Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Masters of Chaos (MOC11.WAD)


Hailing from Poland, Caleb260 and Doom_Warrior dumped Masters of Chaos on the unsuspecting populace back in May 2012. It's an unusual beast, a Heretic megaWAD for ZDoom totaling thirty-one levels. That's two episodes of ten maps and one of eleven, in case you were wondering. Masters of Chaos takes place five years after Corvus got home, whenever that happened. Apparently there was a fourth Serpent Rider waiting in the wings, "Mighty Voltrog". Well, he was originally part of the band, but the gigs got to his head and he went solo, and now he's using things called chaos crystals (not to be confused with emeralds) to drain the life from the worlds he conquers. It's up to you, of course, to put this pretender down and save the universe.


Masters of Chaos isn't Heretic straight up. The dynamic duo cribbed monsters and textures from Hexen and a bunch of other stuff from the Realm667 repository for weapons and even more, advanced monsters. All the Hexen dudes fit wherever they're used (chaos serpent, dark bishop, wendigo, reiver). Of the other guys, I like the Mace of Hammerth, butcher, knight archer, that black weredragon thing, and the vampire when it's used correctly. The nightmare is a horrible enemy that will ruin your day if you don't have gauntlets, and if you do, you'll just be parked in a safe spot waiting for them to run into your attack. The invisible warrior is just awkward and never feels like an asset to the bestiary and I can't really comment on the bosses except that the sentinel is so annoying the first time you fight him that you'll still fast-forward when you see him again in E3M10. I also dislike the roaches, but I think that has more to do with how they're used.


As for the new weapons... It's hard for the six new death delivery systems to make their own niches. Their most unique attributes are their tomed attacks, but all of these weapons do good by having much less obnoxious hit graphics than the original lineup. The skull staff is a nice alternative to have, occupying slot 8. I don't like the frozen wand, which sucks because it becomes the default weapon for slot 4. Freezing is an okay gimmick but the projectiles don't compete with the dragon claw's instant delivery when chasing down airborne monsters. The emerald wand (slot 3) is pretty cool, with arcing ripper projectiles, and its tomed mode is a beastly rapid-fire SSG. The ember wand (slot 2) I didn't play around with much. It feels kind of like a projectile shotgun, and it's a decent alternative weapon when you start running low on ammo, but the other weapons are more useful. The blood staff pretty much takes over the hellstaff's job by doing more damage per shot and not blocking your view so you can dodge return fire.


MoC is more than its gameplay additions, though. Caleb and Doom_Warrior put together a hefty bunch of maps to play through. They work pretty well as a series but aren't balanced for playing from scratch (at least in skill 4) unless you love playing a survival-style nightmare. Just play sequentially and enjoy your carryovers – you'll need them. The levels start out kind of small but eventually turn into half-hour or more marathons with tons of opposition. The level progression you see will probably wear down all but the hardiest of switch-hunt faithfuls, with instances of dead-end backtracking all the way to the end and plenty of obscure buttons required for progression. Not secret – just tough to find.


It's good, then, that they have tons of nice architecture and some pretty cool ideas knocking around. The quality of the maps slowly improves as the levels progress, with episode three having some of the niftiest map designs, regardless of combat deficiencies. Don't be put off by the fairly beginnerish first episode. The caveat to this is that the deeper you journey toward Voltrogdor, the more Realm667 enemies you'll see. Like I said, some are okay, while the others are usually total pains who can hand you your chronically unarmored ass. Probably the most dangerous are regular ghost monsters, used quite a bit and in horrible low-light or foggy areas. Ghosts in the fog are practically invisible. And yeah, you'll be doing a lot of fighting in the dark.


Most of the locales you'll journey through on your way to the big bad should look familiar. A lot of E1 city stuff and fiend-inhabited fortresses / cathedrals. It does have one particular theme that's my favorite out of the bunch. The forest levels are probably the most consistent out of the lineup and I like the aesthetic, my favorite probably being the Dead Marshes (E3M2). On the other end of the spectrum, E2M3 is a very visionary level, which takes a lot of risks with portraying Corvus's nightmare through gameplay, but the abundance of real nightmare enemies coupled with the layout make the title unfortunately apt.


