by Callum Guy "phobosdeimos1" Oliver
After playing through Digon Base and Spire Complex (and bits of Corebinder and Zfactory) I got the impression that Callum Guy Oliver (aka phobosdeimos1) was a techbase man. Imagine my surprise when I loaded up Pallace Skorn, finding some never-was alien world more typical of Hexen's wild environments. It's crammed full of textures not native to Doom II (though you may recognize some of them, if not many) as well as, surprise surprise, some new monsters / weapons. The WAD has no story associated with it; it's just a Boom-compatible MAP01 replacement.
I'll just get the weapons and enemies out of the way quickly. The pistol is now a silenced pistol, otherwise pretty much the same, while the chaingun has been replaced with a ridiculous rapid-fire uzi. The thing eats through ammo like popcorn and does a pretty good job of stunlocking everything you point it at, including the end-of-level Cyberdemon. The right-hand Shadow Warrior sprite feels a little incongruous compared to the centered weapons, but whatever. There are two new enemies. The imp replacement feels right at home, using Realm 667's Roach. It's basically the same except with roughly double the health. The chaingunners have been replaced by uzi-toting black marines aka the SMG Zombie, which is...problematic. But I'll get to that.
Gameplay is unusual for phd1, due mainly to its more organic layout, as opposed to his more orthogonal techbase maps. Nothing that crazy, though, outside of a few instances. There's a blind jump that can put you in a crowded situation (my favorite encounter), a number of stealthy lost souls that can ruin your day, and your initial intrusion to the palace proper, by far the trickiest segment of the map as you're put up against a contingent of SMG zombies that will turn you into ground beef if you don't shoot first, with a few more lurking around. If one catches you by surprise, you might as well just reload.
But that's the only real misstep in an otherwise decent (and different) offering. I like phd1's change in locales, using things like the checkered texture to mark walls that eventually come down, and exploring the caverns and underground river manages to avoid getting stale. I particularly like the use of those giant, grated wall lights that crop up. Oliver also gives the main sections their own aesthetic themes with passable detailing and lighting. There are a few things that could have been handled a little better (in my armchair opinion), like lowering the roof in the lower palace level to match the height of the columns, but overall, I'm pleased with the results.
I like Pallace Skorn, and it's good to see an author venture into unfamiliar territory. He's managed to ditch some of the blandness that permeated the later sections of Spire Complex and come up with neat architecture, like that odd staircase leading up to the main building, while maintaining his penchant for constant, interesting action. It's no masterpiece, but it does good. Sticklers for traditional Doom need not apply.