Mini Review: “Fear Station Bravo” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “GZDoom”/”ZDoom”)

2016 Artwork Fear Station Bravo WAD review

Well, I’m still in the mood for playing “Doom II” WADs, so I thought that I’d take a look at a rather interesting one called “Fear Station Bravo“.

As usual, I played this WAD using one of the more modern versions of the “ZDoom” source port, but it was apparently designed for the “GZDoom” source port.

So, let’s take a look at “Fear Station Bravo”:

Screenshot_Doom_20160307_161130

“Fear Station Bravo” is a single-level WAD for “Doom II” and/or “Final Doom” that also features new textures, effects and music.

One of the first things that I will say about this level is that it actually has a difficulty curve. Shortly after I started playing, I actually began to wonder whether this was a WAD for the original “Doom”, since the first third of the level features nothing but weapons and monsters from the first game.

These parts of the level are mildly challenging (due to the number of monsters and the low-level weapons you’re equipped with) and they’re designed to lull the player into a false sense of security:

Ha! THIS should be easy...

Ha! THIS should be easy…

However, as you progress through the level, more “Doom II” monsters are gradually introduced into the level until it eventually becomes the kind of enjoyably challenging “Doom II” level that you would expect. It isn’t exactly fiendishly difficult, but it’s hardly easy either.

Another interesting thing about this difficulty curve is that you encounter the first revenant before you get the super-shotgun. This is actually a really clever piece of level design since it turns an encounter with a mid-level monster into something a lot more dramatic and threatening.

Yes, this is actually more dramatic than it would be in most "Doom II" WADs

Yes, this is actually more dramatic than it would be in most “Doom II” WADs

The level design in “Fear Station Bravo” is fairly good. The level itself is the kind of vast, sprawling non-linear techbase level that you would expect in a “Doom” game. It’s large and complex enough to require exploration and backtracking, but it never really gets too confusing.

In addition to this, there’s also a lot of cool stuff in this level too, which helps to keep it interesting. For example, there’s a totally optional outdoor area that you can explore during one part of the level.

With a new skybox and lots of monsters, of course.

With a new skybox and lots of monsters, of course.

Likewise, there’s another outdoor area, where you have to navigate a series of revolving doors, whilst monsters fire projectiles at you:

Yes, that's actually a revolving door in the distance!

Yes, that’s actually a revolving door in the distance!

But, some of the coolest parts of this level are fairly subtle. You can find malfunctioning wall panels that have their own sound effects and sparking animations. You also can find detailed pieces of futuristic machinery. There are also horizontally-opening doors and tiered floors too!

Great heavens! That door is opening SIDEWAYS!

Great heavens! That door is opening SIDEWAYS!

And what sorcery is THIS!?!?

And what sorcery is THIS!?!?

Yay! Machinery :)

Yay! Machinery🙂

As for the new music, it’s absolutely brilliant. The music is both wonderfully gothic and ominously futuristic too. It kind of reminded me a bit of a cross between the background music in “American McGee’s Alice” and the end credits music in “Blade Runner”.

All in all, this is a really fun level. It’s well-designed and it features all sorts of cool stuff. In addition to this, it actually contains something of a difficulty curve too.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get at least a four.

Today’s Art (25th August 2016)

Well, I was still in the mood for limited palette artwork but I wasn’t really in the mood for making gothic horror artwork, so today’s painting is a sci-fi painting (with a slightly larger palette and slightly more digital editing than usual. I might have also messed up the perspective in this painting slightly too).

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Time Rift" By C. A. Brown

“Time Rift” By C. A. Brown

Being A “Serious Artist” – A Ramble

2016 Artwork Serious Artist Ramble article sketch

Even though this is an article about being an artist, and about some of the paradoxes surrounding being (or not being) a “serious” artist, I’m going to have to start by talking about myself for quite a while. If you aren’t interested in this, then feel free to skip to the later parts of the article.

As regular readers of this site will probably know, I’ve been making a short series of 1980s movie poster/ VHS cover-style paintings that will probably be posted here sometime in early September.

