Plutonia 1024: The Plutinya Exeriment - Various
Plutonia - Boom Compatible - Solo Play - 2.08 MB -
Reviewed by: JudgeDeadd
A tribute to The Plutonia Exeriment... sorry, Experiment, made up of 33 1024x1024 maps (33rd only accessible in ZDoom) by various authors. It's been a long time since I played Plutonia, so I can't really recognize tributes to specific maps if there are any, but I'm pretty sure Plutonia had a shedload of heavy weapon bastards, just like in this mapset. The authors seem fond of arch-viles too; there's one or two showing up on almost every map. As you'd expect from 1024x1024 maps, fighting is usually done in cramped conditions, and there are frequent teleport traps to recycle existing areas for more fights.
I enjoyed this mapset from start to finish. There's plenty of creativity exhibited in making use of the limited space, and each level offers something different. Pretty much every single map is worth playing. If I had to pick a weaker one, I might reluctantly point at joe-ilya's "Atomic Garden" which seems less polished visually and gameplay-wise than the others. And 40oz's "Archipelago" could really use a bit more ammo, or at least a berserk pack. And I don't like how Archi's "Impish Delight" is based mainly around one big ridiculous trial-and-error trap.
But that's nitpicking. You owe it to yourself to check out Dreadopp's excellent-looking "Plutonic Plate Shift"; or FullMoonDog's dastardly and merciless "Blood Waves"; or z0k's beautiful "Surrounded"; or Breezep and Marcaek's atmospheric and tough "And All That Could Have Been"; or gothic's "Cybercage" with its memorable ending; or A.Gamma's carefully designed "Litany"; or Jimmy's tense and overwhelming "Constant Motion"; or Phml's almost-slaughtermap "Todofina"; or Phobus's utterly ruthless "Bloodlust" which leaves you with a lot of satisfaction for having outsmarted the map; or Corsair's "Vice" which must be seen to be believed and is sure to leave you thinking "wait a minute, I actually survived that?"; or Ed's "Necroseptic Gut-Plunger" which somehow manages to keep you in control of the situation despite the relentless waves of incoming monsters; or Surreily's eccentric "Halls of Pain"; or the grand finale, "Eternal Sleep", which begins in an almost surreal way, and puts a new and refreshing spin on the rusty formula. There's a surprising amount of gameplay crammed into some of these gems. My hearty recommendation.
Disclaimer: I was playing on HMP, so I cannot guarantee the gameplay is as good on UV. I also didn't play map33 so I don't know if it's as good as the rest.
UAC Secret - Lainos
Doom 2 - Limit Removing + OGG Support - Solo Play - 6.33 MB -
Reviewed by: dethtoll
Single map for Doom II by Russian Doomer Lainos. In this case, he goes for a more realistic style, with weedy patches of grass, locker rooms, and the like. To this end he utilizes a lot of resources from other games, primarily Duke Nukem 3D. The problem is what I call HACX syndrome: unless the texture sizes and architecture are carefully managed, you run the risk of the player seeming very short as vending machines and doors tower over him. However, some of the more generic surface textures (vents, etc.) look nice.
This was not a smooth ride, though I may just be rusty and my keyboard kind of sucks. Lainos throws several high-level enemies at you rather quickly, including an endless series of Archies. Things are made worse by the fact that ammo is scarce and you're stuck with a shotgun and chaingun for most of the early part of the map, forcing you to play peekaboo with the Archies in the meantime. Lainos also likes to punish the player with caco/pain elemental combos, which in terms of dick moves is a few ticks below unkillable chaingunners. Lower-level goons are pretty scarce save for crowds of imps here and there, and you're going to be forced to watch your ammo. Fortunately there's enough laying around if you don't spray all your bullets like a doofus.
Design-wise it's okay. Reminds me of some of the weaker Shadow Warrior levels. Lainos likes his surprises and ambushes, and the encounters are pretty strictly tough-n-tense but ultimately surmountable. You're best off saving that BFG for the end, though.
Couple major flaws -- the switches in the end room need to be pressed twice, and there's two yellow keys and they're both in secret areas. Also, not sure if it's my source port or what, but a lot of the special effects made lift noises, which I'm sure were supposed to be silent (this is really obvious with the glass-enclosed floating blue balls in some parts of the map).
Paths of the Heretic - Paul Hruby
Heretic - Vanilla - Solo Play - 62.48 KB -
Reviewed by: JudgeDeadd
A proof-of-concept level, demonstrating the idea of a string of teleports with conveyor belts on them, so that the player enters the first teleporter and is carried across the entire path until the end. No gameplay here, and not really that interesting. The visuals are quite good for 1995 though.
