Illuminatus: Episodes 1 & 2 - Cory Scott (NiTROACTiVE, used to be known as NitroactiveStudios)
Doom 2 - Vanilla - Solo Play - 2532138 bytes -
Reviewed by: Sodaholic
Illuminatus is a set of vanilla compatible maps in an old-school style. This particular file is the demo for the first 2/3rds of the project. Upon booting up I was immediately impressed with the quality and care that had gone into the titlepic. However, I found that I didn't enjoy the maps quite as much. They're not bad by any means, but leaning toward the mediocre side, unfortunately.
They consist mostly of small rooms connected by narrow hallways, and nothing particularly stands out for me as memorable. The narrow hallways in particular are a pain, making it difficult to evade enemy attacks or move around them. This is particularly troublesome in cases where you're ganged up on, being forced to choose which monster to take damage from and which one to eliminate ASAP. While visually nice, none of the rooms seem memorable or unique, just containers for more monsters and switches.
Monster placement and usage also seem quite repetitive. Each map generally only uses a handful of monster types, and often one or two are extremely common. Fighting infinite hordes of pistol zombies doesn't inspire me very much. Many maps also start with a group of monsters with their backs toward you. This can be a somewhat painful experience when there is little cover and these groups consist of hitscanners.
The music arrangement is nice, which consists of tracks from Doom 1 and 2. The maps are aesthetically competent, no ugly textures or geometry (though I did find its E1 sky a tad ugly). All in all, I wouldn't tell you to avoid this mapset, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend it either. It's just too average and forgettable, which is unfortunate.
Bloody Realms of Hell - Chris Hansen
Ultimate Doom - Limit Removing - Solo Play - 192881 bytes -
Reviewed by: cs99cjb
Good morning, cs99cjb here. I'll be your guide and photographer for today's tour of the Bloody Realms of Hell. Please don't wander off because our insurance doesn't indemnify us against lava burns or teleportation accidents.
I was pleased to review another superb Doom WAD soon after "Dark Side Of Deimos", but relieved that this one contains only one map - albeit a large one. I played it in ZDoom, although it is meant to be compatible with any limit-removing source port. It took me about about 23 minutes to complete (not counting deaths) with 94% kills and 82% items picked up. The difficulty level of "ultra-violence" was about right for me: challenging enough to be sporadically deadly without ever becoming frustrating.
Why "realms" and not "realm"? Well, the player starts at a causeway between two grand edifices rather than in front of one, as would be conventional. I had a hunch that the first part of this map might have been designed by a different person because it has more sky, it's less interconnected, and more architectural. Chris Hansen's website gives the true explanation: he intended to make a complete replacement for episode 3 of Doom but ran out of ideas and stitched several of those maps together to make this one. I've read that John Carmack originally wanted Doom to be one seamless world; the format works well here as a slightly extended adventure.
The bloody realms continually keep the player on their toes by teleportation, opening or closing doors, lowering floors, etc. These tricks sometimes happen spontaneously and sometimes as an unexpected consequence of the player's actions. For example, attempting to open the very first door instead lowers gates on either side, releasing monsters. There's also a "They're coming out of the goddamned walls!" moment. The overall effect is to bring the environment alive. The action flows smoothly, and the closest thing to a puzzle is a distant switch that must be shot to release the player from a trap which has just sprung. Some of these traps are quite convoluted and must have taken a lot of thought to design, but most of the time I just relaxed and didn't think too hard about what was happening or where I was going.
The first "realm" is miserly with health but generous with armour - always an interesting combination. If you are careless or unlucky then it's easy to get badly shot up by shotgun guys. Tactics are pretty standard: shoot shotgun guys on sight, then pick off imps and cacodemons at a more leisurely pace whilst dodging their fireballs. The environs of the causeway get busy at peak times, with fireballs flying in all directions. Later, there is a lot of chain-gunning lost souls and imps with bared teeth before they can crowd around you. It's good clean fun.
There were sufficient ammo boxes scattered around for my needs, if I used the berserk pack provided and didn't accidentally neglect to pick up ammo. This isn't one of those frustrating maps where one has to constantly scrimp.