Heretic fans should definitely check out Masters of Chaos. You don't get Heretic levels often, but they're usually from guys who love the game, like I'm sure Caleb and Doom_Warrior do. Skeptics should probably sit this one out. The rookie quirks will drag the perceived quality of the mapset down and outside of the forest levels there isn't anything mind-blowing to write home about. Still, I'm pretty happy to have played this set, bullshit DECORATE monsters be damned. If you play but one episode, make it the third, "Shadowlands". It's good stuff.

P.S. There might be another update on the way. The authors have an unused secret level exit and I thought I heard mention of brand new intermission graphics, which would be a welcome touch. Looking forward to the missing link!



MASTERS OF CHAOS
by "Caleb260" and "Doom_Warrior"


EPISODE ONE:
THE DARK TOWER

Abandoned WarehouseE1M1
by "Caleb260"
Short and simple "Docks"-style level that's actually more "Containment Area" than H1M1. Caleb doesn't explicitly require jumping and crouching but he at least introduces them here for that shield / gauntlet secret and getting back onto the pier if you jump in. It's pretty boring action, using wand only, but the worst monsters you'll fight are nitrogolems so it's not so bad. No real standout encounter, maybe fighting ghost golems in that overlook room that teleports to the shadowsphere.

E1M2Town of Akanoss
by "Caleb260"
A larger, E1-style town level that opens with a hedge maze before moving on to a more traditional (and open) area. Ammo feels a little tight; I'm not sure whether that's due to the overwhelming presence of ethereal enemies, reducing crossbow effectiveness. This tends to drag the pace down as you spend a lot of time using the wand, though there are some great opportunities for time bombs. Most of the fights are pretty tame with a few golem squads released onto the ground floor as time goes on. The encounter that stands out in my mind is a sabreclaw ambush you might want to save your tome for.

Underground PassageE1M3
by "Caleb260"
"Underground Passage" being code for a sewer level, of course. I kid; it's not the most exciting map but Caleb seems to be hitting his stride in terms of ammo balance, as long as you go directly to the crossbow (one of several possible paths). The orthogonal aqueducts to the southwest look fairly bland in comparison to the irregular tunnels that lead from there to the nest of staircases, but there are some neat lighting effects. Things I don't like...fighting monsters (especially ghosts) in pitch black, which happens mainly in the western area. Also a bit of switch hunt-induced boredom.

E1M4Ruins of the Shadowkeep
by "Caleb260"
Starts out in a wooded cloister and quickly moves into the Shadowkeep. This temple level debuts one of the new enemies, an old friend from Hexen – the chaos serpent. Most of the difficulty comes from starting from wand; I would ignore the enemies in the opening yard as you'll come back to them at the end and save your goodies so that you have enough scratch to make it to the dragon claw. The Hellstaff is another must, found in a not so secret alcove housing the alternate exit. My most memorable fight came from teleporting into the serpent cage, which I wasn't expecting, but that invul ring helped me set things straight.

BleedingE1M9
by "Doom_Warrior"
A very frustrating city-style level. I abandoned the survival-style gameplay at this point which merely took the edge off the fights. Doom_Warrior has some cool features. At one point, the main courtyard floods with toxic sludge, requiring you to bypass crossing it as much as possible. However, there are two items you will almost certainly want to save for critical junctures or suffer immeasurably. The invulnerability ring should be used in the lava cavern that houses the green key as combat inside borders on unfair (not to mention the damage floor). The torch makes the final approach bearable as you otherwise combat undead warrior ghosts in pitch black (ugh) or worse yet fall prey to a deadly pit trap in the exit cavern. I'll take spectres in the dark over ghosts any day.

E1M5Forest of Silence
by "Caleb260"
Pretty cool level set in a dense forest. Caleb does a good job with what he has, and both player and enemies benefit from the tree trunks that join the canopy to the floor, reminding me somewhat of Shadow Warrior's MAP04. There are a few ruined buildings to explore, the southernmost one being my favorite, with some good pressuring ambushes. Also a few neat secrets, like the chain in the northeastern area that takes you through the disciple balcony and to the invulnerability ring. A good take on a non-traditional layout.

