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

2017-artwork-axebreaker-wad-review-sketch

Well, I was in the mood for playing and reviewing another “Doom II” WAD but, after downloading two cool-looking (but non-functional), WADs from ModDB, I was about to give up in frustration when I thought “I’ll try the ‘random file’ feature on Doomworld“.

It took me a couple of tries, but I soon found an interesting-sounding single player WAD from 2010 called “Axebreaker“.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD. Although it will probably work on pretty much any modern source port for “Doom II” or “Final Doom” that allows jumping.

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

It may not look like much in this screenshot, but this is one of the most fun parts of the level :)

It may not look like much in this screenshot, but this is one of the most fun parts of the level 🙂

“Axebreaker” is a short, single-level “vanilla” Doom II/ Final Doom WAD. The level begins in an arena-like area where you are armed with nothing more than a pistol and surrounded by a few low-level and mid-level monsters. This is, by far, the most fun part of the level.

The gameplay at the beginning of the level is fast, frenetic and strategic as you frantically dodge projectiles and search for more powerful weapons. Experienced players will probably find this to be an enjoyable, but short, challenge. However, newer players might find it to be genuinely difficult.

Well, ok it isn't exactly a "slaughtermap", but the combat is surprisingly fast-paced for "Doom II" and you'll probably spend at least the first third of the fight armed with nothing more than the basic pistol.

Well, ok it isn’t exactly a “slaughtermap”, but the combat is surprisingly fast-paced for “Doom II” and you’ll probably spend at least the first third of the fight armed with nothing more than the basic pistol.

One of the best parts of the beginning of the level is probably getting the super shotgun, which is placed on the edge of a ledge that is occupied by a mancubus.

Since you probably won’t have enough ammo to actually fight the mancubus – what you have to do is to lure it to the far end of the ledge. This gives you time to run up the stairs, dodge it’s attacks and grab the super shotgun before falling to safety. It’s moments like this that make “Doom II” such a fun game!

Yay! Strategy :)

Yay! Strategy 🙂

But, despite it’s strong start, the rest of the level isn’t quite as well-designed. The description on the WAD’s “Doomworld” page suggests that you have to spend the beginning of the level gathering weapons for an epic boss battle with a Spider Mastermind.

However, when I played the level, I was able to bypass the entire boss battle and complete the level with a bit of running, some careful dodging and a couple of jumps.

Once you get to the platform that the Spider Mastermind is sitting on, the button that ends the level is hidden behind a short wall. Yes, you’re supposed to press two switches on opposite ends of the platform (after defeating the boss) to lower the wall – but the wall is short enough to be easily jumped over.

Like this!  In fact, even this Arachnotron can be beaten fairly easily by just hiding behind the wall at the back of this area, which can also be jumped onto.

Like this! In fact, even this Arachnotron can be beaten fairly easily by just hiding behind the wall at the back of this area, which can also be jumped onto.

If this was a WAD made in 1994, I could understand why the ending was set up in this way. But, since it’s from 2010, it’s designer must have known that most modern source ports allow jumping by default. This is especially true since it seems like you can’t actually reach the platform that the boss is standing on without jumping onto another platform. So, the wall at the end of the level should have been slightly taller.

Still, feeling like it was too easy, I went back and tried to beat this part of the level without jumping over the wall. In the process, I was compelled to explore a bit more and actually discovered several other areas near the beginning of the level that contain extra weapons and ammunition. Not only that, the boss battle is actually quite challenging if you don’t just jump over the barrier at the end.

Especially when you start running out of health and/or ammo for your rapidly-firing weapons.

Especially when you start running out of health and/or ammo for your rapidly-firing weapons.

One thing that increases the difficulty of the boss battle is the fact that part of the area in front of the boss will actually damage you when you stand on it. Likewise, there’s relatively little cover to hide behind too.

In fact, the only way that I was able to get through this part of the level (with the amount of health I had left) was when I discovered that the area in front of the boss doesn’t actually damage you if you crouch. I don’t know if this was a programming error, or something specific to the source port I used, but it was probably borderline cheating.

All in all, this is a WAD with some fun elements – but one which is let down slightly by some poor design choices. Depending on how you play the final part of the level, it’s either laughably easily or enjoyably challenging. Even so, the beginning of the level is quite cool.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it might just about possibly maybe get a three.

