Mini Review: “Planisphere” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “ZDoom”)

Well, I thought that I’d take a look at another “Doom II”/”Final Doom” WAD today (wow, three in one month!). And, after a little bit of searching, I found a WAD called “Planisphere” that looked like it could be interesting.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD – but it will work on any limit-removing source port. However, since it uses the “Wolf 3D” enemies and a “Wolf 3D” texture from “Doom II”, one part of the level possibly won’t work properly on German versions of the game and/or the “BFG Edition” version of the game.

As a general note, I’ll probably be using “ZDoom” even more often, since one of the side-effects of the hardware changes I had to make to my classic mid-2000s computer a few days before preparing this review is that it will no longer run “GZDoom”.

So, let’s take a look at “Planisphere”:

“Planisphere” is a single-level WAD from 2017 that also includes new music and a new skybox texture.

Surprisingly, the accompanying text file actually includes a backstory for the level, which revolves around a train journey gone horribly wrong (which also explains why the level begins and ends beside a train station).

Plus, this WAD does the cool thing of showing you a later part of the level near the beginning of the level.

One of the first things that I will say about this level is that it is a mixture of cool moments and frustrating moments. This level is filled with an interesting variety of cool-looking themed outdoor areas (eg: an urban area, a fantasy/horror/Aztec-style area, a sci-fi style area and a small WW2-themed area) and this kind of makes it feel a bit like a more action-packed version of “The Crystal Maze“.

There’s a dramatic post-apocalyptic city area.

And a pyramid too 🙂 A pyramid!

You can also find a ship too 🙂

In addition to visual variety, there’s also some degree of gameplay variety between these areas. The first and last areas (which overlap slightly) are fast-paced action segments. The fantasy/horror-themed area is a mixture of action and strategy, and the sci-fi themed area is eerily devoid of monsters.

The total lack of monsters actually makes this area quite creepy.

However, whilst it’s cool that “Planisphere” tries to add some variety to the gameplay, this can also make the pacing of the level somewhat uneven and inconsistent. This isn’t helped by the fact that this is one of those levels where you’re likely to get completely and utterly stuck at least once.

For example, I spent at least 20-30 minutes wandering around one area aimlessly until I eventually realised, purely by chance, that a nearby lift can actually ascend three floors rather than the two it initially seemed to be able to reach. Likewise, I almost got stuck in another area until I found a room that was “hidden in plain sight” (although, to be fair, this was a fairly clever piece of level design that relies on how a player would normally react to one type of location).

One interesting level design quirk is that there seems to be at least one totally optional area. Near the end of the level, there is a locked door that requires a yellow key. As I looked around for it, I ended up finding the end of the level instead. So, out of curiosity, I went back and took a quick look behind the door (with the “no clipping” cheat) and found a red door that contained a totally optional missile silo-style area.

Seriously, this is one of the coolest parts of the level, but it’s very easy to miss.

In terms of difficulty, this WAD is a bit of a strange one. Whilst it isn’t exactly ultra-challenging (eg: the one time you’re faced with a horde of enemies, you’re given a plasma rifle and a megasphere), the level sometimes achieves it’s difficulty in rather cheap ways.

Whether this is being very slightly stingy with the amount of ammo the player is given, or placing enemies on ledges in some puzzle-based areas etc… the moderate difficulty can sometimes feel like it has been achieved by cheap methods.

For example, unless you search thoroughly, you’re probably going to run low on ammo here.

The custom music consists of ominous MIDI music that lends the level a slightly gothic/gloomy atmosphere, whilst also being stylistically in keeping with the traditional “Doom” games too.

All in all, this WAD is something of a mixed bag. Although this WAD contains some cool-looking areas (mostly just using the standard textures too), a four-area structure and some reasonably fun moments, the pacing of the level is somewhat uneven, the amount of ammo on offer is a little bit low at times and expect to get stuck at least once or twice.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get three.

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