Friday, September 19, 2014

Back to Saturn X E2: Tower in the Fountain of Sparks (BTSX_E2X.WAD)


It's been a little more than a year and a half, so it's about time that we saw the Back to Saturn X Episode II beta. BTSX started out as a single megaWAD, but an abundance of contributors caused an internal split into what eventually became three "episode" megaWADs. Get Out of My Stations, the "shareware" episode, made its public debut at the tail end of 2012. It got a lot of flak for its techbase stylings, but it's one of my favorite releases of the 2013 season for its impeccable visuals and light speed gameplay. Tower in the Fountain of Sparks looks to be one of the top releases of 2014, and for good reason.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Classic Episode (CLASS_EP.WAD)


Jan Van der Veken showed his love for the original Doom back in 1997, when he authored Dawn of the Dead. The Classic Episode began life as a series of solo releases that Veken worked on whenever he got bored with mapping for The Darkening E1 and it sort of caught on with his teammates. Jan eventually collected the individual releases and, after adding two more, released the package as this in 2000, though not in the order you'd expect. He updated the release two years later - version 2.0 - with various balance tweaks and level changes, and that's the version that I'm reviewing. Since the scope of the project was somewhat incidental, there's no attempt to tie these levels together with any kind of story, just a note that the authors were attempting to mimic the atmosphere of Doom as accurately as possible.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Hell Factory Hub One (HELLFACT.WAD)


Tei Tenga made manifest some of the promises of the ZDoom engine's early features, like hubs, cutscenes, and text dialogue. Tomi Rajala's Hell Factory, released in 2000, developed these concepts, albeit in a fashion similar to Quake II, to give Doom II players something more action-oriented to sink their teeth into. It's got four different areas that you'll travel between, comprising the first "hub" of Tomi's Hell Factory. But, uh, the later hubs were never finished / released, so this open-ended adventure is the only thing we have.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

20 Years of Doom (20YDOOM.WAD)


The French Doom Community wanted to pay tribute to Doom on its 20th anniversary. What better way than a trip down memory lane? The plan: condense the original trilogy into one single episode by conflating some of the most prominent elements of every three levels, all working in Boom-compatible ports. Interested authors claimed slots and did their best, but don't expect a slavish reinterpretation of the original Doom. Sure, you're gonna get a few homages. When you're doing Doom tributes, it seems to be practically unavoidable, even in 2014. I think it works, though, and these maps are anything but reference-composed patchwork. 20 Years of Doom proves again the vibrancy of Doom's international theater as its long legacy drags on, grunting and moaning.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Berserk (BERSERK.WAD)

BERSERK
by Jon Landis


Jon Landis had a pretty full career in the early days of Doom history. He authored an episode for Doom (Eye of the Beholder), a tricksy minisode of Doom II levels (Eye of the Beholder II), and contributed a few levels to STRAIN. This little level (well, maybe not little) is BERSERK, his first offering, not to be found included in Eye of the Beholder along with his other E2 levels. And, well, for reasons you might find evident on a cursory viewing. Berserk has some of Landis's quirks that he would carry on to his later outings, but it's a very rough construction, released in 1994 for the E2M1 slot.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Chaos, Uprising (RSLCHAOS.PK3)

CHAOS, UPRISING
by "Richard Smith Long"


It's time to settle down, and where would any weary inter-dimensional traveler rest his or her laurels but at Parthoris? Once Corvus slew the serpent rider and fixed that business with the insane Seraph, trouble was all but forgotten, and technology and magic was free to advance with the inexorable march of time. That's why "The Newcomer" picked the Sidhe homeworld, anyway. Pity that all good things must come to an end. After only a couple years of retirement, a horrible plague engineered by the rejuvenated Serpent Cult grips Parthoris, and your happy ass is the only one that can stop them. Maybe the combined forces of science and magic can put an end to this bullshit once and for all.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Micro Plutonia (MPL.WAD)


Micro Plutonia is one of those offshoots of the Plutonia Revisited Community Project. Most of the rejects have found their way to release one way or another, either as solo works or parts of larger mapsets. Matthias Johansson's "UAC Garden Facility" was one of the later, worked into this minisode for The Plutonia Experiment, released in 2011. The original is MAP06, while MAP04 and 05 were made to pad things to a trio. The story is about as self aware as can be - the demons have invaded some bases that are identified as "Plutonian" and you're going to make them wish they hadn't.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Esselmap I: Testing Facility (TESTFCIL.WAD)

ESSELMAP I:
TESTING FACILITY

by Michael "Esselfortium" Mancuso


The mere existence of this single level for Doom II, circa 2006, must gnaw away at Esselfortium's cold, black heart. Testing Facility is his earliest released work, a fairly large level for limit-removing ports that draws a lot of its aesthetic from Knee Deep in the Dead. It's actually a pretty cool MAP01, loaded with intricate secrets, some of which I think (related to the plasma rifle) are a one-time affair. Anyway, while it's for Doom II, it's largely in the style of the Phobos episode as far as textures go, though not exactly in architecture or anything. It also doesn't have a story, not that you really care about the .TXT files that come with Doom PWADs... or do you?