Frozen WastelandE1M6
by "Caleb260"
Hedge mazes (well, not exactly) under a blanket of snow. There's not a lot to see in the outdoor areas. The fog effect is one of the nastiest elements of the level, making ghost monsters practically invisible and obscuring monsters at a distance. It's actually pretty small but the monster content plus backtracking makes it feel long. The monster fights aren't that rough with the exception of the Ettin recolor, a super deadly miniboss, and the large, southeastern area which is brimming with wendigos and nitrogolems. Throw in a slippery ice floor and you've got quite a challenge. What I really dislike apart from the fog is how sparse ammo is...

E1M7Chapel of the Fallen Moon
by "Doom_Warrior"
Pretty cool penultimate level from Doom_Warrior that features some cool-looking rooms with a prominent crescent moon motif, some more forestry (reminiscent of E1M5), and a large cathedral that goes spooky evil with little prompting. Monsters tend to come at you in hordes, though never via direct teleport. Expect to be boxed in by sabreclaws and other beasties. "Chapel" lacks a lot of the more adventurous features that made "Bleeding" both interesting and annoying, but has plenty of unique locales (and ambiance) to make up for it, being an overall more polished level.

BorderlandsE1M10
by "Caleb260"
A very large smorgasbord type level that uses the full palette of monsters and weapons encountered thus far with the addition of the skull staff. Its complex layout and eye-fetching architecture comes at a price – oftentimes, "Borderlands" devolves into switch hunts, after which you have to wander around the place trying to figure out what the button did. In a few instances Caleb is gracious enough to throw a shortcut your way but that's the exception. The other thing bound to turn some players off are the death traps, mainly that long crushing hallway with the cutouts, which are really too small to reliably squeeze into. It's very fun, though, when you're not feeling lost.

E1M8The Dark Tower
by "Caleb260"
Caleb finishes the set off with a large, multiple-floored tower, accomplished via silent teleports and conservatively long staircases. While the texturing is a bit off (if consistently haphazard) it's a pretty good adventure with tons of monsters to smash. Most of the memorable fights are against comparative armies with the trickiest of course involving disciples. The super-powered ettin makes another appearance, but the major focus is on the final boss, the Sentinel, an iron lich recolor whose worst attack spawns two guardian cubes which have a not trivial amount of HP and do a ton of damage, dangerous when they tend to hide behind lich corpses. It's a pretty nasty finale; hope you have some ammo saved!


EPISDODE TWO:
HELLBOUND

Beyond the GateE2M1
by "Doom_Warrior"
Decent wilderness / keep level that starts out with a weredragon / gargoyle shootout. DW does a good job making the different sides of the symmetric layout different. What I don't appreciate are those pits that open up after crossing through the gate, which are inescapable and will probably result in a cheap death. After that it's the approach to the keep, which has a lot of great opportunities for time bomb use that will leave you feeling quite clever (so many exploded golems...). Lastly, I liked the raided treasure-room, which could have used some more levels to the piles.

E2M2Forgotten Graveyard
by "Caleb260"
Brings to mind the earlier "Frozen Wasteland" with the fog effect (and ghost monsters just as obscured) but it's a different locale, using wooded and city textures to create an isolated graveyard. It's also a switch hunt, which may lead less apt players to some confusion. E2M2 introduces two more Hexen holdovers, dark bishops and reivers. The latter feel fragile but incredibly dangerous with their fast, exploding fireballs, and ducking among the tombstones makes them party to the map's more challenging encounters. There are a few traps, but nothing instant death dangerous. You'll spend most of the opening in the level's main area, clearing monsters off the ground floor.

NightmaresE2M3
by "Caleb260"
An unusual level for this set, providing a more cinematic / puzzle-based experience as you encounter a variety of unusual scenarios that look like they want to induce an atmosphere of fear and paranoia, which they largely do, if only through the use of an incredibly annoying wisp of a monster, the nightmare. After the initial shock wears off you'll sigh as you creep around the enormous hedge maze in which it debuts, waiting to bump into it. There's a pitch black section, navigated by candles, that will piss off some as you eat melee attacks while fumbling in the dark. On the plus side, the maulotaur and iron lich fights are pretty entertaining.

