Review: “Doom: The Golden Souls 2” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “GZDoom”)

Well, since I’m still reading the next novel I plan to review (“England Expects” By Sara Sheridan), I thought that I’d finally review a “Doom II”/”Final Doom” WAD (well, technically, a “.pk3”) that I’ve wanted to play for at least a year or two.

I am, of course, talking about the Cacoward-Winning WAD “Doom: The Golden Souls 2“, sequel to the excellent “Doom: The Golden Souls“.

As regular readers of this site will know, I got a vaguely modern refurbished computer a week or two earlier. This computer can actually run version 3.4.1 of the GZDoom source port (v 3.6.0 had problems recognising my USB keyboard and mouse), which is the minimum needed to play “Golden Souls 2”.

Yes, it’s a sad state of affairs when a mod for a game from 1994 actually has system requirements and demands a modern computer (and why I didn’t review this WAD a year or two ago, because I couldn’t play it on the vintage mid-2000s computer I was using). But, I can finally play it now 🙂

So, let’s take a look at “Doom: The Golden Souls 2” 🙂 However, I probably should warn you that part one of the industrial levels contains a flickering/strobing lighting effect (either that or it was some kind of glitch) that may or may not cause problems for some players.

Finally! I’ve wanted to play this for ages 🙂

Following on from the events of “Doom: The Golden Souls”, the Doomguy’s pet rabbit has been kidnapped by demons and it is up to him to get the rabbit back before it is used in an evil ritual. Thus begins a full-length megawad (with at least 20-30 levels) that contains new textures, weapons, monsters, sounds/music, gameplay mechanics etc…

One of the first things that I will say about this WAD is that it deserves it’s Cacoward 🙂 It is one of the most creative, detailed and generally innovative WADs that I’ve seen in quite a while.

Yes, this isn’t your average “Doom II” WAD….

Like with it’s predecessor, this WAD is heavily inspired by the “Mario” games, whilst still being both very recognisably a “Doom” WAD and it’s own thing at the same time. It’s a gleefully cartoonish, ’90s nostalgia-filled thrill ride of a WAD that will make the many hours it will guzzle up feel like time well wasted 🙂

Seriously, this is one of those “just one more level” kind of WADs that will keep you coming back for more. So, Expect to end up playing this one for at least an hour or four every day until you finish it. It’s that good.

So, yes, don’t expect to get anything productive done in the days after installing this WAD.

I should probably start by talking about the level design. In addition to featuring an absolutely stunning “Super Mario World”-style worldmap that allows you to revisit previous levels and stock up on items/health between missions (using coins you find in-game), the level design here is brilliant. There’s a really good mixture of more linear platform game style levels, traditional-style levels, boss levels and a few more puzzle/exploration-based “ghost house” levels.

Seriously, the world map is absolutely giant and will fill you with nostalgia for “Super Mario World” too 🙂

Plus, there’s a good mixture between platforming…

And more traditional level design too 🙂

Not only that, there are so many cool level design tricks. Whether it is a dormant mini-boss that you don’t fight until later in the level, a level that can be turned upside-down, an easter egg or two, some clever switch puzzles, segments involving flying, a few destructible walls etc… this is one of those WADs where the levels can surprise you in all sorts of ways. Not only that, the levels are all a reasonably consistent length and the game as a whole has a fairly good difficulty curve too.

In addition to this, the visual design of the levels can be really brilliant. Yes, there are a few generic-looking “industrial”, “hell”, “gothic mansion” etc.. style levels, but many of the levels are absolute works of art 🙂 Whether it is ancient Egyptian-style areas, snowy fields, a Lovecraftian world of mists, an ancient Japan-style level, caves filled with glowing stuff, a “Sonic”-inspired level, tropical island style levels, a cyberpunk level or even a really beautiful 1960s-style Beatles-inspired level, the visual design here is absolutely brilliant.

Groovy!

Seriously, I love Ancient Egpyt-themed levels in games 🙂

Literally the only criticism I have to make of the level design is that one “ghost house” level in the version I played (v1.3) contained an organ-like switch that didn’t seem to work and the only way I was able to progress was via cheat codes.

