Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Doom Core (DCV.WAD)

Michael Jan Krizik (aka Doomworld forum superstar valkiriforce) made a bunch of Boom maps during 2010. He polished the results, stripped them down to vanilla, mixed in some rejects from other projects, and combined them into a megaWAD called Doom Core. Krizik makes no effort to hide his influences; he's a child of '95-'96 mapping sensibilities, drawing from such authors as Chris Klie and Jim Flynn. He claims it's done in the Doom II mapping style, and while that may be true in terms of gameplay, aesthetically it's in a bit of a different boat. It's also heartening that, while people were playtesting Doom Core, he continued to push out quality work. Reverie, a WAD explicitly patterned after '96-era community WADs, enjoyed a 2011 release as well. In this way, he also appears to channel that unrestrained enthusiasm present in '96-'97 mappers.

There's no real overarching story to Doom Core. I suspect it was added after the fact, and that's perfectly okay. Doomguy is apparently suffering from hallucinations of Doom and has but two avenues of escape. He can either kill himself (which is apparently how difficulties 1-3 end) or slay the entity that's been giving him such grief (only on difficulties 4-5). Regardless, as long as he escapes, he'll end up in a dreamland of his own devising. I can think of some things I'd love to do if I had a paradise of my own to play with. What do Doomguys dream of?


Nice, mid-90s era maps, apparently. And chaingunners. Lots of chaingunners. Doom Core doesn't have any particular solidifying theme between "episodes". If it has any theme it would be in some deliberate homages to ghosts of mapping past, tributes to some of his favorite works, but even those are somewhat sparse. There's also no consistent map size. Some adventures are quite small, numbering few more than 50 monsters, while others number in excess from 400. I will say that larger maps appear to be the norm, with an emphasis on exploration and non-linearity over Doom-on-rails, favoring some larger, sprawling maps.

I'd also rate the WAD as somewhat difficult on UV. You may be challenged, sometimes greatly so. This difficulty swings firmly into place in MAP11 and then eases up, returning occasionally with staccato force. There are a large number of brutal traps – Krizik delights in such pitfalls – including reams of surprise commandos. I'm sure everyone tires of hearing about the agony of chaingunners, but Krizik takes it to a level I'd previously not experienced. Thankfully, the last time you'll see any number of them in the megaWAD will be from the safety of an invulnerability shield.

Finally, Krizik includes a .TXT that is quite informative. It's interesting reading author commentary running alongside the playthrough and his documentation of sources is quite thorough, be it textures, soundtrack, or even ideas upon which the maps are founded. All in all, I heartily enjoy Doom Core. It's a relatively unpretentious megaWAD, much in a classic style, and every map manages to stand out from the others in some way, rather than presenting a unified front of bland, unappealing visuals. Doom Core is a fun play and a great way to spend your time until the next big project's release.

by Michael Jan "valkiriforce" Krizik

Stratos OneMAP01
Start on a helipad on one end of a techbase and fight to the helipad on the other end of the base. The opening fight through the storage area is pretty intense and dumps you into some neat sections like the storage lockers with demons around every corner, leading to an elevator which takes you to the map's four other levels, each one with its own particular challenges and nuances. The exterior area is a nice wasteland but pretty easy to clear; once you've exited the first base, the second doesn't provide much challenge, though it does have some nice easily-slaughtered hordes of zombimen reminiscent of TiC's WADs.

MAP02Silence of the Lambs
Some ominous music setting you up for a dark crawl through what appears to be some kind of warehouse. The opening battle is a welcome wakeup, pitting you against several mancubuses with nothing more than an SSG, which leads to a high road / low road scenario. You can get the blue key from here, which you'll need to grab the red, giving way to a tense battle in a crate maze. Rather than simply let the crates confuse you, Valkiriforce has you access various areas of the stacks with teleporter pads, adding to your befuddlement. It's not that difficult, though, and soon enough you're out. I do enjoy the nice outdoor secret area, which has a clever trigger. Still couldn't account for twelve monsters by the time I left...

