Partial Review: “Quantum Strike (V2)” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ ZDoom etc..)

Well, although I’m playing a game called “Under A Killing Moon” (Edit: Unfortunately, I probably won’t review it) at the time of writing, I thought that I should try to make sure that there is at least one “Doom II”/”Final Doom” WAD review posted here this month.

So, I thought that I’d take a quick look at a WAD called “Quantum Strike (V2)“. However, at the time of writing, I’m about halfway through level three (of four). So, this article will be more than just a first impressions article, but less than a full review.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port (version 2.7.9999.0) whilst playing this WAD. However, according to the text file that accompanies the WAD, it will also run with more modern versions of several other source ports such as GZDoom, Zandronum, PR/GLBoom+ and QZDoom.

So, let’s take a look at “Quantum Strike (V.2):

“Quantum Strike (V2)” is a four-level “slaughtermap” WAD that includes new textures, music, fully implemented difficulty settings (I used “Hurt Me Plenty”) and a new monster.

If you’ve never heard of “slaughtermap” levels before, they are challenging levels (like “XXXI Cybersky“, “VeryHard“, “Stardate 20X6” etc..) that contain a linear series of arena-like segments which are filled with more monsters than you can actually fight.

This shifts the emphasis of the gameplay towards survival, fast-paced puzzle solving, dogged determination, knowing when to fight (or when not to) and knowing how to use the “rules” of “Doom II” to your advantage. Personally, I really like this style of level, but it is something of an acquired taste.

Seriously, when it is done well – like in this part of level two- these types of level can be brilliant 🙂

However, whilst this WAD certainly contains some good slaughtermap segments, it isn’t a perfect example of something in this genre. The main problem is that many of the monster-filled areas can feel a little bit too claustrophobic. One of the most important parts of any “slaughtermap” is that the player has enough room to run, dodge and take cover. This can make the difference between a fun level and a frustrating one.

This is especially the case with the early parts of the first level, which mostly take place within narrow corridors where there’s very little room for dodging and relatively little ammo, health, weaponry or cover on offer. At it’s best, this makes the level suspenseful. But it can also make the difficulty feel somewhat cheap, especially when the level occasionally leaves you sandwiched between two groups of monsters within a relatively narrow corridor.

The most jarring example of cheap difficulty in the first level is when the WAD’s new monster, the Afrit, is introduced during a corridor segment. This is a flying baron-type monster who has a powerful attack that spews lots of mancubus/revenant projectiles across a wide area. Although it’s always cool to see new monsters, this is a type of monster that shouldn’t be used in areas where there’s relatively little cover or room for the player to dodge.

Pictured: Not a monster that you want to meet in a corridor!

Although the first level is a rather fun level, the claustrophobic design doesn’t do it any favours. Even the “arena” area later in the level is a medium-size room that feels slightly claustrophobic when compared to the number of monsters you have to fight. This is compounded by the fact that there’s relatively little cover in this area, which can mean that the player barely has time to think or to formulate any kind of strategy.

And, if you try to hide in one of the alcoves here, expect to get walled in by ferocious monsters very quickly!

The second level has some really good arena segments that are suitably sized for this style of gameplay. However, there’s still something of a slight emphasis on claustrophobic walkways in some parts of the level.

And I also forgot to mention that you need to move along the walkways quickly, since there’s a cyberdemon in the middle of this area.

But, although this level is probably my favourite, I couldn’t actually find a way to end it. Even after all of the monsters in the final arena had died, I still couldn’t find a way of ending the level. So, I had to resort to using the “level skip” cheat.

The final battle at the end of the level is pretty epic though (and, like another cool segment earlier in the level, there’s actually enough room too!)

The third level is much more like a classic-style “slaughtermap” level, with arena-like areas, some cool-looking design and lots of monsters.

The coolest part of level three (that I’ve seen so far) is probably this bit, where you can see the level from above.

Although I haven’t finished this level at the time of writing, it is a reasonably fun example of a slaughtermap level. However, one slight criticism I have of it is that some parts can feel a little bit claustrophobic and/or not have enough cover.