The gameplay itself is really good too. Although this WAD includes a lot of first-person platforming, this isn’t as annoying as it sounds – mostly because of the excellent jumping mechanics (eg: you can jump higher and move around in the air) that actually make these segments fun. Likewise, the combat (which, in true platform game style, focuses almost entirely on projectile-dodging) and monster placement is tough enough to be enjoyably challenging, whilst also being forgiving enough that you’ll probably be able to get through each level in an hour or two.

Still, if you’re new to the classic “Doom” games, get some practice with “Final Doom” before playing this WAD.

As for the monsters, they’re also excellent. Not only is there a brilliant variety of monsters that are introduced throughout the game, but there’s also a good mix of traditional “Doom II” monsters (plus one from “Heretic” too 🙂 ), monsters from the first “Golden Souls” WAD, several new boss monsters and quite a few all-new monsters.

Plus, several of the monsters also do innovative things too. Whether it is monsters that can resurrect other monsters of their type, a clever twist on the “Pain Elemental” monster, squids that cover the screen with ink, monsters that can only be harmed with certain weapons etc… the monster design and variety in this WAD is brilliant.

Splat! Luckily the visor of the Doomguy’s helmet is self-cleaning!

In terms of the weapons, they’re fairly creative too. In addition to some traditional FPS staples (which include modern reloading mechanics), there are some eccentric ’90s-style weird weapons too 🙂 Whether it is a rapid-fire star launcher, a trumpet-shaped blunderbuss or a cupid-themed laser sniper rifle, the weapons are a brilliant mix of whimsical 1990s-style silliness and FPS tradition. Likewise, at one early point in the game, you might find a seemingly “weak” infinite ammo/recharging laser pistol… only to discover that it’s a really useful long-range weapon later in the game.

It’s a sniper rifle! How romantic!

And, yes, this gun makes silly trumpet noises when you fire it 🙂

However, one annoying thing about the weapons is that they sometimes feel a little underpowered. This has been done deliberately, since one of the many additional features of this game is that weapon upgrades can be unlocked if you find enough “big coins” hidden throughout the game.

The upgrades also turn your weapons gold, but don’t expect to get more than one or two of them unless you spend ages searching.

Given that these can often be really difficult to find and that many also seem to require hidden items from other levels (eg: skull keys) to reach, don’t expect to get many upgrades unless you put about twice as much time into this long game than you might otherwise do.

As for music and sound design, this WAD absolutely excels. In addition to lots of wonderfully cartoonish and/or adorable monster sounds, there is also lots of awesome 1990s platform game music and even a Beatles-based MIDI tune in one level too. Not only that, at least one of the game’s cool easter eggs is sound-based too (eg: press “use” near the red AC/DC-style guitar in the “Strawberry Fields” level).

“Thunderstruck” AND “Doom II”? This is AMAZING 🙂

All in all, this WAD is excellent 🙂 Not only is it basically a full-length game, but it also sums up everything excellent about 1990s-style games 🙂 Whether it is the whimsical atmosphere, the nostalgia, the humour, the creativity or how both the platforming and FPS elements feel really well-designed, this is an amazing follow-up to “Doom: The Golden Souls”. Yes, there are a couple of small flaws, but for a fan-made WAD created by one person, it is better than some actual “proper” computer games 🙂

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

Review: “Marbellous” [WAD For “Doom II”/”Final Doom”/”GZDoom”]

Well, since I’m still reading the next novel I plan to review (“The Apprentice” by Tess Gerritsen), I thought that I’d take a quick look at another “Doom II”/”Final Doom” WAD.

And, after clicking the “Random File” button on the /Idgames Archive a few times, I found myself looking at a WAD from 2012 called “Marbellous“.

However, I should point out that this WAD uses the level 25 slot (for some bizarre reason). So, when playing it, you’ll have to type “IDCLEV25” during gameplay to jump to this level.

