Sunday, January 1, 2012

Sacrament (SACRMENT.WAD)


Sacrament is the second collaboration from Clan [B0S], a loose confederation of Russian Doomers. It's a large episode (thirteen maps) for Doom II for limit-removing ports and features a host of new graphics as well as ingenious use of stock material. The plot isn't very clear, though I suspect it's a language barrier difficulty. From what I gather, you wake up from a nightmare (MAP01) and are contacted to proceed to your base of operations. Gradually you discover that the apocalypse is in full swing, and in some twisted form of the rapture, the worthy have ascended to heaven while the damned turn into unholy abominations and fight each other on a now-deserted Earth. Which begs the question, why have you alone retained your humanity? The mysterious voices – angels, perhaps? - wonder that themselves. It's a question unanswered when the finale rolls around, sadly.


If you want another episode of typical Doom II action, look somewhere else, like Clan [B0S]'s Da Will, another episode (for Plutonia). If I had to give Sacrament an analogue, it would be Eternal Doom. Many of the maps are large and feature exploration and some light puzzle-solving. They also emphasize incredible visuals. This is worth strolling through just to see the eye-candy. Well, when there's enough light to see. It's also VERY dark. Sometimes it's just annoying; other times, you find yourself appreciating the light amp goggles for the first time in a very long time. Really, though, maps like Vancouver, Seaport and Controlled System are awe-inspiring.


Where Sacrament lacks is in the encounter department. Clan [B0S] emphasizes the journey over the action, which again, brings to mind some aspects of Eternal Doom. It's certainly not a bad thing, of course, unless you're averse to that sort of experience. I wouldn't say that these maps lack interesting fights entirely; they're just not loaded with them like Plutonia, which their earlier WAD takes after. Some maps are rather classical in their action, like Wraith's offerings or Dragon Hunter's "Arena". Others, especially MAP02, are the opposite. The focus is on the journey and exploration rather than the fights you endure. Sacrament is more concerned with artistry through architecture, where it succeeds in spades. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone looking for a cavalcade of heart-pumping encounters. If you want a beautiful post-apocalyptic travelogue, though, you can't do much better (in my admittedly lacking experience).


I really do like the music. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I can say with total honesty that no tone featured put me off (except a more generic MIDI track on MAP11, which was more of a break in cohesion than anything). The new weapon sprites, however... They're just so dull and lifeless compared to the Doom originals. The look and application is fairly consistent (except the BFG) but your core weapons lack any visual punch, particularly the shotguns. It's the only real complaint I have in this otherwise excellent mapset. Well, that and its lack of a concrete ending. I am definitely looking forward to the next [B0S] collaboration. NOTE: The version linked in this blog is the 1.1 release, which fixes a number of issues.



SACRAMENT
by Clan [B0S]

Reposa In PaceMAP01
by Glory "Slavius" Antonio
Bizarre map that begins in a relatively ordinary-looking house style and then quickly turns into a Hellish nightmare, with a blood-flooded kitchen, among other things. During the nightmare you'll walk through several massive forests (beware the sprite slowdown!) and a precarious Hellish cavern or two with monsters at the sides harrying your steps. Though combat is restricted to the pistol, the strongest monster you'll face is a lost soul, so the action isn't too terribly slow. Not the most auspicious beginning, I'll admit, but it has some interesting features.

MAP02Doxylamine Moon
by "Lainos"
If the start didn't clue you in, the previous map was indeed just a nightmare. Doxylamine Moon is something completely different, however. In an even greater departure from Doom's gameplay is this enormous, realistic city map, which is practically deserted. Even after some thorough exploration I ended up with 9/53 monsters. The map's essentially here for atmosphere, though. You could waste a lot of time running around exploring everything and finding those yellow skull keys, which seem like worthless collectibles. Though Lainos marked the entire map as hidden so that some of the magic remains intact, he's kind enough to place markers that give you a direct route to the [B0S] headquarters (which has a cute "secret agent" thing going for it with the logo and the entrance). About the biggest slight I can give is that the player may or may not have fun hunting for the blue key. It's absolutely gorgeous, but feels like a ghost town from Deus Ex.

DirtylleryMAP03
by Eugene "Wraith" Guschin
Wraith brings us back into Doom territory with this large, toxic techbase. It's a little non-linear and has some cool bits like the northeastern cliff wall where the toxins are being dumped and some nifty secrets, though half the time you feel as though you stumbled upon them. Combat is pretty low-key with the main obstacle being the amount of nukage you have to wade through, though with wise rad suit usage it shouldn't be too demanding. No real standout encounters, given its pacing. Well, I guess an early trap in the crate room is about as dangerous as it gets.

