YEAR 23 THE BELLY OF THE BEAST
by Eric "The Green Herring" Baker
Year 23 (The Belly of the Beast) is the third map in Eric "The Green Herring" Baker's YEAR series, preceded by Year 21 (The Vanishing Point) and Year 22 (A Rock and a Hard Place). YEAR_23 occupies the MAP03 slot for Doom II and targets Boom-compatible ports, with PrBoom-Plus and Eternity being recommended. The story follows the adventure of a marine who, in Year 21, tracked down an abandoned warp gate facility, only to take an active teleporter to a rugged canyon (Year 22), where you find your way to Hell itself, where 23 begins. Though you're trapped underground, stepping stones emerge from the lava channel, as if beckoning the marine. You're in for one crazy trip.
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.
Christopher Lutz, one of the patron saints of Heretic, published Reclamation back in 2001, though it bears a 1999 time-stamp. It's a nicely sized adventure for Corvus, clocking in at ~200 beasties, replacing E2M1. It's not nearly as crazy as his more recent (2011) Icebound, instead feeling comfortably close to vanilla Heretic, both in special effects and difficulty. The plot is pretty simple. Evil has inhabited an ancient sanctuary, so you've set out to slay them and reclaim the cathedral. The journey covers a variety of gorgeous locales, including dripping caverns, subterranean ruins, and an island in a lake of fire.
Da Will is a 2009 release of Russian mapping team Clan [B0S], a ten-map episode for The Plutonia Experiment (Doom II) meant to be played in limit-removing source ports. Clan [B0S] has gone on to make more ambitious releases; Da Will should be a comparably comfortable mapset, especially for players more at home with traditional Doom II action (namely Plutonia). The plot takes the player through Central American jungles in search of the mysterious Object "33", continuing on from Lainos's Object "32". I think I've finally come to understand what the Objects are (though I'm probably wrong) – they're foreboding ruins which the UAC has foolishly constructed bases nearby. The installation by Object "33" has ceased communications, and you've been tasked with locating the ruins and finding out what went wrong.
Object "32" is a single map for Doom II to be played in Boom-compatible ports, authored by Lainos. It's also a large level, clocking in at around 400 monsters in this dense, dark techbase, which will quickly inflate as you take down the various pain elementals Lainos has seeded around the map. Object "32" was originally created to be part of a Russian project, Grid 32. He elected to release the final product on his own, however. The single release is the start of a trilogy of maps, followed by Object "33" (the final level of Da Will) and ending in Object "34": Sonar. His throwaway story here developed into a loose setting for the rest. Object #32 is important and headquarters lost contact with it, so you're sent to the housing base to find it. Of course, demons abound, so get to killin'.
A.L.T. is the latest release from Clan [B0S], a Russian mapping commune whose previous releases include Da Will and Sacrament. Here they have pooled their considerable talents together to create a full-fledged Doom II megaWAD for Boom-compatible ports, directed by [B0S] veteran Lainos. A.L.T.'s story is pretty simple; you begin as the sole survivor of a plane wreck, finding yourself in a strange world populated by hostile forces that resent your presence. You fight to survive, and to discover the reality of your situation, encountering a variety of worlds during your progress. The ankh is a prominent motif you'll see throughout the mapset, a nice choice of foreshadowing.
TOT Comics Doom is a six-map Doom II callback to those early days of wide-eyed innocence in '94, when authors mixed traditional Doom gameplay with an occasional joke. Today, we call this kind of work a jokewad, which has become a bit of a dirty word in the Doom community. Recent jokeWADs tend to be practical jokes on the community or a barely-coherent hodgepodge of memes few people care about. The joke is, the WAD blows! Are your sides splitting from barely contained laughter? I prefer a jokeWAD of a different make and model, more like Duke Nukem 3D. There's actual gameplay to be had, and every now and then the author tries to get you to crack a smile. This type of level, first exhibited by Yak World or Shrine of the Warriors, is still alive and kicking. Mandrill Ass Project is on the modern side of things. For vanilla, we have TOT Comics Doom.
If it looks like I've been dragging my feet, it's because I am. Between travel and work and a couple of other things, I haven't had a lot of time for Doom. I'm still soldiering on, though it looks like I may not make my goal of reviewing A.L.T. for Newstuff, depending on how fullmetalvaran22 works through it. It's been very good so far. [B0S] looks like a solid collection of varied mapping talent, kind of like the Russian equivalent of Team TNT, but I can't help but wish Lainos hadn't stopped mapping.