Friday, October 7, 2011

Temple of Death (TODEATH.WAD)

by Sverre Andre Kvernmo

Sverre Kvernmo's fourth entry in his Cabal series is actually the first WAD he ever created. He states that players need not worry about the WAD looking garish, and that's quite correct. Texture alignment is impeccable. Compared to the previous three Cabal maps, Temple of Death is quite large, and it clocks in at over 400 monsters. Depending on how things play out, you may end up having killed significantly more. My final count on my first run-through was 456. Besides its size, the main thing separating TODEATH from its brethren is its difficulty. The WAD hurts like nothing else for a variety of reasons, and while its encounters are all manageable, your average Doomer will get pummeled over and over by an exquisite series of dastardly traps that inflict untold amounts of pain.

To set the tone of the map, you start out in a veritable sea of explosive barrels. Easy to navigate with a few pistol shots, but it highlights the amount of care required to navigate the rest of the level. After a quick stair climb you're treated to an army of shotgun guys spread out in a ring around the circumference of a huge outdoor area. There's a few barons in the mix, but you'll spend most of your time hiding around a corner if you have any sense. You've got two possible paths, both of which you'll have to visit twice in order to complete the level.

The northwestern segment is a bit more important to tackle first (though you're gated at some red key doors). Among the more memorable traps is a crossroads of fire with three false walls of flame that obscure the danger on the other side, packed pretty tight with death. There's a blind drop into a tricky sewerish maze that can get pretty out of hand if you panic and wake everything up, but you'll be rewarded with a backpack, a berserker pack, and a bevy of rocket ammo, which should make the eastern area much more manageable. This all culminates in a teleporter exit that dumps you into a nasty fight surrounded by demons which you'll need to kill fast, because several monsters (including a Cyberdemon) will be firing down upon you from on high. Your reward for navigating a very tricky encounter (given his setup with barrels) is the map's SSG.

That's where I initially went, into a swarm of former humans in one of the more interesting rooms. This is all a setup leading to one of the more sinister traps. As you dispatch zombies you'll have to dodge baron fire, then dealing with the goatmen yourself. Your next move will throw you into the thick of things, with a pair of arch-viles resurrecting the horde of undead you just killed while two revenants fire down on you from above. This can get out of hand rather quickly if you smoked your rockets like a fool. You can cheat it a little bit, of course, but in the end you're still gonna have to deal with the terrible two.

If you press on you'll have to navigate some awkwardly-laid out pitfalls that will eat all your ammo if you try to do them safely, which in a Kvernmo map is a death sentence. There is a particularly nasty certain secret death trap, an alcove within which is a BFG and a spectre. The damage floor doesn't make it bad; it's the fact that you can't open up the hidden alcove from the inside. If you walk into it when the elevator is on its way up, prepare to die. This routes back to the Cyberdemon room mentioned beforehand, with a blue key and a somewhat better vantage point. This is your ticket back to the main area, which puts you into another massive but more interesting shootout with cacodemons, barons, zombimen and an arch-vile thrown into the mix.

Once you've secured the red key you can explore the rest of the northwestern area. It's got a nice, manageable baron / HK fight, a tricky long-hallway mancubus shootout, and then it throws some gasoline on the fire with two evil, nasty traps. One of them is a huge imp clusterfuck that will throw the rash into a very dangerous pincer attack and which isn't really exploitable by any sense of the word. The second is more devious. It's a triangular room with a bunch of lost souls hiding in the pit and two mancubuses on the other side of what at first glance appears to be a completely solid column. Not so! Kvernmo uses the pain elemental to create the illusion of a column you can hide behind in safety while taking out the lost souls, all the while the mancubuses are firing and chipping away at it. Pretty soon you're more exposed than you thought.

Once you've gotten the yellow key, you can finish the eastern wing. There's a cool looking poison room followed up with a bit of a bugaboo, a fight with three barons and an arch-vile to mix things up. There's a column for safety but with the barons thrown in it's a bit tricky. The penultimate two encounters are also interesting, a large rush of revenants barreling down a long hallway system toward you, finished off with a token Cyberdemon encounter which you had to know was coming. If you squandered your cell ammo (or didn't even grab the BFG) and the enviro suit, you might find yourself in over a barrel.

Temple of Death gets slogged for its viciousness, but this map is well worth playing if only to see the kinds of clever traps Kvernmo puts in your way. While I've revealed a lot of Kvernmo's encounters within this post, there's still more kicking around and his traps aren't really the kind that lose their sting upon "learning" them. It really spices the encounters up, though you'll often find yourself reeling from the punches. The map is just exhausting, not boring, though its opening few fights will certainly suggest otherwise. The almost complete lack of health (for 400+ monsters, anyway) only adds to the difficulty where it's quite possible you'll catch a few rockets or get your face chewed off. It's interesting to see what Kvernmo could pull off in a single player-oriented context, and his gameplay sensibilities have me looking forward to the rest of his maps. Just, uh, beware. If you hate super-hard trap maps, don't come anywhere near this.


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

No comments:

Post a Comment