Saturday, May 25, 2013

Herian 2 (HERIAN2.WAD)


Ian Wilson published Herian in 1998; about a year or so later in 1999, we saw the release of Herian2, its sequel, and to date the last entry in the series. Like the original, H2 is a thirty-two map replacement for Doom II that features a number of sprite replacements for Doom II enemies culled from Heretic. There are some differences, though. Herian2 actually features a story, first of all. It makes more sense if you use Wilson's TC package (this download bundled by the late, great Jive), which replaces all inappropriate enemies and the weapons with stuff from Heretic and Hexen. Essentially, it takes place pre-pre-pre-Doom, and post-Herian. It turns out Herian was the player character's war against infernal powers, back when the forces of Hell and the Serpent Riders were united. He thought he had won, but when he prepares to settle down, there's another assault that he must fight off.


Actually, for something that wants to be Heretic-flavored, Wilson's love for Duke Nukem 3D can't help but creep in. There's a huge ocean liner near the end of the mapset and a movie theater, of all things, in the first, with various unusual bits of tech here and there that make no sense from a story perspective, but who cares. At least the strippers - er, dancers - from Herian's MAP29 stay haven't returned. I will say that Herian2 looks much better than its first iteration. The castle architecture is vastly improved, as are Wilson's more naturalistic settings. It's usually a treat to go stomping around the wilderness, whether it's caves, scrappy steppes, or chasms and waterfalls. The ambient noises are a nice inclusion, too.


Another major difference between Herian and Herian2 - Herian2 was intended for ZDoom. You're not supposed to crouch, and you're not supposed to jump, but you -are- supposed to mouselook. This isn't really specific to ZDoom, but the stealth monsters are. Yup; Wilson found the stealth tag and you will be subjected to a wide variety of sneaky beasties, from lowly zombies to things like archviles. At least they're not purely invisible, like some of the revenants from Tei Tenga, but they're there and not used often enough for you to be on your toes, which makes them feel like cheap shots when they do crop up. Other fun stuff - sector pushing effects, mostly slippery ice and tides, as well as tons of deep water. This is a very water-centric mapset.


As far as actual playstyle goes, Herian2 is basically a toned-down version of Herian. I think the fights are on the whole better and it's not quite as full of pointless dead-end backtracking but it's still there, with plenty of instances where you'll reach the exit and then do something and then retreat to a completely different part of the level so that you can lower the bars / open the door to the exit platform. I'm more of a roll my eyes kind of guy than foam at the mouth but even I had my patience strained in levels like "Fantastic", which look otherwise sound but are choked with mystery switches and actions.

DOOM II TO HERETIC CONVERSION GUIDE
ZombiemanCorvus (Heretic)
SS NaziCleric (Hexen)
Shotgun GuyD'Sparil (Heretic)
CommandoMage (Hexen)
DemonEttin (Hexen)
Lost SoulGargoyle
CacodemonDisciple of D'Sparil
Pain ElementalDark Bishop
Hell KnightGolem
MancubusWeredragon
SpiderdemonMaulotaur
LOST POTENTIAL
RevenantUndead Warrior
ArachnotronChaos Serpent

Herian2 is surprisingly more palatable than Herian. If you hate the Heretic resources or really dislike the switch hunt style that more or less defines Wilson's authorial experience, you will want to steer clear. If you're down to do some digging in a medieval environment, then you'll enjoy Herian2, probably moreso with the resource and MIDI pack Wilson suggested for simultaneous use. It's nice to see an author mature, and I would have liked to see an even more polished Herian3, supposing Wilson is capable of taking cues from puzzle maps I find more palatable and toning down the pointless backtracking bullshit.



HERIAN2
by Ian Wilson

A Familiar PlaceMAP01
This is the first level from Herian, expanded. It looks a little better and makes use of some deep water effects but the only major rehaul is a baffling "secret" area, a canyon you can poke your nose in to the west which serves no visible purpose. The progression is the same, from the teleport inside the cage with the long water elevator to the hidden switches on the islands in the ravine. Grab the shotgun near the beginning and you should have no problem dispatching all the zombies and gargoyles.

