Thursday, September 29, 2011

Chosen (CH133.WAD)

When people think "Total Conversion" in the context of Doom, they're usually thinking of what's technically a partial conversion. The Aliens TC, for all its vaunted glory, still uses a lot of Doom assets (even if they're recolored or mash-ups). Chosen (v 1.33 for ZDoom) uses virtually none of Doom II's textures or sprites. LilWhiteMouse has included a glut of gorgeous Egyptian wall textures and flats that highlight the WAD's separation with the game typically played with the ZDoom engine. All sprites have been replaced with pre-rendered 3D objects, and few if any monster replacements exhibit behavior indicative of their original placeholders.

Chosen is the story of Kissa, a devotee of the Egyptian god Seth. The god Apophis wishes to destroy the world, and to accomplish this, he creates a monstrous serpent, Uraeusis, which will become invincible should it cross the threshold into the mortal realm. Seth charges Kissa with the task of traveling through the underworld in order to confront and kill the beast, and in doing so save the world from annihilation. Unfortunately, she must also confront the combined armies of Anubis, Isis, and Sekhmet, other Egyptian gods who have fallen prey to Uraeusis's supernatural charms.

Chosen uses a number of ZDoom features in order to tell its story. The information from the preceding paragraph has been gleaned from a cinematic that takes place in MAP01. In fact, the whole opening scene is really MAP01. There are a few other cinematics that take place during the WAD, mainly centered around MAP04 and MAP06, mostly dialogue cutscenes that add flavor and lightly advance the story. There's also some scripting included for some memorable bits of level progression and to further flesh out boss fights. Architecture and detailing look quite beautiful with the new set of textures and sprites, though there isn't much usage of dynamic lighting. I should also stress that the included music is phenomenal. Some nice minor details - stuff like thrown axes and arrows stick where they hit - make for some nice touches.

Kissa gets an Egyptian arsenal in order to take on Uraeusis's army. Her melee weapon is a sickle, faster and more powerful than her starting weapon, the throwing axe. The hatchets are ranged, however, which is a distinct advantage when confronting the lethal foes of the Chosen. The third slot weapon is a Sekhmet bow, not quite as fast as the axe but significantly more powerful. The fourth is the Staff of Seth's Wrath, which behaves much like the wizard's Arc of Death from Hexen. It shoots a bolt of power in a straight line, cresting over most obstacles until it finds and wracks an enemy in its path. The fifth and final weapon is the Scarab Scepter, acting similarly to the Firemace from Heretic, unleashing rapid-fire bouncing projectiles.

As mentioned, Kissa must face a variety of opponents from the ranks of the gods Anubis, Isis and Sekhmet. Anubis provides Anubis Warriors, purely melee monsters that drop throwing axes, and Anubis Berserkers, which hurl spears and carry shields they sometimes use that reflect attacks. Early on you are far better off taking out Warriors with your sickle as your throwing axes aren't nearly as powerful. Sekhmet provides the Sekhmet archers, which attack with bow and arrow and drop their weapon. I am assuming Isis provides the flying spirits, resembling harpies, which swoop around like lost souls but are much more deadly, especially on Very Hard, where merely brushing up against one will turn you to meat in about a second. Finally, you'll encounter scarabs and scarab mounds. Scarabs are annoying and aren't something you want to be surrounded by. Scarab mounds spawn the little buggers until you either destroy them or they run out.

Chosen on Very Hard is VERY HARD. Which, seeing as how it's likely the game's version of Nightmare difficulty, is a no-brainer. There are no respawning monsters, though. Your main source of despair on any difficulty will probably be Isis's flying soldiers. The monster placement isn't nearly as tactical as Doom's, mainly owing to its smaller variety. Really, most of what tickled my brain were the WAD's puzzles and traps. This especially goes for MAP06-08, which are functionally three parts of a multi-stage boss battle.

Chosen is a fine TC for Doom. I'd be ecstatic if it were longer. Its 10 maps really boil down to three scenarios I'd call traditional Doom maps, the rest of which are smaller, cinematic encounters, a simultaneous blend of storytelling and gameplay pared down to arcade-style digestible chunks. It's fun stuff. Unless you find the image of its (admittedly low-fi) 3d rendered sprites distasteful, you'd do well to give it a shot. Compatibility notes: If you want to see the cutscenes in full, bind a key to the dialogue advancement command as strongly suggested in MAP01. The space bar will skip the cinematics entirely. It runs fine in current ZDoom revs, though you may find some weirdness going on with Uraeusis depending on your chosen difficulty.

by "Lilwhitemouse"

MAP01Temple of Seth
The opening game cinematic, taking place in the "Temple of Seth". It establishes the entire story and the characters of Kissa and Seth. Camera angles and sprite positioning is adequate portraying Kissa as having some actual range of motion. Seth, unfortunately, looks kind of dopey as a giant floating ass. It's interesting that Mouse makes Set the patron deity of the protagonist as unified portrayals of Egyptian mythology (those that merge the different periods together) usually treat Set as an analogue of Satan, but she also uses the character of Apophis / Apep who is a far more literal representation of evil.

