Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Rage Doom (RAGE20.WAD)

Dan Krempel published Rage Doom in a final but unfinished state back in '94, an OG Doom megaWAD that replaces 19 out of the 27 original levels. Krempel did not replace the levels in any fixed order. Slots E1M5-7, E2M3, 4, E3M3, 4, and 6 are not filled because the author eventually found himself too occupied in other affairs to finish it out. I'm guessing that since he was 14 at the time, the transition from grade school to high school was a major factor, but I'm pretty presumptuous. Rage Doom has no given story, but given that Krempel's levels appear to take their cues from the names of the maps originally in the slots, I'm assuming it's pretty much the same thing as Doom, except instead of starting at a "Hangar" you begin at an "Air Base".

Rage Doom's maps aren't as cool as the original's, but they're pretty fun to play. Krempel gives the player a lot of leeway early on with tons of ammo and health everywhere. The balance slowly slouches toward a more difficult arrangement, but as long as you find a few of the nine or so secrets per map, you should be fine as they're usually packed with health, ammo, and armor. He's fond of wide, open spaces and throwing lots of monsters at you. His early encounter design kind of sucks but it gets a lot better as you play on, with spaces becoming more constricted and monster concentration increasing as a result. Granted, some of the Hell levels are unusually bland considering the E2 stuff that preceded it, but if you are at all interested in ancient Doom stuff (like Heroes), you won't have any problems immersing yourself in Krempel's wonderland.

I dunno if I'd call RAGE20 a diamond in the rough, but it's some kind of semiprecious stone from '94 which makes it all the more impressive. If you hate OG Doom's gameplay, you won't get anything out of this, but anyone who doesn't mind loading up the more survival-horror oriented edition of Doom may get a kick out of this blast from the past. Don't let the opening few maps deter you from trying the rest.

by Dan Krempel


Air BaseE1M1
Short little tech map. Looks like a military installation of some kind with parking lights and various helipads, one of which is a secret housing a computer map. It's all zombies with a couple of imps in the switch room, so things move quick. Combat is disposable since there are two blur spheres which should cover you for most of the 50 monster total. I like the bits of detail, like the blue stripes in that secret tunnel, and that computer bank help to distract from how boxy most of the rooms feel.

E1M2"Nuclear Plant"
Krempel's realistic take on E1M2 falls flat. The opening fight is a huge horde of spectres you have to beat back with the chaingun, which given the lighting is simply a matter of holding the fire button down and collecting some more ammo. The rest of the fights are zombie slaughters with the exception of the final room, which has a bunch of sergeants hidden behind false walls. I kind of like the storage tanks, but it's nothing exciting.

"Toxin Refinery"E1M3
Decent boxy brown nuke base with some storage vats here and there and some OSHA non-compliant transfer canals and pits. It's a decent fight with some cool traps like the rocket launcher secret (cool but not terribly dangerous) and that outer yard, which has a bunch of enemies walking the walls. Once you're past that, you're pretty much done, though you'll have to dig two secrets deep to get to the alternate exit.

E1M9"Military Base"
Yup. E1M9's opening gimmick is based entirely on Doom II's "The Pit", though it doesn't extend at all beyond that. It's more of a puzzle level, with stuff like that hidden switch to get the red key, which leads to a room where you're attacked by imps hiding behind grates. The big finish is all about pounding rockets into demons, though in between you'll have to endure a switch puzzle where you build your own staircase to the blue key, which is all told very easy.

"Command Control"E1M4
On the one hand, I think that the areas in this level are too wide and too open. On the other, Krempel comes up with some decent combat scenarios. Both of my faves are catwalk fights that put you in some imp crossfire while you advance on a bridge, the first with a few imps dancing on pillars with the second outclassing the other by stationing three in every corner plus some sitting in the exit chamber throwing potshots. It makes up for the bland, boring fights where you use the chaingun to slowly whittle down hordes of demons. Some of the bits like the security tower with the shutters are nice touches.

E1M8"Phobos Anomaly"
Like E1M9, Krempel borrows the idea of another Doom II map, this one "Icon of Sin". There's no Icon, though. You just have to kill the barons with the copious ammo afforded to you, after which the far platform lowers, revealing the teleporter to the kill room. It's...decent, nothing special.


"Deimos Anomaly"E2M1
Whoa! Krempel starts things off at maximum speed with this sandbox map that's part military campus and part infested with Hellspawn. The buildings aren't much to look at but they're well-populated and usually have at least one trick up their sleeve and there are a few blind teleports into claustrophobic monster packs you'll want to look out for, plus weirdness like the marble obelisk whose interior is crawling with imps. It's a dangerous level, and fun to play. Neat stuff!

E2M2"Containment Area"
Another massive E2 base. There's less art to the sections with crates, but the author has stuffed tons of monsters into this level, as well as tons of ammo and health, particularly with the secrets... It's also loaded with teleporters, including a pretty typical trial and error teleporter puzzle which can frustratingly send you back to the level's beginning, though it won't take long to get back where you were. There's also some moving machinery in the sewer section where toxic stuff is stored and at least one homage straight out of "House of Pain". Favorite encounter, probably the one where he throws like thirty-plus demons at you in that nukage lake area. It's one fun clusterfuck.