Mini Review: “Project Einherjar (V1.3 Beta/V.2 ?)” [WAD for “Doom II”/”Final Doom”/ “ZDoom” etc..]

2017-artwork-project-einherjar-review-sketch

Well, after seeing about the first twenty minutes of this “let’s play” video/ video review last autumn, I thought that I’d check out a WAD called “Project Einherjar” that I’d heard of before but hadn’t got round to playing.

Since I write these reviews quite far in advance, the version of this WAD that I played seems to be a public beta version (version 1.3, although the file name for the WAD [“PEstuffv2”] seems to suggest that it’s actually version two). It’s possible that a newer version of this WAD may be available when this review goes out. Since the WAD is still technically a beta, this is why I have called this article a “mini review”, despite it’s length.

Likewise, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD, and I guess that it will probably work on many other modern source ports. However, you will require a port that allows jumping, crouching, custom weapons etc…

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Project Einherjar:

screenshot_doom_20160916_114018

“Project Einherjar” is a seven-level WAD for “Doom II” and/or “Final Doom” that includes new music, textures, voice-acting, weapons, items and enemies. Interestingly, this WAD was actually made by the creator of “Nerves of Steel“, “Derceto” and “Strange Aeons” as a way of promoting an e-book that he’s written called “The Helios Legacy”.

Although I haven’t read the book, the story of this WAD seems to imply that it takes place before the events of the novel. You play as a character called Juno who lives in a dystopian icy wasteland called Midgard. In “Project Einherjar” she has to break into a fascist-controlled base in order to stop the evil scientific experiments performed by the nefarious Dr.Gaul.

The best way to describe this WAD is probably ” ‘Wolfenstein 3D’ meets ‘Rise Of The Triad: Dark War’ “. However, although the WAD often bears at least a slight visual resemblance to these two games (as well as to the original “System Shock”), it’s also very much it’s own thing at the same time.

The gameplay is, for the most part, very good. Although the first level or two are certainly on the easier side of things, this WAD soon becomes at least moderately challenging.

Although the quantity of enemies doesn’t really reach ‘slaughtermap’ levels of magnitude, the relatively large number of enemies with hitscan-based attacks combined with the relatively weaker and/or ammo-hungry weapons in this WAD helps to keep the difficulty level enjoyable.

And, yes, the people here can be absolute fascists about punctuality if you dare to show up late to a meeting!

In terms of the level design, it’s reasonably good although – due to the setting of the game – most of the levels are just “military base”-style levels. However, there’s a decent variety of textures and room types that help to keep things varied and interesting. Likewise, the levels themselves are the kind of 90s-style non-linear levels that show off the FPS genre at it’s best. However, the level design isn’t without flaws.

Although a certain level of puzzle-based gameplay can make a refreshing change from the combat, I ended up almost completely stuck on two of the later levels. Yes, the relevant keys and switches needed to solve these levels can be found with a lot of careful searching and map-reading, but expect to wander around aimlessly for at least several minutes (if not longer).

If I remember rightly, actually getting that red key involves both carefully studying the map and finding a room that, whilst not hidden, isn't immediately obvious either.

If I remember rightly, actually getting that red key involves both carefully studying the map and finding a room that, whilst not hidden, isn’t immediately obvious either.

The new weapons in “Project Einherjar” are pretty cool too. Although the game contains the knife from “Rise Of The Triad: Dark War”, it also contains a reusable ballistic knife that will defeat most low-level enemies with a single shot. The pistol in this WAD also has a new sprite and is actually useful, due to it’s fast firing speed.

Likewise, although this game contains a super shotgun-like weapon (that uses the plasma gun’s weapon slot), it’s actually a lot less useful than the WAD’s equivlant of the basic shotgun. This is mostly because the basic shotgun can be fired ridiculously quickly – which is great, except for when you either run out of ammo and/or encounter enemies that also use this weapon!

Although these shotgun-wielding enemies don't have that much health, one of the boss-level enemies also uses the shotgun too.

Although these shotgun-wielding enemies don’t have that much health, one of the boss-level enemies also uses the shotgun too.

This WAD also includes a rocket launcher (with a cool new sprite and firing animation, but a slower rate of fire) and a slow-firing, but powerful, assault rifle.

