There's an odd mix this week. The wads include a jHexen episode, a couple of single-player Skulltag maps, a level for Edge, and a number of good maps for deathmatch. The quality varies widely too: a few are worthless, but there are enough good ones to compensate (and more). Please note that SargeBaldy is reviewing Carnage Galore III; this is not because I'm being lazy, but because it was held over from last week (ed: and Cyb forgot again). I'm off to Italy for a week now, so if you have any questions/flames, I'm afraid they will go unanswered. Let's hope the reviews speak for themselves then...
- Wart 03: Chamber of Sin by Brad Carney (Carnevil)
4,931kb - Skulltag 0.95i + Doom2 - SP - 1 map -
This is the third in a series of single-player maps that Carnevil has made to demonstrate Skulltag's features. This may seem a bit odd, since Skulltag is primarily a multi-player port, but the map is really rather good, and I suspect it may motivate more people to make SP maps for Skulltag.
It's a medium-to-large map, and the gameplay flow is good. Difficulty-wise it's by no means a walk in the park (I played in UV), but you shouldn't ever be left scratching your head wondering how on earth to make progress. Sometimes you have a choice of whether to play heroically or cautiously - I chose the latter option at the blue key (hide there while a big infight takes place in the area below), and was rewarded with plenty of health and ammo for the following areas.
There are two main Skulltag power-ups that appear in this map. For those who are new to Skulltag, some comments about them might be useful, or else you might be standing there thinking "WTF?" while you get ambushed by the bunch of bad guys that were guarding it. Firstly, Rage increases your rate of fire. Towards the end of the map you get Drain, which drains health from your enemies when you damage them (like Heretic's powered-up gauntlets). Yes, that's pretty damned useful, and as far as I can tell is absolutely essential for the final room. Note that you can't carry both these power-ups at the same time. You may notice that in the info above I have stated that this map requires Skulltag 0.95i, whereas the text-file claims it only needs 0.95b or above. This is because Drain doesn't seem to work in some earlier versions - I tried it first of all in 0.95c, and obviously didn't have a hope in hell in that last room (see 4th screenshot) without the Drain functioning.
The architecture is good throughout Wart 03 - plenty of effort must have gone into making it look good. The map is playable without mlook or jumping, with, as far as I can tell, just one exception: reaching the soul sphere requires an *upward* rocket-jump (i.e. look down at the floor and fire). I could be wrong about that though.
I think this is the best of the new maps that I have played this week. I won't actually call it Wad of the Week though, since I suspect that honour should perhaps go to Ichor's Carnage Galore III, which Cyb is reviewing (ed: No he's not, SargeBaldy is, Cyb forgot).
- The Rusting by Stealthy Ivan
59kb - Doom2.exe - SP - 1 map -
This is rather a good medium/large map. Much of the battle takes place in a big open area in which there are several tall buildings, and some care is needed since you can come under attack from many angles. Good use is made of the height differences, and the gameplay is very interesting. Towards the end though the odds become more heavily stacked in the player's favour. There is one point where you face quite a horde of monsters, including a couple of cybers, but you have just received some major power-ups and enough plasma to feed a medium-sized country of plasma-eaters. Or something like that. If it were better balanced, it would be a really excellent map. Still, there are plenty of good battles, and I can certainly recommend this wad rather warmly.
- Marsbase by Stealthy Ivan
59kb - Doom2.exe - SP - 1 map -
Going by the file date (1998), this is a substantially older creation by Stealthy Ivan. It is a perfectly well-made map, but rather less polished - the design is more standard-looking, and the gameplay is not especially challenging. Health and ammo are plentiful, though the start is a bit tight if you don't notice a very useful secret. Experienced Doomers will probably not feel under any great threat while playing this map, though it is fun to blast through - apart from the switch-hunt through a crate-room. There are some good-looking areas and some battles that would have been quite tricky if they weren't just a matter of plasma slaughter. That's my main criticism again, I'm afraid - way too much plasma. Still definitely worth playing though.
- MAP30 Plus by Ian "riki" Chipman
21kb - Zdoom 2.0.63 + Doom2 - SP - 1 map -
This is a significantly modified and expanded version of the Icon of Sin. It's claimed to be more challenging than the original, but I'm not sure this is true. Once you know your way around, it isn't too difficult. You are aided significantly by the fact that in current versions of Zdoom (required to play the map), cyberdemon rockets don't knock you around very much at all when you are invulnerable, and this makes it far easier to aim rockets at the boss brain. If and when that bug is fixed, this map will become a fair bit tougher. Still, you are given the means to dispatch the cybers and friends, and enough invulnerabilities to get you through. A Max run (i.e. killing every monster that is on the map at the start) would be trickier, but you'd also reach an extra stash of ammo and invulnerabilities that way. Overall, it's a fun and chaotic little map.
PS: While replaying the map to take a screenshot, I noticed what I presume is an unintended shortcut: if you jam yourself under a certain crushing sector while invulnerable, you can quickly pump three rockets into the boss brain, and exit the map in less than a minute. Whoops.
- Chainsaws and Boomsticks Special Edition by Sgt Crispy
893kb - limit-removing port + Doom2 - DM - 8 maps - -
A lot of work has obviously gone into this set of eight deathmatch levels. The design is good, with attractive textures that are used well. The maps are not too cramped, but not generally wide-open either. There isn't a great deal of height variation in the first few maps, but this improves in the later maps. Connectivity is acceptable at least, and generally good. The name reflects the most prevalent weapons you'll find, but the bigger weapons aren't missing entirely. A recommended download for DMers. BTW, the reason it can't be played in vanilla is VPOs. Lots of them.
