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Demon of the Well

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  1. Demon of the Well

    The DWIronman League dies to: The Darkening E1 & E2

    http://www.mediafire.com/file/xr6dxa88ih0j2nd/Darken_DotW_Iron.zip/file Survived, imagine that. Feels like forever since that's happened. Final time for E1 is 22:13, final time for E2 is 1:07:10. Category 2, of course. The original The Darkening is both old/famous enough that even a speedrun Luddite such as myself knows a lot of its big skips (though I had never heard of the exploit with the YK in m06 that RjY speaks of before now, quite ingenious, that), and despite piles and piles of hitscanners and the like I reckon it's a fairly accessible WAD for going quickly, since most of the layouts are compact and mostly intuitive, m05 perhaps excepted (which is one of the better maps, mind, just not as intuitive perhaps). A mixed bag even by the standards of its own time, it has some lovely maps (m04 and m05 are my personal favorites) and a few which are rather weak I think (m03, m07, m08), fitting in with the team CP flavor of yore neatly, reading like a smallscale 'classic' WAD ala the Moris or the like which if nothing else should be credited for keeping the bloodshed up across all 11 of its levels, elegant or otherwise. E2 is quite a different beast, more strictly balanced and vastly more complex/intricate than its older brother. Survival aside, navigation is a challenge here, especially for blind players I should imagine, since as Krypto rightly remarks the styling of all of these levels is persistently 'realistic' and commits to the grungy, gritty, and visually homogeneous theme of rimworld squalor unrepentantly, meaning that both parts of levels and whole levels themselves can tend to blur into one another. There is, however, method to the madness, and almost all of these levels flow in a really elegant, intricate way once you've become oriented. Criss-crossing paths and shortcuts to minimize backtracking abound; the rub is that the designs almost never billboard-signpost these, so seeing where and what they are relies on your own sense of in-world spatial realization (or just brute familiarity!). There is real charm in this, I think, a certain sense of satisfaction in navigating well in this kind of setting versus a more modern tendency for layouts to flow openly/overtly (where the evident flow is part of the aesthetic itself, you might say), though granted it's certainly not something I'd want to confront all the time! I think I navigate pretty well in this run, but don't play particularly well otherwise, with some really shameful near-death bumbling in the m10/11 stretch and an almost universal incompetency for anything which could be loosely termed "platforming." Nevertheless, glad to have finally managed to survive again.
  2. Demon of the Well

    The DWIronman League dies to: Rush

    Rush Ironman, aka Roll the Bones This is a baaaaaaddd performance for me. Died on map 05 in a "I have reverted to my skill level in 1993" moment while vastly overarmed and charged up with health/armor. Kill me now. Protip, kids: to beat the cyberdemon, simply shoot it until it dies. Category is 2, as per normal; I played this once the week it hit the Archive, haven't touched it since. Probably wouldn't have made it much farther anyway, in truth, as after m06 there's a long stretch of the WAD that I remember literally nothing about up until m12 (which is the one almost everyone remembers, of course).
  3. Demon of the Well

    The DWIronman League dies to: Double Impact

    I <3 Double Impact E1M8 got me, same as lots of other folks. Almost had it, but got greedy/impatient with the last switch, should've kited those cyberdemons away one last time first. Very, very, very slow, too, probably 3 hours or more--went to the secret level, did a lot of secret-hunting in general, etc. etc. Cautionary tale about doing stuff like that (esp. in long sets that are only really hard at the end) as far as the rankings go (you're welcome 'Fredo!), for sure, but I love this set waaaaaaaayyyy too much to try to 'speedrun' it (to the extent that "DotW trying to play fast" is not an insult to the institution, ofc), rather than savor it. Plus I probably would've died before the halfway point doing that, of course! Double Impact remains the king of all Phobos episodes; it still has yet to be bested, or even challenged in this regard. Big, sprawling, dark, disorienting (at first), packed to the gills with secrets and diversions, and above all incredibly fucking BLOODY, this mapset captures, distills, and even magnifies the KDitD essence, encapsulating all of the good things about that episode and expanding on them in a way that is truly timeless. My kingdom for Double Impact E2!
  4. Demon of the Well

    TNT Revilution: Final release now on ID Games!

    Oh, don't be such a stick-in-the-mud, Tourn. That's my job. Congratulations Revilution team. Thinking on it, I might go so far as to say that Revilution has perhaps had such a relatively wide appeal because it's filling a particular niche that's not as populated as common sense might assume it to be--it's a modernized take on an old-fashioned approach to the traditional megaWAD, reminiscent of your Memento Moris and Requiems and the like in an earnestly authentic yet personal way, which has rung more true to many than other WADs which more actively strive for an idealized "Classic" brand. There's a lesson somewhere in there, I'd warrant!
  5. Demon of the Well

    Is Split-Screen Multiplayer Dying?

