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head_cannon

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  1. head_cannon

    Why is Plutonia good?

    At its best, Plutonia could create little "aha" moments where something that seemed overwhelming at first was revealed to be far easier than it appeared. Moments that demonstrate something about the game that had never been brought into focus before. (In id software's levels, I mean. These lessons are all old and obsolete now, and there are probably PWADs that came later that do a better job of teaching them, but it had to start somewhere.) You wanted examples, so these are the clearest ones that come to mind of how Plutonia taught me that there was something I was missing - the times that the level design focused on an aspect of the game that I had never thought about before: When I realized that the gang of Revenants who guard the Rocket Launcher in MAP01 - who I had found so terrifying at first - could be kited into the niche with the window and kept safely confined there. When I realized how in the Baron battle in MAP04, it was actually safer to stand on the damaging floor in order to gain the space to dodge & fire rockets. When I realized how the short little pillars around the Cyberdemon in MAP12 and in the Mancubus room in MAP13 were just tall enough to block monster projectiles while allowing my hitscan attacks to pass through. When I realized that the wall of bullets that greets you at the end of MAP16 that had seemed so scary was designed so that nearly every single zombie gets wiped out by tracers in a single BFG shot. I could go on (honorable mention to the moment in MAP04 where, upon picking up the level's only RadSuit, I realized that I could go back to the Plasma Gun pit and clear all those infinitely-tall Spectres who had blocked the jump to the weapon), but I hope that I've demonstrated why I remember The Plutonia Experiment as "ingenious combat puzzles" rather than "tedious Dragon's Lair-style trial & error" "Highly-choreographed setpieces" is not everyone's favorite style of gameplay, and when it's done poorly, I sometimes resent not getting to make my own decisions and being forced to jump through these hoops, but what I'm trying to get at is that when I played Plutonia, I didn't even know that the hoops were there, and their discovery made for minor little revelations.
  2. head_cannon

    The DWmegawad Club plays: Akeldama

    Oh, why not. One more session before the deadline and the cutoff date. -Crispy Doom, UV Continuous MAP14 - Darkness Beneath This is a long-ass adventure, from natural cave to marble castle to steel factory. It justified its length by always having a new vista to take in around every corner. One standout moment is the outdoor monument early on: Its view into the red key shrine is pretty cool, but is soured a little by how if you examine that area too closely you can see past the bottom of the skybox. The way you gain access to the caves at the start is quite theatrical. The three-stage deployment of the lights, bars, & stairs certainly made an impression. And I think it's interesting how a player who decides to jump down to the watery floor of the cave will have a different experience than one who stays up on the path (like I did). The blue key area maintains that high standard of visuals, but is functionally a little awkward. When initially jumping down into the blue key shrine, the staircase up out of the water was clogged by monsters trying to walk down from the upper floor. They had a hard time navigating down the narrow & winding staircase, and were just sitting ducks to be slowly picked off at the choke point. Similarly, the army that is summoned to protect the Blue Key is pretty much effortlessly defeated by the hallway between them and the key: they were having a hard time navigating through the tiny doorway and I was able to pump rockets into the windows until the Arch-Vile went down. The "rope bridge" was pretty neat, and it seems that some care has been taken to keep the monsters away from it so they won't ruin the effect. I thought it was kind of clever how it cuts back through the level to deliver you to the exit door, but found the actual exit a little lackluster with its basic "open a door and shoot everything directly in front of you" setup. Still, this level was overall worth the trip. MAP15 - Breaching the Source The way it was all quiet at the start set a nice mood, and the way that the quiet was shattered by the Chaingun trap was really cool. This level was gorgeous to look at. I loved the theatricality of breaking in to this demonic factory and heading deep within the infernal machinery. The path into the heart of the machine was mostly intuitive, with