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Sui Generis

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  1. Sui Generis

    The DWmegawad Club plays: Reverie

    MAP03 - “The Cup of Wrath” What happened here? It seems like some principles of making an interesting level, with variation in rooms and combining rooms into interesting areas was just casually disregarded? Instead we have a string of repeated bridges and circular rooms. This level feels retro but for the wrong reasons. As others say, I presume it must be deliberate, although it's not quite such an obviously iconoclastic map as say Map24 of Doom 2 Reloaded, (which if anyone recalls is basically just one long labyrinthine corridor). I initially thought with the metal walkway that this map was going to be a remake of "The Gantlet", but the rest of the map is quite different (and less interesting to be brutally honest) and the textfile also rebuts this. I guess the author took pity on those of us who failed at finding the secrets in map02 though with the cliché first door behind you trick. Not that that's out of place in an old-school wad. I will complement the author on being kind enough to colour code the double-sided teleporters early on - if you're going to do multiple sided teleports than I think this is good practice, and I quite like the spiral staircase under the walkway and then across it. But otherwise this is not a level that hugely impresses me.
  2. Sui Generis

    The DWmegawad Club plays: Reverie

    After unexpectedly finishing last months playthrough I think I will try Reverie. I will play with PrBoom+, on complevel 2 (what with it being retro and all), HMP, saving freely. MAP01 - “Stratos Gate” A very imitative Doom2 map01 clone, down to the penultimate exit room being aped, the exterior secret area and a subtle spin on the optional side area and the triangular stairs. I don't mind this though, as with the first map of Doom2 being one that so many people have played so much, it is iconic, so it's inclusion in a retro wad is entirely understandable. Gameplay is mildly more difficult than the original, with the added hitscanner groups making chainsawing them without taking damage tougher. I only found one of the 2 secrets, so I think I'll have to pluralise @tmorrow's criticism of close after 30 seconds secrets. How is the player to know it's necessary to rush forward like this? What if their play style is naturally cautious? I'm not against the use per se, but I feel this kind of secret some kind of hinting that rushing to it specifically is necessary is almost like an unmarked secret - excluding of course those who naturally do rush forwards, but I see the author has already commented it was included for it's own sake more or less. Eh fair enough. MAP02 - “Soldier’s Stand” Another brief and simple map, albeit more original than Map01. The layout is constrained by the author's adherence to a linear space for the majority of the play area, yet it manages to eke a modest amount of play to say you essentially go left, then right! I appreciate the use of height variation and the timed lifts to get more out of the layout. Incidentally, it's odd how the door to those timed lifts is not set apart as a usual door texture, what with it being an essential part of the map progression? The lookout over the plateau is sort of cute I guess, as are the arrows which are decidedly oldschool. I found none of the secrets unfortunately, so this augurs ill for me seeing many more of them in later maps. The shootable switch was reasonably apparent and had my suspicions but without finding access to the computer map secret I was not at the right height to hit it. I'll join with @Capellan in disliking the one way teleport to the exit. Otherwise, fair enough little map.
  3. Whew! Caught up and just fashionably late. E4M5 - “The Witching Hour” Here we have an exercise in baron dodging at the beginning of the level. In fairness the cramped space and distant imps serve to do a surprisingly effective job at complicating the situation, putting off the player from staying and fighting. I like how the player is forced to bolt into the sewers/bottom level for safety like a rat. Others have noted the tediousness of the early barons, particularly on having to replay from a pistol start death and yup that's a problem. As an early on obstacle that the player must evade and dash past then the barons are fine but clearly after that point (perhaps when the yellow key has been obtained) then a heavier weapon should have been granted, which I think is reasonable for so many barons. Once the top heavy early portions of the map have been dealt with, the pressure eases somewhat although the player is still dumped into close quarter situations. The architecture is generally good although the visual style is less striking than the previous map. The switch doors in the ring shaped room surrounding the exit seemed a bit odd though. Why couldn't the doors simply remain open? E4M6 - “Trooper’s Graveyard” This, on the other hand, is mercifully light on baron grinding, and a little heavier on barrels. We still have Wiles' signature ambushes but the map seems a bit more corridor based. There is a moment later on after getting the blue key and being deposited in front of a teleporter behind the left door off the opening courtyard, where I was rather confused about where to go next, but other than this (and arguably it's my own stupid fault for forgetting about the blue door) it's relatively clear and flows well. The cyb that guards the yellow key is fairly straightforward to deal with so long as the player keeps their distance from the rear walls to avoid splash damage, particularly if the secret BFG is found. Overall I think this level feels rather more conventional and less like a Wiles level as there are fewer teleport ambushes. Still a decent level though. EDIT: I see afterwards that if I'd have ignored the cyb it would have teleported to the exit. Strange, I'd have thought the authors intent would be that the cyb would be fought and killed at it's starting point, what with the defensive baron ready to harass the player if they try to sneak past and press the switch. Presumably it was intended that both