Such as this part when it starts filling up with monsters (including a three-layered wall of chaingun zombies on the other side of the room!)

This WAD also takes a very traditionalist attitude towards jumping, but the levels are designed with this limitation in mind. So, I didn’t even notice that I couldn’t jump until about half an hour after I’d started playing. However, the fact that the WAD seems to force you to play the second level (and presumably the third too) from a pistol start is slightly annoying though.

Seriously, why?!?!?

Visually speaking, this WAD has a rather cool sci-fi/horror theme to it, which is vaguely reminiscent of both the original “Quake” and some of Skillsaw’s excellent “Doom II” WADs (eg: “Ancient Aliens“, “Lunatic” etc..) whilst also being it’s own thing too. Seriously, I really love the look of this WAD 🙂

I also love how this WAD sometimes has different colour schemes for different areas.

Plus, I love the “Quake”-like textures on this inventively-designed crusher too.

Likewise, the new music here is really cool too, and it mostly consists of 1980s/90s style MIDI music which has a wonderfully retro-futuristic sound to it. This goes really well with the visual style of the WAD and really helps to add some atmosphere to the levels.

All in all, from what I’ve played, this WAD is a mixed bag. Yes, it looks (and sounds) really cool. Yes, there are some really fun moments to be found here (especially in the second level). However, the emphasis on claustrophobic settings and pistol starts really doesn’t do this WAD any favours.

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

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

Well, I thought that I’d take a look at another “Doom II”/”Final Doom” WAD today (wow, three in one month!). And, after a little bit of searching, I found a WAD called “Planisphere” that looked like it could be interesting.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD – but it will work on any limit-removing source port. However, since it uses the “Wolf 3D” enemies and a “Wolf 3D” texture from “Doom II”, one part of the level possibly won’t work properly on German versions of the game and/or the “BFG Edition” version of the game.

As a general note, I’ll probably be using “ZDoom” even more often, since one of the side-effects of the hardware changes I had to make to my classic mid-2000s computer a few days before preparing this review is that it will no longer run “GZDoom”.

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

“Planisphere” is a single-level WAD from 2017 that also includes new music and a new skybox texture.

Surprisingly, the accompanying text file actually includes a backstory for the level, which revolves around a train journey gone horribly wrong (which also explains why the level begins and ends beside a train station).

Plus, this WAD does the cool thing of showing you a later part of the level near the beginning of the level.

One of the first things that I will say about this level is that it is a mixture of cool moments and frustrating moments. This level is filled with an interesting variety of cool-looking themed outdoor areas (eg: an urban area, a fantasy/horror/Aztec-style area, a sci-fi style area and a small WW2-themed area) and this kind of makes it feel a bit like a more action-packed version of “The Crystal Maze“.

There’s a dramatic post-apocalyptic city area.

And a pyramid too 🙂 A pyramid!

You can also find a ship too 🙂

In addition to visual variety, there’s also some degree of gameplay variety between these areas. The first and last areas (which overlap slightly) are fast-paced action segments. The fantasy/horror-themed area is a mixture of action and strategy, and the sci-fi themed area is eerily devoid of monsters.

The total lack of monsters actually makes this area quite creepy.

However, whilst it’s cool that “Planisphere” tries to add some variety to the gameplay, this can also make the pacing of the level somewhat uneven and inconsistent. This isn’t helped by the fact that this is one of those levels where you’re likely to get completely and utterly stuck at least once.

For example, I spent at least 20-30 minutes wandering around one area aimlessly until I eventually realised, purely by chance, that a nearby lift can actually ascend three floors rather than the two it initially seemed to be able to reach. Likewise, I almost got stuck in another area until I found a room that was “hidden in plain sight” (although, to be fair, this was a fairly clever piece of level design that relies on how a player would normally react to one type of location).

One interesting level design quirk is that there seems to be at least one totally optional area. Near the end of the level, there is a locked door that requires a yellow key. As I looked around for it, I ended up finding the end of the level instead. So, out of curiosity, I went back and took a quick look behind the door (with the “no clipping” cheat) and found a red door that contained a totally optional missile silo-style area.

