Mini Review : “Epic 2” (WAD for “Doom II”/”Final Doom”/ “GZ Doom”)

2015 Artwork Epic 2 WAD review sketch

[Note: This “first impressions”/mini review article was originally meant to be posted here in March, but I ended up rescheduling it for various reasons. Sorry about the delay.]

Well, after seeing some gameplay footage from this WAD in a Youtube video, I thought that I’d take a look at a 32-level “Doom II” WAD from 2010 called “Epic 2“.

Before I go any further, I should probably point out that I used the “GZ Doom” source port whilst playing this WAD. Likewise, at the original time of writing this review, I was somewhere between halfway and two-thirds of the way through this WAD – so, this review only reflects my impressions of the game up to that point. Unfortunately, at the time, I ended up moving on to another WAD before I quite had a chance to finish “Epic 2” if I remember rightly.

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

Screenshot_Doom_20150728_151955

One of the first things I will say about this WAD is that the settings in it are really interesting. From what I’ve played so far, there are levels set in both ancient Egypt and on a mysterious alien spacecraft of some kind.

As someone who is both a sci-fi fan and a fan of ancient Egypt, it’s really cool to see both of these things together in the same WAD. Seriously, it’s a little bit like “Stargate SG-1”.

Although this WAD gets off to a bit of a slow start, with the first four levels mostly taking place in a series of slightly gloomy ancient Egyptian crypts, temples, catacombs and tunnels, with the occasional bright outdoor area to break up the monotony – the fifth level is more than a little bit reminiscent of the first “Serious Sam” game in terms of both settings and gameplay.

Yay! It's like a mid-1990s version of "Serious Sam" :)

Yay! It’s like a mid-1990s version of “Serious Sam” 🙂

The sci-fi levels are surprisingly creepy and innovative too, with a slight “Duke Nukem 3D” feel to them. Also, the thirteenth level of this WAD is absolutely outstanding.

Basically, you’re stuck in a rather claustrophobic series of corridors, with relatively little ammo and lots of arch-viles. In addition to this, the background music in this level is a wonderfully creepy track that sounds a lot like something from “American McGee’s Alice“. I don’t think that you can get more awesome than this.

Even though this level reminded me quite a bit of one spectacular level in a WAD I played quite a while ago called “Equinox“, it’s still a really cool (and creepy) level.

 Seriously, there should be more of these levels..

Seriously, there should be more of these levels..

In terms of difficulty, this WAD is for experienced “Doom” players only. If you like your WADs to be fiendishly challenging, then you’ll love “Epic 2”.

Although each level I’ve played contains a large number of monsters, proper “slaughtermap”-style areas (with far more monsters than you can actually fight) are fairly rare in this WAD.

Even so, you’re still going to have to use a lot of tactics and strategies if you want to get through this WAD. This WAD also takes a bit of a traditionalist approach to the gameplay – so, jumping is disabled by default.

Plus, quite fittingly for a WAD that is set in Ancient Egypt, there are a surprising number of puzzles in “Epic 2”. Whilst most of them are the usual switch-based and key-based puzzles, expect to spend a fair amount of time searching for hidden areas (you’ll need to find some of them in order to progress through a couple of the levels) and even solving the occasional combination puzzle:

 Interestingly, this ISN'T the combination you have to use later in the level. You have to do something else to find the actual combination.

Interestingly, this ISN’T the combination you have to use later in the level. You have to do something else to find the actual combination.

Visually, this WAD is surprisingly beautiful and there are a lot of new textures here. Even the slightly “gloomy” early levels still contain all sorts of wonderfully cool ancient Egypt-themed textures:

Like this wondefully macabre room.

Like this wondefully macabre room.

And there's also molten lava in one of the other early levels too.

And there’s also molten lava in one of the other early levels too.

...And this cool teleporter in the last "Ancient Egypt" level.

…And this cool teleporter in the last “Ancient Egypt” level.

Although most of the weapons in this WAD are just the standard “Doom II” weapons, the pistol ammunition looks like revolver ammunition for some reason and the rocket launcher now looks like a vaguely steampunk-esque cannon of some kind:

Huzzah! Fire the cannon!

