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File Reviews posted by Obsidian

  1. This is a bit of an interesting one to revisit for me: Whispers of Satan was a mapset I played fairly early in my mapping career and it's influenced my approach to level construction and visual design more than I initially realized. At the time I ran out of steam around MAP22, but recently I decided to take another stab at it and finish all the levels. Which I did! Having done so, these are my thoughts.


    Gotta start with the big one: Whispers of Satan is a damn good-looking mapset. Excellent texture usage and attention to detail were big draws for me when I first played this years ago and I ended up mimicking it a lot in my own work: to some degree I still do, honestly. Maps like MAP10, MAP16 and MAP28 stand out as particularly good examples of this school of design, with all the detailing work coming together to craft an excellent sense of place. This is bolstered by the custom soundtrack, which has some absolute bangers in it (in my decidedly unmusical opinion :P).


    I also gotta shout out the fact that Paul and Kristian undeniably had fun putting this together, as can be evidenced by the silly little easter eggs and gags that are present throughout. There's the secret and super secret maps of course, but you can also spot a little bit of silliness in the main lineup and it's a touch I appreciate in the way that it gives a mapset life and charm. Again, it's something I was inspired by in my early mapping career and you can thank WoS for any gaff or joke you find in my own maps.


    There is however an elephant in the room that I have to address and that is the map design itself. Other reviewers have pointed out the excessive symmetry that plagues a lot of the map architecture, but there is also a general sense of formula that can wear on you as you progress through the megawad: by the time you're in the final third of the main block of maps, you can distinctly see them falling into the same gameplay pattern and it starts chafing in a big way. MAP25 and MAP29 are two big culprits in my eyes, but there are plenty of early maps that follow the same formula and get a pass simply because of their placement in the megawad and (relatedly) the length of those experiences. This formulaic approach also creeps into the gameplay and monster usage and serves to make the latter half of the megawad something of a slog to get through, which explains why I didn't progress past MAP22 all those years ago.


    I ain't gonna say that it doesn't deserve its Cacoward or anything though: I can appreciate the work that went into creating Whispers of Satan and the influence it had on what came after. It definitely has its flaws and as a gameplay experience it doesn't really hold up, but I can still admire it as a piece of Dooming history and I wouldn't be the mapper I am today if it didn't exist.

  2. Part twoooooooo!


    First off, positives: very much a fan of the direct lead-on from the previous part ("Look at what those bastards did to my TV!") and the ensuing battle is pleasantly dynamic in its construction, both in terms of monsters and actual architecture. Apparently Monster Hunter was originally concepted as a single map and had to be split later on, but I still enjoy the usage of familiar space regardless and it's easily the high point.


    Unfortunately it's a high point at the start of the map and the rest of the map never quite reaches the same heights. The cityscape that you see at the end of Part 1 feels under-utilized and I was constantly expecting a grueling battle that never really came for most of the remainder of the map: no enemies on the waterfront, nor the damaged courtyard past the blue key door. There's some good combat around the blue key but it's all very survivable and the handful of enemies on the way to the final area are really not that threatening.


    As for that final area...resounding "ehhhh". There's a couple of tiers of middling difficulty combat and then a ROCKRED edifice full of enemies that you can methodically take down one by one, either from a distance or by progressing to the top. There's a Revenant ambush, but it quickly falls prey to the design of the area and you can pick them off with little difficulty. Grab the red key, go back up, open the box (door?) and there's the exit: no Doomcute this time, just an ordinary Doom 2 switch.


    The last feature I'd like to harp on about is...well, there's this weird windstorm tornado thing. You find it before the final area and it moves very slowly towards you, dealing damage if you touch it. I recall there being others like it in an enclosed part of the map and for the life of me I have no idea why it exists: it's too slow to be a credible threat and it isn't used in any particularly compelling way. If it's there simply as decoration that just happens to hurt you...well, that's just a little disappointing.


    This last bit is just speculation on my part, but I feel like Didy ran out of steam by the end of this project: when you take the project as a whole it becomes obvious exactly how much work went into realizing it and - if indeed this is the case - I can't blame them for running dry on the ol' creative juices just before they put the cherry on top. That being said, I did still have fun with Monster Hunter overall and it's possible that I'd have been kinder to Part II if it was indeed incorporated into its other half as the author intended.


