The Blood Trials - youraverageamir
Doom 2 - Single Player - ZDoom Compatible - 2.82 MB -
Reviewed by: Crawldragon
I was initially very excited to play The Blood Trials. My previous Doom source port of choice was the now-defunct Skulltag and its successor Zandronum, but I'd heard many a tale about the advanced non-Doom-compatible features which GZDoom boasted, so when I picked up The Blood Trials and found it had been specifically designed with GZDoom in mind, well, I had to take it for a spin.
Reading the description, I was led to believe that there were three separate paths to go through. In reality I myself could find only two, but a quick peek using a level editor did reveal that the third one branches out from the second. Each route seems to be based around a single enemy type, but I'll get on to that in a bit. The level design, though it initially piqued my interest, was ultimately disappointing, and I don't think it took full advantage of the advanced GZDoom features in the way I was hoping. I wouldn't say the map was poorly designed, just a bit lackluster, and that's without me nitpicking at the occasional misaligned or out-of-place texture. But Crawldragon, why did you look at a level editor for the other two routes instead of playing them through? Well, allow me to explain.
The first path I initially chose to take was the labyrinth, and I normally don't like labyrinths in a first-person shooter because they involve a lot of groping around half-blind. However, on closer inspection, I noticed that the walls of the labyrinth were actually reflected on the ceiling, so you had a map of sorts, if only a limited view of it. I thought this was a clever way of getting around how god-awful mazes can be in first-person. It didn't fully help me on my first playthrough, however, because I was too busy dodging Cacodemons to fully pay attention to where I was going, and ammunition is pretty sparse in The Blood Trials. The first time I played through I hadn't seen the switch in the first room which enables access to the chaingun, so I was blasting away at Cacodemons with a shotgun. I remember naively thinking "this seems like a lot of cacodemons."
Anyway, I got through the labyrinth relatively unscathed, whereupon I exited out into a little alcove separated from a large courtyard by a wall of vines. Incidentally this courtyard is also the first room in the second and third routes that's immediately accessible. Bizarrely, you can't shoot through the vines. Anyway, in this little alcove I found a chaingun! Yes! Now I have some firepower! And then I learned that ZDoom adds a new monster named The Enhanced Cacodemon, which ate my face off.
You see, The Blood Trials is very difficult, but in the early stages at least I felt that the challenge was very fair. Even after learning how to acquire the chaingun from the start, I found that it was a real challenge holding on to ammunition, but for the most part I initially thought that I had all of the tools that I needed to beat the game fair and square without having to lower the difficulty setting, so I pressed on and walked straight into a room of what felt like a dozen more Cacodemons, with another Enhanced Cacodemon and a Pain Elemental thrown in just for fun. After some time I managed to fight my way through that and climb the tower into a room with an Enhanced Cacodemon and a Cracko Demon, and this Cracko Demon can fuck right off with its multiple unpredictable one-hit-kill attacks. Who puts a flying enemy in such a cramped space, anyway?
As I said, each route in The Blood Trials seems to be based around a single enemy type, and up until the very end I don't think a single encounter on the labyrinth route wasn't just a boss rush of Cacodemons or a small number of cannon fodder former humans. Given how much damage Cacodemons can absorb, and the total lack of any plasma rifles or rocket launchers, after a while I was really struggling with getting through even small encounters without running out of ammunition. On top of that, Cracko Demons are really difficult to deal with in a cramped environment, so it was at this point, after hours of trial and error, I decided to shamelessly IDDQD my way through the rest of the level to see if it got any more varied, and with the exception of a final encounter consisting of enhanced versions of the three monster types the routes are based around it really didn't. At the end of the day, this level is just a straight up series of blatantly unbalanced monster rushes in vaguely interesting but ultimately underwhelming architecture.
It's a shame that I can't bring myself to give The Blood Trials more than two stars, but I've gotta be honest it got really stale really fast, and for me, as much as I enjoyed the challenge of it, it really just came down to how much bullshit you're willing to put up with all at once. While the initial labyrinth encounter angered me just enough to keep playing, after a while the whole thing just devolved into a boring slog that made me want to stop playing, and really isn't that the cardinal sin of level design?
If you want to prove that you have balls of steel, by all means give The Blood Trials a shot. If you're looking for a fun experience to mix up your WAD collection, skip it. GZDoom is capable of far better than this.
Trigger-happy (Updated version) - pintolinh0
Doom 2 - Single Player - Vanilla - 123.93 KB -
Reviewed by: Crawldragon
When I read the readme for Trigger-Happy, and it mentioned that Nazis were included in the level, I wasn't sure whether to be iffy about the conflicting game themes or amused at how appropriate Nazis in Hell would be. Fortunately, pintolinh0 seems to have blended the two themes rather well, with a nice choice of textures that doesn't quite make this level feel like Hell but doesn't make it look like an SS base either; it makes it look like an SS base in Hell.
