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The /newstuff Chronicles #530

  • Brown and Red - Benjogami
    Doom 2 - Single Player - Boom Compatible - 411.68 KB -
    Reviewed by: rdwpa
    Brown and Red on the Ultra-Violence difficulty is a bite-sized slaughter puzzle map. For those unacquainted with the term, fights in slaughter puzzles are characterized by high monster density and high lethality, and are consistently survivable only with specific strategies. I don't mean general approaches like "target the archvile first" or "circle-strafe"; I mean arcane plans and movement patterns that you aren't going to brute force unless you have familiarity with the genre or a lot of time to spare. Short of applying those strategies -- the discovery and execution of which is the primary appeal of this sort of map, if you are wondering -- us mortals will get wrecked on UV and might even complain about how RNG-based the map is.

    So unless you are familiar with the genre or just want to die a lot, do NOT play this on UV, and do NOT feel bad about dropping to a lower difficulty setting.

    Hurt Me Plenty more closely approximates a typical modern UV experience, where Brown and Red should provide ten or so minutes of entertainment for everyone. It's too short of a map to warrant a standalone playthrough, at least when playing with saves, so throw it on a list of small single releases to play together in a single Dooming session, leave yourself a reminder to play on HMP, and have fun.

  • Templum Dormiens Dei - Stormwalker
    Heretic - Single Player - ZDoom - 12.73 MB -
    Reviewed by: Not Jabba
    You've probably figured out by now that I'm one of the Six Fans of Heretic, and a new release for one of the Raven IWADs is always a treat, especially if it's really well done. Stormwalker has made some pretty cool Heretic wads in the past (Dark Deity's Bastion and Call of the Apostate), but Templum Dormiens Deity is probably their best work so far.

    First off, the level looks really nice, and it gets a ton of mileage out of what I'm pretty sure is nothing but stock textures. There's a great contrast between large outdoor areas and atmospheric, slightly claustrophobic indoor sections. The lighting is excellent and sets the mood of a dungeon crawl whenever you leave the brighter outdoor areas behind. The music is also well chosen and adds a lot to the atmosphere (and it's by Kevin Schilder, so it fits Heretic like a glove -- must be from one of Raven's later 3D games).

    The map feels very exploratory, and slow-paced in a good way. I've spent a lot of time lately thinking about Heretic in terms of how to speed up or vary the pacing, but TDD proves that the feeling of slowing carving your way through an imposing enemy bastion, hunting for loot and watching for enemies in every shadow, is very much what Heretic is set up to excel at. To make things even more interesting, there are three new monsters (the Medusa from Hexen 2, a stationary turret gem, and the flying wizards that were used in Strange Aeons), all of which have low health like typical Heretic monsters but have attacks that are more difficult to dodge. There's also a final boss that throws a variety of attacks at you, including some that reduce player stats such as speed. Stormwalker has even found interesting ways to use the regenerating explosive pods, both as a legitimate part of combat and to set up deadly gantlets (in combination with crushers) between you and some useful gear or an important switch.

    Templum Dormiens Dei is a large level that takes a solid half hour to play, and it's worth every second. I've played it, and Stormwalker has obviously played it, so that's at least four fans still unaccounted for. You know who you are -- don't miss it!

  • UnAligned: 21 Days, 27 Maps, Zero Texture Alignment - Ryath/scwiba
    Ultimate Doom - Single Player - Vanilla - 595.41 KB -
    Reviewed by: bzzrak
    New day, new 27-level megaWAD to review! :]

    This time, it's UnAligned, coming straight from Ryathaen, whose other release in 2016, Absolutely Killed, found its place among the WADs which got one of the 2016 Cacowards. I haven't played it yet, but now I kinda want to.

    Small note: I'll refer to UnAligned as UA from now on. Spelling "align" rapes my dumbass brain worse than the puzzles in the WAD itself.

