Monday, September 12, 2011


by John "Dr. Sleep" Anderson

Vesperas is the final canto of Anderson's included in id's Master Levels for Doom II, a replacement for MAP09. The eighth canto, Chiron, found its way into id's Thy Flesh Consumed as E4M7, "And Hell Followed', and the final canto, Lethe, in which Dante would presumably have encountered Satan, remains unfinished. The only clue to which circle of Hell this level represents is its name, which Sleep notes in the text means "evening ceremony", alternatively vespers. It could in theory be the ninth circle of Hell, where the betrayers are punished, but it doesn't really resemble the freezing ruin of Cocytus. The only thing I can tie Vesperas to is the War of the Vespers, a civil war which occurred in Dante's lifetime (rebelling against French rule) and which figured heavily into his life experiences, indeed resulting in his eventual exile.

No specific portion of Inferno mentions the Vespers, however. In fact, its few appearances in the text itself occur in Purgatorio and Paradiso. So, I'm not sure what circle of Hell Vesperas represents. Anderson noted that the Cantos don't necessarily represent the circles in a particular order. What I can say with certainty, however, is that this level is great fun. As usual, it exhibits Anderson's brown brick and metal style, this time with zero intrusions of other themes (such as green marble). Rather than Geryon's free-wheeling layout, it resembles more Nessus or Minos' Judgement, focusing on a Hellish fortress with right-angle hallways with more circular rooms where the important progression occurs.

The level is dominated by a large outer yard around which the hallways and battlements have been constructed. You are under fire by various monsters on the high ground (most notably a pair of revenants) while there are some demonspawn trash that teleport in, both at the beginning and at later points in the map. The first wave isn't that threatening, especially if you grab the powerups squirreled away in the opening room, but a later wave with a pain elemental has the potential to do some harm if you don't handle him quick. The battlements themselves are close-quarters slugfests with monsters that otherwise be quite laughable, including a few nasty traps using instantly-lowering floors that keep you on your toes.

The map's more memorable encounters occur in the annexes of the map. The northeastern section isn't particularly difficult but has three barons to deal with. The western section is a great shootout over a nasty 20% damage cistern that immediately puts you in close contact with a revenant. Once you clear out the side jobs, you have the difficult task of locating the yellow key. I'll admit, I checked Henrik Larson's FAQ, and was pleasantly surprised, though the automap should really have tipped me off. This of course leads you to the northwestern section, not that rough though it does feature an arch-vile and a few barons that teleport into the room after the key grab.

The real climax is the northern room. It's a fitting final battle, looking gorgeous and with a number of baddies teleporting in to meet you, including a Cyberdemon (!), the first to appear in the cantos. Anderson has given you more than enough tools to take it down, however, the experience greatly resembling a similar (but easier to handle) encounter in E4M7 of Thy Flesh Consumed. It's quite a moment, though, as I initially scoffed at the wave of demons and cacodemons. "That's it?" No; no it isn't. From there it's a quick jaunt over to the exit room, located at the beginning (and which has one albeit predictable stinger).

Vesperas has some great detailing and lighting, using raised skin textures to help keep the walls interesting and as always excellent attention to hallway illumination. It's a great cap with an excellent climax certainly worthy of the Master Levels, especially as Anderson's final contribution. It showcases his distinct style and has some neat fights. I just wish he'd finish Lethe, so the Inferno series could get an official conclusion. That's assuming of course that he hasn't forgotten about it...


This post is part of a series on
id's Master Levels for Doom II


This post is also part of a series on
John "Dr. Sleep" Anderson's Inferno series

Dante's GateCrossing AcheronVirgil's Lead
Minos' JudgementNessusGeryon


  1. There's a joke in a British sitcom called Miranda, where she's working as a temp for some company and everyone is much younger than her. When she asks one of the staff when she was born, the girl replies "1990". Miranda looks horrified and says "But that's only just happened!"

    It's a funny line, but when you think about it, Doom is now more than 20 years old. It's older than some of the people I work with. It's several computer generations behind us. Society has changed and become less about experimentation and freedom, and more about towing the line, trying to be exactly like everyone else, spending silly money on iPhones and Audis. We've become a real-life Stepford Wives society. Computer gaming is dictated purely by what will sell, not what makes gamers and programmers and artists and musicians feel like they're having the time of their lives.

    I'm pretty sure Dr Sleep's Doom maps entered the recycle bin in his mind years ago, which is a shame, but I suppose everything has its season.

    But before this seems like I'm being all depressive, Doom was a hell of a game, and I remember playing Vesperas so vividly. I hardly remember Modern Warfare 3 or Aliens: Colonial Marines, and I played them in recent years.

    Vesperas has always been the most beautiful of the Final Doom levels to me. (Bear in mind that I only ever played Doom to completion on the PSX.) Aubrey Hodges' Toxin Refinery music goes with it so perfectly that even now, whenever I see a beautiful starry sky, I can hear that tune playing. It compliments the gorgeous aesthetics (for what is basically a 1994 map) and creates a lonely, desolate feel that *is* Playstation Doom. All you've got to do is compare this map to utter shash like Mill or Shipping/Respawning - it's in a totally different league.

    Ah, to be fourteen again, running down the halls of this map with my brother at my side, with two Playstations and two tellies linked together, running hell for leather when the walls opened up and Imps and Hell Knights came at us. A pity my strongest memory is turning round and blasting my brother in the face, killing him in one shot, because I thought he was an Imp... that's the value of communication. And screenwatching.

    1. Vesperas isn't in the same boat as Final Doom, in my mind, but all my Doom experience has been on the PC. That said, it's definitely one of the cleanest and well put-together Master Levels along with the rest of Dr. Sleep's work. The dude had just as much a hand in solidifying the Episode 4 aesthetic as Romero and McGee, though the id names are all we dare to remember.

  2. Dr Sleep, that's an evocative name, and he built evocative maps. Crossing Acheron is an early classic. I made a Youtube vid of it ages ago but the quality is really poor:

    Pretty sure I played a version of it that had the yellow/orange sky from Ultimate Doom, which would have suited the mood better. The music used in my video is Aubrey Hodge's Toxin Refinery track. Combining that sky, that music and Crossing Acheron would be Doom porn.

    - Major Rawne