scenarios would be viable. It does explain why the level felt a little bit flat once the cyb is dead and I backtracked with the yellow key to the exit. E4M7 - “Bloodbath” So this map to my mind represents another drop in difficulty after M6, (itself easier than M5), at least certainly in terms of the beginning. We see fewer ambushes from multiple sides and indeed fewer larger monsters. Instead we have a raised walkways style vaguely reminiscent of the inmost dens (albeit sans any water) where most of the danger comes from hitscanner attrition from it's open nature. The layout looks rather more complicated than it actually is and I found this level flowed very smoothly, this time with even fewer barons. Indeed with the inclusion of secrets and the reduced role of teleport ambushes this feels rather less like a Wiles map. I quite liked the way two of the keys are contained centrally on platforms in a single area which the player returns to. Looks wise, the level also dispenses with the lovely contrasting lighting of M1 and M4 but also has much simpler, very functional architecture. It's strange to have the penultimate level by so much simpler than the previous ones - it feels like this map has been misplaced in the map order. It is certainly a change from the earlier levels though. E4M8 - “Gateway to Quake” I see the comments about this being an homage to the original E4M6 and that the quake section at the end is very superfluous and agree entirely. I do like E4M6 and I appreciate the large scale and tall architecture here but there does seem to be a whole lot less level compared with the original though. The big showcase fight after the first cyb is fun enough, although with the BFG it would have been simple. I personally opted to make the monsters infight, for which the mastermind was very helpful in infuriating it's caco companions and the latter cyb mopped up. The pillars in front of the two barons where the cyb appears are very cheesable, for those so inclined, though with hindsight I should have left them for the first cyb to take care of instead. One further comment on the progression: it may be me, but I was very much thrown off the scent by the need to jump from the pillar onto the raised doorway. I would have preferred there to have been a switch on to open the door (at which point the attacking imps would have made the next step obvious and their attacks would have required more care to dodge without the benefit of walls to stop the player falling off. The Quake part is indeed very much an anti-climax and probably could have omitted the brief little zombie chaingunning stretch as misplaced and misjudged. I also find the way it is simply placed there rather than teleported to to be somewhat bizarre. The transition has no ceremony and the map just continues on as if nothing has changed when clearly the author wished to show it had. Overall, a pretty fair final level that perhaps would've benefited by having more gameplay in the E4M6 part, and less of the trivial 'first level of a Quake episode' section. Overall thoughts on Crusades Well it's been great to finally play through this at last. The looks on some of the maps (M1 and M4 spring to mind) are particularly excellent, the others are generally good to very good (especially for the time) albeit less visually striking. The gameplay is a mixed bag of genius in teleporter and multi-directional ambush designs which I think should be taken onboard, versus excessive grindy shotgun chipping at barons. The poster child being M5. There's a very noticeable change in play style though after E4M5 with the drop in Barons and ambushes - I feel the last three maps feel far more conventional and less noticeably Wiles than the earlier ones. I do wonder if the author himself started to feel Baron fatigue after M4 and 5 - certainly I think most of the club did! Some of the layouts are excellent , although surprisingly Wiles' maps in the Darkening E2 seem far more ingenious in terms of layout than his crusades maps, presumably this is because several of the Spooky series preceded darken2. I do like Crusades and the best looking parts of it look good even today, but otherwise I think I enjoyed his darkening 2 maps more. Happy new year everyone :)
  4. Predictably, I'm not quite going to finish this this year. Oh well. Crusades: I use PRBoom+ playing UV continuous with saves E4M1 - “The Awakening” Pretty nice looking first map. Great looks, good atmosphere. Gameplay uses initial resource deprivation. Annoyingly I didn't immediately notice the shotgun until I had pistoled all the initial imps and lost souls, which was ...time-consuming. This of course was then followed by barons along with a teleport in of mainly lost souls without any projectile monsters to distract from them. I can also second (or however far along that should be) that it wasn't necessary to use all 3 keys. The layout is deceptively simple and brief as the opening vista on play start makes the map look far more elaborate and lengthy then it is. I have no issue with this given that it's a map01. And finally I do at least appreciate the use of tree silhouettes against the sky and windows to break up the dark textures. This map reminds me a little of E4M1, but with more grindy, safer gameplay than the snap danger of the teleporting sergeants in the id level. Perhaps this is a missed opportunity - a teleport in of sergeants behind the player in the initial area to press them into running past the baron at the blue key door? Not a bad map otherwise though E4M2 - “Night-Watch” This is better, an interesting more classic themed map with a striking cross shadow in the starting courtyard. We have rather better and more substantial gameplay to this level, so I presume it was one of the spooky maps and was intended to stand-alone. We have tasteful courtyards and corridors with the layout roughly looping around a central area with the blue key. Monsters tend to attack in mixed groups which makes the fights more interesting than the first map and barons are used relatively more sparingly, though annoyingly I forgot to pick up the RL to near the end. I spent the entire map not seeing any secrets and expected to exit without any, until I stopped to think and