Review: “Temple Of The Lizard Men 3” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “GZDoom”)

Yes.

Yes.

As I mentioned a few days ago, I’ve been playing a “Doom” WAD called “Temple Of The Lizard Men 3” recently. So, for today, I thought that I’d review it.

Like with most modern “Doom” WADs, you will need a source port such as “GZDoom” in order to play it. I should also mention that it is a good idea to turn dynamic lighting on when playing “Lizard Men 3”. Some of the items you need to use in this game (such as the flares and the flashlight) require dynamic lighting in order to work. However, if you want a more horror-based experience when playing this WAD, be sure to turn it off.

Anyway, without any further ado, let’s take a look at “Temple Of The Lizard Men 3”:

Screenshot_Doom_20141212_075758

Like with the previous “Lizard Men” WAD, this one actually has more of a story to it than most “Doom” WADs do. In fact, this game actually has a whole introductory cutscene – with voice acting. Yes, you heard me correctly, this game actually has voice acting.

Yes, he can actually talk!

Yes, he can actually talk!

Although the story is mostly the typical “You are a marine who has to rescue some researchers from an old temple“-kind of thing, there is also quite an interesting backstory about the rivalry between two ancient Goddesses too.

I can’t remember what the good one is called, but the evil one is called Spectra – and you actually get to fight her at the end of the game. Most of this backstory is relayed through text-based items that you can pick up and through background details, like this one:

Apologies about the strategically-placed shotgun barrels, this WAD can be slightly NSFW sometimes...

Apologies about the strategically-placed shotgun barrels, this WAD can be slightly NSFW sometimes…

Another cool thing about “Lizard Men 3” is that you can actually choose which character you want to play as. There are four characters to choose from and they all have very slightly different abilities (for example, Dana can run more quickly than the other characters can).

I played as Beka, who is a fairly "standard" kind of character. Plus, I absolutely LOVE it when FPS games allow me to choose my character's gender.

I played as Beka, who is a fairly “standard” kind of character. Plus, I absolutely LOVE it when FPS games allow me to choose my character’s gender.

Interestingly, there are actually a couple of small differences depending on whether you play as a male or a female character.

The punching animation looks slightly different, the pistol looks slightly different (for some reason, the guys get a cooler-looking pistol) and the voice-acting during the narration-based cutscenes is obviously different. The male voice actor sounds fairly cool during these scenes, but the female voice actor just sounds kind of bored (for want of a better description). Even so, it’s great to have actual voice acting in a “Doom” WAD.

As for the level design, although this WAD features some fairly cool levels – there isn’t really a huge level of variety here. About the first half of the game is spent walking through rather similar-looking ancient temples and the second half of the game is spent in both a hellish otherworld and in various gothic castles. Even so, there are at least a couple of rather unique settings on offer here:

Like this one.

Like this one.

Another interesting thing about “Lizard Men 3” is that there are a lot more puzzle-based levels here than there were in the previous game. Most of the time, this is fairly interesting and it adds some longevity to the levels.

However, I am ashamed to admit that I got totally stuck on one of the early levels – and after lots of frustrating searching, eventually ended up resorting to cheat codes to get past a locked door.

Yet another interesting thing about “Lizard Men 3” is that it is much more of a horror-based WAD than previous instalments of the series have been. You spend quite a lot of time exploring claustrophobic dark tunnels and corridors, with only a flashlight and/or some flares to light the way (or nothing, if you forget to turn dynamic lighting on). Of course, these tunnels are also filled with monsters who are lying in wait for you….

Aaargh!!!

Aaargh!!!

Because of the claustrophobic and cramped level design, the combat in this game often feels a lot more intense and brutal than it does in most other “Doom” WADs. Literally, you’ll be walking along a corridor and then something will jump out at you and you’ll only have a couple of seconds (at most) to react. So, make sure that your “fight or flight” response is working properly before you play this game.

Although there are a few other horror-based things in this game – such as the obligatory “Lizard Men” dungeon level (that is filled with pools of blood, screaming prisoners and gory dismembered corpses) – most of the scares in this WAD come from the dark and cramped settings you will find here.

Like many great “Doom” WADs, “Lizard Men 3” features a plethora of new weapons. Most of these are fairly “standard” weapons – although they’re very well-designed.

For example, the basic shotgun is a semi-automatic shotgun that can fire twelve shots surprisingly quickly before you have to reload it. The thunderous sound effects and dramatic recoil animations for this gun are so cool that it even made me forget how much I hate “realistic” reloading mechanics in FPS games.

Yes, it's a GOOD version of the shotgun from "Duke Nukem 3D"!

Yes, it’s a GOOD version of the shotgun from “Duke Nukem 3D”!

Likewise, you can also get weapons like a sniper rifle (with a zoom function) and a magic staff that has a surprisingly powerful secondary fire mode. And, you will need all of these weapons because of the sheer variety of monsters you will be fighting in this game.

As well as the eponymous lizard men, there are some really inventive and challenging monsters here. Yes, some of them are either borrowed from other 90s FPS games or are slightly altered versions of classic 90s FPS monsters. But, there are some totally new monsters here (like the flying skulls that have surprisingly powerful projectile attack).

