Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Impossible: A New Reality (IMPOSS.WAD)

by "JK"

Impossible: A New Reality is a single level for ZDoom, and it's a big one, with hub-like qualities and trickery - especially trickery. There are some ZDoom features used quite cleverly, like mirror effects, but by far the most extensive element to be used here is the silent teleporter, creating M.C. Escher Doom. It's virtually all brand-new textures, adding to the otherworldly feel by placing the map firmly in some pseudo-fantasy location. I'm not sure where all the textures come from, but I can place a few from Hexen II. They really help the map shine.

As aforementioned, the map is somewhat hub-based. There's a distinct main area you will run through several times as many of the level's bizarre loops deposit you there. It's large, expansive, and has plenty of sights to see, like a river of blood. There's also an immediate example of its infinite-loop architecture; the stairway down to the blue key door goes past it and loops ad nauseum. Like many things in this WAD, it's an experience I can describe, but really, you must see it to believe it.

There are two really sour moments to this level that I recall, one of them being a looping circular corridor with pain elementals. The idea is sound, but the corridor is far too small to emulate Build's crazy looping sector trick so both you and the elementals warp all over the place trying to find and kill each other. On the plus side, if you run around the corridor the full way either way, there's some hidden goodies, though I don't think they technically count as secrets. The other is a courtyard full of stealth imps, very boring. The courtyard sections aren't awful, and they don't take up a large portion of the map, but the stealth imps aren't very thrilling. Accessing the courtyard itself is quite brilliant, though. You end up entering it from a building which by all rights you could not have accessed, spatially speaking. But that's the beauty of the silent teleports.

The rivers of blood and lava are a recurring motif. You'll encounter them more than once while traversing the strange, broken architecture. There's a couple of great firefights on and across the divide. There's even a real mindfuck that bumps you back to the main map where you think, "Wait a minute, wasn't I just at this chasm?", but in a second, you realize, no... It's the chasm from the beginning of the map. Triggering the firefight at the grand chasm shootout is itself an interesting experience; you climb up flight after flight after flight of stairs until you realize it's going nowhere, then turn around only to find a horde of baddies at the foot.

The fights are pretty rough on UV, or at least they were, when I was still pretty inexperienced with Doom. I went in thinking that it was going to be pretty simple, since the emphasis is on puzzles and bizarre sights, but there are lots of opportunities for infighting and a VERY restricted weapon set. You spend probably 90-95% of the map with the shotgun and chaingun; the SSG debuts somewhere around the 70-80% mark, I wager. The rocket launcher, sorely needed, doesn't show up until the last 10%, not counting secrets (I didn't find them all). The main killers here are the revenants versus your limited arsenal. It's definitely manageable, as they rarely show up in packs, and when they do there are plenty of other monsters to act as meat shields.

The Spider Mastermind encounter takes some quick thinking and a little luck to get through unscathed, but the true thriller is the finale, reminiscent of Doom64's "Cat and Mouse." You're locked in strange scrolling hallways littered with rockets and medikits, listening for the sound of clomping hooves. Even if you see the Cyberdemon, there's no guarantee it will continue on its path as the corridors are flush with monster teleporting lines, causing him to blink everywhere. The warping isn't nearly as ubiquitous as it is in D64, though. After you get used to it it's actually a fairly easy fight. You've got corners to duck around and if you're feeling brave you can smoke what shotgun ammo you have left. There are a few sweet spots that create a Cyberdemon shooting gallery so that he can't squish you up close.

My favorite two moments were the red key surprise, masterfully handled, and walking around the bookshelf in the library and seeing the barons in the mirror, then walking back around and seeing that they weren't there. Also, the very first walk through the mirror. Both such jaunts are 100% spot on, atmospherically. The level's overall detailing, however, is a bit sparse. There are lots of reliefs and columns, so A+ for architecture, but the map's interiors feel a bit barren.

Other really cool moments include the giant vessel of souls, reminiscent of John Carpenter's "Prince of Darkness". There's also the descent into the final gauntlet, slowly dropping you into a rough fight, which quickly progresses to the bizarre Cyberdemon encounter. The final staircase when you're on your way out is a nice topper, suggesting of things to come. And really, I'd play a megaWAD constructed like this, were it not for the fact that there's so much effort involved I dunno if anyone would have the patience to craft it!

Impossible isn't really Doom as we know it. Doom is techbases, Hell, and ruined buildings infested with demons. It's straightforward, with the exception of some switches, and when you ask "where the Hell am I?" it's not because you just got silently warped to a completely different section of the map. It may not be Doom as we typically know it, but it's Doom. You still gotta kill stuff and none of the crazy tricks here will change the way a revenant's rockets fire or how many shots it takes to bring down a Spiderdemon. These monsters and encounters are just in a distinctly different place whose flow resembles the otherworldly wrongness most Doom authors merely suggest through use of textures. Try it; you might like it.



  1. Great review of one of my all time favorite maps!

    1. Thanks! It's a shame JK didn't make more stuff.