No cyberdemon or spider mastermind rules these realms, demonstrating that it's possible to make an entertaining WAD without either. A few Barons of Hell with teleportation tricks were enough of a handful for me. Food for thought in these inflationary times.
The only gameplay bug I found was that it's possible to get trapped behind the first pillar in the second jumping puzzle, without ever dying or escaping. In other places where I fell into holes, I always found a way out. Here, it seems the only way out is to cheat, quit or kill oneself.
In terms of aesthetics, it is hard for me to criticise this WAD. Most of the design is great without looking fussy, using time-honoured wood, stone, marble and rock textures that we all know and love. The new sky, credited to Christen Klie and Bob Carter, comprises an ominous black cloud hanging above a blood-red vista of jagged mountain peaks. This contrasts well with the marble, green stone and white rocks in the foreground, whilst mirroring the bloody pools below. Rocks are piled up in a nearby minor peak, contributing to a sense of depth that is highly unusual in a Doom map. Decorations such as torches and impaled bodies break up the skyline. The contrast of this vibrant yet tasteful environment with one of those tedious tan-coloured brick maps for Doom 2 couldn't be greater.
Lighting is also above par: corners are in shadow, ceiling lamps cast pools of light, and sectors containing torches and candles flicker or pulsate. Personally I would have preferred more stark contrast in some of the caves and tunnels, and there is a curious beam of light thrown by a candelabra, but these are minor quibbles.
The MIDI music, credited to Paul Corfiatis, is a good fit for the action-packed and hellish style of this map. It comprises about a one and a quarter minutes of pulsing percussion and dissonant chords which build tension that is released by a thirty-second guitar solo, followed by a further build up to a strident ending. It loops after two minutes.
In conclusion, this WAD is great. It's probably one of the best single-player Doom experiences out there, given that most maps nowadays are designed for Doom 2.
Dark Side of Deimos - Serious_MOod
Ultimate Doom - PrBoom+ - Solo Play - 787887 bytes -
Reviewed by: cs99cjb
I've been putting off writing this review for too long. Meanwhile, many people have already discovered the delight of "Dark Side of Deimos" - a replacement for the whole of episode two of Doom.
This WAD is a real treat for anyone sick of gimmicks, slaughter maps, or being mobbed by hordes of revenants and arch-viles that appear from nowhere. There are traps aplenty, but game play is well-balanced, and I never felt tempted to rage-quit or give up because of sheer boredom at reloading the same savegame over and over. There's a noticeable rise in difficulty in the fourth map, but one can play Dark Side of Deimos after a long day at work, or after a beer, and still have a great time. I found myself wondering who would have bought Doom 2 in 1994 had they been able to obtain more Doom maps of this quality for free - a thought that would surely have sent shivers down Jay Wilbur's spine.
As I played, I began thinking about what the formula for a good Doom map is and how this author has captured it. I smiled when a Baron of Hell killed me. I smiled when a ceiling crushed me as I grabbed a keycard. Either I was suffering from a weird form of Stockholm syndrome, or something else was going on.
An important factor is variety in the pace and style of gameplay; it's tiresome to slog through room after room of baddies with no respite. In this episode, the action comes in waves, leaving time between to look around and soak up the atmosphere. There are desperate battles, but usually enough stimpacks to allow a player who can avoid being cornered to prevail. Often there is a mixture of monsters, so it's possible to provoke in-fighting. A lava maze in the second map also contributes to variety: medikits in the maze made me complacent until I realised that my radiation suit was about to expire and began to run like hell!
The original Doom monsters have been used very effectively, for example by putting Barons of Hell in tight spaces where their fireballs are harder to dodge and their relatively slow speed isn't a problem. I found myself falling in love with Doom all over again, and even questioning aspects of Doom 2. For example, the menace of a charging demon comes from the fact that a single shotgun blast barely slows it down, whereas a super shotgun blast would kill it instantly.
Exploration and lateral thinking are rewarded. One example is a secret area in the third map that can only be accessed by timing a jump from a lift to coincide with a door being open. Interesting secrets such as this are not too hard to find, yet secrets are not essential to progression until the final map, where a key is hidden behind an opaque wall. I didn't find the exit to the secret map, so I warped to map 9 after finishing the episode (tip: in map 5, retrace your steps after crossing the threshold of the exit room instead of stepping onto the teleporters). The secret map is a short linear romp through delightfully hellish caverns and hallways of blood, fire and marble.