found them both. Good map, although the layout is nothing like as elaborate as some of the things Wiles did in Darkening E2. E4M9 - “Running Scared” An initially very small and symmetrical base that starts without much promise in a roughly E1M9 theme. The map grows from the initial section into something more interesting though and gathers pace a little when dropped in front of a large gang of imps, with the plasma rifle just within snatching distance. I play continuous, but I decided to try both and unsurprisingly this map is rather more difficult initially from pistol start with the need to work for the shotgun and exploit the barrels to deal with the initial imps. I actually think it's kind of well-designed, as you are forced to dash, duck and pop pistol shots off at the teleporting sergeants till you can get one away from the crowd and pick up a shotgun. The release of the baron to roam whilst you have the sergeants to worry about is a pretty good confounding factor whilst you are stuck with the pistol. Unfortunately this means you are treated to having to shotgun the baron in complete safety afterwards (with a couple more to follow), which is no fun. Health and ammo early on are also very limited, with just a few health potions available till a (potentially missable) soulsphere just before the blue key. Although I respect the discipline this sort of scrounging and austerity demands of the player, I still find the map becomes more entertaining after the blue key. Overall this is fair map with a slightly dull and corridor heavy start on continuous, but is rather better if playing from pistol start, imo. (But the RL could've been given earlier, perhaps after the first one. Shotgunning one baron is enough!) E4M3 - “Berzerker” This is a pretty compact and fun map. I appreciate the vertical interconnection of areas, for example at the start where the player walks between the two platforms and later visits and teleports across them. There's plenty of monsters and some good traps and monster releases and so plenty of fun. I undeservingly blundered into the mega armour secret, and with the subsequent teleport traps and close quarter pressing monster encounters, I'm very glad I did. I do like this map and feel it plays and flows well. Good stuff. E4M4 - “Haunted House” Now this map seems to be the polar opposite of the previous one in terms of gameplay. It looks absolutely brilliant and atmospheric with the highly contrasting lighting, the silhouetted trees, crosses and hanging bodies and so forth. I completely got the haunted house feel early on, as brilliantly the level starts out deserted (I half wondered if I'd inadvertently entered the no monsters flag or something) and then all of a sudden monsters teleport in. Excellent. This and the next couple of areas had me watching my every step, wondering then the next teleport ambush would be, but then about half way into the level, the action dies down into very static sniping of turret barons?! I'm not sure what caused Wiles to change the tone so significantly, but the air of danger and caution about the unknown is gone, and supplanted by mundane and stationery grinding. There is a final vista of the gorgeous silhouetted exterior but then the climb back out around the courtyard with the central baron and cacos offers little danger and only really time being consumed. What a pity. Oh and also it's possible (and quite easy) to jump out of the level into the silhouette exterior. I did this inadvertently when I was dodging a caco shot, trying to get them to infight with the baron. Overall this one has a memorable atmosphere and truly warrants inclusion in a wad series called "Spooky", but the gameplay lost the element of surprise after it eschewed the teleport ambushes.
  5. I am still horrendously behind and unsure if I will be able to realistically get through Crusades this year. TL;DR version of this post: I really like the Darkening E2. Also, yay for Richard Wiles and Ola Björling. MAP09 - “Hard Core” by Jan Van der Veken, Ola Björling, Anthony Soto I saw before playing this level Capellan's comment that this felt like a slog and I think I agree. Gameplay was fairly good, and as with several other of Jan's maps this one featured teleporting enemies, but to particularly nasty effect here. This is especially the case later on where there are chaingunners, revenants and arch-viles being teleported around. It's odd but somehow I didn't enjoy this one as much as the previous one. Although this map has a lot of things I tend to prize such as variation in height and area size and does re-use areas, I found the layout fairly confusing. As before it does look good though and fundamentally this is still a good and enjoyable map. Perhaps I am being spoilt by this mapset and am being a touch picky. MAP10 - “Plasmorgasm” by Richard Wiles This, on the other hand, most certainly did hit that sweet spot of an interesting, interconnected layout with area reuse and variation yet without managing to be confusing. I think Richard Wiles seems to be the layout king in these sets (excepting his map05 which I found a little less enjoyable somehow, and it's interconnections were a little less dynamic and ingenious). This map of course looks good, and that has been pretty much a given so far. I will perhaps comment that the previous map perhaps managed to do a better job of mixing in larger and smaller spaces, but this is debatable. As with Wiles' previous map, 08, this one occasionally manages to be slightly confusing as to where to go next, but the beauty is that the last switch you pressed never has action very far away and as before you always find that when you pick up a key you are generally deposited or led in some way towards the relevant key door. I love the way the author does this. :) The gameplay of this map is notably gentler than in Map07, without Jan's fiendish monster teleporting. The caco attack just after passing the red key door was fun though as the switch door leading to the balcony cannot be opened from the other side and thus I got penned in and pressured more by the cacos and PEs. Also I enjoyed the final cacoswarm too, because we all enjoy a good caco swarm :) Finally, I will add that although the secrets