Sawdust - Paul "skillsaw" DeBruyne
Doom 2 - Single Player - MBF-compatible - 13.35 MB -
Reviewed by: Not Jabba
Sawdust is a set of seven maps that didn't make the cut for skillsaw's Valiant. Outtakes mapsets like this one are becoming fairly common these days -- see Summer of '69, for instance, or valkiriforce's Pulse. And why not? Creative minds always feel that completionist urge to release their cut material, and players are always eager for more levels to play from their favorite mappers. It's a win-win.
Sawdust's levels represent all of Valiant's first four episodic themes (Bluebase, Bloodgrotto, Nuketech, and Orangehell), though sadly there are no lunar bases to be found here. I only recognized one section of one level (map 04) from Valiant, so the levels are almost all "new" material rather than beta versions of levels that were in the megawad. The modified guns and the full range of new monsters are present as well (except for the final boss), though the more interesting niche monsters are usually just thrown at the player alongside the rest of the bestiary rather than being carefully choreographed like they were in Valiant. The levels themselves are fun and challenging, with architecture and layouts that are highly competent but not exciting. They lack that particular pro-quality smoothness and pacing that only skillsaw and Erik Alm seem to be able to produce on a regular basis, and there are few memorable battles. However, these flaws should be pretty obvious going in -- these maps are the *rejects* from Valiant, after all.
Regardless, when a mapper of skillsaw's caliber releases a set of outtakes maps, you can still bet that they're going to be solid and enjoyable throughout. Map 04 is the best level in the set, even though part of it is identical (or close enough) to part of a level in Valiant E3. It starts off with a descending elevator battle where you really have to watch out for the suicide bomber zombies mixed in with the other enemies, and it ends with a sequence of nice battles on a set of high walkways where the enemies keep appearing all around you. As for the rest... well, the main thing to be said about it is that Valiant set the bar extremely high. You probably already know whether you want to play Sawdust, and you've probably already played it if you want to. It's a nice set of maps for anyone who can't get enough of Valiant's themes and monsters.
Zis is KAOSS! - Kimota
Doom 2 - Single Player - Boom Compatible - 1.18 MB -
Reviewed by: yakfak
Here's an oddity. kaoss.wad comprises eight modular levels which swing between feeling eccentric and almost procedurally generated, each sub-section in a map establishing a textural and geometric palette that appears only in that particular area and then never again! Texturing varies frequently along stretches of the same length of wall, but always sympathetically, rarely garish; corridor travel is made interesting in an architectural sense by whimsical pieces of micro-decoration, rarely as dull as just an inset panel or light-strip. There aren't hundreds of detail sectors in any of these maps, but "detailed" is still the word I'd use to describe the miscellaneous original finishing touches that Kimota has made; although no custom graphical resources appear here, good use is made of Doom 2's texture set, in a sparse style. To the author, I'd recommend more dramatic lighting!
Gameplay-wise, expect a lot of corridor shooting on HMP, mainly against lower-tier enemies, with more and more Hell Knights and skeletons appearing on subsequent levels. The threat isn't great, but with the lion's share of the real armour pick-ups being locked away in secrets, you'll be finding yourself sneaking 'round corners you'd barrel around on a more arcade-like set. On UV, the levels are packed with meat and infighting occurs fairly naturally to offset the occasionally tightness of munitions. A few design naiveties crop up - some gaps can be sidestepped across with an SR50 sweep, some weapons can be snatched off their podiums - but this sort of thing is sort of touching in an amateur level set after all. The one negative I'd mention is that backtracking through the levels tends to be necessary, this complaint partially mollified by various monster cupboards which refill the map with zombiemen.
Zis is KAOSS! isn't a must-see but nor is it a heavy downer of a level set - on Hurt Me Plenty it can be enjoyed in around half an hour. If the author Kimota decides to create future Doom works I hope they decide to include original music, which was lacking here; put a little thought into how a level can be made less modular, more interconnected; and that they revisit maps 2, 6 and 7 of this set, which had simple but beautiful visual moments! All in all, I liked the WAD!
Another Shitty Deathmatch map - ButterflyGirl
Doom 2 - Deathmatch - GZDoom - 8.86 KB -
Reviewed by: Not Jabba
Another Shitty Deathmatch Map is pretty true to its title. It's a single tiny room piled high with weapons and ammo near each player start, with a BFG and about a million cells in the center of the room. It's definitely ButterflyGirl's most playable map so far, and I could actually see people having some fun with this one if they were in the right mood, since it would end up being a huge fragfest with players dying every few seconds. Other than that, I can't really see it appealing to anyone.