I also ended up using an older version (1-8-06) of the “GZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD, since the list of ports in the readme file didn’t mention ZDoom and I wasn’t sure if it contained any port-specific features. However, upon actually seeing the level, it will probably work with pretty much any limit-removing source port (including my favourite, ZDoom).

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

“Marbellous” is a medium-length single level WAD that, as mentioned earlier, uses the level 25 slot. Although the readme file states that the WAD also includes a new texture, I didn’t really notice it and the overall look of the WAD is fairly “classic” (with an emphasis on marble textures, hence the name).

In terms of the level design, “Marbellous” is really good. This is an old-school style non-linear level that contains a really good mixture of corridors, arena-like areas, simple switch/combat puzzles, cool-looking areas and clever design (eg: parts of the level loop back on themselves).

Seriously, this area looks really cool 🙂

Likewise, this arena near the end of the level looks pretty cool too 🙂

Seriously, the level design is complex enough to force you to think and explore, but simple enough that – on the rare occasions where you don’t know where to go next – it won’t usually take you too long to work it out 🙂

In terms of the gameplay, it is enjoyably challenging 🙂 Whilst this probably isn’t a level for novice players who haven’t learnt all of the usual tactics and strategies, experienced players will probably find this level moderately challenging.

This challenge is achieved in the early parts of the level via careful rationing of ammo and weapons, with the best moment being when you have to fight an Arch-vile using just the pistol and the basic shotgun. Needless to say, this is a fairly good combat-based puzzle where you’ll have to use tactics and strategy 🙂

Ah, with many of the easier levels I’ve been playing recently, I’d almost forgotten how awesome THESE are 🙂

Later on in the level, the challenge is achieved through the use of monster placement. This is a level that contains a lot of low-level monsters, a reasonable number of mid-level monsters and a few well-placed high-level monsters.

In other words, a fun traditional-style level 🙂

The best example of this is probably the level’s Cyberdemon arena, which you’ll first encounter when you don’t really have enough weaponry for it. Like the best “Doom II” levels, this area is something of a combat-based puzzle, where clever strategy, lateral thinking and experimentation are required 🙂 The arena is also laid out in a way where it won’t take you too long to work out what you’re supposed to do to progress.

And, yes, getting to this point is a bit more complex – and fun – than you might initially think 🙂

All in all, this level is a really fun way to spend an hour or so. The level design is really good, not to mention that the combat remains enjoyably challenging throughout the level too 🙂

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

Review: “Christmas Tree” (WAD For “Doom II”/”Final Doom”/ “ZDoom”)

Well, since I’m still reading the next horror novel I plan to review (“The Vampire Armand” by Anne Rice), I thought that I’d take the chance to review another “Doom II”/”Final Doom” WAD 🙂

And, after clicking the “Random File” button on the /Idgames Archive a few times, I found myself looking at a WAD from 2011 called “Christmas Tree“.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD. According to the text file accompanying the WAD, it is designed for ports (ZDoom and GZDoom are listed as examples) that support 3D floors.

So, let’s take a look at “Christmas Tree”:

“Christmas Tree” is a rather cool little single-level WAD that also possibly includes new music (or it could be one of the standard pieces of music that I don’t remember).

The premise of this WAD is that you have to defeat most of the monsters in the level in order to complete it. So, like a trimmed-down “Slaughtermap” level, this level is something of an arena. But, the level does some rather innovative stuff that sets it apart from a traditional “Slaughtermap” level.

Yes, this is a clever twist on a familiar style of level 🙂

For starters, the difficulty level is something that practiced players will find moderately challenging, rather than fiendishly difficult. Unlike a slaughtermap, where there are too many enemies to fight (thus turning the level into a challenging fast-paced puzzle), you actually have to defeat almost all of the enemies here.

As such, the difficulty level is a little bit more forgiving, with a large arena and lots of weapons, health etc… scattered around to give you a fighting chance. This also makes the gameplay feel a little bit like the classic “Serious Sam” games too 🙂

One interesting way that this level adds some challenge is via the use of pain elementals. Although the large arena means that there is plenty of room to duck, dodge and circlestrafe, this is a level where the sky will quickly become orange with lost souls that will zip at you from every direction. Interestingly though, at least some of these don’t count towards the number of monsters you have to defeat before the level ends.

