Thursday, October 25, 2012


by Malcolm Sailor

Malcolm Sailor's claim to fame is the CHORD series, which consists of small, brutal, but gorgeous levels. Imagine my surprise when I open up CHORD2, the second map in the sequence, and find that it fields not only 150 or so monsters, but is also a very large level to boot. CHORD2 was released in 1997, replaces MAP26 of Doom II, and is something of an enormous castle. Sailor provides no story, nor does it really need one.

Unlike the other installments that I'm familiar with, CHORD2 has a very definite motif: teleporting monsters. I'm not talking about ambushes, but enemies that blink back and forth in a disorienting fashion, making them hard to hit. Given Sailor's unabashed love of Sverre Kvernmo and the Cabal series, I assume this particular trait was adopted from Kvernmo's Black Tower, specifically the batshit insane fifth floor. Sailor doesn't overuse the gimmick, but you'll definitely recognize it the three or so times it crops up, most memorably the northern hallway of the blue key door section, where a pack of barons makes things very dangerous.

The rest is classic Sailor. You'll almost certainly do some berserk punching as you scramble around to get ahead of the ammunition curve. Any weapon worth having must be paid for in blood, of course. While a lot of the fights are stiff but fair, there's one I have a little trouble with, that being the yellow key fight. Initially, it's nothing to worry about, but when you step up on the platform an arch-vile guardian warps in to join the revenants bound to the pedestal. If you're anything like me, you used the rockets to take out the skeletons in the parapets of the castle's outer yard, so performing hit and run attacks to remove the arch-vile is a slow affair.

CHORD2, as is typical of Malcolm's work, looks gorgeous. There is a lot of light and darkness that is both scintillating to look at and frustrating to shoot through. At least he hasn't tethered his monsters to the dark sectors this time around... I never really considered Sailor would create a larger outdoor area like the castle exterior, but he does, and it looks nice, though it's a bit boring. The central section running north to south is by far the most attractive section of the map, from the castle study to the foyer. I also like the teleporter-pod type thing that serves as the level exit (and has a neat little callback for the finale).

If you like great looking levels with excellent gameplay, you should play CHORD2. Experts can knock around in UV while others can dial it down to enjoy something a little more manageable. It's certainly nice to see Sailor tackle a level with a bit more length to it. His followup, CHORD_NG, contrasts to the point of being claustrophobic in nearly every sense, so enjoy your breathing space when he deigns to give it to you.


This post is part of a series on
Malcolm Sailor's CHORD series


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