were generally quite easy, I found them all quite satisfying. The soulsphere I will slightly criticise as being too easy - the first minute after I saw the soulsphere on a pillar and the balcony with the Hell Knight, I spotted the shootable switch across from it, so in other words it was just a matter of time before I got that. And the BFG parkour at the end was not too difficult to spot but quite satisfying to complete, even though I wasted the cacoswarm waay before I would likely have grabbed this. All in all, another excellent map by Mr Wiles. I better get a move on for Crusades! MAP11 - “Powerplant” by Ben Davies Ben Davies is an author I have hitherto been unfamiliar with, and unfortunately with this map I am not enormously encouraged to rectify this. Much of this map takes place in corridors and close quarters, and though I do not particularly take issue with cramped fights (the knight/demon teleport ambush fairly early on was good), I think the casualty is the visual interest of the level. It looks and feels a bit samey for just a bit too long. Also few of the encounters have the surprise factor - the majority seem to be room by room shooting straight in front of you. There's none of the van der Veken monster teleporting trickery as evidenced in map09. Also the secrets are relatively simple. I don't mind easy secrets per se (an opportunity for self-flattery never goes amiss) but the principle of chainsawing air vents to open them yields 2 of the 3, whilst the third at the start seems almost like it shouldn't be classed as secret altogether. Although I dislike this map because of the excess of corridors and small areas, that's not completely fair as there are some larger areas and exteriors, both of which look better and are more interesting with typically nice darkening architecture. Had there been a better mix of these with more ambushes and attacks from different angles, then I think the map would have been better. Overall as it is, it's quite meh. MAP12 - “Toxicity” by Ola Björling I'm at a loss for words, this is a damn fine map. The architecture, the layout, the interconnection, the variation in spaces. I honestly can't think how Ukiro (and Wiles in Map08) planned all of this. Certainly it ticks a lot of my boxes as you can gather. Reading some of the criticisms, I was shielded from them. So by declining to pistol start I enjoyed the benefit of a full arsenal and completely missed the early ammo starvation. Similarly I was spared the irritation of the inconsistently coloured keydoors by the port's coloured automap. In truth I was using it so often to help with navigation that I barely noticed. In other cases I might have considered that a bad symptom, but there is a difference between a cleverly designed complex layout and a bad one - for me the way the spaces (not rooms, but spaces) are both distinguished and yet integrated together is the clincher. I found the secrets to be surprisingly polarised in terms of difficulty: 2, the megaarmour and backpack near the beginning are both very simple and easy, yet the third one with the jump to the soulsphere (which I will confess to severely savescumming via quick loads to eventually reach) was much harder. I never found the 4th, although having checked in the editor after the fact I clearly should have done - doh! I enjoyed the end fight, flawed though it may be, and the preceding cyb encounter. In truth I'd loved the map so much up to that point that anything half-decent would have worked really and thus when the final battle with the arachnotrons and the (practically canned) infight opportunity arose I was more than happy to play ball. And I even appreciated the end sequence, dropping down into the rock cracks to gain that spelunking prelude to hell. In short I'm just a Björling fanboy now at this point so I guess screw attempts at objective criticism :) Oh and knowing how much of a pain in the ass for Ukiro it was to make the crate jumping area helped make proceeding through it that much less of a chore :P Overall thoughts on The Darkening Ep2 This mapset was a quantum leap over Ep1, both in terms of architecture, layout and level design but also consistency and level length. You get more gameplay out of each level (generally for the right reasons, imo) so they are both quantitatively and qualitatively better. It would have been quite a disappointment to have played Ep1 second. Certainly the remaining level authors developed significantly and the newer ones generally were excellent. I will echo the criticism that it would have been nicer if the door textures were more obvious, as it does almost begin to feel like low level secret hunting to progress in some of the levels, however many of the levels had either such good layouts or visuals (or both!) that I was fine with this. In fact I put it down to part of the experience of trying to mentally chart, absorb and comprehend the 3D space as part of how I derived enjoyment from this. And of course it looks good aswell, with tasteful design that fully stands the test of time. Really, for someone who is used to playing (and making allowances for) older levels and has come to take for granted that more modern wads will generally be better looking, this wad is an excellent counterpoint. One thing I was a bit indifferent to though, was the music. I didn't warm to it so much as some of the other commenters and in honesty found it occasionally slightly bizarre. However I accept the different feel of the music is appropriate with the new textures also and I have no real objection to it, so cool. Lastly it's been great to see the comments of some of the authors discussing this. Particularly the detailed thoughts and comments of Ola are appreciated. But I think kudos has to go out to all the authors really. My favourites would have to be: MAP04 - “Vindication” by Anthony Soto MAP08 - “Lucifer’s Laboratory” by Richard Wiles MAP10 - “Plasmorgasm” by Richard Wiles MAP12 - “Toxicity” by Ola Björling I was less keen on (but by no means disliked): MAP02 - “Biotech Terror” by Jan Van der Veken, Derek MacDonald MAP11 - “Powerplant” by Ben Davies Good to excellent: All the rest No categories for bad or mediocre maps are necessary - that's what I call quality!