    I'm tempted to say I'd miss it, but in reality that's probably not the case, given circumstances. Nostalgia, I guess.
  6. Demon of the Well

    The DWmegawad Club plays: Super Mayhem 17

    The third and so far final time I had played the map, he got pinned/immobilized against one of the outer posts and was being eaten by a couple of pinkies, -cl 9 and all that. I rescued him, because that's just the kind of guy I am, but it's certainly not inconceivable he won't always make it to the end considering how many actors and thus AI/RNG possibilities there are in that fight. His big HP pool should be enough to carry him most of the time even if he doesn't attack much, seems like, but of course there's weirdness that can happen in the engine that there's no real accounting for.
  7. Demon of the Well

    The DWmegawad Club plays: Super Mayhem 17

    Map 26 -- Bowser in the Black Abyss - 96% Kills / 0% Secrets - FDA A fine climax to the set, this, not merely designated by being the set's hardest map (which is debatable in itself, perhaps), but something clearly designed to be the big finale, final bossfight with Bowser and all. Most welcome, and not to be taken for granted in a mapset created after this particular type of CP model (i.e. theoretically open to all/run in a condensed timespan), though the Mayhem series has generally been pretty good about trying to go the extra mile regarding this particular aspect of arrangement, I suppose. The author combo here is quite tantalizing in prospect, as Marcaek and rdwpa have, at least going by their past release histories, what I would describe as markedly different approaches (esp. to balance and encounter design), and so I was expecting something rather unusual. TBH, this is not what this is, and rdwpa's account of who did what--i.e. most of the structure and layout being of Marcaek's design, with most of the actual placement and fights being of his own making--explains the final result pretty clearly. Writ large, this absolutely plays like an rdwpa map in his heretofore established style (though probably both slightly easier than average, as he says, and also a little more concise/condensed/focused in terms of progression), and with little hint of what I've seen from Marcaek in the past, though hounds for analytic detail will likely notice the pronounced differences in architectural style and such versus rd's own. So, the map's not the chimerical creation one might've surmised and hoped for, it's true, but what it actually is functions well regardless, and is consistently fun and exciting enough that it's difficult to feel too disappointed (though I would still absolutely love to see a more organic collab in future!). Setpiece fights are the order of the day, each different, each effectively toeing the line between invigorating empowerment and oppressiveness, usually offsetting heavy pressure from multiple simultaneous sources with fairly generous supplies of healing and ammo. While the map generally wears its heart on its sleeve as to where its intentions lie, versus m11 which casually used tight setpiece fights in the context of a more adventure-oriented map, I would say that it feels significantly fleshed-out in framing versus the simplistic m21, thus more compelling. The arrangement of the early fights in particular has a lot of efficient nuance--unlike in m21, where there is a set 'starter kit' which precedes all of the action, here which of the first two fights the player goes to first (RL fight or RK fight) has a major impact on how the next fight plays, and the possibility of nicking items out of the RL fight's ante-area to use in the RK fight instead adds further layers. Additionally, there's also the secret/optional BFG fight to consider, which is easily the map's nastiest fight as far as packing the most lethality into the smallest amount of time/space goes, but pays off with dividends that have a major impact on the player's options in later battles. I somehow missed this in the FDA, in lazy contravention of my own rule about carefully checking behind/around you at mapstart (same deal with the shotgun secret in m20, come to mention it), and so my workhorses for the map were RL and plasma gun. I found it was balanced beautifully for this, whereas having the BFG + foreknowledge significantly tilts odds in the player's favor later on, making proceedings more of a showfloor for ruthless efficiency. This level of balance in this style of map is rarely achieved, and is laudable. While there is essentially zero incidental combat and little genuine exploration/traversal element involved in map progression, the map avoids feeling entirely like a disassociated sequence of arenas by dint of stylish use of quiet time and 'void space' in gameplay terms--the silent fortress veneer, Bowser sitting in shadows in the otherwise empty, massive throneroom before you are subjected to the penultimate ordeal, etc--allowing the setting itself to carry some of the load, and establishing a more palpable sense of buildup through the earlier fights to the finale. My favorite of the fights, incidentally, was the big scrappy final scuffle in the lava-floored throneroom with Bowser and an eruption of mercenaries from Below. While not as brutally efficient as a couple of the earlier fights, it absolutely has the greatest sense of shit coming unglued and there not being a whole lot you can do about it other than to hang on for the ride, balancing a heavy aspect of incidental damage and a sort of implicit (but by no means mandatory) complication to stay off of the lava floor with a ton of healing and other items drip-fed in over the course of the fight to keep you in the fight as long as you don't mentally turtle up. Bowser himself is no slouch as a classic tank, as expected--mountains of HP with a powerful but tactically straightforward attack--though I admit I was both surprised and pleased to find that he and I were the last two things standing at the end, considering all that been flung into the fight just prior. His behavior/routine seems familiar--Adolf Hitler from Xaser's map in D2iNO, maybe?--but feels a natural fit for the scenario, quite amusing to see his flame-breath bulldozing through groups of zombies and imps and the like. There are quibbles, mainly technical, but they're very minor. I too noticed and was somewhat disapproving of the red hell sky which shows through instead of the abyss in places; it appears consistently enough in 'interior' spaces to read as a possible deliberate design choice, but looks jarring enough to just as credibly read as an oversight. I thought that the final fight would've felt slightly glossier if the height difference between the lava floor and the raised stone floor structure radiating out from the center had been halved or so, as well--as it stands larger corpses (cacos, mancs, groups of pinkies, etc.) can collect on the raised part and make it surprisingly difficult to see clearly what's going on across the room (and shit flying at you), which doesn't seem intentional. Also a couple of mechanical hiccups--in the FDA you'll see the visual error around the megashroom in the center of the throneroom (which I've not been able to replicate), and in the RK fight three out of three times I've played the teleport-flashes on either side of the green armor have behaved irregularly, once both lasting until the nobles appeared, once with only the left lasting until the nobles appeared, and the right lasting until body-blocked by the mancubus in the FDA. Excellent closer with a suitably imposing look/feel, together with a couple of the other maps almost gives me hope for the viability of the Mario aesthetic. Almost. ;) Map 27 -- Congratulations! - FDA, for completeness' sake. Outro/bookend map intended to separate Mayhem17 from the palette-molested stock maps remaining in slots 28-30. As aforesaid, Mayhem has often been more conscientious about these niceties than similar CPs, though in some respect this is perhaps necessitated by its willingness to settle for a final mapcount other than "32+ at any cost." I admit I was secretly hoping for some kind of easter egg with the IoS face in m30, but no dice. :)
  8. Demon of the Well

