Tuesday, November 1, 2011

ESW2 (ESW2.WAD)


Doom's appeal has always had an international flair, and while it was tougher to suss out during the early years there's a decent chance of finding Doomers who speak your own language. The Russian community is the largest such example that I can think of, but other more tightly-knit groups include French, Czech, and Japanese. The producers of ESW2, if the names and email address are any indication, hail from the South American country of Chile. The 10-level Doom II PWAD, released in 1995, takes its title from the handle of the main contributor - David Jander aka ESW - who made seven of the included maps. I suppose that the other three authors for the other three maps are his friends.


ESW2's official title is "imagine a good name here", an appellation that invites near-thoughtless sniping that might come even easier after actually playing it. This mapset was released in very early 1995, shortly after the release of Doom II and placing it somewhere in the middle of the first wave of Doom user-made levels. They were even created using a nodebuilder of Jander's own design, named BSP2DO, likely the source of the set's handful of geometry glitches, both visual and otherwise. If you play your cards right, you might even walk through a wall and into the enigmatic level void.


The total package, when judged by today's standards, is not great. Where authors like The Innocent Crew can be easily compared to the IWADs, the levels of ESW2 lean more toward the abstract that is of greater interest to hoarders of Doom curios due to their... interesting texture choices and occasional flashes of brilliance, as documented in my individual notes. My original assessment of these maps called them "distinctly sub-par", citing plain architecture, texture alignment errors, and underwhelming monster encounters. This will likely hold true for many prospective players.


ESW2 is distinctly the product of its authors, though, for better or for worse. If nothing else I am struck by the notion that Jander and his fellows were motivated not by what they thought people would find cool but by the things that amused themselves, clearly displaying a zest for horsing around in the map editor. It reminds me of a favored quotation of the late Roger Ebert, coming from Francois Truffaut: "Today, I demand that a film express either the joy of making cinema or the agony of making cinema. I am not at all interested in anything in between; I am not interested in all those films that do not pulse." For all its imperfections, seen as antiquated ugliness through the lens of today, the early era of PWADcraft was steeped in a jubilance largely unmatched today.


The levels have some pretty neat moments; Jander is responsible for most of them. There are snatches of memorable architecture, lighting, or stuff like the sequence that opens his MAP06, which I'd say is worth seeing once. It still plays okay, but it's tough to recommend to anyone but those antiquarians looking to draw from those early years, when the burden of community knowledge was so much lighter. I initially discovered ESW2 as part of a compilation Doom Legacy advocate Jive put out, which inserted a MIDI soundtrack that was less than inspiring. Whatever fixes he may have introduced, I recommend the original version, warts and all.



ESW2
imagine a good name here
by David Jander, Stefano Villanueva,
Felipe Figueroa, and Juanjo Sierralta

by David JanderMAP01
Fairly standard opening level in a plain wood and mortar theme. Best (and really only) detail I can laud is the use of lighting. Most of the map is fullbright but there's some nice shading that goes on, though it isn't 100% consistent. Standout encounter has Jander turning off the lights and unleashing some spectres on you. Familiar, but a nice feature, and it gets the job done. Also worth mentioning is an interim section that cribs pretty heavily from Doom II's "The Crusher".

MAP02by David Jander
A pretty ugly techbase with a mix of different textures. My personal worst offender is a a brown metal wall that doubles as a door, fairly close to the beginning. There's also a room choked with walkthru brown windows. On the positive side, it has a nice outdoor area along with some decent firefights and a bit of detailing, like a blinking wall light. Nothing impressive, though.

by Stefano VillanuevaMAP03
Stefano's sole offering is a jumbled mix of themes that thankfully keeps the action up with a constant stream of demon trash, which is good considering the amount of ammo he dumps on you. The single constant theme of his map's style is the drop. By that, I mean the map flow forces the player to step into a position he or she can't immediately back out of and then deal with the current monsters. Architecture is mostly boring but I like the greenmarble / granite monument thing as well as the initially shadowed Romero structure. Standout encounter is the invulnerability-led slaughter, though you'll be pressed to be efficient given you only have the SSG to work with.