    Eh, who can say. It's still a good piece of map and I'd be fine recommending it...after Part 1, of course. :P

  3. To be honest I'd completely forgotten that this map (and its second part) even existed, much less won a Cacoward: apparently the maps came out to not much fanfare and might've been forgotten completely if it wasn't for the keen eyes of the Cacoward committee. Having played parts 1 and 2, I can confidently say that I'm thankful they did so.


    I am kind of curious as to what Didy's inspirations were going into this map: the sheer amount of interconnectivity and intelligent space usage put me in mind somewhat of Espi's mapping style, but with enough of a unique spin (as well as a delightful amount of Doomcute) to be realized as something unique. Encounters can get a little hairy but aren't too stressful and the grungy atmosphere is incredibly well-realized with the aid of some excellent texture work. I also just gotta shout out all the Doomcute going on like the fireball assembly line and the way the map exits. The random Arch-Vile fire(s?) were a bit odd, heh.


    I wouldn't say that the map is perfect though and I do have my criticisms. "A little hairy" is pretty much as difficult as things get and it never feels like you're challenged overmuch throughout, with Didy dropping soulspheres in the main progression path a puzzling number of times. There are also a couple of points of no return, which I'm generally less than fond of: I'm more of an explorer than a battler and it always irks me when I try to ferret out secrets after everything's dead only to come up against a brick wall. I did ultimately come away from the map satisfied though, so it's obvious that these criticisms didn't detract too much from my overall enjoyment.


    Overall, really good stuff! Definitely worth checking out.

  4. HeDRoX 2


    As sequels go it certainly has more ambition than the original while still keeping its detail-laden aesthetic, but it's plain to see what parts of the mapmaking process received the most effort and the gameplay stays fairly rote throughout. It's not an amazing gameplay experience all told, but it's still fun enough to play and it serves as a neat little snapshot of some of the mapping attitudes and styles of yore.

  5. The Demon Invasion


    Seems like your average first map: blocky geometry, rooms and corridors, all that guff. I'll give it a 2 because I'm nice: whatever its faults may be, it's at least functional and the mapper in question will hopefully improve as time goes on. Keep on trying dude. :)

  6. Adorable, if a bit insubstantial: I'd give this 3 stars due to how little there is, but I feel like I'd be ruining someone's day if I did. Also the default hand acts as a somewhat rapid weak chainsaw in the stock maps, heh.

  7. lilith.pk3


    Ah, this little lovely point of contention...


    I'll freely admit that when Lilith first hit store shelves the forums I didn't really "get" it: the idea seemed neat but at the time the concept wasn't one I could immerse myself into. Recently though I've given it a play through to the end and I'm definitely a bit more positive towards it. What I like is that the concept plays on the preconceived notions people have of Doom: it adheres to the core principles of the game but absolutely screws with everything else in order to generate an atmosphere that I can only describe as....well, uncomfortable.


    And "uncomfortable" really is the word: there's a profound sense of unease as you play through the maps, which is only increased by the unconventional architecture and occasional DECORATE addition that pops up and then pops right back down again before you can get used to them. It even stretches to the sound effects and music: to be honest the music feels kinda Silent Hill-esque, which I dig a lot.


    It also helps that the Silent Hill soundtrack literally used dental drills as an instrument, but I digress.


    If I were to level criticism it'd be at a few things: the gameplay can be a bit of a hodgepodge at times, with some ideas being barely explored (such as the DECORATE additions mentioned earlier) while others can drag on a bit overlong. The architecture, while somewhat fitting for the theme, does feel like the effort of someone not completely comfortable with mapping (which the mapper has admitted is the case, to be fair). I'd be interested in seeing what a steadier hand with the mapping tools could accomplish: after all, you can only really break all the rules once you know them.


