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

2017-artwork-foursite-wad-review-sketch

Well, I was in the mood for playing another “Doom II” WAD, so I thought that I’d check out a rather interesting-looking one called “Foursite“.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD – although it will probably work on any limit-removing source port that also allows jumping too.

So, let’s take a look at “Foursite”:

screenshot_doom_20161019_134835

“Foursite” is a large single-level WAD which is also the first WAD that it’s creator finished. The WAD itself took something like 200-300 hours to make, according to the documentation. And it shows! Seriously, although this is a “vanilla” WAD, it displays more intricacy and creativity than even some WADs with custom content do.

I did NOT know that the standard "Doom II" textures could look THIS cool!

I did NOT know that the standard “Doom II” textures could look THIS cool!

Plus, I'm sure that this is a "Silent Hill" reference too :)

Plus, I’m sure that this is a “Silent Hill” reference too 🙂

The level itself begins with an eerily quiet trek through several buildings and outdoor areas until you eventually reach a long corridor with four sealed doors, which can only be opened and explored in a particular order. Once all four have been explored, you can leave the corridor and fight the final boss.

As you may have guessed, each of these four doors leads to a themed area that is pretty much a small level in it’s own right. Yes, it’s like “The Crystal Maze“, but in “Doom II”:

Obviously, this contestant wasn't so lucky...

Obviously, this contestant wasn’t so lucky…

The level design is, quite simply, stunning. Since the main level is split into four segments, it is able to be non-linear without being confusing. In other words, there are lots of places to explore but, unlike many ultra-large levels, you’re unlikely to get lost or stuck for too long.

As you would expect from a modern “Doom II” map, there are quite a few dramatic set pieces here and, for the most part, they work really well. There’s a small maze you have to navigate, there are some truly epic-looking areas you have to traverse, there’s even a (surprisingly good/non-frustrating) first-person platforming segment. Seriously, there are so many cool set pieces in this level.

Yes, this is actually first-person platforming done right! The platforms are actually large enough and closely-placed enough to be easily jumped to and from.

Yes, this is actually first-person platforming done right! The platforms are actually large enough and closely-placed enough to be easily jumped to and from.

And THIS! Seriously, this area is really amazing :)

And THIS! Seriously, this area is really amazing 🙂

In fact, the only set piece which may get frustrating is the lift segment. This is where you have to raise a (really cool-looking) platform by running around it and pressing several buttons. Of course, whilst you are doing this, you are constantly bombarded by lost souls and the occasional pain elemental. It’s chaotic, it’s occasionally annoying, but it’s far from being completely unfair.

Of course, the fact that you have to cross a narrow bridge, and jump soon afterwards, when pressing the buttons just adds to the fun.

Of course, the fact that you have to cross a narrow bridge, and jump soon afterwards, when pressing the buttons just adds to the fun.

One set piece that could have been more well-designed is probably the battle near the end of the fourth area. Yes, there’s supposed to be an epic confrontation with two cyberdemons and lots of other monsters. But, this can be easily bypassed by just jumping over a few small bars and pressing a switch.

In fact, it’s actually less intuitive to actually trigger the epic battle you’re supposed to have (in order to do this, you have to understand that switches in “Doom” can often be pressed regardless of height).

This is a challenging fight that looks more difficult than the actual boss battle in the final area of the game!

This is a challenging fight that looks more difficult than the actual boss battle in the final area of the game!

But, you can skip it just by jumping over this pathetically inadequate barrier, pressing the switch and leaving the room.

But, you can skip it just by jumping over this pathetically inadequate barrier, pressing the switch and leaving the room.

In terms of the actual gameplay, I’d say that the difficulty level was probably fairly similar to that of “Final Doom”. Although there are a couple of parts that hint at modern-style “slaughtermap” gameplay, it’s mostly just a souped-up version of old-school “Final Doom”-style gameplay. Even though I really love modern “slaughtermap” levels, “Final Doom” is probably my favourite official Doom game. So, I’m not complaining 🙂

In other words, if you can complete “Final Doom”, then you’ll enjoy this WAD. But, even if you can’t, then this level still actually has a proper difficulty curve to it too (which is something you don’t always see in modern “Doom II” levels). Surprisingly though, I didn’t see a single arch-vile during the 1 1/2 hours it took me to complete the level!

Hmmm.... SOMETHING's missing...