Temple of Seth: Choose Your PathMAP10
MAP01 directly feeds into this, the first hint of actual gameplay. It's a choose your difficulty level similar to Quake's difficulty hub, except it's a lot tighter. There's still at least one secret to be had (I have no idea where the other one indicated in the map tally is). You have five choices from very easy to very hard. Very hard has no respawns. The hub itself is the same temple from MAP01, except you can explore it. There's a neat statue of Seth and teleporter pads with little particle effects.

MAP02The Underworld
A gorgeous sloped pyramid set into a cliffside. There's a lake of lethal lava outside but you won't have to worry about it until the very end. The couple packs of demon-replacements you fight make this level kind of tough as they will chew you down from 100 to 0 health in a second or two, but the pyramid makes it more or less safe. There's several neat-looking chambers, many of them featuring lava flows, as well as a number of good secrets that keep your secret-sniffer going, and at least two traps to keep you on your toes (in addition to several scarab scares). I especially like the use of sprites to make 3D arches on the pyramic faces.

In some ways significantly easier than MAP02. It opens with a boss battle vs. two sphinxes. They're pretty easy to take down; just hammer them from a distance with your arrows and all should be well. The scripting that raises the passage to the rest of the level is awesome. Otherwise the map has a hunt through some broke-down Egyptian ruins that look nice, if a little basic. The dock gate is the true standout bit of architecture, featuring a spectacular scarab, some obelisks and another great scripted gate. There are also two jaunts to interior ruins via teleporters. They're nicely laid out. The northern gate is a tricky puzzle you technically can try multiple times, but if you fuck up, you're out.

MAP04Passage to Uraeusis Part 1
Cutscene and a nice shooter on rails section followed by another cutscene, then a bossfight. (The shooter section can be particularly lethal on Very Hard.) The aerial sphinx is a novel encounter, but while employing the staff, thanks to Doom's aerial dynamics, I found the boss getting blasted further and further away, making it an easy battle as the staff blasts crest over the ship's prow while the sphinx's feathers do not. Still, an enjoyable map.

Passage to Uraeusis Part 2MAP05
Starts out with some good ol' fashioned bullet Hell as you dodge arrows, spears and flying spirits while trying to clear the whole mess out. Can be particularly tricky depending on how much health you carried over from the previous fight. Architecture as usual is quite nice. There are two major puzzles here, a physics-based sand puzzle that awards a megasphere (very neat!) and a lava puzzle that's necessary to solve in order to exit. Unfortunately (unless I'm missing something) the lava puzzle must be solved via trial and error. Basically, every wrong pillar you step on causes the lava to rise. You're allowed a few mistakes, fortunately, but you should keep a save ready just to be on the safe side.

Pretty much an approach to the serpent, Uraeusis. It's a linear path but there are a few goodies to be had and a mash-up pitting you against at least one nasty monster trap (a mash-up with the flying guardians). The architecture is very nice and the boss room itself nails a not-quite-arena feel with gusto. Uraeusis is a semi-interesting fight. He's a giant snake that moves around, dragging his tail behind him. Functionally he's like the arachnotron in how he attacks. There are also some enemy spawners to make up for the boss, as alone he would be a bit of a joke. Also a clever secret (a megasphere) you might miss running around in the heat of the moment.

Uraeusis: Second EncounterMAP07
Now Kissa is below the temple. Uraeusis is back and invulnerable. The underground is competently constructed with a layout that facilitates Mouse's intended gameplay. There's a central pit and eight passageways in pairs that lead down and into the very depths of the temple. Apophis continues to reap the benefits of his enemy spawners, but as he's invulnerable, there's a trick to defeating him, which didn't impress upon me before because while I'd attempted to perform the actual solution, there's no immediate feedback that you're doing the right thing. Anyway, it's a novel romp.

MAP08Uraeusis: Second Encounter
Same layout as the first room except the side-passages have been cut off, restricting you to the central chamber with its now full lava chamber, resulting in a much more intimate scenario with the final boss. Once again, there's a trick to defeating Uraeusis, and given your limited resources it shouldn't be too terribly hard to figure out. The job is just a pain in the ass on tricky difficulties as he's -fast and is hard to lead around to where you want him to go.

