Monday, July 23, 2012

Prayers of Armageddon (PRAY666.WAD)


Prayers of Armageddon is a Doom II megaWAD released in 2010 by Finnish Doomer "H3llraich", consisting of 33 levels, one only accessible via IDCLEV. It won't run in vanilla (or Chocolate) Doom, but it'll run in just about any other recent source port, at least as far as I can see. The story's setup may be different, but the result is familiar. Some scientist at a UAC teleportation research facility went nuts, killed his coworkers, and started bringing the hordes of Hell to your reality. You're tasked with finding the invasion's mastermind and putting an end to the ordeal.


POA is a beginner's megaWAD. Right angles abound, along with cramped, often labyrinthine hallways and tiny rooms. Many levels will have a section with a small chamber and all three key doors (sometimes the first area), and a miniature monster count. Very rarely you'll see H3llraich play with architecture or lighting beyond flat walls and the occasional staircase, so much that the few bits you notice become quite striking. The levels are also all quite easy if played as intended. That is, the author did not balance maps around pistol starts, so you carry over all ammo and weapons from previous sections. And you'd do well to, unless you fancy punching out arachnotrons and other unsavory beasts.

What I didn't realize until recently is that Prayers of Armageddon is strongly influenced by Adam Windsor's Demonfear, which I have only just gotten around to playing. The map sizes, monster counts, and design elements feel like someone trying to ape Windsor's terse style (along with several map names), but several major failings holding the author back. First, his design isn't at all comparable to Windsor's in pretty much every category. The levels are too embryonic to compare to Windsor's ability to create a sense of place in his limited real estate and Demonfear was much more engaging in terms of combat. It might not always feel fair, but you can load up any of Windsor's maps and beat them from a pistol start. In POA, that's ice-skating up hill.


At the very least, Prayers of Armageddon lends itself to a very quick playthrough, as the maps are very short, fielding handfuls of enemies. If you prefer room clearing, even stripped down to the bare essentials, you may get some mileage out of it. Otherwise, I can't say I would recommend H3llraich's freshman effort. So many other works both look and play better. Hopefully, if he's continuing on with his mentioned projects, he has a much better sense of gameplay and aesthetics to bring to the drawing board.



PRAYERS OF ARMAGEDDON
by "H3llraich"

Central FacilityMAP01
Bland, silver tunnels providing some up close and personal gameplay. A small amount of backtracking with the keys, but opening and closing all the doors gets old quick. The finale is decent enough, unloading all your rockets into a room crowded with hell knights and a baron.

MAP02Easy Way Out
Another level of 90 degree silver tunnels, but even shorter. You might get some amusement out of punching a revenant to death.

The SpeedrunMAP03
A little wooden coffin. You're immediately gifted a plasma rifle and SSG which you use to mow down the cages before tackling the exit guardians, two revenants and two demons. It's over before you know it.

MAP04Necropolis
Small wooden compound that shows some improvement. The columned room with the arch-vile is slightly refreshing, along with the imp compartment in the mancubus room. There's a dirty slow crusher trap, though.

The ContaminationMAP05
More silver tunnels mixed with some wooden tunnels and a semi-hidden exit in the skull room. Nothing thrilling combat-wise. The nukage tunnels constitute the most adventurous section of the level.

MAP06Dark Town
Errr, a short outdoor section with two sheds (the “town”) and three tunnels leading to the successive key encounters. Pumping rockets into a crowd of barons is kind of cathartic but there's nothing exciting except for maybe the brick shed trap, a lone commando. A little lighting could take this level a long way.

The Lesser TempleMAP07
Starts out with a beginning that looks a lot like Dead Simple but quickly diverges into more cramped corridors. Not much to say; the baron pillars near the start are a nice detail, but the best room by far is the Cyberdemon showdown, simple yet effective.

MAP08Nuclear Refinery
H3llraich dumps cramped silver corridors for cramped concrete. Some more imaginative bits here, like the hell knight shooting gallery or the drop from high ground to low when grabbing the rad suit, and I guess there's a decent bit of resistance in the penultimate room.