the exception of one design decision that irked me. There are two spots where the path forward is a sharp step down onto a small platform: when climbing around at the very beginning (outside, marked by those yellow light-bars) and at the very end (up the piston in the final coolant-tank arena). Both were very difficult to spot because they were such steep, out-of-sight drops; in each case I eventually got lucky and stumbled into them rather than noticing any clear way to go. The radsuit gauntlet was really fun; I liked the pressure of the limited radsuit duration with which to wade past the crusher and access the switch within the machinery, and the way that the crusher could compound the panic of the sudden Revenant reveal by cutting off escape. Scrambling backwards to try to get to safety and nearly getting squished before hurtling out into the nukage pool was quite a memorable moment. I thought it was clever how those monsters were reused elsewhere in that facility after their initial jumpscare had concluded. And when they were dealt with, I was quite surprised with how brutal the shootout was with the zombies and the Pain Elemental in the very next room - I mistakenly assumed that the escape from the trap would be the climax of that scene, but this level has a habit of repeatedly topping itself. The slow lift up to the circular reactor core room and the dramatic reveal (where you're allowed to take in the scene and prepare to alert all the Revenants) were both fantastic. If that had been the finale, this level would have been one of my favorites hands-down. The followup trap of being surrounded by bruisers and needing to get the Mancubus firing at the goat-men was pretty clever in how it demanded quick thinking. Just like the one-way elevator, the timed door meant that there was no going back; having to dive in and fly by the seat of my pants trying to survive was exciting. That blue key trap was brutal in that there's nowhere to dodge if the Arch-Vile feels like running right out of his hall into the center of the room. At least you get a Soulsphere right beforehand so you can tank the hit. (The Blue Armor prize directly afterward certainly helps too.) The blue door itself is a fantastic gag: Since it had slammed shut on an empty hallway, suddenly finding myself face-to-face with three Revenants was quite a shock. It was a little annoying to spend so much time on the final battle in the coolant tank only to realize that I should go back and do it all over again so I could spend the Invulnerability skipping it. Grabbing the powerup and making a run for it is always fun, but the progression to unlock the path through this reservoir room was something that nobody is going to guess their way into on their first madcap sprint around. I don't know what was more obnoxious about the exit room: the last-second Arch-Vile in a small enclosed room with no cover, or waiting for the timed door to finally let me out. MAP16 - Aquaduct Fortress I like how the calm stillness of the starting outdoor area is immediately shattered once the player moves out of their starting position. There are many, many hitscanners to chew through to get where you're going, and they're generally placed in an entertaining fashion, with moments of tense countersniping contrasted with the occasional full-auto massacre. Clearing the dark corridors of this castle was something I found really fun - there was another monster around every bend and it kept up this steady pacing for basically the entire adventure. It's a good thing that this "something to say boo around every single corner" approach worked as well as it did to keep me engaged, since this level was so huge and sprawling. The different sections interconnect in a few ways, and I'm always a fan of when different players could set off in different directions and end up with slightly different experiences depending on what their route was. This castle looked amazing, from the grand halls to the outdoor promenade to the poisoned sewer tunnels. The visual polish on those two teleport chambers with ornate spiral staircases might have been entirely unnecessary (unless they conceal secrets I didn't find), but I appreciate all the added detail to sections which, functionally, could have just been small-scale and utilitarian. When I found the red key challenge down one of the sewer tunnels, I got smothered and killed by the second wave before deciding to head back and check some other paths before my radsuit burned out. I was surprised to discover that it was a back-door into the exit; I don't see many of these "either/or" setups for keys nowadays so that was something I found novel, and I suppose I'm glad that the blue-key path was so much more forgiving.
  3. head_cannon

