Sunday, July 3, 2011

Shrine of the Warriors (SHRINE2.WAD)

by Daniel "Stormin" Norman

Daniel "Stormin" Norman has a place in the annals of Doom history for his Doom II minisode, The Final Gathering. He also released two single levels for Doom II; one of them, "Dark Side of the Mind", was collected in the final version of GATHER2.WAD. The second, Shrine of the Warriors, is a fun Doom II level that systematically pits you against most of Doom's bestiary. I'm guessing given the filename presented in the WAD and the actual name of the included filename that this also had an OG Doom release, but it's not anywhere in the archives. The barebones plot is that the shrine is of demonic origin and is an attempt to pay tribute to the warriors of Hell. And, uh, I dunno, I guess you didn't want to buy a ticket?

The map plays out as a series of challenges laid out in dark gray brick rooms and hallways, with the flat images of monsters posted on walls as an indicator of which challenge you're currently against. There's not much backtracking excepting the first encounter room, which is a shooting gallery. It's a rough fight as you're forced to take on a hall of hitscanners that boil out of false posters (the aforementioned flat monster images) and there's no health until you loop about halfway back around the room on a walkway around the side. It's a good exercise in cover and sniping, though.

From there you move on to the first imp room, which is somewhat confusing. You've got to shoot one of the static images in order to open up all the others, creating a veritable deluge of Imps. This takes you to a short interstitial area which leads to the best room (in my opinion), the demon room. There's a ring of Imps around the area that fire down on you but you won't see the demons until you run up to the central column, after which they boil out. That's not the fun part, though. After grabbing the yellow key, the lights go out, and you have to fight a wave of imps and spectres. There's some light-amplification goggles if you care to look for them, but do you really want to risk running smack-dab into an invisible friend?

After dealing with some chaingunners you are subject to the main event, a room larger than the demon room with a ring of imps and a giant center column bearing the image of a Cyberdemon. Norman slowly introduces a wave of cacodemons and lost souls into the arena, which are cleared without much trouble. Funnily enough, when you finally raise the center column, you're not subjected to an actual Cyberdemon – just some cutouts of one. The tricky part is dealing with the four corners of revenants and the four chaingunners that enter in once you start accessing the top shelf. From here you have two options, a secret exit through some barons (perhaps the true exit?) and the normal exit, through some mancubuses.

SHRINE.WAD is a fun level. It won't rank among the greatest of Doom II maps but it's got enough verve and imagination behind its encounters that it's worth at least one playthrough. It also has a sense of humor which is something I think some Doom authors miss the mark on. I'm not talking about pure jokewads, just a little wink and elbow nudge from time to time, like in Doom's exit messages. In any event, it's one of the better '94 Doom maps I've played.


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