Thursday, May 19, 2011


Published in 1994, Serenity is among the first of many episode replacements for Doom that have cropped up since its release. Tested by Bjorn Hermans and mapped by Holger Nathrath, it's also the first of a trilogy of episode replacements, continued in Eternity (Episode 2) and ending in Infinity (Episode 1). Serenity doesn't attempt to follow the themes of Inferno in spite of being an Episode 3 replacement. Nor does it have anything approaching a common theme. Rather, it just looks like Bjorn and Holger having fun, creating a series of eight maps (no secret) that goes down smooth, all things considered.

That's not to say it's without its flaws. Bjorn and Holger make extensive use of linedefs that block monster movement, removing much of the sting of roaming monsters that caused so much grief in the original Doom. They also neglected to optimize maps for pistol start. It's possible, of course, but you'll often find yourself wondering just when the chaingun will show up, only it never does, or finding cells and rockets in levels that lack weapons that use either, and that can create some tense ammo situations. Finally, though it's purely an aesthetic note, there's some...questionable midis for Doom, particularly E3M5.

It's still pretty fun, though, with a couple of neat tricks, and a palpable gimmick to round it out. Each level features a letter from Serenity, in sequence, a trend continued throughout the series. It's cheesy as all get out, but this was the dawn of user-created levels.

by Bjorn Hermans and Holger Nathrath

A Warm WelcomeE3M1
Boxy, wood-themed level. The most interesting parts are a teleporter trap outside the yellow key door and the damage maze at the beginning of the map. It's not a maze proper, just a long, winding trail of ground that's safe to walk on vs. the damage floor surrounding it. Fighting is pretty easy, all shotgun stuff here. There's a baron at the very end, and if you get caught next to an exploding barrel, all of which are well-obscured, it could be rough, but you've got plenty of room to maneuver.

E3M2Doom – The Movie
More wood and concrete. This map's most interesting feature is a movie hall featuring cinematography of unknown source. The gunfight around the E figures as the most interesting encounter, with a lot of lost souls making things a little dicey. The organic exit is kind of cool, though the scrolling textures don't line up properly.

R You Lonesome?E3M3
Wood, concrete, and a sewer section. The wood part of the map has some nice looking elevators and a decent puzzle involving the yellow key. There's also a wacky secret room featuring four temporary powerups turning you into a virtual god for a limited time. The level ends in a crate room shootout that has enough free players to keep you a little wary. The R is pretty easy to find, and features an animated texture that bizarrely oscillates between the blue fire and golden chains.

E3M4All the Marbles
They start to roll out with the green marble and use a nasty trick where the alcove the cacodemon hides in blocks movement but not projectiles, so using it as cover is a big no-no. The marble maze portion of this map doesn't really bog it down, but the skin-bolted maze does, as it's sprinkled with demons and sergeants, exactly what you don't want to round a corner into. The stash of powerups with the red key has a nice method of access.

Dungeons of the DarkE3M5
Things step up a bit. There's a few barons in the latter half of the map, which is dominated by concrete textures. A few firefights that can quickly get out of hand, namely the fights beyond the red door as well as the fighting around the blue key which takes place in a surreal, hellish cylinder, out of which the player ascends. The marble/sewer section is kind of a drag and your ammo gets really tight there. Actually, I'm not sure there's enough ammo to safely get 100% what with the caged baron.

E3M6I'm Here. I'm There. Stairs are Everywhere
Predominantly techbase with lots of maze-like action and, yes, stairs. It's not bad by any means, it's just that so many small rooms and hallways and doors really bog down the gameplay. The fighting can be a little rough at times with a few blind drops into enemies as well as cramped quarters with cacodemons. It's all skirmishing, so the shotgun is supreme, though there's 300 cells lying around with no plasma rifle (intended to carry it over from E3M4). It's kind of short with other ammo as well as health, so the pressure doesn't really let up until you grab a refresher around 2/3 of the way through the map. Two special mentions – there's a trick with stairs that you can go up but not back down due to the ceiling height. There's also a problem with the lift leading to the yellow key. There's no switch to let it back down, which can be embarrassing if you get caught exploring, like I did my first time.

Big TimeE3M7
It's still the weakest level of Serenity, but I hate it less than when I originally played it (especially because I didn't get interminably lost this time). It's a very large level, and far less focused than any of the others in scope, texturing, or theme. There's a lot of grand hallways with a few scattered monsters and there's a Spider-Mastermind fight that makes things not so simple. That's about the most excitement you'll get out of the map, though, and the texturing is so painful, especially in the "secret" sections, that I can't really recommend playing this.

E3M8Church of the Poisoned Minds
A dark gray concrete cathedral with stained glass windows. Sadly, the windows obscure the imps sniping from the sidelines. It's kind of tough going from pistol start; there's a few barons you'll have to take out with the Shotgun and / or Pistol and you won't really get to use your cells until the level's partway over. You get a decision toward the end, easy way or hard way. The easy way is just that, easy, with an invulnerability powerup to boot. The hard way has a tricky barrel puzzle as well as a hall of monsters you'll be hard-pressed to defeat normally. It will dump you out at the beginning of the easy path when finished, of course. The clever Doomer can use the invulnerability for the hard way, just be advised that you'll have to do the big showdown vs. the Spider Mastermind with no cover whatsoever.


This post is part of a series on
Doomworld's Top 10 WADs of 1994

Crossing AcheronAliens TC
Doomsday of UACGalaxia
The Unholy TrinityReturn to Phobos
Slaughter Until DeathThe Evil Unleashed

This post is part of a series on
the Serenity series



  1. I have taken all my courage and played this ancient WAD last night. I have to say that E3M7 indeed is one of the maps with the worst texturing and general level design I have seen in quite a while. Also, the weird animation inside of the "R" in E3M3 is questionable. I guess E3M5 and E3M8 are the highlights of the set. Still, considering this is a 1994 mapset, it's a remarkable effort by the authors.

  2. Well I just played it this evening, hardest difficulty. It's playable, which is an applaud for something this old. Like NightFright said, E3M7 has surprisingly horrible layouts and architecture, though the gameplay isn't that different from other maps. I was having enough fun though to finish all eight levels, which is something I can only say for a countable number of episodes from 1994. Wasn't that tough (as is general with 1994 wads), and I managed every level from a pistol start. You do get a shotgun fairly quickly in each case. E3M7 Spider was actually the hardest, I actually BFG-rushed E3M8 without even noticing the invulnerability was there, since its death ends the game automatically.

    Secret-tagging is terrible, with some levels having lots of areas that have no reason to be secrets marked as secrets, but I'll let that part go. Occasionally there were a few mandatory actual secrets though and those do annoy me, something I think is inherently poor design.

    Starting Eternity now. Still going for pistol start except in E2M8. I think I'll carry over from E2M7 there.

    (If any of this personal commentary on wads is considered relevant to asking for opinions, ranks, or other posting you do not want me to do as asked earlier, just leave a response saying so and I won't post any thoughts on wads, even my own, through this blog.)

  3. Decent 1994/95 efforts (this trilogy). They don't hold up that well today, though they are a far cry from the worst, and oddly enough I still very much enjoy their soundtracks (maybe just because I've got a lot of nostalgia for it though).