Temple of SethMAP09
Epilogue and credits. You've slain Uraeusis, foiled Apophis, and Seth continues to look Goofy. Also a brief credit blurb from the author, who shows up in her own avatar. Enjoy your victory; you've earned it.


  1. Very neat wad, it was very fun to play. I did like the pre-rendered 3d sprites, especially on Kissa. I think that it could've been a bit longer and with an extra weapon with the addition of more enemies. The HUD could have done more work with the number stats on health and ammo due to the fact that it is a little hard to read them. The boss battles were a bit too easy for me, but Chosen is still one of my favorite WADs none the less.

    Lil' White Mouse, whoever you are, you have done a great job.

  2. I have played this wad a while ago and didn't found anything special. Sure it was interesting to see how the early ZDoom wads were made since back then you had to replace existing assets, which explains why there's weapons that act like ones from Hexen and Heretic. But to me this wad has always been a bit overrated (same applies to other wads created by LilWhiteMouse, such as Wolfen). The Egyptian theme is interesting but not something that fits in Doom. It would have worked better if it was its own IWAD to make it differentiate from a typical Doom mod even if it's nothing Doom related to be seen in this mod.

    Now for the mod, I will say it's quite ambitious but it's not that great IMO. The graphics/sprites are ugly, gameplay is weird and difficult with enemies hitting hard (there is very limited health in some levels even with finding secrets, however armor is plentiful which doesn't help much considering Doom's green armor has always been crap, it's better than having no armor though, also later levels start giving you proper health and armor) and confusing at times. At first when I played the mod I had no idea how to defeat the final boss in the last 2 levels/phases. Turns out you had to use a certain weapon to destroy the pillars and in last level you have to lure the boss into stepping on that rock in middle, then lure him back into the main room and then repeat the process 3-4 times. Not really a fan of puzzle bosses, though this last phase reminded me of the first boss from Quake. And yes I also noticed in the first level where you select difficulty is also inspired by Quake. And no, the second secret in first level doesn't exist. Apparently it's a ZDoom bug (happened in all tested versions, see below) which causes ZDoom in some cases to think there is another secret in map. Thankfully only that map is affected (the only actual secret is containing 3 axes behind column).

    I really hated the common enemies in this mod, especially those enemies with shield, they are an even worse version of centaurs from Hexen! I know people dislike the Centaurs in Hexen because of their shields making them boring to fight every time they block attacks. Here this enemy is a lot worse, they keep their shields even longer raised, which makes fighting them even more boring than one would imagine.

    I want to mention I played the mod on the Hard skill using both the latest ZDoom 2.8.1 and an older ZDoom 2.0.63a that the mod was made for. I have explored every level carefully and got 100% in each based on automap/alt HUD stats (though older ZDoom versions don't show how many items you got). The differences between versions were relatively minor, the mod is still playable from start to finish. The major difference is that MAP05 has a portal near exit (if you want to return to earlier area after teleporting) that CRASHES the latest ZDoom. The portal worked fine in ZDoom 2.0.63a.

    Overall I don't think this mod deserved a cacoward (there is another 2004 wad that I also don't think it deserved a cacoward, it's not reviewed here yet) and it's nothing more than an interesting experiment done for ZDoom. But as an actual Doom mod, I don't think it's great.


    1. I strongly disagree with the Egyptian theme not fitting Doom, especially since - as you admit - there's nothing Doom related within the mod experience itself. Modding Doom and introducing new themes is the lifeblood of the community.

    2. Well I mean that there's some nice wads that employ the Egyptian theme very well, such as Epic 2 (which I never finished, I only remember playing its first 10 maps in GZDoom a couple of years ago and then got bored, so I guess in next weeks I will start it from beginning and try to finish it) but in this case with Chosen, I guess it felt odd to me because it's an entire different experience and it is a mod for Doom 2 as it requires it. If it was a standalone mod (like Foreverhood was, a mid 2000s standalone mod for GZDoom that also won a cacoward), I guess I wouldn't mind that much.

      You are right that many mods introduce new themes and most of them are rather well done and fit rather well inside Doom. I guess I'm not that much of a fan of Egyptian themes inserted into Doom, unless the textures are made to look better and feel like they belong into Doom, unlike most of existing wads that include Egyptian textures.


  3. Someone making a distinction between a TC that requires DOOM2.WAD and a TC that doesn't is the weirdest nitpick I've heard in ages.