MAP04Phobia
by "Dr. Max"
The doctor dumps us at a waterfront with some neat marble monuments with an adjacent cavern. The monsters are a bit more dense here with more lethal traps and less "fun" bits like monsters obscured by overlaid vines. I can forgive those, though, since his usage of support pillars for the outdoor cage section prevent it from being a place of pain. I rather like the look of this map with its tunnels and switchbacks. About halfway through you hit a fork in the road. Each path leads to the exit, but you can't backtrack once you're committed. Both evoke themes explored near the map's beginning; the left the techbase segment with the crazy light fixtures and the right the marble ruins at the map's beginning. They're both fun, but I enjoyed the right path more. I'm not sure what I'd consider a standout encounter. The short techbase maze leading to the blue key left the biggest impression as it left me feeling a little vulnerable and less cheesed compared to the packs of shotgunners encountered just a little later.

LavatrazMAP05
by Eugene "Wraith" Guschin
This is basically a knockoff of TNT Evilution's "Prison", but larger and a bit more complex. There's a lake of fire in the center with two large buildings isolated within and three other structures to explore. The easternmost has a familiar imp / hell knight crossfire, made different with some slight puzzle elements. The western building is strikingly similar to the easternmost area in "Prison", from the lower entrances at lava level to the revenant walkway and columns and an area that opens up revealing some demon-infested cubbies. It's also the standout sequence as far as gameplay goes. The northern section, located behind some battlements, is a little maze-ish, but it's not too bad and is over quite quick. I think Wraith definitely added something worthwhile to Dowswell's original idea. Only complaint is that ammo is pretty tight until you get that rocket launcher, but it makes things all the sweeter.

MAP06Pandora's Box
by "Archi"
This is a really cool map that begins with an atmospheric tunnel run with a few surprises before dumping you into the middle of an outdoor firefight with cacodemons, imps, demons, and other unsavory elements. There are several visual hooks to keep you interested, like some dense scrub in the center (from where mancubus fireballs emerge), a ruined cathedral, a quarry, and some kind of stronghold. There are also several caverns to explore, one with blood and one having a memorable series of shootouts as you trace your way along the wall. The only bad thing I have to say is that the map's non-linearity can give you a headache in terms of backtracking. I managed to make my way to the blue key pedestal before finding out that switch to grant access to it is part of a different section of map flow. Otherwise, I found it fun and just a little challenging.

ArenaMAP07
by Sanya aka "Dragon Hunter"
This is a fun, violent map based around an arena, complete with stands and spectators. There are annexes in the cardinal directions you have to clear out in order to get to the exit. It's challenging, crowded gameplay, particularly the opening and areas like the eastern wing (imp overflow) and the finale, which is infighting heaven. Every time you flip a switch, you'll let some more arachnotrons into the central room, but they're pretty deftly handled. The most memorable area to me was the western extension, a dungeon-style series of corridors with monsters (demons and an arch-vile) packed into cells. You can't let them out or kill them, so you know what's going to happen when you grab the red key, which gives just the slightest bit of trepidation. Another shock I enjoyed was going down the exit tunnel only to run smack into two feisty arch-viles. Great map!

MAP08Zone X
by "Archi"
"Zone X" is a techbase in some derelict city block. It's got crates and rubble blocking off the street in specific places to control map flow, as well as a waste processing annex and collapsed street leading into a neat sewer section. It's pretty fun to explore with a lot of great detail crammed into such a small area. Standout encounter is in the large collapsed section, requiring you to deal with mancubuses and then revenants while a crowd of hell knights fire at you from afar, though I'll admit that the infested portion had little to do with anything. Regardless, I love it, and the action is a little punchy without being overbearing.

VancouverMAP09
by "Archi"
Archi's followup and final map is a strange offering in several parts. Most of the action takes place in overgrown outdoor marble ruins that have the look of some ancient graveyard. There's also a bizarre structure floating in space composed of an island and a series of marble platforms that lends the level an otherworldly quality. It's pretty moody with enemies appearing in spurts rather than a constant inundation. There's a Cyberdemon who's still pretty hard to take down with the provided invulnerability, mainly because you're limited to the SSG and rocket launcher. Most of the fighting is a little cramped, with the outlandish western section requiring careful footwork as it's possible to fall off the floating bridge and die while dodging revenant rockets. Finally, I have to say that the exit room's lighting is positively stunning. Very cool.

