Holy poop on a stick. And you all thought you were rid of my /newstuff antics forever, didn't you? Well, that'll teach you to think! In my victorious return to t/nc we have a whopping fifty-two frickin' maps (give or take) because apparently everyone secretly knew I was coming back and wanted to make up for the weeks when I only had to review two or three maps. Thanks a lot! Well, fortunately for me this week's crop of maps are mostly good quality stuff, because otherwise I would be a saaad panda. Although I am mad at Kaiser for making DSV5 so hard, but that's a story for another time. No wait, it isn't, that's a story for right now...
Gardensnail - Pascal vd Heiden
doom2.exe - DM - 62k -
From the maker of the now famous Doom Builder comes a new DM map. Gardensnail is pretty smallish and probably best suited for a one-on-one game, though I imagine you could get a 3 or 4 player match going, though I'd imagine it would end up pretty cramped. I only tested it with two players (myself and Arioch) and we had a pretty fun time, with a few minor problems. First off a lot of the weapons are laid out in the middle of corridors so that on more than one occasion I was plugging away (or attempting to) at Arioch only to stumble over a new weapon and have him kill me while the auto-switch was occurring (those things seem to take forever to switch in DM). Not that I would have done much better without that issue, but this way I have something to blame my sub-par DM skills on. The only other real problems are the BFG and plasma dispensers. The way they're intended to be gotten is with a quick strafe and then hit a switch and grab the weapon. That's fine and dandy, but the map is so small you almost never have time to actually grab your weapon and it ends up in the hands of your opponents, so you're better off just not bothering with them in the long run. It's also somewhat easy to dominate the map since all the powerful weapons (save the rocket launcher) and ammo are in one central area and the rocket launcher is so far out of the way it's only rarely used. Overall the map is pretty fun, though nothing amazing in terms of play, and it looks good enough, though nothing spectacular in that department either.
High Guard - Matt "RottKing" Cibulas
ZDoom/Legacy - n/a - 77k -
It's a uh, High Guard skin from Rott. That's all I can say I guess.
Kansam's Trial (Special Edition) - Kansam, DOUG the Eagle with special guest appearance by SargeBaldy
doom.exe - SP - 755k -
Re-release ahoy! I never played the original, but from what I gather in the text file the only changes were the removal of a couple of annoying sounds, which I'm thankful for, because I can't stand annoying sound replacements. At any rate the original released for this episode 2 replacement was back in 1997. Thusly, the WAD quite reeks of 97 with square undetailed rooms and most everything at a high light level (probably 255, but I didn't bother to check). All in all the architecture, while quite clean and not really ugly or random (the maps all have pretty decent and consistent themes) is amazingly bland and boring, so if you need some sort of eye candy, you'll probably want to skip this. In the gameplay department it's decent enough, though I found it to be somewhat boring since there were no ambushes (or very few anyway) or teleporting monsters or any other sort of thing like that. It's all personal preference of course, you might find this wad fun, but as I see it, you're better off skipping this over, it's nothing special (though perhaps in 1997 it was good).
And now, to spice things up a bit, the following review is by everyone's favorite Canadian guy, mewse!
Claustrophobia: The Walls Close In - Virgil the Doom Poet
ZDoom - SP - 6.66m -
This is a neat little level set for ZDoom that has a well integrated plot. The combat, as mentioned in the text file, is tight and a little intense. One of the author's favourite tricks seems to be teleporting an imp directly behind you whenever you encounter a large demon like a Baron of Hell. This blocks your way of retreat, I'll leave it up to you as to whether it is a good thing or not.
Floor/Ceiling Sector Translations - Kara "Nanami" Rader
ZDoom - n/a - 11k
A small demo map showing off a clever new trick for ZDoom mappers out there which uses self-referencing sectors, colored lighting and transfer heights (Boom deep water). It's somewhat of an advanced trick, but the result is that you can color any flat (floor or ceiling) without having the opposite colored. You can also make it so that things in the colored sector are uncolored or colored.
Mountain of the Cannibal God - Duncan Rule
doom.exe - SP - 67k -
I would like to hold this WAD in contempt of two cases of false advertising. First off there aren't any Cannibals in it, and secondly with a filename like 'MOUNTGOD' you'd think there'd be some deity sex involved in there, right? Yes, I'm quite tired. At any rate, this is the author's first map, so I'll try and be gentle or some such crap. For a first map, it's good. It's got a nice (though annoying) layout, there's good use of textures and at least some form of balance between ammo, monsters and health. As a map in general though, you should probably skip it as it's just a big long crooked white path thingy (that goes up sometimes) with lots of weak enemies along with some pretty bland marble areas with stronger enemies. The author shows potential for future releases, and I look forward to them, but putting all feelings aside there are quite a few better choices this week and this would probably end up being a waste of time.
