****4 OUT OF 5 STARS****
Akeldama is a 32 level adventure created by a sizable and skilled team of map authors.
It was released on 5/31/2020, or 7/31/2020 (I've seen two dates given), either way, about a year and a half ago.
I profusely enjoyed this polished and punishing project, there's a great deal to talk about here.
The creators identify their project with Momento Mori and Alien Vendetta.
As I play more and more community made DOOM projects, I am fast becoming a fan of what I see as the "mountainous tech base" sub-genre.
I can't say if that's a real classification. All I know is that lately, I happen to have played a lot of DOOM featuring tunnels in mountainous terrain, which feature intermittent tech base and industrial areas.
That's basically an almost ubiquitous theme in Akeldama, you're clearly up in the mountains and deep below them, it's a frozen wasteland. I really dig it, ah ha ha.
I played this on UV, so it took some doing. I would not call Akeldama in any way unbalanced or especially difficult, but neither is it a casual jaunt. On UV, yer not going to be handed anything at all, you'll be fighting for every inch, but the fights are winnable.
You're not starved of ammo and power ups, and there is always plenty of cover to use, so you can fight intelligently, without always having to rely on your dancing skills.
I found plenty to admire all the way through playing Akeldama. The awesome is evenly distributed throughout, I had no sense that any one part of the game was stronger or weaker than any other. When I was selecting my favorite levels for this review, I had no idea who had made what, a blind selection process was used here. Obviously, most my selections were made by valkiriforce, but that's just how it is. So, a special kudos to valkiriforce for making so many awesome levels.
MAP04: Chillwell by dt_ - A very well realized mountainous tech base with snow and ice frosting, this level reminds me a lot of the opening level of CPD.
MAP05: Bunker Hill by DerFurer'sFace - This level presents us with an exercise in trench warfare and succeeds in pushing its idea far enough to be convincing.
MAP06: Insurrection by Gothic - This map is tied with MAP12, MAP16 and MAP30 as my favorite Akeldama level. Again, here we have another well done take on that whole mountain tech base idea I keep mentioning and I like the music.
MAP07: Carnage Facility by Michael Jan Krizik (valkiriforce) - Again I like the music, but more importantly, this is one of those maps that's just an adventure all on it's own. It's kind of a tech base, and kind of an urban setting, a hybrid of the two, if you will. It makes good use of the vertical axis, there are enemies above you a lot of the time and several major elevation changes have to be navigated while under fire.
MAP09: Winter Stronghold by The Mysterious Moustachio - A highly detailed, accented level. I like the ecosystem of health and armor bonuses in the covered terrace. This level has courtyards and corridors and plenty of mid-ranged combat with handy cover to make use of.
Urban Strike by complexDoomer / valkiriforce - One of my favorite Akeldama levels, this level delivers exactly what its title promises. A lot of crowded indoor combat in amongst skyscrapers and an urban tech base. Kick @55 music track.
MAP16: Aqueduct Fortress by valkiriforce - I finished playing Akeldama some months ago, and as time goes on, if I think of Akeldama, MAP16 and MAP30 are always the first to come to my mind. This level is epic! It's quite a fight and it looks great. The Aqueduct itself is well implemented and succeeds in being a defining motif that the level is centered upon. But the byways and side passages are equally well realized and satisfying to play through. Terraced open spaces are balanced against crammed and tense tunnel passages. A really strong level.
MAP17: Blood Covenant by antares031 - Again, this is another one of those levels that's its own entire adventure. A bloody brawl in an evil temple. Highly detailed, challenging and rewarding in equal measure, but still fast paced and not tedious. In my irrelevant opinion, I would say that this level is a master study in balanced, challenging gameplay, set in a highly resolved level. Blood Covenant also features the music track "The Forgotten God" by Eris Falling, who of course needs no introduction from me. This is the most kick ass track from Akeldama's soundtrack.
MAP21: Disaster Country by valkiriforce - This level is very dark, and sinister and evil and cold-hearted. Disaster Country potently manifests the idea of a DOOM level as a place where human beings are destroyed in every sense that matters...or are you going to prove that you're stronger than this very rough house? In other words, this level does what a DOOM level is supposed to do, and it does so quite well at that.
MAP22: Dark Sacrifices by Paul977 - This is a very otherworldly map. It reminds me of Quake, of H.P. Lovecraft. It does give you the sense of being in some hateful temple dedicated to insane gods, which is floating in an all consuming beast of a void, in a dimension which the human nervous system isn't even meant to process. Not a terribly difficult level, but it has a wonderful sense of place. The Akeldama readme mentions that Alien Vendetta, specifically MAP17 & MAP23 were big influences.
MAP26: Duskbound by Breezeep - Another level with an especially resolved sense of place and atmosphere. It's as though the author had a very well thought out idea of how they wanted this level to look and play and they stuck with it until it was ready. The results do not disappoint. A properly placed, later level for this epic journey which we call Akeldama.
MAP27: Bitter Waters by valkiriforce - Another strong later level, with a well implemented river motif.
MAP30: The Devil's Capital by valkiriforce - It is a fact that this is a kick @55 final level. I have a theory about it that I want to mention. It is as though valkiriforce wanted to end Akeldama in a more unique way than just another open air horde protecting an Icon Of Sin, and the non-functional demon spitter at the opening of this level is a direct statement of that intent. I don't know if that's the right way to interpret the fallen Icon Of Sin that greats you first thing upon arrival, but it is true that this level has a lot more to offer than yet another chore of giving Romero Man a headache. This level is almost a mini episode. You have several distinct areas to fight through, each with its own character. There are nosebleedingly high abstract towers to conquer. This makes for a lot of long range, vertical combat. There are many Cacodemons waiting to be blown out of the sky. There are also more mountainous and tech base tunnels to clear out, and a riot to put down, in a really neatly designed hanger bay. A long, challenging and rewarding finale.
MAP32: Operation Pump And Dump by Doomkid & Valkiriforce - A manifestly over the top and boisterous super secret level. This map is demented, but brilliantly so. I think you can say that it is "slaughter-ish", in that there are more than a couple moments when you have a large horde coming at you straight on, along a long, narrow avenue. But is this a slaughter map? I don't know. It seems to me that perhaps overall, this level has more in common with the likes of Go 2 It, Go 4 It and Have At It, though on a somewhat smaller scale. Do not think for one instant that just because this level is a bit smaller than those infamous examples, that it's any easier. It's not.