    The DWmegawad Club plays: Akeldama

    I've been super-busy at work lately, and have had a major deficit of days off I can spend on playing + writing. I feel disappointed in myself for not being able to put much time into Akeldama this month, but I did enjoy my time spent with the first half of it, and I'll certainly keep playing it after July is over. -Crispy Doom, UV Continuous MAP11 - The Glacier Base Hearing a loud Cyberdemon roar coming from somewhere in the distance when starting this map is something that makes an impactful first impression; a dramatic way to announce the debut of this boss monster. It's the last map of Episode 1, which of course means that the Bruiser Brothers block your path forward. I appreciate how you can hear the stomping coming from behind that massive door - I chose to take the risk and let them out early to mix with the other monsters in the arena, and that was entertaining. I originally thought that the Cyberdemon battle was going to be the main event, and that this would be a short & sweet boss fight. I was wrong. This one turned out to be an hourlong epic. There was fun to be had along the way, but my heart did sink a bit as the level's intro took me past vista after vista of areas I hadn't been to yet, passing multiple key bars when I didn't have a single one to my name. The big outdoor battle with two options for how to begin it (teleport in or jump down a chute) was quite brutal, particularly with how it was a point of no return and once you'd started down that path you had to stick it out until finally fighting your way back into the main area of the level. The detour to a tiny control room with two Hell Knights, while over quickly enough, was still a bit of tedious work; I assume it's there to mess with people who are trying to go fast. The mystery teleporter beyond the exit door was quite foreboding. Thankfully, that final little arena you're dropped into is manageable since you've been warned to go in guns-blazing. I do like how when it's time to switch to rockets to take out the Hell Knight snipers, you have to make damn sure that all the Spectres are dead first. I learned that lesson the hard way. I was a little disappointed to see the third Cyberdemon dropped into the reservoir chamber after the red key pickup. The fight was fine, I guess, but it kind of diminished the cool of the opening arena fight by making it stand out less and seem less special. The novelty of the fourth Cyberdemon made me smile though: a kind of wacky, Living End-esque finale where I was asked to run directly into the boss monster to exit the level. MAP12 - Urban Strike That cityscape all around the playable area looks really cool, and is a good vista to show off the E2 sky. I had to fight my way across the rooftops and into the base, get through its control room, garden, & labs to to get the key I needed, and then battle my way all the way back out in order to use that key to open the exit path. When making my initial assault on these spaces, I found the monster placement to be consistently entertaining - I needed to manage roaming monsters while being mindful of distant snipers, and that contrast between mobility and cover was engaging. Battling my way back out was less exciting, as it mostly consisted of standing in a doorway and chopping through Pinky and Cacodemon HP until they were out of my way. I also was not a fan of the slow warp-in of monsters by the helipad on my return trip; I just stood still and pumped rockets into the dimensional breach until it was finally over and I could move on. I understand the technical skill involved in crafting a "delayed" WR line that doesn't work until after the map has progressed enough, but the moment didn't seem worthy of pouring in a ton of monsters. It's a fair use of the space on that second rooftop, but it still seemed arbitrary and uninspiring to me. That's not to say that all the map's backtracking was unfun: I quite liked the way new waves of monsters were added to the central hub. The realization that there was a risk of getting sucker-punched by sneaky Chaingunners was something that created surprise and tension, and hearing the chorus of shrieks before that final wave of Revenants began chasing me around the hub was something that made the moment even more harrowing and exciting. That taunting Blue Armor sent me on a secret-hunting mission. After all that searching and all that fighting, its room completely stumped me at first. I was so close yet so far. Eventually I did notice the right detail, but it was very easy to miss since I can't look up. I really do have to praise the level's secret design and how it can send you down little side-adventures that you might never have known were there, like the "secrets within secrets" structure of the Green Armor room. I didn't check out that room until the level was already over, but I'm glad I stuck around and investigated the places I hadn't been yet. MAP13 - Toxic Disgust This map is incredibly rude, but gets away with it via sheer craft & polish. It hurls some new bullshit at you at every single step forward, and the constant close-quarters trap fights give this sewer level a distinct character. I can't say that I truly enjoyed the experience of every moment being a new sucker-punch, but I respect the consistency and commitment to the bit. On a similar note: When I say that these claustrophobic environments didn't feel good to move around in, I mean it as praise, since they're clearly working as intended. The frequent use of limited space to maneuver + damaging ooze floors makes the area feel truly hostile. The two setpiece battles with 360 degrees of incoming fire (the Arch-Vile's cistern early in the sewer section and the yellow key shrine later in the caves) also echo this "battle of attrition" ethos. The lock-ins were just as rude as the constant spring-loaded monster delivery, but there's an elegance to them. It's still a nasty surprise to discover that retreat has been cut off, but I have to respect how it causes you to reevaluate your tactics (which usually means pushing forward to clear out threats before they can be allowed to converge). My favorite example of this is probably the beginning of the green-lit cave section, where it became clear almost immediately how freezing and cornering myself by the entrance would mean getting overwhelmed. Speaking of which: that whole cave section looked great. A bit heavy on the Hell Knights, but hey. They fit the palette. Lots of neat detailing in this level: I particularly liked how the red key shrine was presented like the jaws of a predator, just inviting you to get close enough to bite down. I was also captivated by the way the initial base gave way to aquaducts & piping rooms, making it seem like I was breaking into the maintenance tunnels of this facility to open its locks & gates. I didn't mind the antagonism of most of the level, but that grueling push through the tunnels to the blue key was painful. And the way the final escape released you from that horrible place, sent you back to start... and then immediately dropped a bunch of hitscanners in (in case you thought it was finally over) was something which could absolutely ruin the day of someone who had barely scraped by with single-digit HP. I would have preferred if the level had not been set up to warp in monsters at point blank range with such frequency, but it mostly had an entertaining effect of never, ever letting you get comfortable. The map's mood worked well enough on me that when I finally unlocked the exit hall, I took way longer than I needed to to walk through it into the exit because I was wracked by paranoia - thrown for a loop by how I'd walked through a doorway and nothing had tried to kill me.
  4. head_cannon

    Why is Plutonia good?

