by Mike "Cyb" Watson
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
by Mike "Cyb" Watson
by Mike "Cyb" Watson
Released in 2003, Void is a single Doom II map for ZDoom. But... It's a lot more. The story opening is basically Half Life in Doom, down to scientist voice clips, and when shit goes bad a Cyberdemon drops in and starts slaughtering your buddies. Before it can kill you, time freezes and Hexen's Heresiarch shows up, creating a rift that sucks all involved parties (and corpses) into an unusual dimension. You'll have to fight your way out, of course. Actually, fighting isn't as important in this PWAD, as you'll end slightly upwards of one-hundred monsters slain at the end. There is a much greater emphasis on puzzles, platforming, and platforming puzzles.
Read the .TXT before you start. There's a ton of important information, from telling you when the Heresiarch is invulnerable (if you didn't already know), to warning you about fall damage, to explaining your improved fist attack, to telling you what to do with your keys. That last one's a biggie. There are quite a few "new" enemies, including three lightweights from Hexen (all fall to a single SSG) and the Dark Imp, which is significantly more durable and dangerous than its relatives. There are also alternately-colored imps and demons, a neat choice from an aesthetic standpoint, and poison-spitting spiders. You won't find any tech-regulars apart from the Cyberdemon that got pulled in to the void with you as well as an evil doppleganger.
Void has some fighting but it takes a backseat to Cyb's puzzles and death traps. Rule number one - don't fall. It's a long way to the bottom, especially if you trip into the nether. Rule number two - save often. This ties in to rule one, but has a greater emphasis once you encounter death traps like crushing bookcases or the super-lethal blue key area. There's also that long downward climb to the final boss door which requires mouselook. It's kind of rough as the ledges tend to blend together (especially with y-shearing) which turns your progress into a crawl as you navigate, not that it's out of place with the rest of the moments requiring some care and attention.
I like the puzzles. Cyb mentions how much Hexen's were a letdown, and he has a point. Hexen's puzzles involved hardcore switch porn with tons of backtracking. I'm rolling the item-oriented stuff in there as they're basically elaborate / specific key-activate switches. Void's puzzles are in contrast much more imaginative, though pretty easy for puzzle fiends experienced with the works of authors like Jim Flynn or, uh, Bob Evans. I really like the miniaturization portion; it's not exactly a puzzle but the battle with the spiders (and spider queen) is a great break from the rest of the action. The only thing I don't really care for is returning to the altar to place the keys, but Cyb rewards the tedium with a shiny new Unmaker (a glorified rocket launcher as far as I can tell). I also like the little touches, mainly the swinging doors and changing scenery, particularly things like blood flooding the major progression chokepoint.
For a puzzle-oriented PWAD, it doesn't lack in fights, though much of the combat is incidental. The dark imps are the most challenging regular monsters you'll fight. I'm pretty happy with the demon encounter that temporarily removes your weapons, though it may come as a shock if you haven't been using your fists. There's also a pretty tight but easily managed Cyberdemon fight to earn your right to wield the plasma rifle. I like the doppelganger; he uses a combat shotgun, but it's not actually a hitscan attack, so you can dodge it and try to weave around him. The Heresiarch is a nice battle; it's satisfying hitting him with the Doom II weapons. The bad part is ducking around those bouncing fireballs while you dispatch his summoned allies during reflect mode and making sure you don't waste ammo on those pillars.
Void is a very cool surreal ZDoom map you should really play if you're into bizarro Doom. For authors aspiring to creating "unreal" levels, it's a great standard to at least compare to in terms of gameplay and map design, and if you want a slower-paced spin outside classic normalcy, it will deliver without departing too much from the standard shooting oeuvre. It's cool to see Cyb weld influences from other works, like American McGee's Alice and Hexen, into a successful FPS hybrid. If only other Doom WADs focused on the unusual had such high production values...
AVOID THE ANNOID