Monday, June 6, 2011

Dante's Gate (DANTE666.WAD, DANTE25.WAD)

by John "Dr. Sleep" Anderson

id employed a number of independent Doom mappers for their Master Levels project. Perhaps the most notorious them is John "Dr. Sleep" Anderson. Not because his works are reviled, no - Anderson's infamy is currently a product of his seclusion. His body of work is fairly well documented, but remains as of this time incomplete. His Inferno series, inspired by Dante Alighieri's work of the same name, was (is?) supposed to be a 9 map series. Eight of those maps have been released, with Dante's Gate and Crossing Acheron publicly available on the idgames mirror. Dante's Gate is the first in the series, occupying either E1M1 or MAP01 depending on which version you're playing - 1.666 for OG Doom or 2.5 for Doom II. There are more versions than these available, but these are the two I'll be discussing.

The plot: the main character is looking for his "lady-friend", Beatrice. During an attack on a UAC base, they were separated. Virgil is the only other survivor and says that he saw Beatrice near one of the warp gates. You've got to track her down and kill everything that stands between you. Neither the least nor the most compelling intro I've been prompted with, but it works. As far as gameplay goes, it's pretty good considering it's an E1M1 replacement circa 1994 (albeit with a few curiosities). It's easy, with scads of ammo and health, and all the weapons make an appearance here, but the architecture isn't too open, maintaining the threat of the original Doom monsters. If you don't watch out, a cacodemon or two might sneak up on you.

As for theme, it's basically a bit of techbase and a lot of Hell with some interesting rooms, like the Combat Armor room with its unusual staircase or the pit near the beginning with the blue key. There's at least one crusher trap which might surprise you. While there are a lot of different textures used, they're not present in a clashing manner. Indeed, all things considered, it's quite nice. The level itself is fairly non-linear. There's a red key I couldn't find a use for, a blue key which isn't necessary but makes exploring a bit simpler, and only the yellow key is required to leave. It's semi-hidden, but not really. Most of the big weapons are available pretty early, so you don't feel underpowered for very long, if at all.

Now, Dante's Gate v. 2.x (occupying the MAP02 slot) is not simply a Doom II conversion. Anderson has retextured much of the level, arriving at a more uniform theme. It resembles in many ways the texturing of the original Doom's fourth episode, Thy Flesh Consumed, and perhaps his work in The Master Levels. The Doom II monsters also spice things up, making the map considerably more difficult, at least, compared to the original version. In fact, unless my eyes deceive me, much of the health that originally polluted this level has been excised.

All the Doom II monsters excepting the arachnotron appear in one form or another and in ways that actually suit the layout of the map. Finally, Anderson made a couple changes as to the location of the blue key and weapons. There's no BFG to be found, and the section of the level locked behind blue doors is entirely optional, though no less fun.

The Ultimate Doom version of Dante's Gate is a fun '94 level with an excellent layout and semi-interesting gameplay. The Doom II version is a triple threat, featuring a nice layout, great gameplay, and excellent texturing. You may find yourself enjoying it even if you routinely snub '94 levels. Anderson wasn't as prolific a mapper as others, but what work of his that remains reflects the highest quality mapping of the time.


This post is also part of a series on
John "Dr. Sleep" Anderson's Inferno series

Dante's GateCrossing AcheronVirgil's Lead
Minos' JudgementNessusGeryon


  1. It's always been my opinion that id should have hired John Anderson instead of (or at least as well as) Tim Willits, but alas they did not ask for my opinion.

    Anyway, whenever I play the Master Levels I always use an editor to add these maps to the mix because that's where they belong. In my opinion the Master Levels certainly would not have enjoyed the success which it did if Anderson's work had not been a part of it.

  2. Haven't played the Master Levels yet but they're on the chopping block. I think Anderson has a much more coherent mapping vision than many of the id IWAD levels, at least as far as aesthetics go (excepting E4 which, surprise, is mostly outside talent).

    From what I've read and what I've played, he doesn't throw the hardcore difficulty maps out, but every now and then I like to get maps that are a breather on UV.