    The DWIronman League dies to: 50 Monsters

    Here's me, not such hot shit this time. Died on m11, like lots of other folks. Feels bad, man....took a double-hit from the last two viles (if the initial tease accounts for all of 'em, anyway), who had positioned themselves in a really nasty checkmate position, and began their attacks nearly simultaneously. I tried to dodge both with a wild cut into the hallway, but misjudged it--hall wasn't long enough to get me out of view of either of them. Wise play in that case would've been to go behind the iron partition and accept a hit from just one of them, hoping to come back from there. On the upside, had relatively little trouble with either m33 (Sunder 01 tribute yay!) or m35 (YOU BORKE THE RULES), despite certain slapstick errors. All of this is a rare true category 1, for me--never played this before, never seen it streamed, etc. All I knew about it was that all of the maps supposedly had 50 monsters, that it had cybruisers in it somewhere, and that it supposedly leans heavily on really nasty gotcha traps in its later parts (which, having played further afterwards, seems to be true to some extent). Good work from AD_79 and his occasional guests keeping variety high under the project constraints, though in most cases you can tell these are older maps by less experienced authors (like looking at Jenesis vs. something Jimmy made the last couple of years, for example), particularly where they are homages to other maps/authors. Makes me want to see more recent stuff from all of these chaps!
  9. Demon of the Well

    The DWmegawad Club plays: Super Mayhem 17

    Map 25 -- Bastille Bowser - 102% Kills / 50% Secrets - FDA While not particularly long in terms of runtime, I reckon this is one of the physically largest/tallest maps I've seen Breezeep create, good to see him branching out in that regard. A relatively straightlaced take on the Mario texture pack, depicted here is part of an imposing grey castle-town sort of place, all ramparts and battlements and beetling streets, very vertically inclined with only a couple of yards and one recessed pool area to expand in lateral chunks. Like a few of the other maps, it opts for plain fullbright lighting over large stretches of its real estate and so looks a mite static (to me) in places, but the texture scheme, dominated by subdued greys, browns, and blues as it as, offsets this--no eyestrain here to speak of, aesthetic quibbles/bugs aside. :) Interior spaces do use some reduced lighting, and there's been a lot of attention paid to detailed architecture and scenery which sits outside of the actual playable space, so the overall impression is of a full, developed presentation which has made certain choices, as opposed to something like m09, which sort of looked like it lacked lighting because it ran up against a due date (whether this is or is not actually the case). I think the highly stylized "sky", such as it is, does this map no favors, but on the other hand the music track's great, one of the many renditions of "Bloody Tears" from the Castlevania series--Castlevania, now there's a Mayhem theme I could get behind! The map's enjoyable, being both vertically inclined and fairly roomy in most places it feels good to move around in (with a few designed flying leaps to reach items/armor to highlight this), and avoids any obvious pitfalls re: pacing or fight design or such. Considering the mapslot, however, to some degree it's perhaps inevitable that there is an overriding impression of how relatively easy the level is--stone castle theme aside, it could've easily fit somewhere inside of the first 10 maps or so--which some say may see as slightly odd given that it's the penultimate map proper and is designed for straightforward action rather than anything highly conceptual (read: it doesn't really fit the Limbo Model). Speaking for myself, I don't think there's anything wrong with having an easier map in E3 (or a genuinely hard map in E1, for that matter) in the service of contrast, and so for the most part don't see this an issue, but at the same time I can't entirely ignore that, again/still, I played quite badly and yet still managed to survive, and so in that regard I do think like the heat needed to be turned up a little in places. The fight for the RK in particular seemed like it needed to be bigger. As an aside, while I only found a couple of them in the first playthrough, the secrets in this map are fun to locate, doing a good job of playing off of how nice it feels to move/poke around in the layout. In balance terms, though, they don't really fit naturally (i.e. there's really no call for a BFG here, secret or otherwise), which underscores that the level could've been even more enjoyable with a bit more violence/intensity, IMO. Also, I am formally changing my vote to +++ 99 Ways/Playground/Talosian Incident.
  10. Demon of the Well