Unfortunately, as much as I liked the architecture, I didn't have much time to appreciate it, because this level comes at you fast and HARD, in all the right ways. There are monsters freaking everywhere, all cramped up in small spaces and tucked away behind teleporters and closets. It creates this massive rush, but at the same time after you've cleared a room it gives you as much time as you need to catch a breather. Even the compact map is utilized well, making enemy waves feel more pressing and urgent while also opening up over time so that the map doesn't quite feel too small to move around in.
It's not even just that this level is challenging, either; it's also cathartic. You start off with a super shotgun absolutely wrecking shit, and then it gives you more little by little, so that by the end, if you win, it feels like such a victory.
I was a little tempted to say that this level is a little too difficult, actually, because at one point during "part 1" of this map I was having a hard time with some Hell Knights because all I had was a shotgun and a pistol, but then after a couple of respawns I found a secret containing a plasma rifle. Fortunately this secret isn't too hard to find, especially if you know Wolfenstein, so I'm not going to deduct points for that.
And the tension only gets amped up by the final encounter. If you're like me, by the time you get to "part 2" and everything crescendos into a last stand of sorts, you're low on health and desperate for ammunition. The level doesn't quite let up at this point, but it is very generous with ammunition, so it's fairly well-balanced and if you've got your head screwed on right you'll get there in the end. I'm not going to spoil the final encounter, because I think the best way to experience this level is to be as surprised as I was and use your head to figure out what the level designer wants you to do.
Now, some might argue that the challenge factor to this level ultimately comes down to your ability to strafe out of the way of enemy fire while firing back, and that's true, but at the same time because there's so much going on at any given moment I can safely say that the level doesn't need to bring any more challenges than that to engage me. If you're a better Doom player than me, maybe you won't find this level quite as much of a test of skill as I did, but I can almost guarantee you'll still find it fun.
Since the author recommended Chocolate Doom for the authentic old-school experience, I shall summarize my opinion with a chocolate-related metaphor. Trigger-Happy is like a truffle: Not a whole lot of it, but what there is is so rich and full. Sure, it might be little too intense for novices, but if you take your time to get used to it you can get into this zone where you acquire a taste for it. Five out of five, would eat a whole box of this level if I could. Check it out, even if you just play it once.
Planisphere 2 - Perro Seco
Doom 2 - Single Player - ZDoom Compatible - 741.65 KB -
Reviewed by: kmxexii
This was originally released back in 2012. It's essentially a scale model of some of the New York City area. You start out in New Jersey and fight your way through Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, as well as Rikers Island. The work involved must have been painstaking. There is a ton of open world to explore, and while it isn't interactive in the same way one might expect a Duke Nukem 3D city level to be, it still works as a Doom playground. Back when it was originally released, PLANISF2 showcased the "Hitscan attacks hit invisible barriers in large open areas" bug and required some additional measures to get it ready for play outside of ports that built nodes on startup, like GZDoom. Perro Seco made a pass at polishing the level, removing the latter headache as well as other quality of life improvements, but the updated version is not the one that was anonymously uploaded to the archives.
Back to Saturn X E1: Get Out Of My Stations - Esselfortium and a lot of wonderful people
Doom 2 - Single Player - Vanilla - 17.54 MB -
Reviewed by: joepallai
Honestly, what more needs to be said here?
Initially released on December 10th, 2012 (why does that date sound familiar?) and finally uploaded to the archive on March 3rd, 2017 after years of exhaustive bug crushing and fine tuning, this 27 level mapset can best be described as one of the crowning achievements in Doom mapping.
When I played it for the first time back in 2012/2013 over Christmas vacation, I was struck by how professional the art direction, music, and level design was. This could have been a commercial game release back in the day—though really it's better than that. It has nuance, and style and exciting combat with carefully hidden secrets. It oozes atmosphere and immerses you into a alternate Doom universe with its clever level designs that artfully lead the player, yet manages not to feel ham-fisted like a lesser work would.
What makes it even more remarkable is that all of this is done within the strict limits of vanilla Doom mapping. Sure the save game overflow limit is broken every time, but honestly, all good maps break that limit. (I suppose the hub levels act as the save points for this mapset in vanilla Doom.)
To me, what is most impressive here is that this beautifully detailed and ever expansive environment doesn't break the VPO limitations. The skill and planning to pull this off is amazing (and a little intimidating to be honest). I stopped playing and went into the editor on two occasions to see how a room was done—I simply couldn't believe I was playing a vanilla Doom level. It felt like a true 3D space to me—it's that good in its design. That is what truly impresses me here.