In addition to all of this, “Project Einherjar” also contains an item system with lots of cool new stuff in it. There are portable medkits, a portable beserk pack, bouncing betty mines, hazmat suits and a small automated missile turret – all of which can come in handy during various parts of the game.

As for the new enemies, they’re astonishingly good. Although many of the enemies seem to be based on enemies from “Wolfenstein 3D”, there are also monsters, attack dogs, robots and “Wolfenstein 3D”-style bosses too.

Another interesting feature is that there’s actually a mixture of male and female enemy soldiers in this game, which is something that always adds some realism to sci-fi themed games. Plus, unusually for a FPS game, there are actually more female soldiers than male ones.

In addition to this, the monster enemies in this WAD are really well-designed. Although they replace the pink “demon” enemies from “Doom II”, they have a genuinely menacing appearance and they will often rush towards you when you least expect it.

Usually, they don't even have the courtesy to form large hordes. Most of the time, you'll just hear a noise and turn around to find that one of these things is RIGHT BEHIND YOU!

Usually, they don’t even have the courtesy to form large hordes. Most of the time, you’ll just hear a noise and turn around to find that one of these things is RIGHT BEHIND YOU!

One truly outstanding part of this WAD has to be the voice acting! Yes, this WAD actually has new voice-acting and it is hilarious!

Many of the enemies will shout various insults at you and some of them will make hilarious comments. The funniest of these probably has to be the robot enemies who, whilst speaking in a creepy ‘robotic’ voice, will sometimes say ‘f**king really?‘ when destroyed. I literally laughed out loud the first time I heard this!

The comedy value is also enhanced by the fact that some of the low-level male and female soldiers sound like American frat boys/jocks and sorority girls/valley girls respectively. Seriously, as well as the robots, they also have some of the funniest dialogue in the game. However, the mid-level and high-level enemies all sound suitably menacing though.

Seriously, the voice acting for these two enemy types is absolutely hilarious!

Seriously, the voice acting for these two enemy types is absolutely hilarious!

These soldiers, on the other hand, usually make begrudging comments about how long they've had to wait to use their guns.

These soldiers, on the other hand, usually make begrudging comments about how long they’ve had to wait to use their guns.

As for the music, it’s fairly good – although the best background music has to be the background music for level five, which also incorporates some of the background music from the original “System Shock” too.

All in all, this is a really fun – and funny – WAD that has lots of fast-paced and challenging combat. Yes, you’ll probably get stuck on at least a couple of the levels, but it’s still worth playing for the inventive new weapons, dramatic gameplay and the comedy.

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

Review: “New World 2” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “ZDoom”)

2017 Artwork New World 2 WAD review

Last year, someone commented on my old “NeoDoom” WAD review and asked me if I’d checked out another WAD that was made by the creator of “NeoDoom” (and “Final NeoDoom) called ‘New World 2‘.

Since I write these reviews quite far in advance, and because I’d been looking for another “Doom II” WAD at the time, I thought that I’d check it out.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD, although it will probably work with GZDoom too – not to mention many other modern source ports. However, this WAD probably won’t work with the original unported “Doom II” or “Final Doom”.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “New World 2”:

Screenshot_Doom_20160904_152902

“New World 2” is a 16-level WAD (not including at least one secret level I found) that includes new textures, sounds and music.

It’s clearly an earlier WAD from the creator of ‘NeoDoom’ since it doesn’t include any new monsters (the closest thing is one “Wolf 3D” enemy from the original “Doom II” you’ll find in a later level) or new weapons. Still, you can certainly see the beginning of something great in this WAD.

The first few levels of “New World 2” fall somewhere between being “streamlined” and being “linear”. They won’t take you that long to get through and this is likely to lull you into a false sense of security. Especially given that many of the early levels have a similar gothic “Quake” techbase kind of look to them:

If I remember rightly, the second level looks a bit different, but there are a lot of "Quake"-like levels near the beginning.

If I remember rightly, the second level looks a bit different, but there are a lot of “Quake”-like levels near the beginning.

However, like with the original “NeoDoom”, don’t judge this WAD based on it’s early levels. Although this WAD doesn’t contain quite the same giant variety of settings as “NeoDoom” (or it’s sequel ) does, there are still some truly epic moments and clever level designs here.

