Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Whitemare (WHITEMAR.WAD)

Whitemare is a Russian Doom Community project, steeped in the theme of winter. Near the tail end of 2010, iddqd.ru had a speedmap competition; twelve levels produced from the event form the base of this megaWAD, some undergoing serious renovation. The other six were added in after the fact, forming the eighteen-map work released near the beginning of 2011. It's got a rudimentary framework-plot to boot. Demons can't abide by Christmas and New Years celebrations so it's Doomguy's job to stop them from ruining everyone's fun. And, yes, this WAD has a very slight Christmas theme in addition to the general winter feel, if the numerous Christmas trees made out of level geometry didn't tip you off.

Though the season is the reason, you'll find yourself trudging through caverns of ice in nearly every map featured. They sure got a lot of mileage out of that frozen wall texture. Actually, there are a lot of new textures to be found here (and a little bird mentioned that some of these come from Hexen II, most obviously the edited demonic portraits). The ones you'll see the most are more earthen caverns, though I noticed a few new techbase elements in the rare instances they cropped up. When you're not in the tighter ice caverns, prepare to enjoy the massive winter landscapes crafted by the authors as canyons, chasms and mountains. There are also a fair number of ancient ruins, buried in the winter wonderland as though you're at the mountains of madness.

As far as gameplay, there's a broad variety of styles present. One of the more prominent motifs puts the player in a wide open area with enemies surrounding you on the high ground, taking pot shots. The other idea that keeps coming up is the flat out brawl, sometimes in wide open areas and at others in close, deadly spaces. There's usually a way to duck monster attacks but it may take you precious moments to get a grasp on your situation. The most difficult ones usually involve arch-viles to some degree, requiring you to watch your positioning and possible ways of egress at all times. Actual maps vary between small linear affairs to large, non-linear and ultimately exploratory as is the case with MAP08 and MAP15.

Whitemare is a community project that features the end product of a speedmapping competition. It's a little uneven in places, but it's a nice package from the Russian Doom Community. If the first few maps don't grab you, try skipping ahead to MAP11 and playing on from there. Note that MAP08 and MAP15 in particular are very large and feature a lot of exploration. Traditional Doomers might better appreciate the other levels, which are more linear and pack more action in. It would have been nice if they'd taken more care to touching up the speedmaps, but it's nice to have what we were given so graciously as a late Christmas present.

by assorted authors

Ice CanyonMAP01
by Sanya aka "Dragon Hunter"
Pretty straightforward opening map with a few hairy parts. It's a canyon carved out in ice, of course, and while the sole texture used to communicate this fact wears a little thin in the larger spaces, you probably won't have time to notice when you're working on clearing out the canyon ambush putting you between two squads of revenants with mancubi running interference, or in the main battle area, which gives you some more room to move but has a number of imps and a few arachnotrons firing down on you as well. The dark spaces are used effectively, where you'll probably be inching forward with your chainsaw out. Very violent, but with a few forgiving secrets.

MAP02North Base
by "Bed.intruder"
Architecture is much more basic, using mostly wide open outdoor areas. The meat of the map is found in its encounters. Highlights include the teleporter ambush by the little base canyon to the north and the massive forest fight, where you'll be on the lookout for sneaky imp and baron fireballs while demons try to chomp on you. There's plenty of health and ammo scattered in the woods, and you'll need to do a thorough search if you want to move on to the final area. The starting fight is a little rough but the big one is the revenant / commando battlement which is a pain to make safe but gives some nice close combat when you step inside, followed by a decent final surprise.

by "Archi"
A much tighter layout with pretty good detailing, especially in the indoor areas. The single largest area contains a maze you have to trudge through to grab the yellow key. Most of the map isn't terribly difficult, but there's a distinct ammo shortage when you approach the final fight, the standout encounter, which I initially thought was impossible but actually turned out to be quite manageable as the second enemy group lays dormant until it actually sees the player, explaining that handy switch alcove. The enemies emerging from the exit portal are a nice touch. I highly recommend you do a little fisting if you want to feel comfortable during the climax.

by "Memfis"
Short and sweet techbase map with a dangerous, icy exterior. The base itself is a little hazardous with a crossfire you'll want to get a lid on ASAP. The bits you should actually worry about are all on the outside, though, dealing with mancubi on an upper ridge and several arachnotrons clogging up the main area. There's a little installation to explore, kind of like a building annex minus the roof, with at least one nasty surprise. Then there's the Cyberdemon near the end. You don't have to kill him, of course, and the task seems daunting with what weaponry and ammo you're given. I actually managed to get him stuck on one of the ice floe lifts and render him (mostly) harmless. Your mileage may vary. Oh, and cute Christmas tree.