Seriously, this is one of the coolest parts of the level, but it’s very easy to miss.

In terms of difficulty, this WAD is a bit of a strange one. Whilst it isn’t exactly ultra-challenging (eg: the one time you’re faced with a horde of enemies, you’re given a plasma rifle and a megasphere), the level sometimes achieves it’s difficulty in rather cheap ways.

Whether this is being very slightly stingy with the amount of ammo the player is given, or placing enemies on ledges in some puzzle-based areas etc… the moderate difficulty can sometimes feel like it has been achieved by cheap methods.

For example, unless you search thoroughly, you’re probably going to run low on ammo here.

The custom music consists of ominous MIDI music that lends the level a slightly gothic/gloomy atmosphere, whilst also being stylistically in keeping with the traditional “Doom” games too.

All in all, this WAD is something of a mixed bag. Although this WAD contains some cool-looking areas (mostly just using the standard textures too), a four-area structure and some reasonably fun moments, the pacing of the level is somewhat uneven, the amount of ammo on offer is a little bit low at times and expect to get stuck at least once or twice.

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

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

Once again, it has been an entire month since I last reviewed a “Doom II” WAD. Although I had planned to review a WAD called “Saturnine Chapel” a few days ago, it was one of those annoying WADs that actually requires a powerful modern computer (eg: I only got a single-digit framerate). So, instead, I thought that I’d check out a rather interesting little WAD called “Maihama“.

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

So, let’s take a look at “Maihama”:

And, no, this isn’t quite the start of the level (I was too busy fighting and dodging monsters to take screenshots there!)

“Maihama” is a single-level WAD that also contains new music and a couple of new textures (eg: the skybox and the ending screen background).

One of the first things that I will say about this WAD is that it was a bit more challenging than I expected. Although it isn’t ultra-difficult, it is the kind of WAD that will both remind you how out-of-practice you are and then gently help you to remember how to play “Doom II” again. Like in a lot of great WADs, there is a strong emphasis on fast-paced strategic gameplay here.

Ah, “Doom II”, I’ve missed you 🙂

The designer of this level achieves this in some rather clever ways – the most notable being the placement of several health-sapping chaingun zombies at the beginning of the level. Combined with very strict ammunition rationing, this means that you’ll be in a situation where you have about two health points and a couple of bullets left… before you even get to the main part of the level.

Two bullets, two health points… and this is just the early part of the level!

Although this level doesn’t throw gigantic hordes of monsters at you (there are a couple of strategically-placed small-medium size groups of monsters though), the clever monster placement is one thing that makes it so thrillingly challenging. For example, there are often both near and distant monsters of various types present at any one time.

This means that you’ll be spending a lot of time dodging projectiles, ducking for cover, using every “Doom II” trick that you know, prioritising which monsters to fight first, scanning distant buildings for zombie-based monsters and trying to make sure that nothing on the ground gets too close to you. In other words, you’ll have to think on your feet constantly and make split-second decisions about whether to run or fight. This is how you make a thrilling action game!

For example, that tiny barely-visible shotgun zombie in the distance is the most dangerous monster in this situation.

This thrillingly fast-paced gameplay is balanced out somewhat by the fact that there are few areas that are relatively “safe”, such as a narrow corridor in one building that you can hide in. This helps to give the player time to think, whilst ensuring that the level never gets too slow paced (after all, you can’t spend forever hiding).

In addition to this, the relative scarcity of health and ammo in the level helps to keep the gameplay suspenseful. Although running out of ammo is only a serious risk in the early parts of the level, you still have to be at least mildly careful during the later parts of the level too.

Plus, to keep the gameplay even more varied, there are even a couple of cool set pieces too. The most notable of this is a mild version of a “slaughtermap” arena, where you have to fight about six mid-level monsters within a confined space. This segment of the level requires fast reflexes, knowledge about monster infighting and a dogged sense of determination. And it’s really fun 🙂

Yes, this frantic strategy-based segment is a really fun, if surprisingly challenging, change of pace.