    The story behind UA is somewhat intriguing. Somewhere in November 2016, Ryathaen set out on a brave mission of making a 3-episode megawad in 3 weeks, because he was apparently fed up with himself spending way too much time on little details. 27 levels/21 days = 1.29 levels per day. I wish I could make 1.29 maps per month. Kudos to Ryath for the speed. Every few days Ryath would pop up in the UA thread on Doomworld with a fresh batch of screenshots, making the nostalgic Doomers out there drool. Eventually (on 16.12.2016), the mapset was published and the people enjoyed its simplicity and interesting gameplay, despite all the time (and engine) constraints.

    But damn, you know all that, right? Most of the people reading this probably remember November, it was 4 months ago! Oh dear, 4 months! I feel old now. You want to read what do I have to say about the levels themselves, right?

    Another note: I played through UA with Crispy Doom 3.5 on HMP skill level, mostly continuous play, but no saves.

    Back to the mapset. It's similar to the splendid megaWAD I've reviewed in the 525-th Chronicles, Doom: Damnation (that's why I chose to review it, duh). Both are vanilla 3-episode megaWADs, both were made by a single author, both are retro like... well, a guy playing Doom in 2017, heh. However, they do have a crucial difference. Damnation took years. UA took weeks. While the first one makes you adore it because there was so much time effort put into each map, the other one strikes you with the complete opposite. And yet, both of them kinda grow on the player.

    All UA's maps are extremely distinct from each other, both in visuals, gameplay and gimmicks. You might've sensed that, just like Absolutely Killed, gimmicks are the body, heart and soul of this megaWAD. Gimmicks gimmicks gimmicks. I love gimmicks. Everyone does, right?? How can you not like when a map forces you to activate that spaghetti-like thing you (hopefully) have in your head? How can you not like a map devouring your life when it simply hypnotises you into using all brainpower you have left for your last vain attempt to figure how to get there?

    I'm pretty sure that UA has at least one gimmick in at least one of its maps that you haven't seen anywhere else before and that you will like and maybe end up overusing in all of your maps until 2030 or so. E3M1 is entirely empty when it comes to enemies, but it does have many, many ingenious puzzles that will put both your brain and your brawn to the test. E1M4 forces you to find switches scattered across the level. E2M2 wants to tell us that firepower isn't everything, there's something in the legs too... Thankfully, however, there are some more straightforward, more Doom-ish levels interspersed throughout the megaWAD as well.

    As a mapset, UA has some other traits that are no less well done than the gimmicks.

    One thing the author uses quite often are shootable switches, not just in E1M4, but in the rest of the WAD too, which is something I just have to compliment, as I'm a fan of those myself. :]

    Another thing that is really cool about this megaWAD is the fact that only one or two maps (out of 25 I have played) are really difficult, on HMP at least. Being a die-hard anti-slaughter-mapper, I feel pleased to play through a mapset that doesn't take every possible chance to blast you into smithereens. All the maps are, of course, underdetailed as hell (as the author himself states), but, I don't know about you, I noticed that just when I finished playing and started writing. The locations represent something, that's good enough, especially for a conceptual speedmap WAD like this.

    As I've said, (almost) all of the puzzles and gimmicks you encounter in the maps are hard enough to make you think, but not hard enough to make you scream in agony and start physically participating in a rather unequal fight against your computer, as if the poor thing had done anything wrong to you, or just get tired/bored of thinking.

    Each map has several rather well-hidden and inventive secrets; however, some of them aren't always accessible. You can get to E1M1's outdoor areas only before you press the second switch, and E1M7 seems to have a lift that lowers only once. There might be more, of course. In spite of that, finding the secrets is rather fun and something you'll appreciate if you like exploration.

    Furthermore, height variation is in the core of many of these levels. Makes many areas look a lot more detailed and beautiful than they really are. Not to mention the tantalising sight of a door or switch you can't access... yet...