The Ancient MysteriesMAP05
by "Cybermind"
This is a really cool level that takes place entirely in some ice tunnels (well, with a short intermission in some very nice-looking ruins). The first half is basically tunnel clearing that kind of drags since your most powerful weapons are the shotgun and chaingun, facing down several toughs. The centerpiece though is a slaughter cave with three arch-viles in it that you're warped to. You'll have to run to the weapon cave and then duck between alcoves and around pillars, taking potshots while keeping track of them. It's a shame, because the rest of the fights were distinctly less exciting, though adequate, ending on a Cyberdemon finale with a minor twist.

MAP06Frozen Point
by "NRM"
Another short and straightforward map. It's mostly underground, like MAP05, but the penultimate section has you emerging from subterra and into a hedge maze. The encounters aren't inherently difficult but the low lighting cloaks the hitscanners (mostly commandos) until they can get a cheap shot or two on you. My favorite part is the main ruin, looking very sweet, while the hedge maze is playable but slows things down with all the lost souls around the perimeter that take forever to get to a vulnerable position. Standout encounter is the first plunge into the underground lake which pushes you to get your bearings with all the monsters lurking around.

Ledges of PainMAP07
by "Archi"
Very to the point. After grabbing your stuff you have to race down the freezing cold ice tunnels before emerging in the battle area. The monster count totals three mancubi followed by three arcachnotrons. There's enough cover to work around as long as you don't get too excited and just barely enough ammo, with your fifty bullets acting as your buffer. Not much else to say, though the architecture is adequate, and the rush to conserve your health is a nice bit of pressure.

MAP08Ice Cavern
by "Nil"
This is very much a puzzle map, echoing in some ways the Bob Evans style. Appropriately, all the weapon besides the shotgun and chaingun are hidden behind secrets. I still don't know how to lower the bars in front of the secondary blue key door, which houses a rocket launcher. The plasma rifle, along with a secret exit, is accessed via several secrets, including a one-shot puzzle involving the northern Stonehenge-like ruins. I figured out the solution, but I don't know what the reasoning behind it is. The map is very intricate and has a huge cave network at the west end of which is a facsimile of a small city located within a keep, the east end having a large outdoor area featuring some castle ruins, which you'll be returning to several times. Like an Evans map, it can be pretty frustrating to play (given that you're undergunned much of the time) but gratifying when you figure out what Nil wants you to do. If you can clue me in to how to lower the bars in front of the rocket annex, that would be great. I thought it had something to do with the off-color patch of wall almost right next to it, but it looks like it's just a texture error.

by "Ameba"
Short but neatly designed base map with a few tough encounters. While it's very orthogonal, the detailing in the lighting and icicles masks its straight layout. It's a little scary exploring the structure with the threat of teleporting monsters looming over you, but it only manifests upon grabbing the red key, which comes with a combat shotgun. It's a tough wave, though, beating back several revenants and an arch-vile on top of some other nasties that teleport in with them. The furnace room isn't as hard but the darkness muddies the issue a bit. Very fun.

MAP10Sweet House
by Glory "Slavius" Antonio
A pittance of a map. You start out on the porch of a lost house, grab a nearby shotgun, and kill some zombimen. Exploration reveals some kind of electrical architecture but the only nearly threatening fight is a pain elemental, and I'm using the term threatening loosely. Then when you grab the key it's back to the house which is a nice little shack, but inessential to the level's progress. Cute, but lacks substance.

Nord KeepMAP11
by "Shadowman"
Immaculate stone keep fronted by an approach through several ice canyons. It's kind of got an Eternal Doom feel, except it's a bit more straightforward. Things are a bit hectic once you get inside the actual keep walls, with a cramped and dangerous courtyard fight overlooked by plenty of shooters, not to mention the sojourns into parapets manned by revenants. The truly difficult portion involves the crossways hallway, though, particularly when Shadowman floods the area with revenants and several arch-viles, followed by a Cyberdemon fight that could prove tricky. The rest of the map kind of pales in comparison. Quite cool.

by "BeeWen" aka "Lestat"
This is a pretty neat icy techbase map. It's got a 3D bridge (functions as an awning you have to climb across, so in execution it's a little buggy) and the outer yard fight is one of the coolest battles, featuring a number of columns of ice that when shot shatter into revenants that join the fight, which makes an already hectic crossfire quite intense. It's also got a neat sequence where a baron of Hell absconds with the blue key, reappearing and disappearing at several points to needle the player, my favorite bit being the imp / demon chamber. My only complaint is that BeeWen could have made traveling between areas a little easier once you've already gotten there. Some players are bound to fail to notice the recessed buttons and go exploring and a few spontaneous staircases could really expedite the adventure.