Hmmm…. SOMETHING’s missing…

Although most of the combat is very enjoyable, one rather devious trick that the creator of this WAD likes to use is to throw several spectres at you when you are traversing the level’s gloomier areas. Yes, this is supposed to be scary and suspenseful. But, fighting nearly-invisible monsters in the dark can get a bit frustrating sometimes.

One of the things that I really love about this level is how timeless it feels. Seriously, when I was playing part of it, I felt like I could have been playing this level in 2015, 2014, 2013, or even in 2006. Because it does so many clever things with the classic “Doom II” textures, it feels both old and modern at the same time. It’s different and exciting enough to feel new, but familiar enough to feel reassuringly classic.

All in all, this is an absolutely amazing WAD 🙂 Whilst “Foursite” may not have any custom textures, monsters, weapons or music, it more than makes up for this with astonishingly imaginative, complex and fun level design. It’s very easy to see why a level like this may have taken more than 200 hours to make and, for it’s creator’s first level, it’s absolutely amazing.

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

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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: “Phobos Mission Control” (WAD For “Ultimate Doom”/ “ZDoom”)

2017 Artwork Phobos Mission Control WAD review

Well, I hadn’t planned to review another “Doom” WAD so soon after reviewing the excellent “Ancient Aliens” (seriously, check it out!) but, the day before I originally wrote this review, I learnt that John Romero had made another new level for the original “Doom” called “Phobos Mission Control“.

I know that I’m even more late to the party (thanks to the long lead times on many of these articles) than I was with Romero’s other new map, but I couldn’t exactly ignore another new level from one of the people who actually designed the classic “Doom” games.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD. It will probably work with most modern source ports, but it will not work with the original DOS/Win 95 version of “Ultimate Doom”. Plus, due to the way this WAD is set up, it’s unlikely to work with “Doom II” or “Final Doom”.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Phobos Mission Control”:

Screenshot_Doom_20160803_130405

“Phobos Mission Control” is a replacement for E1M4 of the original “Doom”. What this means is that, when you start playing the game, you need to type “IDCLEV14” to skip to level four before you can start playing it (and, yes, since I’m a “Doom II” player, it took me a while to remember how the level skip cheat differs in the first game).

From what I’ve read, John Romero decided to make a replacement for level four both because he could do a few new things with modern source ports for the game and because the original level four was originally designed by both Romero and Tom Hall (the maker of “Rise Of The Triad: Dark War” and a host of other awesome retro games, including one called “Anachronox” that I really must get round to playing and reviewing sometime). So, apparently in the interests of completion, Romero remade level four so he could see what the episode would look like if he designed the whole thing.

And, yes, “Phobos Mission Control” is at least slightly more modern in style when compared to the original levels. One of the first things that you will probably notice is that it contains more monsters than you would expect from a classic “Doom” level, as well as a few cool effects – like numbers made out of shadows and light:

 These also tell you which switch does what. Most players are able to work this out for themselves, but it's still a cool touch.

These also tell you which switch does what. Most players are able to work this out for themselves, but it’s still a cool touch.

In terms of the level design, it’s really good. Like in all great FPS games, the level is a non-linear thing that requires exploration – but it also manages to be considerably more streamlined than Romero’s previous new map.

Interestingly, this level also contains a surprisingly interesting maze segment (consisting of lots of lifts and raised platforms) that takes place in a single giant room. Given that this was made with the original “Doom” textures, resources etc.. it’s really impressive, and it’s good to see that Romero hasn’t forgotten his level design skills.

I'm still amazed how much complexity there is in this one room :)

I’m still amazed how much complexity there is in this one room 🙂

Plus, Romero’s trademark jagged patterns make a low-key appearance as crevices in some of the slime pools in this level.

But, although these areas are meant to be instant-death pits, if you happen to be wearing one of the level’s two shielding suits, then you can end up boringly trapped in them with no way out. Given that “Doom” (and possibly even Romero himself) pretty much invented the idea of ‘idiot-proofing’ otherwise inescapable parts of FPS levels, I’d have expected something slightly better here.

Unlike Romero’s “Tech Gone Bad” level, “Phobos Mission Control” is a lot faster, slightly more compact and slightly more thrilling. Seriously, there were only two times that I briefly got stuck on this level – once where it took me three or four minutes to find a switch and once when I underestimated how difficult the final battle would be.

Yes, this part of the level is actually a little bit more challenging than it might look at first glance.

