Mini Review: “Strange Aeons (V 3.6)” [WAD For “Ultimate Doom”/ “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “ZDoom”)

2016 Artwork Strange Aeons WAD review sketch

Well, although I’m currently over halfway the final episode of this WAD at the time of writing, I thought that I’d take a quick look at a WAD for Ultimate Doom called “Strange Aeons (V 3.6)“.

This WAD may have been updated by the time that this article goes out [Edit: it was already up to version 3.7 a day or so after I originally wrote this article], but I’ll be reviewing version 3.6 because that’s the version I played.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port when playing this WAD and, from what I’ve read, it requires this source port in order to work properly. Although I don’t know if it’s also compatible with “GZDoom” too.

Anyway, let’s take a quick look at at “Strange Aeons (V 3.6):

Screenshot_Doom_20151224_110125

Strange Aeons (V 3.6)” is a 36-level total conversion for “Ultimate Doom” featuring new levels, weapons, graphics, power-ups, music and monsters. The thing that first interested me in this WAD was the fact that it was apparently based on the works of H.P.Lovecraft.

The story behind the events of the game is that you play as a man who tries to find his son’s spirit by travelling through several strange Lovecraftian dream worlds. This WAD has much more of a story than many WADs do – with custom story text (and artwork) at the end of each episode.

And, yes, these text screens are written in a very Lovecraftian way.

And, yes, these text screens are written in a very Lovecraftian way.

Although you have to wait until episode four before you can see anything even resembling Cthulhu....

Although you have to wait until episode four before you can see anything even resembling Cthulhu….

Whilst some parts of this WAD certainly have a wonderfully creepy and very Lovecraftian atmosphere to them, this varies somewhat throughout the game. Since this WAD is based on Ultimate Doom, it is split into four episodes – each of which has their own unique setting. This structure comes with all of the usual benefits and flaws inherent in traditional episode-based FPS games.

One cool feature about the episodic structure is that, in the first three episodes, you begin each episode in the main character’s bedroom – before stepping through a portal into the dream world that you’ve chosen to visit.

Yay! Cosmic horror :)

Yay! Cosmic horror 🙂

In my opinion, episodes one and four are probably the most Lovecraftian (episode one takes place on a collection of floating islands and episode four takes place in an icy wasteland). Episode three is also kind of cool and it’s set in an ancient Egypt-themed area of some kind.

But, apart from one really cool level (E2M5), most of episode two is – quite frankly – boring. It’s full of dull “industrial” areas, with only one level set on a giant vehicle (plus an epic boss battle at the very end of the episode) to break up the dreary monotony.

Seriously though, it's worth slogging through the first four levels of episode two to play this one level. The boss battle in level eight is pretty cool too.

Seriously though, it’s worth slogging through the first four levels of episode two to play this one level. The boss battle in level eight is pretty cool too.

In terms of difficulty, this WAD actually has something of a difficulty curve to it. The first episode is ridiculously easy and the game gradually gets more and more challenging as it goes on. Most of the time, the difficulty doesn’t rise above “mildly challenging” (if you’re an experienced “Doom” player), but it was still fun nonetheless.

However, some of the difficulty in this WAD is due to the level design itself, so expect to get stuck searching for a well-hidden switch or key occasionally. Some of these are hidden in extremely fiendish ways – for example, in E4M4, a switch you need to press in order to complete the level is only revealed when you’ve defeated two large monsters that you’ll probaby just run away from when you first see them.

So, there’s both the fun kind of difficulty (eg: during the boss battles etc..) and the occasionally frustrating kind of difficulty here.

The boss battle at the end of the second episode is my favourite so far. Before you encounter the boss, you have to fight quite a few monsters in an arena. It isn't quite a "slaughter map" level, but it vaguely reminded me of one.

The boss battle at the end of the second episode is my favourite so far. Before you encounter the boss, you have to fight quite a few monsters in an arena. It isn’t quite a “slaughter map” level, but it vaguely reminded me of one.

One interesting thing to note is that, although this WAD has jumping disabled by default, the second level of the first episode is seemingly impossible to complete without leaping across a chasm at one point. So, make sure to enable jumping before playing this WAD.

As for the new weapons, I’ve only found three so far and they’re each surprisingly useful. The basic pistol has been replaced with a slightly more futuristic laser pistol. The chaingun has been replaced with an assault rifle that looks and sounds wonderfully dramatic.