    I think Plutonia is good because it forced me to learn how to play Doom. Plutonia was what taught me how to dodge Revenants’ homing missiles. Plutonia was what taught me exactly how long I can stay in an Arch-Vile’s line of sight. Plutonia was what taught me how to safely kite a Cyberdemon around a pillar; how to use one Mancubus as a human shield to block the shots of its brothers in a close-quarters rumble; how to make the best use of my rockets by always firing them in salvos and strafing an area. The BFG-9000 had been around all the way through Doom 1 & 2, but it had just been a toy, a fun bonus to play around with. Outside of maybe two or three specific encounters, it was never necessary. But, for the second half of this campaign, it made that gun necessary, and it forced me to actually learn how to use it optimally. Like tchkb said, these are transferable skills that will enhance your playthrough of every PWAD you try afterward.
  5. head_cannon

    Saving, Pistol Start, Mid Level Saves

    If the question is whether Doom & Doom 2 are worth playing on Pistol Start mode, then I definitely think that they are. I had a lot of fun figuring out where the weapons were and charting a course through those levels; I really felt like I understood them better after learning my way around like that. Of course, like <rd> said, you could always use that time exploring new levels rather than sticking with the ones you're currently playing a little longer in order to master them. It's all down to what you find fun or satisfying. When I'm playing a new WAD, I get a little obsessive about the individual maps I enjoyed the most, returning to them to see how they change on Pistol Start and aspiring to eventually nail a saveless run. But that's a matter of personal taste. How often or rarely you save is a self-imposed rule that you get to decide for yourself.
  6. head_cannon

    The DWmegawad Club plays: Akeldama

    -Crispy Doom, UV Continuous MAP08 - Arctic Compound This one is a linear map, but I like how the opening assault on the base allows multiple paths around the structure, and how combat will play out slightly differently depending which direction you approach from or which side of a window you're on. This base was built on a scale that lets you move around freely, and it puts you up against big hordes of demons to test your ability to dodge them. The fights can be quite lethal, but they always felt fair and I had a great time tackling them. Although, part of that may be that I brought in an extra two-dozen rockets and could enjoy the luxury of cutting each group off at a choke point rather than allowing them to spill into the other areas of the map. That sidequest into the cavern area was pretty cool (the lighting in this map looks great, and I like the creative use of midtextures), and I thought it was kind of interesting how you have to pick your poison when considering whether you want to fight the Imps above or the Revenants below. The names of this map and the next one might be painfully generic, but I'm digging this "snowy techbase" theme they're executing on. The architecture has a cohesive look and functioned very well: There was a great mix of wide open spaces to dodge around and cover-based tense gunfights with former humans, and that variety helped with the map's pacing. MAP09 - Winter Stronghold I think the opening battle in the central hub is interesting in how you're shown a couple useful items down hallways beyond the barriers, and have the chance to form a basic plan before you hit the switch and set everything off. The battle past the yellow door was also pretty cool, although I did have the good fortune to have cleared that outdoor area earlier. One unfortunate thing I noticed was that the monsters warping in to the base of the staircase (the spot right before where the bars closed) kept getting stuck in the doorway (and therefore stuck in the teleporter destination) and cutting off the flow of monsters until I manually removed the clog. I liked the variety in visuals & gameplay offered by those detours into ooze-flooded caves, where altars had been constructed to protect precious keys. Each was a neat little exercise in making an escape after grabbing the key and setting off the trap; it was fun to think fast and channel one's inner Indiana Jones to try to plunder the altars and get out unscathed. The vista down the giant steps to the final area was impressive & intimidating - a clear signal to gear up now before hopping down and committing to this point-of-no-return. And the snowy plains forming the horizon beyond the bars at the bottom of the steps was well-done too. But there is a minor drawback to that approach: of how it allowed the Cacodemons outside to be knocked far, far away. It was a bit lame having to stop and wait for them to fly back into range. The exit room looked great, but the dramatic reveal was hampered somewhat by the lone solitary Spectre. I'm a fan of McGee's cheeky little exit-jumpscares from the classic game, but this execution of the gag didn't really land for me. That's a really minor nit to pick, though. Overall I had fun. MAP10 - Hangar Facility This giant cliffside base works within the Vanilla Limits? I am impressed by the vistas it offers as you travel around the canyon. Once again, I like the use of wide-open warehouses that give you room to dodge contrasted with sections of tensely maintaining cover and watching your sightlines vs gunners. Speaking of gunners, I was entertained by their use in the yellow key wing of the base. A dense crowd of zombies - when it is used in gameplay - just immediately tears itself apart, so the view of that crowd milling about inside the yellow key room was quite novel. I thought that the fireworks of going Rambo on those guards meant that this path concluded in a relaxed no-stakes treasure room, but then I heard the Arch-Vile behind me. That gave me a good jolt. The aquaduct room looks great and contains useful treasures, but the work it takes to get in wasn't terribly engaging: Since I just hung out in the entrance hallway as all the mid-tier monsters slowly trickled up the stairs towards me, that meant it was rudimentary to grind them down one-by-one. Maybe it would have been more exciting if I'd dived into the room, but that seems extremely risky. I dunno if it was necessary to tack a whole other chapter on after the big battle in the hangars, but it was worth the trip just to see the Sector Trailer Mark 2.
  7. head_cannon