One of the highlights of this WAD has to be level ten, where you have to fight your way through a giant castle!

Seriously, I’m just annoyed that the TV adaptation of “Game Of Thrones” only came out six years after this WAD was made – since the theme tune for this show would make perfect background music for this level. This level will make you feel like an absolute badass and it’s about as far from the earlier levels in this WAD as you can get.

Yes, this level would be even better with the “Game Of Thrones” theme tune playing in the background – regardless of how anachronistic it may be.

Other settings in this WAD include a demonic castle, a dark forest, a slightly less gloomy forest, a school/shopping centre and – to cap things off – a certain well-known field that people still flock to on solstices for unknown reasons.

*Whistles "Stonehenge" by Spinal Tap*

*Whistles “Stonehenge” by Spinal Tap*

Yes, “New World 2” isn’t quite as varied as either of the “NeoDoom” WADs are, but it manages to keep a consistent aesthetic whilst also including different locations. The level design also improves later in the WAD too, becoming more non-linear but without ever really becoming confusing either.

Likewise, this WAD has a fairly decent difficulty curve too. Although the first few levels are fairly easy, the game gradually becomes more challenging as it goes on.

Although experienced players will find the later levels to be mildly to moderately challenging, beginners are likely to get stuck. One of the highlights has to be an epic battle on level 14 (?) which includes both a cyberdemon and an archvile:

Yes! Now THIS is a "Doom II" level!

Yes! Now THIS is a “Doom II” level!

However, many of these truly epic battles are rendered slightly easier than they should be through the liberal placement of high-level healing items (eg: soulspheres, invulnerability etc..).

Even the most challenging level in the game, the secret level (which is populated entirely by archviles), isn’t that difficult for the simple reason that you’ll rarely run out of ammo for your BFG or healing items.

Yes, this is probably the easiest Archvile-only level I've ever played.

Yes, this is probably the easiest Archvile-only level I’ve ever played.

Plus, even this Cyberdemon battle in one of the non-secret levels is slightly on the easy side due to a nearby invulnerability sphere.

Plus, even this Cyberdemon battle in one of the non-secret levels is slightly on the easy side due to a nearby invulnerability sphere.

One cool feature in this WAD is the fact that they keys have been replaced by gothic ankhs, which look really awesome.

Likewise, the sound design in this WAD is spectacular – with clanking portcullises and creaking lifts aplenty. The new textures are also really cool, and you might even recognise one or two familiar things from “Duke Nukem 3D” too 🙂

Yay! Trees :)

Yay! Trees 🙂

Likewise, the new music is- for the most- part really good. It has a bit of a classic “Doom” kind of sound to it and some of the background tracks have clearly been influenced by heavy metal music 🙂 Even so, a couple of the tracks sound a little bit too understated in my opinion.

All in all, lest you think that I’m being harsh about this WAD, I’m not. It’s a great WAD, which is reallly fun to play. However, it’s impossible not to compare it to the even better WADs that it’s creator made afterwards. But, this WAD is still an enjoyable, fast-paced and atmospherically gothic WAD. Just don’t judge it by the first few levels.

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

[OLD VERSION] Mini Review: “Swanky Moppets” (Mod/TC For “Ultimate Doom”/ “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “ZDoom”)

2017 Artwork Swanky Moppets Doom mod review sketch

[Note: I write these articles fairly far in advance of publication. And, between writing and posting this review/first impressions article, an updated version of this mod (now called “Gloom Busters”) has apparently been released. So, this review is more of a historical curio, and it is NOT a review of the mod in it’s current state.]

Well, it’s been a while since I reviewed anything “Doom”-related, so I thought that I’d take a quick look at a very unique mod/TC for all of the classic “Doom” games called “Swanky Moppets“.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this mod. Likewise, at the time of writing, I’ve only had the chance to play this mod for 2-4 hours at most -so, this is more of a “first impressions” article than anything else.

