Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mines of Titan (MINES.WAD)

MINES OF TITAN
by Jim Flynn


Mines of Titan, by Jim Flynn, is the first map in his freeware Titan quadrilogy. Because of the Master Levels' staggered project cycle (it was put on hold while Shawn Green put together Thy Flesh Consumed), it's a bit hazy as to what came before what. What I do know is that, while none of the publicly released Titan maps mention Flynn's Master Levels (or that he even worked on them), the .TXT files included with his id maps mention Enigma, Interdiction Zone and Oracle, pegging their creation if not before the Mines of Titan, then at least concurrently. As such, this WAD is a natural followup to his Master Levels.


Following your mission to Titan to capture advanced alien technology (and your subsequent escape), you wind up in the middle of a huge mining facility, in desperate need of an exit. That's all there is to say, and that's okay, because that's really all Mines of Titan is, a gargantuan mining base. There is a MASSIVE outdoor area, composing maybe half of the map; an underground series of mine shafts filled with tricks and traps you'll have to solve in order to get the blue key; and the administration district (or whatever you want to call that grouping of buildings in the southwestern segment). It's maybe as huge as Oracle in terms of sheer size, though Oracle is a bit more switch-tacular and crammed to the gills with rooms and stuff. MINES is infinitely more navigable, though in some spots it breaks down as progression demands you find a secret door (but it isn't actually a secret).


Did I already say MINES is massive? Nowhere is that more evident than rounding the wall at the map's very beginning. The northern section is monstrous, with high highs and low lows. The demons have carved out a number of the protrusions for their own personal use, and you'll find yourself ducking fireballs and other such bullshit while exploring and clearing the exterior. There's also some nice details distracting from the bare walls like the continuous stream of water, or those two ominously penned-in big guys that continue to make noise until you let them out. It's really quite a nice kickstart. You can navigate your way around the whole canyon by a relatively thinly-populated side tunnel (with windows) that runs the entire edge of the northern area, and (predictably) provides access to all extensions into the outer area.


You won't get much accomplished if you hang out here, though. You'll have to find the switch that turns the waterfall into a slippery staircase (it's actually pretty easy to locate). This leads to the source of the water pools in the opening canyon, a smaller outdoor area with a few semi-secret structures baked into the cliff walls. You can see them, for sure; the only trouble is accessing them, a feat that requires the typical exploration and diligence of your average Jim Flynn map. The gunplay is a nice change, here, with no small number of enemies on the ground (and in the air) with a few snipers, including both a trio of hell knights and an arch-vile. If you manage to conquer this annex, you'll be rewarded with a plasma rifle (and a clash of the Titans). There's a nice trap around here that involves a megasphere and a mancubus, I believe.


This all takes you into the Mines proper. They're very dark, with a suitable number of shaft extensions protruding from the main areas of play. The darkness makes the level quite jumpy as you often won't see monsters until you run smack into them (though you'll probably hear them quite ahead of time). You won't be able to explore most of it, however, without finding the northern circular chamber, which houses an SSG (and a very neat crossfire upon flipping its switch). From here you have access to a few of the mine shafts, or there's a cranny (with another good battle) on the southwestern bend that grants access to three shafts, one of which houses the blue key and a teleporter puzzle that's more of a pop quiz for those who have (or haven't) been paying attention. It's all fun stuff though as Flynn loves to continuously seed the hallways with cacos, hell knights, and even packs of imps and demons.


The blue key grants access to the previously sealed off northern peninsula in the canyon. It's a bit of a hoof back, but Flynn has added a nice ledge (accessible from the southern side) to facilitate quick movement to the next area of play. Like similar structures found within the map, it's a fairly unremarkable wooden hideaway, this one with access to a a small library housing the red key. There's actually two possible avenues of approach here, but both ends meet at the red key. From here, it's just a leap of faith to get to the final compound, directly across the canyon to the south. The compound is four easily-handled buildings encounter-wise, though it's got a few wrinkles, like the appearance of some otherwise rare pain elementals mixed in with more unsavory demons.


This is incidentally the area Flynn decides to flex most of his puzzle muscle, and while some of the secrets aren't that tough to navigate, I got somewhat stuck until I recalled (as you should remember) that Flynn enjoys putting puzzle solutions behind unmarked secret doors. The final compound has the worst of it, but you should really be prepared if you managed to get inside the damn thing in the first place. It's a bit of a clusterfuck but that only makes it that much more exciting to play. There's an automap here, so that Flynn can show you all the fun things you missed, and then the exit.


Like Trapped on Titan, Flynn emphasizes exploration and combat over puzzle-solving with this creation (at least, until the final moments). It's a nice gesture, because the map is otherwise sprawling. Aesthetically, it reminds me more of his map, Gulch, from the Enigma Episode, just larger and a bit easier. The canyon seems a bit barren at times but there doesn't seem to be any need to spice up the outside with ledges and shit you wouldn't even notice when standing at the bottom. No; the lion's share of the detailing and fighting occur in the mines themselves, which quite competently create the image of an infested underground, complete with some interesting stairwells (particularly the eastern one) and a host of excellent encounters.


Mines of Titan isn't the most beautiful map ever released for Doom, but it's some great stuff. I'd recommend it to anyone who likes huge maps with lots of exploration, and especially to those who like some puzzle solving in their Doom (and aren't afraid to get frustrated). It showcases virtually all monsters, most of the weapons, and is loaded down with more powerups than you can shake a shotgun at to facilitate smooth gameplay. Seriously, I felt like I was tripping over megaspheres at the beginning (admittedly with many of them stashed within secrets).



16 GUNS, WHADDAYA GET
ANOTHER DAY'S USELESS ENERGY SPENT


This post is part of a series on
Jim Flynn's Titan series

Titan ManorTrapped on Titan
Mines of TitanTitan Anomaly
The Farside of TitanTrouble on Titan

2 comments:

  1. This is still probably one of the biggest maps I've ever played, besides the old AV Map25 and probably something else. Jim Flynn was a good start in exploring WADs and he still inspires me with his innovative creations. ~vf

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  2. I downloaded this when it was new, from CompuServe :)

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