    The DWmegawad Club plays: Akeldama

    -Crispy Doom, UV Continuous MAP05 - Bunker Hill I did not enjoy this one at all. Everything was cramped, with no room to dodge and no good place to stand. It didn't feel dangerous, just awkward and unpleasant. It seemed just as awkward for the monsters: I saw several get hung up on this military base's chest-high walls and be unable to pursue me. I admit that this one is on me for playing Continuous and wanting to conserve resources, but these tight spaces made it just as frustrating trying to step around items I didn't want to waste as it was when trying to step out of the path of projectiles. The placement of barrels in the sniper nests is something I can speak positively about, but even it's undercut by the repopulation of each nest by a second wave of Revenants: that causes situations where you have to move quite a distance before you finally have the maneuverability to nullify a homing rocket. I find mass monster warp-ins to be lame unless the scene calls for an alarm to be raised. Taking a key or flipping a switch are actions which normally match this consequence. But the Revenants that are dropped into the corridors of the bunker seem arbitrary and unfitting. MAP06 - Insurrection This three-key affair is quite a large level, but it's interconnected enough that navigation wasn't a pain. I like the way that the area with the ooze pit gradually transforms as you raise new platforms & bridges out of the liquid. The section past the yellow door - brown catwalks above ooze sluiceways - was also pretty cool, but it seemed like the Hell Knights couldn't leave their ledges, and thus could be safely corner-camped at the stairways. Also, I don't know if the Computer Area Map is worth the grief it takes to reach it. The ending had a pretty lively battle where the grassy yard is filled with Pinkies (and then Imps) and you need to be mindful about not getting surrounded, but the Revenant snipers in one building don't really contribute, and the monsters in the next building are just there to clog up the space and slow you down. Even if I find that final hallway to be a bit of anticlimactic work, I still really enjoyed the overall journey through the map. MAP07 - Carnage Facility Another massive level, with tons of places to go. There are many rooms that will play out in vastly different ways depending on which way you enter from. There are two directions you can go whose paths conclude in a Plasma Gun, and the multiple paths to the yellow key all conclude in a nasty close-quarters trap which is defused by that gun. Hope you find one before you find the other, or your run may come to an abrupt end. The lowering-floor trap room was awesome, both in the versatility of ways to go once you're in the thick of it and in the sheer surprise (although I did spoil the surprise for myself when I saw a dying Cacodemon fall through the floor when shot down). The Arch-Vile makes a dramatic entrance, first as a sniper that zones you out of the entrance hall from its cage, and later as a close-quarters brawl. That whole blue key pit is really cool, with the exception of the big pile of Pinky Demons who clog up the entrance to the pit. It certainly enforces fighting instead of fleeing, but the nose-to-nose fight is already urgent & fun. The cleanup process to reopen that hall is not. The security checkpoint hallway that kept releasing Chaingunners and setting off explosions was weird as hell, but novel, and I liked how the anticlimax of it dumping you out back at the start incites an exclamation of "Wait, that can't be all of it," and of course it is not.
  8. head_cannon

    Is TNT Evilution good, bad OR okay

    Administration Center is really cool in how it's got so many side-adventures to go on and how it gradually opens up. And it has the audacity to - after you've finally solved every part of this massive complex - dump you into a brand new outside space which is bigger than the entire complex that came before it, which is a crazy escalation. Another point in its favor is that it's one of the few maps that gives you a reprieve from the godawful grating TNT music. ...I still don't like Central Processing. For every fun moment of dungeon-crawling it contains, it has several more points of pure frustration, especially from the resource-starved Pistol Start. And getting stuck in a softlock behind a decoration in its final cliffside adventure sequence didn't help improve my impression of it one bit.
  9. head_cannon

