Well, since I’m still reading the next novel I plan to review (“England Expects” By Sara Sheridan), I thought that I’d finally review a “Doom II”/”Final Doom” WAD (well, technically, a “.pk3”) that I’ve wanted to play for at least a year or two.
As regular readers of this site will know, I got a vaguely modern refurbished computer a week or two earlier. This computer can actually run version 3.4.1 of the GZDoom source port (v 3.6.0 had problems recognising my USB keyboard and mouse), which is the minimum needed to play “Golden Souls 2”.
Yes, it’s a sad state of affairs when a mod for a game from 1994 actually has system requirements and demands a modern computer (and why I didn’t review this WAD a year or two ago, because I couldn’t play it on the vintage mid-2000s computer I was using). But, I can finally play it now 🙂
So, let’s take a look at “Doom: The Golden Souls 2” 🙂 However, I probably should warn you that part one of the industrial levels contains a flickering/strobing lighting effect (either that or it was some kind of glitch) that may or may not cause problems for some players.
Following on from the events of “Doom: The Golden Souls”, the Doomguy’s pet rabbit has been kidnapped by demons and it is up to him to get the rabbit back before it is used in an evil ritual. Thus begins a full-length megawad (with at least 20-30 levels) that contains new textures, weapons, monsters, sounds/music, gameplay mechanics etc…
One of the first things that I will say about this WAD is that it deserves it’s Cacoward 🙂 It is one of the most creative, detailed and generally innovative WADs that I’ve seen in quite a while.
Like with it’s predecessor, this WAD is heavily inspired by the “Mario” games, whilst still being both very recognisably a “Doom” WAD and it’s own thing at the same time. It’s a gleefully cartoonish, ’90s nostalgia-filled thrill ride of a WAD that will make the many hours it will guzzle up feel like time well wasted 🙂
Seriously, this is one of those “just one more level” kind of WADs that will keep you coming back for more. So, Expect to end up playing this one for at least an hour or four every day until you finish it. It’s that good.
I should probably start by talking about the level design. In addition to featuring an absolutely stunning “Super Mario World”-style worldmap that allows you to revisit previous levels and stock up on items/health between missions (using coins you find in-game), the level design here is brilliant. There’s a really good mixture of more linear platform game style levels, traditional-style levels, boss levels and a few more puzzle/exploration-based “ghost house” levels.
Not only that, there are so many cool level design tricks. Whether it is a dormant mini-boss that you don’t fight until later in the level, a level that can be turned upside-down, an easter egg or two, some clever switch puzzles, segments involving flying, a few destructible walls etc… this is one of those WADs where the levels can surprise you in all sorts of ways. Not only that, the levels are all a reasonably consistent length and the game as a whole has a fairly good difficulty curve too.
In addition to this, the visual design of the levels can be really brilliant. Yes, there are a few generic-looking “industrial”, “hell”, “gothic mansion” etc.. style levels, but many of the levels are absolute works of art 🙂 Whether it is ancient Egyptian-style areas, snowy fields, a Lovecraftian world of mists, an ancient Japan-style level, caves filled with glowing stuff, a “Sonic”-inspired level, tropical island style levels, a cyberpunk level or even a really beautiful 1960s-style Beatles-inspired level, the visual design here is absolutely brilliant.
Literally the only criticism I have to make of the level design is that one “ghost house” level in the version I played (v1.3) contained an organ-like switch that didn’t seem to work and the only way I was able to progress was via cheat codes.
The gameplay itself is really good too. Although this WAD includes a lot of first-person platforming, this isn’t as annoying as it sounds – mostly because of the excellent jumping mechanics (eg: you can jump higher and move around in the air) that actually make these segments fun. Likewise, the combat (which, in true platform game style, focuses almost entirely on projectile-dodging) and monster placement is tough enough to be enjoyably challenging, whilst also being forgiving enough that you’ll probably be able to get through each level in an hour or two.
As for the monsters, they’re also excellent. Not only is there a brilliant variety of monsters that are introduced throughout the game, but there’s also a good mix of traditional “Doom II” monsters (plus one from “Heretic” too 🙂 ), monsters from the first “Golden Souls” WAD, several new boss monsters and quite a few all-new monsters.
Plus, several of the monsters also do innovative things too. Whether it is monsters that can resurrect other monsters of their type, a clever twist on the “Pain Elemental” monster, squids that cover the screen with ink, monsters that can only be harmed with certain weapons etc… the monster design and variety in this WAD is brilliant.
In terms of the weapons, they’re fairly creative too. In addition to some traditional FPS staples (which include modern reloading mechanics), there are some eccentric ’90s-style weird weapons too 🙂 Whether it is a rapid-fire star launcher, a trumpet-shaped blunderbuss or a cupid-themed laser sniper rifle, the weapons are a brilliant mix of whimsical 1990s-style silliness and FPS tradition. Likewise, at one early point in the game, you might find a seemingly “weak” infinite ammo/recharging laser pistol… only to discover that it’s a really useful long-range weapon later in the game.
However, one annoying thing about the weapons is that they sometimes feel a little underpowered. This has been done deliberately, since one of the many additional features of this game is that weapon upgrades can be unlocked if you find enough “big coins” hidden throughout the game.
Given that these can often be really difficult to find and that many also seem to require hidden items from other levels (eg: skull keys) to reach, don’t expect to get many upgrades unless you put about twice as much time into this long game than you might otherwise do.
As for music and sound design, this WAD absolutely excels. In addition to lots of wonderfully cartoonish and/or adorable monster sounds, there is also lots of awesome 1990s platform game music and even a Beatles-based MIDI tune in one level too. Not only that, at least one of the game’s cool easter eggs is sound-based too (eg: press “use” near the red AC/DC-style guitar in the “Strawberry Fields” level).
All in all, this WAD is excellent 🙂 Not only is it basically a full-length game, but it also sums up everything excellent about 1990s-style games 🙂 Whether it is the whimsical atmosphere, the nostalgia, the humour, the creativity or how both the platforming and FPS elements feel really well-designed, this is an amazing follow-up to “Doom: The Golden Souls”. Yes, there are a couple of small flaws, but for a fan-made WAD created by one person, it is better than some actual “proper” computer games 🙂
If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get a five.