  6. I took the weekend off and fell behind - I'm really going to have get my comments posted to try and limit the wall of text size from being too ridiculous... MAP04 - “Vindication” by Anthony Soto I really like this level. We have interconnection, foreshadowing. I liked the switch with the view of the half door to show you it raised, the author taking pains to show you what the switch did. In spite of that, I agree with Capellan that the progression was slightly unintuitive at times but generally never for long. The detailing is great without being excessive and I especially like the sense of place that the map has, the way the exterior scenery ties in with the indoor areas and the player feels like they have actually journeyed round a base rather than a series of disjoint rooms and corridors. Gameplay wise, I find this to be fun enough although perhaps there's not so much variation in the way monsters are encountered - many of them are at fairly close quarters. Perhaps a teleport ambush or two more might not go amiss - something to unbalance and surprise the player a bit more would be good. Overall these are minor criticisms for me and I think this level has what Map03 lacked and more. For me, this ties with Map01 for best so far. (As with Demtor, I was surprised to see some of the criticisms of this map too. I guess for me it's as much about the journey as it is the gameplay, which I accept is room by room) MAP05 - “Melt-Down” by Richard Wiles This map is rather more sparse, aesthetically than the last one. It makes up for this with more interesting gameplay with teleporting monsters and a neat imp/revenant ambush later in the map. The number of hitscanners and trappy nature of the map means you can take a good deal of attrition and then the traps are there to finish you off. I did quite appreciate the change of scenery with the odd rocky passages as a variation from all the techbase stuff, although I can accept that it does seem a bit corridor heavy otherwise. Also, I am seriously going to have to start leaving archies alive now for potential secrets, as I missed the blue armour. Arrgh! MAP06 - “At the Heart of Decay” by Jan Van der Veken Of all the Darkening E2 maps so far, I feel that this has been most reminiscent of Quake 2, with the corridors and courtyards motif which is one of the more enduring memories of Quake 2 I have. In some ways, this map is quite simplistic - the layout is essentially two prongs of an early fork which both must be traversed, but there's a lot of mise en scene, with fake doors, air vents as well as the aforementioned courtyards to make it feel like a larger more elaborate place than what it is. The gameplay manages to be pretty good considering much of it is based in corridors. There's a couple of arch viles to spice things up (although the second one near the red key-locked exit was neutered for me as I saw it's door opening and the narrowness made it easy to contain). The courtyard with the broken bridge, with revvies, PEs and cacos and then hitscanners was particularly well worked. In fact there's a praiseworthy trappiness to this level altogether. I found the secrets surprisingly easy though, which makes a change after my being outfoxed in the D Ep1 Map09 by the same author. Overall this is competently made and aesthetically pleasing, although for me it is less special than some of the earlier maps. Good stuff. MAP07 - “Waste Processing” by Nick Baker So after my compliments on the look of the previous map, I am treated to this one being a continuation of it! I love maps that are continuations of a previous one, and this one has some of the same courtyards and corridors which I was enthusing about earlier. This map is also a quantum leap above NiGHTMARE's earlier maps in the Darkening Episode 1, with not only Baker's small scale detailing being put to better use in places than before but the gameplay is better to boot. I will criticise the progression since I didn't realise that the central barriers near the blue key area had dropped. I'm not sure if perhaps that was just me being dumb and inattentive though. But in other elements the map shines, the rocky area with the mancs and the yellow key softly illuminated by the crack in the ceiling. (That area reminded me of Beast island from Alien Vendetta actually). In fact the cracks in the ceilings in general. This isn't the first map to feature them but they seem to be used more prominently to make a feature of an area than before, and the juxtaposition of dark metal textures with the ruddy orange E4 sky is excellent. This map broadly drips with little touches to add to the atmosphere, with it lavished with inaccessible areas and doors blocked off by rockfalls, the collapsed bridge from which you later visit from the opposite side. Excellent. I truly wish that more mapsets would do this level of area re-use within maps and in successive maps. My praise of the aesthetics has to be toned down somewhat for the final area which was very corridors based and plain (although it had some rooms with detail these were oases in an otherwise visual desert. Gameplay wise, notwithstanding the fact I missed the bars dropping, I think this is ok. Although I was surprised the blue key was not more heavily guarded.(Reading the criticisms of the gameplay and flow from the other commenters, I sympathise. Clearly for me, the sense of place due to continuation from the previous map was greatly improving my experience of it.) MAP08 - “Lucifer’s Laboratory” by Richard Wiles And now we have a map that not only looks good, with it's slightly more spartan details, oh-so-clean texturing and tasteful architecture, but has good gameplay and an ingenious layout. This is excellent; I feel spoilt. The area re-use and foreshadowing is great, there's a good drip-feed of opponents with the odd trap and revvies or chaingunners ready to serve a kick in the posterior, and the layout makes it very satisfying to play through. In particular, the placement of key doors to both open up new, carefully planned routes back to the next place to be and also sign-posting the way forward across what could admittedly have been a confusing layout. Also, the air vents are a paradox as essentially they are a monotextured maze which I normally hate, yet because they feel such a relevant part of the map, I don't mind in the slightest. If I was to criticise this map, I guess I could say it looks quite square, yet I don't mind in the slightest. I wish I'd played this mapset sooner now. :)
