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

The evening before I wrote this review, I had a couple of hours to spare – so, I thought that I’d check out another “Doom II”/”Final Doom” WAD. In the end, I found one called “End Point” that looked like it could be interesting.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD. However, it will probably work on most other modern source ports too.

So, let’s take a quick look at “End Point”:

screenshot_doom_20161029_163507

“End Point” is a seven-level WAD that contains new textures and music. One of the very first things that I will say about this WAD is that you shouldn’t let the very beginning of level one lull you into a false sense of security. Although it starts out like an old-school ‘ Doom 1’ level, the difficulty level of almost all of this WAD is probably closer to “Final Doom”.

Whilst I was glad that this WAD wouldn’t be too easy, one thing that really surprised me is exactly how this WAD makes itself enjoyably challenging. Unlike many other challenging WADs that throw large numbers of Revenants, Barons etc… at you, quite a lot of the challenge in this WAD comes from the clever use of chaingun zombies.

Yes, you don't always see too many of THESE in 'challenging' Doom II WADs.

Yes, you don’t always see too many of THESE in ‘challenging’ Doom II WADs.

Sure, each level contains at least one arch-vile and there are also a fair number of mid-level monsters, but “End Point” is a showcase for how much of a formidable foe the chaingun zombie can be. After all, he often tends to be a slightly under-used monster in modern WADs.

In fact, in the final level, a long-distance encounter with a group of about ten chaingun zombies is actually more challenging than the obligatory cyberdemon encounter later in the level – since the cyberdemon’s rockets can be easily dodged, but the chaingunners can shoot accurately at long distances. So, you are forced to actually fight them.. and as quickly as possible!

Yes, believe it or not, this is MORE challenging than....

Yes, believe it or not, this is MORE challenging than….

 .... THIS!

…. THIS!

In terms of the level design, it’s really good. As you would expect, each level is very non-linear and each level walks a fine line between requiring the player to explore and being self-explanatory/streamlined enough to stop the player from getting stuck.

In terms of pure design, these are “Doom II” levels done right. They’re thrilling and they’re challenging, but they aren’t needlessly frustrating. There’s also a good balance between corridor-like areas and larger areas, which sometimes include cool set-pieces too.

Like this "graveyard" in level two that spawns lots of zombies when you find the key at the end of it.

Like this “graveyard” in level two that spawns lots of zombies when you find the key at the end of it.

Likewise, the length of each level is just about right too. This WAD probably took me something like 2-3 hours in total to complete and none of the levels really outstayed their welcome or felt too rushed.

Visually, this WAD is really good. Each level has a very slightly different ‘look’ to it, whilst also being fairly consistent with the general 1990s-style look of “Final Doom”. This is especially surprising, since the WAD actually includes a few new textures. Although one or two cool-looking textures are immediately noticeably, many of them are surprisingly consistent with the look of classic “Doom”:

 I don't know if this is a new texture or not, but the lighting in this part of level four is AMAZING!

I don’t know if this is a new texture or not, but the lighting in this part of level four is AMAZING!

Dammit! WHY didn't the old "Doom" games include rooms that look like THIS?

Dammit! WHY didn’t the old “Doom” games include rooms that look like THIS?

 Don't ask me why, but I really love this blue version of the classic 'Doom' switch.

Don’t ask me why, but I really love this blue version of the classic ‘Doom’ switch.

In terms of the music, it’s something of a mixed bag. Some of the music, like a brilliantly gothic percussion track in level two and the end screen music after each level, sounds really cool. But, some of the music in a couple of the levels can sound a little bit annoying and/or repetitive.

All in all, “End Point” is a really good classic-style WAD, which also shows off how criminally under-used the chaingun zombie is in a lot of other WADs. If you enjoy “Final Doom”, then you will enjoy this WAD. It’s mildly-moderately challenging, the level design is of a professional standard and it’s just a fun way to spend a couple of hours.

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

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

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Before I begin, I should probably point out that this will be more of a “first impressions” article than a full review of “VeryHard“. I’ll explain more later in the article, but I felt like this was important to point out first.

As usual, I played (some of) this WAD using the “ZDoom” source port. Interestingly, this WAD actually requires version 2.8.1 of “ZDoom” – which, by delightful coincidence, is fairly similar to the version (a slightly old experimental version that was obviously a precursor to version 2.8.1) that I use.

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

screenshot_doom_20161021_125138

“VeryHard” is a set of seven “Doom II” levels. As the name suggests, these levels are meant to be evilly, fiendishly, diabolically difficult.

