Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Titan Series

by Jim Flynn

as featured in Super Serials

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

The Titan series was released by Jim Flynn in six separate installments during 1995. Its maps take place on Saturn's most famous moon, hence the title. They follow the adventures of a soldier of the "Alliance", opposite the less scrupulous UAC, as he thwarts both the incumbent demons and easily-corrupted corporation. The explanations for his involvement and justification for lack of armaments become more humorous with each episode, until his pistol is a concession from the military whose hands are tied following an unfavorable evaluation by the psychiatric department (they refuse to believe his mission reports).

The maps are very much works by Jim Flynn, tending toward being very large with several different sections bearing very different architectural and textural (architextural?) themes. They are both challenging to initially navigate and challenging to solve, never mind whatever monsters Flynn throws your way. These are puzzle maps; not on the order of his work in Eternal Doom, but in the same vein. Your mind (and possibly your patience) will be challenged. Victory yields immeasurable ego stroking. Failure involves shamefully consigning the WAD to your recycle bin.

The Titan series is not Doom as we familiarly know it. Some of the trappings are there in its exciting battles and exotic (well, with stock textures at least) locales. At its heart, however, is an evolutionary offshoot incarnate in megaWADs like Eternal Doom and kept alive to this day. These maps are anything but straightforward, usually requiring intensive exploration and unparalleled inquisitiveness. The solution is often something we take for granted as being a "secret" in other maps, but if you take a step back and examine the puzzle after solving it, you'll always find the intended clue.

This begins the Titan series proper; both it and its followup featured in id's Master Levels for Doom II. In it, the hero attempts to recover a piece of alien technology from a supposedly derelict structure. Unlike Flynn's other maps, Titan Manor is almost entirely confined to the mansion itself, with an outer perimeter policed by stronger enemies to keep you indoors. It's very puzzle-rich with a number of rooms to explore, though numbering fairly light in the monster count. It's also one of the few maps that seems especially prone to the infamous all-ghosts bug (intercept overflow). It best represents the way his Eternal maps (particularly "Monster Mansion" and "Beginner's End") play. If you enjoy Titan Manor, you may get a kick out of those.

The other one of Flynn's Master Levels, Trapped features more traditional Doom gameplay, focused on several separate areas linked by a small elevator hub, including an outdoor section with several smaller buildings and an enormous cavern. By my (liberal) interpretation, it covers the protagonist's escape from Titan after emerging from Manor victorious. Though the map is a bit more straightforward, it has its Flynn touches like ledge crawls and tricky (but rewarding) secrets and its sheer size. There's even has a traditional end-of-level showdown, though clever players will find a more convenient method to conquer it. If I were to recommend a Flynn map to anyone who dislikes puzzles, it would be this one (though there are still puzzles to be found).

The first freeware Titan map is simply massive, with several distinct areas representing the supposedly abandoned ruins of an alien mining facility. The layout facilitates ease of exploration once you've learned it, but it may take awhile before you're comfortable not resorting to the automap. There's the canyon / crater that dominates the level, several ruins, the mines themselves, and what must pass for an administration complex. You'll be challenged to learn the layout, slay your enemies (a sizable force), and navigate the puzzles and traps before you. The mines are appropriately the most dangerous section to explore. Beware, and bring your hard hat (and thinking cap).

The Anomaly lies somewhere between puzzle-intense and combat-intense, also featuring a smaller, tighter layout extending both east and west from its central outdoor hub. It has a large number of buildings, intended to function as a UAC complex built up around a scientific find which the "Alliance" wants you to investigate, just to make sure nothing unusual is going on. The architecture remains very much in Flynn's abstract style, especially the final area. The fights are mostly brutal and quite memorable, particularly the anomaly section itself and the barracks (as its designation implies). If his other maps daunted you with their real estate, Titan Anomaly is a great ice-breaker.

Titan's Farside is an even more intimate affair, with still deadly fights (on a smaller scale) but more puzzle-intensive features. It also features more abstract architecture, like that funky opening staircase, pointing back toward his Enigma Episode (and forward to Titan's finale). Though Farside has a much tighter layout, it's no less dense. You'll have plenty of time to scratch your head as you tour a research facility that's gone mysteriously silent. The map's smaller size makes it a great introduction for those people who want to try their hand at puzzle-solving without getting lost in Flynn's much larger works.

Trouble encompasses all of the qualities explored in the rest of the Titan series, including the size of Trapped, the difficult combat standard of Anomaly, and the puzzle intricacy of Farside. It's also wonderfully abstract, with a number of bizarre themes (and even an homage to his teleportation hub in Oracle, perhaps its closest analogue in terms of navigation). I believe that his Eternal maps are better products (plus, "Cybersweeper"), but for a full on assault of the elements that make Doom difficult, Trouble has few contenders. It's a great topper to an exhausting series (if you're into this sort of thing).



  1. Really neat series. Flynn has a knack for making a location look very alien while still utilizing mostly stock resources. I wonder what other stuff he may have had on Compuserv if any that didn't get archived.

    Just noticed, the "Trouble on Titan" link on this page appears to go to the Farside review.