Huzzah! Fire the cannon!

As for the monsters, a few of them (the imps, the chaingun zombies and the pain elementals) have slightly different textures. However, this WAD does contain a new monster.

During the spaceship levels, you’ll encounter aliens that can appear and disappear at will. These aliens also shout at you (I think they say “there he is” or “there she is” or something like that) when they see you too.

Although these new monsters are technically a replacement for the “Wolfenstein” enemies from the secret level (so, this WAD might not work if you have the German version of “Doom II” or the modern censored version), they’re basically a new monster in all but name:

Yay! Innovation!

Yay! Innovation!

All in all, from what I’ve played so far, I really like this WAD. It’s enjoyably challenging and surprisingly atmospheric. Yes, the really impressive levels don’t appear until a little way into the WAD but it’s certainly a fairly solid “Doom II” WAD and it’s worth checking out.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, I’d give it a four.

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

2015 Artwork Alive WAD review sketch

Well, since I haven’t reviewed anything “Doom”-related for ages, I thought that I’d take a quick look at a single-level WAD for “Doom II” and/or “Final Doom” called “Alive” today.

As usual, I used the “GZ Doom” source port whilst playing this WAD, but it will almost certainly work with any other modern “Doom” engine source port.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Alive”:

Screenshot_Doom_20150723_070721

As I mentioned earlier “Alive” is a single-level WAD, and a fairly short one at that.

Although this WAD mostly uses the standard “Doom II” textures, one of the first things you will notice is that there are a couple of new textures here:

Like this cool psychedelic portal that is directly behind you at the start of the level.

Like this cool psychedelic portal that is directly behind you at the start of the level.

Another thing you’ll notice when you start this level is the music. It begins as a piece of ominously atmospheric gothic piano music, before becoming something slightly more synth-based.

This is probably one of the most atmospheric pieces of background music that I’ve heard in a “Doom” WAD and it’s worth playing this level just for the music alone.

As for the level itself, after you’ve explored the initial area, you move on to a medium-sized courtyard-like area – which is where most of the level takes place.

You'll be spending most of your time here.

Yes, you’ll be spending most of your time here.

In this area, you fight a moderate number of low and mid-level monsters, solve a simple switch puzzle, visit a monster-filled chapel and find a blue key. That’s it. The whole level can be completed in a relatively short amount of time if you’re an experienced “Doom” player.

The chapel is guarded by a spider demon, who will probably end up consuming at least half of your shotgun ammo.

The chapel is guarded by a spider demon, who will probably end up consuming at least half of your shotgun ammo.

However, despite it’s short length, this level is still surprisingly good fun. Even though the level doesn’t really contain gigantic quantities of monsters, it’s one of those challenging levels where you will have to rely on tactics and strategy.

For example, in this level, shotgun ammo is relatively scarce – so you’ll be spending quite a while aiming for the shotgun zombies (to get more ammo) whilst mancubi, imps and revenants fire projectiles at you. You’ll probably also want to make a run for the few ammo pickups scattered around the courtyard.

Of course, you might also accidentally find the secret plasma rifle hidden in this level. Although, don't expect to find too much extra ammo for it!

Of course, you might also accidentally find the secret plasma rifle hidden in this level. Although, don’t expect to find too much extra ammo for it!

Likewise, when you visit the monster-filled chapel later in the level, you’ll probably only have a relatively small amount of health and ammo left. So, you’ll actually have to use your brain if you want to get through this part of the level. The best tactic I found was to open the chapel doors and then hide around a nearby corner and fight the monsters one by one as they left the chapel.

All in all, what this level lacks in quantity, it more than makes up for in quality. Yes, it’ll probably take you less than half an hour to complete, but it’s atmospheric, it’s enjoyably challenging and the background music is absolutely amazing.

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

Review: “Beta Labs” (WAD For “Ultimate Doom”/”GZ Doom”)

2015 Artwork Doom beta labs review sketch

Well, I thought that I’d check out another “Doom” WAD for today and I eventually ended up stumbling across a WAD for the original “Doom” (or, rather the “Ultimate Doom” version of the original “Doom”) called “Beta Labs“.