Yes, this part of the level is actually a little bit more challenging than it might look at first glance.

And, yes, the difficulty level in “Phobos Mission Control” is fairly interesting. By modern standards, it’s perhaps mildly challenging at most. The best way to describe the difficulty level is that it’s like an enjoyably challenging modern map – but with low-level monsters instead of mid or high-level monsters.

If you’re new to “Doom” then playing through this WAD (and “Final Doom” too) is probably a good way to practice before playing most modern levels.

The difference is, of course, that in most modern levels, these monsters would be replaced by Barons, Revenants etc...

The difference is, of course, that in most modern levels, these monsters would be replaced by Barons, Revenants etc…

However, if you somehow played this level back in the 1990s – with old-school controls, no jumping etc… then I imagine that the difficulty would be considerably higher. So, if you want a challenge, then it might be worth seeing whether this WAD is compatible with the “Doom Retro” source port.

All in all, “Phobos Mission Control” is probably my favourite of the new Romero levels. It’s short, fast and fun. Not only is it cool to see that Romero has made another “Doom” level, but it’s great to see that he hasn’t forgotten a thing about level design either. This level is classic “Doom”, with a slight hint of the best parts of modern “Doom” level design too.

If I had to go through the formality of giving a map by John Romero a rating out of five, it would get five. Because, well, it’s the 2010s and John Romero is still making “Doom” levels 🙂

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.

Mini Review: “The Last Sanctuary” (WAD for “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “ZDoom”)

2017 Artwork The Last Sanctuary WAD review

Well, it’s been a couple of weeks since I last looked at a “Doom II” WAD, so I thought that I’d check out one called “The Last Sanctuary“.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port when playing this WAD, although it will probably work with other modern source ports.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “The Last Sanctuary”:

Nice! This background image looks really cool.

Nice! This background image looks really cool.

“The Last Sanctuary” is a large single-level WAD that also includes new textures, sounds and music. This WAD took me just under two hours to complete on the “hurt me plenty” difficulty setting.

Visually speaking, there’s a surprising amount variety on offer here. The level includes vaguely 1980s-style sci-fi areas, traditional “hell” areas, and a large outdoor area (which contains a day/night cycle!).

Although the level includes new textures, these are fairly low-key (eg: signs, screens, panels, laser barriers etc..), and the biggest visual change that you will notice is that everything that is blue is a slightly lighter shade of blue.

Yay! Retro sci-fi isn't REALLY retro sci-fi without angular walls and lasers! :)

Yay! Retro sci-fi isn’t REALLY retro sci-fi without angular walls and lasers! 🙂

This is what the outdoor area looks like during the day.....

This is what the outdoor area looks like during the day…..

And THIS is what it looks like at night.

And THIS is what it looks like at night.

Likewise, the level design is suitably complex – with lots of places to explore and the occasional tricky puzzle to solve too. In fact, in order to complete the level, you have to find and enter a six-digit code into a terminal.

Yes, you can change each of these six numbers. In fact, you'll HAVE to in order to finish the level!

Yes, you can change each of these six numbers. In fact, you’ll HAVE to in order to finish the level!

Likewise, this level contains six keys that you have to find. Yes, six! Although most of them aren’t too difficult to find, getting hold of the blue skull key involves solving a basic platform-based puzzle that can be easily missed if you aren’t careful.

The only major problem with the level design is that the level is perhaps too large. In other words, some parts of the level can be easy to get lost in if you aren’t careful. Not to mention that any type of backtracking (when looking for doors, keys etc…) can be rather time-consuming and labourious due to the sheer size of the level.

 This part of the level might look really cool the first time you see it, but once you've trekked across it a couple of times, your opinion might change..

This part of the level might look really cool the first time you see it, but once you’ve trekked across it a couple of times, your opinion might change..

In terms of the combat difficulty, this level can probably be considered to be moderately challenging. Yes, there are more than a few times where you will be faced with large numbers of monsters, but experienced players shouldn’t have too much trouble dealing with them.

And, yes, there are Arch-viles here too :) But, only about three or four of them.

And, yes, there are Arch-viles here too 🙂 But, only about three or four of them.

As for the basic gameplay, one of the things that I noticed about this WAD is the fact that the pistol fires slightly faster than usual. Although this is useful near the beginning of the level, you probably won’t bother with it for the rest of the level. This WAD also takes a very traditional attitude towards jumping, and it is disabled by default.

