Saturday, May 18, 2013

Herian (HERIAN.WAD)


Ian Wilson has but two entries in his Doom legacy, but both are full Doom II megaWADs. Herian is the first, to be played in limit-removing ports (followed by Herian2 for a very early release of ZDoom). At the very least, Wilson recommends against using it in vanilla Doom due to visplane errors (though only one instance is specifically mentioned). Herian has no given story; Wilson just rattles of a list of influences, including the entire Doom family of games - Doom, Doom II, Heretic, Hexen, Strife - in addition to Apogee's Rise of the Triad and Duke Nukem 3D. It draws its main aesthetic from Heretic and Hexen as it uses a number of their resources and pulls a few monster replacements (in sprites, not mechanics).


It shows, too; much of the middle stretch of the PWAD, including the two secret levels, are actually cribbed wholesale and modified from IWAD maps. Truth be told, they're the best out of the set, as their layouts facilitate interesting gameplay where Wilson's solo ventures tend toward the opposite. The levels are usually easy enough in terms of combat with copious amounts of ammo and health but his early layouts are geared toward obfuscated puzzles, the kind that people think walks hand in hand with Eternal Doom. Personally, Herian's progression annoys the shit out of me. At least with a switch you know that you did something, timed or permanent, but Wilson loves dead-end backtracking where you triggered a walkover linedef that did something somewhere else with zero indication. It is the nadir of problem-solving in Doom.


Wilson also has some unsightly author choices that initially struck me as bizarre with me soon realizing that he simply had no idea how to work the intricacies of Doom to create effects we often take for granted. The big ones are teleporter ambushes. If you run into a teleporter ambush in Herian, there will be false walls you can't enter but monsters can clearly see you from, where they'll get a few pot shots in before crossing the line. The other puzzling feature is using teleporters to clumsily effect 3D architecture. You'll find several areas where Ian intended you to run under some kind of bridge, your only indication being teleporting to the other side of a wall after approaching it.


So, Herian uses a lot of Heretic resources. Some people dislike them; I happen to enjoy the look of Heretic, uncultured swine that I am. Wilson doesn't do much with the appropriated materials, though. The monster replacements feel pretty natural, at least (excepting the ridiculous maulotaur edit), but the texturing and architecture rarely combine to create something appealing to the eye. On the occasions they do, I have to wonder whether the design is his or if it was "inspired", like most of the better-looking levels. Things tend to get better (and shorter) near the end, with a hub-style layout where you start out in the outer area of a previous level and then conquer a series of branches one by one. It kind of reminds me of the third episode of Hell to Pay.


Would I recommend Herian for a play? No. Its opening run of levels is an incredibly boring slog and as a whole it seems bereft of ideas beyond using Heretic resources. It's kind of satisfying using Doom's more powerful weaponry on the Heretic replacements, though, and a few of the levels manage to show a little spark that I hope is cultivated in Ian's followup project, Herian2. As it stands, I would leave the original for historians and individuals who have trolled the archives for all the other highlights.

NOTE: There were two resource packs that was originally conceived for Herian2, but which should work fine with Herian. One (HRTC.WAD) replaces many more of the monsters with Heretic and Hexen resources as well as the weapons for a more thoroughly fantasy feel. Behavior is identical to the originals, though. There was also a music pack - NIN.WAD. I have no idea about NIN.WAD, but HRTC.WAD is hard to find in its original form. The late Jean-Yves Delpech compiled both into HERIAN_RES.WAD, bundled inside his retooled edition of Herian, but his site has fallen into disrepair with the download links not working. I'll save you the trouble of hunting it down; here is HERIAN_RES.WAD.



HERIAN
by Ian Wilson

CageMAP01
The new textures help make this otherwise boring level feel fresh. It's pretty simple with a lot of shotgun action (if you weren't a rube like me and didn't notice it). The main portion is a series of nested areas filled with zombimen; you have to do some teleport hoofing to make it to the passable channel with little shore areas filled with vegetation. Don't any of the switches here; there should be one for each waypoint. Go back when you get the liteamp goggles and check thoroughly.

MAP02Airborne
A semi-underground series of caverns with some lava flowing through it. The title clues you in to a not so obvious gimmick unless you grab the computer map at the beginning; invisible staircases extend across the main lava pool to grant access to the other areas. The combat is uninspired zombie shooting but there are a few weird bits, like a psychedelic encounter with a prop chaos serpent in a Hellhole. I did kind of like the pillar section to the southeast (though that gargoyle is a bit dastardly).