Before I go any further, I should probably point out that I used the “GZ Doom” source port whilst playing this WAD. Also, for reasons I’ll explain later, I’ve only played about the first two-thirds of this WAD at the time of writing. So, this review will only reflect my impressions so far.

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

Yes, it even comes with an authentic anti-leak warning.

Yes, it even comes with an authentic anti-leak warning.

As the title suggests, “Beta Labs” is an episode one replacement for “Ultimate Doom” that is heavily inspired by the pre-release beta version of the original “Doom”.

Having done a small amount of research into this version of “Doom” a while back, there were some quite significant differences between the beta and the final version of “Doom”. So, I was interested to see if this WAD would be a good replica of the beta. But, first, let’s take a look at the gameplay and level design.

For the most part, “Beta Labs” is just an old-school “Doom” WAD. Although there are a few new textures here, it looks a lot like a series of “standard” techbase maps. However, like the original plan for “Doom”, these levels each follow on directly from each other and actually look like a functional military base of some kind:

Thankfully, this kind of "realistic" level design wouldn't return until "Doom 3" in 2004.

Thankfully, this kind of “realistic” level design wouldn’t return until “Doom 3” in 2004.

Plus, like in the first episode of the original “Doom”, most of the monsters in “Beta Labs” are fairly low-level. In fact, in the first six levels of this WAD, I’ve only seen about three cacodemons:

A wild Cacodemon appeared!

A wild Cacodemon appeared!

However, despite this, “Beta Labs” can be a surprisingly challenging WAD. The first level begins by starving you of ammo slightly and throwing a large (by 1993 standards, at least) quantity of monsters at you.

In order to beat the very first level, you’re probably going to have to use tactics and strategy more than you might expect (eg: a good trick is to lurge groups of monsters down a corridor and then stand next to the entrance and melee them as they walk through the door one by one).

Yes, back in the old days, THIS apparently counted as a dangerously large number of monsters. Oh, how times have changed...

Yes, back in the old days, THIS apparently counted as a dangerously large number of monsters. Oh, how times have changed…

Likewise, the levels in this WAD include a lot of cramped corridors and small rooms, which can make the combat a lot more challenging than it would be in most modern-style “Doom” WADs. So, don’t be fooled by the fact that this WAD only really contains low-level monsters.

In addition to this, several of the later levels rely on puzzle-based level design very heavily. Given the fact that many of the areas look fairly similar and it isn’t always immediately obvious what each switch does, expect to get confused and spend a long time wandering around aimlessly.

In fact, after about an hour of aimless wandering, I eventually had to resort to using cheat codes in order to get past one of the later parts of level five. And, after getting stuck on part of level six, I eventually ended up abandoning this WAD out of sheer frustration.

Yes, I could only make it as far as this level before I ended up ragequitting.

Yes, I could only make it as far as this level before I ended up ragequitting.

However, saying this, some of these puzzles are kind of cool though. In one part of level five, you’ll end up being trapped in a small room after finding the red key. In order to get out of this room, you need to press a tiny switch that is located on a pillar in the corner of the room. Luckily, this switch shows up on the map screen – but I imagine that this would have been extremely frustrating if it hadn’t.

As for the graphical changes in “Beta Labs”, there are quite a few here and they really help to make this WAD look a lot more like an earlier version of “Doom”.

One of the first things you will probably notice is that, instead of a pistol, the Doomguy carries the same rifle that the basic “zombie” enemies carry. This makes a lot more sense in the context of the game than the basic pistol does and it also looks a lot cooler too. Seriously, why wasn’t this in the original “Doom”?

Yes, the Doomguy is actually carrying standard UAC military weponry in this WAD.

Yes, the Doomguy is actually carrying standard UAC military weponry in this WAD.

Likewise, instead of your fists, your melee weapon is now a bayonet that is attached to the end of the rifle. I don’t know if this is more powerful than your fists are, but it certainly feels a lot more powerful when you use it.

It kind of looks a bit like a pitchfork too. Which fits in PERFECTLY with the hellish atmosphere of the game.

It kind of looks a bit like a pitchfork too. Which fits in PERFECTLY with the hellish atmosphere of the game.

