Saturday, July 2, 2011

Dystopia (DYST2.WAD)

by Anthony "Adelusion" Czerwonka

Dystopia is the progenitor of Anthony "Adelusion" Czerwonka's and Iikka "Fingers" Keranen's Dystopia 3, the trend-setting 1996 episode that in some ways led to STRAIN, Hacx, and other cyberpunk-flavored goodies. Dystopia was originally a Heretic level; Adelusion converted it to Doom II and re-released it (if you could call it that) in 1995, hence DYST2.WAD. It's a fairly large MAP01 replacement, containing in excess of 280 monsters. It also has no clear texturing theme, though the architecture design is clear and the individual detailing is internally coherent.

Dystopia doesn't have a story in its own .TXT, but Anthony references it in the story for Dystopia 3. If DYST3STY.TXT is to be believed, this adventure takes place some two hundred years - more or less - before the third outing. "Dystopia" is the given name for some misbegotten corner of the universe, a place of anarchy populated by mutants that sometimes form cults that sometimes cause troubles for the rest of the cosmos. It usually gets the blind eye, but when the teeming hordes decide to poke, someone has to put on their waders and muck it out. Too bad you can't just blow it up with some kind of superweapon; I'm guessing that it's some sort of prison-planet scenario, or at least a gathering place for eccentric expatriate Earthmen.

The basic setup is you've got four square rooms, all connected by large double doors. Each room has another level, either raised or lowered, that's accessible from that individual room. Generally, you clear each room out, then hit switches that open paths up to new and exciting areas. By exploring the side areas, you will open up additional monster compartments in the main area, leading to more fights that you don't necessarily control the pace of. Monsters frequently open up the interstitial doors so that you can't depend on re-clearing the rooms from a position of safety.

The main four areas are pretty boring, so the differentiating factors are the sidepaths you need to visit in order to collect the keys. The first path is on the western side and has a cave that's been the scene of a violent massacre. It's the most organic of the areas, by far. The eastern area is a long gauntlet through brown metal leading to a surreal location, a bunch of pillars over inescapable lava with an arch-vile in a cage at the far end of the room. The AV isn't much of a threat, but the four cacos that wake up might be. Collecting the goodies on the pillars isn't hard, but if you mess up (which platform haters are susceptible to) you will eat inescapable lava.

The pillar room teleports you back into a different section of the previously mentioned cave system, this time in the middle of an archetypal Cyberdemon / Spiderdemon slugfest. There's some stuff off to the side to keep you alive, though. From here things break down. You have the red key, but the red key door's been sealed off, and there aren't any new areas to explore. The secret is that you have to revisit the eastern pathway section, which has all manner of new monster closets opened and a gauntlet that takes you south, past both rooms, to deposit you in the exit area.

Dystopia is a pretty fun run'n'gun map for Doom II. The main showcase is a bit stale, but overall the fights are pretty simple to clear and there's enough health and ammo around to choke a Pinkinator. The side areas are what make the map, functioning as a breather in between the four square rooms, and vary up the encounters. It's actually a pretty quick playthrough, as long as you don't get hopelessly lost following the red key puzzle. I wish there wasn't so much backtracking involved but with the map layout, there's not much more Adelusion could do; the level's virtually out of real estate as it is. It's a good play, though.


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