    There's one more feature of UA that simply amazed me when I realized it: I don't have any real complaints about this one as a whole, I really don't. Almost all the drawbacks here can be attributed to both the goal and deadlines, so they aren't really drawbacks, right?

    I'll get to that almost a bit later.

    Now, I'm gonna devote a significant chunk of text to describing each of the levels.

    You're free to skip straight to the conclusion, there are no important points raised here. :]

    E1: Drafty Stations -- the style here is classic techbases in the first half, but the last 2-3 levels are quite different, with more hellish influence and red rocks/lava. My highlights here are E1M4 (duh) and E1M7.

    M1: Infight Central -- Looks very much like the first two levels of Knee-Deep in the Dead. The gimmick here is that you aren't given much ammo. However, you are given the chainsaw and barrels. In the end, you have to use your "diplomacy" skills to persuade a squad of Imps to rip and tear a big-mouth floating thingy.
    M2: 100 Linedefs Minus 1 -- for the less tech-savvy folks reading this, 99 linedefs is really not much. This level looks OK, but the geometry is a bit messy and uses triangles instead of rectangles (because triangles expend one linedef less). There's a lot of height variation and interconnectivity here, so the level keeps your attention for a good 3-4 minutes. A cute little level.
    M3: Toxin Refinerer -- a single average-sized area, centered around some sort of nukage fountain or something, which descends into the nukage eventually. One thing that I didn't even notice until I saw a guy bring it up in the DW thread is that the nukage turns into water when the "fountain" descends. Jesus would be proud. Anyway, nothing too remarkable about this one TBH, but nothing too bad either.
    M9: Nov 13, 2016 (that's the level's name) -- didn't find it. And even if I did... oh you know.
    M4: Always Be Shooting -- this level can take a while. As I've said, it's one of my favourite levels here, due to the main concept being shootable switches. It's a fairly classic-looking techbase, with a raised ledge, a red key on it, and 5 red stairs next to it. You have to find 5 switches scattered across the level and a good spot to shoot them from. Some of them take quite a bit of snooping around to find, so keep your eyes open. Also has one of those aggravating "mazes" with raising and lowering platforms.
    M5: Sgt. SLADDER -- a small, very green level with nothing but those aggravating mazes. This is two big rooms with dozens of platforms moving around, revealing powerups and monsters. I like the colour scheme here.
    M6: 128 in 1024 -- a 1024x1024 level? Quite cramped and messy-looking, as you could probably expect. There's some numbers on the floor. Apparently, the "128" in the level's name stands for how many individual stairs it has and the number shows how many of them you have already climbed. Weird! It's a small, short, but fun level, try it.
    M7: There and Back Again -- a cool level, one of my favourite ones. You start in a small techbase area, and the exit is situated not too far from you; however, it requires all three keys to be opened. To find the three keys, you must take one of the provided radsuits and step through the teleporter... it leads to a big underground hellish cave, with lava below you just waiting for your radsuit to expire and fry you. Though, the demons have left a few radsuits lying around, too. They don't even need them, why would they do it? That's not your problem, blast 'em.
    M8: Sympathy for the Devil (AKA Devil's Advocate) -- damn. The previous levels were so good. Unfortunately, that can't be said about Devil's Advocate. This level is just horrible. This is the "almost" I've referred to earlier in the review. I wanted to die. I wanted to IDDQD. Someone should be put behind bars for this. Being a Devil's Advocate just sucks. I will refrain from devoting any further words to this atrocity of a level. No sympathy for this one. I'm so sorry, but I just can't.

    E2: The Less-Loved Moon -- "E2 is the best in any Ultimate Doom megaWAD", Aristotle, 331 BC. Can't say he was wrong. I found E2M6 and E2M2 to be the most appealing in this episode.