In later episodes, the chainsaw is replaced by something called the “Scepter Of Souls” which is like a chainsaw, but it has a slightly longer range – which makes it extremely useful. The basic shotgun now also has slightly better sound effects too.

It's a sceptre... and it's made from skeletons and magic too. Nice!

It’s a sceptre… and it’s made from skeletons and magic too. Nice!

The new monsters in this WAD also help to keep the gameplay fresh and to add a lot to the atmosphere too. Although a few of them have been borrowed from other classic FPS games and/or other Doom WADs (eg: the spiders from “Blood“, the giant worms from Freedoom, the sewer monsters from “Dark Forces“, modified “Hexen”/”Heretic” monsters etc… ), there are at least a couple of monsters here that I haven’t seen before.

Yes, that floating red thing is actually a monster. And a surprisingly powerful one!

Yes, that floating red thing is actually a monster. And a surprisingly powerful one too!

Yay! There are ghosts here too :)

Yay! There are ghosts here too 🙂

Another cool thing about this WAD is that it contains a few new power-ups. One of these is a red orb that gives you unlimited ammo for thirty seconds – and, yes, you will find these after you’ve picked up the BFG 🙂 However, there’s another very similar-looking power-up that doubles the rate of fire for all of your weapons. And, yes, it’s easy to confuse the two power-ups (and waste ammo) if you aren’t careful.

I'm not sure if this was meant to be an "Incredible Hulk" reference or not...

I’m not sure if this was meant to be an “Incredible Hulk” reference or not…

The other new power up is a green “mutant power” orb, this turns you into a tall mutant creature (with a lot of health) who can defeat most monsters by punching them a couple of times. This is really cool, but one annoying side-effect of it is that, when it’s active, you can’t pick up keys, ammo etc…

As for the music, it’s pretty much what you would expect from a H.P.Lovecraft- themed WAD. It’s quiet, creepy and ambient.

All in all, this is a rather cool WAD even if it is let down by annoying level design in some parts. Even so, this WAD certainly tries to be as Lovecraftian as possible and it succeeds about half of the time. It’s fun, occasionally challenging and kind of cool.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would just about maybe get a four.

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16 comments on “Mini Review: “Strange Aeons (V 3.6)” [WAD For “Ultimate Doom”/ “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “ZDoom”)

  1. mikemacdee says:

    Thanks for the review!

    Weird that you had trouble with the “jump” in E1M2. You should be able to cross it easily by running diagonally if all else fails.

    I recently released version 5.3.1, which has five episodes and a lot of level fixes. Check it out!

    • pekoeblaze says:

      No probs 🙂 Thanks for making “Strange Aeons” 🙂

      Ah, I didn’t realise that you could get across the chasm by running diagonally, or that there was a version with a fifth episode either. It might be a while before I check out the new version, but it sounds really intriguing 🙂

      • mikemacdee says:

        Episode 5 also involves Cthulhu, which seems to be something you were hoping for in the review. That may or may not be a source of enticement for ya.

      • pekoeblaze says:

        Thanks 🙂 As soon as I saw this comment about Cthulhu, I downloaded the new version and played through episode five. I didn’t realise that there were two Cthulhus though LOL! 🙂

        It’s a really cool episode, and I like the fact that it has a good mixture of shorter levels and longer levels. The aesthetic of the episode is pretty cool too, and the early levels also reminded me a bit of the original “Quake” too.

        Is the crossbow/impaler a new weapon? I don’t remember it from my playthrough of episodes 1-4 (but I tend to write these reviews quite far in advance, so my memories are a little vague).

        The only possible criticism I have is that I think that level four could possible require slightly more health power-ups/shielding suits (since, at one point [when getting the yellow skull key] I ended up cut off from the rest of the level without enough health to get across the lava/blood area. In the end, I had to resort to using the “fly” cheat to get back to the rest of the level).

        Anyway, thanks again for making Strange Aeons and sorry that it took me so long to get round to playing episode five.

      • mikemacdee says:

        Yeah, the Impaler is in all five episodes as a sort of bonus weapon thing.

        You don’t actually fight Cthulhu at the end of the episode: you face several Star Spawn, which are basically his minion race.

