Mini Review: “Tenebrae” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “GZ Doom”)

2016 Artwork Tenebrae WAD review

Well, once again, I found myself in the mood for reviewing a “Doom” WAD, so I thought that I’d check out a very interesting horror-themed WAD called “Tenebrae“.

Unusually, I returned to using the “GZ Doom” source port whilst playing this WAD. This is mostly because this WAD is designed for slightly older versions of the source port that will actually run on my computer. I haven’t tried this WAD in “ZDoom”, so I don’t know if it will work with that or not.

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

And, yes, the music that plays during this screen is as metal as you would expect \m/

And, yes, the music that plays during this screen is as metal as you would expect \m/

“Tenebrae” is a four-level WAD (with an additional end credits level) that contains new textures, monsters, sounds and music. It is, I believe, named after a famous horror movie from the 1980s (that I really must watch sometime). True to it’s horror roots, this is also one of the scariest “Doom” WADs that I’ve played recently.

Most of the horror in this WAD comes from the fact that many of it’s claustrophobic corridors are shrouded in darkness, meaning that there are jump scares aplenty here when monsters rush out from the darkness towards you. Thanks to the often cramped locations and the strength of the new monsters, the combat is a lot faster and more visceral than you might expect. It more than lives up to either Romero or Carmack’s “scary, dark and fast” description of the original “Doom”!

This is one of the least scary jump scares in this WAD.

This is one of the least scary jump scares in this WAD.

But these are some of the coolest level ending screens that I've ever seen :)

But these are some of the coolest level ending screens that I’ve ever seen 🙂

As for the level design, it is – quite simply – excellent. Well, for the most part at least. Each level has it’s own distinctive “look” and many of the levels are long, complex things that will require a lot of exploration and backtracking.

Level one is a challenging level set within a large castle and it reminded me a lot of an old FPS game called “Blood“, which is never a bad thing. However, it’s very easy to get lost or stuck in some parts of this level and I’m ashamed to say that after half an hour of fruitless searching, I once had to resort to using the “show map” cheat to find a particular door.

My favourite level, by far, is level two – it is another exploration-based level that is set in a decaying old house and it features wonderfully opulent red, green and blue lighting in many locations. Not only is this level absolutely gigantic and fiendishly difficult (in a mostly enjoyable way), but it just looks amazing:

This is so cool! Why don't more games have locations like this?

This is so cool! Why don’t more games have locations like this?

 This part is ridiculously difficult, but it IS possible to beat it without cheating if you use the right tactics.

This part is ridiculously difficult, but it IS possible to beat it without cheating if you use the right tactics.

Level three is set in a large graveyard, complete with an abandoned church, several crypts and a “Blood”-style abandoned house to explore.

Once again, this level is on the extremely challenging side of things, so expect to keep running away from large groups of powerful monsters and re-loading saved games almost constantly. It’s a fast, frenetic and dramatic level that is a perfect example of how to make a cool horror-themed FPS level.

Wow! Talk about "fire and brimstone"!

Wow! Talk about “fire and brimstone”!

Level four is a slaughtermap/ “Serious Sam” style-wave shooter level. Most of the level is spent battling wave after wave of monsters within a single square room. For the most part, this level is extremely difficult- but fair.

The only exception is the final wave of monsters – where you have to fight at least four boss-level monsters in a relatively small space, with insufficient cover (to dodge their wide-ranging attacks) and no BFG. After many attempts at fighting them, I realised that this level had crossed the line from “fiendishly challenging” to “just unfair” and eventually resorted to using cheats.

Yes, the game gives you an "invincibility" power-up at the start of this section. But, it only lasts for half as long as it should and, after many failed attempts, you'll probably just shrug and use the "god mode" cheat.

Yes, the game gives you an “invincibility” power-up at the start of this section. But, it only lasts for half as long as it should and, after many failed attempts, you’ll probably just shrug and use the “god mode” cheat.

Level five is an ending text level, and you’ll either find it darkly comedic (although you’d have to have a very twisted sense of humour), eye-rollingly puerile, genuinely disturbing and/or a combination of these things. It’s not for the easily shocked. Not to mention that it doesn’t really fit into the gloomy, gothic tone of the rest of the WAD.

But, despite the final parts of this game, the levels are – on the whole- extremely well-designed and are a great example of 1990s-style FPS gaming at it’s absolute best. They contain a decent variety of gameplay types (eg: exploration, combat, suspense etc..) and a wide variety of locations.

As for the weapons, although this WAD doesn’t include any new weapons – and actually leaves out the BFG and Super Shotgun to ramp up the difficulty level – many of the traditional weapons now have new sound effects. All of these are way better than the “default” sound effects. So, although you’ll be using the weaker weapons, they’ll certainly sound a lot more powerful.

Another cool thing about this WAD is that it contains quite a few new monsters. Although many of the new monsters are based on the traditional monsters, they’re significantly more powerful than their “vanilla doom” counterparts and not only can they soak up more damage, but they also have significantly more powerful attacks.

You probably can't see it in this screenshot, but there are even vaguely "Duke Nukem 3D"-style 'octobrain' monsters :)

You probably can’t see it in this screenshot, but there are even vaguely “Duke Nukem 3D”-style ‘octobrain’ monsters 🙂

Combined with the lack of more powerful short-range weapons and the claustrophobic locations in many areas of this WAD, every battle is a lot more challenging and suspenseful than you might expect.

As for the music, it’s exactly what you would expect. Although the title screen has some really cool heavy metal music in the background, most of the music in this WAD is of the creepily ambient variety and it goes really well with all of the levels. Interestingly, the background music for the graveyard sounds just a little bit like the intro to “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” by Bauhaus.

All in all, this is a really cool WAD. For the most part, it’s atmospheric, dramatic and enjoyably challenging. However, it is let down slightly by occasionally unfair difficulty in some parts.

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

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