Tuesday, August 23, 2011

BF_THUD! (Chrisk for Doom ][) (BF_THUD!.WAD)

Christen David Klie designated BF_THUD! "ChrisK for Doom ][". It is an evolution of CHRISK.WAD, which replaced one and a half episodes of the original Doom, which itself was an evolution of CHRIS_E1.WAD, which only replaced episode 1. All of CHRISK.WAD can be found in the commercial Lost Episodes of Doom, with the addition of one level (E2M5). When Klie made BF_THUD!, he actually welded together three installments of his THUD series. The end product drafted seven of his previous Doom works, made some minor (and major) adjustments in thing placement, and then rolled in 22 levels to put alongside them as his Doom II magnum opus. While some Doom II monsters make an appearance, Klie tends to stick with the tried and true three varieties of zombimen mixed in with some imps.

If you've played any number of levels by Klie, you know more or less what to expect. Klie favors small, compact maps with simple layouts accentuated by some puzzle-solving (switch, teleporter or key) and goes pretty light on monster difficulty, preferring to let the environment work against the player, while typically giving you the resources required to overcome the tougher challenges. By design, he appears to be an advocate of certain death traps. Nothing to the extent of E1M4's inescapable Cyberdemon clusterfuck, but there are some sections where the wrong choice will guarantee player death. Thankfully, the small nature of the levels means that there’s little lost (and some of the traps are real jawdroppers!).

BF_THUD! has no story, nor does it need one. Instead, the levels (excepting the drafts from Klie’s earlier work) appear to draw inspiration from the slots in which they are placed, more or less. MAP25 definitely looks like some "Bloodfalls", MAP06 has a huge fuck-off crusher, and MAP13 resembles a city block, to name three instances. The repeat appearances either have some aspect that references the original map name ("The Courtyard") or have been punched up to the same effect ("Barrels o' Fun"). Every reappearing map has had some changes made in thing placement, even if it’s only to change bountiful soul spheres to megaspheres. I’ll also add that Klie picked the best maps of his early works to include (and a few I’m not so fond of).

BF_THUD! was essentially what I expected, with some surprises. The levels were small, in keeping with his Doom / Master Levels output, with the aforementioned puzzle elements. Some, however, were pretty tough, either due to the open nature of the levels, because they feature some binary (die or survive) situations, or because they use the terrain as the main antagonist (the damage floor maps). With a few exceptions, though, they’re all fun (and fast) plays. A lot of the maps have some overwhelming symmetry in their layouts, but Klie uses it to his advantage, more often than not. I wouldn’t hold up BF_THUD! as a paragon of Doom II mapping, but it’s definitely a great play.



BF_THUD!
ChrisK for DOOM ][
by Christen David Klie

"Entryway"MAP01
This is a short, somewhat symmetrical map with a texture theme similar to Doom II’s MAP02. The main area is a large, water-choked circle with two similar looking side areas with multiple boxed-off areas with powerups that tantalize your imagination. The eastern wing is pretty tame and highlights again Klie’s use of symmetry, with mirrored rings containing combat armor (both of which are part of the blue key puzzle). The western wing is in a different, light brown brick style and is compact with, wonder of wonders, a lethal crusher that’s actually clever for once, my standout moment.

MAP02"Underhalls"
A cramped-corridor layout with some goofy switch puzzles. Really, the entire level is one giant switch puzzle, hitting buttons so that gargoyle heads disappear, a feature that is no more evident than in the western area of the map, which features a number of such obstructions in a small maze. Klie makes things a bit humorous however with a section where five switches in a row raise out of the ground, very much a "Get on with it!" moment. The only other thing worth noting is the southern section with its multi-tiered elevator and a neat-looking soul sphere tunnel.

"The Gantlet"MAP03
This is a short assault on a square, brown compound. It’s effectively split into three parts. The northern and southern sections have three tiers of monsters going up while the center section houses its own cadre of beasties, and an end-of-level bonus. The map’s exterior is pretty barren save for some stuff suspended on switch platforms. When you’ve finally silenced the opposition, get ready to start pressing buttons. It was kind of fun the first time through but I imagine it wears thin quickly.