Apart from some minor changes to the shotgun sprite, the only other major change to the weapons I’ve seen is the fact that the chaingun has been replaced with an assault rifle. This looks a lot cooler than the chaingun does and, again, it makes a lot more sense in the context of the game too.

Likewise, the sprites for the armour and health pickups are slightly different too:

Hmmm...The armour now includes protective boots but you somehow STILL take damage if you walk across pools of slime.

Hmmm…The armour now includes protective boots but you somehow STILL take damage if you walk across pools of slime.

Another major change is the fact that, like in the original plans for “Doom”, “Beta Labs” actually contains bonus items.

These bonus items don’t actually do anything, but you can pick up “skull chests” and “dark sceptres” in this WAD. Even though these items are completely useless, they make quite a few areas of the game look a lot cooler just by sheer virtue of being there.

The dark sceptre is to the left of the pillar and the skull chest is to the right of the pillar.

The dark sceptre is to the left of the pillar and the skull chest is to the right of the pillar.

Finally, there have been a couple of small changes to the monsters too. The fireballs that the imps shoot at you look a lot more pixellated and the “lost soul” monsters look way cooler than they did in the final game. Although these changes are fairly subtle, they’re still really cool.

Woo hoo! Somehow, these monsters are more awesome in the beta than they are in the final game.

Woo hoo! Somehow, these monsters are more awesome in the beta than they are in the final game.

All in all, this is an interesting little WAD. If you want to see what “Doom” could have looked like, then it might be worth taking a look at “Beta Labs”. However, the fiendishly difficult puzzles and the lack of visual variety in the level design mean that this WAD isn’t really as enjoyable as it could have been.

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

Review: “Frozen Time” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “GZ Doom”)

2015 Artwork Frozen Time WAD review sketch

Well, I was in the mood for playing another “Doom II” WAD and I thought that I’d check out a Cacoward-winning WAD called “Frozen Time“.

Before I go any further, I should probably point out that I used the “GZ Doom” source port when playing this WAD, although the Doomworld page for this WAD also lists a couple of other source ports that this WAD will work with.

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

Screenshot_Doom_20150628_145334

“Frozen Time” is a single-level WAD that is set around a giant wintery castle in the middle of nowhere.

Interestingly, this level starts off suspiciously quietly and you don’t even so much as see a monster until you’ve solved a puzzle involving a hidden switch (which shouldn’t be too difficult to find). Thankfully, this part of the level is fairly short and this helps to prevent it from becoming annoying.

Plus, there's a really cool building too.

Plus, there’s a really cool building too.

Although there are some indoor areas after this part of the level, the bulk of the level takes place on the roof of a gigantic castle – which looks absolutely spectacular:

Yes, if you started whistling the "Game Of Thrones" theme right now, you aren't the only one...

Yes, if you started whistling the “Game Of Thrones” theme right now, you aren’t the only one…

However, although the level design in this WAD looks really cool, there are at least a couple of flaws with this level. For the most part, this is a fairly well-designed “Doom” level that is filled with challenging battles and beautiful scenery. However, some of the puzzles in this level are absolutely fiendish.

In other words, expect to have an absolute blast when you play through the castle area for the first time and then expect to spend at least an hour wandering around aimlessly, trying to work out what you’re supposed to do next.

There’s one area where you’re supposed to rocket jump onto a platform in order to pick up a key. Even though parts of this puzzle can be skipped by jumping over a wall in another part of the level, the game doesn’t seem to let you progress until you solve the puzzle properly and press certain key-activated switches.

The switch you need to use this key on also seems to work normally when you don’t have the key ( it doesn’t do anything after you press it, but it also doesn’t display a “you need the yellow key” message), so expect to be confused by this.

Not only that, there’s also another area where, in order to progress to the end of the level, you have to shoot a tiny switch that is hidden inside a large pillar. So, yes, this level can get more than a little bit frustrating at times:

If you don't know what rocket jumping is, or how to do it - then you probably shouldn't play this WAD.

If you don’t know what rocket jumping is, or how to do it – then you probably shouldn’t play this WAD.

