you have been working on a project for more than four years, and have only a hazy recollection of your own initial reaction to a particular situation.
Of course, this is the point where a standard game company would cash in by publishing an official strategy guide, which people would be expected to buy for $30 just to get the solution to a couple of unfair puzzles. That won't happen in this instance; probably at the same time as I am writing this, someone in the Doom community is putting together a detailed walkthrough for Daedalus. If so, they will be doing us all a great service - with the frustrating bits ironed out, Daedalus will be a pure joy to play.
It's superfluous to say that Daedalus is a more or less mandatory download for anyone with even the slightest interest in Doom.
- Flashback: demo by Torn, Espi, and Erik Alm
440kb - Doom.exe - SP - 6 maps - - -
On the basis of this six-map demo, Flashback looks set to become one of the greatest Doom projects ever. It is by no means the first project to pay homage to the original Doom levels, but this one is truly special. The maps are simply fantastic. The feel of the original game is preserved perfectly but without it ever seeming like an imitation, and the level of complexity and challenge are fully up to modern standards. The maps just beg to be played, and replayed over and over again. Health and ammo are balanced on a knife-edge, but not so tightly as to reduce the fun factor. As soon as you start each map, you will immediately recognize certain styles, but be confronted by original challenges. The fifth and sixth maps of this demo seem to me to offer especially interesting gameplay (from a pistol start). Very highly recommended.
- 10 Years of DooM... ... And many more to come by Pedro A. Gomez Blanco - pagb666
55kb - Doom2.exe - SP - 1 map - -
The author describes this medium-sized map as an "HR-alike level", and I think he achieves that aim quite well. The gameplay is tough and violent, but also fair and fun. If "HR-alike" puts you off it, then remember that there are the lower difficulty settings. It is map07, and the special triggers are used, so I'm afraid pacifist-style is ruled out, and leaving any arachnotrons alive is not to be recommended either. In his text-file pagb666 suggests that ammo is exceptionally tight, but I found the supply to be quite generous as long as you make good use of infighting possibilities (and there are plenty, including chaingunners vs mancs at the very start). The map is for the most part a blast-fest, though a bit of strategy is vital here and there. I found a telefrag of a cyberdemon very useful to get back to the central area from what looked like a dubious situation in a room where lots of arachnotrons had lived. I'm not sure if that is a very reliable approach, but it was certainly fun. I noticed one glitch: the pillar that lowers when the arachnotrons are dead (see second screenshot - it has lowered there) often gets obstructed by imps. You can solve the problem by killing them, but until you realize what the problem is, you might just wait around indefinitely (on the other hand, you might find a way to profit from this situation, since the stuck imp prevents anything else from teleporting in). The architecture is not elaborate, but is certainly not ugly. A recommended download.
- DTS-T (demo) by Deathmatcher (Ingmar Derks)
316kb - TNT.exe - SP - 2 maps - -
This is a two-map demo of a forthcoming megawad that, unusually, works with the Evilution iwad. This rather limits the audience (not everyone has Final Doom), and is presumably because the author doesn't have a copy of Doom2. The wad's title stands for "Dimension-Time-Space-Traveler", so this clearly provides a lot of leeway for wholly differing styles from one map to the next - quite an attractive feature (as long as it used carefully, and not just to link totally random maps together). The two maps presented here are certainly very different - one is a medieval castle, and the other takes place aboard a spaceship. Both maps are good, and augur well for this project. Map05 particularly impressed me - the atmosphere is dark and moody, while the gameplay is tricky and well-balanced. Several times I was thinking "I'm about to die!", but there would normally be just enough goodies provided to enable my marine to soldier on. In a few places you need to find a switch or door in a less than obvious place, but nothing so problematic that it gets frustrating. Map14 has a few too many repeated areas (this makes sense in a space station, but is still a bit of a design flaw), but had some nice touches, such as the shower room (see second screenshot).
Some people might find the level of detailing a little low, but in my opinion it is OK - enough to add character and landmarks, but nothing too fiddly.