MAP04"The Focus"
A small square level that takes place in an underground sea of nukage. There are a few intense encounters in the central building, including a mancubus and a revenant, but the exterior is pretty rote, just some skirmishes with imps and the various former human types. It’s also where the exit puzzle is located, sort of a loose confederation of map features amongst which the three keys are spread out. The puzzle itself has a pretty good flow; I’m just not fond of these boxy maps.

"The Waste Tunnels"MAP05
This short battleground is a network of flooded subterranean tunnels. They aren’t initially that confusing and they’re more or less freeform, looking more natural in their layout and less like an artificial labyrinth. Klie also throws a little spice in the mix with some revenants running around the cramped chambers. The method of acquiring the yellow key is a bit arcane, but the real misstep in this map is the northern chamber, an unholy mixture of button pushing and door maze that overstays its welcome. I like everything else, though.

MAP06"The Crusher"
Another squareish map, this one a mixture of dark techbase and wood, with a number of crushers running in the background, including a super-crusher at the map’s center. There are several tiers of tracks the player can use to get around, but the ultimate destination is the outer ring which has access to four wings in a wooden maze them, the opposite wings mirroring each other. There are a couple wrinkles but it’s a pretty low-key map with a decent finale that you need to deal with ASAP (my standout moment).

"Dead Simple"MAP07
A strange lattice over some lethal nukage while attempting to hit four imps with super shotgun pickups. Eventually you may end up in a short, secret area, an orthogonal maze with a few warm bodies and a fake exit switch. The real exit is in a bizarre location but you may find it purely by accident. A fairly lackluster entry at 9 enemies, all capable of being felled by a single shotgun blast. "Dead Simple", indeed.

MAP08"Tricks and Traps"
Klie appears to evoke the feeling of "Tricks and Traps", but this is more Doom as Dragon’s Lair, not that it matters in a map this size (26 monsters). You’re immediately offered a breadcrumb trail of cells, but you’ll be remiss if you don’t turn around and grab that invulnerability on the other side of the door. After conquering the first major obstacles, you’re confronted with three different choices. Even if you make the correct one, you’ll have to move quick or suffer the consequences. From there on out, with a healthy stock of invulnerabilities (and a "secret" BFG) the rest of the map should fall into place. An interesting concept piece.

"The Pit"MAP09
A welcome change of pace. Klie has created here a map taking place in some misbegotten pit where the majority of the action occurs on a 5% damage floor. Now, he’s scattered medikits, soulspheres and even a few rad suits throughout the level, but time is of the essence, which makes the map somewhat difficult in comparison to previous works. You’ll need to find two keys in order to exit the map, I believe. The blue only provides access to a much needed soulsphere. The roughest points of the map are navigating the center spire room with four or so chaingunners and dealing with the sidepath with the pain elemental. It’s all in the route you develop, though. My favorite map so far.

MAP10"Refueling Base"
Short, intense firefight in a symmetrical level with some vague techbase overtones. You thankfully start out with the shotgun and most encounters can be confronted at your leisure. The most memorable section is the southern branch, which has a cool techno-guts corridor (with suitable traps), a yellow key shrine, and a nice-looking elevator that takes you down to the exit. Klie also plays with the map’s symmetry, so that of the two areas blocked off by yellow key doors, one holds a blue key with the other housing a soul sphere, a nice touch.

"Circle of Death"MAP11
This small level has one of the most obnoxious opening rooms I've encountered in recent plays, a true circle of death. It’s a large arena-style fight with eight surrounding cages, five of which are stocked with a concoction of imps, sergeants and commandos, not to mention the free-roaming monsters in the central area, which include a mancubus (not that threatening). When you finally work out a safe method of approach, you’re free to sample the level’s other delight, a pack of fifty revenants. It’s actually not nearly as bad, disregarding the fact that Klie created a wonderful tool with which you can dispatch the skeletons from safety. All told, one of the more memorable maps.

MAP12"The Factory"
A strange techbase level baked into a square shape. Virtually all of the action takes place on a single plane, with four offshoots from the starting area. You’ll have to open three of the zones with switches in an unusual maze; two of them contain the niceties of health and are required to gain access to all of the more useful weapons. Of the other two, one is a maze with cages for walls and imps below you, and the other is a small gauntlet of rooms with a nice entrance to a "rows of columns" maze mixed in with a horde of imps that are pretty fun to blow apart. Not great, but good.