Yes, you need to find this tiny switch (which only seems to be accessible once you've used the yellow key)  in order to complete the level - good luck....

Yes, you need to find this tiny switch (which only seems to be accessible once you’ve used the yellow key) in order to complete the level – good luck….

Frustrating puzzles aside, this level is enjoyably challenging and, although it never quite turns into a slaughtermap, expect lots of challenging combat when you play “Frozen Time” – culminating in an epic duel with two cyberdemons in a vaguely “American McGee’s Alice” – themed area:

Curiouser and Curiouser....

Curiouser and Curiouser….

Even though this WAD doesn’t contain any new weapons, some of the weapons have slightly different sounds. The shotgun makes a slightly more mechanical noise when you pump it between shots and the rocket launcher has a much deeper and more resonant sound when you fire it. Both of these sound changes are really cool, although the new chaingun sounds make the gun sound slightly quieter and less powerful than it should sound.

As for the monsters – although this WAD only contains the standard “Doom II” monsters, some of them use new textures. The coolest of these is probably the cacodemon – who now looks suitably wintery:

And a merry Christmas to you too :)

And a merry Christmas to you too 🙂

Most of the other new monster textures are fairly standard though – the imps look like the “dark imp” monsters that have turned up in countless other “Doom” WADs (although they are basically just ordinary imps, with new textures) and both the pinky demons and hell knights look paler than usual. Interestingly, the Mancubi are now a dark shade of grey:

Ok, this looks kind of weird.

Ok, this looks kind of weird.

Hmmm... He probably should have worn a coat or something.

Hmmm… He probably should have worn a coat or something.

All in all, “Frozen Time” is a beautiful and atmospheric WAD, with enjoyably challenging combat. However, it is let down very slightly by the frustrating puzzle design that will probably leave you completely stuck for about an hour or so.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it’d probably just about get a four.

Mini Review: ” Genesis Of Descent” (WAD for “Doom”/”Doom II”/”Final Doom”/ “GZ Doom”)

2015 Artwork Genesis of Descent WAD review sketch

Well, I thought that I’d take a quick look at another “Doom” WAD today and I ended up finding one called “Genesis Of Descent“. Since this WAD won a Cacoward in 2007, it seemed like it was worth checking out.

Before I begin, I should probably point out that I played this WAD using the “GZ Doom” source port, although it will probably work with other modern source ports.

In addition to this, I’ve only had time to play about the first third of this WAD at the time of writing this review – so this will be a “first impressions” article, rather than a full review.

Anyway, let’s take a quick look at “Genesis Of Descent”:

Screenshot_Doom_20150620_092216

“Genesis Of Descent” is a WAD that contains three large levels for the original “Doom”. It seems to be something of a reimagining of the original game, since the first level begins with a short intro movie showing the Doomguy arriving at a UAC base on Phobos.

Well, it's one of the moons of Mars. So, it technically counts as a moon base :)

Well, it’s one of the moons of Mars. So, it technically counts as a moon base 🙂

At first, things are quiet… too quiet. Of course, it isn’t long before you discover that the base has been infested by the forces of hell and it is up to you to stop them.

But, although the beginning of this WAD is meant to be fairly suspenseful, it also gets a little bit boring at times too.

Call me old-fashioned, but I like my “Doom” WADs to start off with some action (or lots of fascinating new stuff), rather than with wandering around a (mostly) empty techbase for two minutes:

Yes, the skybox looks cool, but WHERE are the monsters? Seriously, there should be monsters by now!

Yes, the skybox looks cool, but WHERE are the monsters? Seriously, there should be monsters by now!

On the other hand, there's a horizontally-opening door here. Yes, you heard me correctly. I don't know how they did it, but there's a horizontally-opening door in this "Doom" level!

On the other hand, there’s a horizontally-opening door here. Yes, you heard me correctly. I don’t know how they did it, but there’s a horizontally-opening door in this “Doom” level!

Thankfully, you don't have to wait TOO long for the monsters to appear, but this is supposed to be a "Doom 1" level, NOT a "Doom 3" level...

Thankfully, you don’t have to wait TOO long for the monsters to appear, but this is supposed to be a “Doom 1” level, NOT a “Doom 3” level…

Another major change with this WAD is that the gameplay is more strategy-based than action-based.