    M1: Energize! -- looks very much like the original Deimos Anomaly. The teleporters are used quite inventively, it took me a while to figure it out, though. You can find some energizing secrets if you take the time to look and listen around, with a BFG as the main prize!
    M2: They're Watching -- an extraordinary level. The level is split into halves, each housing a key necessary to exit the level. One of them is some fighting in a warehouse (this is E2M2, remember?), where you're trapped against teleporting waves of monsters, and also some secret-hunting if you're in the mood for it. The other one is more interesting. In a big maze with a nukage floor, you have to (again) take note of where are radsuits, all that while trying to evade many, many Barons of Hell that are gradually thrown against you. Of course, you don't have nearly enough ammo to fight them off the classical way. It is more fun than it sounds, trust me. If you really want that 100% kills, once you unlock the exit, some crushers around the level are activated and you might succeed in luring the bruisers into their deaths.
    M3: 100 Linedefs Plus 1 -- a single very tall area with a lift in the center and many small rooms around it at different heights. As you progress, the lift allows you to go higher and higher. A small but very fun level.
    M4: Not a Crate Maze (the old name was "Ickmaze") -- a tight fortress done with nothing but the ICKWALL series of textures. The fortress has several "storeys" that you will explore in order to find the yellow key. It is full of those kinda-3D effects with lifts (a-la Doom 2 MAP15), which makes navigation even more challenging. Not a single crate here.
    M5: Cryostasis Station -- this level was originally intended for the E1M7 slot, I think. Warning: the water (or whatever that blue liquid is supposed to represent) is damaging, you have been warned. This level uses one of the numerous vanilla hacks as its main gimmick, namely, the transparent walls. How does it look: you see lots of monsters just staring at you, you go away, press a switch, go back, and suddenly all those monsters feel amazingly eager to die heroically. You'll even fight a Cyberdemon this way. The level is fairly dark, but easy to navigate. Also a good level.
    M9: Doomer-Friendly WAD-Shifter -- see E1M9
    M6: Deimos City -- this level is awesome. It's a city level, like Doom 2's second episode... but a bit different. You'll see many tall buildings around, with hellspawn on tops of some of them. All the buildings are very diverse in their exterior and interior (in case of the ones you can enter): there is a huge marble tower, a warehouse, a garden of some sort... You'll be under constant fire from all sides in the beginning, so be careful, space marine. One of the tall structures, textured with COMPOHSO (the brown stuff with blue lines and squares), is in fact a lift. Did anyone say Sky May Be? Anyway, once you defeat the Baron on it (which might be tricky), you get to see the Deimos mountains... tile vertically. That was disturbing to see. After that you hop down into another building, press a switch and proceed to M7.
    M7: Heck Tech -- this level is situated in a red cave of some sort. The exit is almost right at the start, but it's blocked by a tall pillar which you must bring to your knees, so to say. You will also encounter a small green area with some leaking nukage. Ryathaen challenges the player with a rather intriguing setup: you are teleported to a small star-shape, more specifically, in a small "cage" in the center, and two Barons of Hell spot an excellent chance to dissolve you into molecules. Their last chance.
    M8: Rocket League -- a boss level. You might not figure out what to do right away. Ryathaen seems to have understood that, so one of the included demos shows you how to blast Mr. Cyberdemon's ass. BTW, this level relies on infinitely tall barrels.

    E3: Infernal Eternal -- Ryathaen truly goes creatively nuts in this one, as the good (or bad) thing about Hell is that it can be anything. Some maps here are full of monsters instead of puzzles. I liked the arena-like E3M3 and E3M6 the best.