Some technical notes: There is a welcome screen on map01 telling you which levels exist. This welcome graphic works OK when using the Final Doom exe, but it crashes prboom. I'd suggest using the command line to warp to map05 or map14. Also, if you don't have Final Doom, I noticed that map05 crashes in prboom if you try to play it using the Doom2 iwad, but map14 at least starts up OK. Zdoom is more tolerant in this respect, and does allow you to play map05, albeit with some areas very ugly due to missing textures.
Overall, a very promising demo release. I would seriously suggest that it is converted to work with the Doom2 iwad before the final release though.
- Imp Arena by Cyb
410kb - Zdoom 2.0.55 or higher - SP - 1 map - -
Cyb chose to celebrate Doom's 10th birthday with a simple little wad, which I think most people will enjoy playing a few times. It's a small arena where you need to kill increasing numbers of imps using increasingly powerful weapons. A touch of fun is added by the Unreal Tournament announcer's voice booming out whenever you kill several imps in quick succession. You get bonus points for these mutliple kills, and the bonuses are larger if you achieve them with smaller weapons. The aim is to get as high a score as possible - I think anything over 1500 would be an excellent score, and would probably require some daring strategy while using the small weapons. There are some oddities in the bonus points table, which mean that, for instance, you're better off if you only kill 4 imps with each BFG blast than if you kill 10, but there's not much point criticizing the wad because of that when it is really just intended as a bit of fun. The music is well-chosen. Recommended, especially if you can't get enough of those "M-M-M-M-MONSTER KILLLLLLLL-LLLL!!!!" announcements.
- 10 Years of Doom by Darren Finch A.K.A: Doom_Dude
245kb - Doom.exe - SP - 1 map - -
To see why this is a "10 Years" wad, you'll need to look at it in the automap - otherwise it would be quite easy to play the whole map without ever realizing what the areas spell out. Normally, one might think that spelling out words would not be a good basis for a map, but Doom_Dude has done an excellent job here: the map is fun, challenging, and pretty well balanced. On UV, you'll probably have quite a tough time if you don't find some useful items in secret areas, particularly near the start. The design is varied, though there were a few places where I got a little disorientated, and could have done with a few more obvious landmarks. On the whole, this is a tribute wad that also stands up to scrutiny on its merits.
- #zdoom Adventures! by dwforums
123kb - Zdoom 2.0 - SP - 1 map - -
For those who remember Doomworld Forum Adventures, it will be enough to say that this is more of the same thing. Even though the subject is now the spam-laden multi-player Notepad lame-athon that is IRC (specifically the channel #zdoom), the level design and type of humour are very similar to its predecessor. Most of the characters involved are also known in the Doomworld forums, and once more we have to perform a series of tasks that enable us, if we complete them successfully, to fight our way to domination of the channel. Another similarity is that once again there is one battle that is far harder than any of the others, so be sure to save your game before the final battle - or should that be after the "final" battle? Save frequently towards the end, anyway. Several of the earlier battles are also a little tricky, especially since health is scarce - even fraggle can be awkward until you get to grips with his teleporting antics. The cut-scenes are amusing (well, if you find silly in-jokes and digs at people amusing), but they will probably seem a little too long the second or third time you watch them. Regarding the final battle, I survived it only at about the tenth attempt and used a savegame part way through it. You have been warned. I'd be impressed to see a demo recorded on this map, but the cut-scenes might make it too tedious a task.
- Doom Birthday Cake by Espi
286kb - Zdoom (with PNG texture support) - SP - 1 map -
A very simple but attractive map. Espi had made a beautiful cake graphic, and was persuaded to turn it into a map and add monsters. Inevitably, gameplay is pretty simple (though the archie, cyber and spidermastermind can prove a little troublesome), but it's rather a unique experience to be blasting demons on icing sugar between smarties and candles. Cute.
