It has been another slow week, with very few new wads released. Fortunately, a rather good Zdoom map by Job reached /newstuff just in time, and there is something for the jDoom fans too (as long as they don't mind getting telefragged now and then). To compensate for the small amount of literally new stuff, a number of older wads have been added to the archive this week (not all by me!) and there is plenty of quality to be found amongst them.
- Point of No Return by Job
2,887kb - Zdoom+Doom2 - SP - 1 map - - -
Job has clearly put a lot of work into this atmospheric, challenging and complex map. The architecture is quite intricate and the lighting complements it well - it really feels like you are in some sort of overrun outpost. The map is generally quite dark, but not so dark that it becomes a real problem. For the most part it is clear where you should go next - it might have been my imagination, but I think there was some subtle colour-coding to indicate the correct way ahead. Having said that, I did find myself using the automap every so often, and needing to backtrack through cleared areas. No complaints there though - it's rarely possible to have perfect connectivity in a large map.
Zdoom features are not heavily used - just in subtle and appropriate fashion to heighten the mood. There are quite a few stealth monsters though - but not enough to be really annoying, and you do get enough health to compensate for them. The gameplay shouldn't be too tough for most Doomers on UV, and you are given plenty of ammo to get the job done. In fact, the finale even seemed a bit disappointing to me - the masses of plasma and rockets suggested it was going to be a total BFG slaughter-fest in the best HR-style.
Jumping and mlook are not required (except that I found one point where if you're foolish enough to walk into a hole, you need to jump to get out). In his text-file Job says that jumping won't ruin anything though, so if you want to use it for some slight shortcuts, go ahead.
Ubik's excellent mp3 music adds greatly to the atmosphere, and I am pleased to note that Ty has recently clarified the archive's rules - mp3-format music is now allowed (as long as it doesn't violate anyone's copyright, naturally).
Recommended. Wad of the week.
- The Eye of the Demon by Jimi
2,959kb - jDoom1.7.14+Doom2 - SP - 1 map -
Here we have a map that requires jDoom - and a very recent version too. I needed to upgrade from 1.7.11 to 1.7.14 to get it to work.
Once you have got it running, you'll find it's quite an interesting map. It's certainly challenging, albeit in rather an unfair way. Until you know your way through the map to the end, I doubt you'll have much chance of reaching the exit - trial-and-error is unlikely to bear much fruit. Also, with it being a map30, all monsters can telefrag - and there are quite a lot of monsters that teleport in near the player at a couple of points. The map's visuals are fairly pleasant, though it is hard to say to what extent this is due to the mapper's skill and how much is due to jDoom's ability to make even rather plain maps look pretty.
Some events are triggered by monster deaths - in the later stages, think of E1M8, E2M8 and E3M8, and you should get on the right track - the similarity with E1M8 should be pretty clear even without this hint though. The way to kill the boss brain isn't so obvious, and I don't recall seeing it in a Doom wad before (think Shub-Niggurath, but without the spiky ball thingy). You'll most likely just stumble into it.
In his text-file, Jimi mentions a possible problem with the boss shooter prematurely awakening. I can confirm this; it happened to me on one occasion.
Overall, not a bad map at all, but it might be most fun to use God mode to check out the route before trying to beat it fair and square.
- DTCA - Map 20 - Research Centre Roof by Cyber-Menace
755kb - Zdoom+Doom2 - SP+DM - 1 map -
I think this is the best of the DTCA maps that I have played so far. However, that isn't saying too much, given that I gave his "Map 18" a rather unfavourable review in T/nC #150.
The architecture here is more varied than the forest Cyber-Menace made back then, and does more to enhance gameplay rather than obstruct it. However, there are quite a lot of structures have have little obvious point to them. This map is intended to work well as a DM map, and I can believe that - items and weapons are well-placed strategically, and it should make for some interesting battles. The SP gameplay, on the other hand, is rather repetitive and long-winded. If I hadn't been reviewing the map, I'm sure I would have abandoned it as a waste of time after the first 20 minutes or so.
Essentially, your task is to mow down a series of waves of cannon-fodder - several hundred imps, a few hundred demons mixed with cacos, etc. There is a slightly-too-long cutscene between each wave. You are given an infinite supply of ammo and health, so you can (and for the most part have to) camp in and around the area where these goodies are supplied. This gets old rather quickly. It's possible to get into trouble at some points, but as long as you use the invulnerabilities you are given at sensible moments (don't leave it too long!), you should be quite comfortably OK. The final wave of enemies is interesting though - it's just a shame that you only reach it after something like an hour of mindless slaughter. I won't spoil the surprise in case you want to persevere through to it. My only grumble here is that the fiddly architecture in the outlying areas made it quite easy for the last few enemies to get stranded, and they then took quite a while to hunt down.