In terms of the actual design of the level, it’s really good. Not only is it the kind of non-linear level that requires exploration, but it also contains a good variety of open areas and more confined areas too.

Plus, there are some clever mixtures of the two – like this narrow bridge in the middle of a large open area.

Likewise, the segments where you find the keys are handled in a reasonably clever way too (for example, after getting the blue key, a wall descends which allows you to quickly return to an early part of the level).

Not only that, this is also the kind of well-designed level where you are very unlikely to get “stuck” at any time. In other words, whilst the level doesn’t explicitly tell you where to go, it’s often at least slightly obvious where you need to explore next.

Yay! Old school non-linear level design 🙂 But without the hassle of getting completely “stuck” either 🙂

In terms of the music, this level contains some wonderfully 90s-style MIDI music that is an absolute joy to listen to. Amongst other things, it includes a mixture of slower piano music and slightly faster-paced synth music (that vaguely reminded me of “Rise Of The Triad: Dark War).

All in all, this is a fun, well-designed and enjoyably challenging level. If you’re slightly out of practice with “Doom II” or want a slightly ‘easier’ difficult WAD, then you can’t go wrong with this one. It’s filled with thrilling fast-paced action of the type that you can only truly find in “Doom II” WADs 🙂

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

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

Well, after finishing “Temple Of The Lizard Men IV“, almost all of my “Doom II” playing over the past couple of weeks has been restricted to an awesome mod called “Reelism Gold” (seriously, play it!). But I thought that I should probably play something new – so, I decided to check out a WAD from 2016 called “Outland Industries“.

I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD. Interestingly, from what I read about it on Doomworld, this WAD pretty much requires “ZDoom” and can apparently cause errors in some other source ports. So, make sure that you use “ZDoom”.

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

“Outland Industries” is a single-level WAD for “Doom II”/”Final Doom”. It is a ‘vanilla’ WAD (eg: it features no custom content) and it is apparently the very first WAD created by it’s designer (Professor Bucket). And, surprisingly, it’s actually quite good.

The WAD begins in a wonderfully gloomy area that makes expert use of “classic”-style lighting effects. There’s a really good balance between ominous gloom and muted lighting here, which really helps to give this area some atmosphere. There are also a few low-level monsters and a shotgun nearby. But, don’t get too comfortable! This easy opening segment is designed to lull you into a false sense of security!

Initially, I thought that I’d finish this level in five minutes…..

….. It took me closer to 20-30 minutes!

If there’s one thing to be said about this level, it is that it has a fairly good difficulty curve. If you’ve completed “Doom II” and you want to step into the exciting world of modern “Doom” WADs (or even if you’re just in between “Doom II” and “Final Doom”), then “Outland Industries” is a good starter level to help you prepare for the increase in difficulty you’ll encounter.

Although the creator of this WAD was aiming for something similar to a traditional “Doom II” level, the difficulty and style of this level is probably more like a mixture of a milder version of “Final Doom” and a toned-down version of a modern “Slaughtermap” WAD.

Seriously, there might not be THAT many monsters here, but thanks to the small size of the room, this segment of the level is at least mildly challenging. It’s also good practice if you’re new to “Doom II” WADs too.

What I mean by this is that you’ll be encountering small-medium size hordes of low-mid level monsters occasionally. These segments are also spread out quite well throughout the level (seriously, I cannot praise the pacing enough). Compared to, say, “Stardate 20X6” or “VeryHard” – these segments are extremely easy. But, they’re handled very well and are a great introduction to the more strategic playing style (where retreating/running is sometimes the best option) required in many modern WADs.

Still, even though this WAD isn’t exactly super difficult, it is still mildly – but enjoyably- challenging for more experienced players. The stand-out moments have to be a battle with a group of monsters in a relatively small room, the segment with the rocket launcher and the brilliantly epic (if somewhat small-scale) final segment of the level. This final segment is a brilliant mixture of “Final Doom” and “Slaughtermap”-style level design.