After I finished this series with a painting of some robot pirates attacking a spaceship, I had a moment of artistic self-doubt. My thoughts went something along the lines of “My latest painting is silly! It’s childish! Dammit, I’m an artist! I need to make Serious Art!!!

I’d originally planned to paint a still life or a landscape but, in the end, I ended up making a minimalist painting… of a painting. Seriously. Despite the fact that this was probably a bit pretentious, it helped me to feel more like a “serious” artist again.

This seems to be a bit of a cyclical process for me. I’ll make slightly “serious” art for a while, until I feel like it’s dreary or uninspiring, then I’ll move on to making something a bit cooler for a while until I start to worry that it’s too “silly”. Then I go back to making slightly more “serious” art again….

The thing is that I’ve never really had this issue with comics or fiction. Yes, I sometimes lament the days when I used to tell “serious” stories in those mediums but, these days, I pretty much just make comics and (very rarely) write stories related to the comedy genre and I’ve kind of accepted this.

However, art seems to be about the one medium which I can still make “serious” things in. Even though a piece of art can certainly tell a story, it isn’t primarily a storytelling medium in the way that comics and fiction are.

This is probably why I still feel the need to be a “serious” artist, because it’s easier to do. I don’t have to carefully construct realistic characters or come up with a detailed and depressing storyline – I can just make a single dramatic image.

It also helps that many of the more good-looking “serious” types of art are often the easiest types of art to make if you have experience.

Once you’ve had a bit of practice, making a vaguely “realistic” still life painting is one of the easiest things in the world. You’re literally just copying real life. Yes, this takes practice and it’s a skill that has to be learnt. But, once you’ve got this skill, you can make astonishingly realistic paintings fairly easily.

Likewise, landscapes are surprisingly easy to make too. If you’re painting or drawing from your imagination, then landscapes are still easy for the simple reason that you don’t have to paint or draw people (and, yes, people can be somewhat challenging to draw or paint well).

If you’ve got a photo that you have permission to use (and you know how to copy from sight), then you can just copy it. It can take a bit of time, but it requires very little imagination and you’ll end up with a fairly realistic-looking piece of art afterwards.

Likewise, making studies of famous historic paintings can be a great way to produce “serious” art relatively quickly and easily. You’ll probably have to simplify things a bit (especially if you’re working in a different medium to the one the original painter used), but it’s basically just copying. And it looks great. It looks “serious”.

Nude paintings and traditional portraits (from life) are about the only types of “serious” art that I’ve found are genuinely difficult to do well.

Ironically, making “silly” art can often be a lot more challenging than making “serious” art.

After all, you’ve got to actually think of an imaginatively whimsical idea for each painting. You have to tell stories and/or jokes with images alone. You also often have to draw things that don’t actually exist in real life. You’ll also often have to think even more carefully about things like composition and colour choices.

And, yet, “serious” art (eg: landscapes, still life paintings, studies of old paintings etc…) is the kind of art that you can show off proudly when you call yourself an “artist”.

So, to the well-practiced artist – “serious” art is also often one of the laziest types of art you can make. What an amusing paradox.

—————————

Anyway, I hope that this was interesting🙂

Today’s Art (24th August 2016)

Well, here’s my next gothic horror limited palette painting. I don’t know how long this series will last (since I felt slightly uninspired when making this painting). Like yesterday’s painting, this one also required a fair amount of digital editing after I scanned it.

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Under The Blue Moon" By C. A. Brown

“Under The Blue Moon” By C. A. Brown

Mini Reivew: “NH2” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”)

2016 Artwork NH2 WAD review

Well, it’s been a while since I last reviewed any “Doom II” WADs, so I thought that I’d take a quick look at a rather interesting (and fairly short) one called “NH2“.

Although I used one of the more modern versions of the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD, it should work on pretty much any source port. It might possibly even work with the original DOS/ Win 95 versions of “Doom II” or “Final Doom”, but I haven’t tried this.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “NH2”:

Screenshot_Doom_20160307_071649

“NH2” is a two-level WAD that replaces levels 7 and 8 of your “Doom II”, “TNT Evilution” and/or “The Plutonia Experiment” IWAD. What this means is that when you start a new game, you’ll have to type “IDCLEV07” or “IDCLEV7” to skip to level seven in order to access the new levels.