Giza Invasion - Saturn
Doom 2 - Single Player - ZDoom Compatible - 181.72 KB -
Reviewed by: Not Jabba
Giza Invasion is a very simplistic, very weird level. You start out in a little town area where you can grab most of the weapons and a ton of ammo, and there are also a bunch of ally marines (the first time I saw them, I thought they were enemies because of how they were walking toward me with guns and there's, like, no context whatsoever; I feel like even a cheesy ZDoom cutscene or text explaining things would have been better than nothing). Even if you don't accidentally shoot them, don't worry, because they'll accidentally shoot each other for you when the enemies appear, especially if one of them tries to fire a rocket while they're still all bunched together. But anyway, after you've prepped yourself, you can walk out of the town's only entrance, where you'll meet the "invading army," which is basically two massive mixed mobs of enemies. If you kill enough of them, or after a certain amount of time has passed (I never figured out which), a couple of large stone structures will drop to reveal two Cyberdemons, and you have to kill them to reveal the exit switch.
Due to the layout and enemy placement, you basically have two options: 1) skate past the hitscanners in the first enemy group (which is easy because they're far away) and run around until the enemies have wiped each other out with some small help from your allies, or 2) retreat into the town and funnel them through the entrance while you slaughter them (though the back of the city does come down eventually, letting in the other main group). Or you could actually fight them all in the enormous, completely flat space outside the town, but... why? No matter how you slice it, it's poor combat design, and it looks like no serious effort was put into designing this map. Skip it; it really isn't any fun.
THT: Threnody - Various (see credits below)
Doom 2 - Single Player - Boom Compatible - 13 MB -
Reviewed by: gaspe
Ty Halderman, the "Essential Pillar of the Community", doesn't really need an introduction here. But in case you didn't know, he was truly worthy of his title: he was the leader and founder of TeamTNT, was one of the main programmers of Boom, and was the maintainer of the /idgames Archive for more than 15 years. On August 16th, 2015 the sad news that Ty Halderman had passed away was announced.
The forums proposed starting a mapping event in tribute to the memory of such an important and historical member of the community, and this is how the community project was born. The target source port was Boom, and additional resources were chosen: the textures from Evilution and The Return (the textures of Eternal Doom). It was really an admirable and wonderful thing to do to commemorate Ty Halderman, and the quality of the final outcome is almost on par with the intentions that were put into starting this.
If there a thing that this wad nailed pretty well, it is having a varied and sometimes quirky vibe that feels a lot like TNT. It's also a really polished and refined mapset. All the maps are really good, and there are plenty of interesting things in their design. Even the gameplay is quite varied, as it ranges from classic to more modern styles. The usage of Boom features is particularly high. There are homages to maps made by Ty. In particular, MAP02 takes large inspiration from Icarus, MAP03 and MAP11 were a very interesting take on the concept of Wormhole, and MAP12 is a giant remake and crossover of TNT MAP04 and MAP19. Other maps in particular that interested me the most are: MAP08 with its totally unique and strange experience. MAP09 is another weird one and with quite crazy gameplay. MAP10 is a giant and gorgeous level made only with stock textures; words and screenshots don't do it justice, as you really have to see it. MAP15 and MAP16 are a couple of really cool maps made only with the textures of Eternal Doom. And the last map deserves a mention too, it's just beautiful.
This is a really high quality release, and probably one of the finest megawads released this year. If you haven't already played this, do it, because it really deserves it.
Black Magnetic (v1.3) - Angry Saint
Doom 2 - Single Player - ZDoom Compatible - 6.99 MB -
Reviewed by: Not Jabba
Black Magnetic is a single level, but it's essentially a total conversion, with a wide array of new weapons and enemies, as well as a gritty industrial texture set by NMN. It was one of the six entries created for Tormentor667's "Doomja Vu" E1M7 remake contest (which also gave us last year's Cacoward-winning dead.wire by Xaser), and as with some of the other entries, it morphs the level's layout completely beyond recognition, so it doesn't feel like you're playing a remake at all.
Black Magnetic's layout is probably the high point of the wad, in fact. It uses ZDoom's true 3D capabilities to create two levels of architecture, one above the other, and the whole thing is nicely nonlinear while still making your objectives mostly clear. That said, I found the level very confusing at many points due to the pervasive darkness, the similar colors of nearly all of the textures, and the fact that many doors and switches blended in with their surroundings and were very hard to spot. I think that more varied lighting, particularly spotlighting around the important switches and such, would have improved the experience by leaps and bounds.