- Fray by Petri Paavola
35kb - Doom2.exe - SP - 1 map -
This is presumably a re-release, since the wad file is dated 1996, though it isn't clear whether it was uploaded by the original author. It is a straightforward blast-fest. The design is simple to the point of crudeness, but you'll hardly notice since you spend the whole time wading through a sea of monsters, which you are very well tooled-up to face. On UV it isn't difficult just to run to the exit (if you know where to go), and even if you're blundering your way through, there is a fair chance you'll find your way there at the first or second attempt (just don't get trapped by the bad guys). Maxkills involves more work, but ammo is plentiful. In the text-file, the author issues a challenge for anyone to complete the map on Nightmare skill. I imagine it is possible, but the start wouldn't be much fun. There are many better slaughter-based maps, so I can only recommend this if you are desperate for more, or if you want to try the NM challenge.
- Imp Encounter: Second Edition by dwforums
55kb - Zdoom 2.0 - n/a - 1 map
There's not much that needs to be said about this one. It's a fix of the earlier release to make it work with the current version of Zdoom. In case you don't remember the map, it is a non-interactive movie based on the infamous fanfic by Taylor that delved into the mysteries of the eternal triangle of marine, berserk pack and imp. Well, whatever.
- Fragport by Stephen Clark (The Ultimate DooMer)
3,581kb - Doom2.exe - SP and coop - 32 maps -
This is yet another re-release of Fragport, but this time one of the main motivations is to fix a few issues so as to make the wad more demo-friendly. Re-releases can drive demo recorders mad (if they have already started work on a demo-pack), but on this occasion it should be welcomed.
If you haven't played Fragport before, it is a full 32-map megawad for Doom2, and as the name suggests, the emphasis is on all-action, challenging gameplay. It also showcases some of the design trends that have become more pronounced in Ultimate DooMer's later projects: his alphabet graphics are used to good effect, and voodoo dolls are used occasionally to provide time-limits for various tasks. Some of the maps are quite unusual: one is based on a real place, another on a TV gameshow, another takes place on board a ship, etc.
- Red Key for Heretic by Stephen Clark (The Ultimate DooMer)
117kb - Heretic, with or without ZDoom - n/a - no maps
The title says it all. This little wad provides a red key sprite to replace the yellow key, and provides suitably modified in-game messages. Ultimate DooMer invites you to use it in your own wads if you like. What a generous chappy he is!
- Castle of Blood by Jim McColm
114kb - doom.exe - SP -
Ah yes, a classic. In fact I discovered this on my D!1000 cd and it turned out to be the best unplayed DooM 1 map on it. A big gothic castle which is mostly made of green stone, but has one or two areas that are not. The detailing is a little plain in areas and some textures are not aligned, but at the same time they recapture the classic feel of those early gothic maps (aided by the use of many different flats with the textures). It's also quite challenging too, as there's quite a few monsters and a really cool big trap but you will come unstuck late on if you don't find the secrets with weapons in. It can get a little confusing in places, but on the whole this is recommended to all DooMers wanting something vintage for the occasion. (The Ultimate Doomer)
- Schlagwerk X by Christopher Emirzian (Udderdude)
90kb - ZDoom - SP -
Just a quick mention for this (as I reviewed it last week), this update has wider passages in the area beyond the first room, some slightly less nasty traps than before, and a new room added on the end. Oh, and that tune has been replaced with....e1m6. (dull - personally I recommend D_E1M4 from Industrial Techware DooM) (The Ultimate Doomer)
(btw if you still think it's unbeatable, see my demo of it in the demos forum)
- Paranoia Rebirth by Christopher Emirzian (Udderdude)
213kb - ZDoom - SP -
Hot on the heels of the recent flame-scorched wad comes a sequel that is blue. Very blue (in fact if you don't like blue, flush it down the loo!). Yes, lots of bluescale textures plus a few greyscale ones, too. Detail is ok, although quite plain in a lot of places, and the makeup of many passages makes it feel quite dull. The elements of Schlagwerk are present here: tight corridors, lots of monsters, blue armour at specific points and those sneaky teleport traps. Ammo is plentiful, although there are six different combinations of routes to take, and some of these may lead to trouble. Once again, cramped battles are squashed in everywhere, with not many open spaces at all. Still there's plenty of monsters, including good use of stealth imps throughout. If you liked his previous wad you'll probably like this, although it isn't a patch on it. And the rest of you probably won't like it that much. (The Ultimate Doomer)