    The DWmegawad Club plays: Akeldama

    I finally found the time to give Akeldama a shot. The Vanilla-Compatible subgenre is my jam, and it's another new release like last month, which is exciting. Hopefully I'll be able to do some catching up this weekend. -Crispy Doom, UV Continuous MAP01 - The Generator The reveal of the snowy outdoor environment was striking. It and the E1 sky work well together. And I also like how the stock textures have been woven together in new combinations, keeping the architecture clean and functional while spicing things up visually. The view from the exit platform was a nice touch, as was the way the blue key was revealed. I thought the pillars along the outside wall of the grand hall added depth to the visuals, and also had a useful function to keep the Imp snipers spaced evenly instead of letting them wander and clump up. The waves of teleporting monsters work inside the grand "temple" bunker when the key is taken and the alarm is raised, but the earlier bunker is obnoxious in how it dumps a pile on hitscanners onto your head when you approach the front door. MAP02 - Knights of Ilasac The opening room is awesome, as the minibosses each announce their challenge to their player with a roar before teleporting away to prepare to ambush you later. And the map delivers on that promise. I'm glad that it (mostly) wasn't rude "gotcha" moments, but instead entertaining setpiece battles where you find yourself surrounded and have to shoot your way out. I thought that the neat little elevator boss fight was cool, and then of course the level had one last sting in its tail. I did find it a bit strange how the opening battle includes a Pinky Demon who's stranded up on the landing by the yellow door and can only watch helplessly. Ah well. Overall this one's an early favorite. I really liked the classical "industrial facility transmuted into a demonic castle" aesthetics of this map, and in particular have to praise the way that many buildings had windows displaying the rows of monuments outside. The added depth looked cool. MAP03 - Renegades I ended up diving right into the SSG room, and then it was a frantic melee in that small brick cistern as I tried to clear the Pinkies off of my ledge while keeping the Cacodemons floating in the center, which was complicated by the low-tier mobs wandering in from elsewhere. I question the usefulness/point of the escape hatch in that room, but the secret's concealment in darkness was well done. Something I thought was particularly clever about the blue key room is that the bridge you raise out of the floor to access the upper level also serves as a barrier if you panic and fall back into the center when the trap springs. Rockets are still a scare resource at this stage of the game, so I had no choice but to immediately dive down when the water started to lower in the exit building rather than try to catch the monsters in the blast radius from above. Someone who hesitates and stays up there is potentially going to have a blocked descent, which could be frustrating. I liked the E4-vibes this level gave off, and I liked the way it wrapped back on itself and used vertical space so well. MAP04 - Chillwell So damn intricate and interconnected. I think it's really clever how there are three different battles to pick from at one juncture, and each arena also functions perfectly well as incidental combat when encountered later on if the player picked a different point of entry. It was a good scare having to scramble for cover from the chaingunners who lurked up above, and so was the sudden plunge into a dark basement full of pillars & barrels (and shotgunners). The red & blue keys each open up shortcuts around the map, and when all my crisscrossing back and forth was done, I opened the two-stage lock to the exit, and I like how the baffling non-event of the two Pinky Demons inside is a clear signal that you're not quite done here yet.
  10. head_cannon

    Do you think Plutonia is hard or unfair

    Plutonia is full of traps that are almost certain to kill you the first time you encounter them, which is going to create some frustration. But, for me, it's so damn fun to play that that initial first impression has pretty much been completely forgotten and replaced by my experiences replaying the maps. Outside of those occasional "lol, you're dead" moments which put a sting in the learning process, Plutonia always plays fair. It frequently just gives you full resources right off the bat, which carries the implicit promise that everything set before you is doable, and you have all the tools you need to succeed. Many of its ambushes might appear overwhelming at first, but are easier than they appear if you can approach them in a slightly different way. And the high ammo supply meant that there were always extra shells with which to pick away at monsters from a safe distance. For the majority of the game, I could take things as slow & carefully as I liked, while still being aware that the game was trying to goad the player into running these crazy gauntlets as fast & recklessly as possible. The skill ceiling is high enough to give these levels depth and replayability, but the floor is low enough that it doesn’t really lock out any players who are just learning and finding their feet. Given that the only two options here are "Unfair" or "Hard", I'm going to go with Unfair, but I still think that that initial unfriendliness is left behind pretty quickly, and replaced with a pretty fun series of tough-but-fair challenges of movement & positioning. I'm not good at Doom, but the short length and small scale of most of the maps made the learning process enjoyable, and I'm proud that I practiced them enough to complete saveless runs of every map. Even the most brutal maps - like Map08 and Map16, which lack armor - have a brevity to them which makes the quest to nail each individual segment in one flawless sequence seem like something that's always within reach and just takes a little tenacity to achieve.
  11. mouldy's MAP28 of Doom 2 In Name Only. That gimmick of casting everything in silhouette against a bright red background was strikingly beautiful, and the exploration & final battle on the surface were great, but when it came time to leave the overworld behind and descend into the caverns below, this map kind of broke me. It kept the same gorgeous aesthetic of bright reds contrasted against deep blacks, but I didn't understand the way that the gigantic army of monsters was supposed to create a time limit to complete your goals before you're overrun and the level is lost, and I kept stubbornly insisting on digging in my heels to try to fight them all off. (I can puzzle out a solution or I can defend myself; I can't do both at once.) So I spent a lot of time on last stands that I didn't realize were already lost causes, and the wailing of a hundred tortured souls was filling my ears the entire time, compounding the torture. The map is genuinely interesting once you finally grok how it works, and after finally finishing it I even went back for further punishment, grinding out attempts at a saveless run out of spite, but my grudging respect for the level is probably a symptom of masochism more than any rational appreciation.
  12. head_cannon