GardenMAP03
Another fairly homely level though the interior section with all the commandos and sergeants is somewhat threatening. The garden is in some kind of raised structure in the center of the map, with a river running through it. The surrounding area is round and flat, with a few surprises. Those enormous doors to the south are stupid ugly and don't contain any resistance worth mentioning save for a few spectres near the very back, when it's dark.

MAP04Canyon
Sometimes a stupid worthless level is a stupid worthless level. "Canyon" takes a boring concept and drives it so far into the ground it ends up in Hell; almost all of your time is spent walking around the edge of the "canyon" (an enormous pair of cisterns), which rings the entire map and which is essentially on a single, flat plane. The encounters are unstimulating, to say the least, and the whole thing is drawn out through pointless, deadend backtracking. Anyone who thinks Eternal Doom is unplayable can try this map out for a reality check.

DungeonMAP05
Well, at least it's short. There's a small underground area in "Dungeon" but a lot of it is outside in either a flat outer yard or the crosswalk that cuts through it. Pretty boring stuff. The deepest section with the damage floor is about as exciting as things get, with a bizarre moment where standing on a little raised area warps you across to a higher platform you couldn't otherwise get to. I think Wilson is trying to simulate jumping? That row of enemies with golems and other things has some potential but it's all too easy to blow through.

MAP06Fortress
A small fortress to be attacked like a Russian nesting doll. Search the outer perimeter for the yellow key, then the ramparts for the RL and removing all the hitscanners, and then clear the inner yard with its two very simple buildings. The disciples and golems are welcome additions, being used a bit more wisely and making for slightly more interesting encounters. The zombies and imps are still quite brainless, though.

TheatreMAP07
This is a mess of dark caverns connecting open-air chambers made annoying through more dead-end backtracking. There are some more false walls with teleport monsters hiding behind them but they're less annoyingly obvious. I think the combat is getting more interesting and that outside area that's loaded with monsters was kind of fun, even if it came down to suppressing them with the SSG. Those branching teleporter tubes in the "theatre" area are...interesting, to say the least.

MAP08Doomtoo
"Entryway" redux, of course. It actually plays pretty well, if only because it's really hard to mess up what's an already-good layout. The blue key ambush carries a modicum of threat, excepting how well stocked you are for health and ammo. The rest of the level, not so much. The outer area is neutered by the presence of a ton of gargoyles elsewhere in the level, rendering the dark bishops practically useless. I'm still annoyed at the run back to the blue key door.

CityisleMAP09
The layout is kind of novel, a city suspended in water with narrow old-world streets and little park areas. It's a total pain in the ass, though. You'll be poking and prodding your way through what's more or less the ultimate nightmare for any straightforward Doom player, with timed switches and triggers galore. The roaming monsters to start off with help to liven things up a bit but you'll always end up at the same place - roaming city streets, trying to figure out what you've missed. Protip - climb up on every window sill, whether you need what's on it or not.

MAP10Switchroom
A relatively simple and straightforward level in a vague, ruins-like style. It's got a semi-symmetric layout with hitscanners ringing the southern area and heavies in the north; the key is to avoid as many bullets as possible until you can get situated and start taking out the many threats. After you take out the mancubuses you're basically done except for a little excursion with some golems and commandos, the last real threat you'll see. I actually liked the crusher room; about the only really obtuse moment it the door obscuring the red key, but there's not enough play area to get confused in.

CastleMAP11
A very big and very bland "castle" level, of course. A lot of huge, empty corridors except for a few imps here and there. While it has less "what the fuck?" moments than other levels, all the dead space and certain moments (like the southeast room with the staircase and mancubus pedestal) earned my utter ire. In case you don't feel like toughing it out, you have to jump through the southern window from the staircase to open the door at the top. It's actually kind of fun once you get the red key, though he could have stuffed some bigger enemies in the outdoor area.

MAP12Elevator
Well, it's kind of interesting, an outdoor area joined to a hub access elevator. The primary mechanism moves far too slow, though, and the level is marred by stupid moments now typical of Wilson's design, like leaving the room behind the red key door to go up the elevator and flip a newly revealed switch in the eastern area. I guess you'd know you had to do it if you grabbed the automap but the logistics are still stupid as shit considering how much time you're forced to spend on his slow ass elevator.

SiamezeMAP13
You may just be able to recognize the opening as the end of E1M1, and by the time you reach the beginning of the original, you'll see that Heretic's opener has been stitched together with it. If you remember the secrets of the originals this should be a cakewalk with the exception of the blue key, located in the previously secret outer area in "Docks", the teleporter to which is opened via dead-end backtracking. The more dense enemy composition plus the smaller sized areas makes for some passable, if not exactly thrilling, combat.