    The last is somewhat subjective: personally I wouldn't have had the glitch aesthetic be present in the entirety of the wad. It'd be present in most of it, sure, but I would've had snatches of sanity in all the chaos to create a sense of juxtaposition and increase the feeling of unease that the experience is built around. The worst way to steal the mystique out of an experience is to make it routine and while Lilith doesn't quite manage that it does border close, at least for me. Then again, this is just my take: it's possible that I wouldn't have been able to dream up an idea of this magnitude in the first place. :P


    At the end of the glitch-riddled day, Lilith is an imaginative piece of work with ambitions that I think it met. It's weird, sure, but I honestly don't view that as a bad thing.

  8. Back to Basics


    This was an odd mapset to play. I'm a big fan of Espi's work and I can see the amount of effort that went in, but even in saying that I have to admit that this isn't the greatest of mapsets. Good, certainly, but not great.


    First off, the positives. You can tell that these are Espi maps right off the bat: the architecture is twisty and masterful, with neat tricks that you can miss easily if you aren't looking. That's one of the things I've always loved about Espi maps: they're always so damn clever. I especially loved some of the secrets, including the method of getting to the secret exit. Espi's also quite handy with the detailing, doing his best with the resources on hand to make some lovely looking locations.


    Here's the odd thing though: most of these qualities are actually what drags this mapset down. I'm of the opinion that if Espi wasn't limiting himself to Doom I's resources, this would've been a greatly improved mapset.


    Yes, the architecture's lovely and the detailing is well done, but it has to make do with Doom I's smaller texture set and it doesn't take long for things to start feeling bland, something that the later maps' shift to more flesh textures can't salvage. This also extends to the gameplay: Doom II's extended bestiary could've done wonders, but as it stands you're not gonna be seeing an awful lot of variety monster-wise. That isn't to say that the gameplay's terrible, but the lack of specialist and in-betweeny monsters means that encounters just don't have the fine-tuning they need to be the best. At best I can say that the gameplay was moderately fun.


    Also the E2M7 death exit was bullshit. ALL OF MY CELLS.


    At the end of the day though, it's a good mapset: it has the technical genius that I know and love when it comes to Espi maps and were it not for the (frankly arbitrary) limitations I'd be giving this a lot more praise. As it stands, it's good. Not great, but good.

  9. I'm surprised at the lukewarm reception this map got, it's a rather solid (if unconventional) affair that I enjoyed quite a lot. Plenty of challenge and trickery without being too grueling in the former or obtuse in the latter, just the way I like it. Cool stuff!

  10. The Darkening


    A nice little collection of well-made (albeit remarkably brown) maps, with a DM set coupled alongside as a nice bonus. I can't really comment on that seeing as I don't DM, but the SP maps themselves are really nice and the added textures compliment the stock ones used quite nicely. And above all, it's fun. 4 stars!

  11. The Trials 2


    Honestly it was the freaking tightrope walking afterwards that annoyed me: there is literally no way to avoid the Chaingunner that pops up without falling off. I'm not against puzzle wads in general, but this one needs some work. 2 stars - Obsidian


    While admittedly short, the environment is very well detailed(this was 1994, remember) and the gameplay is claustrophobic while still being fun, something that's difficult to do. I'd give it 3.5 stars if I could, but I'll round up to 4 instead. - Obsidian

  13. Rooms are blocky, texturing is plain and gameplay is a bit uninspired, but the author seems to have a decent grasp of the basics and understands lighting effects decently. I'm guessing this was a first project sort of deal and for that I'll give 3 stars. - Obsidian

  14. A small arena-type map where you fight a somewhat varied group of monsters followed by a Cyberdemon. A bit uninspired, but it's put together alright and there isn't anything glaringly wrong with it, so 3 stars. It'd be 2.5 if the rating system worked that way, so I rounded up. - Obsidian

  15. A small map for ZDoom. There's a decent bit of detail that doesn't go too overboard, but the map itself is kind of cramped and compact, even for my tastes. It's put together well though and for a first map it's an excellent job. 3 stars. - Obsidian
  16. Going Down


    Definitely worthy of a 5 star rating: top-notch gameplay, excellent visuals and the music is mental in the best way possible. Thanks for making this dude. - Obsidian

  17. Visually this map is a treat, but the actual structure seems to be the old room-corridor progression with not much thought to the actual flow of the map. Also I noticed quite a few areas where the architecture was abruptly cut off by the sky, including the very first area. It's an excellent effort though, so keep trying! 3 stars. - Obsidian