Verdict: might have been fun if the early waves of enemies had been about 90% smaller. As it was - I want that hour of my life back!
- Moonbase by Chris "Chopkinsca" Hopkins
19kb - Zdoom 2 - SP - 1 map -
From the text-file and the greeting message at the start, I thought this was going to be a joke map. Fortunately it isn't - it's just a standard sort of map, with a rather cobbled-together appearance. The gameplay isn't bad though, and to some extent compensates for the poor architecture and texturing. However, the difficulty is mainly due to a lack of health rather than interesting battles, so you'll probably want to adopt some fairly cautious tactics early on. Whether you survive will depend mostly on whether you can successfully BFG a pack of archies that are released late on.
Verdict: not a bad effort if this really was a map quickly thrown together while inebriated.
- WAD Author's DOOM Reference v1.0 by by Jim F. Flynn; HTML Version by Dr Sleep
62kb - (not a Doom wad)
Jim Flynn was a major figure in the early days of the online Doom community, and was one of the team that made Boom. This reference guide was a pioneering effort into revealing the workings of Doom. Of both historical and practical interest.
- WinDEU for Beginners: A Pictorial Guide (HTML version) by John W. Anderson (aka Dr Sleep)
820kb - (not a Doom wad)
Dr Sleep is another of the legends of the early Doom community, and contributed to both the Master Levels and Thy Flesh Consumed. As you're probably aware, he has recently become active in the Doom community once more. This is a detailed guide to WinDEU, and much more besides. I'm not sure whether many people use WinDEU nowadays, but maybe this will increase thanks to this user-friendly guide.
- WinDEU for Beginners: A Pictorial Guide (Acrobat version) by John W. Anderson (aka Dr Sleep)
776kb - (not a Doom wad)
The same as above, but in Adobe Acrobat format, which you may well find even more user-friendly.
It was a good week for re-releases; several quality wads were uploaded - in some cases one wonders why on earth they didn't find their way into the archives at the time they were created. Some of these wads were uploaded by me, but the majority were anonymously uploaded - or maybe by the original authors.
- Anvil 1 - Rendezvous Zone by Stefan Setchell
93kb - Doom2.exe - SP - 1 map - -
Apparently this was intended as the first in a series of "Anvil" wads. If this was the only one made, then it's a shame. It's quite a polished map, with plenty of tight and tricky areas. On the whole it is nicely lit, with secret areas subtly indicated. It is by no means an easy map, but the challenge is quite fair, and the ammo supply is OK as long as you find a few secrets near the start. I did get stuck on one occasion, when I visited the areas in a less than logical fashion. When I did everything I was obviously meant to do in each area before moving onto the next, everything worked fine. A fun adventure.
- A Visit to Atari Hell by Greg LaBrec
675kb - Doom2.exe - SP - 2 maps -
Here we have a couple of novelty maps, based on a real place. The fact that the layout was dictated by the need to follow the layout of an office has quite a serious negative effect on the gameplay (which is fairly routine and repetitive), so unless you get a thrill from Dooming in "real" places or have a special interest in Atari, you might want to skip this one. Still, it's quite a well made wad, with some little surprises here and there. You may well find the sound effects a bit irritating; also, to British ears, the word "math" will grate, and the pronunciation of Jaguar as two syllables ("Jag-war") will come as a surprise.
- Big Castle by Bob Kudla
135kb - Doom2.exe - SP - 1 map - -
The name says it all: this is a great big castle. Not a fairytale castle with turrets and dreaming spires, but a good practical castle of the sort you'd build if you really wanted to defend an area. The use of all that green marble would seem quite an extravagance though. It's full of hidden passageways, and is quite tricky due to the scarcity of health and the number of hitscan enemies. I think it should keep most Doomers happily busy for half an hour or so.
- Bonar6 by Nathan Ashcraft & Ethan Banks
80kb - Doom2.exe - SP - 1 map -
This map is OK, but not great. It's rather plain and there isn't much in the way of any consistent theme, but some of the battles and areas are fun. I kept getting a ghost Nazi - with no rockets left on one occasion, but I found a friendly baron to take care of him. One of the secrets is really tricky to get, so you might want to look in an editor if you're a 100% kind of guy/gal, or really need that megasphere. (OK, hint: the colour-coding of the blue and green switches is not mere decoration.)
