Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Suspended in Dusk (SID.WAD)


Suspended in Dusk is a minisode for Doom II and a 2005 Cacoward winner, replacing MAP01-04. Perhaps deceased Doomer Espi's most famous output, SiD is big, beautiful, and completely vanilla. The WAD has no written story to accompany it. Rather, it establishes a narrative through architecture, thing placement, and texture themes. SiD takes place in an isolated techbase located in a mountain range that's entrenched with Hellspawn. The player must fight through the compound, deep into the very bowels of the base, locating one of the few remaining escape shuttles in order to leave upon completing his or her objective.


Fans often laud the fact that the map functions entirely within vanilla's constraints. It's no small feat considering how advanced the levels feel when compared to, say, anything from Doom II. They're highly detailed without being obtrusive and have a variety of vanilla tricks to help spice things up. Some of my favorites... There's a door that opens sideways near the beginning of MAP02. I also enjoy the aforementioned escape shuttle, found at the end of the map. I don't know how he pulled it off; it looks for the life of me like an actual, 3D model of a space craft. I'm guessing it has something to do with midtextures. The final and most prevalent trick is very simple, but it's the hallmark of the WAD, hearkening back to its very name, Suspended in Dusk. There's at least one area in every map where Espi has constructed pits that descend into pitch black. He has accomplished this through the use of custom textures that gradually fade to black, mimicking dynamic lighting and granting the techbase the illusion of even greater depth. The player often traverses these areas through suspended walkways.


Difficulty is somewhere beyond Doom II but far away from such offerings as Hell Revealed and its ilk. Part of the difficulty is due to the emphasis on cramped encounters in the interior of the techbase. Espi contrasts such instances quite nicely with a number of much larger, open spaces, be they inside or outside. They often focus as the "hub" areas of the maps or house climactic encounters. It's also good of him to break up the standard techbase (well, starbase) theme with other, internally consistent tech areas as well as mountain vistas and even a sewer portion near the end of the minisode, complete with a lowering water level. The maps are sometimes difficult to navigate due to both their vastness and Espi's emphasis on making paths intertwine. Thankfully, he uses keys and the like to open up routes so as to make backtracking as painless as possible.


Suspended in Dusk is a delectable delight that stretches the original Doom II engine without actually overstepping its boundaries. It's an excellent play that should prove challenging to your average Doomer. I'd recommend this WAD to anyone except those who dislike larger, intricate maps. It's simply gorgeous, and its short duration strikes a nice balance, allowing Espi's chosen themes to hang around long enough to make an impression without feeling overdone or overstaying their welcome. I find it quite deserving of its 2005 Cacoward spot.






SUSPENDED IN DUSK
by Esa "Espi" Repo

MAP01
The use of sections in the opening alone to make a semi-realistic mountain environment is astounding. I'd say, on a first run through, it's a fairly difficult map. The health is tight, or at least feels tight. I spent a lot of time getting blasted by shotgun guys. While I wasn't expecting the arch-vile, I'd say he's one of the easiest encounters on the map by virtue of the layout. The detailing and architecture are superb, and I'm assuming the trend will continue throughout the maps. I also like the use of secret areas. They feel more like "Ooooo!" secrets than "secret closets".

MAP02
There's some toughs here and the debut of the plasma rifle. Health and ammo remain tight, and while the monster closets remain at a minimum, the few that show up are telegraphed and work well. It's a bit more maze-ish than MAP01, but the detailing, lighting and architecture are once again excellent. The catwalk fights in the underbelly of the base stick out in my mind as the highlight - it's a memorable sequence. The most dangerous enemies here are once again the hitscanners - not out of volume but out of Espi's clever placement. Altogether, this is just as good if not more so than MAP01.

MAP03
Hahahaha, props for the teleporter section after the blue key. This map is just as windy as its predecessors and just as intense. A LOT of backtracking to be done, but it's well worth it. There's some more arch-viles and the premiere of mancubuses and arachnotrons. Their placement work pretty good in ramping up the map's perceived intensity without increasing the already challenging difficulty. The spectres in the basement and the imp ambush in a section of the map I can't quite remember were two great moments. I also liked the consoles in the large circular room by the exit. Espi uses keys here (actually, the whole set) in a manner I wish I'd see more often. They serve to open up unexplored areas of the base, as usual, but they also provide shortcuts through areas you've already been too.

MAP04
A fitting finale in the sub-basement of the UAC base containing a darkened storage area, an infested sewage system, and ship docks. The monster count isn't nearly as high as MAP03 but it's harder in a more intense sense, featuring a cramped layout with less health to go around. There are still plenty of hitscanners to ruin your day alongside a few surprises, but the star attraction here is a handful of waves of arch-viles that port in and start thumping around for you. The architecture remains exquisite with a large central area dominating the map and the aforementioned sewer section showing up in the western side. The final fight isn't that harrowing – you've got loads of cover – but appreciated, nonetheless.


R.I.P.
ESA REPO

3 comments:

  1. How on earth are there no comments here? Suspended in Dusk is truly an amazing minisode. It must have been hard to pull off such beautiful detail without requiring a port. RIP Espi

    I wonder if the BTSX team played this wad a lot...

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    Replies
    1. I know that the BTSX prime mover has a deep love of Suspended in Dusk, at the very least

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  2. Incredibly beautiful stuff, a classic

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