Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Image of Evil (THE_EVIL.WAD)

by Sverre Andre Kvernmo

The Image of Evil is the final map in Sverre Kvernmo's Cabal series. It's a MAP30 replacement, serving as the intended climax of the now defunct megaWAD. The map represents a temple in tribute to a demon, the first to slay an angel in Cabal's universe, named Lithlaar. It also houses the current Cyberdemon that rules Hell, as well as his two soulguards (two other Cyberdemons, I believe). The map features a variety of textures, tending toward a more earthy / wooden theme with some excursions. If you didn't already know it by now, the level's structure is in the shape of a classic, slightly comic devil. You know, the kind that has horns, a goatee and red tights. In Kvernmo's own words, "Cowards go IDBEHOLDA as soon as they enter. Good players will see it evolve." Of course, if you find the automap secret fairly early on, the image autocompletes. Still, it's fascinating to see the map unfold.

It's got all of Kvernmo's characteristic gameplay, in a larger size that creates quite an adventure as you slowly reveal the Image of Evil. Most of the encounters are fairly manageable and you're not exactly short of ammo most of the time, so it's a little less tense than, say, Temple of Death. The opening has you exploring the chin, picking through the beard and left cheek in search of the red key. Nothing too tense, though there's a surprise waiting in the entrance upon your return. Then it's up to the right cheek, and your first spat of riotous gameplay. In sequence there's a nice chasm shootout followed by a romp through the devil's teeth. It's an appropriately dangerous battle, unless you happen to get to the interceding secret, which though dangerous will ease the fight considerably if you handle it correctly.

After that it's back to the left face and one of the primary horns. As is with most of the map, things are quite dark. There's a clever bit though where opening a passage breaks some light into an otherwise bleak room. Things calm down, for the most part, until you make it into the northern section. There's a dark, dangerous tango with a Cyberdemon followed by a confusing jumble of hallways and dropoffs with organic textures that could only be the brainbox of the devil himself. It's a tense navigation as large, flying enemies regularly drop in to the tight corridors. There's also a few nasty traps to contend with. A few are false walls but one's an ingenious arch-vile encounter that messed me up pretty good the first time I encountered it.

Eventually you'll get the blue key and head on to the rest of Satan's right face. It's happily mellow compared to the earlier pain and suffering, at least until you navigate the crusher trap, which forces you roughly into a nasty firefight you'll need all your wits for. Afterward you can grab the yellow key and head back into the brain to finish it out. There's a tricky encounter with stacked stairs before dropkicking you into a baron / hell knight melee I'm just now realizing I could have punched out from the automap secret. Oh well!

The climax has some of Kvernmo's more trollish behavior. He's installed some barrels at the very top of the lift to fuck with you, of course. I guess the Cabal doesn't have an equivalent to OSHA. Anyway, it's a battle with a Cyberdemon (your arch-nemesis) surrounded by toxic floors. You'll have to raise the pit he's in first. The author has placed some handy powerups, including an invulnerability artifact as well as some enviro suits to help you navigate the area safely. When you've had your final revenge and flipped the final switch, you'll find one last trial to overcome, a flood of spectres in pitch black. It's much simpler if you still have your invulnerability left over. Otherwise, you'll just have to play it safe.

Detailing and texturing are on par with the rest of the Cabal series. It's kind of a non-issue, though, as the real spectacle is the completed map. There's plenty of gunplay and you get the plasma rifle pretty early; its presence doesn't trivialize the rest of the level. I think one could stand it up next to Kvernmo's Master Levels submissions quite easily. It's about as tough as TEETH, MEPHISTO or BLACKTWR (well, maybe not as tough as TEETH) and with a little polish could shine just as brightly. As it stands, it's a fitting conclusion to the Cabal series. With Kvernmo's talent, I'm sure it would have been one Hell of a megaWAD. On the other hand, I'm sure that his own encounter with id only helped to temper his creative spirit, with his subsequent releases in Eternal Doom, which I look forward to, greatly.


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

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