Well, it’s been a week or two since I last reviewed a “Doom II”/ “Final Doom” level, so I thought that I’d check out a level called “The Warlock’s Hearth“.
As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this level. Although, I’m guessing that it’ll probably work on other modern source ports too (provided that they can play “.ogg” sound files).
Anyway, let’s take a look at “The Warlock’s Hearth”:
“The Warlock’s Hearth” is a large single-level WAD that contains new music and possibly new textures too (although I only noticed a new skybox texture). This level took me about an hour and a half to complete and I’d probably describe it’s difficulty level as mildly to moderately challenging.
Most of this challenge comes from the fact that there are occasional ammo (and health) shortages within several parts of the level. In fact, during one earlier part of the level, I ended up facing a mancubus with nothing more than my fists. Although, fortunately, since I’d run out of ammo whilst fighting said mancubus, it could be defeated with just one punch. But, this is just one example of the times when you might run out of ammo in this level. Even so, the ammo distribution in this level never really feels unfair.
In other parts of the level, the challenge comes from the standard tactic of including large numbers of mid-level monsters and the occasional high-level monster. Since you’ll often be fighting in wide open areas, many of these monsters can be dodged when it’s clear that you won’t be able to fight them all. In addition to this, I also counted three cyberdemons, one Spider Demon and six arch-viles in this level.
In terms of the level design, “The Warlock’s Hearth” is fairly good. In addition to a good variety of locations (eg: a gothic castle, a techbase area, a large library, a green slime area etc…), the level is also surprisingly streamlined too.
The level design can come across as mildly linear near the beginning of the level, since there are a couple of places where you are seemingly given a choice between two paths, only to find that they both either lead to the same place or have to be taken in a particular order.
In these parts, if you want to go back and explore the other path, you’ll often find your route back has been blocked by something. So, at first, it felt like the level was trying to channel you along a certain path.
However, the level becomes far more non-linear later on (and even includes a couple of totally optional areas that can be explored). Not only that, despite the size of the level, it’s usually very easy to work out where to go next.
One interesting quirk in this level is the fact that there’s a blue door but, seemingly, no key for it. However, this isn’t really a major issue for the simple reason that this door can easily be bypassed by jumping off of a spiral staircase.
But, despite this streamlined level design, the pace of the level never really feels particularly fast or frantic. Yes, there are intense battles where every second matters but, for the most part, you can go through this level at a relatively slow pace. This is also helped by some rather inventive design in a few areas of the level – such as a large bridge that is almost hidden in one corner of a large outdoor area.
In terms of the music, it’s a perfect fit with the level. The music is ominous ambient music that – for the most part- is gloomy enough to be atmospheric, but light and fast enough not to be depressing or frightening. But, near the end of the track, there are sounds of shocked shouts and ominous mumbling which add a small note of creepiness to the music.
All in all, this is a really fun level. It’s enjoyably challenging in parts and the design is fairly good. Although this level may be a little bit slow-paced in some parts, you’ll never really get lost or bored.
If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get a four.