MAP02Search for Supplies
A more coherent journey through some kind of keep. I like the rain drops. Sometimes the scale is off, like the mess hall, and some bits like the outer yard to the west are uncharacteristically bland, but the red key hall looks nice, as do other segments. It's still mostly shotgun action with a secret SSG toward the end that you can use to mow down a pack of imps on your way out. The dining area encounter with the teleports can be a little disorienting and is more or less the kind of action I'm looking forward to for the rest of the set.

Hunt for the Lost CastleMAP03
Well uh it reminds me of Herian's "Canyon", which I hated. It manages to improve on the formula quite a bit but I think it's still a bad level that lacks a lot of action; Wilson tightens up the playing area considerably and still fails to utilize it effectively. The deadend backtracking isn't quite so bad but all of the keys are hidden in the outside area. Unless you really investigate the sluices from above you won't even realize they're there to run back to when Wilson's random switches grant you access. I like the courtyard fight behind the red key door but that's as good as it gets. The outer area to the northwest is dangerous but with all the hitscanners it's more annoying than anything.

MAP04Return to Town
This time, on the other side of the fence. It's another keep area with a lot of outdoor surroundings but the crater it happens to be in isn't that jarring and there are a few decent fights in the interior to keep things interesting, like the cage battle for the megasphere / SSG or the sheer volume of beasties roaming around, including the first appearance of the dreaded pain elemental replacement, which could be annoying. Like with MAP03, the zombies spread out everywhere make difficulty more about attrition, at least until you grab one of the secret goodies hanging out. It's still victim to some awful dead-end backtracking, like the rock switches in the main hall that lower access to the red key.

Lava CaveMAP05
The setting should seem familiar; it's the secret annex of MAP01, a bit of foreshadowing on Wilson's part. It's a decent wilderness map with lots of height variation though having to snipe at the blonde troopers is kind of annoying. It's mostly shotgun / SSG action with some bits that might be annoying if you can't hear, like the switch that appears behind the golem platform near the end. Looks good, plays alright. It was fun revisiting.

MAP06An Old Friend in Trouble
Starts off with an action-packed tiny courtyard where you're dodging enemy fire from multiple locations and then moves on to some of Wilson's more "WTF?" moments. I'm mainly thinking about the sewer trap, a circle crusher that's mostly bound by an invisible circle. There's no reason to suspect that you're in for a potential deathtrap given the freely available rad suits. The rest is middling action with some hitscanner snipers here and there. I guess that arachnotron at the movie theater (weird anachronism) could be a bit of a surprise.

Strange PlaceMAP07
Kind of a wilderness map a la MAP05 except for a baffling intermission in a huge square-tiled area that feels like a less inhibited '94 style sojourn, or at the very least, the final section of Heretic's "Graveyard", thankfully minus lift action. It uses fog for the outer area which isn't too bad to push through except for the emphasis on stale shotgun action while you're walking up the spiral. The larger outer area is kind of dangerous when you expose yourself to imp fireballs. I'm not 100% sold on the 8 x 8 underground grid but it could be much worse.

MAP08He Shouldn't Be Here
Uh, it's a bossmap, with an odd feel to it. You have to grab the red key to lower the flames that surround the building, which will put you in an interesting conflict with all the gargoyles and disciples floating around. Afterward you have to run out and stumble across your "old friend" while killing mancubi. There's some bad hoodoo going on with the teleporter lines; I wouldn't get caught up trying to figure it out what with all the health and armor in the outer area.

Escape to the IslesMAP09
Kind of a city map. Wilson flexes his experience with a decent crossing hallways trick, the doors leading into the boat house to the south aren't too jarring, and the section with the boat is actually pretty cool (teleporters miming swimming out to an island and then sailing back). Combat is more hectic than anything with monsters invading the outer area on several occasions, the first being the nastiest (typical ghost town bait and switch). On the other hand, there are some shitty stealth monsters here, the biggest offenders being two stealth archviles at the climactic finale. You can't catch a break...