Note that it doesn't seem to work correctly in ZDoom 2.7.1, but works OK in Chocolate Heretic (where the second screenshot is from).
The River - Stephen Hogge
Heretic - Vanilla - Solo Play - 55.64 KB -
Reviewed by: JudgeDeadd
A Heretic level with a variety of environments. The difficulty really picks up at the end, in the titular river area. There are some bad ideas here, such as the supremely annoying green key room which contains a confusing labyrinth of paper-thin gratings, and the lights keep going out, making it utterly impossible to find your way out till you step on the invisible light-switch trigger. The visuals are a bit sparse, but acceptable. It's not a very good level, but it's not bad either. You can try it if you have no better Heretic maps lying around.
Moria.wad - Jon Messer
Heretic - Vanilla - Deathmatch - 38.3 KB -
Reviewed by: JudgeDeadd
A deathmatch level for Heretic. Supposedly based on the mines of Moria from "Lord of the Rings", but I didn't notice any real similarity. There are some odd design decisions (e.g. the precarious stairs in the green room without any interesting rewards if you get to the top), and the map as a whole is way too large and has an awkward, impractical layout. Not recommended.
CHURCH - Haegar The Horrible
Heretic - Vanilla - Solo Play - 25.75 KB -
Reviewed by: JudgeDeadd
A tiny map, and I do mean tiny: it consists mostly of a bunch of long, featureless corridors and contains only six (yes, six!) monsters. At first I even thought this was a DM map, but the text file says otherwise.
The room you see in the screenshot is about the only place where the author made some attempt to make it look good. There are ten secrets, except at least one secret area is made up of stairs where every single step is marked as "secret" (common mistake), which would explain this abundance.
Quite worthless--don't waste your time.
Oh my gwad! - Ilya "Joe" Lazarev
Doom 2 - Limit Removing - Solo Play - 5.47 MB -
Reviewed by: JudgeDeadd
Joe-ilya's name is synonymous with quirkiness and creativity, and though he was for a long time considered a subpar mapper, I think he's been improving lately. "Oh my gwad!" is a fairly long level with some interesting challenges. It's worth checking out to see what joe-ilya came up with. There are some resource replacements - the chaingun has been replaced by double pistols, most notably, and the pistol and plasma sounds were replaced as well. There are also rather weird new graphics in the menu, and the title screen is... an unreadable Doomworld forum screenshot (?!). And I have no idea what that thing on screenshot 3 is all about.
The map gets a bit infuriating near the end, with an original, but annoying chaingunner challenge which is sure to chip down your health a lot, immediately succeeded by a completely out-of-the-blue encounter where you find yourself pinned between two arch-viles, and then a way-too-cramped cacodemon battle. The level picks up the pace later on, but the ending left me confused. I re-explored the entire map two or three times looking for the exit, not realizing that Ilya used an Icon of Sin instead.
Overall, while there are some weaker moments, the map also includes many genuinely fun challenges, and some interesting off-the-wall visual design. Good job.
John E Death 4 (DOOM2) - John E Death
Doom 2 - Vanilla - Solo Play - 34.11 KB -
Reviewed by: JudgeDeadd
Another 1995 level. Unlike installments 3 and 5, this one is actually surprisingly good, with fairly challenging gameplay and not too shabby visuals. SS soldiers are used completely unironically as enemies, which may put off some people, but other than that there aren't glaring flaws. I didn't even notice any misalignments, though you're probably sure to find some if you bother to look. Not really a masterpiece, but worth a spin if you have nothing better to play.
John E Death 3 (DOOM2) - John E Death
Doom 2 - Vanilla - Solo Play - 28.99 KB -
Reviewed by: JudgeDeadd
A fairly short, ugly and unfun 1994 level set in a couple of buildings. There are slightly annoying elements such as monsters hidden behind fake walls, and to exit you need to press a switch which doesn't seem to do anything - it actually opens a secret door elsewhere entirely, forcing you to revisit every area of the building to find out what happened. The author recommends this for deathmatch, but I doubt it would make a good DM experience.
Not worth your time.
John E Death 5 (DOOM2) - John E Death, Mickey
Doom 2 - Vanilla - Solo Play - 28.9 KB -
Reviewed by: JudgeDeadd
Another old lackluster level, from 1995 this time. It begins with you exploring flat, featureless rooms and corridors with monsters sprinkled here and there; the visuals get more interesting later, thankfully. The gameplay isn't interesting, and the occasional trap or two feels very half-hearted; no real fun combat or interesting scenarios here, just enter a new room and plink away at the monsters which are all out in the open. Once again there's a switch which opens a secret door a few rooms away without any hints--if the author made the door visible, it would be easy to guess that the switch probably opened that, but if you make the secret door indistinguishable from the surrounding walls, then the player won't even know whatever he pressed that switch for.