E2M4Going Down
by "Caleb260"
Caleb brings out a fortress set into the side of a canyon (the "badlands") which debuts what may be to some a familiar face, the knight archer from Hexen II. It's a welcome introduction and not used too annoyingly, with super-fast projectiles. The monsters and health are at a manageable level and there's a lot of running back and forth between the various sections of the fortress with several anonymously triggered doors. I'm not sure that any of the fights stand out among the others except perhaps the one with the iron lich (or the trap between some chaos serpents and ophidians, which is more annoying than anything due to the darkness).

BadlandsE2M5
by "Doom_Warrior"
A very frustrating city-style level. I abandoned the survival-style gameplay at this point which merely took the edge off the fights. Doom_Warrior has some cool features. At one point, the main courtyard floods with toxic sludge, requiring you to bypass crossing it as much as possible. However, there are two items you will almost certainly want to save for critical junctures or suffer immeasurably. The invulnerability ring should be used in the lava cavern that houses the green key as combat inside borders on unfair (not to mention the damage floor). The torch makes the final approach bearable as you otherwise combat undead warrior ghosts in pitch black (ugh) or worse yet fall prey to a deadly pit trap in the exit cavern. I'll take spectres in the dark over ghosts any day.

E2M9Charnel House
by "Doom_Warrior"
The eponymous charnel house is the level's main feature, with a short outside segment that leads to the actual end once you've conquered the indoors. The merciful map length is tempered by some bits I've grown to hate, namely the nightmares and the inclusion of ghost monsters in heavy fog. The enemies aren't otherwise that dangerous if you find a few of the secrets, like the incredibly useful health alcove. The emerald wand shows up, too, and it's a very nice bump up from the crossbow. Standout encounter, probably the reivers that silently appear in the underground graveyard you teleport to (though the crushing ceiling room is a nice trap).

AbyssE2M6
by "Doom_Warrior"
This is a mostly not annoying "Living End"-esque map that takes place in an infernal pit. All of the pain of this map comes from rudimentary platforming, whether the pillars are stable or collapsing (or the floor gives way underneath you). When you're not wallowing in lava, though, it's a fun, monster-heavy romp that doesn't skimp on the ammo once it starts. Things are a little dark, but there are no less than three torches to play with, two of which you'll probably want to save for the cavern network to the east. The visuals are pretty good, if nothing else. Standout encounter, arriving at the end of that lava chute only to find a bunch of heavies with a super-ettin mixed in. Pretty intense for a moment or to there!

E2M10The Fountain of Youth
by "Caleb260" and "Doom_Warrior"
The combined talents of both authors gives us a very large, understandably water-based map with tons of new stuff. I see no less than four new enemies and the debut of the ember wand (which isn't that great in vanilla mode) and the cool if not exactly distinguished blood scepter. I like the layout. You move from section to section, exploring the level's annexes until you gain access to the next major area. It's a great play with a lot of nasty fights to plow through, with the sequence of brawls past the blue key door being my favorite. Cool stuff, even if the ember wand is kind of lame.

The Black GateE2M7
by "Caleb260"
Caleb busts out a pretty strong outing with shades of Heretic's E1, echoed in that opening courtyard, though the archers and copious Hexen monsters give it quite a different feel. There are some nice interior bits, like the dark and dusty library or the several cathedrals, which I guess makes the western wing the most memorable of the three. Monster placement is quite manageable though you'll want to toss your tomes around to make the several ettins and maulotaur go by faster (and keep an eye out for the ten secrets hidden about). My favorite fight was the final teleporter battle prior to exiting the level, a nice run around the fountain.

E2M8Courtyard of Destiny
by "Doom_Warrior"
It's basically a snaking lead-up through some cool structures to the boss arena fight. Nothing you haven't seen in the rest of the episode, but the courtyard that turns into a series of molten fissures makes for a very tough fight considering all the heavy hitters (at least four maulotaurs and a handful of those super-ettins). You should probably save that chaos device to duck out of the circle when things get too dicey. Just don't get stuck in the arena at the beginning.