The music in this level is surprisingly interesting, since it’s a 1980s/90s-style synth tune that helps to emphasise the retro sci-fi atmosphere of the earlier parts of the level, but seems a little out of place during the

All in all, this is a rather cool level. There are lots of interesting places to explore, several puzzles to solve and a fair number of monsters to fight, although the sheer size of the level can sometimes lead to frustration, rather than enjoyable exploration.

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

Mini Review: “Twisted Joke” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “ZDoom”/ “GZDoom”)

2016 Artwork Twisted Joke WAD review

Well, it’s been over a week since I last reviewed any “Doom II”/ “Final Doom” levels. So, since Christmas is less than two months away, I thought that I’d look at a festive WAD from 2006 called “Twisted Joke“.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this level, although the text file included with it states that it’s also compatible with “GZDoom” too.

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

Screenshot_Doom_20160503_085645

“Twisted Joke” is a single level WAD that features new music and new graphics. In terms of length, it’s a short to medium-length level that will probably take experienced players less than an hour to complete (it took me about 45 minutes).

The level takes mostly place within three large co-centric areas, although there are also three additional areas that you will have to teleport to in order to find the three skull keys that you’ll need to unlock the door at the end of the level.

If I had to describe this level in one word, that word would be “inventive”. Seriously, there are a lot of cool things here – including a functional ski ramp and a (sort of) destructible wall.

Yay! It's a ski ramp! In "Doom II" !!!

Yay! It’s a ski ramp! In “Doom II” !!!

In addition to this, there’s a lot of gameplay variety within this level too. There are more “traditional” parts of the level, there are switch puzzles and there’s even a small “slaughtermap”-style arena area in one part of the level.

Of course, the sheer size of the room and the relatively low number of monsters means that this part of the level is a LOT easier than it looks.

Of course, the sheer size of the room and the relatively low number of monsters means that this part of the level is a LOT easier than it looks.

There are also plenty of more "traditional"-style areas too.

There are also plenty of more “traditional”-style areas too.

In terms of difficulty, I’d probably describe this level as being “mildly challenging”. New players may find it somewhat difficult, but if you’re an experienced player, then you’ll have no trouble here. The difficulty is also increased very slightly by the fact that there isn’t a single super shotgun to be found anywhere within the level.

In addition to this, during the first half of the level, I started to notice that something else was also missing… but, in a wonderful festive surprise, I didn’t have to wait too long before I found it.

Yay! An Arch-Vile! But HOW did you know?

Yay! An Arch-Vile! But HOW did you know?

And a Cyberdemon too! It's a Christmas miracle!

And a Cyberdemon too! It’s a Christmas miracle!

As for the new graphics, these are really cool 🙂 As well as a lot of new snow textures, item textures and Christmas tree textures, many of the monsters also wear festive costumes too (and throw snowballs and baubles at you, instead of the usual projectiles).

Although I’ve seen these versions of the “Doom” monsters in other WADs, one cool thing that I noticed was that the cacodemon now has a new injury animation.

It's difficult to see in this screenshot, but there's a "broken glass" effect when you shoot one of the festive cacodemons.

It’s difficult to see in this screenshot, but there’s a “broken glass” effect when you shoot one of the festive cacodemons.

And check out this awesome Christmas tree too! I want one!

And check out this awesome Christmas tree too! I want one!

As for the music, it’s pretty much what you would expect. It’s a well-orchestrated medley of several Christmas carols and it’s a perfect fit for the level.

All in all, I really liked this level. It’s inventive, it’s fun and it’s festive. Yes, Christmas might still be a good distance away, but this level is certainly worth playing during the festive season.

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

Mini Review: “The Warlock’s Hearth” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “ZDoom”)

2016 Artwork Warlock's Hearth WAD review sketch

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”:

Screenshot_Doom_20160428_162841

“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.

Because a "Doom II" level wouldn't REALLY be a "Doom II" level without these distinctive flames...

Because a “Doom II” level wouldn’t REALLY be a “Doom II” level without these distinctive flames…

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.

It also includes at least one really cool secret area too.

It also includes at least one really cool secret area too.

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.

 Unsurprisingly, there's also an arch-vile at the top of the staircase :)

Unsurprisingly, there’s also an arch-vile at the top of the 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.

This is really cool :)

This is really cool 🙂

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.