MAP10Things are Getting Worse
A massive, water-bound fortress. It doesn't fill its space well, encounter-wise, and there is way too much running around. Not only is there dead space between progression objectives (switches etc.) but there is shit like the red key, which after you grab it has you walk around the entire level before you can get to the place where you can use it, which is incidentally only a few feet away in real space. The sewer section looks kind of bland but it has a nice access point. The maulotaur / spiderdemon wasn't very threatening, though.

Mixing PlantMAP11
Interesting little level that starts out with a bit of a clash. It uses a lot of stealth monsters, from zombies to arachnotrons to archviles, but at least it uses them at the beginning, so you're always on your toes. Wilson dumps some monsters into the main area on several occasions but except for the AV it's nothing you need to worry about. Well, unless you get a face full of hitscanner bullets. The end, which involves lowering the sewer level to reach the exit, is always a nice finishing gimmick.

MAP12Nightmare in Main Street
Another castle level. It's got kind of a decent rainy atmosphere but it's tarnished by its largely symmetric layout with a few exceptions, one annoying one being a little almost opaque alcove housing a sniper. It's not too bad, though, with some decent fights like revenants and even a Maulotaur / Cyberdemon showdown near the end, which a handy secret should render a nonentity if you save it. The shooting gallery prior to the outdoor segment is annoying but I like the disciple-ridden battle on the terrace. The run back to the exit is pretty stupid.

Cottage in the HillMAP13
A decent-looking outdoor area with tons of river and canyon to explore. It's more about conquering your environment than anything, with some less intuitive bits. Getting to the red key requires walking over a teleporter line that up until now has been used mainly to bound the player and monsters inside the playing area. Apart from that it's just a lot of walking around and slaying enemies. Nothing too threatening, though you're outgunned at the beginning. I think the biggest scare was the trio of revenants in the area past the yellow key door.

MAP14Bon Accord Centre
A stranger level kind of resembling some city building, I guess. I like the main hallway and the bit with the crates is kind of cute with another example of Wilson embracing teleports as some kind of facsimile of bizarro-leaping about. The rest of the level is pretty plain, except maybe the winding canyon that leads to the homely yellow key room, which has a few disciple fights to keep things interesting. Herian2 just has too many wide open spaces and does few cool things with them.

Trapped in an AsylumMAP15
It's a spoke sort of level with some moon logic that will earn some ire. If you can't figure out how to open the doors overlooking the blue key room, you have to shoot the blue key door using mouselook, and if you can't figure out how to lower the blue key pillar, you have to shoot one of the platforms the mancubi are standing on, I don't know which one. Action is passable but not memorable. I liked the architecture in the east and west rooms, though. Very cool.

MAP16Lava Pit
One of Wilson's more aggressively weird levels. It's compact and starts off with tons of action but gets strange with sections like a literal rail shooter as you progress around the exterior and a very annoying Cyberdemon. Shooting in the dark is a pain so you have to bodysurf over him and grab the yellow key / hit the extra area quick if you want to have any chance of ending it. There's also a sequence of teleporters to figure out, and the jump into the confusing eponymous lava pit, things that are odd but don't really ruin the level. It's...definitely interesting.

Return to Island CityMAP31
Returning to Herian's MAP09, aka "Cityisle", with all the crazy moon-logic that entails. Wilson has cleaned up a few of the more puzzling elements but the vast majority of the map remains the same if only in how it is navigated (though the fights feel kind of like how I remember them). It definitely looks a fair bit better, and there are a few guideposts, like arrows for the teleporter cage section, but all the timed switches and walkover triggers remain to make it what will probably be one of the most confusing levels from Herian2. I like that he throws some imps and demons into the city streets when you achieve certain objectives, though.