    The DWmegawad Club plays: 25 Years on Earth

    -Crispy Doom, UV Continuous MAP28 - Broundry 3 I loved the lighting, and the general concept of the level. It reminded me of Plutonia's MAP21 in the way that it's build around one central hub which is re-used for multiple waves of monsters as more of the map is unlocked. After having the monsters confined to either the near or far side, that one wave of fliers was a nice change-up in tactics. I thought that the Arch-Vile at the midpoint and the one at the ending were tastefully used. Nothing too vicious, but it keeps you on your toes. Less impressed with the Spider Mastermind though. My assumption is that someone trying to go fast has to squeeze past the boss. But for me, it was just an HP Door to tediously chop down, making that outdoor area of the map kind of a non-event. I suspect that it's a more significant barrier in the Pistol Start playthrough, requiring a side-quest to acquire better ordnance before proceeding. In any case, the Pain Elemental trap kicking off the next round of battle is a damn good punchline after all that buildup. I feel like I dodged a bullet here: there was a prominently-displayed Plasma Gun on the outer ring and a passage to the Rocket Launcher room in the inner ring, but I suspected that there was a price to be paid for each of them and left well enough alone. MAP29 - The Armoury The hallway that lowers down into an ooze vat channels some of the mischievous whimsy of the IWADs, and the way that a soft barrier is put up to discourage backtracking makes it a relief when the red key provides unrestricted access to the whole space (with the exception of that treasure room in the center, of course). This level requires a lot of investigation to unlock its exit, but you're already motivated to check everything because of the prize displayed early on. While the Computer Area Map helpfully pointed me towards the switch down in the sewers below the exit, I never figured out how to get into the titular armory behind the yellow door, or into the area hidden behind the entrance. I decided to try my luck with an incomplete arsenal rather than commit to scouring this level to root out its secrets. The dark maze was the highlight of the map for me. There's something to say boo around every corner, and it never feels monotonous. In fact, the sense of timing in these kind of corridor-crawling interludes has been consistently good across the entire megawad. The old "zombie, zombie, zombie, Revenant!" gag never gets old. While I did fully investigate one side of the maze (to find one of the two exit switches), I didn't trust the locked-up Light Amplification Visor, and just left that other wing alone. I know that I should have been checking everything in order to try to get to that BFG, but I was impatient and wanted to attempt the finale without that buff. MAP30 - Final Test The ammo balance has been very tightly controlled during this campaign in order to keep the Continuous player from hoarding ammo as they travel across maps. So it was cool to see this grand finale throw caution to the wind and give out a Backpack right off the bat. The way that the arena physically transformed for each wave was awesome. Every stage of this boss battle is brutal, but it's totally worth it to push through just to see what's next. Its second half didn't wow me as much, but it was good-looking and well-crafted. I have to give thanks for keeping the outdoor winding staircases large enough that there was no risk of splash damage from rocketing a higher step. The Revenant wave was engaging enough, especially when I got hasty and aggro'd too many at once, making things get a little out of hand. But the double Cyberdemons and the double Masterminds are all pinned in place, and are far less scary than the frail-but-mobile Revenants were. I gotta say, they make a particularly ornate and aesthetically-pleasing "Door with HP" to chop down, but it was still a bit of simple, repetitive work. Still, I'm glad that the gameplay outside of the central arena takes it down a notch after the initial boss battle has gone through all of its stages. That is the climax of not just the map but the whole damn mapset, and not trying to top it was the right choice I think. After I had paid that massive ammo tax and could look around, I was stumped for a few moments. It was clear enough though that something on that final platform must be activateable, and it didn't take long to figure out the way to reach the switch and win the game. Like I said, that multistage setpiece arena doesn't need to be topped, and it seems fair to just have the Icon for aesthetic purposes, using it for the demolition sequence as a bit of fireworks to celebrate victory. Final Thoughts Since I took the normal exit out of the Starport, the reveal of the midi (along with the backing image) for the cast roll was a hilarious surprise. 25 Years On Earth is a fantastic classic-style megawad. It makes masterful use of the stock textures, and a lot of care has been put into the monster placement and resource balance. The maps are pretty fast-paced and concise, with two longer, exploration-driven pieces thrown in for variety's sake. Whenever I encounter people who have finished Doom 1 & 2 and want to take the next step to see what's out there, I have a set of go-to recommendations (like Plutonia and D2TWID). And now they have a new member that's joined their ranks. This megawad pushes things a little farther difficulty-wise, but is never discouraging. Even the most antagonistic levels have a brevity (and a charisma) to them that helps negate any frustration. My congratulations to Phobus for finishing this one-person project, and my thanks to the club members who played and wrote their way through this month. Let's celebrate good times, come on. Top 5 Maps: MAP18 - Meat Grinder MAP09 - Skulking Death MAP11 - Bloody Denial MAP20 - Reclamation MAP30 - Final Test
  13. head_cannon

    What are you playing now?

