Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mordeth (Episode 1) (MORDETH.WAD)

Mordeth's first episode was released in 1997. The rest of the project has been in development ever since. It's been so notorious for its delays (all understandable) that the Cacowards have a category named in its honor, dedicated to the released project with the longest development time. Duke Nukem Forever, the butt of gamer jokes everywhere, was announced and released during Mordeth's development. At the very least, Gaston Lahaut can take solace in the fact that Mordeth (now being developed for the Eternity Engine) will be far more enjoyable than Duke Nukem Forever, not that that's saying much.

Mordeth's gameplay is pretty low-key, favoring exploration over action. The first episode details your adventures through the lost city of Babel. It's some kind of castle-like network of buildings on the edge of a wilderness of mountains, forests, and marshland. You'll see extensive libraries, storage buildings filled with wooden crates, docks, marsh caves, and lamplit streets. Lahaut has crammed as much ambiance into these maps as possible through the use of sound effects, details like trees and fog, and lighting. Navigation isn't terribly tricky and loaded with non-linear branching points so you can have fun wandering around the map without getting confused.

Lahaut also included several new monsters for you to encounter, though most of the Doom II cast are no-shows, excepting the pain elemental and commando. The Fire Wyvern is a green gargoyle a la Heretic or Hexen with roughly the toughness of a lost soul that tosses fireballs in rapid succession. There are also stone gargoyles that come to life when struck that do essentially the same thing, but don't count toward your kill %. Ghoulspawns are noxious-looking pain elementals that spit explosive green wraiths and detonate quite violently when destroyed. Lastly, the Swamp Dragons are Chaos Serpents (also from Hexen) that vomit mancubus fireballs that momentarily puff into actual flames. They're suitably tough for boss replacements and the locales in which you encounter them give the player enough mobility to evade them without trivializing the fights.

Another very important detail on gameplay I should mention... Lahaut keeps totalitarian control over what weapons are available when. He even used DeHackEd to create two varieties of commandos. One drops clips, as it's an SS Nazi replacement, while the genuine commandos don't appear commonly until late in the episode. You will have both chaingun and rocket launcher spoonfed until the last map, with stronger weaponry oddly absent, even though there's a cell pickup here and there. Taking on most of the first three maps with the shotgun alone gets kind of tiresome, but it's virtually the only flaw I can pick out and isn't worth worrying about anyway.

Do you like large, expansive maps that emphasize exploration over action? Then I recommend you play Mordeth. Fans of Eternal Doom should be right at home with the experience, not that the maps are at all wanting for action. The secrets are delicious and its peculiar themes, like the swamp lands or not quite medieval city streets, must be seen to be appreciated. Whenever the rest of Mordeth is released, I'll be there to play it, just to see what wonders Lahaut (and his mercurial crew) have cooked up in the interim. IMPORTANT NOTE: The version of Mordeth on the archives builds its own .EXE, among other things, and according to Lahaut, isn't compatible with source ports. Thankfully, he released a different version, packed in which works fine when ran with MORDETH.DEH and MDEUGRAP.WAD.

by Gaston "Mordeth" Lahaut

Prelude to DamnationMAP01
Lahaut sets the tone by dropping you inside the castle grounds, though there's plenty of greenery available for you to feast your eyes upon. Much of this map is dominated by the expansive library / warehouse, populated with reams of books and crates, as well as some air ducts and a few neat features, like the damned altar that drops you right by some fire and brimstone, or the blind drop into the...trash room?...which introduces you to the little green devils (the Fire Wyvern, I believe). The lighting is very nice and detailing more than adequate, with some great secrets to boot (including some long ledge-humps). Combat is pretty run of the mill (zombimen, imps, and demons) with a few lost souls spicing things up, as well as the aforementioned green sprite room. A very nice beginning.

MAP02The Four Stairs
More castle goodness. This one appears to be more ramparts / tower centric, with a nice pool of murky water taking up the map's central area (with a nice reveal later on!). It also introduces some more monsters into the mix, the biggest additions being cacodemons. As with the previous map, there are plenty of secrets to find, including a map that reveals the whole layout (which upon grabbing will slightly delay your egress). There's only one obscure alcove, however, so these should be more up the alley of your average Doomer. As always the architecture is quite appealing, and the fighting can get a little tense, taking on several cacodemons armed with a plain ol' shotgun. The only point of frustration are the dozens of snipers spread out across the level, but there is so much health and ammo, it's not worth agonizing over.