This is a WAD for people like myself who find borderline-unfair levels to be somewhere between absolutely hilarious and brilliantly fun. If you’re a new “Doom II” player, don’t even think about playing these levels. But, if you enjoy WADs like “Stardate 20X6“, “XXXI Cybersky“, “Swim With The Whales” or “Infernal Fortress” then you might enjoy this one.

From my experiences with this WAD, level one is actually beatable but level two appears to be (probably) impossible – not because of the quantity of monsters, but because an essential key seems to be nowhere to be found. Hence why this is a “first impressions” review, rather than a full review.

So, let’s start with level one. This level begins outside a giant underground train station and, once you are trapped in the station, the monsters start pouring towards you:

So far, so easy.....

So far, so easy…..

Of course, you’ll soon find yourself in a larger room that is filled with more monsters and several small kiosk-like rooms, which contain buttons that you need to press. Sounds pretty easy, right?

Oh, I forgot, these rooms are filled with Arch-viles..... and you'll need a blue key for one of the switches.

Oh, I forgot, these rooms are filled with Arch-viles….. and you’ll need a blue key for one of the switches.

Once you’ve managed to run, dodge and fight your way through this room and press the required switch, it’s time to get the blue key. This key is at the end of another corridor that contains, you guessed it, three arch-viles and virtually no cover!

Oh, hey there :)

Oh, hey there 🙂

When you’ve managed to press the button and hide behind the pillar, you might notice that – between cautious pot shots at the arch-viles – the pillar is descending. Once it’s descended fully, you’ll be able to grab the blue key.

The only problem is, of course, you won’t have any cover left. Likewise, the corridor takes more than three seconds to run away from. And, as any “Doom II” player will tell you, three seconds is about the amount of time it takes for an arch-vile to incinerate you.

So, after dying and restarting more times than you can remember, you’ll end up waiting for that one lucky moment when the arch-viles are too distracted by the monsters from the room you left earlier (and vice versa with the monsters) to bother attacking you.

But, when you’ve sneaked out of the corridor, you’ll be faced with a choice. You can either go back to the room with the blue switch the way you came from, or you can take advantage of a newly-opened shortcut near the station entrance….

 ...Which is also filled with monsters.

…Which is also filled with monsters.

After a lot of trial and error, plus some clever strategy, you’ll finally use the blue key on the blue switch and open a gate behind the room. Wow, what an exciting level! What? It isn’t over yet? That was only…. the easy introductory segment?

Oh yes! *Grins evilly* We haven't even STARTED the difficult part of the level yet!

Oh yes! *Grins evilly* We haven’t even STARTED the difficult part of the level yet!

Yes, the rest of the level is significantly more difficult. It’s a little bit reminiscent of the train station level from “Painkiller“, but with literal armies of revenants, tens of arch-viles and more than five times your recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C(yberdemon).

I wasn't exaggerating about the revenants, there must be at least 200 of them in this part of the level.

I wasn’t exaggerating about the revenants, there must be at least 200 of them in this part of the level.

Yes, luckily there's an invulnerability sphere hidden somewhere vaugely near here. You DID remember to find it, right?

Yes, luckily there’s an invulnerability sphere hidden somewhere vaugely near here. You DID remember to find it, right?

Yes, even this deadly close-quarters duel with a cyberdemon at the very end of the level is beatable if you are sneaky about it. You actually have to use the chaingun to ... wait a minute, you should probably work this out for yourself

Yes, even this deadly close-quarters duel with a cyberdemon at the very end of the level is beatable if you are sneaky about it. You actually have to use the chaingun to … wait a minute, you should probably work this out for yourself

Interestingly, this part of the level is also beatable. But, you’ll need a lot of determination, a willingness to experiment with different strategies, a habit of saving very often, a good knowledge of the “rules” of “Doom II” and perhaps a bit of luck too.

All in all, the first level is an absolute blast. It’s just about fair, despite looking extremely unfair at first glance. It’s an example of modern “slaughtermap” level design at it’s finest.

This level contains so many areas where good strategy and fast reflexes are more important than whatever weapons you happen to be carrying at any one time. Despite the often claustrophobic locations and the generic standard textures, it’s an utterly epic level that will have you quite literally cheering with joy when you finally manage to beat it.

The second level, on the other hand, isn’t so sophisticated. Sure, you’ll get to hear the soul-shaking sound of 10-20 cyberdemons roaring simultaneously. Sure, you’ll get to use the BFG a lot. You’ll even get to crowdsurf over six different armies of Hell Knights and Barons…

 Woo hoo!! This is awesome!