What this means is that both ammo and health are often (but not always) in short supply. It also means that you’ll have to have an intimate understanding of the mechanics of the “Doom” engine and use every sneaky trick in the book in order to get through the first level. In other words, this really isn’t a WAD for beginners.

 *Gasp* A horde of imps! And I only have three shotgun shells and nine health points! What do I do?

*Gasp* A horde of imps! And I only have three shotgun shells and nine health points! What do I do?

 Simple. Lure them to a small ledge and then use the chainsaw. They can't climb down the ledge and they can't shoot you if you're standing directly below them

Simple. Lure them to a small ledge and then use the chainsaw. They can’t climb down the ledge and they can’t shoot you if you’re standing directly below them

Whilst I love WADs that actually make you use your brain, I slightly prefer these WADs to be fast-paced and action-packed.

In other words, using tactics and strategy to get past a horde of 200+ plus monsters is brilliantly fun, but facing one or two mid or low level monsters with just one health point and a few bullets can sometimes be more nerve-wracking than enjoyable.

The former makes you feel like a badass, the latter makes you feel like a terrible player (since you’ll keep getting killed by monsters who don’t usually pose a gigantic threat in most “Doom” WADs).

Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that this seems to be a puzzle-based WAD – but I wish that they hadn’t done this through starving you of health and ammo. Yes, it makes the gameplay a lot more “suspenseful” and, if you like slow and suspenseful FPS games, then this will be right up your alley, but it also means that the first level of this WAD is a little bit short on action sometimes. Still, as I said earlier, this is only a first impressions article, so I really can’t comment on the rest of the WAD.

Although this WAD is only three levels long, the first level is absolutely gigantic. Seriously, it took me over an hour to complete it and it’s basically at least the size of two “regular” levels. Although the level can get a little bit confusing at times, as long as you memorise where a few important locations are – you should be fine.

Basically, just remember where anything that requires a keycard is.

Basically, just remember where anything that requires a keycard is.

Visually speaking, this WAD is pretty cool. Although it mostly uses the “standard” textures, there are a few new things here (like a really cool skybox, some cool mist effects and a couple of neat set pieces).

The first level also includes a couple of really neat things, like giant spinning fans on the floor that obliterate anything that steps on them (and, yes, you can lure monsters into them. In fact, you’ll probably need to do this to get past two Barons Of Hell at one point).

If you walk through the door at the end of this corridor, it won't open again until you've fought all of the monsters inside. So, stand in the doorway and get their attention before luring them down the corridor to the giant fan of death in one of the nearby rooms.

If you walk through the door at the end of this corridor, it won’t open again until you’ve fought all of the monsters inside. So, stand in the doorway and get their attention before luring them down the corridor to the giant fan of death in one of the nearby rooms.

Although I haven’t found any new weapons in the first level of this WAD, I did find a new enemy. About two-thirds of the way through the first level, you’ll encounter a group of space marines who have orders to kill anyone they see. This, unfortunately, includes you too. Even though they aren’t that much more powerful than a shotgun zombie, they still add some variety to the gameplay.

Dammit! We're supposed to be on the same side!

Dammit! We’re supposed to be on the same side!

As for the music, there isn’t really any of it in the first level. Yes, there are occasionally a few ambient background sounds but, for the most part, the first level of this WAD is eerily silent. Yes, this adds to the “suspenseful” and “realistic” atmosphere of the level but, well, I personally didn’t really like the lack of music here.

All in all, “Genesis Of Descent” is a fairly innovative and brilliantly challenging WAD. If you like slightly more slower-paced and suspenseful gameplay, then you’ll probably like this WAD. But, although it’s cool that it’s a challenging puzzle-based WAD, I just wish that the first level was a bit more exciting.

If I had to give it a rating out of five based on what I’ve seen so far, it would get three and a half.

Mini Review: “Arcadia Demade” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “GZDoom”)

2015 Artwork Arcadia Demade WAD review

Let me start by saying that I’ve never played any of the “Bioshock” games (for starters, they’re way too modern to run on my computer).