    The DWmegawad Club plays: Super Mayhem 17

    Map 23 -- Down the Wrong Pipe - 104% Kills / 50% Secrets - FDA As mentioned earlier on, I reckon this is the stronger of TMD's two maps in this edition of Mayhem. While more compact and not as structurally striking/airy as its sibling in slot 19, it uses a similar style of monster/placement in a much more concerted way in a more focused space, as a result avoiding that feeling of haphazardness in its gameplay and offering a surprisingly visceral combat experience early on, contrasted with a more coherent Kaizo-Mario-style sequence in its second half. That first area is an abstract Doom-y sort of place comprised of three linked halls with a dead-end chamber at one end, somewhat unattractively textured (at this point I'm sure everyone knows to take my carping about the whole Mario aesthetic with 'several' grains of salt, surely) and modest in aspect but well suited to the CQC scrapping which takes place there, nonetheless. Teleporting monsters and other tricks, ala the three blue doors which all fly open in concert as soon as you fit the key to one of them, keep some measure of heat on by constantly siccing mid/upper-tier beasties on you from your flanks. Prime material for SSG wetwork, this, saddled to an effectively deceptive ammo balance which can leave you feeling well-stocked at one moment and tugging nervously at your collar the next, especially if the vile happens to get out of hand. The tight-but-not-quite-cramped confines behoove some greasy dodges and perhaps some more involved infight shenanigans, which carry the action fairly well until the second half. The second half, situated Down what was evidently The Wrong Pipe, is realistically significantly more deliberate/cautious in pace for most players (don't want to fall off into black, in Mushroom Kingdom rules that generally spells death) but doesn't sacrifice much intensity, playing on nerves and a dirty trick or two to see you slip up and slip off. In truth, the platforming aspect itself here is very light/simple, but navigating it while the enemy firepower generally occupies superior positions is easier said than done. As with the earlier half, there's a sense of a lot of different action happening in stages in quite a small space, which is welcome, though on the downside the segment seemed to end in somewhat untidy way, requiring an inelegant reverse backtrack at the end at a point where it still seems like the room might have some development remaining. Nevertheless, a quality "deep cut" sort of map for the set. Map 24 -- Bowser's Daddy Dungeon - 100% Kills / 50% Secrets - FDA I have been known to criticize speedmaps in particular for often seeming like stream-of-thought collections of geometry and textures with no real gameplay ideas to fill them out and give them purpose. Rottking's map here struck me as something of the contrary case, a collection of short and largely unrelated gameplay ideas he had in his head that he decided to put down all together at once, resulting in a strange underground tower-mansion-castle-garden-playroom-zoo sort of place whose capricious and largely unplaceable form seems dictated by function, rather than the other way around. The overall impression is, aesthetic/concourse sensibilities aside, something like a whimsical old 90s romp. In the good way, I mean. :) Overall flow, connection, and progression are all a bit clunky here, at least in purely pragmatic 'flow' terms, and certain bits seem to exist for no real reason other than to express a random idea (i.e. the sideswapping coin hallways, the blue armor room, etc.) largely unrelated to the main goals of the level (which are seldom clear), but this is something the map owns, and for the most part manages to make work--it's sort of Petersenesque in its way, though the size/time constraints for maps in the project mean that you never end up too far off course. Combat comes in irregular spurts of brief intensity intermingled with lighter incidental fair and a sort of sniper-dominated central space to keep less battle-suited parts of the map from feeling entirely empty, but while the action has enough violence to satisfy and a traditional thing balance (i.e. RL is the Big Gun here) tight enough to keep one alert and engaged, fighting's not really the central point, wandering around and traversing the weird, vertically-inclined space and looking at the idea exhibitions is, and fittingly enough the level's "combat climax" didn't really work for me--the arch-vile is presumably supposed to warp around the four pipes, I guess (?), but he just stayed in place and got blasted when I visited. This is also one of the nicest looking maps in the pack that still seems to embrace the Mario look rather than ignoring or trying to subvert it, along with m04 and m08, IMO--it's shadowy and looks like a hangout for Bad Guys for sure, but is a very far cry from grim. Texture/color combos are smooth and sensible as opposed to foaming-at-the-mouth bright and cheery, and there's an incongruity (or what I perceive as incongruity, as a Mario outsider) to some of the asset use that has a peculiar charm, ala the ship-rigging/net stuff that cordons off the big central tower from the long, squat entry halls. The greater part of the map also possesses a striking sense of height and scale to it, always something that appeals. Not really 'frontman' material, I suppose, but as with m20 an enjoyable map that does its own thing and feels like it's coming from a rather different headspace design-wise than many of the other maps.
  11. Demon of the Well