EPISODE THREE:
SHADOWLANDS

BormothE3M1
by "Caleb260"
Well, Caleb has certainly improved since E1M1's "Abandoned Warehouse". "Bormoth" is a massive city level in the style of E1, featuring a dense network of buildings you'll be hard-pressed to navigate while dodging fire from on high by enemies, most notably the dastardly knight archers. It's an impressive journey where you're always checking over your shoulder and bound to get a little confused (if not greatly). The layout means most of the fighting is incidental, but a lot of monsters show up, with the most dangerous probably being either archer snipers or those roaches given your limited armaments. Cool stuff!

E3M2The Dead Marshes
by "Doom_Warrior"
Here's another attempt at the wooded level, this one oddly succeeding through its use of thin-trunked trees which blend together to make the world outside the playing area look like a vast, creepy marsh. Thankfully ghost monsters aren't heavily abused in the fog and the wandering gargoyles will have you on your toes rather than risk some damage due to foolishness. Like E3M1, it's a big map with a ton of enemies, but most of the bad stuff is reserved for packs that trigger when you hit certain points. Progression might seem obscure at times; one thing that got me was raising the staircase in the northern building, which may require lowering both gates into the area that contains it. Very neat!

Cargo ShaftE3M3
by "Caleb260" and "Doom_Warrior"
After emerging from the marshes you stow away on a cargo ship run by the usual crew of mythical monsters. While the ship's layout and most of the fights manage to execute claustrophobic Heretic play well, there are some major missteps. First: what the fuck is up with the invisible warrior? That's the last enemy I want to see, let alone in the cramped ship's decks. The roaches manage to be more annoying, though, due to the low light levels of the ship's bottom area, and they're not the only monster that will sneak up on you. The other victim is puzzle play, which because of to the ship's three-dimensional layout turns into eye-rolling cause and effect hunts.

E3M4The Great Library
by "Doom_Warrior"
Warrior nails the aspects of the library. It's huge, has a nice leadup and outtro with the exterior areas, and is CRAWLING with tough hordes that are fun to fight. But the opening has you carefully crawling through the forest, on the lookout for nightmares, in addition to the more annoying new enemies like the vampires and invisible warriors. It's also a bit of a switch hunt. Buttons don't dominate the level but if you find yourself stuck, you should take a look at the automap for any telltale recesses. With all the bullshit flying around, the library could really use some more health, not that it matters when some of the enemies tend to kill you outright.

Cold as IceE3M11
by "Caleb260"
This is a pretty tolerable if somewhat mazey network of frozen tunnels with an ice-locked sewer at its lowest point. Caleb has a lot of cool scripting to create unique set pieces, like the chamber to the northeast whose floor collapses, leaving only an elevated square border for you to walk around. It's also sparing in its use of nasty enemies, as long as you don't find the ever-present wendigos annoying. Virtually every weapon in the game features here, in case you happened to miss them in the previous four levels. The only thing I don't like is the amount of dead-end backtracking to one of the many gated-off portions of the map. Still, a fun outing.

E3M5Bright Sanctuary
by "Doom_Warrior" and "Caleb260"
A mix of fiery badlands and more traditional block building complete with a crate maze. It's pretty good at keeping you moving with all the knight archer snipers and is pretty trappy with all the monster closets. I have one bad thing to say – forcing the player to hop over that lava flow several times is a pretty bullshit move. Other than that, it's a welcome departure from some of the crazier maps in the past, with a lot of eye candy and vertical movement that leaves the player feeling overwhelmed but not unrecoverable. Some of the switch play is bound to leave others in the dust.

Bright SanctuaryE3M6
by "Caleb260"
This is a massive cathedral style level laden with secrets and crawling with enemies – 363, to be exact. It's got some of the best gameplay in the set so far, giving the nastiest monsters brief cameos and eschewing some altogether. The sanctuary has a labyrinthine layout to begin with but as you explore you'll see passages open up everywhere, facilitating free flow from area to area. The visuals are rather fetching, from the enormous indoor pool to the rows of pews and an unfortunately unused secret exit that nonetheless has a ton of ammo and supplies for you. Very good stuff!