"Downtown"MAP13
A fairly bland re-imagining of "Downtown" featuring nine square buildings in a 3 x 3 grid. The real draws of this level are the fact that it places you immediately into a firefight with monsters clamoring for your blood and Klie’s trademark puzzle style, which makes exploring the city block somewhat fun once all the action has died down. The nicest looking building here is the tiered structure on which the BFG sits. The rest are awfully nondescript, though I liked the red key puzzle (easily solvable).

MAP14"The Inmost Dens"
A huge maze of a level based around parallel construction. If you bisect this level in two along a north/south axis, you’ll end up with two nearly identical halves after rotating the other 180 degrees (the primary exception being the central dining hall). That said, it’s fairly easy, just about navigating the mazes, which you can’t reliably do overhead as Klie has thrown in cage walls every now and again. There are a few wrinkles to the encounters, which are all various zombies and imps, but you should be able to confront them with little trouble. You also only need to clear three of the six mazes, but the other three each have some goodies you’d do well to snag.

"Industrial Zone"MAP15
Another square-ish level with a symmetric layout. There’s an inner caged area that extends into the main floor that you begin in and which you need to leave quickly, an outer ring from which you access the rest of the level, a killing floor, and then four sets of nearly identical rooms in the corners of the map which you access by flipping switches the towers on the killing floor. Once you clear out the central area (made palatable via some powerups) it’s down to Klie-flavored exploration. I’m not sure what the solution to the puzzle is, but if you visit every room you should be fine. Note that one of the off-rooms has a rather rude surprise in it, so be careful.

MAP16"Suburbs"
A winding journey through library stacks as you uncover the three keys required to exit the level. The most difficult bit to start with involves revealing the blue key, as the solution isn’t immediately apparent upon first entering the room (you will probably be distracted). Klie pulls out some really nice architecture, though, with a great skylight pattern on a couple of the library rooms. The little library room nodes looks pretty cool, too. It’s a fun romp, if not necessarily challenging.

"Tenements"MAP17
AKA E2M3 of JPTR_V40.WAD / CHRISK.WAD, a brown techbase with some nukage. None of the level structure has changed. The main additions are some commandos (making the opening room a bit tougher) and I believe a powerup or two. It’s definitely one of Klie’s better maps and stands out in BF_THUD!, which is dominated by more scenario-based encounters. Nice to see it made the cut.

MAP18"The Courtyard"
AKA E1M6 of JPTR_V40.WAD / CHRISK.WAD, another techbase level with some cuts of grand architecture. Like MAP17, the layout is 100% the same, but thing placement differs. Besides chaingunners, Klie threw a few pain elementals in the large outer yard where they’re actually pretty dangerous, and there’s a cameo from at least one other Doom II baddie. The Doom II-ification really livens up the areas I originally found to be boring, making this a nice level.

"Citadel"MAP19
Short level in a mixture of grey stone and green marble. Standard crop of enemies with a few nasty traps in the northeastern wing. The arch-vile teleporter duel is quite awkward if approached from the wrong direction and if you go to grab the reasonably placed megasphere, you’ll be completely screwed (though you have a pretty good warning of what will happen). That said, the marble areas of the map look great and the dark grey brick portions while not stunning do a good job of facilitating gameplay. That megasphere trap is just dirty, though.

MAP20"Gotcha!"
AKA E1M7 of JPTR_V40.WAD / CHRISK.WAD, a computer core level with a Spiderdemon at the center. The difficulty of the original has been alleviated somewhat due to the replacement of the soul spheres with megaspheres. It’s otherwise unchanged. Wasn’t really one of my favorites from Klie’s earlier releases, but I like the way the exit switches are framed with the bundles of columns.

"Nirvana"MAP21
AKA E2M1 of JPTR_V40.WAD / CHRISK.WAD, a brown techbase with a few quirky sections like a 3 x 3 grid pit, a teleporter sequence in the southeastern section, and no small amount of switches. The major change here is the red key guardian, a baron in its original incarnation, here an arch-vile. Not necessarily threatening given available cover, but a nice sharp shock, nonetheless. Glad this level made the cut.