The gameplay is a dramatic departure from Doom's standard projectile-dodging arcade fest. Half the enemies are hitscanners, and the other half shoot projectiles so fast (and in such tight spaces) that they might as well be hitscanners too. Virtually all the enemies have high health, with the Zombieman equivalent taking a full shotgun blast to kill and the chaingunner equivalents taking more like two or three shells worth of damage. Everything else is basically a damage-sponging miniboss. Terms like "hitscanner hell" are sure to be bandied about by many people who play this wad, but it's worth taking a step back from the initial gut reaction and seeing if Black Magnetic works within its own terms. This wad requires you to rethink how you play, and I'm not sure whether extreme caution/corner strafing or throwing all caution to the wind and shooting on the move is the better tactic here. Doom's standard weapons are present with slight modifications, except for the rocket launcher, which is replaced by a pair of arm launchers that shoot mini missile clusters (don't miss these -- they're awesome). To some extent, the weapons feel more powerful to counter the high power of the enemies, but it only feels like partial compensation. Since it's such a different playstyle from what we're all used to, it's pretty difficult to say whether the gameplay is balanced, but I'm inclined to say it's tipped a little too far in favor of their enemies -- their health is too high overall, and the really effective guns appear too late in the level, as I only really had fun when I finally had the SSG and rocket clusters. As with the visuals, I feel like it's almost there but needs a few tweaks in terms of execution.
Give it a try if you find the ideas appealing -- I have a feeling some people are going to love it and others will hate it.
CthuluDoom - Andrew Loly
Doom 2 - Single Player - Vanilla - 1.28 MB -
Reviewed by: fr0gm4st3R
With a name like CthuluDoom, I was anticipating some type of Lovecraftian Total Conversion mod. Unfortunately, this was far from it. The building in which the level takes place is very difficult to navigate and is far too cluttered, confusing, and dark for the player to smoothly maneuver from room to room. The textures used appeared to be a jumbled mess of random patterns and designs. Everything, from the walls to the furniture, has a very rough time fitting together. Frequently, models of enemies and weapons pop in and out of their modified and normal states. An example of this occurrence is seen when you encounter a butler in the dining hall who turns into a Baron of Hell every single time he activates an attack animation. This also happens when you pick up a note on a table that fires shotgun rounds when you pull the trigger. I can see that the author was trying to visualize and recreate a scene of H.P. Lovecraft's tale, "The Picture in the House," using Doom, but the quality of the level lacks what is necessary to offer a good experience for the player.
Ice Prison (v1.0) - Angry Saint
Hexen - Single Player - Vanilla - 83.67 KB -
Reviewed by: Not Jabba
Ice Prison is a single ice-themed level for Hexen. Hexen levels are rare and always have extra potential to feel fresh and interesting, but this map has a lot of faults that keep it from meeting that potential. The ice fortress idea is a pretty good one, but the spaces in this level are too linear and too symmetrical, often overly large and rather bland -- I can't recall if Hexen's stock resources include many ice textures, but it feels like there are only a couple of them on display here, wallpapered over some pretty immense spaces. These are problems that mappers in any Doom-engine game have to be wary of, but I feel like it's particularly bad in Hexen, which was arguably the most immersively detailed of all the original games, and which allows for a larger sense of scale due to the bottomless pit effect (an effect that's used frequently in Ice Prison, incidentally).
The gameplay, unfortunately, is even weaker. Regardless of which class you play, you only get the starter weapon (have fun, Clerics!), and it's extremely difficult to make gameplay fun with nothing but the starter weapon. Ettin grinding is a simplistic chore, so most of the challenge in this level is introduced through distant sniper enemies (Afrits, Serpents, and Wendigos) that you can't immediately reach -- and since only one class gets a ranged weapon, it creates a huge imbalance. This level is easy (but boring) for the Mage, frustrating but definitely manageable for the Fighter, and an agonizing slog for the Cleric. The author has made some efforts to change the monster balance depending on the class (the Fighter faces the fewest ranged enemies; the Cleric fights fewer than the Mage but more than the Fighter, which makes things even worse given that he has a weaker melee weapon and no ranged attack), but no matter who you play as, you'll face a large number of the long-distance snipers I mentioned, simply because that's what most of the gameplay revolves around. I will note that I found a secret near the end of the level with the second-slot weapon, but there's no mana anywhere, so you only get the small amount of charge that comes with it -- not nearly enough to overcome the level's gameplay issues, especially since it's a secret.
I wouldn't recommend Ice Prison, but I hope the author finds this criticism useful and is willing to have a second try -- there's clearly effort put into this map, the mistakes can be improved upon, and we can always use more Hexen wads.
