Monday, May 30, 2011


Vanguard is a Boom-compatible episode released in 2011 by Paul DeBruyne, aka "Skillsaw". In Paul's words, "Vanguard was planned to be a 32 level megawad inspired by Speed of Doom's development time and Scythe 2's episodic structure. However, I simply don't have the time/patience/focus to complete 32 levels at the moment, so I've decided the release the wad as-is." Would it have been nice if we'd gotten a full 32 level megawad? Yeah, and it'd be nice to have a solid gold cacodemon. You have to be happy with what you have to be happy, though, and there's plenty here to be happy with.

Vanguard has no story, though that's not to say that one was never planned. What Vanguard does have are three distinct "episodes" plus one amusing credits level. The first tier centers around a nature / ruins theme with lots of water and beautiful temple architecture. The second is a kind of gray concrete that for lack of a better term I'll call techbase, which includes a crate base, a parking structure, and an abstract UAC megastructure. The finale is Hell rendered in orange, with the first outing taking place around the eponymous "Temple of Asmodeus" while the second is an epic trek through a series of lava-filled caverns. Every level is gorgeous in detail, layout, architecture, you name it. The textures look natural and make these levels pop like nothing else.

Skillsaw has crafted a mapset with a broad variety of gameplay that runs the gamut from normal Doom II action to Tyson to arch-viles to out-and-out slaughter. There's also a good variety of that last one, starting with the pell-mell chaos of "Forgotten Village" and giving you the fairly toned-down "Free Parking" before the monolithic architecture of "Superstructure", after which you're all in. "Asmodeus" skirts slaughter for a bit, going with tricky enemy placement, but the big two fights at the end are nutso crossfires. "Chasm" is, well, slaughter all the way, starting off with a screaming pack of skeletons.

Is Vanguard difficult? Well, it can be. I honestly had more trouble with some of the later maps in the Memento Mori series, but I won't pretend that the task of clearing levels like "Superstructure" or "Infernal Chasm" isn't daunting. You may die; you may die a lot. But you'll have fun doing it, because nothing in these maps had me shouting "BULLSHIT!" or crying foul. They're well balanced, action-packed, and everything good Doom maps should be.

by Paul "Skillsaw" DeBruyne

MAP01Overgrown Sepulcher
Ruins-themed map that starts out with some Tyson action. It's very short but very cramped and health is at a premium. Most memorable encounter would probably be flipping the switch that begins the teleport wave. Either that or the revenant. Architecture and detailing on this map is supreme.

Drowned ShrineMAP02
Fun outdoor ruins map in the same vein. There's a lot of water; indeed, the level has a kind of flooded temple quality. There's plenty of ammo and plenty of nasties. I like the central courtyard's layout the most and the pillar that rises for the blue key and resets is an ingenious construction. No real standout encounter except maybe the twin hell knight trap.

MAP0313 Angry Archviles
Continuing on with the ruins but with a more castle-like layout. It's very "Hunted" except instead of the fuckers running around willy-nilly stalking you they're waiting to ambush you in their particular quarters through the magic of teleportation. One of my favorite fights here involves a bunch of zombimen; you kill the zombies so that the arch-viles waste their time reviving them, all the while taking potshots at the shits. The yellow key fight is also a standout encounter, with a group of moving pillars you need to hide behind. There's plenty of health so you can afford to eat a vilebomb or two. All in all, a VERY fun level.

Hangman's ParadiseMAP04
Fun tough level with lots of stairs / floors and a huge outdoor area with several islands raised out of the drink. You start out looking at all three keys and have to get all three before you can leave, though the keys themselves are immaterial to the process of lowering each one. The outdoor area is an interesting assortment of bullet hell with dozens of imps firing at you. There's no real standout fight for me but I'd say the red key switch fight is the most memorable.

MAP05Forgotten Village
So fun. Ruins level with an arena-esque layout. Reminds me of Memento Mori's "Showdown", except, not really. Everything is pretty much activated at the beginning and all the good weapons besides the SSG are located in various places, a few of which (along with key switches) will activate waves of baddies. There's more than enough ammo and all told, it's pretty easy. I didn't even get to use the rocket launcher as I picked it up last!

Short techbase map with some sweet exterior architecture. It encourages the use of the Tyson playstyle for the majority of the level. It's something I'm rarely forced to do so it's interesting to play through it. The Tyson portion of the map is vs. zombimen, imps and demons. Once you get the shotgun things get a little harder but hey, you have to earn your armaments. Incidentally, that's the standout encounter of the map, though I must say as Tysoning, it plays incredibly well.