The Abandoned BaseMAP13
by "Cybermind"
Starts out in a watery chasm that's a bit tough if you don't jump to the side and grab the shotgun on the little island. After punching your way through some former humans, you end up in a techbase invaded by Hell that evokes shades of Duke Nukem 3D's "Lunar Reactor" (mainly thinking of that outdoor walkway across the chasm, which is a dangerous and annoying fight). Actually, there are quite a few deadly battles to find here, like the cramped yellow key encounter with two arch-viles, or the hallway bit right after the yellow key door where the safe route is in fact PAST the revenants in order to grab the rocket launcher. As far as interactivity, Cybermind has a feature where you can tear down a wall of ice in several chunks, a nice touch. Great tough map.

MAP14Hopeless Joy
by "BeeWen" aka "Lestat"
I thought this was going to be a lot bigger, but, well, I'll explain. This map starts out with you dropping into some ancient ruins with four gravestones. Looks nice, but nothing really going on in the main room. From there you can explore the eastern and northwestern caverns. The eastern allows you to lower the water level, allowing further progression, while the rest of the map is northwest. There's a puzzle section where you have to flip switches to open doors on a central pillar, then step on the correct tiles on your way to the switch, otherwise the door will shut. This unlocks the final area. First, go outside and collect some of the presents BeeWen left you under the Christmas tree. Afterward, flip the switches in the compound, giving you a new wave of presents you'll have to clear. I'm not entirely sure what needs to be done to access the button that lowers the exit teleporter, but I managed to waffle my way through it without much stress. I guess the ending room is your "Hopeless Joy"...

Arctic HeartMAP15
by Sanya aka "Dragon Hunter"
An absolutely MASSIVE arctic map whose features include a harbor full of ice floes, an enormous skyway bridge walled with opposition, and plenty of mountain ranges to explore. While most of the combat is incidental, there are a few masterful encounters that will leave you reeling. The first one that comes to my mind is the ice shelf that collapses beneath you, leaving you in a crater with a Cyberdemon, followed up by two hordes of demons and a horde of revenants as you hit switches to escape. There's a tighter Cyberdemon fight up by the yellow key, where you'll get a lot of mileage out of the mancubi perched on the pillars. There's the skyway itself, of course, quite the trek and featuring a Spiderdemon showdown. And the exit area, a cargo ship assaulted by cacodemons before its final, tricky finale. Perhaps the highlight of the entire WAD, a joy to experience.

MAP31Ice Riff
by "Archi"
Your pre-boss intermission is this monster-devoid map with some light platforming elements. It's some ice caverns interspersed with ruins, as well as a big ol' lava flow that's responsible for much of the water on the ground. Not much else to say. If you enjoy exploring and platforming like I do, you might get a kick out of this.

Mogor's HouseMAP32
by "Shadowman"
Starts out with a house in the middle of nowhere with some chaingunners annoyingly perched on pillars outside the playing area. Looks pretty innocent at first, as long as you ignore that ominous ragtime. Then you open up the outhouse and out pops Mogor! He's an edited SS Trooper that fires cacodemon fireballs on top of the normal attack. He's also really fast. Around this time, too, a ton of imps and demons are unleashed from the areas around the house that were previously inaccessible. The key to your survival rests in the three pillars, previously guarded by commandos. Otherwise you're not gonna have the firepower to take him down, and you'll meet your fate while on this time-trapped isle.

MAP16Depraved Feast
by "Arsenikum"
It's a giant Christmas tree made out of viscera and decorated with demon ornaments. How do people beat shit like this? I can handle the three switches to lower the shield, that stuff's cake. Once you have to get on the pillar, though, you might as well point yourself at a wall and eat your own rockets. Every errant demon will wander into your line of fire attracting almost every rocket you send his way, which is quite a ways away. Clearing the ground troops doesn't matter because cacodemons and pain elementals seem inexplicably drawn to protect their demon master. You can't even depend on firing a rocket over his head, yet you expect me to time shots before and after? I really hate this map. It's a decent idea, but I hate it. Just send me back to "Mogor's House".


  1. Map08
    A button that opens chamber is hidden near the entrance. Check niches.
    I was make a additional secret exit just for fun, and there is no sense in that secrets. If you find secrets — it cool, if don't — that's all right. Weapons is on another difficult levels. You may play this map first on HMP or lower for find some useful secrets and than play on UV prepared.

  2. Well, thank you for that tip! That's one of the best hidden buttons I've seen so far. For what it's worth, I really liked the map once I wrapped my brain around it, particularly the puzzle sections.