(by Jim McColm)
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
The Castle of Blood (BLOOD.WAD)
THE CASTLE OF BLOOD
(by Jim McColm)
(by Jim McColm)
The Castle of Blood is a single map released for OG Doom back in '95 by one Jim McColm, one of the authors whose output went down with Compuserve and has since been archived on /idgames. It's a pretty cool green marble and blood structure, reminding me of Thy Flesh Consumed in its overall aesthetics, though not in its execution. The brief story is typical of PWADs; the eponymous castle is a hotspot of demonic activity and has served as a death trap for marines battling Hell. This time, you drew the lot (literally the short straw) and have to excise the Hellspawn.
BLOOD is an oldschool level but it's not your typical '94 or '95 PWAD. McColm shows an attention to detail rivaled only by contemporary John Anderson. It's also not your typical oldschool level, showing some incredibly ingenuity with linedefs that work to transform the Castle while you fight your way through it. There's a long series of curvy corridors you'll be trekking through, whereupon your return you'll find the hallways disappeared, with a network of torch-filled columns remaining to provide cover for the monsters lurking in the shadows. There's another, smaller curvy hallway that undergoes a similar change, though the end result is a bit different.
It's also a level with some archaic progression designs. Getting to the blue key isn't terribly intuitive unless you've just come off from playing Jim Flynn / Eternal Doom levels as a pair of skull pillars marks an essential elevator that is otherwise unidentified. You could figure out that something's up because a door opens to grant access to that space, which is of course in some toxic blood, but players are more likely to chalk such design decisions up to the author being pointless as opposed to secretive. The level's pretty secret rich as it is, with seven different areas, most having fairly obvious clues. These will afford you a lot of leeway, particularly the plasma rifle, which when acquired makes many of the fights considerably easier.
BLOOD's combat is a bit rowdier than your usual Doom map, of course still slower-paced than Doom II stuff due to the smaller monster pool. There's plenty of ammo to do your dirty work, and I rarely felt any pressure, with a few major exceptions. The first was that dual stair climb to the blue key area as it's where I had first started exploring and there were a lot of monsters, including a pack of lost souls, in a pretty tight area. Another section was on returning to the hallway network, where the sheer volume of woken-up monsters had me pushed back a fair bit from where I had come. The exit finale was okay, but between the plasma rifle and the rocket launcher, I hardly felt threatened on triggering the ambush. Your experience may vary.
Jim McColm appears to be one of the forgotten greats of early Doom design and I'm looking forward to playing his other levels, though this appears to be his last, and thus most-polished. The Castle of Blood is well worth checking out for any appreciator of levels for OG Doom.
ONE WHOLE UNIT