    M1: Gatehouse -- a VERY interesting puzzle level. There are no monsters guarding the Gatehouse, but it doesn't really make the level any easier. To lower the gate, you must find all three keys through completing puzzles. I can hear your "OH NO"; don't worry, I was the same. However, to my surprise, Ryath did account for the fact that the people playing this are most likely ordinary humans, so... he provided two different puzzles for each key! The blue key has the easiest puzzles. One of them is a not particularly complicated crusher navigation setup, the other one is a bit convoluted teleporter navigation, which will warp you to the surrounding lava if you make a wrong move. You can go back up, though... IF you can, that is. The red key is more like the real deal. One of them is a "maze", somewhat like TNT: Evilution MAP30. There's something that seems like a hint... but, frankly, I have no idea how does this one work. The other one is more about speed. You have three pads scattered across a small area, and you need to trigger all of them AND manage to grab the key, because the pads trigger doors and lifts, so they close after a few seconds. You need to block the lifts with... yourself I guess, that will give you extra time. The yellow key was hard. The first puzzle is building a staircase from individual wooden platforms which are manipulated through a series of switches. It takes some time to figure out what does each switch do and what platforms it affects, but after that it's fairly straightforward. The other one is some devilish voodoo doll "pushing" setup, which will most likely result in that "Zombie player" phenomenon. I'm sure puzzle fans will love this level, and maybe some normal people as well.
    M2: 100 Linedefs Times 1 -- a small level that is a single area that gradually opens up to you. The combat here relies on barrels and infighting, as I doubt the Gatehouse gave you anything to fight with. Be careful, though...
    M3: Shrine of the Cacodemon -- a visually beautiful level. It's nothing more than a single (quite small) arena with you, lots of rockets and 36 Cacodemons. Pure, unspoiled f-u-n.
    M4: Blindfire -- a level that is focused on complete darkness. Your only guides will be the torches and candles, with occasional silhouettes of monsters popping up to fire at you... and end their life journey right there. HERE COMES THE NIGHT TRAIN! There is a sequence here where you follow a path made of candles and if you step away from the path, your health percentage will be subjected to an unexpected decrease caused by a damaging floor. I've seen that somewhere... :]
    M5: Infernal Eternal -- starts out very peacefully. However, soon you are to realise that this is everything except peaceful. The whole level is a huge arena that releases more and more bloodthirsty monsters at you, including many Barons and a Cyberdemon. Some of the monsters take quite a while to reach their teleports; once I had beaten everyone, I had to wait for another 2-3 minutes for that last dumbass zombieman to teleport in. Come on. :/
    M6: The Stand -- wow. If this ain't what folks call a "slaughtermap", then I don't know what is. A gargantuan 191 monsters in an even more gargantuan arena. You start at a mountain, with another mountain in your sight and many, many monsters slowly approaching in their (hopefully) futile attempts to rip and tear you apart. My advice is to pick up all the weaponry at the bottom of your mountain ASAP, because you will unable to do that when they come close to you. However, Ryath gives you a chance to chicken out... it's a trap actually folks, don't believe him.
    M9: ??? -- I actually found this one. The only thing I can say is that it's one of those things that can't be described.
    M7: Unaligned and Unapologetic -- I expected far more from the last non-boss level. It's just typical canyon-fortress level, with some strange texture usage, a small return of the lava+radsuits mechanic seen in E1M7 and E2M2... and that's pretty much it. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong about this level... but there's nothing right either.
    M8: Pinkies and the Brain -- uhh. As I didn't die since M2 in my playthrough and I was slowly accumulating ammo, I had enough firepower to just disintegrate the Spider Mastermind with my guns, brute-forcing Ryathaen's vile and refined puzzles. What do you think of that?

    One small correction: apparently E1M2, E2M3 and E3M2 each have one linedef more than their name suggests. Ryathaen, you lied to us!

    Yay we're done!

    So overall: is UA weird? Yep.
    Is UA unconventional? A bit too much.
    Is UA under-detailed? Definitely.

    UnAligned isn't the best megaWAD out there. But it has a soul. Ain't that just wonderful?

The /newstuff Chronicles is a usually-weekly roundup of new items uploaded to the /idgames archive, and it is written entirely by community members like you. If you wish to contribute, the /newstuff Review Center is the place to do so. Register on the Doomworld Forums first if you don't already have an account, because you need one to submit reviews. Special thanks goes to the nearly 300 users who have submitted reviews over the past several years.