ObservationMAP09
Pretty ugly mostly brick level (brown, grey, whatever). The cramped arachnotron at the beginning is no worry; the pair of spectres with the baron poses perhaps the largest threat. Nothing interesting, though there's a little marble staircase near the end.

MAP10Terror Dungeon
The most interesting level so far! Because it's Hellish, irregular caverns. The hallways are still cramped but curved lines go a long way toward making these little maps more palatable. Some interesting fights, too, like the opening where lost souls boil out from between two pillared hell knights. Not so much the arch-vile.

CastleMAP11
Very short beige-brick "castle". The main courtyard shows some experimentation with the support pillar and varied heights, though the action is par for the course. That little corridor to the blue key is incredibly pointless.

MAP12Libraries
Wolfenstein-like mazes rendered in some of Doom II's indoor textures. Thankfully the bookshelf textures aren't plastered everywhere, but the gameplay suffers all the same. Grab the early berserk pack and start punching monsters if you want to have some decent fun.

Toxic CliffsMAP13
Some decent eyecandy here in the toxic cavern to the northeast and I guess the "cliffs" themselves. The opening zombie pack is a laugh, but the eastern cave is not so much. There's a Spiderdemon at the end of the map, but with the invul sphere and cover, why bother?

MAP14Confrontation
Another beige-brick map that at the very least has an eye-catching centerpiece with the gazebo in the middle room. Combat is okay, there are some teleporting tricks in the bridge room, but H3llraich hasn't figured out how to wake up monsters that can't "see" the player yet (or cover up the holes of their closets).

Infested HallsMAP15
Short wooden dungeon without much going for it. Mostly rectangular rooms and halls with a few points of intrigue, like the column / secret room or the blood in the final area. I guess the end surprise could be interesting.

MAP31Some Secret Map
A mazey, Wolf-3D inspired map that is about as interesting as can be expected. You'll tear through the SS troopers in no time flat, which is good, because the sooner you're out of this squareish level, the better. Interesting oddity: the forked teleporter secret.

ChallengingMAP32
Can you really call a level "Challenging" and then fork over a BFG and four invul artifacts? Maybe if speedrunning is your ultimate goal. Basically your movement opens up new layers of the square "maze", the third being a pair of Cybers. The first is probably the most tricky, but you should be able to "blaze" through it.

MAP16Hell's Crossing
Straightforward marble gauntlet-style map. Each room is actually slightly interesting and the two switches to raise the main bridge could be a cool design touch if there wasn't a single imp guarding them, and they weren't in adjacent rooms.

Rooms of AgonyMAP17
Another bilaterally symmetric and bland gauntlet with demons inexplicably hidden in tunnels toward the beginning. Monster fights are straightforward and shouldn't give you any trouble if you've been playing straight through as recommended. I think the cross walls in the final area are a nice touch, though.

MAP18The Maze
Cramped, short door / switch maze with a bout of pointless backtracking. The blue key ambush was a decent moment.

The CityMAP19
A more open map, for a change of pace. The enemies are located on platforms that give it its "city" look, though the aerial monsters are caged so that they can't roam. The different look is nice, and the final encounter, between two arch-viles and a narrow crossroads, is a little ingenious.

MAP20The Black Passage
Slightly larger marble and wood stuff with a swastika-shaped maze in the northwest portion. The section with blood cisterns to the east is perhaps the most interesting, from a visual standpoint. None of the fights are all that memorable, though some arch-viles and revenants make the usually rote combat a few thrills.

CagedMAP21
Cages feature in this turkey shoot rendered in beige brick and red stone. The yellow key trap is a nice scare, but the rest is sub-par fighting. Interestingly, you only need the yellow key to reach the exit, due to the arrangement of the bars.

MAP22Sacrificial Temple
Little marble temple with a few landmarks, like the blood chasm (you'll leave via a large, winding staircase) and a nice, if square, room with two staircases just west of the atrium. The armaments afforded to you before the final battle comically outweigh the danger that follows.