- Breeze by Brad Kiefer
97kb - Doom2.exe - SP - 1 map - -
For some reason this old map stuck in my mind from years ago, maybe due to the large number of megaspheres in an underwater area, and the large-seeming battles. Actually it's rather over-ammoed and has way too many power-ups, but it's still fun, and certainly "different".
- Das Boot by Ralph Kukla
165kb - Doom2.exe - SP - 1 map -
This wad is named after the film Das Boot, which follows the life of a WW2 German U-boat. Accordingly, it is set on a submarine, and is suitably dark and claustrophobic. It also features some good sound replacements, which are in keeping with the setting. I was reminded of this wad by Never_Again's demopack for Heroes.wad, where the music from Das Boot is used in one map. Gameplay is not too tough, though health might be a problem is you're a bit careless - and you can get stuck in some areas near the start if you collect the dropped shotguns incautiously.
- Lynx Up! by Rich Johnston aka Nostromo
51kb - Doom2.exe - SP - 1 map -
This is definitely a novelty map, but it doesn't play too badly at all. It's in the shape of an Atari Lynx, and the wide-open areas provide for some enjoyable carnage, while the locations of buttons are used to good effect. The text claims that the wad is very difficult on UV, but that was by 1996 standards. If you try to be too clever with the switches and raising platforms, you can find yourself stuck, so behave yourself and follow the intended route, OK? :)
- Nuke Processing Plant by Eeva Marin
72kb - Doom2.exe - SP - 1 map -
I found this map quite impressive. It's rather well made with some interesting-looking areas and good battles. Some of the secrets are not too obvious, so if you see anything that looks like it might be a switch, press it and see what happens. Also, look carefully at the automap - it might just help you see how to get to a megasphere. Health might be tight towards the end, partly thanks to all the damaging sectors you need to walk through.
- Ropy by Tobias Forsberg
115kb - Doom2.exe - SP - 1 map - -
This and the next look like they should be well-known maps, and perhaps to some people they are. However, for some reason they were missing from the archive. Ola Björling is among those credited for assistance and testing, and for Ropy II, Aurikan is also mentioned (a rather nice UV -fast demo by him is included for that map).
Both maps are well made, with consistent themes and good texturing throughout. The design is rather conservative in appearance and shows good taste - everything is appropriate to the context, and nothing seems to have been put there just to show off or to look fancy. Yellow stone is used in great abundance, together with some darker cave areas. Gameplay is challenging, though this is mostly achieved by the scarcity of health - much of the task is to deal with the light resistance while taking very little damage. It is possible to get through Ropy without finding many of the secrets, but there is much greater room for error if you do locate them, especially the berserk and blue armour secrets (the invisibility secret is far less valuable, and probably just a handicap, given that there are no hitscan enemies in the areas immediately following it). How this map plays will depend on which order you tackle the areas. I'd strongly recommend getting the yellow key (shoot through the little hole in the wall) and the SSG (careful - it's booby-trapped) before heading for the blue key (a really mean booby-trap there, especially if you've left some corpses for the archies to resurrect along the path you need to run). I hope that's not too many spoilers, but this can be a frustrating map if you do it purely by trial and error. In particular I'd highlight the need to shoot switches, run along very thin ledges, and for an awareness that not all sides of teleporter need lead to the same place.
- Ropy II by Tobias Forsberg
233kb - Doom2.exe - SP - 1 map - -
Many of the comments about Ropy apply to its sequel. In many respects Ropy II is a little easier and fairer - it is generally rather clearer where you need to go and what you need to do, and there's less scope for coming a cropper by tackling the areas in a suboptimal order. At one point an archie pops out to try to ruin your day, but as long as you don't panic, and make good use of the cover (i.e. a pillar) so generously provided, you should be fine. The faster you try to play this map, the harder it will become, and the author suggests that you turn on fast monsters if you want a real challenge.
- Sky Base by Terence Burns
192kb - Doom2.exe - SP - 1 map - -
An attractive and interesting map, set in some sort of high-tech space-base-type setting. There are some tricky passageways, not all of which show up in the automap, making them mildly irritating - but note that the automap provides a vital clue about where you need to go early on in the map. For the most part it is good honest action though. Health is plentiful, and you can afford to take some liberties in this respect (e.g. Tysoning a few barons - but that's not really necessary, given that there is plenty of ammo too). The layout is good, and many of the areas are in keeping with the space-age setting.