The House of ShadowsMAP03
This map is about half castle, half wilderness, including plateaus, waterfronts, and vine-ridden marshlands with fog. It's a step up in difficulty from the previous two maps, toning down the non-secret health and ammo and introducing the baron, with you still stuck with the normal shotgun. Thankfully, Lahaut throws a chaingun your way, which is only fair given the hitscanner Hell you have to suffer through in the map's northwest portion, not to mention the castle's main hall, where the bullets seem to never end. Apart from the very pretty marsh caves, the great hall looks nice, if a little perfunctory, and has a nice, long carpet, the kind that could only be constructed through demonic sorcery. Still kind of annoyed at tackling three barons with a shotgun, though.

MAP04Babel by Gaslight
Lahaut ditches the scattered bits of wilderness for some spooky city streets. It's very large and meticulously built. The dominant motif appears to be columns, with gas lamps and fog littering the streets. In particular, there's a back alley complete with flaming dumpster, a few demon-infested blocks of columns (one of which you can use lights to help weed out the spectres), and the main city street, lined with snipers and containing some neat ambushes. Standout encounter for me would be the first run-in with the Ghoulspawns, though the true standout moment is falling through the fog in the northwestern portion of the map in order to escape. Very cool. Also, this is where the rocket launcher first appears (joy!).

Babel's Inner QuartersMAP05
More city-type architecture, this one based near the docks. The whole eastern portion of the level occurs on a poisonous waterfront among several warehouses, and even has a desiccated boat. Action speeds up; diligent secret hunters will find a combat shotgun, making the cramped-quarters fights more punchy. You'll find yourself under ambush from waves of demons on several occasions, pinned down in perilous positions. Also a lot of fancy footwork required if you want to snag everything this map has to offer. The standout encounter for me was the blue key fight, which caught me by surprise as several gargoyles I thought to be harmless burst into life, harassing me quite expertly. As far as visual delights, the 3D bridges return for the docks section of the map, classing things up.

MAP06The Draconic Guardians
The conclusion to Mordeth's first episode unites all of the previous styles; swamp, toxic waterfront, and castle storage. The swamp dominates much of the map, and is filled with all kinds of tricky bits, like vegetation that blocks everything (be careful you don't bounce a rocket off that shit) or the Swamp Dragons, two of which guard the blue key (though you don't have to fight them at the same time). If you're observant, you'll also find that some of the ambient fog is ambulatory! The swamp is a gorgeous break from Doom's usual fare, and the city block isn't half bad, either. Well, scratch that. It's excellent. It's also completely optional, as the yellow key door is unlocked. Oh well! A great ending.


This post is part of a series on
Doomworld's Top 10 WADs of 1997

RequiemEternal Doom
MordethThe Talosian Incident
Dawn of the DeadHell Revealed
Hell's EventideCHORD_NG


  1. Playing through this again; it's probably my #1 favorite WAD. The rocket launcher actually appears in a secret in MAP01.

    1. A fact that means nothing to pistol-starting jackasses like me, sadly.

  2. I played this years ago, but other than the outstanding visuals, I cannot remember much about it. Dehacked enemy replacements, eh? Adding new monsters to the existing cast is simple nowadays but it must have been unimaginable back then. It was usually (painfully) obvious which monsters replaced which, especially in STRAIN, which always hampered my enjoyment of it, no matter how terrifying some of them were. ("Oh look, it's the Spider Mastercube and the Mancubaron.") STRAIN's Mancubaron still stands as the enemy I am most afraid of in Doom's history. But come on... it's a Mancubus!

    A question about Mordeth: everyone talks about how it's "in development", but is it actually still IN development? I wrote a short story in 1995 that I never finished and haven't worked on for 20 years, does that mean it's still "in development" too? I'm hardly the most regular Doomworld forum member, but I don't think I've ever seen Lahaut make a single post. I'd guess we are more likely to see an official sequel to Final Doom before Lahaut returns to the fray, he probably forgot about Mordeth years ago.

    - Major Rawne, co-winner of the Mordeth award (1994 tune-up project)

    1. Mordeth is definitely "in development", and Lahaut is definitely active. He posted a couple weeks ago regarding Ty's absence from the forums. It's being developed for the Eternity Engine, though, and from what I understand, it's waiting on some critical elements regarding Eternity's portal tech.

  3. Where can I get the source port version? The link is dead :(

    1. updated the link with the doomworld mirror, which I found via