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

Screenshot_Doom_20160821_121604

The besy way to describe “Swanky Moppets” is that it’s kind of like a cross between those “Purple Ronnie” cartoons that were inexplicably popular during the 1990s, “Chex Quest” and the old “Commander Keen” games. It’s also literally the polar opposite of “Brutal Doom“. But, at the same time, it’s also it’s own unique thing as well. And it’s hilarious! Here’s the story for the game:

The "Don't cark it!" part still makes me laugh :)

The “Don’t cark it!” part still makes me laugh 🙂

Seriously, I can’t overstate how funny this mod is. Yes, most of the humour is on the subtle side – but it’s always great to see a modern “Doom” mod that doesn’t try to be gritty or serious. This is a mod that’s about classic 1990s style fun, humour, personality and innovation. It’s totally and utterly silly in the best sense of the word.

For example, you’ll find a disposable camera (anyone remember those?), which you can use to take selfie photos with. Although this is a fun novelty, after taking about 10-20 photos, you’ll find that you’ve somehow broken the space-time continuum and have frozen time for about 30 seconds or so (possibly more). You’ll also have goth-vision too!

My whole life is a darkroom... one, big, dark room.

My whole life is a darkroom… one, big, dark room.

Plus, one of the other weapons is a badass motorbike with flames painted on it! Yes! Just yes!

Born to be wild!

Born to be wild!

Likewise, all of the well-animated weapons in this mod have a really cartoonish look to them and they’ll often cause large, sparkly explosions when fired. Seriously, this is one of those things that has to be seen to be believed – but the whole screen will often literally be filled with sparkles during firefights:

Yay! Remember when weapons in computer games used to be this joyous and whimsical? Yes, I miss those days too!

Yay! Remember when weapons in computer games used to be this joyous and whimsical? Yes, I miss those days too!

Another cool thing about this mod is the sheer number of weapons on offer – I’ve played it for a couple of hours and I still haven’t seen all of them. Yes, many of them are various types of cartoonish laser guns, but they also often include alternative fire modes too – which is a really cool touch.

However, the visual changes included in this mod are something of a mixed bag. Although the replacements for many of the in-game objects are quirky, funny and interesting – the wall textures can sometimes include clashing colours and/or look slightly too bright.

I guess that this is part of the “look” of the mod, but I’d have preferred it if the mod had stuck to one or two basic colour palettes and had included a balanced mixture of light and dark wall textures in order to give the levels more visual contrast. Still, the visual effects that appear when using certain power-ups make up for this:

Yes, WHY didn't the original "Doom II" look more like this?

Yes, WHY didn’t the original “Doom II” look more like this?

Yes, it might make your eyes bleed if you look at it too long. But, palm trees, sparkles and 1980s colours!!!!!!!!!!! :)

Yes, it might make your eyes bleed if you look at it too long. But, palm trees, sparkles and 1980s colours!!!!!!!!!!! 🙂

Plus, if you play “Ultimate Doom” with this mod, then you’ll be treated to a really cool animated screen when you finish each level (in the first episode at least, I haven’t looked at the others with this mod).

Although “Doom II” and “Final Doom” just display a static image at the end of each level, it’s still really cool to see an animated completion screen in “Doom”. Seriously, I don’t think that I’ve seen one of these before!

The enemy design in this mod is, in a word, superb! All of the other characters have a distinctive, cartoonish aesthetic – and you’ll actually feel kind of bad about shooting at the adorable cast of characters and creatures that you’ll encounter.

This mod is wonderfully cartoonish.

This mod is wonderfully cartoonish.

Still, in classic “Commander Keen” fashion – the other characters don’t actually die when you shoot them, they just kind of sit down and grin at you. The creatures, on the other hand, explode into a delightful shower of sparkles.

Awww... Aren't they adorable? Now, let's turn them into sparkles!

Awww… Aren’t they adorable? Now, let’s turn them into sparkles!

As for the music and sound design, it’s surprisingly good. A lot of the music seems to consist of cool remixes of the classic “Doom” music and they can actually sound surprisingly dramatic.

As for the sound design, this mod is filled with precisely the kind of “Commander Keen”-style bleeping and zapping sounds that you would expect.

Yes, this sounds pretty much EXACTLY like you'd expect it to sound.

Yes, this sounds pretty much EXACTLY like you’d expect it to sound.

All in all, this mod is fun, unique and very 1990s in the best possible way. It hearkens back to a time when games were joyously silly and even tried to make the player laugh sometimes. It reminds me of a time when games each had their own unique “personality” and aesthetic.

