Thursday, June 9, 2011

Galaxia: The Ultimate Czech Level (GALAXIA.WAD)

by Pavel Hodek

The story - you're part of a pair of survivors still living after the spaceship Galaxia suffered through a swarm of asteroids. You resign to repair the ship. Unbeknownst to you, the ship is headed toward a black hole, and because this is science fiction, your ship travels through the hole to another place entirely and escapes the usual fate of compression to a singularity as befalls most matter. Smarminess aside, you land on an alien planet, find a post-apocalyptic race of telepathic subterranean humans terrorized by giant spiders, and join the resistance before shit goes crazy and you're forced into action.

Get all that? Okay.

Galaxia consists of two level replacements for the original Doom. E1M1 forms the main mission and is quite the adventure. E1M9 is the WAD's finale and a cramped slugfest inside a tiny science vessel. It's got a host of new textures. They're not the greatest but they're better than many others I've seen. Hodek also replaced many of the game's sounds. The new monster noises aren't bad, actually, and some of the weapons gain a campy sci-fi feel that gels with the source material, a Czech sci-fi serial comic. It's an interesting premise to craft a Doom map upon and Pavel has gone through some pains to justify the existence of the monsters as they are. That aside, the real question is, how's the gameplay?

Pretty good, actually. Galaxia is not the easiest Doom map I've ever played. Health is at a premium and it's got in excess of 300 monsters. I don't think you can actually kill all of them; there's a bevy of Spider Masterminds, standing in for the horrific spiders in the original story, and not nearly enough ammo. It's also got some clever sequences you wouldn't see in your average Doom map. The map's beginning has you staring down a Spiderdemon. You're forced to sprint, taking cover between crates before it shoots you up, to hit a switch to access the tunnel system that leads to the rest of the level.

The caves link up a variety of areas. There's more warehouse space, featuring a clever pincer trap, a tower overlooking a railway junction you'll explore later, and some sort of a zoo with voodoo dolls for no adequately explained reason. This all leads to another "scripted" sequence where you have to dodge down a hallway filled with Spiderdemons locked behind cages before they shoot you up. There's a berserk at the end, so no harm, no foul. Just watch out for the hellspawn standing in your way.

The railway section has a drawn out teleporter assault and eventually leads to a train station (with bizarre wallpaper), finally dumping you out in a sewer maze that's hidden from the automap. It's not like it would be that easy to navigate, anyway, as there's a lot of grating you can't walk through. This opens up into a lake with the final fight of the main level, featuring a number of cacodemons and a horde of lost souls. When you make it to the spacecraft, there's even an anti-invasion device that teleports you back into the drink.

The end segment, E1M9, plays more like a Tyson level. It's very cramped and features a wave of spectres invading the ship, topped off with a baron in the command chamber. It's not the greatest topper to such an adventure but it works, and forcing the player to warp to E1M9 enforces Hodek's predilections toward zerking. With the cramped layout, it's honestly the best way to play. The second wave of action in the ship works pretty well. Hodek makes you run through the tiny ship again, utilizing the restricted play space wisely.

Galaxia's got a lot going for it. It's a vast sci-fi adventure with a goofy story and some cinematic sequences not ordinarily seen in Doom maps. It's heartening to see that even so early in this game's history authors were stretching the limits of what could be done with thing placement and "scripting" encounters. It's also got a fairly hard opening for an OG Doom level. I heartily recommend it to anyone curious about '94 WADs. There's great scenery, great fights, and great tension.

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

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