MAP04by David Jander
A fairly boring level kind of in the "Downtown" style, except more linear and less action-packed. Many of the few monsters present are so tightly packed they can't even move or attack, most notably in the penultimate building. At the very least, Jander attempts to liven things up by warping a few hardbodies in after you've grabbed the blue key. The final room itself is very tricky, but it's due to bad encounter design more than anything. Have fun navigating it, especially with the inadequate ammo Jander has seeded around the map. Make sure you utilize all the infighting you can.

by David JanderMAP05
Four areas connected with a teleporter crossroads. You'll need to visit three to get the exit keys for the fourth. Take the southern teleporter first; the fight is pretty easy and will set you up with enough rockets to last the rest of the map. It's a shame that the room is otherwise so uninteresting. The western teleporter leads to a pretty unimpressive wooden area decorated with a few imps. It's kind of like a larger, emptier version of the segment at the end of "Industrial Zone". The northern teleporter takes you to a giant canyon that dominates the map. While the canyon looks passable, it's sparsely populated and fairly featureless. Not good, but some neat ideas here. Standout moment is playing barrel dominoes in the Cyberdemon room.

MAP06by David Jander
A larger offering from Jander in a mostly techbase style. There's a neat opening in the opening area where the marble walls reform themselves as you move through a tiny ankle-high maze. The first major bout of fighting occurs in some flashing tech tunnels a la E1M2, but there's a neat sequence with a megasphere. The rest of the map is dominated by a large outdoor area that seems understaffed, though there's a nice firefight eased along with an invulnerability artifact. Nothing really threatening, though. The tech tunnels are riddled with secrets. In fact, there's a chain about six deep.

by David JanderMAP07
Medium-size canyon / cavern level that plays fairly fast. It's mostly gray concrete but there are a few change-ups, like the not-so-toxic cavern early on. Action steps up a little bit with a few arch-viles but the action is pretty predictable. At the very least, it rarely lets up. A few very ugly texture errors, particularly after entering the southwestern penultimate room, but it's something I've come to expect with this series, along with the mangled nodes.

MAP08by Felipe Figueroa
Figueroa's sole contribution is an absolute jumble featuring a boss shooter wall (but no shooter), a number of SS Troopers, and a Wolfenstein elevator for the exit switch. It's not a bad play, but the architecture is very basic, with only a few drop elevator traps spicing the action up.

by Juanjo SierraltaMAP09
Very short, very ugly map with a scattershot texture style. At the very least, it's not nearly as annoying as the first time I played it. Maybe I just got lucky with the strange door triggers. The most visually interesting area to me is the strobing staircase leading up to the exit switch. Encounterwise, eh. Maybe the red key trap.

MAP10by David Jander
Short, ugly and boring. Most of the 175 monster count is made up of zombimen stuffed into rectangular rooms at the end of long, winding hallways. When you kill one particular imp they all start moving toward you, but as long as you're armed with your trusty chaingun, you have little if anything to fear. The climax of the map pits you against a shooting gallery of three Spiderdemons, tedious to take on at range. If you're adventurous, of course, you can get them to take each other out, after which it's safe to battle a neutered demon spawner. It's a fitting climax, though not in a good way.

¡CHAO PESCADO!

5 comments:

  1. How the hell do you beat level 10? I can't reach the John Romero head.

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    1. You have to depend on autoaim to do it. There's a sweet spot involved; what worked for me was standing directly in front of the opening and one terrace down from the entrance.

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  2. *chokes back tears* Its the most beautiful title card I've ever seen

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    1. spoiler, though you may have already guessed this: it's not an actual title card, just one I made up! you can probably find the source image on google.

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    2. Haha yeah I guessed as much, though I don't recall it being there when it was reviewed years ago. If that's the case its cool that you're going back and adding new faces to TITLEPICless stuff!

      Incidentally, the first thing that comes up when googling esw2 is a Cisco switch =P

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