Fortress CommandMAP03
This is a large, expansive techbase. There's lots of ground to cover, but thankfully trigger switches here tend to activate stuff nearby, stuff you'll almost certainly wander across. Excepting one particular trap (my most memorable encounter) it's simple but fun room clearing with some great vistas and scenery like the western walkways, where Valkiriforce has used some clever pegging / unpegging to simulate some gorgeous lifts. Among some other memorable areas are the nukage section in the southeastern corner and the whole bridge section at the end of the level. Great stuff.

MAP04Locked and Loaded
A brutal fight through what appears to be some kind of stockyards. The opening salvo is pure madness and the sooner you put the imps and demons between you and the chaingunners the better. The rest of the action takes place in a large fortress extant to the outdoor storage area. It's fully staffed and tough to clear, rarely lets up on the action, and has two very nasty key traps, one of which requires some finesse, the other of which just needs some brute force. Good stuff.

This map consists of three areas linked by a large, four-way pipe system. Each of the three sections has its own particular theme; the west one, techbase overlooking some ruins (a great secret area); to the north, a short series of mazes made easier through collected powerups; to the east, the shortest section, featuring both the exit and a quick romp to a craggy outdoor area filled with toughs. The secrets in this level are great and add a lot of character (as well as gunsnammo). Favorite moment is probably stepping into the secret courtyard to the west and being suddenly confronted by two revenants that are tough to hit with rockets due to their positioning.

MAP06Kingdom Come
A short, more or less straight forward level that's essentially four square fortresses built within one larger castle. Each building houses a key which you use to enter the next. The castles all have their own particular challenges, though the first is the only one that presents any particular difficulty as you are at your least armed at its onset, besides its use of revenants in tricky spots. Explorers will enjoy traversing the main castle battlements, as they provide access to an exterior laden with ammo and health, and there's a nifty prize at the map's center.

Maxiumum CarnageMAP07
A bit more intense map for the "Dead Simple" slot. It's a small, central structure divided into four different yards, each one swarming with Hellspawn. There are two arch-viles to make things difficult, as well as a mancubus in the center you'll be hard-pressed to handle. Pretty much every move you make puts you into a situation where you're again harried by monsters you can't quite deal with; you won't really get your first breather until you snag the yellow key, and even then, it's out of the frying pan, into the fire. An excellent layout really solidifies this abstract arena. Plus, it's got a bitchin' exit room.

MAP08The Flood
Starts off with a little Tyson action before dumping you into some tough sewers. There are a few rad suits spread out to help you get around with minimum fuss as well as a few desperately needed health powerups, but some of Valkiriforce's segments are...surprising, for lack of a better term, like the flooded storage area and its upper ledge. That's one memorable sequence, with the battle on the outside leading to the blue key being another. All in all, it's a fine map that never quits challenging you, except perhaps when you grab the invulnerability powerup.

The FoxtrotMAP09
Shades of Chris Klie's CATWALK (admitted by the author). It's in a techbase style, divided into three main sections. A western side, an eastern side, and a central corridor (itself divided into three segments). You have to clear the west and east sides of the level before going down the center. They're largely similar but with enough unique aspects to keep the fighting fresh. It's mostly rote fighting with a lot of hitscanners but there's one nice courtyard battle that keeps things interesting with a few pain elementals and one arch-vile beaming back to an already cleared area making the trip back a bit more precarious, my standout moment.

MAP10Artillery Base
Sprawling level in the style of Doom II's "Refueling Base", except this is bigger, looks better, and is much more organized. You have three keys to grab, but it doesn't matter the order in which you get them. There's a couple of neat surprises and a lot of rooms that set up a crossfire with chaingunners, but you're rarely if ever forced into it. It's even got a good (if kind of telegraphed) climax! Favorite moment, not sure. There were a lot of early moments where I ran out of ammo exploring and had to go scavenging, which is tricky after waking up the whole eastern half of the base, but kind of thrilling. The eastern section is my favorite by far, with some nice outdoor sights and a lot of beasties pressing you.

The CyberstationMAP11
Opens up with berserk punching a revenant to death and rarely lets up. This is an utterly madcap tour de force in a techbase style replete with Cyberdemons. You can decide to deal with them at the beginning or the ending, where an invulnerability powerup and BFG makes things considerably simpler, especially if you're practiced at Cyberdemon bumping. The rest of the map involves constantly subjecting the player to worse odds, including monsters blocking the Cyberdemon highway, a room with fourteen seemingly random columns opening and containing chaingunners, and the building containing the portal to the yellow key, perhaps one of the rudest surprises of all (besides the thing that teleports in behind you in the opening room). Don't say I didn't warn you.