The Joy of Mapping #1 - Jimmy & Various
Doom 2 - Single Player - ZDoom Compatible - 636.97 KB -
Reviewed by: Csonicgo
There's a lot to be said about the word "talent". Talent is a pursued interest. Anything that you're willing to do, you can do. This distinction should be noted in Doom mapping, so, may I introduce to you: "The Joy of Mapping", where Jimmy takes fifteen aspiring mappers and shows them... well, the joy of mapping.
That sounds like a load of hogwash, but, having played a massive megawad made by "talented" people last week, I found myself wanting something different. Completely different. Well, here was this entry, and it looked very promising. All you needed for this project was a few mapping tools, a little instruction from Jimmy and a few session tutors, and a vision in your mind. The mappers were taken through the basics of mapping, such as creating connected areas, interesting layouts, and using thing placement sensibly. The result of two hours of that feels refreshing compared to a month's worth of maps from an expert mapper on autopilot, making a map just for a contest, or for a project, with little enthusiasm. I suppose it's because new/novice mappers always had these pent-up ideas they've wanted to see in a map, and with this project, they finally get a chance to make it reality. I can't describe it any other way. Oh, and, I had more fun in these 15 speedmaps than I did from the uber-detailed behemoth that was my last review!
So let's get started!
The good stuff: Amazingly clutter free. Thank you Jesus. Any ZDoom effects used were very subtle, for rocks and gentle slopes on lights. Some maps were boxy, some had a lot of orthogonal lines, but so what? I never knew orthogonal lines to make anything not fun. Just look at some of Tormentor's maps, which use nothing but orthogonal lines, and no one says a thing. Yet, if a newbie uses them, well that's just "lazy". It's funny, because in the long run, that doesn't even matter. You can have 32767+ linedefs in your map, but if it's not fun to play, I'm not going to remember your map at all. That's the truth.
Detail to me is this: if you have to make an excuse for it, it doesn't belong there. Setting a scene is one thing,especially detail in the starting area, but when it's everywhere, why? If I mapped something, I shouldn't have to explain what it is. It should just make sense. If you can remove it, remove it, no one will know.
Now I will make some shoutouts to specific maps that I really enjoyed.
Speckygingerweapon's "Pure Jammin' Arse Burgers" really likes to "explore the space". It was silly, but it was fun! And next is Fulsy's AASHITTY, which reminded me of the early Doom alpha maps. Please keep it up, Fulsy, I really liked how that looked. Fuzzball's Little Green Base used a lot of height variation to keep the map fresh. That's one of the problems many novice mappers have - they're afraid to take that chance, when that's one of Doom's greatest features. I hope to see more of this! And then there's Kate's "The Horror of Mapping". I have no idea what the hell this is, but I managed to beat the level - this one felt like it was trying too hard to look bad. So, if that was the intention... nailed it (don't do this). Fonze's "Fut the Whack" whooped my ass a few times. Wasn't expecting that! Work on your monster setups and you definitely have something! Vbob's "Crap" is anything but. I really enjoyed the marble, and was inspired by how much those textures can be used in new ways. And then there was Jimmy's awesome map. Just. Awesome.
Why aren't you playing this yet? Stop reading and go play it now, if only for the awesome MIDIs in it. I hope the next installment has more MIDIs. Just a tip. (And I ran out of Bob Ross quotes to crowbar/shoehorn/tireiron into this, so now you'll have to reread this and find them all.)
Deimos Condensed - Crasger
Ultimate Doom - Single Player - Limit Removing - 479.75 KB -
Reviewed by: gaspe
Deimos Condensed is a quite big map for Doom which takes a lot of inspiration from E2, and it plays on the E2M6 slot. This level reminded me a lot of the big limit removing maps, often made by Russian authors, which make those realistic-like and heavily detailed settings using only (or mainly) stock textures. Usually all the big levels are for Doom 2, and that kind of style is kinda new in a Doom 1 map (at least for me), though I couldn't say that this work is really successful. On UV there are more than 500 monsters, and the flow isn't really fast. Doom 1 has less enemies and thus less variety you can put in the encounters, but this map does nothing to compensate for this shortage. Pretty much all the combat is like this: you enter in a room, press a switch, and some monsters teleport nearby. There aren't any different situations that will raise your interest in the gameplay, and the map becomes predictable very quickly. Even if a bit messy and unpolished, visually the map was rather nice, and the feel of the corrupted techbase was quite good.
Even if there are some good things about this map, the very repetitive gameplay is a huge drawback to the overall experience. I don't really feel I can recommend this, but in case you are interested, there are some toilets in this map.