    The DWmegawad Club plays: Super Mayhem 17

    Map 21 -- Rainbow Road - 103% Kills / No secrets - FDA, not horrible beyond words but still pretty bad IIRC. A very straightforward level fixated on pure combat, which I was not able to appreciate as much as it probably deserves, again simply because looking at it hurt my eyes--the static, lo-fi rainbow shingling (sort of looks like the main structural material is a bunch of giant Rubik's cubes, I thought) with lots of overlay from layers of platform borders and glowing star props and other trim/trappings densely packed into every vista gave me a mild headache in short order, and I recall needing to take a break afterwards, even though the map is very short and to-the-point. Doubly a shame in this case, since setting up these many neon-rimmed crystal sectors and getting everything in this style of presentation to work right sans unsightly visual anomalies is surely no small amount of work. That aside, as aforesaid the level is very straightforward; likely the most conceptually simple map in the set--you drop in, immediately are shuttled off to a handful of brief, focused fights (each of which can be handily won in a matter of moments, for a good/practiced player), and then it's over. The fights themselves are fine, all requiring a fast response and posing some measure of immediate, serious danger, but all quickly resolved with the piles of powerful armament supplied in a handful of large doses over the course of progression. I did not play well (again) but didn't have a lot of trouble clearing the map, so I reckon it's balanced on the generous/empowering side and not really a tall ask provided one doesn't panic (and isn't defeated by arrays of bright, happy colors, like moi) at the first sign of trouble. Biggest criticism is probably again a matter of degree/missed potential rather than a case of this or that specific element not working right or not playing well. You can get the three keys in any order, for example, but since they're all functionally self-contained setpieces of similar general style and similar difficulty which have no initial or emergent interaction with one another (monsters only enter the playing field of each zone just as you enter, and are entirely absent otherwise), this setup adds next to nothing to progression beyond a faint illusion of CYOA (which is not without value, granted), and underlines that the way the whole level is laid out and presented is primarily in service of the visual concept/homage rather than the gameplay/progression, not unlike m06 in that regard, I suppose. For those for whom this referential angle hits home, this is surely not an issue (and in this case I imagine many will enjoy the striking visuals wholly independent of the homage, as well); for dayblind Mario philistines like myself, my overriding impression is, once again, that the level's solid enough in play but seems underdeveloped in some senses. Map 22 -- Chocolate Starfish Islands - 97% Kills / No secrets - FDA An intuitive pairing for m21, Benjogami's map is also comprised of a short sequence of focused setpiece challenges, though as has generally been his wont these have a marked flavor of the experimental to them. As was the case with m12 and much of the rest of the ice-themed minisode from earlier on, it's no surprise that "CSI" has been controversial as it too makes pointed use of a number of non-typical mapping functionalities--ice, slowing terrain, active conveyors in the playspace, the like--but for my part I felt that it generally handled these more deftly than any of them (partly a consequence of its pronounced brevity, granted). The two ice-based challenges, which open the map and will probably immediately make it or break it for most players, are illustrative in this regard. Obviously, the ice here works just the same as in the wintry block of maps prior, and is no easier to move around on or fight on. The key difference, IMO, is that here the gameplay is purpose-built to highlight the ice and its impacts on movement, and tuned accordingly, rather than treating the ice as a sort of thematic environmental modifier atop otherwise conventional action. The miniature platforming challenge to reach the first pipe has the twofold purpose of really honing in on how to most efficiently maneuver Doomguy on the ice (don't fight it too much, drift into turns ahead of time, etc.) and also wryly ensuring with a sort of cheerful gallows wit that pistol-starters at least will play fair (you deserve what you get if you feel clever/cheeky and try to pistol That Revenant, precisely what Obsidian didn't do for those two viles in his map :) ). This segues nicely into the underground ice-island setpiece, which tests those movement skills in a sort of impromptu "bumper cars" scenario, where again the solution is to embrace the slipperiness and to read the situation in a more outside-the-box way (i.e. leave as many pinkies alive as you can, as they make superb mobile/incidental shields), which IMO is often the best sort of use for largely impractical niche effects ala the Boom-ice. I do think it's fair criticism that the map is perhaps slightly too insistently heavy-handed in some regards, i.e. the slowing water on the vile/knights/imps island, which is more of an incidental annoyance ala map 12, or indeed the extra punishment of the damaging water at the base of the level also being slowing, just to rub it in presumably, but the encounter concepts are interesting and fleshed-out enough to excuse this in this case, I think. As aforesaid, the map's quite short, and Benjo has had the good sense to end it with a weird but satisfyingly violent little climax on the river-island, going out on a high/cathartic/empowering note as a contrast to the marked little to-do which is the map's earlier stages. Also key to the map's success, I think, is that while it's certainly a handful it also has a sort of affable sense of humor about it which meshes naturally with the somewhat 'piquant' gameplay rather than seeming forced, probably best personified by That Revenant, who will inevitably vex you to the end and thus reads like a much more credible Mario-style Doom antagonist than almost anything seen prior, matched perhaps only by Xaser's ghostly Twins. Good stuff here, Benjo, though I'd be a liar if I said I wasn't at least a little relieved you don't plan on making ice a Big Thing in your future mapping. :)
  12. Demon of the Well