Because this is a whole episode, it avoids the congested feeling that often results from cramming all of the weapons and monsters into a single map. Instead, there is a fairly smooth progression of difficulty. I didn't get the rocket launcher until the fourth map, by which time I had run out of bullets and been reduced to using the shotgun. Consequently, letting fly with rockets at Barons of Hell was a real joy. There is also a teasing element to this: I picked up energy cells in the second map and rockets in the third - long before I had weapons requiring either kind of ammunition. The plasma rifle isn't given until the sixth map, where it is presented with appropriate pomp.
Given their time investment, a player must have complete trust in the author to provide the resources needed to reach an achievable goal, almost as one might trust divine providence (which is why Terry WADs make people so angry). I often found much-needed health or ammo just as my situation got really desperate, thus rewarding my perseverance. For example, during a fight with barons in the fourth map, I had only two shells and less than 20% health left when I flipped a switch to reveal a cache of ammo and a berserk pack. However, the most palpable example was a "leap of faith" in the sixth map, where a pathway rises from the lava only as the player steps out onto it. In each case, discovering that my faith had not been misplaced gave me a buzz.
A recurring trope was an exit or a keycard out of reach across a chasm until the player can find a switch to raise a bridge. There's a slight variation in maps 4 and 5, where the switch is also out of reach and must be shot. The easiest puzzle of this type is in the second map, where the switch is nearby; the hardest is in the seventh, where a whole sequence of switches raise bridges or open doors - usually in some distant place. Eventually I became impatient with my failure to work out what a switch had done and loaded the WAD file into an editor, so it was a bit of a failure in my eyes. It's especially tricky because one can't cross from one side of this map to the other without going through lava.
Of course the final factor is aesthetics. It was obvious to me from the start that this author is highly competent at texturing and use of brightness levels to create depth and contrast. Often bars and meshes are back-lit to create dramatic silhouettes. I don't agree with all his design choices (for example the staircase with half-metre risers in the first map, or the 1.25m-thick blue key door in the fourth), but generally the architecture is interesting without looking fussy. The maps are mainly indoor bases apart from an unexpected trip into a grey ash landscape on the fourth map.
Decoration is tasteful, albeit a little perfunctory in the first couple of maps. Vines are used effectively in the third and fourth maps to give depth and textural variety to these techbases. Generally, I found that the aesthetics improved during the episode: in particular, the sixth and seventh maps, in which hellish and volcanic themes begin to mingle with the steel and concrete, are masterpieces. The sixth map even has moving machinery that I found reminiscent of Doom 3.
This author understands that macabre aspects must be used sparingly to be effective: rather than scattering gore haphazardly, there is no more than one "horror" room per map, and some are quite dramatic. I especially enjoyed the part of the third map where I thought I'd reached the exit only to be unexpectedly plunged downwards into bloody grotto.
Although a lot of effort has been put into lighting, in a couple of places shadows aren't angled correctly and in one instance a beam of light is bent midway. A more subtle recurring aspect that jarred me was crisscross metal beams on the ceiling that cast shadows on the floor despite having no light source behind them. That can be explained away as eerily glowing skulls in the final map until one realises that the surrounding ceiling tiles also appear to be glowing!
I'm tempted to edit these maps and correct the little things that niggled me (something generously allowed by the text file, much to my surprise). However, I suspect that nobody else would notice the difference, and my edits wouldn't significantly enhance anyone's enjoyment. I neglected to mention the crate texture that doesn't quite fit, but I spend hours looking for that kind of error in my maps and I haven't created anything this fun. Go and play it - you won't be disappointed.
Plutonium Winds - darkreaver aka Christian Lian
Plutonia - Boom Compatible - Solo Play - 642863 bytes -
Reviewed by: mouldy
This is a seven map episode for Plutonia. It takes slots 12-18 but comes with a fix that allows you to select the episode from the start menu, which is nice. It is also rock hard, like a bastard. If you liked Plutonia but thought there weren't enough archviles, revenants, and chaingunners, then this wad is for you. Also if you prefer your archviles to be behind large groups of revenants or chaingunners, then this wad is for you. In fact if you just want archviles sprinkled liberally throughout the maps like croutons floating in a revenant and chaingunner soup, then you will enjoy this wad to the max.