Yay! Projectiles 🙂

You’ll be dodging a small hail of projectiles, a fair number of lost souls and a few well-placed spider demons, mancubi and chaingunners as you try to work out how to get the “exit” door open. Although this area is fairly small (and the key isn’t too hard to find), it manages to cram in some really cool fast-paced non-linear gameplay into a relatively small area.

The level design in the rest of the level is really good too. Seriously, for a first WAD, this is spectacular!

Seriously, even this little part near the beginning of the level is kind of cool.

The level is non-linear enough to be interesting, and both the level’s size and design also mean that you’ll never get stuck when playing it. In other words, you get to explore and backtrack, but you’ll never really be uncertain about where to go next. Likewise, although it just uses the standard textures, monsters etc… the variety of areas (from claustrophobic corridors and rooms, to larger outdoor areas) and some clever monster placement means that the gameplay never gets monotonous.

For example, this room looks quiet… Suspiciously quiet.

– And THIS area is really cool. It’s a jump that overhangs an earlier part of the level. Now, THIS is good level design!

And there’s a good mixture between claustrophobic corridors and larger outdoor areas too.

The only real criticism I have of this level is that it doesn’t seem to include any arch-viles! A well-placed arch-vile or two would really help to add a little bit of extra suspense, challenge and drama to the level. And, yes, I’m one of those weird players who actually likes arch-viles.

All in all, this is a really good level that is almost up to the standard of an “official” level. The level design helps to keep the gameplay flowing at a fast pace, the combat is enjoyably challenging and the monster placement is superb. It’s an enjoyably fun and relaxing level for experienced players, and it’s a good “starter” level for people who are new to “Doom” WADs. For the designer’s first level, it is really something!

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

Mini Review: “Altar Of Evil” (WAD for “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “ZDoom”)

2017-artwork-altar-of-evil-wad-review-sketch

Well, it’s been a couple of weeks since I last reviewed a “Doom II” WAD, so I thought that I’d check out a rather interesting one called “Altar Of Evil” which was one of the runners-up for a Cacoward in 2005.

As usual, I used the ZDoom source port whilst playing this WAD.

So, let’s take a look at “Altar Of Evil”:

screenshot_doom_20170302_133245

“Altar Of Evil” is a single-level WAD that contains new sounds, textures and sprites.

The first thing that I will say about this WAD is that it looks really cool, since it has a fairly consistent green/orange/black colour scheme and some wonderfully ominous lighting too. Although many of the new textures aren’t really that obvious, it still looks like a better version of something you would expect to find in the “standard” game.

Seriously, I love the lighting in this level :)

Seriously, I love the lighting in this level 🙂

The interesting visual design of this WAD also extends to the monster sprites, some of which have been altered in various ways.

Most notably, the imps now use a variant of the “Dark Imp” sprite used by various other WADs. They also fire green projectiles, which compliment the red projectiles that the Barons and Hell Knights now throw at you. Other notable monster sprite changes include a dark grey mancubus and three types of pinkie demons (eg: dark pink, blue and dark grey).

The blue pinkie demons are really cool, and they seem to be a replacement for the "spectre" monsters. So, WHAT are the dark grey pinkie demons?

The blue pinkie demons are really cool, and they seem to be a replacement for the “spectre” monsters. So, WHAT are the dark grey pinkie demons?

Yes, dark imps are nothing new. But, the green projectiles are really neat though.

Yes, dark imps are nothing new. But, the green projectiles are really neat though.

But, the main thing that gives this WAD it’s atmosphere has to be the new sounds.

Seriously, I cannot praise the sound design in this WAD highly enough – all of the weapon sounds and monster noises sound a little bit like a heavier and like a more “realistic” version of the kind of sound effects that you’d expect to hear in the original “Quake”.

The stand-out sound effects have to be the new super shotgun noise and the epic, thunderous roar of the BFG:

There's a reason why you'll run out of BFG ammo fairly quickly in this level. The new sound effect is just THAT epic!