    The DWmegawad Club plays: Super Mayhem 17

    Map 20 -- Transformation Palace - 118% Kills / 33% Secrets - FDA, horrible beyond words. This is an interesting one. While its action is more or less straightforward and it doesn't possess any particular conceptual gimmick to its gameplay (the ever-ascending path through the level and its occasional bits of building terrain are more what I would call themes than 'gimmicks'), it has a peculiar feel to it quite different from anything else in the WAD, perhaps a function of being as unapologetically big/tall as it is. Gloomy, too, I must say, which surely also has something to do with how different it feels--there are only a couple of other maps in the set that take a similar sort of stonefaced approach to the Mario theme (even Xaser's nominally dark/spooky "Ziegenhaus" had a definite aura of mordant cheer about it)--this being something I personally find refreshing/appealing, perhaps endearing it to me on some irrational level. On that note, I want to say that I did definitely enjoy playing this, for the most part, even if that doesn't come through very well in the god-awful FDA. The order of the day is big fights--apart from the opening half-dozen monsters or so, everything here is a big fight involving more or less exclusively heavier monsters--but these are made to seem smaller, somehow, being dwarfed in scale by the environment itself as they tend to be. Not only are the playspaces large, but there's never any attempt made to keep you from retreating to or seeking cover in a previously cleared area, or indeed from using the space in pretty much any other way you might please, and so the overall impression is of something more slack and catch-as-catch can than the challenge-oriented affair that a description of its content on paper might suggest. This lack of any real leash on the player means that those unable to feel alive outside of the context of optimally tuned pressure-generation engines will probably find it chronically dysfunctional in its openness, and at the same time there are parts of it laborious enough to try the patience of most players regardless of their personal style (including me); several have commented on the somewhat obnoxious super shroom at the end of one of the long rows of pipes (I suspect the stylish/practiced way to get it is to land on a pipe with forward momentum from a running drop, but in practice I found it less hassle to just shoot for an SR50 with no runup), and the monster placement in the context of the transforming southern room is......well, let's just say it's "something else." Okay, let's also say that it should've been cut. Yet, where the action works, I think it works well, and found that to be the case more often than not. The FDA is horribly ugly/messy, and while part of that is just direct fallout from crappy play on my part, that it got so messy/complicated as often as it did speaks to the thought of the monster use in the context of such a relatively unwieldy space (i.e. very, very tall, theoretically very open visually, etc.). The big final fight's a good example. That you are allowed to simply run away from this back to the opening of the area flies brazenly in the face of most currently in-vogue conventional wisdom concerning such encounters, but I think this openness adds interesting layers to the fight. So yeah, you can run away and thus avoid death pretty easily, but....what then? In the average (blind) playthrough you then face a situation where your cowardice (or intelligence, as some may prefer...!) sees you having to get creative and take a huge risk to get back into the area so you can leave the level, thus your initial retreat has interesting emergent consequences rather than just being a crutch tactic that breaks the fight. Finding out about the backpack secret only after that first playthrough, I find I starkly disagree with those who mocked its somewhat odd placement/timing in the level--this is really quite clever, I thought, because finding that secret allows you to scoop up double the ammo before the last big fight starts, and thus makes the retreat/camping strategy significantly more powerful (yet not so powerful to render the whole thing null, again). And of course, the fight still works fine if you don't run away at all, wherein tactical infighting and awareness in an initially chaotic situation and all of the usual watchwords/virtues of modern action apply. It's not anywhere near highly tuned or conceptually vicious enough to be legendary, granted, but it is flexible in a robust way, and that's rare/valuable, something which both sides of the oft-posed challenge/casual dichotomy often miss. I wouldn't argue that the level's pretty loose in how frames its action, but I reckon it's also a lot smarter than it's been given credit for, and is probably one of the more replayable maps in the set as a result. It has a sort of simplified Resurgence flavor to it--big action in big places that's more often than not content to let you make your own way (and occasionally outsmart yourself and dig your own grave)--generally a welcome thing, in my book. But then, there's also that southern room....so maybe I'm blowing hot air and it's all an accident? A happy one, if so, and I suppose that's the main thing. :)
  13. Demon of the Well

