Tuesday, June 28, 2011


by Bjorn Hermans and Holger Nathrath

Bjorn Hermans and Holger Nathrath are well-known in the Doom community for their Serenity trilogy, released over '94 and '95. Their body of work outside Serenity, however, is fairly light. They were apparently in the process of converting Serenity over to Doom II as well as releasing a Serenity episode entirely for Doom II, but both projects halted. Arachna is one of the few shreds of their work left, and surprisingly, it's by Bjorn Hermans! Nathrath did all the major mapping for the Serenity trilogy, so I found it interesting to see what Hermans was capable of. It comes in two flavors, Doom and Doom II, both being released around the same time in 1995 as E3M1 and MAP01, respectively.

The plot is slightly less developed, but it does a good enough job of setting up the action. Presumably, you're on Earth, and wonder of wonders - a Spiderdemon has infested a cathedral, Whether you're a garden variety UAC troubleshooter or THE Doom marine isn't clear, but the end result is the same. You're to slay it and consecrate the once holy ground, scouring yet another bastion of Hell from the war-torn remains of Earth. Err, that's rather presumptuous. Maybe it's a cathedral in Mars City. In any case, you can expect that the fiends have warped their local reality to better suit their vices.

While Hermans made two separate versions of Arachna, the layout and flow of the map remains the same in each one. Most of the action takes place in the twisted green marble cathedral. The opening hall is excellent, with a stunning arrangement visible on the opening floor, as well as solid marble gating that lowers into the ground. From there it proceeds to a nasty kill trap with a Cyberdemon. You can warp to a room with a pentagram motif and from here grab all the weapons you'll need to use in the map, though watch out for a wave of hellspawn teleporting in.

The locked room opens up, showcasing a few firefights in a red brick room, with a shooting switch puzzle that both rewards and punishes. Finally, after obtaining the blue key, you can proceed to the main showdown, the cathedral itself with a gorgeous spider symbol protruding from the pool of blood. You're pretty much done after you take out the big bad; just don't forget to flip the switch to open up the exit.

The Doom II version of this map is pretty tough to get started in, mainly when it comes to the Cyberdemon room. The Cyberdemon isn't tough, it's just dealing with the Lost Souls and other monsters at the sides before they kill you. After bypassing this and the teleport assault, you can either take the Cyberdemon normally or use a strategically provided secret. The arch-vile in the main chamber doesn't really have an opportunity to knock you around and you're more than capable of sniping him from the door. The Spider-Mastermind fight is similarly neutered, but a Spider-Mastermind fight without cover wouldn't be very fair.

The Doom version's biggest differences involve replacing some of the meatier toughs (mancubus, arch-vile, Hell knight) with barons, plus a total absence of chaingunners. Holger also replaced the slain corpse graphic that's seen in much of the marble area with a large image of two skulls, which may be jarring considering their relative size but to me comes as a nice switch-up. The gameplay is understandably a bit easier, especially the teleport ambush, as you don't have to worry about the pain elemental or commandos tearing up the place.

Arachna is a cool WAD and worth playing in either version. I'm quite impressed by the difference in mapping style between Hermans and Nathrath. Hermans's work is very imaginative compared to the raw and abstract execution of the Serenity trilogy, so it's a shame to me that they never got around to hacking out that entire Doom II episode (and that Hermans's body of released work is so light!). With their combined talents, it would have been a WAD to remember.


This post is part of a series on
the Serenity series


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