Friday, March 30, 2012

Deimos: Slight Return (DEIMOS-V.WAD)

Rex Claussen released Deimos: Slight Return shortly after the Persecution Complex's remodeling of his Phobos Revisited (The Phobos Directive). Slight Return is the sequel to his 2004 Cacoward-winner, this time remaking Doom's second episode in his particular style. Ever the voodoo chile, he's resurrected the essentials of The Shores of Hell, but changing some of the elements - reordering progression, altering and adding secrets, or creating brand new sections to level layouts.

The biggest change you'll notice is Claussen's sense of aesthetics. Flash has been added to much of the maps, making them more visually interesting. In a few cases, the new stuff can be annoying, impeding movement in tight areas. In others, you may not even be able to see his ceilings and skylights without activating mouselook. In general, though, I like it. His other big change comes from smoothing out many of the rough lines found in E2's design. Claussen is a fan of curves, and I can't deny that they bring a certain beauty of softness to the originals.

You may also notice a shift in difficulty toward more challenging maps. I don't remember the Shores of Hell as well as others (I played way more Doom II growing up) but I don't recall it being quite so rough. Claussen is fond of putting you in compromising situations, either trapping the player with enemies or restricting crucial supplies so that the player often feels outgunned. Many of the secrets come with a price, forcing you to use your gains immediately. It's by no means impossible, but Claussen has certainly extended Deimos's aura of fear and paranoia.

Slight Return is not something "new". It is something very old that has been given a makeover. If you didn't like the Shores of Hell, I doubt you'll enjoy Claussen's slight reinterpretation. If you're very fond of the original trilogy, there's a chance he may have spoiled the original chemistry that made it so appealing to you in the first place. It's a fun bit of nostalgia, though, and if you want to play the second episode again with some surprises, this offering certainly fits the bill.

by Rex Claussen

The largest noticeable difference between this and the original is that the level's main areas have been rendered as smoothed, circular hallways as opposed to the angular curvature of the original. There's also a neat secret area for veterans to appreciate, finally getting outside a la KDitD. There's a lot more meat hanging around than before; you'll be up to your ears in cacodemons at the map's finale and the iconic demon sector is rich in pinkies. Pretty much everything else is intact in one form or another. I like some of the column work in here though some of the ceiling detail is lost on non-freelook clients.

This should all look pretty familiar, just nicer, and the sections you visit have been slightly reordered. The southern half of the layout has actually been mirrored, though there are some key differences to the flow that may impact your exploration. I also think that the crate maze is just that much thicker. The combat isn't all that exciting, though you might feel a slight twinge of panic when navigating the crushers and demons and imps start heading your way. The detailing is pretty nice, especially bits like the marble atrium and the 3D bridge. I suppose the finale in the radiation area is my standout encounter.

Looking on the automap, the big layout change-up was rotating everything 180 degrees. Difficulty-wise, it's a blast, with a very memorable pistol start that has you running like Hell until you can find a shotgun at the very least. It's probably my standout encounter. While I like a lot of the extra detailing he's put in, the flair on the wall in the northwestern orthogonal maze is pretty annoying and easy to get hung up on. I like the little romp outside to get the rocket launcher, though you'll need another secret to avoid suffering for it.

The layout of the lab hasn't changed at all, really. Well, Claussen stuffed the exit room in a different area, but any veteran of "Deimos Lab" will find the routes more or less intact. There are a few surprises, to be sure, like the plasma rifle secret in the large northern area (which plays into the teleporter paranoia). In general, however, it's a pretty faithful recreation, with some slightly more difficult monster encounters. My favorite encounter is the plasma rifle secret, which forces you to put your newest acquisition to immediate use.

Like E2M3, this map's been flipped 180 degrees. Unlike E2M3, you'll have to be pretty scrappy to get shit done. Ammo and health are tight and some of the secrets (like the rad suit to the north) put you in very dangerous positions. The whole long secret to the plasma rifle in the expansive hidden area is quite involved and the encounters should prove fairly challenging, whether it's the baron cage or waking up the monsters in the outdoor area, not to mention basically requiring the rad suit secret. Lots of good fights. Of course, they're based around the originals, but still very fun.

Interesting twist on the old standard. The baron room has been duplicated twice, but the first time you arrive, it's full of demons. Move quick or be overwhelmed. Furthermore, you can't just open the cacodemon door and lure them all in – the doors are locked, and the teleporter out dumps you into a bunch of barons. You'll need every bit of ammo to claw your way out. As for the new digs, I wasn't initially sold on the central floor motif, but it's very befitting a fortress, and the bloody cisterns to the south and north are nice details.

Claussen doesn't do a lot of funny stuff with the layout here; it's mostly just smoothing out the kinks in Sandy's more angular curvature. I like the way he's nested the starting areas; it's quite striking on the automap, slightly more befitting the man-made environments. As far as gameplay goes, this one's a killer. I did a lot of punching and killed the final monster with the last blast of my shotgun, so I hope you like berserking. I'm not bitter, though; Rex all but throws it at you near the beginning of the level so it's available through the worst of things. There are some nasty traps to be had, though some like the infamous fake exit remain intact (and fail to surprise). Just a lot of desperation from not knowing when you'll hit the next ammo store.

It's certainly the "Spawning Vats", though there are some extrapolations from the original design, like that cool command room on the way to the yellow key or an unwelcome surprise when entering the exit room. You didn't think it would be that easy, did you? It's still got the scrappy pistol start along with a host of new monsters to trap greedy players, like the plasma rifle entourage in the southeastern outdoor area. It's still slightly non-linear, as you can walk through either side of the base to grab the blue key. I like that he's conflated the rocket launcher secret with the northwestern outdoor area, which has been spruced up a bit. A nice sendoff to the finale.

Decidedly different from "Babel". Claussen rounded off the corners but turned it into a battle royale with nearly every weapon and monster making a showing. After the initial wave of zombiemen you get to introduce the Cyberdemons into the arena with the flick of four different switches. You'll want to flip them, anyway – they lower the pillars housing the weapons. They also unleash the armies of Hell into the map, but they're not that dangerous and they're pretty handy for helping take down your new friends.



  1. I just read through this review, and I'd have to say that you've captured the essence of each map. Many thanks.

  2. I don't mind the constant architectural style that much but too be honest, I think ReX kept the gameplay and progression of this one too faithful. Phobos Revisited is better, even E2 of Wonferful Doom could compete.

    1. if youve had your fill of the original e2 there is really no reason to give this one a shot, really.

    2. That's why I don't get that 'with some surprises' in the final line of the review. ReX is capable of much more.

    3. they arent huge surprises, just things you wont be expecting. the point is that it isnt a carbon copy