Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Crusades (CRUSADES.WAD)


Richard Wiles thought he was done with Doom after releasing Nessy. You can check in any time you like, but you can never leave, and his natural tendencies led to him continuing his abandoned SPOOKY series until he decided to collect the done levels as a set of its own and throw in four more, creating the now-immortal Crusades, an episode 4 replacement for OG Doom. Of course, Wiles thought he was done with Doom then, but we all know the truth, as history proved out. As usual for Wiles, there is no given story to go along with his level set, not that it really matters with an aesthetic theme as strong as this.


The main thing you need to know before you commit to Crusades is that many of these levels are very difficult on pistol start. Imagine the original E4M1, "Hell Beneath", but somewhat longer. Somewhere in the middle the levels are low on health and ammo and loaded with tons of monsters that are difficult to work around, let alone through. It's kind of like Malcolm Sailor levels rendered in an original Doom paradigm. Maybe a little harder with the emphasis on hitscanner monsters... Still, if you can stomach that sort of thing, you'll be well at home with Crusades and its no-nonsense approach to combat.


The other thing about Wiles's Doom masterpiece is that it's stunningly gorgeous. It borrows from the GothicDM (and 2) textures to create a kind of E4 enhanced feel, filled with marble, brown, and blood you'll be wading through in order to get to the exit switch. There's a little...Quake...sojourn at the end of E4M8, in what is a pretty stunning anti-climax, but on the whole it's very neat, and very tight, probably owing to the detailing and being for the OG EXE. Wiles is an excellent user of light and shadow to accentuate his maps. It's not all dark and despair and there are plenty of well-lit areas where you'll be dodging bullets and other things, but indoors his sector lighting rules all.


Crusades is pretty awesome, and well worth a play. Masochists should feel right at home on UV. The primary difference between difficulties seems to be more resources - namely health - so if the thought of hardcore shotgun on baron action turns your stomach, you might want to sit this mapset out. Tourists can just wander around in -nomo and enjoy the stunningly Gothic environments Wiles has crafted for your pleasure. Note that Wiles saw fit to replace some of the standard Doom sounds; I'm not enamored of them, but it hardly ruins the experience.





CRUSADES
AN UNHOLY WAR
by Richard Wiles

The AwakeningE4M1
A nice, short opening level with lots of action for its scant forty monsters. Wiles's blood-soaked marble temple looks gorgeous and he makes good use of the Gothic textures mentioned in the .TXT. The opening hall stand out in particular but it's all good stuff. You'll have to shoot a few barons with the shotgun, a tense moment especially if you start getting hung up on the columns as you back away. The chaingun room is my standout encounter.

E4M2Night-Watch
Very cool lengthy level. All roads lead to the center of the map as the key doors gradually unlock more areas until the entire playing field is open to you. Unlike the more deliberate opening, "Night-Watch" is filled with all kinds of survival horror play as your clumsy missteps away from monsters wake up more things that go bump in the night. You'll mainly want to look out for the many sergeants that populate the level as they're the most immediately dangerous but you're sure to run in to situations where cacos, demons and imps clog up the works and you're frantically fighting for some open space.

Running ScaredE4M9
Wiles's secret level works with low resources to keep the player perpetually wary. You'll get most of your opening ammo from a trickling stream of teleporting shotgun guys which you have to then turn on the baron that's stalking you around the place. I was hurting for a while til I made it past the blue key door where a recharge station has been thoughtfully placed for you. After all the edge of seat gameplay the plasma rifle yard was a nice change, my standout encounter. It's got a ton of monsters with more arriving as you advance and should keep you reasonably threatened but feeling empowered.

E4M3Berzerker
Wiles steps it up with a shorter but more grueling level with lots of claustrophobic gameplay. Take that yard with the blood pool and imps, for example, or numerous sections where you take on barons with naught but your shotgun (and chaingun, I guess) as you push back against the slowly encroaching tide. There are also a lot of points where monsters teleport in to the level. The humanoids aren't that dangerous but the lost souls are bound to catch you off-guard, and there are a lot of them. They set up one of the more dangerous fights, the yellow key trap, though the teleport in to the westernmost wing is about as far up there in terms of difficulty.

