Review: “Valiant” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “GZDoom”)

2016 Artwork Valiant WAD review sketch

Well, I felt like taking a bit of a break from “Reelism Gold“, so I thought that I’d check out a “Doom II” WAD called “Valiant” after seeing it mentioned on Doomworld.

As usual, I played this WAD using the “GZDoom” source port. Plus, at the time of writing this review, I’ve played almost all of “Valiant” (eg: I missed the second secret level and I’m currently stuck on the final level), so this review will only reflect my impressions for the game so far.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Valiant”:

Screenshot_Doom_20150915_200555

“Valiant” is a 32-level megawad which features new monsters, redesigned weapons, new music and new textures. Unlike many “Doom II” WADs, “Valiant” is actually divided into five separate episodes, each of which has their own distinctive aesthetic.

Interestingly, the fifth episode is fairly similar to Skillsaw’s amazing “Lunatic” WAD and it even references this WAD at one point – which caught me totally by surprise, since I didn’t realise that both WADs were made by the same person.

Woo hoo! Remember when FPS games used to have episodes? :)

Woo hoo! Remember when FPS games used to have episodes? 🙂

This level from episode one also reminded me very slightly of a level from "Duke Nukem 3D" too :)

This level from episode one also reminded me very slightly of a level from “Duke Nukem 3D” too 🙂

My favourite episode, in visual terms, is probably episode four.

My favourite episode, in visual terms, is probably episode four.

Yay! I remember this area from "Lunatic" :)

Yay! I remember this area from “Lunatic” 🙂

Having to start each episode separately means that you’ll lose all of your weapons every five or six levels or so. This links in to something in the WAD’s documentation, which suggests that each level should be played from a pistol start. I didn’t do this. In fact, you’d have to be an absolute fool to play each level from a pistol start.

Why? Because “Valiant” is the kind of enjoyably and fiendishly challenging WAD that will test the skills of even the most experienced “Doom” player. And this is just if you don’t play each level from a pistol start.

Although “Valiant” usually isn’t quite a “slaughtermap” WAD, each level still requires a combination of perseverance, constant movement, quick thinking, clever tactics and an intimate knowledge of the “rules” of “Doom” in order to complete. Personally, I absolutely love fiendishly difficult WADs like this, but they probably aren’t everyone’s cup of tea.

As well as containing a decent number of mid-high level monsters in each level, this WAD keeps the difficulty up through the occasional use of a few hilariously evil set pieces too:

 If you kill one of the mancubi in this level, several arch-viles will spawn near you. So, aim carefully.

If you kill one of the mancubi in this level, several arch-viles will spawn near you. So, aim carefully.

Yes, you have to fight a cyberdemon in a confined space once. This will either make you chuckle or it'll make you feel frustrated. If you feel frustrated, then you probably shouldn't be playing this WAD

Yes, you have to fight a cyberdemon in a confined space once. This will either make you chuckle or it’ll make you feel frustrated. If you feel frustrated, then you probably shouldn’t be playing this WAD

Then there's this near-impossible boss battle at the end of episode five.

Then there’s this near-impossible boss battle at the end of episode five.

Interestingly, the only “slaughtermap” level that I’ve seen in “Valiant” is the first of the WAD’s two secret levels.

This level is surprisingly easy to find (it’s behind the locked door near the exit to level 15) and it has a really cool retro cyberpunk aesthetic – as well as over 2000 monsters! Seriously, this level would work really well as a stand-alone level, rather than something hidden in a much larger WAD.

Oooh, this also reminds me of two of the levels from "Reelism Gold" too :)

Oooh, this also reminds me of two of the levels from “Reelism Gold” too 🙂

As for the level design in “Valiant”, it’s fairly good. All of the levels I’ve played have been fairly non-linear levels that require exploration and thinking, but aren’t too puzzle-heavy.

In other words, I’ve only had a couple of times where I’ve been “stuck” on a level because I can’t find a switch, door or key. The level design also relies on the fact that the creator of this WAD took the traditionalist decision to disable jumping by default.

Although each level is fairly challenging, most of the levels in this WAD don’t really outstay their welcome – which can sometimes make some levels feel slightly shorter than you would expect. However, thanks to the challenging combat, none of the levels I’ve played so far felt unsatisfyingly short.

Like many great WADs, “Valiant” contains both new monsters and changes to the weapons, which help to keep the gameplay fresh and interesting. Although many of the new monsters you’ll find in this WAD are fairly similar to ones that I’ve seen in other WADs, there are a couple of fairly innovative touches that caught me by surprise.

The first one of these is the fact that when you defeat one the “arachnotron” monsters, they will sometimes detach their “brain” from their metal legs and turn into something similar to the “octobrain” monsters from “Duke Nukem 3D”. Although I’ve seen these monsters in other WADs, this is the first time that I’ve seen them emerge from an arachnotron this way.

 Although, if they have the ability to fly, then why do they bother with clunky metallic legs at all?

Although, if they have the ability to fly, then why do they bother with clunky metallic legs at all?

The second innovative new monster that I saw was a “Doom”-based version of the “beheaded bombers” from the old “Serious Sam” games.

If you’ve never played any of the “Serious Sam” games, then these are monsters that do literally nothing but run into you and explode, whilst screaming loudly. It doesn’t matter if there’s both an arch-vile and a chaingunner nearby, you should always shoot these monsters first! And, yes, these monsters use the exact sound effect from “Serious Sam” too:

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! It's so nostalgic :)

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! It’s so nostalgic 🙂

As for the weapons, there aren’t too many changes here. Although the chaingun has a slightly different sprite, the most significant change is to the basic pistol. Not only does it look a lot more futuristic than you would expect, but it also has a slightly faster rate of fire too – which is surprisingly useful at the beginning of each episode.

Seriously, why wasn't this in the original "Doom" games?

Seriously, why wasn’t this in the original “Doom” games?

Musically, this WAD is fairly good and it contains lots of cool 80s/90s-style background music, as well as the occasional piece of background music from “Rise Of The Triad: Dark War” too.

All in all, I really like what I’ve seen of this WAD. It’s challenging, innovative and visually appealing. Yes, the episodic structure can get a bit annoying at times, but it’s still an extremely fun WAD.

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

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