Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Lost Episode: Evil Unleashed (LOSTEPIS.WAD)


Doom: The Lost Episode is an unofficial fifth episode (complete with intermission screen!) released for Ultimate Doom in 2009, requiring either ZDoom or Eternity to run. Headed by Xaser with additional credit to Skunk, Wills, Nuxius and SnowKate709, it aimed to collect unused Doom Alpha maps with maps exclusive to the various console versions of Doom and retool them to create a strange but excellent adventure (link to development thread here). For those interested the in narrative justifications Doom authors provide for their unholy concoctions, the story is quite simple. Crammed right in between Doomguy avenging the death of his pet rabbit and his arduous campaign to rid Earth itself of Hellspawn, the action finds our protagonist teleported into a fragmented dimension as a last-ditch attempt to distance Doomguy from the campaign of Evil. You'll have to fight your way through to the architects of the false reality to return to your own.


I'm not well-versed in the originals of any of these levels, nor have I played Console Doom as of the writing of this article, but I understand that the Xaserification of these levels has changed things quite a bit. One of the biggest additions to the maps is detail, and it's A LOT of detail, though usually outside the playing area so it rarely causes hangups. There's also the fact that, in spite of this being a "lost episode" for OG Doom, the expanded bestiary of Doom II appears along with the indispensable combat shotgun. Personally, I love the action of Doom II, plus I'm always in favor of a concrete Doom II episode rather than something that peters out solely due to the limitations of vanilla / Boom / etc.. On the other hand, people looking for another episode of OG Doom action will be disappointed, and some will no doubt take issue with having Doom II features crowbarred so as to work with the Doom IWAD. It's, like, 2013 though. How hard is it to buy both tickets to what is perhaps the most vibrant and long-lived modding community in gaming?


Anyway, Evil Unleashed has an aesthetic all its own, something I called "non-euclidean techbase" because of all the crazy extra-dimensional trappings you'll see in the background. Also, there's that sky, kind of like Roger Dean does Doom instead of Boris Vallejo. The first offering, E5M1, sets the tone with you beginning the fight on thin air, though none of the follow-ups really live up to the crazy level design with all its alternate paths and massive secrets. They're all the children of the levels Xaser edited (not to downplay the injection of his own inimitable style), with the alpha maps tending toward larger, exploratory offerings and the console stuff feeling simpler, if not more straightforward. "Carroll St. Station" is my favorite, with a gameplay hook you won't often find and that I really loved. The rest all have their moments, though you may want to re-enable the lost soul limit for "Threshold of Pain".


The Lost Episode is one of my personal faves. I love the look, the combat, and the presentation; there are also plenty of new graphics present to make it feel like even more of a new episode than Thy Flesh Consumed. If you don't like Doom II, or are something of a purist, you should probably sit this one out, but anyone looking for some rejiggering of the "lost" levels should give this a shot. Just, uh, don't take "Logos Anomaly" as being representative of the rest of the offerings. It really is an anomaly.






THE LOST EPISODE
EVIL UNLEASHED
by Xaser et al

E5M1Logos Anomaly
by Tom Hall, ed. Xaser
A Doom Alpha map converted to a non-euclidian techbase level, by which I mean there's a lot of crazy shit going on that suggests a different dimension entirely. The starting room looks completely foreign, shown in the screenshot, with bizarre scrolling walls, a floor showcasing the alien universe background, and bodies hanging from the floor's pillars. The insanity only continues through the episode. There's also some great thought that went into the layout and map flow. If you happen to leave the first room by the secret without collecting the blue or yellow keys, the location of the red key changes to make the map completable. It's plenty rough starting on UV. Not E4 rough, but plenty of challenge. I liked the secret areas, but my highlight moment is probably the wave of demons plus the berserk powerup.

The Infernal PalaceE5M2
by Midway, ed. Xaser
A console Doom level that stands as one of the WAD's more traditional offerings. Outside, it's organic Hell, but the majority of the level takes place in something more "Hell Keep"-esque. I like the layout here. There's a lot of closets and hallways off the typical 90 degree setup. The revenant gave me quite a scare, but mainly I can't help but feel that there's too damn little health around. Pretty good overall.

E5M3Ominous Lair
by Midway, ed. Xaser and Wills
Alternate version of "The Spawning Vats" converted to a non-euclidean techbase, but toned down a bit. I see shades of the released version in here. The Doom II monsters do a nice job of throwing you off, and it's refreshing to take down hordes of imps, funnily enough. There's a few especially brutal parts, namely the rocket launcher rush trap (which isn't too bad) and the false exit (which is about as nasty as can be expected). There's also the lowering floor trap, but the majority of the level with its arachnotrons and barons isn't that intimidating, excepting the revenants, which are utilized to their best here.

Carrol St. StationE5M4
by Tom Hall, ed. Xaser
Doom Alpha map that's mostly normal techbase but there's some specific areas where it's all nuts. I thought they were really milking the tension here for awhile as the level appears to be nearly empty at first glance. However, suddenly populating the map with monsters at a fairly predictable moment works pretty well, as you suddenly have an entire base full of demons hungry for your blood. There's a lot of awesome architecture and some great moments like the aforementioned world goes pear-shaped as well as the outdoor area with the big bad. There's a bit of backtracking as you'll traverse the majority of the level perhaps three times, but the first time it's mostly empty and you'll probably have a good feel for the layout by the second so the third goes past pretty quick. My only complaints are some of the bullshit traps like the one near the invul sphere or the hidden room with the revenants in the middle of the toxic sludge since I wasn't resourceful enough to find the rad suit.