        I’m uploading version 5.3.2 in a little while with some minor changes and fixes.

      • pekoeblaze says:

        Cool. I didn’t realise that it was hidden in the other episodes too, or that it was a secret weapon. I sort of found it by accident in the fifth episode (by stepping on a panel whilst exploring), so I’m guessing that it’s probably even more hidden in the other episodes.

        Ah, that makes slightly more sense. I don’t know, it’s been a few years since I last read any Lovecraft, so I guess that I just assumed that the “star spawn” thing in the game was another name for the “old ones” or something like that. But, even if they aren’t actually Cthulhu, it’s still cool to see some Cthulhu-like monsters in the fifth episode.

        Cool 🙂 I don’t know if/when I’ll get round to checking out 5.3.2 though, since I’m absolutely terrible when it comes to re-playing things. But, looking on your site, I’ve just noticed that you also made the “Derceto” WAD too 🙂 I think that I originally found this WAD on another site, and there’s a review of “Derceto” queued up (although it might not appear for quite a few months, since I tend to write reviews ridiculously far in advance). But, a review of “Nerves Of Steel” (v1.5, I think) will appear on the 11th July though 🙂

      • mikemacdee says:

        Ah thanks for the heads up about future reviews! If you haven’t tried it yet, give Derceto a whirl with the Pirate Doom mod. It’s a lot of fun and I made a video of it on youtube somewhere.

      • pekoeblaze says:

        Hmm… I’ll have to try that sometime 🙂 Before reading the description of it on your site earlier today, I somehow didn’t realise that the two mods were even compatible with each other.

      • pekoeblaze says:

        I’ve played about two-thirds of “Derceto” (v.3, I think – the review will appear on the 25th September) with Pirate Doom and, yes, it’s brilliantly fun – especially given the whole Pirate thing in “Alone In The Dark” (it took me a few minutes to realise that this was why the two WADs are supposed to go together. Given that I played “Alone In The Dark” for the first time earlier this year, I really should have realised this sooner). The only thing that I will say is that the more powerful “Pirate Doom” weapons make the WAD significantly easier than it is in “ordinary” Doom II.
        Plus, whilst replaying “Derceto”, I remembered a problem that I had when I played it for the first time, namely that I couldn’t seem to find an exit for the level once I’d reached the point where the original “Alone In The Dark” ends.

      • mikemacdee says:

        Weird, I think it worked for me with and without the mod. It should end the level as soon as you kill the tree boss.

      • pekoeblaze says:

        Ah, I’m guessing that I either didn’t do this properly (I reached the tree boss, but I can’t remember if I thought to actually attack it), or it might have been because of the source port I was using (Zdoom 2.7.999 – I think it’s fairly similar to Zdoom 2.8) or something like that.

      • pekoeblaze says:

        Sorry, my mistake! When I was re-playing the final part of “Derceto” with ‘Pirate Doom’, I noticed that the switch behind the tree also opens a hatch on the tree (when I played it for the first time, I just thought that the switch activated the lift on the other side of the room. I never thought to check the tree for some reason). Sorry about this foolish mistake, I’ll amend the upcoming review of “Derceto”.

      • mikemacdee says:

        Also apparently the latest Strange Aeons update didn’t register at all, so the download has been out of date for several days. I fixed it though.

      • pekoeblaze says:

        Sorry to hear about this, but I’m glad that you managed to fix it. The latest version of “Strange Aeons” that I’ve played is version 5.3.1 . What are the main differences in the new version?

      • mikemacdee says:

        Had to dig up the development thread to remember:

        – Fixed a bunch of fractional vertexes, curing the weird opengl “see thru” bug in several areas (hopefully).

        – Impaler has less priority than the Scepter of Souls when auto-switching.

        – Added another Radiation Suit to E5M4.

        – Downgraded the armor in E5M8.

        – A few other minor map adjustments here and there.

        – An extra clue to the hardest puzzle on E5M9.

      • pekoeblaze says:

        Cool 🙂 Glad to hear that you’ve added another radiation suit to E5M4 🙂 I don’t think that I found E5M9 when I played episode five though (I’m guessing that it’s a secret level).
        But, yeah, thinking about it, I can see why making E5M8 slightly more difficult might be a good idea. It’s a really cool boss battle, although it was slightly easier than what I remember of some of the earlier boss battles.

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