MAP10Wood Prison
by Kolybenko "Azamael" Michailo
Azamael produces this absolutely massive fortress-esque map that feels more like something from Eternal Doom. It's exploration style, generally light on action, and has plenty of ammo and weapons. While it's fun to wander around and hit switches (some of the puzzles are pretty cool), there are a few sections I didn't particularly care for. The massive southeastern hall, for one, which has scores of zombimen entering through giant portals. It's a cool idea, but the zombimen are frustrating as they're pretty much just attrition machines and have a good bit of time to see you before you can see them. The other is a pitch-black area with zombimen in cages. It's not fun to clear, and while you get a soul sphere and a handy rad suit, the whole segment feels like pulling teeth. Thankfully, the rest of the map has great visuals and cool sequences like the northwestern pier or the southwestern walkway crawl (my standout encounter / series of encounters).

SeaportMAP11
by Kolybenko "Azamael" Michailo
While this rivals Azamael's "Wood Prison" in terms of scope, it's astoundingly linear. But that's okay by me, because this is an absolute feast for the eyes. Most of the action takes place around an enormous cavern by the sea and the views are excellent, particularly when I rounded the corner and saw the enormous opening at the end, just beyond a massive bridge spanning the ledges on either side. There's also a cool outdoor waterfront with several boats and a natural arch. Like MAP10, it isn't particularly difficult, with the toughest parts coming in the cave segment, namely the imp crossfire. Really, it's just one great, long adventure. Though I have a sneaking suspicion I missed a rocket launcher somewhere...

MAP12Industrial Processing
by Sanya aka "Dragon Hunter"
They should have called THIS map "Phobia". Well, Achluophobia, to be exact. This map is very dark, and you will find no end to the number of spectres clamoring for your blood. Couple that with some sneaky monster placement and you'll be crawling along, swinging your shotgun ten feet in front of you. Dragon Hunter really nails the atmosphere of paranoia. It's not a design decision made out of negligence; partway through the level, you'll find a pair of light amp goggles and realize that the darkness is just as much an enemy as each revenant and imp skulking around. It's got tons of nooks and crannies with items to find, though he could have provided the combat shotgun a bit sooner (especially given a lethal revenant trap close by). The darkness also makes what bits of lighting that do show up pop like nothing else. No real standout encounters except for perhaps the final showdown, which has some revenants and a Cyberdemon, and has a blur sphere as a sneaky way to set things up (though you don't have to take it).

Controlled SystemMAP13
by "BeeWen" aka "Lestat"
The final map of Sacrament is massive, dark, and disturbing, a post-apocalyptic landscape riddled with fissures of Hellfire. You won't see it at first, when you're clearing out the slightly confusing eastern wing, but the experience crystallizes when you first step foot onto the ruined bridge. A lot of care has gone into conveying this derelict atmosphere. If I had to compare this map to anything, it would be one of Bob Evans's "Odessa" levels. The action isn't all that memorable, excepting perhaps the western wing with dueling Spiderdemons and a Cyberdemon thrown in for good measure. No; the emphasis is of course on exploration and solving "puzzles". The biggest bottleneck myself was the red key, which is accessed via an area that's marked as secret, though the entrance is both easily accessible and visible. After that, the rest of the level falls into place. Honestly, if nothing else, just turn on -nomonsters and stroll around for a bit, because this map is absolutely gorgeous. My only major complaint is...where the Hell was the SSG?


THE SACRED MYSTERY

4 comments:

  1. Personally, I don't think you've retained your humanity in the WAD. I imagine that everyone looks like monsters to everyone else. The "monsters" you're killing could very well be other people who see you as a demon, while to them they're the only people left. Logic could say that's how the people are fighting each other, everyone in a twisted illusion that they're the sole survivor. That could help explain infighting, I guess.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think the action of the PWAD comes close to resolving the story, but that's okay, because the adventure is pretty cool.

      Delete
  2. Loved this WAD. The final map is a masterpiece of map design, exactly the kind of huge, labyrinthine fuckoff ruin I love to explore. I'm not 100% sure but it seemed like the keys could be tackled in any order? I grabbed the red key first, and then the blue key...after I had actually made my way to the yellow key enclosure and somehow completely missed the key itself, which made the final 20 minutes or so of my playthrough a drag as I scoured the map looking for something I had already found. I was a bit miffed the telporter whisked you to the map end screnn rather than some epic final battle, but let's hear it for artistic intent I guess!

    Also it may have just been me, but it seemed like a running theme in the WAD was that I was often left unsure as to how the mechanics of progression actually worked, outside of the obvious (colored keys and climbing puzzles and whatnot). These B0S WADs pull off and otherworldly vibe in more ways than one. I'll stop myself before I start dissecting their archtectural combo of realism and abstraction....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. controlled system is so huge and great and spooky, like a truly alien environment. i would love to see another sacrament in the future from the survivors of Best of Survivors, now that everyone who was involved has had some six years of experience fueling their imaginations and Lainos has shown that he's willing to "direct" a project a la A.L.T.

      Delete