The innovative thing that sets “NH2” apart from many WADs is that, apart from a berserk power-up at the beginning of the first level, it contains literally no health power-ups. In fact, “NH” is supposed to stand for “No Health”.

Although this adds some extra challenge to the WAD, it doesn’t add as much as you might think. This is mostly because both levels are fairly short (I finished both levels in about half an hour) and because any experienced retro FPS gamer is probably well and truly used to getting through the most difficult parts of the game with relatively little health remaining. In fact, it’s one of the most enjoyable elements of 1990s FPS games – so, it’s great to see an entire “Doom” WAD based on it🙂

Still, the lack of health power-ups means that this is one of those awesome WADs where you have to rely on tactics, strategy, trial-and-error and reflexes, rather than just mindless fighting. In other words, it’s kind of like a small-scale “slaughtermap”-style WAD, where you will regularly be faced with more monsters than you can actually fight.

The first level is an absolutely tiny area that is filled with lots of monsters. All you have to do is run around and dodge projectiles until the exit door opens.

Yes, this is an entire level that is based on running away. In a FPS game. It's good to see that "Doom II" is still more innovative than most modern FPS games :)

Yes, this is an entire level that is based on running away. In a FPS game. It’s good to see that “Doom II” is still more innovative than most modern FPS games🙂

The second level is a lot more sophisticated and it takes place in a small arena-like area, with lots of pillars to hide behind. When you begin, you will find five BFGs at the top of a set of stairs. When you pick them up, a compartment will open and a group of arch-viles will be lying in wait.

Yay! A "Doom II" WAD isn't a proper WAD without these guys :)

Yay! A “Doom II” WAD isn’t a proper WAD without these guys🙂

Once you’ve defeated the archviles, you’ll have to press one of the walls of the compartment. Another compartment will open. This one contains… yes, you guessed it:

Seriously, it's almost mandatory that at least one of these is included in each "Doom II" WAD :)

Seriously, it’s almost mandatory that at least one of these is included in each “Doom II” WAD🙂

You will then have to do this with two more compartments, before the exit will open. Not only that, the only weapon (apart from the basic pistol) you’ll have in this level is the BFG.

Although the beginning of this level will probably seem easy to the experienced “Doom” player who has dealt with more cyberdemons and arch-viles than they can even remember, the second half of this level is a lot more challenging.

Be careful where you save. When I tried to get through this level for the first time, I saved just before one of those rockets hit me.

Be careful where you save. When I tried to get through this level for the first time, I saved just before one of those rockets hit me.

Thanks to the small size of the level and the fact that you’ll have relatively little health, the last part of this WAD is seriously challenging. Personally, I found it extremely fun- but, if you haven’t had a lot of experience with “Doom II”, you’ll probably find it frustrating or “unfair”. So, this is a WAD for experienced players only.

Seriously, the only way I was even able to finish the level was because of a technicality. Basically, I died either a few milliseconds before or after I stepped into the exit. It’s that kind of level. I was so busy trying to finish the level that I didn’t even take any screenshots of the final part. It’s that kind of thrillingly frenetic level🙂

Although there are no new textures, music or weapons in this WAD, it makes up for this with it’s challenging and innovative gameplay. Plus, it’s kind of refreshing to download an enjoyable “Doom II” WAD that is only a few kilobytes in size.

All in all, this is a fun little WAD. The idea of a WAD that is focused entirely on those thrilling parts of classic 1990s FPS games where you only have a few health points left (and lots of monsters in front of you) is a brilliantly innovative one.

This WAD sums up exactly what makes 1990s FPS games so much fun to play, even two decades later. Yes, it isn’t a WAD for beginners but, let’s face it, if you’re still playing “Doom II” in 2016, then you probably aren’t a beginner.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get four and a half.