Marginally better than "John E Death 3", but not by much.
Restoring Deimos - Whymes
Doom 2 - ZDoom Compatible - Solo Play - 20.91 MB -
Reviewed by: Jjp
Reviewed mainly with ZDoom 2.7.1 on UV. All maps were played from a pistol start.
Restoring Deimos is a one-man megawad for ZDoom-compatible ports. It is divided into two episodes, each representing one half of the megawad, and it concludes with a credits map. There is no episode select screen, though, so players will still end up playing all the maps continuously. Jumping and crouching is disabled throughout the entire megawad, and there are no new monsters or weapons either. There is also a story that is told through intermission texts.
This megawad was developed over a period of four years, and it is evident that the author improved over time, as the second episode is better than the first. In particular, the architecture improves noticeably as the player progresses. Many of the maps in the first episode have a lot of areas that look bland. map05's repetitive library hallways is one of the more prominent examples of this, and map14's 64-unit wide maze is another area that should have been thrown out. In contrast, map27's usage of polyobjects, crushers, and conveyor belts work together to create a lively factory environment. Unfortunately, a good first impression can be important sometimes, and thus, some players might be put off from the 90s-looking maps that make up much of the first episode. ZDoom's features are also used inconsistently throughout the megawad and with mixed results. The green fog that is featured in map08 and map19 is not pleasing to the eyes, for instance, although I liked the usage of slopes on map25.
Furthermore, there aren't a lot of open-ended layouts in this megawad. Both episodes feature a lot of linear progression, and it's rather rare that the player has the ability to choose which key to obtain first. map10 is one of the few maps with such a scenario, as it features three keys that can be obtained in any order. Some layouts feature quite a bit of backtracking, but at least there tends to be some more monsters to kill on the way back. Later maps do feature more connectivity in their layouts than earlier ones, at least. Don't expect any maps similar to Downtown or Industrial Zone from Doom II, though.
Some of the maps exhibit unusual ideas that are not seen very often in Doom maps, although these ideas do have flaws in their execution. map10, a map that takes place in some sort of blue void, is one of the most bizarre and unique maps I played in a while. Meanwhile, the majority of map17's gameplay takes place underwater and it works fairly well, although the numerous underwater hallways should have been replaced with something different. I liked map22's "virtual world" setting, although the blinking light sections did hurt my eyes a bit. There are a few more highlights like these towards the end of the second episode.
The gameplay is mostly slow-paced, and that is mainly due to the monster placement. Perhaps the best way to describe the monster placement is to compare this megawad with Plutonia. While Plutonia's maps tend to have lower monster counts, they are used very efficiently. This megawad does the exact opposite. Later maps tend to have a lot of monsters in a relatively small area, but they aren't placed very effectively. Of particular note is the ineffective usage of hell knights and barons. There are some boring cyberdemon fights, too. Many areas have mixed groups of monsters, but they are placed without taking into consideration how well they work together. This can be seen in the rather oversized monster closets featured in map06. Other times, there's no choice but to apply camping tactics or to shoot through the doorway because some rooms are overly clogged with monsters, particularly hitscanners. map20's start and map25's cramped interior are examples of this. The map with the most repetitive gameplay in the whole megawad is map15, a mostly symmetrical arena map in which monsters teleport all around the arena one wave at a time. It went on for way too long.
The gameplay can also be unfair sometimes. Some traps involve mean chaingunner and archvile placement. There is also some questionable map design. The second half of map23, for instance, requires the player to utilize the provided radiation suits perfectly in order to survive. Doing so is impossible without a lot of foreknowledge. There are also sections where freelook is essentially required in order to avoid frustration, such as the annoying platforming segment in map25. Also, for some reason, the author likes placing two ammo or health pickups on top of each other, which really irritated me because I could not tell whether I was picking up 20 shells or 40. All the excess ammo usually ended up being wasted, which doesn't help when pistol starting some of the maps.
Some of the music choices, particularly in the earlier maps, are strange and are rather inappropriate for a game in which the player kills monsters from Hell. The volume levels of the music are inconsistent as well. Sometimes, I had to lower the music volume because I couldn't hear the sound effects very well due to the music, and then I had to raise the music volume on the next map because its music was too quiet.