Even so, quite a while back, I heard that one of the level designers from the original “Bioshock” had decided to re-make one of the levels using the “Doom” engine. Anyway, I finally got round to finding this WAD (titled “Arcadia Demade“) and I thought that I’d review it today.

As usual, I played this WAD using the “GZ Doom” source port, although it will almost certainly work on any modern source port for “Doom II” or “Final Doom”.

Anyway, let’s take a quick look at “Arcadia Demade”:

Screenshot_Doom_20150525_034129

“Arcadia Demade” is a single-level WAD that took me just over half an hour to complete. One of the first things I will say about this level is that it is refreshingly non-linear.

After hearing a lot about how modern FPS games contain linear levels, I didn’t really have very high hopes for “Arcadia Demade” – but this is pretty much the definition of a non-linear level.

In fact, most of the challenge in “Arcadia Demade” comes from exploring the giant sprawling level and finding keys etc..

In other words, you’ll occasionally need to use the level map in order to find your way around Arcadia. Another thing that makes this map so challenging to navigate is that it’s a lot gloomier than most “Doom” maps are:

Yay! Gloom.

Yay! Gloom.

This gothic gloom is enhanced by some wonderfully ominous and creepy background music that really helps to add a lot of atmosphere to this level. Yes, this level isn’t really frightening (after all, it’s “Doom”) but it is at least slightly creepy.

Likewise, although most of the level looks like a cross between a forest and an old building, there are a few different areas that help to add some visual variety to the level and prevent it from becoming monotonous.

Apart from the new music, there’s very little new stuff in this level. Literally, the only other new thing here is a rather cool skybox texture which helps to add some extra gloom to the level:

It's wonderfully ethereal and morose.

It’s wonderfully ethereal and morose.

Even though there are relatively few enemies in this level, the combat is made slightly more challenging because at least some of the monsters now have the ability to teleport around at will.

Hey! Where did everyone go?

Hey! Where did everyone go?

This teleportation helps to make even fairly “easy” battles slightly more unpredictable and challenging. But, still, even a moderately experienced “Doom” player won’t have too much difficulty with the combat in this WAD:

Even so, it contains a couple of these....

Even so, it contains a couple of these….

...And one of these, so it technically counts as a proper "Doom" WAD

…And one of these, so it technically counts as a proper “Doom” WAD

Still, the relative lack of enemies in this WAD sometimes makes this level slightly more atmospheric. After all, if you’re a fan of 1990s FPS games, then you will be more than familiar with “it’s quiet… TOO quiet” moments during levels. Well, this level has more than a few of these moments.

All in all, this is a fairly ok level. If you’re a “Bioshock” fan, then I guess that you will probably like this level more than I did. Even so, it’s still a fairly atmospheric and vaguely creepy level.

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

Reivew: “Lunatic” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom” / “GZDoom”)

2015 Artwork Lunatic WAD review sketch

Well, I was in the mood for playing another “Doom” WAD and – after some searching (including accidentally downloading a troll WAD at one point), I eventually found a WAD called “Lunatic“.

Of course, it wasn’t long before I discovered that “Lunatic” was more than ‘just another Doom WAD‘.

As usual, I played this WAD using the “GZ Doom” source port. Although the Doomworld page for this WAD suggests using other source ports (including the original “ZDoom”), I had no problems running this WAD on GZ Doom.

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

Screenshot_Doom_20150523_024804

“Lunatic” is a short five-level WAD from 2011 (featuring new textures, music and enemies) that takes place on a giant monster-filled moon base.

The story behind this WAD is that you have to escape said moon base before the moon collides with Earth. Yes, I’m in love with this WAD already! Seriously, this is a brilliantly cheesy storyline straight out of the 1990s 🙂

Although “Lunatic” can be completed in about 45 minutes if you play on “Hurt Me Plenty” difficulty and have a lot of experience with “Doom II” WADs, it packs a gigantic amount of fun into those forty-five minutes. Although this is a short WAD, don’t expect it to be an easy one.

Yes, this ISN'T a WAD for beginners....

Yes, this ISN’T a WAD for beginners….

Although the first level is slightly on the easier side, “Lunatic” really comes into it’s own from the second level onwards.