One minor flaw with the new enemies is probably the sound effects that two of them use.

If you’ve played 3D Realms’ “Shadow Warrior”, then you’ll recognise one of the large and ferocious monsters in “Lizard Men 3”. These monsters are just as fast, tough and deadly as they were in “Shadow Warrior”. However, the sound effect from “Shadow Warrior” that warns you that they’re nearby is used by one of the weaker enemies in “Lizard Men 3” – needless to say, this is confusing as hell.

Even so, there are also four boss battles in this game too.

The first boss is a creature called Asudem, which totally isn't just "Medusa" spelt backwards...

The first boss is a creature called Asudem, which totally isn’t just “Medusa” spelt backwards…

Although these battles are fairly cool – they’re a little bit uneven in terms of difficulty.

Three of the bosses (including the epic battle with Spectra at the end of the game) are fairly challenging, but winnable with enough persistence. However, the second boss is almost invincible and – again – I have to confess that, after a lot of trying, I eventually had to resort to using cheat codes in order to defeat him.

Yes, this evil shadow serpent can only be defeated through the use of an ancient magical incantation that summons the elder god IDDQD.

Yes, this evil shadow serpent can only be defeated through the use of an ancient magical incantation that summons the elder god IDDQD.

All in all, this is an incredibly fun WAD that is a must-play for “Doom” fans. Yes, it isn’t perfect and there are a few flaws here – but it’s worth playing for both the intense gameplay and to see the sheer amount of cool new stuff on offer here.

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

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Monsters Don’t Make Monster Stories Scary… Everything Else Does

2015 Artwork Everything but the monster is scary article sketch

Although this is another article about writing monster-based horror fiction, I’m going to have to start by talking about 1990s computer games for a while.

Trust me, there’s a good reason for this and I’m not just stealthily reviewing a really cool “Doom” WAD that I discovered recently. Honest.

Anyway, I recently realised something fairly important about monster-based horror stories when I was playing a fan-made episode for “Doom II” called ‘Temple Of The Lizard Men 3‘.

Although I might review “Temple Of The Lizard Men 3” properly sometime in the future, one of the startling things that I noticed was that it was actually scary. Yes, it was a genuinely scary game, where the monsters looked something like this:

Rawr!

Rawr!

So, if the monsters didn’t look very scary, then how did the game make them scary – and what can this teach us about storytelling?

The reason why the monsters in this game are so scary (despite looking cartoonishly unrealistic) is because of the situations you encounter them in.

Unlike in the original “Doom II” game, you are not an extremely well-armed space marine confidently fighting hordes of monsters in a variety of brightly-lit futuristic locations.

In “Temple Of The Lizard Men 3” you don’t always have quite enough ammunition to fight all of the monsters properly and you spend quite a lot of the earlier parts of the game tentatively walking through dark corridors where almost anything can pounce out at you from the shadows. This is, quite frankly, terrifying.

And, well, this made me think about monsters and horror fiction in general.

You see, monsters aren’t really that scary – because they don’t exist. You have precisely zero chance of ever running into a demon, a werewolf, a sea beast, a xenomorph or a zombie in real life.

It doesn’t matter how well you describe your monster or how grotesque it looks, it isn’t scary on it’s own.

Monsters in horror stories are nothing more than a plot device – they are nothing more than a source of danger for your characters. Your monster could easily be replaced by a ticking timebomb, an evil wizard or a deadly disease and it would still serve the same purpose.

But, just putting your characters in danger doesn’t necessarily make your story scary. After all, there are plenty of thriller, fantasy and science fiction stories that do precisely this without scaring their readers senseless. In fact, these kinds of stories make the danger thrilling or exciting rather than scary.

The only real difference between horror stories and other types of stories is how this danger to the characters is presented.

In non-horror stories, the characters are usually fairly evenly-matched against whatever threatens them. They have a lot of training, they’re well-armed and/or they have luck on their side.

In horror stories, the characters should not be evenly-matched against whatever monsters are threatening them. They probably won’t have the proper tools to fight the monsters effectively, they might not even know where the monsters are and they probably won’t even fully understand what the monsters are.

It’s like the difference between watching a fight between two muscular boxers and watching a fight between a rather feeble blindfolded guy and ten muscular boxers.

Watching one of these is thrilling, watching the other one will probably make you wince with anxious terror before the fight even begins.

In other words, a good monster story taps into your reader’s fear of vulnerability by making the characters seem vulnerable to the monster.

When your main character is walking through a dark corridor and hears an ominous howling sound in the distance, the creature that is making the howling noise isn’t what scares your readers. The thing that scares your readers is the fact that there might be something nearby that could attack your main character before he or she can even see it.

Being alone in the dark isn’t scary. Not being alone in the dark is scary.

Likewise, when your main character sees someone who has suffered a gruesome death at the hands of a monster, it isn’t the blood and guts (however well-described they may be) that scares your readers.

The thing that scares your readers is the fact that this fate could easily have happened to the main character instead, it’s the fact that no-one knows what could have done this to the other character and the fact that whatever did this could still be lurking nearby.

So, monsters aren’t scary on their own. But, everything that surrounds your monster is scary. So, focus on writing these things well and you might be able to trick your readers into thinking that your monster is also scary.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