MAP14Tank
Reminds me of something the Phares might have done. It's got a chasm-width catwalk that requires a little bit of lateral thinking in order to get a breather and run into the outside area. I like the opening but all the monsters hidden behind windows in the outdoor area kind of suck. The surprise arch-vile was a nice scare, though. Besides the narrow way, the other gimmick Wilson uses is Keens that block off key supplies, mostly in the first room you dance in to. You have to kill them from another angle before you can approach the goodies on the ground. Homely, but a step above a lot of the previous works.

ROTTMAP15
Just from the title you can probably guess what level this is based off of, except it barely resembles anything like Rise of the Triad except for being huge and square and using some textures. It's basically an arena fight. Punch some spectres and then start letting the handfuls of monsters in by approaching the key doors. There's a pack of imps, a pack of mancubuses, a single maulotaur / Spiderdemon, and four barons. Very simple and very boring. If you want to reach the secret levels, take note that some but not all of the exit switches will send you there.

MAP31Vastland
Bringing the magic of Hexen to Doom. Specifically, Hexen's MAP10, "Wastelands". It's pretty empty to start with, and running through the various mine tunnels is as boring as can be expected, but there are a few cool surprises like a wandering arch-vile or the battle at the temple to the north. The only thing I couldn't tell you is when the yellow key door became available; after that, things more or less fall in to place. The maulotaur is in a pretty stupid location but I'm guessing the intent is to avoid it until you grab some less tedious weaponry, like the BFG.

TrubbleMAP32
This time, Wilson paints over Strife's MAP02 ("Town"). It plays like a decent city level with an emphasis on exploration and not on insane switch combos. Actually, the major stumbling block is the large outdoor area with the channel, where a number of dark bishops will quickly fill the area with gargoyles, grossly inflating monster count. Grabbing the yellow key leading to the chaingun is a must or you'll be running out of ammo in no time. Again, it's kind of hard to mess up these original layouts...except with some obfuscation, of course.

MAP16Hexed
Another Hexen in Doom map, aka Hexen's "Shadow Wood" (MAP13). I can't really commend any strengths in the layout as they're not original to Wilson, but he does a good job appropriating the Hub and making sure that it all works together, albeit with some hoofing around. The only real dumb part is having to navigate the ice cavern's nested elevators to grab the blue key, admittedly barely a diversion. Combat is decent and cramped. I'm not sure if the revenant placement is sneaky by design or just coincidental.

SpiderMAP17
Back to originals...and it shows. "Spider" compounds its thrills with major annoyances; the main hook is a ring of arachnotrons in the outside area that enacts a special sort of bullet Hell that you'll be frantically dodging through on top of the few dark bishops floating around. Make sure you explore and grab the SSG in the initial area (which has slow ass elevators that I loathe) and hit the rocket launcher the first time you enter the periphery or you'll be SOL. Toward the end it's more dead-end backtracking, where a switch raises a nondescript rock from which you can climb to the level's outer ring.

MAP18Orange
Short, symmetrical outing with an ugly orange spoked building. The outer yard is a little tricky with the blonde troopers and dark bishops incurring some attrition but if you pick up the weapons on the inlets you'll be fine with all the health and armor laid out. The interior is pretty easy to sort out with the exception of the pack of dark bishops, which might be a little overwhelming. It's pretty inoffensive...but also pretty bland.

CascadeMAP19
The shortest level so far. Kind of a cavern / outpost whose main feature is water pouring from the ceiling into a pool. The opening is a little rough with sergeants and commandos lurking in the dark in the upper area but with a little care and some chaingun tapping you'll be free to explore at your leisure. That run past the blonde troopers is a little annoying but you only have to do it once, and if you find the secret, you can take their plasma rifle so you can stick it to the other monsters. Simple, but entertaining for its length.

MAP20Warehouse
Starts off in the exterior of the previous level and ends up exploring the "warehouse" on the other side. It's cramped, sometimes nasty gameplay with some cool fights like the yellow key battle with the golems on the side or the roughest battle of all, the one directly before the yellow key door. Like the previous map, it's pretty simple, but most of the obfuscated design principles have been dropped. The canyon fight is decent, if trivialized by the plasma rifle.

WaterfallMAP21
Wilson is obviously cribbing from more advanced sources for that ruins exterior (itself and the interior being very reminiscent of the already used "Shadow Wood") but it manages to stand on its own, at least architecturally. The beginning is VERY rough with the pistol as there are hitscanners crawling everywhere. Orchestrating a little infighting and being careful will go a long way. After that it's another decent play with a few WTF moments, as is characteristic of Herian as a whole. That clutch of monsters waiting in the northwestern room is nice and I love the finale, which encourages some liberal plasma spam as you deal with a ton of higher-HP monsters with some fairly limited mobility.