"Command Center"E2M5
There are some cool areas, but most of the level's potential difficulty is undermined by how easy it is to get health and ammo, plus the fact that the computer map is an early freebie that shows you where every secret is, except maybe the secret exit, but if you can't figure it out, you're hopeless. I like that railway section to the storage facility, and the blue key is a nice reveal, but there are too few high-powered enemies for all the gadgets and goodies Krempel throws your way.

E2M9"Fortress of Mystery"
The polar opposite of the previous E2 maps, E2M9 starts off with an impressive looking brown superstructure that swings quickly toward difficult fights, especially if you don't manage to grab any of the secrets Krempel installed, which aren't simply given to you as there is no computer map to be found. I think without the secrets, particularly the one with the plasma rifle and scads of cells and rockets, things can get tedious as you whittle down the monsters. That blind drop into the three barons is also sure to get someone killed the first time around.

"Halls of the Damned"E2M6
Don't blink or you'll miss it. E2M6 isn't quite as interesting as a lot of the previous stuff, though I think the yellow key is optional. On the other hand, while I like that scary inescapable pit stuff while you're shooting imps in the dark, the long featureless tunnel segments after reek of filler. Lots of imps to slaughter here. Pretty bland map.

E2M7"Spawning Vats"
Contains some overt homages to "Pandemonium"'s organic maze and the demon / staircase section from "Tricks and Traps". It's a bit rough starting out when you're fighting shotgun guys without a lot of health pickups, but one of the eleven secrets should put you back on the road to recovery. Really, the sergeants are the most dangerous things out here, especially in the opening area and moving into the windowed room where they're liable to sneak past and take a pot shot. Not much else to say; there's a horde that boils out of the blue key room but the hallway gives you more than enough time to mow them down.

"Tower of Babel"E2M8
Not one, but two Cyberdemons! Actually, it's a bit more nuanced, as Krempel has one on the ground and one in a central tower that will be firing down at you. The dude in the tower guards a BFG, and if you're super gutsy I guess you can use it to put the old man down, but it's risky given how vulnerable you are on teleporting and telefragging him seems to be an issue of luck. The tower grounds are kind of lo-fi, but I wasn't expecting much.


E3M1"Hell Keep"
Krempel starts it up with a lukewarm semi-Hell level that kind of feels like a retooling of the original, except the opening area is much smaller, the three imps are a lot closer, and you get a chaingun to mow down a bunch of enemies on a winding walkway-thing. Except for maybe the imps in the cages in the room after the fire hallway, there's not much to challenge, except for perhaps the subtle secrets here and there, including a plasma rifle off the beaten path.

"Slough of Despair"E3M2
A sub-par take on "Slough of Despair", which has the same general gimmick (a rough sketch of something rendered in the overall structure of the level) but the execution leaves something to be desired as the entire level is the same height (besides that pillar plasma rifle area) and most of the rooms are boring, though vaguely triangular. The fights are straight-up brawls except for the two horns, the left one being superior in having you wake up enemies far away that creep toward you around columns like some pachinko game.

E3M5"Unholy Cathedral"
Up until the teleporter bit, this is a pretty straightforward red brick map with large, boxy rooms and some marble areas, like some decent holding cells. I do like that first opening fight with the baron and cacodemons which practically demands infighting as Krempel is unusually stingy with health and ammo this level, outside of a bunch of secret closets I didn't see on my playthrough, which would probably help things out. At the end is a three-way fork with one teleporter leading you to the exit, one to the yellow key needed to get to the exit, and one to a nasty ambush.

Krempel doesn't attempt to copy E3M9's execution. Instead he's put together a strange little level with some good points (like the dual Cyberdemons) and some frustrating points, like the imp-riddled false-wall maze. I hope you grab the BFG, or you'll have less fun with bits like the cacodemon / lost soul mob and the exit area, where you'll have to do some wallhumping that either results in an unmarked exit switch or a button that releases two huge packs of barons on both sides.

It's a dark grey keep with a moat of blood in an isolated cavern. The opening has you dodging imp fireballs while you plink away at all the creepy-crawlies, after which you can take the time to try and navigate the fairly puzzle-ish layout. Getting access to the keep beyond the four baron ambush requires jumping into a tucked-away area in the moat (with a handy rocket launcher), but after that you can pretty much just push your way around until you make it to the exit room, which is located in one of the corner towers. A pretty good change from some of the relatively nondescript levels Krempel has used.

Like E2M8, this kicks off with two Spiderdemons instead of one, but they're both up in the air firing down on you. You're pretty much just shooting plasma at them and grabbing health after killing the free-roaming barons and cacos. When I destroyed one of the masterminds, the other's platform lowered to the floor, which was a neat way of changing things up.



  1. One of my first WADs ever. Almost forgot about that. Final levels, E2M9 and E3M7 were the most memorable. Damn nice WAD, played a lot back in the day when Doom95 was the onyl sourceport I knew. - Katamori

  2. This was, too, one of the first pwads I ever saw. It isn't too shabby for 20 years of age!