I'm maybe overstating the difficulty a bit, it's certainly possible, though some of the traps and scenarios required a good deal of dying for me, usually until I learned exactly where to run and what to shoot, or happened to get lucky with an archvile running left instead of right. The first few maps are perhaps more unforgiving in this respect, and the difficulty almost seems to ease up as the maps progress. I say "almost" because they are still bastard hard, but I think the resources are a bit more lenient in the later maps, which makes things more enjoyable even if you are getting killed a lot. The maps are also relatively short, but don't get too attached to your weapons, as they will fly away at the end of each map, along with your head as you explode into a million pieces - death exits and compulsory pistol starts in other words.
The design is pretty impressive given that the whole thing only took 10 days to make; it starts off fairly clean and simple, but the later maps are fairly picturesque. If you are after a challenge and don't mind how sadistic or occasionally unfair it is, then I'd certainly recommend this wad.
Rust Bucket - Colt "Inkie" Burton
Doom 2 - Vanilla - Solo Play - 67088 bytes -
Reviewed by: Zed
So, this is the second released map by Inkie, loosely based in The Inmost Dens. It's a small vanilla map, full of hitscanners, so while ammo is tight, it doesn't feel like it because of the dropped clips/chainguns and a lot of infighting. In my first try I hit the exit switch in approximately 11-12 minutes, but once you know the map it should take around 5 or 7. There are three keycards present, and after obtaining each one monsters teleport in the center structure, which is a detail I like, especially because the map is small, so it's a good way to keep you on your toes. There are two secrets, but they shouldn't be hard to come by provided you pay attention and use the automap. The progression is pretty straightforward, and while it may be a little confusing at first, it shouldn't really be a problem. I really didn't find any mistakes, which makes me think that while it's just the second level released by the author, he has definitely some experience.
Overall, a good, fun little map. Go download it now.
MWDoom - Episode 1: What dwells within... - Michael ''Magic-Walker'' Neuhoff
Doom 2 - ZDoom Compatible - Solo Play - 6305934 bytes -
Reviewed by: lupinx-Kassman
MWDoom Episode 1 is a nine (8 normal + 1 secret) map GZDoom episode for Doom 2. From the little story that can be gathered from the context of the map names and endgame text, it appears our hero must clean out yet another invasion in some place probably called Tharsis.
Though the episode is structured like a Doom episode (complete with a cute "you are here" intermission map screen), there isn't much of a consistent theme between the maps. Instead we get nine individualized maps with distinct atmospheres using mostly stock Doom and Doom 2 resources. Some examples include a bright red hellish level, a brick tech-base in a sea of nukage, and bright-grey tech-base with crates galore. The maps are cleanly textured, and have the layers of detail you usually see in modern wads. Little ZDoom additions to the maps include decorative slopes, effects pertaining to fluids, and ambient skies.
Map progression is linear for the most part, though the layouts do have occasional loops to make traveling to an earlier part of the map easier, as well as small hidden branches with secrets. Various rooms contain interesting architecture for the player to navigate, which is always a plus. The levels are only moderately difficult, and though challenge does ramp up in the later levels, it is always pretty manageable. The trick to most encounters is patience: clear out a room before pressing any switches or moving to the next area, and you'll be comfortably safe. This is possible since monsters are usually contained to the rooms you meet them in, and though the maps are filled with monster closets, it is rare to be caught by surprise. Expect to meet most members of Doom 2's cast throughout the episode. Don't panic however, since you will also be carrying the trusty super-shotgun, which performs much of the legwork in this mapset's fights. Though the ZDoom engine is used mostly for aesthetic purposes, scripting is occasionally used to lock you into an area until you clean it out.
One hiccup I had was in the map MW1M6. I just could not figure out how to get the silly red key in the room full of crates, despite being able to see the crates that led as a set of stairs to retrieving the key. Though jumping was disabled in the wad, I propelled myself over a crate with a rocket blast to reach the set of stairs, and was able to obtain the key as well as enough health to make up for the damage I incurred. Other than this, I found the episode to be a fun set of straight-forward small-to-medium sized maps. I recommend giving it a shot, and I look forward to seeing what the author may come up with for a second episode.
