Monday, August 13, 2012

Alternate Doom ][ (ALTD2.WAD)


If Alden Bates is known for anything, it's probably his comparably lackluster contributions to Memento Mori and Memento Mori II (and not his adoration for Dr. Who). While poking around for author links, I stumbled upon one of his few solo releases – an episode for Doom II, titled Alternate Doom ][. It's a series of eleven maps that attempts to tell a different story of how the demon invasion could have gone down. Earth's population escapes as you stroll up to the city, leaving you on the planet to sort out the mess. Somewhere down the road, you discover a rogue asteroid orbiting Earth that turns out to be Deimos; after clearing the colony and contacting the Earth escape fleet beyond Jupiter, you resolve to return and finish the job you started. Except, Bates never came through on episodes two and three, as he was probably slain by a shambler.


I admit; "The Mansion" and "The Experiment" are my two least favorite levels in the Memento Mori series. The action in the former was too lackluster and the latter was just an insane, abstract death trap. ALTD2 finds a comfortable medium. The levels are all short and the action isn't always there, but there are a lot of good fights to be had. Maybe not for veterans, but I had to grit my teeth a few times without feeling like I was being cheesed, in stark contrast to MM2. Bates also subscribes to the more cryptic style of Doom gameplay. Sometimes you'll bump into the exit with a good portion of the map left uncovered, or some complex puzzles, like the exit solution for MAP07, mentioned in the WAD's notes.


Alternate Doom ][ is pretty homely, featuring little in the way of eye candy, but Bates appears to have a better talent in encounter design than I gave him credit for, which at the end of the day is probably the most important aspect of mapmaking. He also has a decent hand at crafting puzzles to waylay the player and there were at least a few effects that got a smile. It's not a bad play. It could be a whole lot better, but if you don't care that your '95 Doom is rough around the edges, then you might give ALTD2 a shot.



ALTERNATE DOOM ][
by Alden Bates

The EntrywayMAP01
Very short. There's the huge black gate, followed by a short, green techbase area. There's some sniping from the windows, but nothing serious. The base itself is pretty unappealing and square, but the imp cave at the end looks pretty nice. It's also the standout fight, where you'll probably run out of shotgun ammo if you weren't able to pick up the level's secrets

MAP02The Mines
Simple but weird level, made of cavern rooms connected by narrow tunnels. Most of the monster population emerges from a teleportation trap on the way to the rocket launcher; the imps are easily gunned down as they arrive. The primary danger comes from the numerous hitscanners, particularly in the opening pit, where you're vulnerable. The standout part of the map is the tower room, which has two cacodemons up in the air to disorient and a weird pain elemental bit. For whatever reason, it seems initially impervious to hitscan attacks until it bounds high into the air. You'll have to do some linedef climbing on two separate occasions, so be on the lookout for stacked staircases.

Residential Area IMAP03
Short and straightforward city ruins / gauntlet...but it plays pretty good! After some boring room clearing you have a great brawl centered around a square of columns and enemies teleporting in from all directions, including a few toughs. The next room isn't quite so bad until you step into the final chamber, unleashing more baddies. You'll want to find the various ammo caches or resign yourself to single-handed combat (with the berserk in one of said stores). I like it, even though the geometry's pretty bland.

MAP04Residential Area II
Short, rectangular beige brick map that's guilty of some dead-end backtracking...I think. It's kind of a pain, though the little bit where Doomguy appears to light the candles in the green marble section is cute. Standout fight is the outdoor area to the north east, which habitual automap deniers may miss entirely until they start wondering where the yellow key is. There's a secret teleporter hub, kind of unnecessary except to show off how well Bates hides the good stuff on the automap.

The Sewage Treatment PlantMAP05
It's what it says, set up in two parts. The first is the sewage pits, which has an odd quirk... The three pits are "crystal" sectors, and the only way to get to the second section (the obligatory sewer tunnels) is by flipping a switch that lowers the invisible floor level, along with an elevator. It plays fine; I'm just not sure what effect Bates intended this to have. The main melee is in the more open segment, a shotgun shootout made a bit easier if you sprint up to admin and grab the SSG. The tunnels are predictable, though the final key fight is pretty devious (unless you snag the BFG secret).

MAP06The UAC Base
Short, brutal techbase. Standout encounter is right at the onset; you begin in an open room where walkways meet at a crossroads in some outdoor nukage. It's filled with a bunch of baddies, mostly hitscanners and a few imps (and a demon). The other big surprises are the blue key trap (certainly going to shock someone with the monster composition) and the blind drop into the exit room, which will probably draw some blood. Plus, it doesn't look half bad, if pretty basic.

The ChasmMAP07
The largest level yet, it's based around a large, granite chasm, with some caverns and dark metal base portions branching off of it. It's got some decent long distance shootouts. I like some of the touches, like the staircase behind the blue key door and the surprise Cyberdemon in the southwest room, where the platform is inundated by demons and imps, making it tough to get off safely. However, I found the exit pillar still upright when I reached it. As it turns out, it's a complex mechanism that involves killing the level's three mancubuses and throwing three different switches, one of them hidden. Even after reading the solution, it still seems a little arcane.

MAP08The Spaceport
This reasonable facsimile of a spaceport can't hold a candle to Roger Ritenour's Phobos, but it's pretty good for what it is – a short shootout with a mess of a fight in baggage claim and then shortly after the inner workings of the baggage carousel. The bathrooms aren't interesting at all (besides housing the SSG) but the watertower cum spacecraft is a nice bit of eye candy.

LandfallMAP09
This is a decent little techbase with a few nasty traps. First, I like the spaceship drop gimmick, and Bates avoids dumping the player into a crate maze and gives a decent shootout to boot. The rest of the level is pretty low-key except for the penultimate room, which has a few tougher beasties in addition to the normals running around. The first wasn't much of a surprise, but the second definitely caught me off guard. The detailing in the main hallway is a good touch.

MAP10Hanger
Another small techbase, this one a bit darker. It has an inauspicious beginning with a tiny maze, but it's short and binary and when you're done you can prance around the top for more goodies. There's a cool bit when you walk through a wall of blood and emerge up into a room with several blood pools. Also a decent fight waiting for you, there. The real standout, though, is the battle on the other side of the Cyberdemon. Yeah, not Cybie himself. It's just a warp in of a bunch of monsters, including a pain elemental (so you know what to focus on).

Circle of DeathMAP11
Another short but pretty cool beige brick map with a large sewer section to the north. It's actually a legit level; like Romero's "Circle", some of the action takes place above toxic pits, with the name derived from the hitscanner crossfire at the opening. Once you get some time to stretch, you've got to get to the end of the sewer drain, which has two different paths. The high road nets some extra fighting and removes having to backtrack, but the low road can get you the SSG before you start really laying into the rest of the enemies, so the choice is yours. Also, very nice use of Doom II's blasted-out city sky on the monitor in the exit switch room. Note the tightrope in the northwest room.

EXTERMINATE

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