  7. MAP02 - “Biotech Terror” by Jan Van der Veken, Derek MacDonald We have some tastefully detailed corridors in this little techbase map, and as others noted, a cool ladder which I presume was made from closely stacked self-referencing sectors. Unfortunately I don't think there was a great deal else. It seems like we have here the progenitor of the many copy + paste detail maps of mid-noughties, with the repeated pretty corridors, which is not an enviable accolade imo. Gameplay suffers due to the lack of variation in areas, and the map overall is brief and samey. I will have to award credit to the map for being pretty effective at wearing down my health via attrition. The revenants at the end were quite dangerous due to narrow dodging space and the small doorway to the earlier corridor making dodging and hiding difficult. Overall, although I appreciate the tasteful decor, I don't feel there's too much to this map, even allowing for it's early slot. MAP03 - “Binary Compound” by Adam Windsor This was a rather more spacious and varied level than the last one. I'm quite surprised by the nice use of curves throughout. If I recall, NiGHTMARE once said that the theme of Darkening E2 was alien techbases and the use of curves (particularly before Doom Builder and the curve linedef took) helps support this. I find the gameplay to be ok, but for the most part a bit pedestrian, with the exception of the blue key trap. I found the way of accessing the blue key to be almost a secret; finding it was satisfying too. I'm unsure if that's good design though. And the three secrets themselves are simple to find, but then sometimes easy secrets can be fun, since the easy success is encouraging. One thing I think was amiss was the lack of area re-use and interconnection though. You just steamroll forwards through areas and each one (once cleared) can be forgotten about and becomes an irrelevance. Finally I found that music with it's rhythm changes to be slightly odd - I'm a bit unsure about that. Overall this is a moderately good level to play and certainly good in terms of looks. And yeah, I'd agree it looks like Map01 influenced the author in regards to key placement ;)
  8. And so onwards to the Darkening Episode 2. I will continue with PRBoom+ UV continuous with saves, perhaps trying the odd map from pistol start if the experience looks to warrant it. MAP01 - “Outpost Mortem” by Ola Björling A very strange, and striking first map indeed. I think this level looks excellent even by modern standards, with it's clean texturing and use of architecture to create interest. But what really hit me about this map is just how free-flowing and open it is - the DM level inspiration clearly shows here. In some ways though I think it's possible to be too free-flowing and (dare I say it?) non-linear, if it can lead to a sense of aimlessness. Part of the issue for me is that depending on how a non-linear map is constructed, if you don't encounter adequate ammo or opposition balanced to your current arsenal then it rather undermines the effect of playing the level and instead makes me feel "Oops, I suppose I wasn't supposed to go this way". That shows up here with the lack of shotgun shells if you first choose to go to the left versus the (three shotgunners and ample supply of shells to the right), leaving you to wander around the loops of the base, dodging demons and pistoling some of the imps in order to conserve the inadequate shell count. It temporarily renders you more a spectator than a participant in the action as you aren't particularly endangered but equally aren't able to do much about the monsters either, and feels to my mind as a player that I've broken the map and accidentally glimpsed beyond the stage curtain. Undoubtedly there must be an element of personal preference in this, and I think there will be some who perceive what I have called here aimlessness as liberating and the inadequate supplies if you go the 'wrong' way as oppressive, against the odds ammo scrounging, (or of course I could have just gone to the bottom right sooner for the shells I guess) but that's my perspective. Anyway, I don't know how I've managed to sound so negative because I like this map. I think it excels at creating interesting spaces that interact well with each other and the map is like a place rather than a disparate series of rooms as others can be. I will criticise the initial green armour secret as a bit pointless, since although I fully anticipated there to be something (Doom 2 Map01 style) somewhere on one of those unreclimbable (sorry I just used that hideous construction) ledges, I didn't immediately notice it until I had dropped down past it, leading to an immediate idclev01 restart by me. I saw no other way to get to the secret berserk than via a clumsy SR50 down the stairs which somehow worked. And I will echo Capellan on criticising the end slightly, but not so much because the caco can be cheesed with the pistol behind the bars (there are plenty of shells by that point!), more that I'm not super hot on timed switch runs. Other positive points for me was the doom furniture (normally something I dislike but here I feel is used sparingly and effectively) and the conveyor belt and just general tastefulness and organic feel of the map are unique and great. Overall I have to say sorry Jan, but this map blew your map01 from the first ep out of the water. :)
  9. MAP11 - “Stone Tyrant” by Adam Windsor Well, I can go with what Capellan said (good to be objective about your own maps, btw). I think this map seems to have the opposite quality of Map 10, in that rather than being compact, it is a great deal more spacious relative to monster population. There's a lot less in the way of surprises and ambushes - once you clear out the initial area (or at least the hitscanners) then there's relatively little in the way of monsters or gameplay to sustain you all the way to the exit. I think maps 09 and 10 did a much better job of maintaining a good drip-feed of enemies to dispatch. Probably a teleport in to the main area after picking up the red key would likely have been good, although arguably that would be a symptom of playing the wad today rather than upon release (after all, it worked in Requiem Map11 :) ). The layout also is extremely simple too; allowing for the fact that it has been scaled up to have a large central space then we essentially have a hub with a pair of brief spurs. The previous map particularly managed to feel more complex in terms of layout in spite of being much smaller. I suppose ultimately what I need to acknowledge is that this is essentially a boss map from '98 and therefore the main focus had to be a cyberdemon fight. With this in mind, I'm cool with the (cliché nowadays) free megasphere before 'the ultimate final battle' against a single cyb in acres of space. Yet I'd still wonder given that we cheerily had a spider mastermind as early as map04 (which turned out to be quite a tense and fight!) if we couldn't have had a little more to this. Appearance wise it looks ok though I guess. All in all, a slightly flat but ok end to a rather variable quality episode. Overall thoughts on The Darkening So yeah, the darkening has been a bit of a let down for me. It seems to have become well known more for the aesthetic and artistic direction than the gameplay, although at the time it doubtless would have been considered more than adequate in that department. The elements of detail in several of the maps were ahead of their time and of course quake was very recent then too. I probably enjoyed Maps 2, 4, 9 and 10 most, with those by Travers Dunne being my favourites closely followed by some (but not all) of Jan's. I felt Nick Baker and John Bye's maps were weaker (although NiGHTMARE's weren't particularly bad, just a bit flat and short usually. Fortunately for me it looks John Bye didn't participate (or had retired from Doom?) by the time the next episode was produced, so we'll see how I find that.