MAP12The Old Abandoned Mill
A tribute to Doom II's "The Factory", as mentioned in the .TXT. It looks VERY familiar, in fact, and some of "The Factory"'s base elements can be seen here, but it feels...better put together. You still have some arachnotrons and mancubuses hanging out on the rooftops, but the best encounters by far are the yellow key room and its cacodemon swarm (where you know exactly what is coming) and the end of level encounter, a very good climax which I thought had been unintentionally neutered but in fact were not. It's even more dangerous as the only ways you have to run are in a straight line if you don't duck back into the precarious main structure.

Subterranean SuburbsMAP13
A series of buildings built within giant underground caverns. The first one's kind of techbase, the second a mix of tech and brown stone, and the last is all brown hell. Each building poses a different set of difficult situations for the player to encounter; some are skirmishing while others require brute forcing with the rocket or plasma rifle. As always, establishing your first zone of safety is the toughest bit. There's some neat problem solving where Valkiriforce has you enter the next tier of play on the building by hopping out the window. He's also stocked revenants behind every row of locked bars, though it feels like a bit of wasted effort. Fun stuff.

MAP14Magnum Opus
A pretty varied area with some very tricky traps and sections in several buildings that break up the outdoors sections. There's a rough spot near the very beginning in the techbase, pitting you against an ever-increasing tide of revenants and hell knights, topped off with a Cyberdemon. The large outdoor area has a vital clue for the future. The interior of the castle is pretty cool and isn't a tough fight; the trap directly outside it, however, is. There's a very cool (very easy) puzzle followed up with a battle through the sewer section as you escape the map, featuring a forced arch-vile slugfest. It's a cool level, a little challenging, and the ROTT music helps keep things hoppin'.

Toxic WastelandsMAP15
Short easy level suspended in a sea of toxic waste. There's a couple tricky parts that can catch you off-guard, like the one directly after the baron room, but it's otherwise just a nice breather map after some of the more intense stuff with a lot of zombie trash. The quirky construction makes it look like it was built from segments pushed together, if that makes any sense, which is an appearance I haven't seen before. The secret exit is easy to find if you're the least bit adventurous.

Very cool opening where you collect a series of powerups on columns floating in an abyss. The main area consists of a large outdoor zone with a river running through it (and some columns of earth) and a large MAP01-style techbase that features among other things Doom Core's logo, lovingly rendered in sectors. There's also a section of the map in the style of the opening that takes place in several towers floating in zen-nothingness. The encounters aren't that tough unless you get caught sleeping, excepting like half the map's population is chaingunners. There are a few arch-vile surprises but all the good weapons are accessible when you make it into the building. As far as I know, the keys are pretty hard to get. Both yellow and red keys require some secret-sniffing and the red key is needed to access the super secret level. Fun level.

Like a FistMAP32
Valkiriforce's idea of "Go 2 It", I imagine. It's a sprawling techbase level with over 400 monsters, though by the time I was done I'd nuked in excess of 500. It's pretty straightforward with a lot of tricky moments. Like Valkiriforce mentions in the .TXT, enter the blue teleporter in the first room when it's opportune. The opening is tricky to sort out if you aren't any good at bumping Cyberdemons, but once you clear it, the rest of the map is a bit easier, excepting the chaingunner kill traps. It slowly opens up as you explore, and you even catch a glimpse of your final encounter, where a large number of the monsters are stored up. You can even cause some infighting if that warms your blackened heart. The narrow walkway becomes a familiar motif.

MAP16Fistful of Lead
A huge city level complete with library, warehouses, several dormitories, a gun store, and hundreds of monsters. Around 480, actually, on its onset, and the arrangement is ever so brutal. There are chaingunners around every corner, a healthy group of mancubuses and arachnotrons running interference, and some questionable crossfire traps. Exploring is pretty fun once the bullet hell stops, though, and you're treated to some cool sights, including a standing guitar, a rooftop battle with a Cyberdemon, and opening up the wrong warehouse, flooding the level with revenants and a few arch-viles. There's also a couple of exterior jaunts that lead you to some goodies, though you'll want to have the ammo to back yourself up or risk getting fried.