The other strength that this mapset has is the combat. The combat is really engaging, coming at you from multiple sides and heights. I love how the monsters are arranged to find you and are always applying pressure to the player. Also the barrel placement is top-notch; they're almost always right there where you need them.
Everything about "Back to Saturn X" is of the utmost quality. There's little to actually complain about that wouldn't be a personal preference. I stand by my statement that "Back to Saturn X" is one of the crowning achievements in Doom editing, if not the pinnacle.
It simply is that good.
Pollution - HUNdebLeonidasX
Doom 2 - Single Player - ZDoom Compatible - 6.91 MB -
Reviewed by: JudgeDeadd
A techbase mapset by HUNdebLeonidasX, with eight maps plus one secret. There's one new enemy I noticed, an electric Demon which moves faster and can rapidly shoot ball lightning.
The first few levels don't make a very good impression, mainly because of how incredibly easy they are, even on UV. There's more than enough ammo and health, and the enemies you meet are for the most part little fries; even when you come upon something bigger, there's usually lots of room to let you run circles around them. Later the maps get slightly tougher, but not by much. The visuals certainly aren't bad; there's use of beautiful CC4 textures and eye-catching detail and all. However, due to the uninspired enemy placement and lack of any proper challenge, the levels feel very samey and dull. It's basically one pretty-looking room after another, but it feels empty and it's not working as a single memorable experience.
However, there is one map that I did enjoy playing: the secret level, MAP09: Leftover of the Nile. Its Egyptian visual theme and architectural design (and music) are pleasant enough to stand on their own, and the gameplay, while still rather easy, feels somehow more solid.
"Known bugs: If you find one, good for you." Well, that's nice to hear, 'coz there are quite a few bugs. The end of map04 has a stuck spiderdemon. Map05 has an event where a key is supposed to teleport to your location, but sometimes the teleport fails to work. On map06 I left the lost soul room early, and somehow locked myself out (the door at sector #815 wouldn't open all the way anymore, just a few units), making the level unwinnable without cheating. And I can't figure out map08. Maybe it's a bug or maybe I'm missing something, but I can't open up the second half of the map, no matter what I try; even after opening the map in the editor, I'm still stumped. (If this helps, I'm running ZDoom 2.8.1 with standard compatibility settings. But then, the author claims in the textfile that this was tested with ZDoom, so...)
Withering Graves - Ryan "quakis" Rouse
Doom 2 - Single Player - Limit Removing - 346.97 KB -
Reviewed by: JudgeDeadd
A short, but solid level where you explore a graveyard to put rowdy corpses back into the graves. Hope you like revenants, there's quite a couple of them. The visuals are nicely detailed and easy on the eye, and the gameplay offers quite a challenge, at least at the beginning (owing in part to tricky hitscanner crowds); once you get your hands on the chaingun, things get way more mellow. Take it for a spin if you're in the mood for a short map.
Tlacopan - riderr3
Doom 2 - Single Player - Boom Compatible - 257.56 KB -
Reviewed by: Scotty
A remake of the Plutonia map "Aztec". This map retains the theme of cramped, curved corridors connecting larger, more open spaces. This lends itself nicely to providing varied and generally entertaining combat.
Progression is somewhat non-linear in that you can choose from a couple of routes, but ultimately everywhere must be visited in order to obtain all the necessary keys. In some instances keys are only accessible after certain sequences of switch activation and understanding how to actually get to the key, which served to slow proceedings down and create a lull between encounters.
A Walk In Hell - Skul
Doom 2 - Single Player - Vanilla - 76.79 KB -
Reviewed by: Walter confetti
A short and pretty cute map made by Skul for the first Vinesauce Contest held by Joel set in a bright red cavern environment with some nice details here and there and for Boom-compatible ports.
Layout is pretty organic and the cavern looks pretty natural. The only "problem" I found is some minor texture alignment, but nothing that breaks the play experience.
Gameplay is nicely crafted; the short monster count is composed of medium-hard enemies for harder fights, including some traps and good enemy placement. Thing placement in general is good. This map includes an external DeHackEd file that modifies the monster behavior (the barons of hell) so that when you kill them, it opens the exit door by special sector tags.
Overall, it is a fun little map that I recommend playing!
Running Late - A2Rob
Doom 2 - Single Player - Boom Compatible - 1.18 MB -
Reviewed by: Scotty
A short five-map jaunt through some techbase type environments.
Action is generally free flowing and fairly fast paced, although the odd lock-in-style trap is encountered in places. The infamous plasma marines are present in this wad, and they add extra urgency to proceedings when they appear.
This wad has an Erik Alm/early Skillsaw vibe to it, so players who like those mappers will most likely find enjoyment here too. If you are looking for a good hour or two of solid Doom entertainment, then consider checking this out.
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