While there are some interesting ideas to be found in this megawad, playing it ultimately felt like a chore, and it was rather unrewarding. If you want a polished experience, then you may want to skip this and play something else. On the other hand, if you don't mind the flaws and are a patient player, it might be worth playing if only for some of the more unusual maps. Also, the megawad might be more fun if you play it with other players, although you should be aware that there are extra monsters in cooperative game modes. It's clear that the author put a lot of effort into the creation of this wad, but I can't recommend it unconditionally.
Amnesia - Coolkids
Doom 2 - ZDoom Compatible - Solo Play - 9.29 MB -
Reviewed by: GooberMan
Did you miss the Coolkids event on the forum? It got merged in to the skeleton thread. tl;dr - Guy joins DWF, wants to know how to make a game, ignores all advice, announces a game idea involving birds that can only be mocked in the context of the DW community, and ragequits. So imagine my surprise when I see he had actually uploaded a map to the archives before all that went down. The text file says he doesn't want any criticisms, so clearly he never noticed the /newstuff reviews before uploading. A critical appraisal is thus in order. Did the DWF denizens scare off an artist ahead of his time?
No. They may not have even scared off an artist before his time.
All the hallmarks of a first map are here. Basic geometry that would have been lambasted in 1995? Check. Unaligned textures? Check - and it even goes further with missing upper textures. No concept of monster and weapon balance? Check - all weapons but the BFG are obtainable, and the map even includes a Cyberdemon in an enclosed area that needs a secret invincibility orb to easily defeat. It even throws in replacement sounds and a new music track that sounds like a second-rate house artist tried to use a mod tracker on an Amiga. Even more unusually, the map is in Vanilla format yet it requires the crouch functionality of ZDoom if you want to get any of the secrets.
I didn't come in to this review trying to sound mean, but there really are no redeeming qualities to this map. There's also nothing to outright hate. The ideas on display aren't anything special, and even if he were to take on suggestions on how to improve, it's quite likely future maps of his would have been average at best.
You win, DWF.
Devoured - Aidan Bolduc "The Civ"
Doom 2 - Vanilla - Solo Play - 71.02 KB -
Reviewed by: driftyloon
Devoured is a single map wad which is meant to visually recreate the aesthetics of E2 from The Ultimate Doom. The map is rather small, and due to the large open spaces, also quite easy. In actual fact, there is no difference in playing on UV or ITYTD, though this is still at heart a nice-looking map with good attention to detail. I prefer maps that are easier and well-structured to maps where the creator has bunged tons of monsters in randomly in order to jack up the difficulty. The only major complaint is that there is nothing to discover; everything is in plain sight (basically no secrets at all). One or two textures are misaligned also.
STRAIN 1.0 (repackaged edition) - Alpha Dog Alliance
Doom 2 - Vanilla - Solo Play - 9.4 MB
Reviewed by: Obsidian
Exactly what it says on the box: this is a version of the legendary megawad STRAIN repackaged by forum member The Green Herring so it doesn't need to be unpacked in DOS in order to play it. You can find more information about it here. Enjoy!
Complex 502. Arrival - StormRiser.77
Doom 2 - Boom Compatible - Solo Play - 1013.61 KB -
Reviewed by: GooberMan
"This is my first wad." That's generally not something you want to see when you download something from the archives. We all know the stereotypes by now. This one, however, cares not for stereotypes.
This is a single level WAD, and it's rather big. It borders on feeling sprawling thanks to some repeated architecture. I did rather like how it effectively looped back on itself, but for the most part it's bland, samey rocks or bland, samey corridors punctuated in select places with an obsessive attention to detail. Individual supply crates modeled with map geometry is one of the more obvious examples.
Gameplay, however, is a bit of a stinker. I'm not sure I've ever seen so many Lost Souls in a map. Not from Pain Elementals, although a few of them pop up. StormRiser.77 went to the trouble of placing Lost Souls everywhere. That in itself is pretty tiring. The map starts off on the wrong foot, opening up with Chaingunner and Arachnotron snipers that you have to outrun before finding yourself in an Imp/Cacodemon pit where your reward for somehow retaining full health is a chainsaw. Health doesn't show up in any meaningful sense until about 20% of the way through the map when you finally find a berserk pack.
Perhaps more annoying though is the latter half of the map. Maybe this is what a map looks like when it's in denial that it's a slaughter map. The samey corridors become host to monster traps that are predominately full of Barons and Hell Knights. The pitiful amount of infighting results in a battle of attrition between you and the bruisers afterwards - and then multiple Archviles start showing up in the mix. I think it's safe to say that this isn't how to use them effectively. Especially in those long, long corridors.
Realistically, all this map needed to be proper enjoyable was a better mix of monsters and better health placement. Since this is a first map though, I'm sure StormRiser.77 can only improve from here. Keep an eye out for his next release.