RetributionMAP23
Beige stone / green tile whose only surprising features are two traps that arrest progression, not a terrible problem in a map this size. If you rush the yellow key too fast, you'll get caged, unable to escape. If you hit the wrong switch in the commando alcove, you'll seal the blue door, which can't be re-opened. There's a possibility of some good gunplay in the latter portion of the level.

MAP24Blinded
The most interesting bit here is the yellow door wing, which has an elevated walkway full of monsters you'll have to punch through. Still pretty trivial. The walkway's also about the nicest bit of architecture you'll find.

ClaustrophobiaMAP25
Beige brick fortress whose highlights include firing a BFG into a pit of four Cyberdemons and two side-halls packed tight with hell knights, ready to be slaughtered. The only bout of claustrophobia you're likely to encounter is its KDITD-style exit.

MAP26Bloody Mess
Cavern section with a little dark metal annex. Stuff like the wide open central chamber is boring; the bloody cave to the east is a nice change, though, and if H3llraich put in more stuff like that metal shield protecting the yellow key switch – which I thought was an unusual wall detail at first – these maps wouldn't be nearly as stifling. The exit room, with the crystal sector bridge, looks halfway decent.

The Greater TempleMAP27
Short marble temple with some of the most interesting architecture to date, mainly thinking of the blood crossroads room and the opening fall with the dual staircases. Still, nothing here to get excited about, unless that cacodemon at the beginning surprises you.

MAP28Baron-O-Lence
To his credit, H3llraich comes up with something challenging, albeit by using a network of teleporters to blink around six barons between six different boring, beige tunnels. If you don't want to chase them down, though, you can just walk past when the herd thins out, and the entrance door will seal behind you. Then it's just a key hunt in the plain, orthogonal corridors.

Perfection of MayhemMAP29
H3llraich tries a slaughtermap, but he doesn't have the chops. The two Cyberdemons posted in the corners would be great for infighting, but you can't really wake them up if you run past the monsters at the opening. The pain elementals are about the only real pressure put on the player, unless you're incapable of duking it out with two Cybers with an invul sphere.

MAP30The Keep
Uh, it's an IOS map without any preceding monsters, and if you run over to the left switch and then sprint on to the platform as it rises, you're right in position to kill the boss straightaway. If you don't take that shortcut, the actual switch sequence isn't much harder. I must admit, it has some of the best detailing of the mapset in that approach to the icon portal.

Body DisposalMAP33
This is a hidden map you have to access via IDCLEV et al. It's a bunch of square, marble rooms linked together by lowering walls activated by the use key or walkover triggers. It's a maze-like layout, but progression is strictly controlled, so it's hard to get lost, especially when all the wall openings are clearly marked on the automap. Combat is uninspiring, though a pain elemental might give you pause.

ARMAGEDDONIT

4 comments:

  1. I was just randomly Googling Prayers of Armageddon (I'm the creator). I'm genuinely surprised I came across a proper review.

    Honestly, now that I look back at it four years later, I wish I'd at least improved the maps greatly before releasing it. Or deciding not to make it a megawad right away might have been a better idea. Hell, it was my first ever shot at making a serious wad. I do understand POA became somewhat notorious for its horrible design, am I correct?

    I'm actually thinking of completely recreating the wad. And it wouldn't only be the same maps with thousands of overhauls, but completely new maps from scratch. I'm working on two more new wads at the time, though, so it may be a while before that starts happening.

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    1. If it's notable for anything, it's for being somewhat hard to find. I don't think many people knew it as anything but a megaWAD that someone had put on doomwiki's Notable WADs list, at least until I put up this review. Seeing what you'd do now would be interesting as a sort of before and after, especially when compared to the original set.

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    2. Yeah, I didn't really have the file up on any other site after it eventually got removed from Sendspace somewhere around late 2011, I think. Recently, though, I made a new revision of it (mainly deleting all of the Doom 2 IWAD stuff) and uploaded it to Dropbox. If anybody is still interested in seeing the monstrosity, I'll be happy to give them the link. :P

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    3. As long as it's been stripped of IWAD resources and you're okay with getting slagged, you could upload it to /idgames for maximum exposure!

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