Woo hoo!! This is awesome!

And, yes, these sorts of epic things happen too. BUT....

And, yes, these sorts of epic things happen too. BUT….

.. In order to progress past the starting area of level two, you need to find a red skull key. Despite repeated replays of this area, using different strategies and lots of careful searching, I still haven’t been able to find this skull key. It might be there somewhere, but I certainly haven’t found it. In fact, it even eventually made me abandon this WAD out of pure frustration.

All in all, I’ve only played maybe just under a quarter of this WAD and, yet, the first level is absolutely spectacular. Yes, it certainly isn’t for everyone. But if ludicrously “unfair” levels make you laugh, or if you want a real challenge, then the first level of this WAD is absolutely perfect! It’s just a shame about the second level though.

If I had to give what I’d played so far a score out of five, it would get five for the first level and two for the second.

Determination And Inspiration – A Ramble

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Although this is an article about making art, I’m going to have to start by talking about playing computer games (again). As usual, there’s a good reason for this that I hope becomes obvious later. Likewise, although I’ve talked about all of the art-related stuff in this article before, it’s worth repeating (and not only because I seem to have mild writer’s block at the moment)

Even though I’m not sure when, if or even how much of it I’ll review in the future, I’ve been playing a set of “Doom II” levels called “Very Hard” recently.

As the name suggests, these levels have been designed to be as fiendishly difficult as possible. And, yet, a few hours before I wrote this article, I was able to beat the first level.

Sure, it took me something like 4-7 hours in total (and the many years of “Doom II” practice I’ve had before then). Sure, I probably saved more times in that one level than I’ve done in whole episodes of levels. Sure, I’d often have to re-play the same part of the level up to fifty times just in order to progress a little bit further. And I’d often end up in situations that looked like this:

This is a screenshot from "Very Hard". And, yes, this isn't even the largest group of monsters you'll encounter in this level...

This is a screenshot from “Very Hard”. And, yes, this isn’t even the largest group of monsters you’ll encounter in this level…

Finally, eventually, I finished the level. I literally had to come up with clever ways to use the “rules” of ‘Doom’ to my advantage more times than I can remember. My reaction to actually finishing this level was exactly the kind of elated reaction that you would expect after achieving something that looks impossible.

Pure bliss! Don't be fooled by the "20:14" time. This only covers the time I spent NOT being obliterated by monsters.

Pure bliss! Don’t be fooled by the “20:14” time. This only covers the time I spent NOT being obliterated by monsters.

So, what does any of this have to do with making art?

Well, it’s all to do with determination – something that I not only learnt from playing “Doom II” levels, but also from daily art practice. One of the great things about telling yourself that you will make a piece of art every day is that you actually have to make a piece of art every day. Whilst this might not sound too difficult, it also includes the days when you aren’t feeling inspired.

But, if there’s one thing that daily art practice teaches you, it’s that determination matters more than inspiration. If you make a piece of art every day, regardless of how good it is, you’ll quickly learn all sorts of sneaky ways to get around not feeling inspired.

You’ll learn that, with a bit of practice, still life paintings are a quick and almost inspiration-free way to make a day’s painting. You’ll learn that making new versions of your really old paintings or drawings can be a cool-looking way to get through an uninspired day. You’ll learn which types of art you can pretty much make in your sleep.

You’ll learn that, if something is out of copyright, then you can paint your own modified copy of it. You’ll learn how to take inspiration properly from things that are still in copyright. You’ll learn that even painting something totally random (if you’re feeling mildly uninspired) is better than painting nothing. Like this:

This is a reduced-size preview, the full-size painting will appear here on the 7th August. As mildly uninspired paintings go, this is probably one of the better ones I've made.

This is a reduced-size preview, the full-size painting will appear here on the 7th August. As mildly uninspired paintings go, this is probably one of the better ones I’ve made.

If you have determination, then a lack of inspiration won’t matter as much. Not only that, since you’re still making art when you aren’t feeling inspired, you may well find that inspiration will come a lot more often and a lot more easily.

Strange as it sounds, if being uninspired (or the possibility of totally and utterly failing at making a good painting or drawing) isn’t an huge problem to you, then you won’t feel uninspired anywhere near as often.

Not only that, if you doggedly insist on making a piece of art every day, then your art will improve significantly too. Yes, it might happen gradually. But, you’ll eventually get to the point where even your crappiest and most “uninspired” new painting looks better than your best and most inspired old painting.