  10. MAP09 - “Military Complex” by Jan Van der Veken This level is pretty simple and shares the theme, music and the central hub with offshoots type layout of the original E1M9. I don't have much to say about it on continuous, but on pistol start it can be fairly rough initially, with the teleporting shotgunners and depending on whether you can get the chaingunners to fire on themselves before either of them hit you. The slime run to the secret shotgun can be fairly punishing when you don't know how to activate the lift (although there are medkits to help alleviate the damage). Also you'll end up rocking the single-barrelled shotgun for a good part of the map with several demons to whittle away at the red key trap. The baron release will be pretty time-consuming if you didn't have at least one of the SSG or rocket launcher. All in all, this is unremarkable on continuous (where the effects of a limited arsenal are not felt) but can be quite good snappy fun on pistol start. I didn't think to check back at the SSG location after finding the secret radsuit and switch, in spite of it appearing on the Prboom+ automap in a different colour and I didn't see any other way of to the soulsphere without SR40 off of the nearby crate top. Not a bad level, but too reliant on the player finding the secret weapons to deal with the barons. MAP10 - “Under Earth” by Travers Dunne This is a pretty damn good map regardless of how it is played. The scale of the automap relays how compact this level is, yet it manages to get a good amount of gameplay out of a relatively small amount of map. The verticality in this map in particular deserves praise both in varying the incidental encounters and employing cacos to their strengths with them floating down from above. I feel like NiGHTMARE should have been forced to play through this map before finishing Map07, for example. I also appreciate the use of the dark crates section to tie together the earlier and later sections of the map. In fact I think I need to shoot off more praise to say that in general the gameplay is just well paced and well judged. I was surprised to see that the plasma rifle was not accessible by anything more elaborate than a SR40 jump off the top, having discounted that as probably not the intended route, and then the same is not marked as a secret. Likewise, I didn't see a way to access the one actual secret (nor indeed any obvious reason or reward to do so, beyond 100% secrets. Finally that last fight can be pretty bad, particularly if you either neglect to collect (or fail to remember you already possess, if playing continuous) the plasma rifle. I ran to the other end where the AV with the narrow pillars as cover appeared, perfectly judged to pin me for the remaining monsters to finish me. I enjoyed the trap there, although if you remember the PR and actually use it to eliminate the initial monsters then it degrades to a formality. I agree with the sentiments about the unmarked exit though. Also it's nice to hear the Requiem map03 midi reused as I am fan of that map too.
  11. MAP08 - “Discordia” by John Bye Yes, it fits that this map is by the author of map03, but at least there is a little bit more evident to his mapping style here. It is clear to me now, particularly in hindsight the keys near doors in map3 that Bye is all about map progression in a very controlled, mechanistic fashion. Concepts such as open spaces, free movement and choice are all subjugated to the prescribed one true way forwards. I know that that is what a linear map is essentially, but this feels more linear than most, because of how cramped and constraining the narrow corridors are along with the numerous doors and room by room construction. Asides from the exit, there is rarely any foreshadowing of later parts of the map. It's like being a marble in a tilt-table maze. The use of the arch-viles in the warehouse section made dealing with them tricky, albeit in a more time- consuming way. Certainly it made a demon herd more interesting. Overall, I don't care for this map much either. 2 and 4 FTW so far.
  12. MAP07 - “Dead Simple II” by Nick Baker A very simple and rather flat and boxy level. This exemplifies my thoughts about the previous level by the same author being rather primitive. Strip away the theming and the neat but samey texturing finery and you are left with a very simplistic and short layout - essentially a hub, a ring and a spur. I suppose that's fair enough for a map07, especially given the name and I'm grateful it's not actually a clone of the original, but the level turns out to be a lot less vertical and interesting than the initial courtyard suggested. I guess the doom furniture is quite cute though. Gameplay is similarly simple too, fights tend to be ahead of the player, there's an ambush or two which are very predictable (most notably the blue key pick up) and then a handful of monster closets with one or two mid-sized monsters in each. There isn't really much variety in the range at which engagements take place and only a modest amount in the height - it's like the mindset during construction didn't extend out beyond the current room. In some ways I like that this map was a little less sophisticated than it's predecessor, in that it seemed more honest, but then I guess that means there's less to distract from that too.
  13. MAP06 - “The Mines of Death” by Nick Baker A spot of themed corridor crawling in the dark eh? I don't mind it I guess. It's perhaps for the best, that the actual mines section of the level is very brief, as it would get tiresome pretty quick. Although it does feature nice stalactites/stalagmites and the like and the broken megasphere crate is (as others noted) impressive and ahead of it's time. That's a good thing because asides from these and the odd midtex 3D effect, this level is quite bare. The environments in which you fight are nearly always corridors and the map actually feels quite primitive without the decorations. The gameplay is straightforward and I thought the way the blue key door leads smoothly to the yellow is neat. But really using all 3 keys like this is a lot of show for relatively little game time. As with several of the other maps, this one features an arch-vile, and I think this one is less well used as you immediately start in a safe place making the only slightly tricky part being how to approach the courtyard to be able to kill it. The potential thrill of being surprised and significantly endangered is abated. I obtained the megasphere just by wallhumping, since the map and especially the surrounding area where the secret wall was likely to be is small. Strange that it isn't marked as secret though. All in all, this is so so - not bad but not amazing.
