Monday, October 10, 2011

Bloodsea Keep (BLOODSEA.WAD)

by Sverre Andre Kvernmo

Sverre Kvernmo was a late addition to id's Master Levels for Doom II project. He sought out id and sent them a batch of maps for admission, and after one of the designers (still unknown) was let go, Kvernmo was in. All of his submissions came from a megaWAD he had in development, entitled The Cabal. The plot is simple. You were once the biggest and baddest Cyberdemon, the ruler of the Cabal, the organization that governed the underworld. They turned on you, though, ousting and dismantling you, finally transforming you into a human. In Bloodsea Keep, a MAP07 replacement for Doom II, you emerge from the sea into which you were cast, intent on exacting revenge on your treacherous brethren, beginning with the arch-vile, Veavitdpoh, who just so happens to rule the Keep.

While the playing field is fairly large, Kvernmo has used most of the map's area to set the scene, so to speak. It's a large, marble fortress isolated in a sea of blood. It has a more organic composition as opposed to a more traditional squat, rectangular keep. You can still fit it within a rectangle, of course. It's just not boxy. It's got a few features one associates with a castle. First off, after you pass the opening gate, there's a courtyard overlooked by windows and complete with a blood fountain. Shotgunners pepper you from above while you dance with some imps and demons on the floor.

The building's interior has some lovely arches over the doorways along with some nice-looking staircases. You can access the ramparts from the foyer, or take a swing over to Veavitdpoh's personal library, stocked with what can only assume are some forbidden delights. Kvernmo keeps it fresh with some cleverly hidden lost souls along with a few demons roaming the stacks. At some point you'll open up the pathway to the western section of the keep, which has a few memorable rooms like the pit of pain (leading back to the library) or a blood chute with a special friend.

You'll need the red key to do any more heavy lifting, which takes you down the central hallway. There's a nice little jolt with a baron and, surprisingly, a long, hidden map segment leading you to the keep's dungeon, filled with a few nasty traps, including some "silent" crushers that might ruin your day. Eventually, though, you'll take on the main event, the arch-vile's court over which he presides. He has some bodyguards but you really won't have to deal with both forces at the same time. At this point Kvernmo throws a "puzzle" section requiring you to hit four switches behind fast crushers. It needlessly drags out the map's gameplay but he does one better by subverting your expectations to create a neat trap that will single out the impatient. The final throne is a nice touch, lovingly laid out in obsidian, and with a fight that can turn nasty if you aren't careful or haven't squared away some needed armaments.

Difficulty feels about right. I died a few times but it's a much easier map to learn than, say, TODEATH or ARENA. It also looks a lot nicer, with some great architectural touches (like the arches and ramparts) and nice use of lighting in places like the final chamber which give the map some much-needed contrast. I also enjoy the fact that Kvernmo hasn't stuffed the keep with useless, boring rooms, giving each particular section its own character. There's also a bevy of secrets to be had, aside from the dungeon segment. Some of them are kind of tricky to reach, or at least require a proper sequence of events (and powerups). They're worth hunting out, though.

Bloodsea Keep is a great addition to id's Master Levels for Doom II. It's got a clear sense of place true to its title, a more humane difficulty (compared to Kvernmo's publicly released Cabal levels), and is weighted by some memorable encounters crafted with care. I wonder what the rest of the Cabal series would have looked like had it gone through id's tutelage. I'm certain they could have gotten a fantastic megaWAD out of Kvernmo! As it stands, this is just one more segment of the Master Levels that makes it worth purchasing, you slacker.


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


This post is part of a series on
Sverre Kvernmo's Cabal series

Bloodsea KeepDerelict StationBloodfloodThe Watchtower
Temple of DeathWe Who are About to DieThe Express Elevator to HellEye of the Storm
Mephisto's MaosoleumBlack TowerThe Image of Evil

1 comment:

  1. You were quite right, as it turned out, with your comment about conserving ammo: I needlessly blew all but one of my rockets on the four Hell Knights inside the yellow door, and would probably not have made it to the end had I not managed to grab the two rockets in the throne room while being hunted down by the archvile. Lack of any plasma weapons or even a super shotgun certainly contributes to the size of the task in this level, unless one or more of these items were part of the 25% of secrets I failed to discover.