Haunted HouseE4M4
Did I say "Berzerker" was nasty? Well, E4M4 is a perfect stand-in for the infamous "Hell Beneath" with precious little health, scant resources, and hitscanners / teleport ambushes. With everything you're given, you'll be lucky to make it out alive, much less be able to kill everything. It's a wonderful kind of panic, though, true survival horror in Doom as you dodge past some of the nastiest obstacles and traps on your way to the exit and that sweet berserker pack at the end, not that it'll do you much good... That whole tiered area with barons and the imps in the drink makes for one of the most terrifying moments.

E4M5The Witching Hour
Wiles delivers a lot more ammo but the basic layout is engineered in such a way that killing every monster you encounter before moving on is difficult, if not impossible with the abundance of barons. I'm actually starting to get a little sick of slow-dancing with my shotgun through corridors of beefy monsters. Other areas, like that rocket launcher room or the outer yard surrounding the platform with the exit teleporter, are much more interesting and hectic fights, if still incredibly dangerous with the very tight restriction on health.

Trooper's GraveyardE4M6
Slightly less intimidating, if only because you get some pretty good plasma rifle / BFG opportunities, and that's counting the presence of the first Cyberdemon. It's pretty sneaky with traps and some cool fights like the lost souls protecting the emergency switch in the mega-cacodemon ambush with the rocket launcher (my standout encounter) or several creepy, slow lowering elevators and other pitfalls that will have you scrambling for health or at the very least some space to move around in. It's Crusades to the core.

E4M7Bloodbath
It's nice to see Wiles back off a bit...even if the opening shootout where you're practically ringed with shotgun guys is incredibly brutal. "Bloodbath" has some very nice flow and bits of leaping from ledge to ledge when you aren't sorting out demon brains in the trenches. It's a pretty good fight in spite of its limited arms though a few areas, like the baron / cacodemon battle in the northern area, will prove very tricky to sort out, especially depending on how badly all the sergeants clipped you.

Gateway to QuakeE4M8
Wiles's finale is probably the least dangerous level of the bunch, excepting the two Cyberdemons and Spiderdemon rounding out the level's true finale. (I'm not counting the journey into Quake land...). There's a lot of vertical and horizontal movement as you make your way around the "Perfect Hatred"-ish toxic hub that makes up most of the action in the western section, topped off with a little jaunt into slaughterland with an outdoor section involving a horde of imps, cacos, and two big bads you'll be dying to set against each other. Taking out the gatekeeper is probably the trickiest part of the level. A nice, relaxing way to end a cool (but brutal) mapset.

SLAUGHTERHOUSE NINE


This post is part of a series on
Doomworld's Top 10 WADs of 1999

Batman DoomThe Darkening
KZDoom1Crusades
Chord GJägermörder
Twilight WarriorDemonfear
Tei TengaHerian 2

5 comments:

  1. Haha, I remember this damn hard episode few months ago! Probably because I used the shittiest class (yes, I played with AEOD as this is how I play 99% of custom levels) and that's why I had so many failures. Not to mention in first level I had to use my poor starting weapons to kill few monsters (this includes a BARON!!! Luckily it was a Doom baron and not something else deadly). So yeah, I agree it was a pretty brutal mapset!

    ReplyDelete
  2. This has been firmly placed in my "to play" list for years, haha. Need to check it out soon.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Awesome E4 wad that keeps the E4 feel but doesn't 100% copy the style. Probably in my top three E4 wads (with Death Tormention 3 and Draft Excluder). Even more impressive considering it's pre-2000.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yeah I agree with the above, once Death Tormention 3 is covered that's more or less the 'holy trinity' of UDoom Episode 4 replacements

    ReplyDelete
  5. This one is unfortunately too much for me to enjoy on UV, but it's good on HMP! If you're not looking for an ultra hard challenge, then I'd recommend that skill. Too many people try only UV, and then say this wad is way overrated, not realizing the lower skills have quite a bit more accommodating gameplay.

    ReplyDelete