  14. Nothing like a map set I've been meaning to play for ages to lure me out of hiding! I play prboom+ continuous on UV with saves because dying makes me sad. Here goes: MAP01 - “Scary” by Jan Van der Veken A very simple, occasionally boxy little opener. I think this level certainly shows it's age to a more modern sensibility, with somewhat austere architecture, but it's tasteful in it's quake theme and I appreciate the things like the signposts to help improve flow once the player needs redirecting. The fake exit and area (well, level really) re-use is quite important, as even for a Map01 this would've been very insubstantial. Moreover the ambush provides a much needed surprise and variation in the gameplay. The first secret allows for a Doom Map01 style chainsaw run if the player desires, otherwise this map is very simple and very brief. MAP02 - “Bloody Hell” by Jan Van der Veken This is a bit better; two slightly more open courtyards with a few narrow corridor warrens coming off them. The courtyards are probably the more interesting part to clear out as you are more likely to encounter enemies at differing heights and ranges and there is more of an element of cover use and target prioritisation. The corridors are correspondingly far less interesting, having elements of simple (but attractive for the time) detailing (eg. the skylight and the Quake style portal) and gratuitously oldschool mechanistic progress (ie. the descending walkway to the pit, with teleport to the opposite side purely to make it rise up again. I only picked up the SSG secret at the end of the level because I didn't feel like Baron dodging whilst secret hunting. Oh well. MAP03 - “Entropia” by John Bye The stone textures and E1M2 music in this level almost made this feel like a (very much milder) Plutonia level. This is a slightly strange map in that though the level is divided by a spacious courtyard, most of the gameplay takes place in rather cramped spaces in the two opposing structures. Indeed much of the fighting is at short range with weak enemies in tight spaces which lends itself to corner sniping. The herd of demons in the courtyard is liable to cluster by the door, meaning that if you have a chainsaw from Map01 (or the easy secret SSG you have a grinding door camp as you can't get out. With all this considered, I don't think I've ever been so happy to see an archvile as the one that appears at the yellow key! That was a good surprise and added to the Plutonia flavour. Easily the highlight of the gameplay for me. All in all this is a modest map at best, although there are some pretty nice lighting effects for the time. MAP04 - “Relentless” by Travers Dunne This is a fairly decent and more open map. I appreciate the thought that has gone into making areas wrap around the open-sky areas. This map has plenty of foreshadowing and interconnection which I generally hold in high esteem. It's interesting but although this level came out 2 years or so later, I don't find the flow to be as slick as say, Requiem Map04. I may be biased since I played Requiem at a much earlier stage in my career and perhaps was more easily impressed. The AV trap was quite well telegraphed - nobody sees such a conspicuously advertised plasma rifle lowering on a pillar in an open space and doesn't expect the worst. It has the potential to be quite harmful given the limited cover afforded in the vicinity. There's a good mix of traps at keys and general monster encounters, including the red key. The spider mastermind was probably intended to be dispatched with the plasma rifle, because there isn't much cover if it is allowed to manouevre much. I found the SSG and some judicious corner camping did the job with acceptable losses. The last trap can be surprisingly nasty if you aren't prepared (as I was) with the combination of chaingunners and PEs being pretty injurious. It's a good and well-judged trap though because unlike the other two it isn't so clearly expected, at least to me anyway. The level concludes with a raised vista allowing you to see where you came from which I like. Good stuff Out of curiosity I replayed this from pistol start and appreciated the increase in difficulty as the player is forced to scrounge for ammo a little more early on. MAP05 - “Hand of Doom” by Jan Van der Veken After the fairly fast paced and trappy previous map, this is a far more sedate affair with more of a focus on distant monsters sniping. For me it encourages more conservative covershooting play. I'm going to have to give credit to some of the architecture, particularly the column/ribs above the five doors in the south west. That kind of thing is not so special nowadays as it would have been at the time but nonetheless it looks good and would have been excellent in early '98, a little over 4 years after Doom's release. One of the two routes to the red key becomes redundant except for completeness, and I expect the barons lurking around there will be summarily dodged and ignored by pistol starters, especially without an SSG or much rocket ammo. Also, the three teleports to the imp chambers are not very great gameplay - you get dumped point blank in front of imps and any attempt at dodging teleports you back, leading to a slightly tedious teleport abuse tactic in order to avoid much unnecessary damage. Also the use of the arch vile in this map was a good deal less effective than in the previous 2, I think, as once the danger is identified there is a ready made escape route through the corridor, but the length of the corridor makes ducking in and out of cover more time-consuming. All in all, although I respect the appearance and layout of this map, I am a little bit less impressed by the gameplay. (and I missed one of the secrets in the larger slimepit just off the starting area this time.)
  15. Sui Generis


    Created by the author of DeHackED, this is a pretty simple '94 level. There is of course no detail or texture alignment & a slightly wacky variety in room sizes, plus a cyb turret early on. Progression is quite wandery & poorly marked, though easy enough to work out. There’s a mix of enemies but they’re very dispersed & you'd have to be complacent to be hit by the cyb. There’s a short teleport puzzle near the end. Overall this is quite weak with just a bit too odd a progression for the play to be decent.