Yes, these little monsters become more of threat than you think during this level.

The level design is also really good too. Although you might be a bit confused about what to do (and the relative lack of weapons) at the very start of the level, it won’t take you long to find the teleporter that drops you on top of the Christmas tree. The tree is made out of four platforms of varying sizes that mostly serve as brilliantly-balanced mini-arenas 🙂

Although you’ve got the constant threat of lost souls to contend with, the difficulty in these mini-arenas is handled really well. Although the top of the tree is just there to give you a few items, the smaller circles of the tree contain fewer monsters but also fewer items and less room to dodge/strafe (and vice versa with the larger circles). Plus, the tension between staying on the tree and jumping off it to the relative safety of the arena below also adds a bit more depth to the gameplay too 🙂

Yes, this level is kind of like four micro levels in one 🙂

All in all, this is a really fun and well-designed little level 🙂 It’s thrilling, complex and really well-balanced 🙂 If you’re an experienced player and want to enjoy yourself for 20-30 minutes, then this level might be worth checking out 🙂

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

Review: “Rienzi (Release 6)” [WAD For “Doom II”/”Final Doom”/”ZDoom”]

Well, since I’m still reading the next horror novel that I plan to review (“The Ritual” by Adam Nevill), I thought that I’d take a quick look at a “Doom II”/”Final Doom” WAD today. After all, it’s been almost a month since my last WAD review.

And, after clicking the “Random File” button on the /Idgames Archive a few times, I found myself looking at a WAD from 2011 called “Rienzi (Release 6)“.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD, although it will probably work with GZDoom etc.. too. However, according to the readme file, it may not run with vanilla “Doom II”/”Final Doom” or the Chocolate Doom source port. Likewise, be sure to enable jumping in whichever source port you use.

So, let’s take a look at “Rienzi (Release 6)”:

“Rienzi (Release 6)” is a short to medium length single-level WAD that also contains a couple of new textures/animations too.

One of the first things that I will say about this level is that it has a really good difficulty curve and weapon progression. In the early parts of the level, you’ll be fighting zombies and imps with the pistol before gradually encountering better weapons and more powerful monsters.

If, like me, you’re slightly out of practice with “Doom II” then this level is a good way to reintroduce yourself to it. It’s challenging enough to be fun, but forgiving enough not to be frustrating. In other words, it’s a mildly-moderately challenging level.

So, yes, if you’re out of practice with “Doom II”, then this is a rather fun level 🙂

In terms of the level design, it’s really good. The level contains a really good mixture of gloomy claustrophobic areas and large bright arena-like areas, which help to keep things interesting. Plus, although the early parts of the level seem to be fairly linear, the level quickly turns into the kind of proper non-linear level you’d expect from a real FPS game like “Doom II”.

One strange thing about this level is the keys. Although there are three skull keys hidden throughout the level, the door that they open doesn’t seem to be clearly marked. Still, they encourage the player to search the level thoroughly – which is important because, in the classic fashion, progression at one point depends on finding an unobtrusive passage. Likewise, if you want the plasma rifle, then prepare to look for secret areas.

Yes, this gun is actually a secret item in the level.

In terms of the textures and visual design, this level is really good 🙂 The new textures consist of some animated flames and a suitably fiery teleportation animation when the Cyberdemon appears:

Yes, THIS is “Doom II” 🙂

For the most part, the level uses the standard textures – but thanks to some wonderful lighting and a cool-looking tower in the later part of the level, everything looks really cool 🙂

There is some really awesome lighting here 🙂

Seriously, this looks wonderfully ’90s in the best way possible 🙂

All in all, this is a well-designed level that will provide half an hour or so of fun 🙂 There’s a good difficulty curve, some cool-looking areas and a decent amount of variety too.