Neith - Owen "Sarge Baldy" Lloyd
doom.exe - SP - 332k -
SargeBaldy hasn't been in the community all that long, but he's quite proving himself as a mapper, especially with this excellent wad. Replacing E1M1 and requiring no source port, Neith takes place on some sort of base on the non-existent moon of Venus or something, I dunno, the text file wasn't very clear about that. At any rate, Mr. Lloyd makes excellent use of some new textures (which I love, because I'm starting to get sick of the stock textures) for some nicely laid out and overall good-looking areas. There's lots of switches to hit and you only need two keys, but you usually feel like you're doing something, though I did get lost when I forgot where the blue door was (hint: it's near the start). The enemy/ammo/health balance is pretty much spot on, though I did end up with 1 health after traipsing through some nukage (there's a secret by that spot that's very useful, but I didn't find it until too late sadly), and once in a while I had to berserk something when I would have preferred not to. Actually, let me also say that you're probably going to want to conserve your ammo. With any demons you meet it's best to use your fists, but there should be enough shells, clips and rockets for all the rest (it's very important not to waste rockets on demons, like I did... sigh). Overall I sort of wish the map had more detail in places, though I know VPOs and HOMs are always a worry for vanilla mappers, but aside from that this map is well worth the price of admission, so check it out.
The Prison - Nigel Dear
doom.exe - SP - 282k -
You can read my review of Kansam's Trial above because this one will be roughly the same as that, with a few exceptions which I'll now get into. First off this episode replacement replaces the first episode instead of the second. Minor difference though. Second, while a lot of the maps have fairly bland, square and very plain rooms, the author does show some excellent potential. Some interesting lighting is used throughout (though sparse) and the levels usually have some sort of height variation to keep it entertaining. However, the maps will probably seem repetitive since they don't altogether seem to get harder (or they do so at a very slow pace; my health seldom dropped below 70 in the first three or four maps) and every map revolves around you finding the three key cards (though often one of them is used to access secret areas and isn't necessary for completion of the map). There are a few nice traps, and I think in the future Mr. Dear is capable of making some excellent maps, but 'The Prison' as it stands is pretty forgettable, but if you're in love with episode replacements this is your lucky week.
ZUUL - Christopher "Udderdude" Emirzian
ZDoom - SP - 259k -
This is a re-release (of sorts) of last week's lone Hexen map, 'Abandoned Chapel' by the same author. I didn't play that, but from what I understand it's mostly just a simple conversion, though the text file says a few areas were removed and other changed. I'll give it the full review anyway. First off, texture alignment, people. I can't stress that enough. With Doom Builder out there's almost no excuse for having misaligned textures! That's just a small annoyance of my own, though, and it probably won't bother too many of you. Second off this map is quite hard. I didn't have too many problems in the beginning as there's ample ammo and health, and after grabbing the ssg it becomes downright easy. However, after a little more playing I suddenly found myself in a very tight spot (me alone with a Mancubus in a very small room) with only a chainsaw. And this was after I was forced to chainsaw a Revenant. I dunno, maybe I should have played on a lower skill level. At any rate, many of you will find this a nice challenge, though there are probably too many Pain Elementals for the likings of most (mine included). The looks of the map are nice, if not a bit symmetrical (giving off that nice copy and paste feeling), with lots of spawning monsters and quite a few Arch-Viles (none of which are really an issue, I don't think a single monster was resurrected). Thanks to the use of Hexen textures the map also gives off a weird Hexen vibe (which makes sense since it was a Hexen map first), but I always welcome a change of pace, though without a doubt it plays like a Doom map, not a Hexen one (nor a ZDoom map). Overall, a pretty nice output, and if you didn't play the Hexen version (or you weren't able to) you should consider checking this one out, just remember to conserve your ammo, because chainsawing a Mancubus is not fun.
Wolfen - Mouse
ZDoom/Hexen - SP - 5.9m -
Phew. Okay, so now here we have a Hexen hub, which doesn't occur very often. On top of that it's a Hexen hub for ZDoom, which to the best of my knowledge has never happened ever. If you're not familiar with the work of Mouse (which you probably aren't unless you frequent the ZDoom forums), now is as good a time as any to start, since she has two WADs in /newstuff this week. At any rate, Wolfen is, I think, everything Hexen should have been. Most people never bothered playing Hexen too long because the first hub is an absolute atrocity in terms of gameplay and layout. Hit a switch that may or may not do something in another map or perhaps not... yeah, screw that. Wolfen, while still maintaining Hexen's moody atmosphere (the best captured by a Doom engine game, in my opinion) and puzzle-centric gameplay, isn't as random and hard to figure out as regular Hexen. Your ultimate goal is to hit four switches (severing mana beams, or something like that) though you have to do quite a lot to actually accomplish that, from fighting all new enemies such as sea dragons and wolf guys to old favorites like uh, that Dragon thing, and those brown guys... I never did bother to learn the names of Hexen... well, anything. Either way, these maps are a lot of fun as they manage to maintain some level of Doomish gameplay (there's a lot of fighting to keep you busy while you're collecting stuff or solving puzzles) including a bunch of bosses throughout and ending with a final battle against some really cool morphing bosses. Overall some very impressive, and great looking, levels. If you're a fan of Hexen you will most likely love this hub, and if you aren't there's still a good chance you'll enjoy this.