So, yes, the kind of determination that you need to complete a “seemingly impossible” computer game level is exactly the kind of determination that you also need when you’re doing your art practice.

———

Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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

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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.

Mini Review: “Back To The Thunder Road” (WAD For “Doom II”/”Final Doom”/ “GZDoom”/”ZDoom”/”Boom”)

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Well, it’s been a while since I last reviewed a “Doom II” WAD and, since it seems to be some kind of informal rule of mine that I review at least one per month, I thought that I’d check out a WAD called “Back To The Thunder Road“. I should probably point out that I was fairly tired when I wrote this review and played the WAD, so this may affect the review.

Likewise, I accidentally used the”ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD. However, looking at the text file, “GZDoom” is recommended. But “Boom” is mentioned on the “New Stuff” review that introduced me to this WAD, which recommends “ZDoom”. The only side-effect I found with using “ZDoom” was that there were quite a few ‘hall of mirrors’ glitches, especially near the end of the WAD. However, technically speaking, you probably just need a modern source port that allows jumping.

Anyway, let’s take a quick look at “Back To The Thunder Road”:

screenshot_doom_20161015_090308

“Back To The Thunder Road” is a six-level WAD (with a small ending level) that features new music and new level completion screen backgrounds. For the most part, it is a “vanilla” WAD that only features the standard “Doom II” monsters, textures and weapons. But, don’t let this put you off.

Although the six levels in this WAD are relatively short, they are surprisingly well-designed. This is a WAD that is aimed at experienced intermediate players, and it walks a very fine line between using difficult “traditional” levels and more strategy-based modern “slaughtermap”-style gameplay. In other words, there are times when it makes sense to fight every monster you see and there are times when it doesn’t.

However, some of the difficulty in this WAD is achieved through occasionally giving the player a relatively limited supply of ammo. Whilst I didn’t find this to be too bad or too extreme, some players might not like this type of difficulty.

For the most part, the gameplay in this WAD is fast and thrilling. Some of the levels include clever set pieces, such as placing several doors around a lift shaft – meaning that the player has to pretty much run through the door whilst the lift is moving. Naturally, there sometimes isn’t much space – and a mid-level monster or two lurking behind the door.

Getting through that door is more challenging than it looks...

Getting through that door is more challenging than it looks…

... Especially when there's a revenant eager to greet you AND an Arch-vile waiting for you to walk more than a couple of paces through the door.

… Especially when there’s a revenant eager to greet you AND an Arch-vile waiting for you to walk more than a couple of paces through the door.

The best level in the WAD is probably the sixth level. Although the earlier parts of it might not be to everyone’s taste since, apart from a cool vertically-sliding pit area, most of the level sits somewhere between “thrillingly streamlined” and “fairly linear”. However, the last part of the level is either extremely clever or extremely evil, depending on how you look at it.

In the final part of the level, you’ll find a large tower with a thin spiral staircase that runs around the edge. In addition to this, there is a literal swarm of cacodemons heading right at you. So far, so easy…

Yes, you've probably seen something like this before in other "Doom II" WADs. But, keep reading, THIS time, it's different...

Yes, you’ve probably seen something like this before in other “Doom II” WADs. But, keep reading, THIS time, it’s different…

You obviously can’t fight all of the cacodemons, so your instinct will probably be to run up the stairs. Of course, your path is blocked by a few low-level monsters that are standing on the stairs. No problem? Well, in the few seconds you’ve taken blasting these monsters into smithereens, the swarm of cacodemons has started flying upwards towards you and has started to block your path. In level design terms, it’s either absolutely evil or absolutely genius.

Of course, there is a way to beat the level – if you’re willing to realise that both trial-and-error and the usual “Doom II” tactics have their limits, and outside-the-box thinking is required sometimes. But, when you do work out what you need to do in order to complete this part of the level, it is absolutely epic. I’m not going to tell you the solution, but I will give you a hint – look closely at the ammo types you find on the stairs and whether they all match the weapons you’re currently holding.

In terms of music, this WAD is filled with some absolutely awesome 1980s/90s style synth music that gives the game a wonderfully retro atmosphere 🙂 Seriously, I love the music in this WAD.

All in all, “Back To The Thunder Road” is a relatively short, but fun, WAD that will give even experienced “Doom II” players a bit of a challenge. The levels are small, but what they lack in quantity, they often make up for in quality.