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

Review: “Butcher” (WAD for “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”)

[Well, due to a scheduling mishap, enjoy this bonus review today. Apologies in advance if there’s an article/review missing on any day in the future (and I’m still not sure why there were two scheduled for today).]
—-

Well, since I’m still reading the next novel I plan to review (“The Deep” by Nick Cutter), I thought that I’d take the chance to look at another “Doom II”/”Final Doom” WAD. After all, it’s been about three weeks or so since my last WAD review.

And, after clicking the “Random File” button on the /Idgames Archive, I found myself looking at a WAD from 1995 called “Butcher” by none other than Milo Casali, of “Final Doom” fame 🙂

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD. However, given the level’s age, it will probably run on pretty much any source port. In fact, it’ll probably run on the original DOS version of “Doom II” too.

So, let’s take a look at “Butcher”:

As you may have already guessed, this is an earlier “work in progress” version of level nine from Final Doom’s “The Plutonia Experiment” episode. Given that this is my favourite ‘official’ Doom II episode (especially the twenty-ninth level, “Odyssey Of Noises”) and it is an episode that I’ll replay every now and then, it was really cool to see an earlier version of part of it 🙂

For the most part, the level is pretty much identical to level nine of “The Plutonia Experiment”. In other words, it is a reasonably challenging and slightly non-linear medium-length level that contains a few small arena-style battles, some well-placed monster closets and a few moments of more claustrophobic combat.

So, yes, it’s the same traditional – but challenging – type of “Doom II” level that you would expect 🙂

Given how amazingly fun, well-designed and re-playable “The Plutonia Experiment” is, playing this level was an absolute joy – even if I already knew where everything was and how to complete it. But, I suppose that I should probably talk about the differences between this level and the final commercial version of it.

In short, there aren’t many. Although the comments on the web page for the level tipped me off to the fact that the very final room of the level is smaller, easier and more primitive than the final version, the only other difference I was able to spot was the fact that the items in the secret area in the blue key room were slightly different.

Yes, the level is a lot more generous here, compared to the finished version.

The most noticeable difference is this final room. Not only is it smaller and less complex, but there are also far fewer monsters too.

All in all, there isn’t that much to say about this level. If you’re a fan of “The Plutonia Experiment”, then it is an interesting curio. If you’ve never played “Final Doom”, then this level will give you a taste of what to expect from the best official “Doom” game. Yes, the official version of this level is marginally better than this earlier “work in progress” version, but it is still an incredibly fun level 🙂

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

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

Well, since I’m still reading the next novel I plan to review (“Linesman” by S. K. Dunstall), I thought that I’d take the chance to take a quick look at another “Doom II”/”Final Doom” WAD.

So, after clicking the “random file” button on the /idgames Archive a couple of times, I ended up with a single-level WAD from 2017 called “Impact“.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this level. However, since this is a “vanilla” level (eg: it only uses the standard textures, monsters etc..), it will probably work with pretty much any source port and/or mods that you want (although, obviously, I didn’t use mods in this review).

So, let’s take a look at “Impact”:

“Impact” is a short single-level WAD that, according to the accompanying text file, is both the mapper’s first map and an attempt to create an introductory level for new players that also follows John Romero’s design principles. And, when viewed with these things in mind, the level actually works reasonably well.

Needless to say, this is a very easy level. But, whilst experienced players will blaze through it in less than five minutes, the moderate number of low-level monsters will probably present a bit of an enjoyable challenge for inexperienced players.

It’s probably more challenging than the original “E1M1”, but reasonably easy compared to most other levels.

For an easy introductory level, this level actually has a fairly good monster progression, weapon progression and difficulty curve, since the level initially starts by throwing smaller groups of zombies and imps at the player, before a rather cool set-piece featuring a room lined with zombies (where the player is given a chaingun) and a short final segment that also includes a pink “demon” monster too.

If you’re a new player, then I imagine that this set piece will probably be a lot more intense/dramatic.

In terms of level design, this level is very short and very linear…. just like E1M1 from the original “Doom”, which seems to be one of it’s inspirations. There are a couple of very small side areas to explore at the beginning, but the level progresses along a single, focused path. Given that this is meant to be an easy level for new players, this is probably a good design choice.