DSV Episode 5: The Final War - Samuel "Kaiser" Villarreal
ZDoom - SP/Co-Op - 5.08m -
Continuing with the barrage of multi-map WADs that have fallen upon poor Cyb this week comes DSV 5 by Kaiser. I can't remember if I played DSVs 1 through 4 (I think I played 2 and maybe 3), but DSV 5 was certainly a nice set of 15 maps. Set on Pluto (I think the entire thing takes place there, it's a very small planet you know) where the scientists and other evil guys have nicely built lots of fat lasers (you'll know what I mean when you see them) and a good number of evil fans of death that will blow you into said lasers. I'm still trying to decide if the fans are super industrial strength or if they're just regular fans and the player weighs as much as a plastic bag.
At any rate, the gameplay focus is mainly, uh 'hard'. It starts off easy enough in its own way (ie, not too many enemies, and all have low health, but the majority of them have hitscan weapons, which means you really need to watch yourself), and then gradually jumps into insanity and then mega-insanity and finally it gets so friggin hard that it makes me want to cry and wish I had started it on a lower skill level. There were a couple enemies, such as these big gray Doom64 demon guys, that I just could not beat if my life depended on it. I did of course, though I had to cheat, but it's okay because I had a deadline, goddamnit (which I did not make anyway). Oh yeah, and then after that, it gets even harder. Goddamn you Kaiser, where are the maps with six zombiemen and nothing else?
Okay, getting into the looks of the maps, well, as you can probably tell from the numerous screenshots I have provided, they're quite nice looking, making good use of Strife resources (for both textures and sprites), with no texture misalignments I could spot (though it's tough to spot them when the walls are covered in decals and the halls flooded with monsters), and not excessive, but nice detail throughout (nothing ever seemed bare). Overall, quite a nice looking set of maps.
However, before I end the review I feel I should go over a few of the more annoying portions of some of the maps. Now, I already mentioned I suck at DSV 5, and that's fine, I'm sure there are plenty of people with enough skill to beat this on skill 4, but that's not what I'm talking about. There are quite a few parts that will annoy the crap out of you. I've already mentioned the lasers (getting blown into a laser when you've forgotten to save recently is not fun at all), and there's also a nice ice map which is filled with low-friction ice. Normally that wouldn't be a problem, except you're expected to make some tough jumps which is a pretty arduous task when you're busy flailing about on some ice. There's also a portion in one of the later maps with some sort of combo lock, which I normally wouldn't object to, except I couldn't find the combo and you're forced to enter the combo from a really weird third person angle. I got frustrated there and skipped to the next map. These sorts of things don't happen too often, and every project is bound to have an annoying portion, but you've been warned I guess.
So, overall? Well, as I said the maps are well done, though really hard (unbeatable on skill 4 for Cyb-skilled players), and not without their share of annoyances, but also with some neat moments and lots of times some downright fun gameplay. I'd say download it and give it a try yourself, but remember to save before you go near any fans (or if you see a laser and maybe a fan is hidden around the corner).
Chosen 1.33 - Mouse
ZDoom - SP - 8.92m -
Yet more from Mouse, Chosen is not for Hexen, but for Doom. However, that's about where it ends, because when you play this you won't have any idea you're playing Doom at all. Chosen is an Egyptian themed TC, and quite a good one at that, featuring all new sprites, textures, lots of dehacked work and lots of cool scripting (my favorite kind of WAD). The plot is fairly simple, you see apparently some big bad guy created this big evil snake (named Uraeusis) who needs to be defeated, so this big good guy, Seth, calls on you to defeat the evil snake. So you have to battle past evil archer chicks, axe-wielding dog people (I forget their proper name, Anubis I think), winged flying women who zoom at you full speed, earth-shaking sphinxes and finally Uraeusis himself (and the snake effect is quite well done). All in all this is quite a top notch effort, and a lot of fun to boot. The difficulty level isn't too hard, though you are forced to fight one boss on a tiny boat (pictured in screenshot four) which leaves little room for error (you can't survive a fall into the lava), and beating Uraeusis takes a bit of skill the first time, and a bit of thinking the second time (yes, you face him twice). The levels also look great, and the music is a wonderful compliment to each map as well. I really can't stress enough how much I like this WAD, so you really ought to check it out if you haven't played it before (it's been available in beta form for some time at the ZDoom forums, much like Wolfen above). Highly recommended.