MAP32Secret Mission
This level is based on Hexen's finale, "Dark Crucible". Through some freak occurrence enemy behavior in the off-areas and the first main chamber is very odd. The golems and imps aren't hostile to you, nor are the two Cyberdemons. At least, they didn't shoot back at me. The second chamber isn't quite so easy with a pair of maulotaurs providing some much-needed danger. The side rooms are still chump-change, though. A decent diversion, marred by some technical oddities.

ArenaMAP17
This is...barely a level. It's got a "Tricks and Traps"-ish scenario where a Cyberdemon battles it out with a ton of mancubi in the arena, after which you quickly go to an island with a boat with a few sergeants and then head out. It's really short and kind of fun but would probably work better as part of something longer.

MAP18Harbour Area
A pretty simple level but it's artificially long due to the size of the "Harbour Area" and how much running back and forth you'll do. Combat would be more interesting if it weren't for the wide open spaces; as it stands, I think the catwalk / switch sequence over the lava early on was my favorite part. There is some more stealth monster abuse, including an archvile that will teleport to the other side of the map. Thanks a lot, Wilson. The overall idea is kind of clever. Four pillars have switches; three lower different walls which will expose you to an archvile while the third opens up - regretfully - the red key door on a timer. It's kind of a neat / forgiving trap, in retrospect.

Country GardenMAP19
Wilson does a great job with the naturalistic setting but ruins it with dead end backtracking, the worst case involving nondescript switches revealed in earlier sections of the level as you work between the steppes and the ravine. I think it looks great and the steppes has some nice combat on the first and second visits (clustered arachnotrons vs. disciples / bishops) but it has some other issues, too, like immediately backtracking into the section of map borrowed from the previous level and ultimately returning there, plus a few archvile scares while you're woefully unprepared.

MAP20Journey to Herian City
Wilson certainly nails the aesthetic he's set up here, with several neat architectural ruins broken up by huge naturalistic landscapes, but the pacing of the level has certain enormous pitfalls. Take, for instance, the finale of the map. After you trigger the teleporter that starts you with a Cyberdemon battle, you find the way sealed off again, with the search for an exit sending you back via several teleporters to the beginning of the level, then walking all the way back to where you came from with a handful of monsters in place to liven up things on the long journey. The incidental combat is interesting enough, with a few cheap shots like a stealth revenant in a narrow corridor, but it's another pretty but dull outing.

Herian CityMAP21
An extension of the previous level, as you'll find on a return visit to the Maulotaur / Cyberdemon courtyard which isn't quite as annoying as the backtracking in MAP20. It's kind of fun to explore the city though it's lacking in the "city" department, with most of the fun coming from the wooded park early on and a cave system to the north you'll explore for the red key. The metal annex behind the yellow door looks badass and the level has some decent architecture if nothing else. Standout encounter, probably the rocket launcher trap.

MAP22A Visit to the Water Mill
A retread of Doom II's "Underhalls", down to the general monster layout. Some things are different but it's mostly hitscanner Hell in some dank Heretic-flavored sewers, though there are some outside additions that should help to break up what is an otherwise atmospherically oppressive map with all the deep water and flying bullets. The outpost section is a bit of a pain what with all the snipers crawling around, plus the secret room is staffed by stealth shotgun guys. No real standout encounters for me.

Hot HouseMAP23
A very weird level, at least in terms of color combinations. There are a ton of shades of the metal texture and the brick that surrounds the crater of lava looks garish. As is par for the course, an interesting idea is laid low by stumbling blocks like the outer ring, which is large, mostly featureless, and can only be exited from a couple areas once entered, which makes accessing the various lava-free ledges in the "Hot House" tedious and annoying. The imps paired with the war drums - plus the finale - are pretty cool, and Wilson makes non-sequitors like the cathedral and computer room work. As for the rest, bleh.