Spire of a DoveMAP17
"55 monsters?" you scoff! Then you step into the first teleporter and regret scoffing. "Spire" is a short, difficult map based on four, small areas built around blue marble. You need to clear the teleporters from right to left in order to get the necessary keys. Each scenario has its own difficult quirks you must overcome, the blue key scenario being the most difficult by far. The other two are much easier, with a barrel-domino trick (and a neat puzzle) followed up with a much more sedate staircase climb mowing down sergeants.

MAP18Fueling Docks
A mountainside techbase with one Hell of a beginning. You've got to run a gauntlet of hitscanners you can't really fire back at, make a blind jump into a pack of sergeants, then take on an arch-vile with demon bodyguards before making it to the first moment of reprieve, a room rife with various zombimen and a couple revenants. Difficulty goes considerably downhill afterward, especially if you manage to locate any of the level's seven secrets. Making it to the rest of the level isn't exactly straightforward but you'll figure it out eventually. A few other memorable segments include the imp-infested mountain vista and the northwestern section of the map, which has some tense corridor fights.

Mountain StrongholdMAP19
Another sprawling techbase, but when I say sprawling this time, I mean SPRAWLING. It's huge, and it's set into a mountain, with four, large outdoor areas to encounter that you'll need to clear in order to proceed to the exit. You begin in the first one, inside a cave overlooking the stronghold entrance, which has a confusing switch puzzle (with some faulty switches). Some really cool things here, like the hex steps erupting from the ground, or the northern outdoor section, probably the map's most precarious situation. It's not difficult monster-wise, you're just up against a ton of hitscanners and have to leap from pillar to pillar, which wouldn't be that difficult except it feels like a few pillars you should be able to jump onto, you can't, so you smack face first into them, fall into the lava, and sulk. Other highlights include the southeastern canyon fight and the bookcase trap you encounter on your way there (which if you don't see coming, shame on you).

MAP20Core Babylon
Short techbase level based around three large rooms. The first is tricky and involves a mess of zombimen with chaingunners sniping in the background. The second has a Cyberdemon as a centerpiece, but he's pretty easy to take down. The third uses a Spiderdemon and his amazing friends and is a tad harder to handle. Both boss areas look very nice, with the last containing psychedelic violence. My only complaint involves the blue key room and what may be an entirely unintentional trap. There was a chaingunner standing on top of a secret teleporter, which annihilated me, to my surprise, as the teleporter's hidden by a false wall. More than likely he accidentally found his way there from the room I was to teleport to, but still.

Remembered FearMAP21
Very similar to Evilution's Caribbean, insofar as it's constructed entirely out of wooden buildings floating in water. It's very light on health which ups the challenge, and a couple of Doom II toughs help hammer it in. The first building is the most interesting, as it's divided into three rooms. The second contains most of the map's action, and it's a large, cramped crate maze. The exit room's inhabited by a group of bookcases staggered like an obstacle course. The fights are competently laid out, but the architecture is unremarkable.

A map inspired by the vast, toxic caverns of "The Living End" and its progeny. In that regard, it's actually a pretty small map, and not all that difficult excepting the few chaingunner traps. There's a nice monster closet bit so that you're keyed in for the second time it happens in a nearly identical situation, and there's a good opportunity for batting at a swarm of cacodemons with a rocket launcher. The cavern architecture itself is passable, though the marble bits are the most interesting. It also features the most awkward fight with a Cyberdemon so far.

Reminiscent of Milo Casali's "Showdown" from Memento Mori. The layout is a very simple cross, but it's demon slaying fun. You're given oodles of weaponry, some health, and using it must combat hordes of revenants, hell knights, arachnotrons, and mancubuses (and I guess some demons, but who cares about demons with these guys?). There are some jaunts behind the doors at the ends of the cross to help break the action up. After you clear out the initial wave, two more will teleport in as the level progresses. The most memorable encounters involve a) an elevator fight with zombimen topped off with a Cyberdemon and b) an ambush resulting from grabbing one of the keys at the top.

