Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Watchtower (WATCHTWR.WAD)

by Sverre Andre Kvernmo and Greg "Acoma" Hyne

The Watchtower is the third map in Sverre Kvernmo's self-released Cabal series for Doom II, occupying the MAP04 slot. While both of the previous maps have an accompanying blurb describing their position in the overarching plot of Kvernmo's unreleased megaWAD, The Watchtower and the following map, Temple of Death, have no such niceties. The .TXT describes it as an attempt at a deathmatch level that got out of control, evolving beyond its original scope. Indeed, WATCHTWR is even more transparently a deathmatch level than Bloodflood. However, much like Bloodflood, the map's layout has been utilized for single player in a complementary fashion.

There's one major misstep you'll have to deal with. The map exhibits ammo control just as tight as any other work by Kvernmo. More importantly, there is one area of the map you're pretty much required to visit first, as it's got some much-needed armor and a SSG, without which the map is virtually impossible, as well as a berserk pack so that you can save on ammo depending on your comfort level boxing hellspawn. Difficulty in its other disparate wings mellows out considerably when you're rockin' the power fist and sawed-off killing stick.

Aesthetically the map's a mixed bag of different areas and texture schemes. The opening walls are clad in a garish lift texture while the rest swings between green marble, wood, techbase and stone. There are a few concessions made toward lighting but nothing really stands out except the marble column room in the northwestern section of the map, which looks fantastic. I'd almost say you should check the WAD out for this particular feature alone. The southeastern area benefits from much the same attention, with some great gradient lighting from the torches. Otherwise the only interesting architecture is a track in the southern area that requires you wind through it when approaching from the west. Those going east, however, can hurdle over the barriers due to some thoughtful steps provided by the author.

It's one of the more obvious bits that firmly establish WATCHTWR as a deathmatch map, first and foremost. While they stuffed the track with mancubuses to make a relatively interesting encounter, the map feature carries a tactical advantage vs. human players. The central teleporter hub offers a similar advantage that makes navigation of the map more transparent. Also note how weapons like the SSG or rocket launcher are difficult to get, usually requiring the player to leave themselves exposed, or the potential for hide-and-seek shenanigans with the several cubby holes cut into the columns in the soul sphere room.

As mentioned earlier, Kvernmo co-opts these features for some decent solo play. He's thrown revenants into awkward areas, used hell knights and barons in darkened areas where they can pop around any corner, and even drops a potentially troublesome encounter in the final segment of the map, stuffing the exit room with a dangerous pairing made even nastier by the relative lack of ammo. It adds up to a map that's fairly tricky to handle despite having less than sixty monsters to play with, requiring you to be on your toes at all times or suffer an embarrassing sideswipe.

The Watchtower is an interesting view into Kvernmo's deathmatching sensibilities made memorable through some tricky encounters and a few excellent exhibitions of detailing and architecture. Though the opening is a bit hazardous, anyone who perseveres will be rewarded with good gameplay and some sights to see. I would recommend a play, especially anyone looking for a short but challenging map where progression isn't exactly straightforward.


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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