Most of the time, this WAD manages to walk the fine line between “enjoyably challenging traditional Doom levels” and “enjoyably challenging modern ‘Slaughtermap’ levels“. Some parts of this WAD play like a traditional “Doom” WAD and some parts (eg: the final level especially) play like a “Slaughtermap” WAD.

What this means is that there’s lots of variety to the gameplay in many of the levels. If you like “Slaughtermap” levels, you’ll love this WAD. If you like more traditional levels, you’ll also like this WAD. If, like me, you like both types of WAD – you’re in heaven here! Somehow, “Lunatic” gets the balance between these two styles of gameplay absolutely right.

Yes, there are classic "Doom"-style areas in these levels...

Yes, there are classic “Doom”-style areas in these levels…

....And there are slaughtermaps where you will be quite literally knee-deep in the dead after a few minutes. You've gotta love this fusion of old and new

….And there are slaughtermaps where you will be quite literally knee-deep in the dead after a few minutes. You’ve gotta love this fusion of old and new

Interestingly, “Lunar” takes the traditionalist route of not enabling jumping by default. This was slightly annoying at first, but the levels are so thrilling and well-designed that you’ll quickly forget about this after five minutes or so.

The level design in this WAD is more action-orientated than exploration-orientated. Although none of the levels are linear (even the final level is more of an arena level than a linear level), you won’t really get stuck searching for keys or anything like that. Seriously, modern FPS games could learn a lot from the level design in “Lunatic”. In addition to this, some of the levels contain some really interesting architecture:

Yes! THIS is what sci-fi FPS games should look like!

Yes! THIS is what sci-fi FPS games should look like!

The new textures really add a lot of atmosphere to this WAD and prevent it from becoming just another “techbase” WAD. There are large outdoor areas with new skybox textures and some of the “moon” textures from either “Duke Nukem 3D” or “Dark Forces”. Hell, you can even find an American flag in the first level:

One small step for man, one giant leap for... Oh, who am I kidding? You can't jump in this WAD, let alone leap....

One small step for man, one giant leap for… Oh, who am I kidding? You can’t jump in this WAD, let alone leap….

Although “Lunatic” doesn’t contain any new weapons, it contains two new types of zombies and they really add a lot to the gameplay.

The first type is the plasma cannon zombie – although this type of zombie has turned up in countless other WADs, they actually have new graphics in this WAD, which makes them look a lot more menacing:

Plus, instead of dropping energy cells, they drop pistol ammo for some reason.

Plus, instead of dropping energy cells, they drop pistol ammo for some reason.

The second new type of zombie is the rocket zombie. No, not that rocket zombie (you know, the one who has appeared in a hundred other WADs).

These rocket zombies are based on the chaingun zombie and they fire revenant-style fireballs that will home in on you if you don’t run away fast enough. These zombies also have new graphics and they look really badass:

 Yay! A NEW type of rocket zombie!

Yay! A NEW type of rocket zombie!

Finally, any review of this WAD wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the music. For the most part, it’s the kind of upbeat 1990s video game music [EDIT: The music in the first level is from “Tyrian 2000”] that makes you feel like you’re actually back in the 90s again 🙂

Seriously, the music alone makes this WAD about twice as fun as it already is. If you’re in a gloomy mood, then play this WAD – it is impossible to feel unhappy whilst playing “Lunatic”.

Best of all, the epic arena battle in the final level is accompanied by a MIDI rendition of Europe’s “The Final Countdown“. Fun story – I actually saw Europe perform this song live in 2009, after they played an entire setlist of other songs. Did you know that they actually have other songs than “The Final Countdown”? I certainly didn’t.

Thanks to the background music, this level is already epic - even BEFORE you reach the arena.

Thanks to the background music, this level is already epic – even BEFORE you reach the arena.

All in all, “Lunatic” is amazing! Yes, it’s short – but it crams more fun into it’s five levels than I’ve seen for a long time. If anyone ever asks you why 1990s FPS games are better than modern ones, then just show them this WAD. Even so, this WAD was actually released in 2011 – so, who knows? Maybe there’s some hope for modern FPS games….

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