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

Mini Review: “Hell’s Revenge” (Demo Version) (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “ZDoom”)

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Well, I was in the mood for playing another “Doom II” WAD and, this time, I was a bit luckier. After a quick look on ModDB, I found a rather entertaining little WAD called “Hell’s Revenge“. However, I think that it’s a demo version of the WAD, so there may or may not be a larger version by the time this review goes out – since I write these mini reviews/reviews ridiculously far in advance.

As usual, I used the ZDoom source port whilst playing this WAD (although it took longer to load, due to a texture error message that seemed to have little or no effect on the actual game itself). However, this WAD will probably work on any modern source port that allows jumping.

Anyway, let’s take a look at it:

screenshot_doom_20160929_000104

The demo version of “Hell’s Revenge” is a two-level WAD for “Doom II”/”Final Doom”, which is meant to take place after the events of “The Plutonia Experiment”. Despite the screenshots on the ModDB page at the time of writing (late September 2016), the demo seems to be a ‘vanilla’ WAD (with no new textures, monsters, weapons etc..). However, this may well change in later versions of the WAD.

One of the first things that I will say about this WAD is that although it claims to follow on from “The Plutonia Experiment”, the gameplay style is at least slightly different to that of “Final Doom”. In many ways, this WAD is slightly closer to modern ‘slaughtermap’-style WADs than to “Final Doom”. I’m not complaining though 🙂

Yes, this is a WAD for experienced players and, as always, it is a joy to behold. Whilst it may not contain the gigantic armies of monsters that are common in the slaughtermap genre, it uses medium-large groups of monsters to great effect. Most of the time, the monsters are spread out slightly more.

 This is probably the largest "army" of monsters you'll encounter and this is only near the end of the second level.

This is probably the largest “army” of monsters you’ll encounter and this is only near the end of the second level.

Most of the time, something like this is a bit more typical.

Most of the time, something like this is a bit more typical.

This isn’t to say that this WAD is “easy” though. Like in any slaughtermap-style WAD, the emphasis is firmly on fast-paced strategy, having a good knowledge of the “rules” of “Doom” and on trial-and-error. You’ll find at least a few situations where the best course of action isn’t to fight all of the monsters, but to find a clever way to either bypass some of them or trick some of them into fighting each other.

Of course, sometimes, the best strategy is just to RUN!!!!!

Of course, sometimes, the best strategy is just to RUN!!!!!

Personally, I absolutely love this type of gameplay. As well as being thrillingly fast-paced, the fact that you are frequently outnumbered and outgunned also means that you actually have to think about what you’re going to do. You have to use cunning, strategy and daring – rather than just mindless shooting – in order to get through each of the WAD’s many battles. Seriously, more FPS games should be like this!

As for the level design, it’s really good. Both levels start off in a well-designed “hub” area, with lots of extra rooms, locked doors and passages leading off in different directions. Like any good FPS game level, these levels are the kind of non-linear things that will require a fair amount of exploration and memorisation in order to work out where you’re supposed to go next.

My favourite of the two levels is probably the first one – since it takes place outdoors and it seems a bit more “open” than the cavern-like setting of the second level.

I especially like how this giant square corridor is used as an arena of sorts too.

I especially like how this giant square corridor is used as an arena of sorts too.

However, in terms of pure design, the second level is probably slightly better. This is mostly because of a couple of tiny design flaws in the first level.

Not only is there a small “hall of mirrors” glitch in one area (this might explain the error message I mentioned at the beginning of this mini review), but there is also a very unforgiving first-person platforming segment just before this part of the level. Yes, it’s fairly small and you only have to traverse it twice – but it still breaks up the flow of the gameplay slightly. Not to mention that it’s, well, first-person platforming!

And, for extra "fun", the platform damages you when you stand on it for too long. Then again, you need to be running and jumping fairly quickly to get the momentum needed to clear this chasm. So, I guess that I can begrudgingly understand this design decision.

And, for extra “fun”, the platform damages you when you stand on it for too long. Then again, you need to be running and jumping fairly quickly to get the momentum needed to clear this chasm. So, I guess that I can begrudgingly understand this design decision.

Although the second level is fairly well-designed, one strange thing that I noticed was the fact that you only get the plasma rifle in the very final room (after defeating the arch-vile at the end). Then again, since this is meant to be a demo of a much larger WAD, this strange weapon placement is slightly more understandable.

All in all, despite a couple of tiny flaws, this is an extremely entertaining WAD. It’s challenging, fast-paced and thrilling. Although there doesn’t seem to be anything particularly new in the demo, there doesn’t need to be. You’ll be too busy running away from monsters, working out what to do next and enjoying yourself to care.

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

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.