There’s a reason why you’ll run out of BFG ammo fairly quickly in this level. The new sound effect is just THAT epic!

But, although this WAD has a lot of atmosphere, is the gameplay and level design any good? In a word, yes.

“Altar Of Evil” is an old-school non-linear level which still manages to be “streamlined” enough that you’ll rarely wonder where you’re supposed to go next. The level manages to be reasonably large without being too large (eg: you won’t really get lost when playing this level). There are a couple of cool little elements to this level, such as a pit in the corner of one room which Cacodemons rise out of and which you have to jump into in order to progress to the next part of the level.

As for the gameplay, this WAD contains a mixture of traditional-style gameplay and some mild slaughtermap elements. Throughout the very early stages of the level, you’ll be fighting reasonable numbers of monsters in relatively spacious areas. But, in later parts of the level, you’ll be fighting larger numbers of monsters in more confined spaces. This really helps to add some variety and challenge to the level, which keeps things interesting.

Yes, there are more monsters in this area than shown in the screenshot. Still, most of them are fairly low-level ones.

Yes, there are more monsters in this area than shown in the screenshot. Still, most of them are fairly low-level ones.

However, in terms of difficulty, experienced players will only find this level to be moderately challenging at most. Although there are a decent number of mid-level monsters (and the obligatory arch-vile too), many of the larger groups of monsters you will encounter in this level are mostly composed of imps, pinkie demons and/or cacodemons.

Yes, there's only one arch-vile here. Still, one arch-vile is objectively better than no arch-viles.

Yes, there’s only one arch-vile here. Still, one arch-vile is objectively better than no arch-viles.

Even so, thanks to the cramped corridors and claustrophobic chambers you’ll encounter in some parts of the level, even low-level monsters can pose more of a threat than you might initially think.

All in all, this is a really cool WAD. It’s extremely atmospheric, it manages to be both “new” and “traditional” at the same time, the gameplay is enjoyably challenging and some of the new weapon sounds are absolutely epic. It’s kind of like the original “Quake”, but with the much cooler aesthetic of the classic “Doom” games.

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

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

2017-artwork-miasma-wad-review-sketch

Well, it’s been at least a couple of weeks since I last played a “Doom II” WAD, so I thought that I’d take a look for one called “Miasma” that won a Cacoward in 2016.

As usual, I used the ZDoom source port whilst playing this WAD. From what I’ve read, it will work on most other modern limit-removing source ports, although it apparently might cause problems if you’re using ZDaemon. But, if – like me – you’re using an older computer, expect a little bit of slowdown in a couple of the more monster-filled areas of the level. Whilst this didn’t render the game unplayable, it was slightly annoying nonetheless.

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

screenshot_doom_20170214_201920

“Miasma” is a large single-level WAD for “Doom II”/”Final Doom” which contains new music and textures. One of the first things that you will notice when you play this WAD is it’s very distinctive green/brown colour scheme. Whilst this adds some atmosphere to the WAD, it isn’t really as distinctive as the blue colour scheme in “Swim With The Whales” or the purple/brown colour scheme in “Stardate 20X6“.

You’ll notice that I’ve just mentioned two fiendishly difficult “slaughtermap” WADs and there’s a reason for this. “Miasma” is vaguely reminiscent of both of these WADs but, whilst it’s a good WAD, it doesn’t quite reach their high standards for a number of reasons. Whilst the distinctive colour scheme, the challenging gameplay and the slightly eerie music wouldn’t be too out of place in those other WADs, there are some significant gameplay differences.

Well, sort of...

Well, sort of…

The main difference is that, in some ways, this level seems to be too large and too complex for it’s own good. Although this is something of a change from the more linear nature of many “slaughtermap”-style WADs and it’s a sign that the level’s creator spent a lot of time making the level, it also means that you’ll spend quite a while wandering around in circles whilst completely and utterly lost. This is also compounded by the fact that many of the level’s locked doors are…. completely optional.