E5M5The Mansion
by Midway, ed. Xaser
Again, one of the console Doom levels gives way to a far more traditional layout. The original level design shines in full force. It's a fairly succinct Hell mansion map not marred by the presence of the SSG and fully loaded with hell knights and pain elementals, never in annoying places. In fact, the closest moment you have to a death trap here is a portal to a room with four shotgun guys in it. I honestly don't know what changes went on here besides the Doom II enemies but I enjoyed it heartily. The secret exit has that "holy shit!" feeling I love in a well-placed secret.

The MarshesE5M9
by Midway, ed. Xaser
Console Doom level that's the tamest of them all, by far, and resembles Doom II's "Suburbs". It's all outdoors with some miscellaneous buildings (filled with imps) and a pair of Cyberdemons hunting you down. The second one warps in partway through. Really, in an area this size, one Cyberdemon would be a joke, and two is still not that threatening, even if you activate the lights out trap. It took awhile for me to figure out the right balance between safety and aggression but once you've gotten them corralled into one of the open areas by the teleporters it's just a matter of time.

E5M6Twilight Descends
by Midway, ed. Xaser
I believe this is a console Doom level. It's a well-detailed map, lacking most of the otherworldly detail found in the previous installments. Instead, it feels like a fine-tuned ordinary Doom II level. It's got a rough pistol start beginning but nothing you can't navigate. Lots of barons, which I appreciate, and lots of revenants. All in all it's got good action and the map slowly opens up in front of you, becoming more navigable, a feature I always enjoy.

Threshold of PainE5M7
by Midway, ed. Xaser
Console Doom level converted to a non-euclidean techbase though most of the geometry is toned down compared to, say, E5M4. There's some neat fight setups. Most of the map is dominated by corridors featuring single revenants, but there's a neat battleground filled with barons and arachnotrons and, later, mancubuses. I like most of the design but the final area is the most obnoxious battle I've ever encountered in Doom as of this WAD; it's an enclosed, six-pointed star into which warp dozens of pain elementals and scattered revenants. I imagine with the lost soul limit it would make this tolerable, but as it stands with ZDoom's default settings, it's a non-stop pain train given the limited space and your most powerful room clearer being the rocket launcher. I couldn't be bothered to hammer it in to the end.

E5M8Redemption Denied
by Midway, ed. Xaser
Console Doom level converted to a bizarre Hell map designed as an escalating arena. It's an interesting construction – I like the floating plates in space – though I needed a few attempts to pin down my strategy. After dealing with a cadre of barons, it's crunch time with you fighting off four armies of pure Hell, after which some more toughs, including arch-viles, teleport in. It's not a style I'm used to but I managed to make it work. Really, the end-boss feels like more of an afterthought. It's too big to be mobile on the center island so you can really just plink away from relative safety.

A BLOO BLOO BLOO

6 comments:

  1. This is my favorite wad! It really felt like I was playing a director's cut version of Doom and it even had a really great ending. The first map was so scary I felt like I could fall for eternity and be doomed (the dreamy music adds to the atmosphere of being doomed). The alpha maps were great. Getting the super shotgun in doom and seeing the new monsters really adds to that feeling like you're playing a rare game that's really good and hard to find. E5m8 is the best map I've played for an ending. Couldn't believe it when I saw archviles and started getting attacked by them. They look different! It really felt like I played an unreleased game that was lost for ages; and a really good one at that! The super-shotgun from playstation Doom goes well with everything giving that sense of playing an unreleased title (you kind of are too). ID should've released something like this for those who purchased Doom 2. Why didn't they ever release anything like this afterwards? They should've released some sort of director's cut version of Doom or something. I'm pissed they never did.

    My only gripe is that this wad requires zdoom which I stay away from for single player. Zdoom behaves nothing like original Doom. Eternity is great but it suffers some mis-alignment problems with this wad, and I had a glitch on e5m3 where the red key door wouldn't completely open.

    All in all this wad is the best thing that's happened to Doom in ages. Not only does it have a perfect intermission screen but the ending has the best artwork I've seen for Doom. This really is a classic that I'll never forget and am truly grateful that I did.

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    1. It's pretty cool. If Xaser made some original maps in this vein (as opposed to based on other stuff, a la this and Zen Dynamics) I'd be thrilled. As it stands, his uncomfortable manipulations of the Console and Alpha levels herein are great on their own. I don't have a problem with ZDoom. You can get a great approximation of vanilla play by using ZDoom's "Doom (Strict)" compatibility setting, including projectiles not blocked by decorations and the reintroduction of the blockmap bug, my least favorite Doom bug. Besides mancubi being able to shoot through walls, of course.

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  2. * truly grateful that I got to play it.

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  3. Eternity is the best way to play this (despite what I mentioned previously). There are no problems with recent versions as long as you disable "use doom linedef trigger model". Under game options/compatiblity set this to no. Setting to yes causes the red door in "ominous lair" e5m3 to be stuck!. Best source port to use with this IMO. Unless they convert it to dehacked for dos doom_1.9 (or chocolate-doom) :)

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  4. This episode wouldn't blend well with the other three Lost Episodes (JPTR) thus the name is kind of unfitting.

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    1. the name is perfectly fitting. its built out of console doom levels, collected into an episode. any relation to JPTR is wholly coincidental. what doesnt track is the idea that the lost episodes of doom somehow lay claim to being the definitive lost episodes

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