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

Review: “Ancient Aliens” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “ZDoom”)

2017 Artwork Ancient Aliens WAD review

It’s been quite a while since I last had a real “wow!” moment when playing a “Doom II” WAD (seriously, the last time was probably when I played “Aeons Of Death” or “Reelism Gold“)

When looking on Google for an ancient Egypt-themed WAD, I happened to find something much cooler. I am, of course, talking about a WAD from July 2016 called “Ancient Aliens” by Skillsaw (who also made an excellent WAD called “Lunatic” and one called “Valiant).

I write these reviews quite a few months in advance, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this WAD already has a Cacoward by the time this review goes out! In fact, it deserves at least two of them! [EDIT: It won a Cacoward in late 2016, but I still think that it should have got two of them]

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD. Although I’m guessing that it might work with GZDoom too.

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

Screenshot_Doom_20160728_002844

“Ancient Aliens” is a 32-level megawad for “Doom II”/”Final Doom” that contains new monsters, textures and music.

The WAD is split into three selectable episodes (“One Last Vision Quest”, “Applied Einstein” and “You’re The Alien Now”) and it actually sort of has a story to it. The story is basically that the Doomguy is investigating some kind of alien conspiracy in the Southern US/Central America.

Although the story becomes slightly more interesting at the end of the WAD, it’s basically just an excuse to blend cheesy 80s sci-fi with lots of cool Aztec/Maya/ Ancient Egypt etc..- style locations. It’s like Iron Maiden’s latest album, but with added “Doom II” 🙂 And, wow!

The first thing that I will say about this WAD is that it looks spectacular (so spectacular, in fact, I used it as an example of good visual design in another article):

Wow, this is ART :)

Wow, this is ART 🙂

 And the cyberpunk genre appears too :) With a purple "Blade Runner" style pyramid, no less! I'm in love with this WAD :)

And the cyberpunk genre appears too 🙂 With a purple “Blade Runner” style pyramid, no less! I’m in love with this WAD 🙂

But, of course, excellent visual design is nothing without great gameplay. Thankfully, “Ancient Aliens” doesn’t disappoint here either.

Even though this WAD takes a very old-school approach to some of the gameplay mechanics (eg: the episodic structure, the fact that you can’t jump etc..), the level design and gameplay is modern-style “Doom II” at it’s finest!

Yay! Gameplay :)

Yay! Gameplay 🙂

Not only are almost all of the levels the kind of complex, sprawling non-linear things that you would expect from a real FPS game, but they are also challenging strategy-based levels for experienced players.

What I mean by this is that, especially in the later levels, you’ll need to have an instinctive understanding of the “rules” of “Doom II” if you want to win.

Yes, if you try to play this like a generic modern "AAA" FPS game, you'll fail VERY quickly. LOL!!!

Yes, if you try to play this like a generic modern “AAA” FPS game, you’ll fail VERY quickly. LOL!!!

Personally, I absolutely love these kinds of levels. They are levels where you can’t just mindlessly fight all of the monsters, because there are too many. They are levels where you’ll have to use planning, determination and trial-and-error to get out of numerous sticky situations.

They are levels where even the combat itself is more of a puzzle than a simple case of mindless shooting. They are levels where running away is often a better tactic than standing and fighting. They are levels that have a hilariously diabolical sense of humour when it comes to monster placement.

This is a fairly mild example, although I certainly chuckled when I turned this corner and found myself face to face with a literal battalion of zombies.

This is a fairly mild example, although I certainly chuckled when I turned this corner and found myself face to face with a literal battalion of zombies.

But, if you’re a new or inexperienced player, then you probably shouldn’t play this WAD. Although the levels are fair and expertly balanced, they will most likely seem extremely “unfair” if you don’t know what you’re doing.

If this fight looks like it might be "unfair", then you need more "Doom" practice!

If this fight looks like it might be “unfair”, then you need more “Doom” practice!

But, although the levels are non-linear, they are still filled with too many awesome set-pieces and clever design tricks to mention. For example, one of the levels in the third episode takes place in a floating city of some kind that has to be navigated through a series of floating teleporters.

I'm guessing that it's inspired by "Bioshock Infinite" (I haven't actually played that game though). But, it's in the "Doom" Engine :)

I’m guessing that it’s inspired by “Bioshock Infinite” (I haven’t actually played that game though). But, it’s in the “Doom” Engine 🙂

This level also includes cool things like climbing a rope (sort of), birds that fly across the sky etc… all on an updated version of game engine that originally came from 1993!