Playground - Singleplayer - MrAngryTomato
Doom 2 - Vanilla - Solo Play - 119125 bytes -
Reviewed by: walter confalonieri
This nice map by MrAngryTomato is a large, sandbox map, kind of slaughter-ish but nothing too difficult. The level starts in a marble courtyard, shaped like... I don't know, a lobster? A little spider? Anyway, you start in this place with some resistance, then enter into a tech base thing, lots of caves and canyons and ruined hellish outdoor with some tricky steps to reach some important items.
Detailing is a mixed bag here, since there are some pretty touches in some parts and other parts (like the courtyard on screen shot 4) are pretty bland, looks like it was made in different mapping skills history. But the layout is cool, although I don't really like some of texturing as signing for the cave secrets (just a different ashwall type texture as sign for the secret sections, without some type of helping sign for understanding where to go, a candle or similar sign), and also more lighting in the caves would be nice (especially in the lower section at the right).
Gameplay is nice and intense as I wrote above, due to its "slaughtermap" nature, overall a pretty good challenge for everyone; take a shot on this map, you will not feel disappointed! Oh well, if you like playing maps like Slaughterfest, Hell Revealed 2 or similar, you'll even find this one easy!
ODESSA 6 ("Kastle Baron") - Bob Evans
Doom 2 - Vanilla - Solo Play - 88639 bytes -
Reviewed by: kmxexii
Kastle Baron is the sixth level in Bob Evans's Odessa series. It is a big-ass castle with a lot of marble and some more Hellish aspects. It has more in common with his later, more puzzle-oriented levels because it's got a lot of road blocks as you gradually open up the castle and figure out how to get around. Remembering where the key doors are is a plus, but I'm pretty sure that the blue key door wasn't even visible the first time you run past it, so player beware. There are some design decisions that are more grating to me, like a flashing cage maze or flashing lights plus moving platforms, but Evans has some really neat moments, too. I loved the seemingly midtexture-bound platform that lowers into a pit, leaving you exposed to a bunch of demons, and there's a curious "Containment Area" homage. I liked it, but YMMV, since this style appears to be one of Doom's more polarizing aspects.
ODESSA 13 (Anaxis Courtyard) - Bob Evans
Doom 2 - Vanilla - Solo Play - 87144 bytes -
Reviewed by: kmxexii
This is the thirteenth level in Bob's Odessa series. It's named after the courtyard, which will be the first major area you enter and the scene of one of the biggest fights. After that you can go east or west and unravel Bob's layout to the best of your abilities. It has a strong similarity with ODESSA_9 in that you have a bunch of large rooms with cool architecture connected by the skeleton of the map's navigation network, but that's about it. There are a lot of high HP monsters to contend with and a lot of imps, too, like in that pretty cool sewer section to the southeast. Tyson fans take note - you get to start out with the berserk pack, so punch away. There's also a recharge station in the level's hub, so don't forget about it if you take one too many fireballs to the back of your head.
ODESSA 11 ("Sojourn") - Bob Evans
Doom 2 - Vanilla - Solo Play - 85589 bytes -
Reviewed by: kmxexii
This is the eleventh level in Bob Evans's Odessa series. It places you in an underground alien stronghold that you have to fight your way through, because exterminating evil is what you do, I suppose. Sojourn has a cool gimmick where maybe 1/3 of the level, the part leading up to the secret BFG that's on a visible pedestal near the start, is locked behind a secret. It's not too hard to find, given that you have some familiarity with the way Doom puzzles typically work out, but it's hard enough that the option is appreciated. You'll also find that walls continuously open to facilitate movement between areas you've already explored to lessen the sting of exploration. There's some tricky height-based combat, most notably to the west in that outdoor section, and the eastern / secret area is a gauntlet of large rooms with some pretty cool fights. I dig that brick tower part with the key.
