Saturday, October 8, 2011

We Who are About to Die (ARENA.WAD)

by Sverre Andre Kvernmo

Sverre Kvernmo's fifth Cabal map is, in keeping with most of his offerings, a deathmatch-oriented slobberknocker for MAP06 that's been re-purposed for single-player shenanigans. We Who are About to Die is dominated by the arena, an elliptical wooden enclosure with audience stands surrounded by a ring of flowing blood. There are four areas branching off in the cardinal directions in beige brick, each one with their own particular challenges. The majority of the action, of course, takes place in the center ring, which you will return to on several occasions throughout the course of its gameplay.

In the plotline of The Cabal, this map takes place after jumping through a portal expecting to arrive anywhere but in the center of a Hell-run gladiatorial arena. The transmogrified Cyberdemon hero takes note to be sure to take a special vengeance upon the Hellish emperor that presides over this particular battleground. You don't see him at first when you arrive in the arena, but you can see the throne from which he pronounces final judgment. More pressing, however, is the large first wave you must fight through in order to get some breathing room. There are a few zombimen in the stands to harry you but they're easily sniped by chaingun fire. It's the other toughs in there with you that earn your immediate concern.

Of the four side areas, the eastern and western segments mirror each other to a point. They both have hallways lined with jail cells, presumably housing arena combatants. The western one has a devious setup that you're required to navigate whereas the eastern one has a cool secret sequence that, while rewarding, will make you question whether the effort was even worth it. The northern segment has a couple of tricky encounters it throws at the player. It's to your advantage to set up the lift gates for a speedy egress, as there's an otherwise hard to handle entourage waiting for you in close quarters. There's also a bizarre secret linked up with the eastern portion of the level.

Aside from the rather rude traps found in the map's small wings, most of your fighting will take place outside, as mentioned. The waves of combatants are mostly tougher fare, including mancubus, arachnotrons, revenants and a more mixed final wave which I suppose includes the emperor's brother. You've got plenty of shells with any decent amount of exploring, but this level's particularly difficult to handle if you don't find the very handy secret plasma rifle, which also comes with a combat armor. How thoughtful. Granted, like the other secrets you'll have to earn the right to use it, but the battle isn't too dangerous.

You will be required to hoof around the arena's stands. It's also the only way you'll get access to the map exit. Thankfully, the emperor is deftly handled when he arrives, and his chosen final wave is much simpler to deal with as you can act from the safety of the rafters. The final room has a neat looking obsidian gate with a pulsing center with a nice sendoff fight. It's a nice, tight package, aesthetically pleasing without distracting from the main action of the map. It should give any Doomer a decent challenge, some more than others. I heartily recommend it along with the rest of the Cabal series, and especially fans of Kvernmo's work.


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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