MAP24Road Works
I like the interior of the fortress and, of course, the exterior. It gives the appearance of a nice, big dome. Things start out a little hectic but once you get on the ground and clear out the disciples / demons / imps on the ground floor you can relax because your work is pretty much done. It's actually kind of straightforward for a Herian level, except for the yellow key being hidden in a sinkhole (not bad) and the timed door triggers in that eastern warehouse area (bad). I would say that my standout encounter is slaying all the monsters in the southwestern-ish outdoor area.

Ship ShapeMAP25
More of a filler map, setting up the jarring cruise ship in a Heretic-themed megaWAD. The deadliest encounter is a ring of shotgun guys you'll be fortunate to escape; the rest is unremarkable, especially clearing the boarding area's four rooms, which must be done in a strictly controlled order. The boat is available to walk around on, but you'll be doing more of that in the next level.

MAP26Fantastic
A decent-looking cruise ship. Two problems. It feels deserted for most of the level, with monsters few and far between until you open up the floodgates on grabbing the red key. It's also home to the worst moon logic Wilson has perpetrated in the entire set, capped off by six Cyberdemons stuffed into the tiny engine room as a final "Fuck you!" for anyone who bothered to play hide and seek with obscure switches and other bullshit like the sprint across the first waste tank opening up a nondescript door by the swimming pool which didn't even exist until then. That's not the only shitty thing; the switch behind the red key door just opens up another cubby near the elevator (which you were probably suspicious of already), the lever responsible for flooding the engine room with armageddon. Nice idea, shitty execution.

BridgesMAP27
Whoa, pretty fun level. Wilson's proud that he managed to figure out faux-3D bridges so you'll see a lot of them here. It's a pretty neat level without a lot of goofy shit except for trying to get to the yellow key room. You have to shoot the bars and there's a switch in the doorway to raise some invisible steps. The outdoors areas are fun to play through (particularly the first). Monsters are easily hung up on the bridges, though, which robs them of much of their efficacy. Also that huge storm of demons isn't very threatening but it's fun to whittle down with the SSG. The only really dumb part is having to go back to the wood fort area once you've lowered the exit teleporter, something you can easily predict if looking in the automap.

MAP28Mysterious Tower
Almost entirely a series of outdoor terraces for you to ply your combat skills at. It looks decent, as Wilson has tackled the art of making appealing outdoor areas, but the combat more or less sucks. He's painted most of the hills with strokes of zombies with several homogenous blots of Cyberdemons, Maulotaurs, golems, and arachnotrons. The arachnotrons were my second favorite, my most being a bunch of disciples and a few bishops that will eventually sneak up on you. The "Mysterious Tower" is some alien construction with the yellow key on top of it. The puzzle is, fight your way to the bottom and reach the exit. Nearby there's a switch so you can go back and grab the key at the now accessible top of the tower. Boring.

CavernMAP29
A decent penultimate level, I suppose. Starts out at a gate with a confusing teleporter setup. I'm not sure how you get the red key but I think you might have to wander around before the second pillar shows up. The cavern section is pretty cool; I think Wilson made a great underworld with all the imp cages and the demon vats near the exit. The yellow key room is a missed opportunity, just begging for a great fight. The imp / Cyberdemon castle is alright, functional but nothing special. After you survive a golem mosh pit, you're pretty much done.

MAP30Final Showdown
It's a vast, lonely level until you wake the boss up. Then monsters start moving in from the surf, clogging up the city streets as you try to decipher Wilson's adventure game logic. There's a lot of running around and I managed to get it to break on me; the door to the building that houses the switch that lowers the red key platform broke on me, wasting a lot of time. I don't know how it happened, but it did, and it left me pretty pissed. Never mind the fact that the switch that opens the door is accessed through another door lifted by a switch located next to the red key itself, another wonderful bit of pointless backtracking. It's got a decent atmosphere (I like the monsters wading toward your island) but I've got to cool off some.