E3M7Altar of Pain
by "Caleb260"
Another outdoorsy E1-style level. Not much to say; it plays very well and has a ton of monsters to mow down, while being pretty frugal with ammo, so be conservative in kind. Some cool bits like that tiered crypt down by the river and the courtyards are altogether clean. You will have to dodge a bit of opposing fire from the enemies up in the peanut gallery until you get enough head to tear them down. I was kind of expecting the altar to figure more heavily into the map, but so it goes. Glad the excellent map vibe continue on.

The ResidenceE3M8
by "Caleb260"
The first half of this map is a pretty cool romp through an outdoor area including a dense forest, some kind of guard building, an unattached library / study, and a courtyard with some little hedge mazes. Afterward it's on to exploring a bunch of rectangles in the residence itself, which isn't very interesting, especially considering some of the rooms are just full of nightmares (just park in the doorway with your gauntlets out). All the heavy hitters in the upper area means you'll be struggling to keep your ammo stores up, especially with jokers like the butchers coming in squads of three. It's not unplayable, just very bland in spite of all the paintings. Standout encounter, the northwestern room's traps (especially the round of bishops).

E3M9City of the Lost Hope
by "Caleb260"
Here's another massive city level from Caleb, this one featuring tons of buildings to scour, which surround a number of large yards where you'll be fired upon. You're pretty well set for ammo, especially if you find its many secrets stashed around. Some annoying stuff... The city is surrounded by an ocean, around which are some docks. This isn't bothersome on its own but at some point you'll have to dead-end backtrack all the way to the northeast tower. As if that isn't enough, there are two vampires at the top of a staircase, so I hope you're packing an invul ring. The grated ledges are also impassable, which makes backtracking through the level that much more tedious. Still, tons of health and armor makes this one of the most palatable offerings.

Fortress of FearE3M10
by "Caleb260"
Kind of an E1M8 reloaded, with way more monsters and some nice tricks like silent teleporters for that grand spiral staircase to the second level. For the monster count, it's actually a shorter map than the ones preceding it, due to the fact that Caleb is throwing larger masses at you which makes the fights more interesting. One battle has you hunkered down in a little room while a teething swarm of jerks teleport outside, trying to bash your face in. I'm not fond of the two platforming bits that pop up – less the second with the 5 x 5 grid of pillars – but the architecture is very sharp and makes slaying go by that much easier. The final battle is pretty laughable when you let infighting sort most of it out. Just make sure you dodge those homing fireballs from the super-ettin. The final boss isn't that threatening compared to some of the past jokers but he's pretty fun to fight and his attacks look cool. A nice finale.

I PUT A HEX ON YOU


This post is part of a series on
Doomworld's 2012 Cacowards

The Top TenBest MultiplayerRunners Up
Doom the Way id DidWhoDunIt?Beyond Reality
Strife: Absolute OrderBest Gameplay ModMasters of Chaos
PutrefierRussian OverkillFrozen Time
5till L1 ComplexMordeth AwardPlanisphere 2
Community Chest 4Community Chest 4Coffee Break Ep. 1
ReelismMockaward
The EyeCall of Dooty II
Combat Shock 2Mapper of the Year
Winter's FuryKhorus
Base Ganymede: Complete

4 comments:

  1. This is an excellent Heretic MegaWAD!! I hope Caleb260 and Doom_Warrior make another in the future. Only time will tell. And I will be waiting... rum 'n coke in hand.

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    Replies
    1. back when it first came out they swore they were adding a few more levels, which you can kind of see with a dummy secret exit. i wouldn't mind another entire mapset tho

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  2. Finished it in difficult 4/5 with 1 life, very nice (and hard) wad, always very cool to have some wads who add a little few things like new weapons or new ennemies (but not a lot), this one was pretty clean, i was stuck in some maps (e2m4 and e3m4) cause it was very hard but with time, you can finish it, very stressing and well made maps!
    Hope more too in the future! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. there WILL be more! i despair of reviewing it though since i might have to replay the whole darn thing after it's already been reviewed. i may just deprecate the old review and put a link to it in the new one.

      Delete