Tuesday, September 3, 2013

ASDOOM][: The Final Countdown (ASD2.WAD)

Andy Sheppard released his ASDOOM back in '94, an episode 1 replacement for the original Doom. The following year, he published ASDOOM][: The Final Countdown, an eight-map episode for Doom II. The basic idea is the same, a series of levels with little consideration for 100% completion for pistol start. It's not a true sequel, though. When Sheppard put out ASDOOM, he must not have known Doom II's story, because the plot involved the marine returning from Hell only to be immediately thrust into a mission to a UAC base on Jupiter's moon, Io. ASD2 drops that concept entirely, as though it never happened. It's actually a followup to Doom II, starting immediately after your battle with the Icon of Sin. You return to Earth to find that the evacuation fleet is locked in some kind of stasis and needs your help in slaying the demonic remnants holding them back. One Colonel Diaz is your liaison, and she has several tidbits of wisdom to offer between MAP03 / 04 and MAP06 / 07, which you can read in Sheppard's voluminous .TXT.

The one thing I knew about ASDOOM][ going in is that it wasn't balanced for pistol starts, at least when trying to kill every monster (UV-MAX). The levels are doable from scratch but are more demanding than other works, similar to the Serenity trilogy by Holger Nathrath and Bjorn Hermans. The Doom II bestiary is on the other hand wisely and in some spots cleverly used. I prefer the way ASD2 plays to its precursor, but I'm a run and gun action fiend by heart, at least when I'm not solving perplexing puzzles. The biggest leg Sheppard has over his contemporaries is how concrete the levels feel, looking closer to real places than the abstract killing-fields featured in works like the Raven series. About the only thing I don't really care for is the proliferation of slow, automated lifts, which bog down gameplay whenever they appear.

I really hate automated elevators, though. So I'm biased. ASDOOM][ isn't half-bad for a mapset circa '95 (well, made in '94, according to the readme). I can see why some players look back on it so fondly. It puts a large emphasis on story in a field where there was typically little or none and all of its levels have a firm sense of place, albeit a few feeling very generic (MAP04). It's boxy, but it's fun, and if you roll through to the finale you're in for a quick but not entirely easygoing ride, as the levels are all pretty small / short, if not for bits of backtracking and those slow as molasses elevators.

by Andy Sheppard

A Walk in the ParkMAP01
This is a medium-size boxy black glass fortress that starts out pretty nasty with a ring of troopers and sergeants around the battlements. Getting ahead isn't very clear; you have to walk into one of the guard towers which triggers the lift in the other. After the initial hitscanner assault, things are pretty easygoing, except for maybe an arch-vile surprise partway through. Actually, Sheppard lets loose a few good ambushes into the outer yard, but both are backed by soul spheres so they don't sting so much.

MAP02The Hall of the Mountain Kings
Short but nasty underground area. It's part caverns and part ruins with a few nasty encounters to handle. First is that revenant / spectre opening with your back to the lava, followed by three pain elementals in close quarters in that northern chamber. The last major battle is a showdown with dual Cyberdemons that will have you pillar humping and rocket dodging as you fire back a salvo of your own. Don't mess up! What I wasn't expecting was the yellow key, hidden in an unmarked secret closet inside another secret.

Dark grey brick and cubic but with a bunch of nice reveals. The gimmick is that switch room with the four blocked-off buttons; you'll have to return here several times, hit a button, and then go back to where you just were to see what kind of mayhem you unleash. The commandos in the pillar room are a nice warmup and I like the corner arachnotrons. The rest of the encounters aren't all that challenging, though, the finale being a Spiderdemon you will almost certainly spray with plasma at a very long distance.

MAP04Going Down?
This passable green-metal techbase is marred by super-slow lifts, particularly the major one that joins the four hallways, not to mention it seems to be constantly filled with cacodemons that make you think twice about just stepping on while it automates. There are also some hidden air ducts. They're not hard to navigate but they're tiered, so fully exploring them means hitting the highest drop point first and then descending to the others. Pick the wrong one and you're in for a slow ride back. Some good scares, like the pain elementals in one of the storage rooms or my personal fave, a literal monster closet that's thick with monsters.

Hell of a KnightMAP05
A boxy tech level with columns as a recurring motif. It's kind of trappy, with a few lampshaded bits. If you don't know that there's an arch-vile locked behind the door marked DANGER, and that the button marked RELEASE is going to set him free, then there's no hope for you. The fights aren't all that challenging played as an episode, but I can see that they'd be a total pain from pistol start, given the opening Cyberdemon and a later Mastermind. About the most pressure I ever felt was from that cadre of Hell knights. Not a huge fan of that grate maze, though, which leads up to the level's climax.

MAP06The Heat is On
This fairly short level is notorious for its pistol start, something Anders Johnsen simply breezed through. As hinted at in the .TXT, it's a radsuit-centric level, with you trudging through molten slag while you knock out the opposition. The pain elemental fight is mitigated via an invul sphere while the big problem involves three barons and two mancubuses in a room with a pair of slow elevators that block you, keeping you on a fairly narrow catwalk. I like the exploration with the rad suits and it's a quick, fun outing when not trying to start it with the pea shooter.

A False Sense of SecurityMAP07
Out of the frying pan and in to the city map. Like MAP01, it opens with a bunch of hitscanners, but there are other Hellspawn that Sheppard dumps in partway through to get your goat, like a crowd of cacodemons. It's pretty rote with tons of ammo but there are some semi-puzzle moments like grabbing the red key, requiring an aerial leap, something I completely forgot about by the time I was in a position to do so. The final fight isn't very interesting, just a Cyberdemon with a ring of imps on the outer edge. Figuring out how to open the exit teleporter is the real challenge.

A pretty cool finale, based around the enormous weapon holding the fleet hostage. The first thing is a bunker surrounded by arachnotrons and barons, dangerous if only in terms of sheer HP. After that it's off to the big show. You can duck into the main event any time you like, but things are a lot easier if you explore the three floors and grab the keys, which you can use to take out three of the four Cyberdemons. Two of the floors aren't that exciting but I like the library, with a tucked-away blue key (albeit obviously marked) and a bunch of nasties let loose that might sneak up on you. My personal favorite fight was a cluster of pain elementals up at the top of the stairs.



  1. Nice unofficial titlepic! Very fitting to the wad's plot, which is more detailed than most =P

    1. thanks! i've created a lot more work for myself, but when it all comes together, it's pretty neat