Friday, August 12, 2011

Spire Complex (SPIREC.WAD)

Spire Complex is a nine-map replacement for Doom II by Callum Guy Oliver, aka Doomworld forum superstar phobosdeimos1. The .TXT asserts that the port is designed to work with any that supports extended DeHackEd patches. In reality, it's compatible with any Boom-compatible port, with one (somewhat major) caveat, but I'll get to that. It doesn't have much of a story, but from the sole intermission text, one can gather that the Spire Complex was breached by two demonic portals which the marine has been sent to shut down. Structurally, this divides the episode in to two sections. In MAP01-06, the marine fights his way through the base to shut down the first portal, battling its guardian, a powerful arachnotron. In MAP07-09, he is sent back in order to shut down the remaining gate.

The mapset feels like a re-imagination of the Phobos base style within the context of Doom II. Every level is a dark, infested techbase, with Oliver's trademark bounding around from section to section as each level unfolds. With a few exceptions, he showcases a very utilitarian mapping style. Every detail placed in the map serves its gameplay. Even most of the decorations you'll find have a purpose to them, whether they're highlighting an important bit of the map or obnoxiously restricting your mobility (as in the opening of MAP05). They're also a bit larger than his earlier releases, and featuring more monsters; MAP07 in particular clocks in at over 200. It's a nice change from the Raw Action series and makes each level feel more like an adventure.

There are some new textures that help vary things up a bit. There are some metal struts used to frame some of the map's lifts and doors as well as a nice marble texture that crops up in a few places. There's one major issue I should address, however. The final boss of the map is not defeatable. If you should make it to him and then do enough damage to him so that all subsequent attacks merely pass through him without registering, pat yourself on the back, 'cause that's as good as victory is gonna get. Thoughtfully, even though you cannot exit MAP09 in victory, Oliver included a "credits" map preventing you from venturing further and falling prey to his DeHackEd creations taken out of their proper context.

Spire Complex is an intriguing change of pace from its forebears. It eschews a more knockabout style for a more reserved experience, excepting the DeHackEd bosses, which appear every three levels. There are also no pistol-start pitfalls, with every map a modest challenge. While I'm puzzled by the change of pace, I'm glad for the offering, and the monster changes kept me on my toes, with the absence of the others keeping me in rapt anticipation. If you're looking for a modest, low-key Doom II episode, look no further, especially if you have any leanings toward the E1 style.

by Callum Guy "phobosdeimos1" Oliver

MAP01Breaking Through
A small techbase map very much in the Phobos style, texture-wise. It's otherwise absent in any evocative detailing. Oliver makes you work your ass off for the shotgun; if you aren't aware of the route, you'll spend half the map capping imps and zombimen with the pistol. It's otherwise unremarkable, featuring well-hidden secrets and restricted health which may be a deterrent to the overconfident. My standout moment would probably be the blue key trap, or one that leaves you ankle-deep in nukage with a squad of imps cornering you.

Meat FactoryMAP02
Another small techbase map with similar styling but with a greater emphasis on nukage. The layout is interesting with no small amount of stairs as well as a room with a few UAC crates, where both keys may be found. To vary things up, Oliver introduces demons and spectres, but continues to keep a tight leash on the majority of Doom's bestiary. The far northern room was my most interesting encounter and features an interesting challenge with the restricted lighting and health.

MAP03The Bruiser
More of the same, though Oliver switches things up a...bit. There's a nice outdoor area to break up the visuals, though there's not a whole lot to it. The main chamber has an interesting construction with several bunkers and a series of raised pillars leading you to an ammo cache. Puzzle-wise, it's a bit less straightforward, with a few sections where I had to scour the walls for a jump-off point. Those who persevere, however, will be rewarded with a surprise, the eponymous Bruiser. He's much faster than the original baron (and thus harder to hit) with similarly hastened projectiles.

A superbly dark techbase map, the majority of which occurs beneath a roof. Oliver debuts the chaingunner here who can be a bit of a pill with the amount of health he's left you. The techbase shows some improvements in lighting and detailing which while leaving some of the map looking bland definitely work to make it distinct. Among the more memorable moments include a pillar hopping sequence (becoming something of a motif) and the manic dash for any of the shotgun pickups. The open nature of the level may result in one of the beasties sneaking up on you; I found myself surprised several times in areas I'd thought were safe.

MAP05Citizen Slain
Another techbase level with the same complement as MAP04, but it's a bit brighter this time, and features a few dips into water. Once again you're subjected to a mad grab for an upgrade over the pistol, except this time Oliver throws a demon at you in the opening. I'd say the eastern outdoor area is the most interesting portion of the map, featuring several crossfires, a few tiers of play, and some distinct architecture. It's actually one of his more straightforward efforts, especially once you make your way to the map's western section.

Untimely SpiderMAP06
Very different style of level. It's still techbase, but it's a lot of small, networked rooms, meshing together to create a maze-like route without actually feeling like a maze. It's also mostly outdoors, which is a nice touch, and has some neat sights, though some areas like the toxic pits filled with demons (and spectres) feel kind of bland. The amount of monsters is pretty much the same, and starting to feel a bit stale, though Oliver introduces another DeHackEd alteration, turning the arachnotron into a boss. He hasn't been dinked with too much, but if you're used to the old version, he can come as a bit of a shock.

MAP07Logically Wrong
A very large, mostly dark techbase, whose chief feature seems to be long, cranny-filled corridors with imps and zombimen hiding around every corner. Oliver livens things up by throwing in a number of mancubuses, making their debut appearance (my standout moment). These guys are a great barrier that eat up your ammo, making you nervous in the process. While the walls themselves are unfeatured, there's a lot of gore on the floor, evidence of the previous battle. I'd say that he definitely nails Doom's feeling of dread here, between restricted ammo and health. Many of the areas here tend to look...monochromatic, with Oliver sectioning them off using similarly-colored texture schemes. It's an interesting design choice, but with the way the level rushes by, it leaves the walls looking somewhat bland.

The LeavingMAP08
Much tighter layout in another very dark techbase map. Lots of height variation and, thankfully, a considerable amount of health given that there's a nukage pit without a rad suit (at least, not that I could find) that you need to navigate. There's also a completely optional northern section of the base with an outdoor view (and a mess of chaingunners at your back). Otherwise the only real challenges are some mancubuses in awkward areas and few instances of spectres in darkened areas. There's also a strange bit with the security armor. I'm not sure what Oliver's intent was when the raising table draws attention to itself.

MAP09Mighty Doom
A nice finale in a tense, dark setting. It's techbase, again, but it has some nice features like a computer core with tons of tech and monsters hiding everywhere, keeping the pressure on you, along with the almost impossible to see spectres. The whole map appears to be split into areas with a single color theme but differing textures. Dark grey, light grey, brown, green; it's all here. The climax pits you against a super trooper, a marine in red combat armor that fires rockets. He moves at a thankfully ponderous speed; just take your time and he should eventually "die", signaling the end of the demonic occupation of the Spire Complex.


1 comment:

  1. Probably pd1's best work, such a horrible shame about his death. :(