I spent quite a while searching for keys and new parts of the level and only happened to stumble across the exit by accident whilst revisiting a monster-filled area I’d barely managed to escape from earlier. There was no real sense of achievement or logical progression to this, just a sense of “Oh, there it is! At least I don’t have to go round in circles again“.

How... Serendipitous.

How… Serendipitous.

This extreme non-linearity occasionally makes some of the level’s more dramatic set pieces feel somewhat cheap. You can spend quite a while fighting your way through a horde of monsters or trying to escape one of the level’s fiendish set pieces, only to find that all of your effort has been for nothing.

Sometimes all you’ll recieve for your efforts is a new way to return to an area you’ve already visited. Generally speaking, highly-challenging areas of a level should reward the player with some kind of genuine progression (eg: access to a totally new part of the level) – and this seems to be missing in some parts of this level.

After a lot of searching, I found this place. And, after several attempts, I managed to escape from this monster-filled pit and... ended up near the beginning of the level. Well, THAT was a waste of time!

After a lot of searching, I found this place. And, after several attempts, I managed to escape from this monster-filled pit and… ended up near the beginning of the level. Well, THAT was a waste of time!

As bizarre, heretical and counter-intuitive as it might sound, this level would have probably benefitted from a little bit of linearity.

No, I’m not saying that it should be a boring “Call Of Duty”-style corridor level. But, whilst there should be explorable areas and a few short alternative paths, there should be a slightly clearer sense of where the player should go next. Most great non-linear FPS game levels achieve this by making the level just small enough that the player will find where they’re supposed to go after a few minutes of searching. But, with a level of this size, you often don’t even know where to start looking.

Fun fact, this isn't an essential part of the level. It's a ledge that you can jump onto that will allow you to reach two monster-filled areas that aren't hugely relevant to the level.

Fun fact, this isn’t an essential part of the level. It’s a ledge that you can jump onto that will allow you to reach two monster-filled areas that aren’t hugely relevant to the level.

That said, this is a good level. It’s the kind of level that requires perseverence, skill and a good knowledge of the “rules” of “Doom II” to complete. Plus, whilst there are some reasonably good set pieces where you’ll have to use tactics to fight or escape large numbers of monsters in claustrophobic areas, there are also a few more “traditional” parts of the level (in terms of monster numbers and placement) that help to add some variety to the gameplay.

The beginning of the level is more like a traditional "Doom II" level in some ways.

The beginning of the level is more like a traditional “Doom II” level in some ways.

The set pieces are thrilling and well-made, but they are rarely that surprising. They’re just slaughtermap set pieces that require you to dodge or fight ludicrious numbers of monsters until you can find a switch of some kind. They’re really solid but, if you’ve played a few slaughtermaps before, there’s rarely any kind of serious “wow” factor to these parts of the level. They’re often just good, ordinary slaughtermap set pieces.

Visually speaking, this WAD looks pretty cool. Although most of the WAD just looks a little bit like a slightly more gothic/cyberpunk version of “standard” Doom II, there are some brilliantly designed areas that look a bit more atmospheric and dramatic. Plus, one cool touch is that the chaingun zombies now have green sprites instead of red ones. I love WADs that have a distinctive colour scheme (Ancient Aliens” truly excels at this) and this WAD doesn’t disappoint here.

 This part of the level looks really cool. I wish more of the level looked like this :)

This part of the level looks really cool. I wish more of the level looked like this 🙂

Plus, this slight adjustment to the chaingun zombie sprites fits in with the aesthetic of the level really well too 🙂

Another cool thing about this level is the music. The main background music in the level is simultaneously eerie, relaxing and slightly retro. Whilst it doesn’t always complement the fast-paced thrills of some areas of the level, it helps to add a bit of extra atmosphere to the level. Plus, another cool touch is that the safe room music from the original “Resident Evil” plays during the stats screen at the end of the level.

All in all, this is a good “Doom II” WAD, but I don’t know if I’d call it a “great” one. Yes, the extreme non-linearity and size of this level probably took a lot of effort to make and it’s probably an interesting design experiment. But, strange as it sounds, this level could have probably benefitted from being just a little bit more focused and compact.