    The DWmegawad Club plays: Super Mayhem 17

    Map 19 -- Your Princess is in Another Fort, Asshole - 104% Kills / 66% Secrets - FDA Another of the "obviously a speedmap" entries, I haven't been able to think of a good way to summarize my impressions without sounding as though I'm damning it with faint praise....which almost says enough in its own right, I suppose. While playing I was suitably entertained, for sure, the action is more or less constant and the thing balance is enjoyably skewed towards the RL (my favorite weapon), and the structure of the level itself has a number of interesting qualities. But, at the end of the day, there's also a marked sense that the layout and the thing/placement were conceived largely independently of one another, i.e. the shapes and scale and such were mapped out impromptu, and then action/thing placement which more or less "makes sense" was added to it afterwards, rather than any particular fight or other event being conceived in tandem with any particular physical feature of the map or its progression. It's not a boring map, by any means, but definitely one where I got the impression of much missed/unexplored potential. rdwpa has a more in-depth look at the level's general feel/timbre earlier in the thread, and the upshot of it (and something it would've doubtlessly taken me even longer to say) is that proceedings are generally directionless. While the influx of different monsters at different points fills out the runtime fairly well without getting sloggy or anything, the map itself undergoes changes that seem like they should point towards some kind of encounter structure that never develops in any real way, and so in some sense the space ends up feeling underutilized, especially considering that so much of the action naturally takes place in the big central chamber. For example, at some point lava fills the inner space, and barriers rise up to block what were initially its two northerly groundbound exits--well after there is any real reason for the player to ever go down there (I noticed because I insisted on futzing around with the fairly superfluous cyberdemon who eventually appears where the red key once sat). In placement terms, a few flyers are scattered about in the initial fracas, but never appear again, despite the environment seemingly being very suited to them. Similarly, a fresh crop of monsters appears at the south of the map when the player first butts up against the yellow door, to fire from afar, but because there's nothing else going on on your side of the map this is not relevant, whereas when you go back to the south to deal with them there is no complimentary complication from the north, which would seem to make more sense. The side areas of the southern upper level with the lava floor, apparently conceptually tied to a single radsuit (which I didn't recognize as a radsuit, not being highly attuned to Mario as I am--I thought it was a statue or something until I walked into it), never really pan out into anything either. Is it assumed the player will want to camp in there at some point, lending the suit value? Nothing ever really develops to make this seem like a logical course of action. Is it to prevent a couple of hits of damage from flicking the yellow switch? If so, why the damage floor at all? etc. etc. etc. Visually the map also has a certain air of unfinishedness to it, I thought. Again, the structure itself is generally pretty cool, but the absence of lighting effects in the main space makes its slate grey/cherry-red texture scheme look very flat and washed out indeed. Stock Doom II assets also appear here (for the first time since m10's marbface on the temple awning, IIRC?), used variously as trim/detail textures ('carpet', etc.) and as baldfacedly as traditional Doom switchplates. I thought that this read badly--sort of uncanny valley, in an unappealing way--and contributed to the impression of something finished in haste. I feel I've spent a lot of words here probably being nastier to the map than it deserves, but that's the thing with a map like this--all things considered it plays just fine, but there's that marked sense of underachievement that's tough for me to overlook, wondering what might've been if its author had had more time for it (ala his other map in the set, which seems more developed and is ultimately better, IMO). ****** Oh, yes, largely meaningless at this point, I suspect, but every eventual landslide has to start somewhere, I suppose: +++ The Alfonzone
  14. Demon of the Well