GunX: Urban Nightmare by CrazyStormy Development
2401kb - doom or doom2.exe - SP/Coop/DM
The latest in the GunX series, this Urban Nighmares version is based on GunX 1.9a. There have always been quite a few weapon replacement modifications out there, and this one is hardly different from any others. It consists of several different sets of weapons taken from many different sources selectable by using the batch file that comes in the archive, which also happens to invoke Dehacked and DeuSF, completely ignoring the abilities of today's ports, and also happens to not work properly in Windows 2000. That's a long sentence. The weapons are somewhat varied, but most of the sets include what amounts to an automatic shotgun, a rapid fire energy gun, and a chaingun replacement that eats ammo like popcorn. There's even a medieval set that contains some weapons from Heretic and Hexen. The bad part is, most of the graphics could use quite a bit of work in order to look better, and some of the sound replacements leave something to be desired. Also included are six maps, one for the Ultimate Doom, and the rest for Doom 2. These are what consist of the "urban" portion of the WAD, ranging from outdoorsy areas to sewers, but they differ in quality from kind of junky to decent, with mostly mood-inappropriate music replacements. This one is worth checking out if you are interested in weapon modifications; otherwise, I wouldn't really bother. (Bloodshedder)
Dead Base 2.0 by Alberto Barsella, updated by Owen "SargeBaldy" Lloyd
214kb - ZDoom - SP
Apparently the first version of this that I played was broken, with an erroneous player one start in a room you couldn't get out of. After fixing that, I played through it again, vaguely remembering that I had played the original 1994 version of this map a few years ago. It's a large collection of "buildings", if you will, arranged in a sort of a base (hence the name). This was only the first map in the Wasteland series, the rest of which I would suggest you check out, if you can find them. Anyways, the basic premise of this release was to revamp the map and include some new ZDoom features, which it doesn't seem to go very heavy on. There's a particle fountain, a few slopes, silent teleporters, some scripted computers that display text to the HUD...and that's about it, although I understand that it would look a bit odd if things were plunked in just because you could do it in ZDoom. The text displays, though, follow the story presented in the text file, which is a nice addition. The general architecture remains unchanged, apart from various amounts of detailing. As far as mechanics, the map plays pretty well, and you won't be short on ammo due to the large stockpile given in the beginning. Health is balanced as well too, and I know I didn't exit with 100% but that's because I'm not that great of a player. Overall, if you haven't played the original, you would do well to play this version; if you have played the original, maybe you should check this one out too. (Bloodshedder)
Project A.E.S.W (Another E1 Style Wad) by Mike "prower" Reid
73kb - Limit Removing Port - SP
Well, I have to confess that I expressly requested to review this wad this week solely because the author and myself go way back. Back, oh, over five years ago, prower and I used to hang out on IRC and talk about mapping back when he was making his 'Seventh' series of maps and I was making my own 'Eulogy' series. Yes, good times were had by all. But enough of this memory lane crap, let's hear about prower's most recent.
While the map is called 'Another E1 Style Wad', I never once felt I was actually playing an E1 map. Indeed it uses many of the textures of E1, but the layout is very unlike E1 with a few small exceptions (such as the nuke paths). This is of course not to say it's a bad thing, if anything I was relieved because I've been playing so many friggin E1 maps for DW's top 100 wads. At any rate, the design of the map is pretty linear and straightforward, just collect all the keys and kill a bunch of monsters.
The absence of the supershotgun for the first two thirds of the map makes it a real challenge (and makes you feel like you're playing Doom 1, well, Doom 1 with Doom 2 monsters), especially a pesky arch-vile which kicked my ass a few times. Health and ammo are pretty spot on, even a bit plentiful in the ammo department (I never ran out). The numerous hitscan enemies will take a good chunk of health in the beginning if you aren't careful, but there's a megasphere and soulsphere for secrets, so if you can find those you're golden.
Overall, not too shabby. It's got some nice clean detail (though Vrack3, it's not), good challenge (the final trap may also kick your ass, it did mine) and only really suffers from its short length and linearity, which I normally wouldn't complain about, but I've been playing Daedalus the last couple hours so maybe everything seems linear now. (Cyb)