THOU SHALT NOT SUFFER A WITCH TO LIVE


This post is part of a series on
Doomworld's Top 10 WADs of 1999

Batman DoomThe Darkening
KZDoom1Crusades
Chord GJägermörder
Twilight WarriorDemonfear
Tei TengaHerian 2

6 comments:

  1. This was my first ZDoom wad, and always blew me away with the sheer atmosphere of the levels. I never could get past map 7, but my skills have advanced considerably since then, so I should reattempt it and really see everything it has to offer.

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  2. That "secret canyon" in map 1 really is baffling, as you say. So much so that I when I played this for the first time, I couldn't figure out what to do there, and gave up on the whole WAD for an entire year. This review got me wondering, so I finally loaded it up last night to give it a second chance, and blitzed right through it. (The first level, that is.)

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    Replies
    1. It doesn't make much sense the first time you see it but I suppose Wilson was just trying to add a greater sense of connectivity to Herian's overall experience.

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  3. The red key in Cavern is one of my favorite moments from the pack. First you ride the elevators up at the start, then head over to the east cliff face. You need to do (???) to make two stone steps rise along the southwest side of that cliff face - the southernmost step has to rise twice before you can climb up. Once you get up to the top, chaingunners warp onto the towers; it's a memorable scene (though the choice of a hitscan enemy without cover is questionable).

    There are plenty of little things that the author didn't pay attention to which could have helped the pack greatly. Water represents opportunities for exploration - here, it represents a chance to get stuck, either because you can't jump back up, or because you tried to look around the outer edges of the map and got wedged in somewhere you weren't supposed to. Your only rewards are ugly views of the map edges that the author obviously didn't spend time with. The lame signs about the water aren't much of a help here, and generally insult the player's intelligence (aside from the "swimming is cool" one, which on a 2014 resolution I could make out clearly from a distance not originally intended - it prompted me to try and half-solve a puzzle - an underwater switch you'll notice from the map - which nevertheless won't help you until you clear yet more puzzles). The bridges from Bridges also can destroy the atmosphere - drop off into the water from the very start and you'll notice you can't go under these (surprising!) and there's also an invisible bridge for no reason. The fun in discovering the obscure solution to some puzzle is outweighed by the realization you've just avoided a pointless waste of half an hour, by inches and luck. Other attempts at functional elements are noteworthy but don't really work; I think Mixing Plant has a couple automatic doors connecting through the center of the map, but they only open automatically from the outside, which is confusing and wasteful. It's even worse when key or puzzle doors open automatically from some sectors, but not others - there are many opportunities for accidentally messing up progress that make this kind of super-involved design dangerous to dabble in if you can't absolutely nail it. That only compounds the maps' tendency to have too many elements of puzzles presented at one time to the player, so that the player is confused about what represents the right path for immediate progress, and what will need to be returned to later. I also wonder if some places don't offer outright opportunities for sequence breaking; I certainly came close a couple times.

    Mixing the three styles of DOOM, Heretic, and Hexen (which progress from less to more naturalistic maps and puzzles, and some would argue from better to worse fight design) would be difficult for a seasoned mapper, and this pack doesn't nail it. The 'naturalistic' maps tend to be just some random raised stretches overlooking narrow valleys and connected by telepads or, worse, invisible warp sectors instead of real connecting architecture. There is some amazing stuff here - the Cruise Ship's geometry, the sound design is good too - but a lot of it is squandered by not tying into the gameplay at all - like the "secret canyon" at the game start. I'm always wary of games that make it much easier to find secrets than actually progress in the game, and this pack has too many of those moments.

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    Replies
    1. Herian 2 is a great example of a map pack that could use a ton of polishing. A lot of the elements are there and better than the original, but there is still a lot that Wilson didn't know how to do or fake and he couldn't help himself with all the dead-end backtracking.

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  4. I can not leave the Map 16 "lava pit" long after I reach the pond climb the stair where the Cyberdemon appears and is the Amariila key principle teleports and even stays there, any ideas for that, or finish the level ?

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