MAP07Dead Symmetrical
Fuckin' awesome techbase arena style map. As with "Dead Simple", there are two important waves, one involving arachnotrons and one involving mancubuses. I'd say the arachnotron wave is much trickier to handle if only because of a swarm of revenants, but really, it's all gravy. There's plenty of gunsnammo so just hold down the trigger and watch your ass. There's a nut in the center but it's not hard to crack.

Large techbase with a warehouse theme. Yeah, there're crates, but they don't really ruin the gameplay. It's weighed with some hitscanners in the crate maze while you get your feet wet but afterward it billows out and you get some great shootouts, especially the end of level demon rush. It's also a fairly transparent level, with progression natural and gradually making the level less restrictive.

MAP09Free Parking
Supremely entertaining slaughtermap that starts out as a close-quarters shootout in some dark tunnels and moves out to masses of demons getting cleared out of an abstract parking lot. It's big, it's huge, and it's infested. Pretty much every major fight here is memorable, from the first step off the elevator to the final swarm of demons. It helps to have a sixth sense for arch-viles; keep your BFG at the ready and don't be afraid to pull the trigger.

Epic slaughtermap with four different battlefields in a techbase theme. The main battlefield is the one you have to sort out first, and involves the majority of the baddies. After you take care of the first pack of demons, it's really just grabbing a BFG and then clearing out some breathing room. Two of the other battles aren't quite so intense (taking place in both a tiered outdoor area and a gigantic cavern), with the most amped by far being the southern room, which is LOADED with shit in a gated fashion and quickly gets intimidating. There's plenty of infighting to be had, though, and as with anything, the key to avoiding death is by staying mobile. Very good stuff.

MAP11Temple of Asmodeus
I guess I can consider myself no longer a slaughtermap virgin. Hell here is gorgeous, with orange dominating most of the visuals and lots of stained glass windows and carpets. The opening is a series of low-key firefights compared to what comes afterwards. There's a few teleporters in the outdoor area that warp in a wave of monsters, making for some nice pressure. But the main events are the blue key and yellow key fights. Each one leads to a slaughterwave scenario. The yellow key room's irregular shape and cramped quarters makes it a dicier proposition but it's actually a bit easier to handle than the exposed madness of the blue key room which took me a couple tries to learn. And what I learned was, no matter how cool you think rockets are, don't be afraid to pull out the plasma rifle.

Infernal ChasmMAP12
Wow. Starts off intense and doesn't quit. It's maybe 5% like "Temple of Asmodeus", and 95% molten slag cavern saturated with monsters. Miraculously once I got into the chasm itself I had maybe one or two missteps before making it to the end. The biggest threat is handling the arch-vile wave when it appears, really. For the rest, it's just a matter of teasing out the demons until you can duck in behind them and grab all the goodies to commence to rumbling. The cavern itself is absolutely gorgeous, glowing orange with black plutons serving as your platforms. There's lavafalls and massive architecture and affirms why I always loved the idea of slaughtermaps but found the idea too intimidating. An absolute finale, not to be missed.

A fitting end to a phenomenal WAD. Float like a butterfly, sting like a revenant.




This post is part of a series on
Doomworld's 2011 Cacowards

The Top TenBest Multiplayer
Plutonia Revisited32in24-11: Occupy Doomworld
VapordemoBest Gameplay Mod
LunaticBrutal Doom
Double ImpactMordeth Award
Vanguard1994 Tune-up Community Project
ReverieMapper of the Year
IceboundHonorable Mentions
Mandrill Ass ProjectDoom II Redux
Khorus's Speedy ShitDoom64 EX


  1. Great review of a great wad :)

  2. Yeah this wad is amazing. Awesome review.

    - DeathevokatioN

  3. Skillsaw is an amazing mapper. I'd have loved a megawad, but I'll gladly take this (and Lunatic).

    1. And less than four weeks got: A megawad!

  4. Sector 666 and Aeternum are worth playing too. S666 is kind of to skillsaw as DOT is the MTrop, but the maps overall are better than DOT, and a good standard for 1998. Aeternum was made after a nine year or so hiatus and shows quite a bit of evolution into the author's ultimate style (which in S666 is pretty hard to see that many clues of). Of course like most authors there is never an exact style - event Valiant throws a few curveballs compared to Vanguard and Lunatic (which in themselves are already a bit different). But definitely, FAR more similar than S666 is to any of this, so I'd say (again) that playing S666 and Aeternum will give a footprint of how this author evolved