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

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

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Well, I hadn’t planned to review another “Doom II” WAD quite so soon. But, due to a combination of being in a stressed mood and realising that the indie game I’d planned to review soon (“Shadowrun: Dragonfall”) might take a lot longer to complete than I thought, I was in the mood for some “Doom II”. So, I ended up playing a WAD called “Interloper“.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD, although it’ll probably run on any modern source port.

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

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“Interloper” is a five-level WAD that has apparently been inspired by the new “Doom” game that came out last year. Since I haven’t played that game, I can’t comment on any similarities. So, I’ll be looking at this WAD on it’s own merits.

One of the first things that I will say about this WAD is that it (mostly) seems to be a “vanilla” WAD, with no new textures, weapons, monsters etc… However, during one or two parts of the game, I noticed that it contained better lighting effects than “standard” “Doom II” has. These might be the result of subtle sprite alterations (eg: adding orange highlights to the sprites), or it could be to do with the source port I’m using – but it looks really cool.

Of course, it WOULD look cooler if the surrounding environment was even gloomier. But, still, the added highlights are just about noticeable on the imp standing on the platform.

Of course, it WOULD look cooler if the surrounding environment was even gloomier. But, still, the added highlights are just about noticeable on the imp standing on the platform.

In terms of the gameplay, this WAD is reasonably good. Although this WAD probably won’t take you more than an hour or so to complete, you’ll have a lot of fun in the process. The difficulty level is high enough to be mildly challenging, but low enough to allow this WAD to function as an effective form of stress relief. In addition to this, the WAD actually includes a slight difficulty curve, with each level being slightly more challenging than the last.

As for the actual level design, it’s fairly good. The levels are non-linear enough to require exploration, but they’re also designed in such a way that you are unlikely to get “stuck” for any significant length of time. The only possible exception to this is the very beginning of level two, which features a large pit near the start of the level. This pit seems to have no “idiot proofing” whatsoever and, if you fall into it, you’ll have to re-load a saved game in order to get out of it.

 If there's a lift or a teleport here, I certainly couldn't find it!

If there’s a lift or a teleport here, I certainly couldn’t find it!

But, this aside, the level design here is really good. Some stand-out moments include a large multi-tiered room in level three which obviously required some rather creative programming and/or source port knowledge to create, since it places something like three or four platforms on top of each other in the same room.

 If this level had come out in 1994, it would be put on trial for sorcery!

If this level had come out in 1994, it would be put on trial for sorcery!

Likewise, although this WAD only really uses the “standard” textures, they are used in a way that prevents them from becoming visually monotonous. As well as using a good variety of sci-fi textures and “hell” textures, this WAD also features a few interesting-looking areas too:

Like this creepy red room...

Like this creepy red room…

...Or this ominously damaged corridor.

… Or this ominously damaged corridor.

The most enjoyable levels in this WAD are probably the final two levels. Although an arch-vile appears in level three, the difficulty level only starts to really get fun from the fourth level onwards. Yes, these levels aren’t extremely challenging, but they’re challenging enough to really be fun.

Whilst the fourth level is a fairly well-designed “standard” level, the fifth level is like a very mild version of a “slaughtermap” level, where you’ll be running along a long corridor and fighting a slightly larger number of monsters. This level also features a climactic battle against a weakened spider demon (it took a mere two BFG shots to defeat, although this could be due to prior monster infighting) and two cyberdemons.

Surprisingly, the cyberdemon battle was fairly easy, due to the abundent ammo hidden nearby, the arena-like area and the fact that there are a few low-mid level monsters nearby who will also start fighting the cyberdemons too.

Yes, this final boss battle is a little bit on the easy side, but it'll make you feel like a badass.

Yes, this final boss battle is a little bit on the easy side, but it’ll make you feel like a badass.

All in all, this is a rather fun WAD. Sure, it doesn’t reinvent the wheel or anything like that but it’s a solid, well-designed set of levels that will provide you with about an hour or so of amusement.

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