Still, there are a good variety of areas here (including a cracked floor that reminded me a little of Romero’s modern WADs, like “Tech Gone Bad) that keep the level visually interesting and help to create a sense of progression.

This cracked floor looks really cool, plus the raised area is a tantalisingly visible part of a secret area too.

Likewise, one cool feature of this level is that several secret areas are clearly visible, but difficult to get to – which provides a little bit of extra challenge and/or replay value. Not only that, this sort of thing is also a cool homage to the level design of the original “Doom” too.

All in all, this level fulfils it’s goals really well – it is a forgivingly easy and short introductory level that is also a bit of a homage to the original “Doom” too. Yes, if you’re an experienced player, then this level will just be three minutes of mindlessly easy fun. But, I can imagine that it will probably be a lot more enjoyable and a bit more challenging for the novice players that it is aimed at.

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

Review: “Frost Bitten” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “MBF Engine” [?]/ “ZDoom”)

Well, since I’m still reading the next novel that I plan to review (a Lovecraftian “Scooby Doo” parody called “Meddling Kids” By Edgar Cantero), I thought that I’d take a look at a “Doom II”/”Final Doom” WAD. After all, it has been a little under a month since my last WAD review and, well, tradition is tradition.

So, after clicking the “Random File” button on the /idgames Archive a few times, I ended up with a level from 1999 called “Frost Bitten“.

Although this WAD was apparently designed for a source port I’d never even heard of before called “MBF Engine”, it was mostly functional with the “ZDoom” source port that I usually use. However, one feature mentioned in the readme file (friendly monsters) didn’t work with ZDoom.

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

“Frost Bitten” is a single-level WAD that also includes some new textures and features. It’s a short to medium-length level with some cool lighting, cool area design and a reasonably good variety of gameplay styles too.

Seriously, the lighting here is really awesome 🙂

As for the level design, the level is non-linear enough to be interesting but it flows really well enough that you won’t really get lost. The level design is also used to add challenge to the level in a few interesting ways, some of which are cool and some of which are a little bit cheap.

On the plus side, the level features this wonderfully tense segment where you have to explore a dark and claustrophobic air vent maze (which doesn’t show up on the in-game map) that is patrolled by spectres. Since you can usually hear the monsters, but can’t see them, and since you’ll probably also have relatively limited health and weapons, this segment of the level is surprisingly suspenseful and even borders on scary at times 🙂

Yes, this part of the level is actually scary 🙂

On the downside, there are a couple of cheap moments. Whether it is a (relatively) close-quarters Cyberdemon fight or a segment where you have to jump into a fast-flowing stream of blue radioactive waste and then stop moving at exactly the right moment to avoid certain death (and, yes, it’ll require a bit of trial and error), the level does occasionally include some cheap difficulty.

In terms of the general difficulty of the level, it’s probably moderately challenging at the very most. Experienced players won’t have too much trouble with this level and, even the Cyberdemon fight that I mentioned isn’t exactly unfair. You’re given enough ammo and just enough cover, but expect a relatively long fight with lots of trial and error.

If you’re an experienced player, then this fight isn’t exactly difficult. But, it is kind of time-consuming….

The new textures are reasonably good and they mostly consist of small signs, vending machine logos etc.. in addition to some rather cool snowy outdoor areas too. The best one of these is probably at the beginning of the level, where there is actually animated “snow” that hangs in the air. Although the animation is relatively basic, it still looks really cool and I wish that it had been used in the other wintery parts of the level.

Seriously, why wasn’t this in the later parts of the level too?

As mentioned earlier, I couldn’t get the “friendly monsters” feature to work with the source port I used – but some of the other features still worked. These mostly include things like underwater areas, small air vents and raised passageways which the Doomguy will automatically crouch into or jump onto when you walk up to them etc… Although this stuff might not sound that impressive these days, it was probably quite a technical achievement in 1999.

All in all, this is a fairly cool level 🙂 Yes, it does have a few annoying or frustrating moments, but if you want a reasonably interesting short-medium length level that includes the kind of features you don’t see that often in 1990s Doom WADs, then this one might be worth taking a look at.

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