Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Fava Beans (FAVA.WAD)

The thing about Fava Beans is that it's a pretty well-known Episode 1 replacement for the original Doom, but its notoriety is due almost entirely to the skill with which author Sean Birkel recreated the atmosphere and architecture of "Knee Deep in the Dead". In 1995, or thereabouts, it was a pretty big deal since his peers were making maps that looked pretty primitive in comparison. Nowadays, we can sit on a pile of Phobos recreations and call the set on its single most glaring fault. When you've stopped sucking at Doom, the fighting is boring as shit.

Of course, it's all in line with the E1 imitation, since KDitD was the introductory episode, and the encounters aren't completely without merit. Birkel slowly throws in elements of demonic corruption that grow stronger as you play and creatures not native to the first episode appear sporadically. I actually found myself threatened in some of the later maps, though I think some of that was due to playing recklessly against a low threat level. The thing I liked the least is how the monster closet contents seem almost stamped into place considering their regularity.

Fava Beans is more of a tourist trip. The layouts, detailing, and architecture are right on the money and the level names are pretty much '94 revisited, evoking the names of various satellites (Gaspra, Triton, Charon, Titan) that echo contemporaries like the Lost Episodes in jamming doomed UAC bases all over the galaxy. Birkel was about the best in coming up with something interesting, in spite of the numerous homages, which makes the lack of memorable fights that much more disappointing. It just goes to show how far craftsmanship can bring you, with FAVA striking a fine vanilla balance between boxy / boring and VPO city.

The fights may not be worth mentioning, compounded by an overabundance of ammo, and I don't really care for E1M8 or 9, the latter looking like a re-purposed deathmatch level. It's still well worth playing, especially if you adore Doom's shareware episode. Birkel didn't really contribute much else to Doom afterward, though he did submit a map to Memento Mori II (MAP24 "Io Lab"), an apparently incomplete offering reworked for Doom II. A FAVA outtake, perhaps?

by Sean Birkel and Ben Gates

Gaspra ArmoryE1M1
by Sean Birkel
Pretty simple techbase level. It's a little confusing as the switch that opens up the way to the red door is a bit obscure. There's an abundance of health and ammo here and explorers will find all five shareware weapons to be had here. No real standout encounters. The giant nukage pool is this level's sole distinguishing feature.

E1M2Hangar 18
by Sean Birkel
More techbase with a bit of Hell creeping in. Interestingly, almost half of this level is inessential for completion. There's also a huge stash of rockets, easily found, not that you'll need them. None of the fights are memorable but the room with the partial invisibility powerup stands out among the others.

Impalement StationE1M3
by Sean Birkel
More expansive and a little rougher with some traps actually allowing Hellspawn to rough you up. There's still more stuff than you'll ever need. Level layout is a little more confusing with a bit of backtracking. The secret exit is a clever "hide in plain sight" thing that astute players should pick up on pretty quickly. I would say the outdoor firefight leading to the teleporter room is the standout encounter.

E1M9Creeping Death
by Sean Birkel
Almost clearly a deathmatch level that's been populated with a few monsters, including interestingly enough a lost soul. Excepting the fact that you start in a crossfire, there's little to no challenge here, though I'd say the presence of the plasma rifle is of note.

Triton Lunar BaseE1M4
by Sean Birkel
Techbase with a bit more hell creeping in. The cacodemons aren't very effective gameplay-wise but thematically they complete the red key room, that area standing out as the most memorable area of the map. Not much else to mention, though I'll say the vast emptiness of the exit room speaks of a missed opportunity for a good firefight, possibly with several cacodemons.

E1M5Charon's Lab
by Ben Gates
In which a baron makes an appearance and can be a bit of a pill, depending on the way you got there. Level is pretty easy otherwise, plenty of gunsnammo and a bit more monsters to blow apart. There's a neat bit with the yellow key, which is hidden, and leads to a secret room with some enemies and some goodies. The exit room, lodged in the center, looks very nice and even manages to make the cacodemons a little intimidating (unless you brought some stronger firepower).

Shadows of DarknessE1M6
by Sean Birkel
The method of this level's progression is a little obscure at first, but after playing through, there's a method to its madness. You just get incredibly lost at the beginning. There's a lot of things to dispatch and they're just the slightest bit threatening. More interestingly, you're not kicking over boxes of shells anymore. There's still an abundance of ammo but at least you're not choking in it. I'd say the room leading to the exit is the standout encounter, with two distinctly themed siderooms and some impressive architecture in the ceiling.

E1M7Titan's Anomaly
by Sean Birkel
Birkel's E1 masterpiece, featuring tricky routes to various powerups. There's a few cool idea here, like the plasma rifle secret (very much in the vein of the E1M3 secret exit), or the light fixture secret (which is incidentally a bitch to get out of). The standout encounter, well there's two, one involving the large room with a number of nukage vats, very atmospheric, and one involving monster teleports, which actually got me killed the first time. Very good stuff.

Orion OutpostE1M8
by Sean Birkel
Kind of creepy given its buildup (the rest of the level is entirely empty) but pretty much a letdown compared to the original E1M8. You've got around enough ammo to take out both barons but given that the level is devoid of much else and there's plenty of room to move around, it's a pretty tepid finale.

The authors are raving about FAVA.WAD!

"We feel that any DOOM fanatic willenjoy this episode and will be completely
impressed by the work put into it. Most levels on the Internet suck. It's a
fact, but these 9 levels do not suck. id Software, if they ever saw this, would
most likely want to know where the two of us were when they were designing
the original DOOM levels."

This post is part of a series on
Doomworld's Top 10 WADs of 1995

Fava BeansInfinity
Boothill / A Fistful of DoomH2H-Xmas
The Final GatheringArtifact
Nostromo's RunObituary
The Enigma EpisodeDWANGO5


  1. Wow - the authors do kind of over-compliment themselves given it's their own work. Still, this is solid for 1995, though like you said it isn't a perfect adherence to Knee-Deep. Another episode to have in mind possibly for the future is Chris Hansen's 'CH Retro Episode'; it's got a full nine level mission that's a bit more substantial than this one (for length and difficulty), and with very few departures from the original style. BTW if you mind me making suggestions, feel free to let me know; I would not hesitate to stop at request. :)

    And let me say again, these are great reviews. :) I like how you look past the bad elements of wads when it's warranted and come out recommending them, at least to some extent, except in the case of wads that truly are legitimately not really worthwhile at all. I think too many people nowadays get caught up with a wad's flaws and end up sounding far too sour about it. I also feel you tend to keep objectivity in mind more than most, and that's a good thing.

    1. CH Retro is on the short list, though the 10 Sectors competition and Kurt Kesler's collected works are in the way as I currently have things planned out.

  2. Both of those are quite worthwhile as well. :)

  3. The main issue I have with this wad, it's too easy. Everything else is about as strong as you could expect in '95. Maybe one to play on uv -fast.