    I finished Evilution. It had its moments, but overall I found it to be very uneven, and I'm thankful for the way a Continuous playthrough smooths over the rough patches. I get the impression that it's supposed to be a historically-important milestone to show what modders could do with the game, but I have to say that I don't like TeamTNT's midis, or their textures (except the animated computer screens - those are pretty cool). I was amused to discover that when you reach Map28, the game says: "Since you made it this far, you get to play a Plutonia map, as a treat."
  14. head_cannon

    What is the scariest classic Doom level?

    E2M6: Halls of the Damned. Staring into the darkness of the red-key area's wooden maze from outside was just as anxiety-inducing as when the Light-Amplification Visor started to flicker and fizzle out while inside. But it's not just that: the whole map is so damn claustrophobic and riddled with traps. I especially appreciate the way that there's multiple times that the area behind you gets flooded with demons, which either breaks the calm of a backtracking session or induces panic when you're still dealing with the monsters in front. And its midi is right up there with e1m5 or e2m2 for the quality of foreboding, creepy ambience that Bobby Prince was capable of.
  15. head_cannon

    The DWmegawad Club plays: 25 Years on Earth

    -Crispy Doom, UV Continuous MAP27 - Press Gang At least Doom 2 put Tricks & Traps in slot 8. Players who fail to figure out the map and wreck themselves are only set back a minor distance compared to the ones who exercise poor save management here. Imagine getting all the way to 27 before overwriting your only save on this level. Players who get themselves stuck here are faced with a choice of abandoning all their stuff to pistol start -vs- a very long walk back to here from Map01. This is why I always leave a safety save from the beginning of the map, just in case. It may be that I'm just dense, but it took me a while to grok this map's intended progression method. I didn't grasp the magnitude of the threat because my first instinct was to dodge into the hallway just past the armor. That only led to a key-locked door and a death for being cornered. Oh well, back to start. So I just said, "Well, I don't need that armor then" and proceeded into the crusher gauntlet. And when the second puzzle room with a Baron Button arrived, I didn't know to press it yet. I thought I was supposed to dodge into the hallway and chaingun/plasma down any monsters that blocked my path in order to flee from the minibosses. Similarly, I thought that the way a switch lowers you down into the next battle was supposed to be an escape-hatch to render the Barons unable to pursue me. So I thought I was making a save to fight a boss battle against a horde, but had instead softlocked myself. Oh well, back to start. So, this time I understand that this series of trials is built around the concept of never letting that door open for longer than half a second. I keep the minibosses penned in, navigate around the map, tackle that horde battle (without the million Barons added to it), and finally reach the control room where, unless I'm misunderstanding, you have to make a blind guess which of the 4 switches progresses the map, and which render it unwinnable. The blue-bar switch is clear because it matches the light-bars around those doors which this whole puzzle has been built around. But why are there two additional decoy buttons? One of them, as far as I can tell, did nothing whatsoever. One raised the floor of the Barons' chamber up, making a barrier and softlocking the save I made once I (with the assistance of that quirky possessed crusher-door) chewed through all the remaining rabble. The horde was removed, but the small amount of Barons that slipped through the door took a while to grind down to 0HP, and it sucked to have a locked door and a raised barrier mean that all that time spent was for nothing. Oh well, back to start. Ok. So. This time, I refine that "bully your way into one of the four monster closets to gain a chokepoint" strategy I'd been using on the horde battle, reach the control room, press the correct switch, and I finally get to leave this place and turn off that mocking disco midi. It was a painful slog to get there, but the final payoff of witnessing the industrial-strength blood sacrifice did have a catharsis to it. The crushers really do have a character here. They're spiteful, hateful, ever-hungering things. (And the extra grief you have to go through in order to reach the crusher-gauntlet's optional button and claim its prize is a good use of them too.) Considering the mass of the crusher plate and the mechanical force that must have been required to compress thousands of tons of bulletproof demon flesh, it is rather remarkable that that keycard is still intact. The other thing I like about the level's finale is the reveal that - remembering that their release meant inevitable death at their hands - what had seemed like the gods of these monsters ended up actually being their slaves. The whole "infernal machine" angle is something I find compelling, and I wish I liked this level more. After all, fiddling with the machinery to get where you want to go has been a clear part of this megawad's identity. So, wanting to use a puzzle room as a boss room makes perfect sense. (And probably most will not make such a consecutive string of wrong guesses as I did.) But still, this one ultimately didn't land for me.
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