    The DWmegawad Club plays: Super Mayhem 17

    Map 17 -- All the Monster's Teeth are Perfect - 102% Kills / 50% Secrets - FDA Is that so? How about a vision plan? The fullbright technicolor-vomit visual aesthetic here is actively offensive (were there actually levels that looked like this in the Mario games? really truly?), and the music selection becomes about as painful as a root canal after a scant 60 seconds or thereabouts. Rarely would I say that it's better for something to be merely boring moreso than novel-but-bad, but this is the sort of exception that proves the rule, methinks. No thank you. It plays fine, though, have to admit. Lots of stuff to kill in droves, all chunky SSG multikills early on seguing into an RL gore-spattering shooting gallery farther in, and a variety of simple-but-effective contrivances (monster warp-ins right next to you, the V-star to prod you to approach the red-locked door, etc.) to keep the player on the move, ping-ponging around the hamster-maze environment which otherwise seems like it might lend itself to a high degree of threshold-camping. Once it became clear that there would be regular little jabs to keep things moving briskly forward, I wasn't really expecting many further surprises, but one still did manage to sneak in there: I was taken aback by the second cyberdemon coming to corner me over by the red key, didn't think the map would show that degree of teeth, though I guess I shouldn't be surprised considering who handled the thing-placement. ;) Good thing I had found that megashroom just before, no small miracle considering just how hard everything here is to look at, I'd say. All in all, this is a short map that seems to exemplify the philosophy that it's generally better for something with a relatively limited, directionless layout like this to embrace simple, straightforward fun rather than to try to force challenge or graft on a gimmick or such, and for that reason I'd say it was ultimately a more enjoyable experience (awful aesthetic and all) than m16 prior, which I'd pin (perhaps cynically) as a similar case of speedmap-itis. Map 18 -- C'mon Peach, You've Got What You Want, Now Give This Plumber Cake! - 93% Kills / No secrets - FDA Quite the title, that. Comparing this to Walter's earlier map, I'd say it's more fun to play casually, on the whole, though it could perhaps be argued that it's not as well-realized conceptually, i.e. the seams show really badly in places (black wall right of the imp staircase before the cyber-bridge, etc.), and it seems very likely to go rapidly from 'amusing' to 'pain in the ass' if you try to max it as opposed to simply try to exit. It's a Disneyland kiddie-kart ride (albeit with about....27.4% more killing than those tend to have along the way) through a Mushroom Kingdom castle dungeon patterned after those found in the original SMB, fireballs drifting in from afar, optical illusion maze, and other trappings en tow. Similar to m17 just prior, probably its most successful idea is not concerning itself with being too challenging (and of course, Walter pretty much never concerns himself with being deadpan serious, in either gameplay or aesthetics), always tooling up the player to forge ahead at a brisk pace. The silent-teleportation 'maze' segment perhaps runs counter to the rest of the design/pacing in that regard, but it's so simple and so short that it doesn't seem like any remotely aware player should find it bogging down the flow much, if at all. In the later segments, more monsters appear in the off-track peanut gallery as artillery, prompting further acceleration towards the exit (sticking around to fight them would be wildly impractical), and before you know it the level's over, scratch another overmatched cyberdemon, just like his brother in m07. I think it's fair to say this level is "cute", and not much more--zero replayability--but it's not a bad kind of cute, for what it is. Also! The authentically dour void + 8-bit dungeon visuals, while not exactly shaking the foundations of the world, are certainly a nice rest for the eyes after the assault of m17. Less overworld, more sublevel, please.
  15. Demon of the Well

    The DWmegawad Club plays: Super Mayhem 17

    Map 32 -- Return to the Birabuto Kingdom - 100% Kills / 100% Secrets - FDA THE YEAR OF LUIGI NEVER ENDS Chilling words. Somebody hold me. I was not impressed by this one. I never personally owned a GameBoy, but my sister had one, and so I did recognize the setting/reference here: "Oh yeah that one Soviet-imitation-looking Mario game with the weird music." To be frank, I think the reference is really what this level banks on, and since that involves faithfully imitating a very 'limited' aesthetic it can only carry it so far. Nostalgia notwithstanding, aesthetically it's quite dull, blocks and black and olive-drab with no lighting and a prop or two, forming a stage route not much more complex than an old portable sidescroller it so actively invokes. From a gameplay perspective it's most practically similar to m10, being an action corridor of sorts (even including a similar loop, though this one is markedly less practical/snappy from a flow standpoint), and in that regard it offers combat that is serviceable at best, dull at worst. A brief spate of uncertainty regarding ammo balance at the outset gives way to a sequence of ledge-clearings and a turgid surprise or two; none of the fights is very flavorful (the cyberdemon in particular being a non-event, only of practical interest to completionists) individually, though to its credit the map at least doesn't try to make things seem more involved than they are by trying to add "challenge" via privation, instead offering the player a lot of ammo/supplies to make quick work of its opposition, underscoring that its real point is presumably the moment of "oh yeah I get the reference." Map 16 -- Skyward Vivarium - 102% Kills / 100% Secrets - FDA Didn't really care for this one either, I'm afraid, didn't seem to have anywhere near the spirited liveliness or imagination of Pinchy's earlier map. Symmetrical and yet with a strangely daft sense of flow (the most practical route apparently being stepping into the central room, far enough to lower the vile platforms, and then fucking off back out to do the rest of the level with the RL and PR before returning at the end?), both placement and progression struck me as being uncomfortably and awkwardly improvised, "making the best of a less than ideal situation." Apart from the sudden attack at the end and the brief mindless catharsis of the zombie-squads on the side decks, none of the combat here has much zest, being comprised disproportionately of perched or otherwise immobile enemies with limited fields of fire, most of which have very little practical bearing on proceedings for players who don't insist on trying for maxkills. I wouldn't call the action trivial--the ammo : monster HP balance is deceptively tight, and indeed certain sequences of events can probably see legitimate ammo problems develop vis-a-vis working through the few ground-level groups of monsters which are legitimate obstacles. Likewise, healing is in deceptively short supply versus the damage potential of the opposition, which skews mostly towards heavy hitters and includes a lot of incidental chip damage to boot (I think the complaints about the "unfairness" of hitscan gameplay is more credible here than it would be in something like m04, where the hitscannery is much more fluidly worked into the concept, though I think the visceral satisfaction of massacring the zombiemen here is still more than worth the Philosophical Issue). This is as likely to contribute to the generally dry and joyless nature of the fights as it is to the engagement of tension, though, so in the end it's a wash, at best.
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