Monday, January 16, 2012

Where Serpents Ever Dwell (SERPENTS.WAD.WAD)

by Adrian "DeathevokatioN" Hanekom

Here's another map for Heretic, this one from Adrian Hanekom, aka Doomworld forum superstar DeathevokatioN. It replaces E1M1 (with an early version replacing E4M1) and indeed is a little E1M1-ish in its appearance. The story is fairly standard, with Corvus stepping into what he believes to be the portal home only to wind up, you guessed it, fighting more of D'Sparil's monstrosities. Of course, you have to wonder how bad he really has it. I mean, he spends his days traveling to dimensions I doubt he's ever dreamed of, using magical weaponry to tear apart manifestations of evil (which has got to give him at least a vague sense of ethical fulfillment), and it sounds like he knows how to have a good laugh every now and then. Plus I bet he's fallen into his fair share of Boris Vallejo paintings (NSFW).

Anyway, Where Serpents Ever Dwell is a pretty good Heretic showcase. There's no Phoenix Rod and no weredragons, but the rest of the regulars get trotted out. It's also pretty tough, which the author warns in the readme. It's not quite so hard that you'll burn all your ammo in addition to the powerups, but it'll be a good while before you're comfortable with your ammo situation. Part of this is due to a more intimate setting. The playing area is fairly constrained, which makes the 150 or so monsters crammed inside more dangerous than usual. Add to that Hanekom's careful balance of resources, which prevents you from removing the projectile-throwing enemies in the main area until much later in the map, and you have a lethal concoction.

The opening fight is a pretty good example. You have easy access to the ethereal crossbow, but the starting platform is loaded with enemies, with no safe place to retreat. Even a jump into the moat will let loose another crop of nasties upon your exit, a mix of disciples and gargoyles that only add to your confusion. There's also (understandably) a wave of disciples unleashed upon grabbing the Hellstaff, which might make things more interesting depending on how thorough you were in dispatching the enemies already hanging around, given your ammo situation. I think there was a wave of disciples let into the central area, too, but I kind of cheesed that from a window with the tome of power and the gauntlets (hey, I needed the health!).

Some fun encounters that don't bust your balls... There's the teleport to the blue key area. You end up standing behind a pack of still sleeping warriors while a group of ophidian guards spots you. The clever Corvus will let the ophidians do some of the work for him. The final fight could offer some possible problems, given the presence of an iron lich in addition to some other nasties, but there's a ton of Hellstaff ammo nearby and probably enough room to dodge those deadly balls of frost magic. The rest of the map is pretty standard, even down to the gargoyles making quite a nuisance as they wander around.

Aesthetically there are a few nice touches. The lighting is subtle but very nice and there's a use of the teleportation effect on a statue in the main yard that gives it a unique look. Finally, in the exit room, there's a vista with a giant river-carved canyon complete with waterfall (and some more fortress area immediately adjacent to you) that help give the map a sense of scope beyond being a simple one-off. Altogether, it's a great experience if you're looking for more Heretic maps to play and don't mind being challenged. I highly recommend it!


  1. Hey, thanks a lot for this kind review man. :) It was a very fun read.

    Haha, and I just noticed the .Wad.Wad, I don't know how I managed to get that one wrong.

    - Deathevokation

  2. It threw me off at first, but it manages to play just fine, as long as it's taken out of the .zip! Rather than be snide about it I thought I'd just include it in the page title.

  3. To everyone reading this review:

    I've decided to expand this into a set of multiple levels... and I already have a followup level completed that's playable if you want to try it. If you want to play the updated version with this extra level please follow this link to the development thread, and let me know what you think.