MAP24Beyond the Firestorm
Massive level with two distinct sections. The opening runs your through a series of underground scenarios reminiscent of Plutonia's MAP26, "Bunker". The underground compounds are walled in green and thoroughly trapped, with the first one requiring a bit of a switch hunt to power through. It's also got some neat designs, like the molten relief in the floor. The second half returns to the opening bit (a densely-packed tower) but rapidly expands into another series of buildings to conquer, much like Valkiriforce's MAP16, though with more emphasis on the encounters therein. Among its more memorable moments include a veritable swarm of hell knights and the long canyon leading to the map's exit. Oh, and the flood of chaingunners in the second bunker.

Short, mostly straightforward level in a techbase / compound style. You start out on a helipad and infiltrate deeper in, past two small warehouses, before warping to the satanic star that ends the level. Health is at a premium, so watch your step. The northern warehouse has a more interesting lift-based puzzle while the southern bunker has the more interesting encounter, battling an arch-vile among the crate stacks. There's also a standard chaingunner pincer trap to poke at the player.

MAP26Anastas' Pledge
Interesting level that's light on health (supposing you can't figure out how to work the soul spheres) and unafraid to bust out some traps. Starts out with some good ol' fashioned hitscanner slaughter. You'll decimate about half of the population before moving onto non-zombimen. It's not bad, though. The following area harries you with demons, mancubuses, and imps while you try to clear a safe spot. Finally, you choose between snagging the blue or red key first, indicated by their respective teleporters. Each leads to an area that's shaped like a hand. They're tough scenarios, with the blue key dumping the player in a confrontation between some revenants and a baron while the red key requires decisive, thorough action to avoid death from hitscanners while fleshier units encroach.

Military StrengthMAP27
A short techbase map with a nice waterfront. Krizik notes that it's inspired by the 1024 style, though he's taken some liberties. Truth be told, it's a deadly dull 1024 level. The beginning is kind of tough to sort out at pistol start, but once you've cleared out those lovely chaingunners it's more or less by the numbers. Krizik does show a nice use of three-dimensional space, using obstacles that define the cramped lower playing area to create a more open upper area that still restricts player movement. The best portion of the map occurs at the gated waterfront (extraneous to the 1024x1024 section), pitting you against a horde of hardbodies as you fight your way to the map exit.

An untitled affair; apparently this map replaced one that wasn't easy to convert back from Boom. It's got two distinct areas. The first is a large, walled-in courtyard filled with some hardbodies while the second is a mazey dungeon (with some nice cramped fights) paired with a smaller courtyard. Despite being speedmapped, it's got some of the most interesting encounters of the WAD. Both courtyards get at least one arch-vile and one Cyberdemon (though not at the same time) with the different circumstances changing the way each encounter plays out. The first area has far more room to maneuver in, but is littered with obstacles. The second courtyard is maybe half the size of the first, but has no obstacles to get hung up on, and nothing to block your vision.

The GutterwayMAP29
Excellent sewer level, a reject from the Plutonia Revisited project. It's not exactly tough though it's a bit short on health. The sewer looks gorgeous with all the piping and runoff and it's fairly straightforward to navigate as well. There's a subterranean library that helps break up the flow and has a great sequence where you climb a stepladder to retrieve the yellow key, which is wedged in amongst some satanic tomes. There's also a neat secret section near the end that gives you some otherwise unseen sights, making the sewers feel even more expansive and organic. There's a proper finale to send you off, one of two teleport ambushes in the Plutonia style. You should easily have the ammo to deal with it, though, so have fun.

A goofy finale with light techbase flavoring. You pretty much need to grab the "secrets" stashed at the beginning. It's two invulnerable slaughterfests in square-shaped arenas, first vs. a Cyberdemon, second vs. a Spiderdemon, each with their own crews to back them up. Then, exclusive to UV, you get to fight a boss shooter, with a somewhat unique construction. You have to clear the side-shooters and access the passages behind them to raise the platform to kill the big bad. The problem: There's a nice big straight filled with monster between the platform and the window. If you stand too far back, you'll shoot the rocket into your feet, committing suicide. Be careful.

1 comment:

  1. This was a fun read. That "Are you saved?" texture was taken from some of Flynn's WADs, reminding you to save your game if you haven't already. It was fun implementing some of those old quirks for added measure. ~vf