Then there’s the ending. I won’t spoil any of it (although I really want to!), but it’s certainly one of the coolest, quirkiest, funniest and most well-designed endings that I’ve seen in a “Doom II” WAD.

The only problem I had with the level design was that my computer wasn’t quite fast enough to run level 23 at a decent speed.

Since this WAD relies on split-second reflexes and ultra-fast strategy, even the slightest slowdown can render a level unplayable. So, unfortunately, I had to skip this level using cheats. But, if you’ve got a fast computer, then it really is a level of genuinely epic proportions.

Yeah, unfortunately, this level was too awesome for my computer to handle.

Yeah, unfortunately, this level was too awesome for my computer to handle.

The gameplay is also kept fresh by the addition of two new recurring monsters. Although both of these monsters have a low amount of health, they have surprisingly powerful attacks that can really catch you off-guard.

One of these monsters is a semi-invisible alien soldier with a powerful plasma attack. The other is a beefed-up version of the “lost soul”, who can fire rockets at you and will often explode dangerously either upon death or upon touching you.

Some of the “ordinary” monsters have also received a bit of a makeover too. Both the arachnatron and the mancubus now have much creepier-looking textures, even if they are still pretty much the same monsters as usual. The arachnatron’s plasma projectiles are also pink – which fits in really well with the colour palette of many of the levels.

Unfortunately, your own plasma rifle doesn't fire these modified projectiles though :(

Unfortunately, your own plasma rifle doesn’t fire these modified projectiles though 😦

As for the music, it’s reasonably good. Most of the time, the music really fits in well with the style of each level (eg: the “Ancient Egypt” level in episode 3 features Ancient Egypt-style music etc..), although I sometimes thought that the music was a little bit too upbeat and cheerful.

What the earlier levels of this WAD really need is a MIDI version of the title track from Iron Maiden’s “The Book Of Souls” album. Then again, this is the smallest of small complaints.

All in all, this WAD is a masterpiece! If someone had designed a “Doom II” WAD specifically for me, it would look a lot like this one. As well as astonishingly good visual design, the gameplay is exactly the kind of challenging, fast-paced strategic thing that experienced “Doom” players will love.

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

How To Recognise And Use Cool-Looking Colour Palettes In Your Art

2017 Artwork Recongnising and using colour palettes

Although this is an article about making art, I’m going to have to start by talking about computer games for a while. As usual, there’s a good reason for this that I hope becomes obvious later.

Even though I’m not sure when or if I’ll review it [Edit: The review will appear on the 12th March], I started playing an absolutely astonishing set of modern fan-made levels for “Doom II” the night before I originally wrote this article.

The thing that really astonished me about the levels near the beginning of the game (apart from the really cool blend of 1980s sci-fi and Aztec/Maya/Ancient Egypt – style architecture in the first episode) were the absolutely amazing colour palettes used in each level. Seriously, just look at these screenshots:

This actually uses two or three complimentary colour schemes within the same image!

This actually uses two or three complimentary colour schemes within the same image!

 This slightly surreal part of episode one uses a pink, blue, purple and black colour scheme.

This slightly surreal part of episode one uses a pink, blue, purple and black colour scheme.

So, if you see a cool-looking colour palette – how can you learn from it and come up with similar cool-looking palettes in your own art?

The first thing you need to do is to understand how good colour combinations work. Look at this traditional red/yellow/blue colour wheel from Wikipedia:

 Image from Wikipedia. Created by Ray Trygstad and modified by stib. Image released under a CC-BY-SA 3.0 licence

Image from Wikipedia. Created by Ray Trygstad and modified by stib. Image released under a CC-BY-SA 3.0 licence

[Note: Colours displayed on computer and TV screens (rather than in traditional paintings etc..) use a slightly different colour wheel, due to the fact that they’re created using a blend of red, green and blue].

Colours that are directly opposite each other on the wheel will go together well (if you draw a line across the wheel, then the two colours at the ends of the line will go together).

Likewise, if you draw an equilateral triangle over the colour wheel, then the colours at the three points of the triangle will also go well with each other. These combinations are called “complimentary colours”. Likewise, black and white will usually go well with pretty much any other colour.