MAP22Vertigo
Uh, welcome back to the exterior area from MAP19 and 20, I guess. After a short tunnel section with a timed switch door you'll be out in a canyon which has an enormous staircase running through it, obviously the source of the level's title. Combat is actually kind of interesting given the enemy concentration and the opposition you can stir up; you'll do well to grab the goodies on the stair before ducking down into the trenches to clear the riffraff out. The one thing that hurts - that staircase is a humongous orange eyesore.

OfficeMAP23
Take the other prong of the fork and, well, you're off to an enormous office complex. There are no less than seventy little rooms for you to explore (more in actuality, not counting hallways).  Wilson does right for once - all of the important rooms are marked by concrete / tech exit doors. These places either have vital goodies, switches, or linedef triggers vital to completion of the level. The downside is the rest of the map is essentially filler. Open door, kill monster(s), repeat til bored. Don't get me wrong - there are a few novel encounters to be had but in general it's as dull as any actual office.

MAP24Cyberden
I guess we got kind of a hub thing goin' on here. After a short little spiral descent you're off into a wood hall that leads to a Hexen-ish canyon area that's loaded with annoying foliage where you'll meet a Cyberdemon that serves as a hazard until you get the weaponry to remove him. Most of the level is chaingun / shotgun action taking down enemies light and heavy until you grab the plasma rifle, after which it's glorious cell drain to the end. As a direct result it's kind of tedious until you grab the gun.

QuarryMAP25
Short, slightly tough little level that's exactly what it says. The quarry itself is a pit which the rest of the level rings around; you can access it by teleporter on the opposite side from where you start. The outer area is ringed by all kinds of hazards you'll want to deftly deal with. The arch-vile that walks around can be particularly bothersome but if you grab the invul and rocket launcher from the pit and head out, it's all over fast. The nastiest part will be handling the Cyber, which is easy if you grab the BFG but probably a pain in any protracted situation.

MAP26Lastduel
It's a boss arena! There's a maulotaur, a few disciples, and a dark bishop. It's all over very fast and as long as you're quick to grab the plasma rifle and megasphere you shouldn't suffer much, if at all. The central altar looks decent even if the rest of the map is pretty homely. The only stumbling block is figuring out that the inter-cardinal wedges lower to the ground. And I have no idea why that chaos serpent thing is marked as a secret.

ContoursMAP27
Small but awkward level with lots of tricky fighting and action. That mancubus fight at the top of the central northern room comes to mind, since the pillars aren't tall enough to block their LOS, and all the foliage on the ground might make escaping the severity of the plasma rifle ambush tricky, to say the least. One big thing I don't like is the leap to the blue key, essentially a blind jump which when missed will likely deposit you on the deadly lava below. Also, it took me awhile to decide to "use" the pillar in the mancubus room to get to the top.

MAP28Junkyard
In a return to form, Wilson gives us a tangled shitheap of dark tunnels with copious amounts of backtracking. Sure, there are a few distinct outdoor areas, but moving from one to the next isn't exactly straightforward and most of your progress moments are hampered by tons of dead air. Having to hike all the way back to the beginning to flip a switch to lower the platform blocking off the exit is one of the least user-friendly decisions in the mapset. The fact that it's lead up to with bland darkened corridor shooting makes it one of the worst maps in the end run.

DiscoMAP29
A super-short finale on some squat city streets that blends into a technicolor nightmare populated with dancers. The biggest surprise of all is that the Duke3D strippers have MORE clothes on in what is surely one of the most tasteful sprite edits in history. There's a Cyberdemon lording over the dance floor, and he's probably a pain to kill if you don't know about the invul sphere cache, which is hinted at on the automap.

MAP30Big
Boss shooter map. It's easier than some but the layout and the need to grab all three keys plus the slow, timed shooter platform may make things a little dicey for less experienced players.

THE STAGNANT DEMONS

4 comments:

  1. Thorough review as always. After reading it I hosted a Zandronum server with this a few weeks back. It was interesting to go through with a bunch of people, but I didn't realize how many many maps it sorta reused. Also, map09 was confusing as hell. I actually had to have the editor open to help the last surviving player navigate his way to the end.

    The download links for the resource pack on both herian and herian 2 here though aren't working =(. Is it possible that they can be put up somewhere else?

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  2. Literally 2 seconds after posting that, I used the powers of google to find it on the wad archive. Durr.

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