- Nuke Canyon by Jimi
248kb - limit-removing port + Doom2 - DM - 1 map - -
This is an attractive-looking large/medium deathmatch map, with good textures and an interesting layout. There are both indoor and outdoor areas, and they are linked quite well. It does have one very odd feature - a secret area with "legalize cannabis" slogans and images. It also includes some of the bigger weapons and power-ups. Weird. Ideal for pot-head deathmatchers I suppose.
- Teeth of the Storm by Templar
425kb - Edge + Doom2 - SP - 1 map -
This is one of the best Edge maps I have played. That's not saying too much though, given how few Edge maps there are, but at least this one shows off some of the good features of Edge, rather than just reminding people of its drawbacks. Rain is used in some areas, and there is quite a neat spark of electricity that can cause incautious players some serious damage. Early on, you hear some pig-like squealing noises. When you see the cute baby demons, you realize what was making those noises. Ahhh! Daddy isn't far away though, so be careful when you pulverize them. The design is rather plain generally, but this is probably just as well - the framerate remained only just about acceptable on my 2.2 GHz machine. Given that fact, those people who found last week's Grove (which was silky smooth on my box in GLBoom) unacceptably slow may not have very good results with this map. Teeth of the Storm features a "new" boss, and the level ends once you kill it. I won't give spoilers, but it's not at all difficult to kill once you realize that it lacks much defence against point-blank attacks. Overall verdict: OK, but nothing too special. Note: you may have to rename this wad when you unzip it, since it has the same name as one of the Master Levels, which might already be in your Doom2 folder.
- Skulltag Forums Adventures! by Mephisto
44kb - Skulltag + Doom2 - SP - 1 map -
This is essentially a carbon copy of Doomworld Forum Adventures, but with "Funnies" from the Skulltag forums instead. It not only lacks the creativity of the original, but the humour doesn't really hit the target either - the dialogue is somewhat leaden. If I wanted to be cruel, I might call it "Skull Tag Forum Unfunnies". The scripting also seems to be quite breakable, and it isn't made clear which version of Skulltag it is intended to work with. I tried it with the latest version (i.e. 0.95i), and found that the doors didn't always open when they were meant to. Verdict: not worth bothering with.
- ASSHOLE!!! by Xaser
42kb - Zdoom + Doom2 - SP - 1 map
This is one of those deliberately bad, unfunny joke wads that we've seen way too often recently. This might also crash your machine - it did mine, and heavily too (I needed to pull the plug to reset it). (ed: avoid at all costs)
- Carnage Galore III: Fury of Vuradi by Robert "Ichor" Eckhardt
78kb - jHexen with custom .dll - SP - 12 maps -
Here it is folks, hub 2 of one of the most ambitious Hexen projects to date. Pretty immediately though, I noticed some issues. Like when I tried to make it so I could scroll through my artifacts with [ and ], those keys wanted to act as quit and quicksave. I was not amused, but I trudged on, only to find that I really suck at Hexen. The first map is pretty difficult until you purchase your second weapon (at least it was for me as a fighter) but once you grab a hold of it it eases up quite a bit.
The wad as a whole is definitely worth checking out. Using the magical power of DLL, the author has added in several new artifacts, including Charm (a personal favorite), Potion of Regeneration, and even the classic Tome of Power makes a reappearance. He's also added in several new baddies with some pretty creative attacks that'll force you to rethink your strategy a bit. The maps themselves are about as detailed as the original Hexen maps and the scripting imitates the original ones nicely as well, giving it a nice classic feel. On the whole, this feels like it could be some sort of official Hexen add-on, complete with new artifacts, monsters, and weapons.
I uploaded four maps this time - all of them good old maps that for some reason or another never made it to the archive at the time of their initial release. Three of them are maps by Jim Flynn, who, amongst many other exploits, made three maps in the classic megawad Eternal. His website (where these wads had hitherto been available) now seems to have vanished, which is what prompted me to upload them, since they are not, as far as I know, available online anywhere else.
- Trouble on Titan by Jim Flynn
318kb - Doom2.exe - SP - 1 map -
A great big, complex map. It's good though, and there aren't too many places where it's difficult to see what you should do next. If you've got a couple of hours to spare and enjoy this type of challenge, it is highly recommended.
- The Farside of Titan by Jim Flynn
118kb - Doom2.exe - SP - 1 map -
By Flynn's standards, a relatively simple map. It is possible to exit in little more than a minute if you know exactly where you're going. If you want to see the whole map and kill everything, it will probably take something like 20 minutes. The map includes some of Jim Flynn's favourite features, such as elaborate self-building structures.
- The Interdiction Zone by Jim Flynn
94kb - Doom2.exe - SP - 1 map -
Again, a relatively simple Flynn map (i.e. it's only "fairly complex"). There are good battles all the way, but the difficulty is never too extreme. I actually found the finale a little disappointing; given how much ammo we'd just been given, I expected the exit to be really well defended. BTW, about half way through there are two crushable cybers - a theme we also see in one of Flynn's maps for The Master Levels. Note: This is a MAP07.
- WORNPEAS by Karl Minor
78kb - Doom2.exe - SP - 1 map -
A medium-sized map with a few puzzles and a fair number of enemies. The number of invulnerabilities stops it ever becoming too difficult, and makes the map rather demo-friendly in a number of categories; for instance I did a Tyson, which you can find in Doomworld's Demos Forum. Design-wise the map is certainly competent, but lacks much in the way of a consistent theme. The individual areas are all OK in themselves though. Some parts of the map are rather plain, but as the author wrote in his text-file "I ran out of linedefs in the editor, or it would be bigger".