Well, I was looking around online for a new “Doom” WAD recently and I stumbled across this interesting-looking eight-level WAD called “Stardate 20X6“.
First of all, “Stardate 20X6” is pretty old school. Even though I used a modern source port called “GZ Doom” when I was playing it, jumping was disabled by default (just like in the 90s!).
Plus, apart from a few slight recolourings (eg: the Hell Knight’s/Baron Of Hell’s projectiles and blood are pink) and a few new wall textures – there isn’t really that much in the way of new stuff in this WAD.
But, on the plus side, this WAD is purple. Very purple.
In fact, this was one of the things that drew me to this WAD in the first place, since it’s pretty much my favourite colour.
However, the first couple of levels of “Stardate 20X6” mostly have a rather strange purple/brown colour scheme which gives the game a gloomy “Quake I”/”Unreal” -style atmosphere. Still, as you get further into the WAD, more traditional sci-fi settings begin to emerge.
Secondly, I should probably point out that this WAD is for experienced “Doom” players only. If you are new to “Doom” in any way, then you shouldn’t play “Stardate 20X6”.
This is because this WAD is very challenging – in fact, it almost borders on being unforgivingly unfair at least a few times every level.
Unless you have years of circle-strafing practice, unless you know exactly how to use monster infighting to your advantage and unless you have the kind of chess-like tactical mind that can only be acquired through many years of “Doom” playing, then don’t play this WAD. You won’t even get past the first level. In fact, you’ll wonder if it’s even possible to get past the first level without cheating.
It is. So is the second level, the third, the fourth, the fifth and, surprisingly the sixth too (if you know when to run and when to fight). I’m playing the seventh level at the moment and I have no clue if it’s even possible to get to the eighth one (but it probably is).
You see, “Stardate 20X6” has the delightfully sadistic habit of throwing small armies of mid-level enemies at you whenever you reach one of it’s many small arena-like areas. If you’re an experienced “Doom” player, you’ll probably laugh with delight and feel like a badass when you inevitably defeat and/or outmanouevre them all.
But, if you aren’t an experienced player, you’ll probably quickly be intimidated into never playing this WAD again. You have been warned.
Another thing which compounds the extreme difficulty of this WAD is the fact that the BFG is nowhere to be seen until the seventh level. Seriously, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve thought “I really wish I had a BFG right now” whilst playing the first six levels.
But, on the plus side, the BFG in “Stardate 20X6” fires wonderful pink projectiles instead of the boring old green ones. But, when you finally get it, you are pitted against so many enemies (at least several hundred…) that the game may actually crash if you try to save at some points during this part of the level…
As for the level design, it’s fairly good. Although the game obviously channels you into area-like areas a few times in each level, the levels thankfully aren’t too linear and you will have to spend a while exploring and searching for keys and/or switches – as you would in any well-designed “Doom” level.
Not only that, there are a few fairly impressive outdoor areas too, which help to ensure that the maps in this WAD don’t get monotonous or boring.
All in all, from what I’ve played, “Stardate 20X6” is a WAD which proves conclusively that there’s much more to “Doom” than just mindlessly shooting demonic monsters. This WAD proves that “Doom” is actually a game of strategy and cunning where your brain and your reflexes are the most powerful weapons that you can have.
In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that this WAD is, in it’s own strange way, actually a puzzle game (with guns and monsters) rather than anything else .
This WAD may only contain eight levels, but don’t expect to complete it in anything under 10-20 hours at an absolute minimum…
If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get four.