You will probably also notice that these combinations also contain “warm” and “cool” colours (eg: colours that look “warm”, like orange, red etc.. and colours that look “cold” like green, blue etc..). A good colour scheme will contain at least one of each of these colour types.

Once you’ve familiarised yourself with these things, then spotting and analysing any interesting colour palettes that you see will become a lot easier. The thing to remember is that, if a distinctive colour palette looks fairly complex, then this is usually because it contains several different pairs of complimentary colours. So, break the image down into it’s basic colour pairs.

For example, here’s another screenshot from the set of “Doom II” levels that I mentioned earlier:

This is another screenshot from "Ancient Aliens".

This is another screenshot from “Ancient Aliens”.

If you look at it carefully, you can see that it uses two or three similar complimentary colour schemes. Or, rather, three variations on the same colour scheme.

The walls contain a light brown/dark purple colour scheme (a variation on the classic yellow/purple complimentary colour pair). The torches and the walls next to them contain a purple/green colour scheme (again, another variation on purple/yellow). The sky above contains an orange and pink colour scheme ( yet another variation on yellow/purple).

So, yes, this is how you recognise interesting colour palettes, and how you can learn how to use colour palettes in interesting ways in your own art.

————

Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Mini Reivew: “Maximum Stafe” (WAD for “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “ZDoom” etc..)

2017 Artwork Maximum stafe WAD review

Well, although I’d planned to review some more indie and/or retro games this month, this hasn’t really happened for a number of reasons. This is mostly due to a combination of being too busy with making webcomics and because I’m either not currently in the mood for more slow-paced adventure games and/or because I didn’t really get on well with the one retro FPS game (“System Shock 2”) that I’d planned to review for long enough to really gather enough material for a review.

So, instead, here’s a quick review of a short “Doom II”/”Final Doom” level called “Maximum Stafe“. I played this level using the “ZDoom” source port, although it will probably work with pretty much any source port.

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

Screenshot_Doom_20160720_010754

“Maximum Stafe” is a short, fast level that can be completed in less than fifteen minutes. Since I was slightly tired when I played it, I was glad of the fact that the difficulty level of “Maximum Stafe” (when played on ‘Hurt Me Plenty’) was on the easier side of challenging.

However, that’s not to say that this level is insultingly easy or anything like that. Most of the level takes place in claustrophobic areas, where you are often surrounded by low-mid level monsters. So, there’s still an emphasis on fast and strategic combat, although the difficulty level is reduced somewhat by the types of monsters that you’ll be facing.

 There are lots of monsters, but they're often fairly easy ones. I mean, there isn't even so much as a solitary arch-vile to be found anywhere?!

There are lots of monsters, but they’re often fairly easy ones. I mean, there isn’t even so much as a solitary arch-vile to be found anywhere?!

In terms of the level design itself, it’s certainly on the linear side of things. Although there are a few secrets, set pieces and interesting side areas to explore – the level itself pretty much follows a single linear path.

However, this is disguised somewhat by the twisting nature of the path and the fact that it is often hidden within slightly larger or more complex areas (eg: there’s a large crate-filled area – which you have to cross, press a button and then find a transporter to get back to the other side in order to progress). This helps to avoid the “corridor simulator” thing that can be a problem in more linear levels, whilst also allowing the level to maintain an extremely fast pace.

Plus, one of the set pieces in this level is really cool too. Near the end of the level, you find a BFG just before stepping through a teleporter. Although this is usually a sign that an epic battle with a cyberdemon awaits you, this isn’t exactly the case here:

 Looks can be deceiving...

Looks can be deceiving…

Instead, you are transported into a room where, if you want to, you can walk or jump straight into the level exit. However, there’s also a closed door at the end of the room. If you open it, you can enjoy one of the coolest and funniest set pieces I’ve seen in a “Doom II” level for a while.

 Hmmm... I wonder what happens if I fire the BFG?

Hmmm… I wonder what happens if I fire the BFG?

THIS!!!

THIS!!!

All in all “Maximum Stafe” is a fun little WAD. Yes, it’s linear and yes it can be completed in less than fifteen minutes. But, it’s still incredibly good fun. Plus, it’s worth playing just for the BFG-related mayhem near the end of the level.

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