MAP22"The Catacombs"
Short mostly underground level that somewhat invokes the original Catacombs. The marble entryway looks very nice as do the rest of the level’s sections. It’s not difficult by any means, but it’s got a few tricky sections, like the teleporter escape from the northwestern room (which took me longer to figure out than I’d like to admit) or the three identical bits with revenants coming out of the ground after being trapped into their alcoves. Dig the stairs leading up to the teleporter room.

"Barrels o' Fun"MAP23
AKA E2M2 of JPTR_V40.WAD / CHRISK.WAD, a passable techbase with some crate storage sections and some switch/teleporter chicanery. I don’t think Klie dinked around with the monster placement that much. What he DID do, though, is seed the level with dozens of barrels, in such a way that for 90% of the map, they’ll do all the heavy lifting for you. It’s kind of fun this way, though there’s one section where barrel placement may bite you in the ass. Glad this map made the cut.

MAP24"The Chasm"
Like MAP09, it’s an exercise in resource management, except it has a much less interesting layout, with the majority of its monsters free-roaming in the 20% damage sludge. Watch yourself or you’re liable to be bumped off into an inescapable pit. Most of the chasm is unremarkable but there’s a segment near the end involving a sequence of triggered lifts. I usually harp on this kind of stuff but it was actually nice, here. Otherwise, the map is kind of boring.

"Bloodfalls"MAP25
Similar to MAP09 and MAP24, looking much unlike the other levels; it’s mostly 5% damage pools of blood bordered by red brick. The opening is particularly brutal, putting you smack dab in the middle of sergeants, and while there are a number of medikits lying around, they hardly seem to stop your own blood from flowing. If you pick the wrong route, you’ll be stuck, and die fairly quickly. The correct route runs smack bang into mancubus fireballs which you can’t break away from if you want the precious enviro suit. After that, well, it kind of lets up, with access to some much needed health and armor (quite the stash, I might add) but getting to there is quite intense.

MAP26"The Abandoned Mines"
Superbly dark underground level riddled with imps, sergeants and commandos. The atmosphere is pretty good and it’s a reasonable facsimile of an abandoned mine. Well, not so abandoned. The lighting in the northern section stands out in my mind, particularly. The keys aren’t hard to get, except for dealing with the monsters, some of which you may not see until they’re dead in front of you. The hardest part, really, is the opening salvo, starting you in the middle of a pack of shotgunners, and then putting you in the middle of a nasty crossfire.

"Monster Condo"MAP27
The last original level of this WAD is a short romp through a hell house with library stacks with lighting right out of the original (housing one of the trickier fights, provided you don’t snag its secrets), a nice tan brick room with a skylight, and some catacombs made interesting by the great ceiling detailing. I couldn’t have asked for a more fun original WAD to end Klie's contributions unique to BF_THUD!. Also quite memorable is the map’s opening, putting the player toe to toe with a Cyberdemon at its very onset. Klie has provided more than enough tools to get the job done, however.

MAP28"The Spirit World"
AKA E2M5 of JPTR_V40.WAD, a dark techbase with a bright blue floor and a jaunt to a light brown compound on the outside. There are some neat puzzle sequences and a memorable but bizarre section where you warp from pillar to pillar, telefragging a number of sergeants. Only real change here is the addition of a few chaingunners. Glad this map made the cut; it’s probably my favorite of Klie’s early material.

"The Living End"MAP29
AKA E1M8 of JPTR_V40.WAD / CHRISK.WAD, a cinematic ending in the vein of Doom’s E1M8 minus the action. The only real change was the substitution of megaspheres for soul spheres. I've never liked this map. I know what it’s trying to do, and I appreciate that, I just wish there was actually something to do besides wait (a few moments) for the sweet release of death.

BURNING FOREVER:
THE HURT UNTIL DEATH

3 comments:

  1. Overall, this might be the best BF_THUD review I've ever read. You're meticulous in your research, and your reviews are fair and very well balanced. While I appreciate the various favorable reviews, I find myself completely agreeing with the less-than-favorable ones.

    Great job!

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  2. Thank you very much! I try to be as thorough as possible, though it's often difficult when I'm as much as seventeen (or sixteen, in this case) years distanced from the subject matter. Your various comments in interviews (most recently on Doomworld) were very enlightening.

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  3. Had a lot of fun (and frustration) playing this for the DW Megawad Club.

    ReplyDelete