ODESSA 9 (Landing Zone) - Bob Evans
Doom 2 - Vanilla - Solo Play - 84916 bytes -
Reviewed by: kmxexii
Landing Zone is the ninth level in Bob's Odessa series. It's situated at some kind of alien air / spaceport that has been shipping suspicious cargo as of late. LZ has a very cool opening visual with those light towers and features some of Evans's more compartmentalized puzzle-solving. You kind of have to sort out the control tower before you can start busting up the main base, but once it's done, you don't have to go back. The compound itself is kind of cramped and has the look of a bunch of layered hallways, but you won't notice it unless looking at it from the automap. I did get hung up while playing this one because I failed to figure out the lift that grants access to the upper area until I did some soul-searching. I guess there are just some things you blithely take for granted after playing so much Doom! There are a lot of "secret" areas, but they didn't feel that well-hidden, plus the yellow key is in one of them, and you'll need that to exit. The combat through the wooden eastern area and then back was my favorite fight, I think.
ODESSA 1 ("Odessa_X" No name actually) - Bob Evans
Doom 2 - Vanilla - Solo Play - 80099 bytes -
Reviewed by: kmxexii
This is the opening shot of Bob Evans's Odessa series. It doesn't have an alternate title, but it does have a frame of reference - you're held prisoner in some kind of arena complex and must best three challenges in order to escape. As Evans's earliest map, it's kind of boxy and has a lot of long hallways. The coliseum / platform easily stands out as a structure, though, and Evans is good enough to send more and more monsters your way as you conquer the three arena battles and head back to the preparation rooms to the northeast. The big fights won't be any challenge to Doom vets, just a pack of barons, a pack of revenants, and a lone Cyberdemon.
ODESSA 2 ("Oasis") - Bob Evans
Doom 2 - Vanilla - Solo Play - 79231 bytes -
Reviewed by: kmxexii
"Oasis" is Bob's second map in the Odessa series. It stands apart from the others in its focus on several larger areas without a lot of connecting cruft. I got a bit of a Heretic vibe when checking this out for the first time, mainly because of the big, northern outdoor area's stepped walkways around the southern rim, but the similarities end there. There's a wide-ass open shootout to start with that moves on to cramped puzzle-play in the Keep. Eventually you get to hit the southeastern section which has a high / low dual planes of play thing going on since the catwalks are so high in the air and there are so many scattered monsters down below. There's a lot of shotgun play but not a lot of heavy monsters, so it kind of evens out.
Cosa 'e mandinga - Aluqah
Doom 2 - Limit Removing - Solo Play - 2429297 bytes -
Reviewed by: mouldy
This is a 12 map episode for Doom 2, made from old unreleased maps that the author has spruced up and modified. They do retain some of the old school feel in the unfussy visuals and uncomplicated fights, but regardless of that they are a pretty solid bunch of maps that are fun to play. The difficulty is what I would call chilled-out with moments of moderate peril, though things get a bit more spicy towards the end.
The action takes place in a variety of locations that follow some kind of a story-line, taking you from corrupted tech bases to off-shore industrial complexes, with an excursion to some kind of space base along the way. The first map looked a bit awkward with some garish texturing and a touch of clunky Doom-realism, but they get better as they go along, and while the designs are never that richly detailed, they make a pretty good stab at looking like the real places they are intended to be. The layouts range from complex non-linear explorations to fairly scripted switch hunts, and the maps are generally medium to large in size, taking me around 20-30 minutes each on average, so there is a good few hours of entertainment here.
As for the gameplay, it's fairly simple but fun all the same. For the most part the monsters are at your mercy, and any surprises are pretty well signposted by whatever ammo you see lying about. If you come across conspicuous boxes of bullets, shells or energy cells then you are likely to need whichever weapon uses them shortly. The ambushes rarely require much more than missile dodging skills, but the body counts make up for this, and archviles arrive later on to make things a bit more deadly. The difficulty does rise as the maps progress, and by map 19 there is a respectable amount of slaughter going on (along with the most bizarre choice of music), though it's never difficult enough to cause any frustration. I have to give points for the final map, which is an icon of sin done in a way that I actually enjoyed playing. A decent set of maps then, with action that is basic but fun and looks that are modest (and perhaps a little too colourful in places) but convey a coherent sense of adventure.
The /newstuff Chronicles #450