Friday, November 22, 2013

Temple of the Lizard Men 3 (LMTMPL3.PK3)

Temple of the Lizard Men has become somewhat of a Doom institution. Alan D., aka "alando1", started the ball rolling in 2009 with the original TOTLM, where a marine investigates an ancient temple, the site of some mysterious disappearances, including a military team sent to investigate. Temple of the Lizard Men 2 knocked it up a notch with another marine investigating a different temple, this one with a power-mad Lizard Man chieftain executing all of the women of his tribe. Temple of the Lizard Men 3, released in 2013, may be more scales than you can handle, with three distinct episodes and a story involving an archaeological team that Dug Too Deep, unleashing an ancient evil and rekindling the age-old battle between the forces of light and dark. All of this across roughly 32 levels for GZDoom, with some fudge factor for the practice map and the falling action.

Continuing in its grand tradition, TOTLM3 attempts to borrow elements of Unreal and instill them into Doom's faster-paced gameplay. More explicitly, it gathers some of the conventions of Unreal's expansion pack, Return to Na Pali. I haven't played the latter, but I see that one of the elements - the marine narrating his / her adventure in between some levels - is one of the larger takeaways. Some of the story is told to you in cutscenes, and most of the backstory is related through the PDAs of the dead or translations of stuff written on the walls. Once you add in the hostile Lizard Men dwelling in ancient temples, the captive women and mutilated bodies that dominate the first episode, and the modern weaponry wielded by your one person army, it turns into something of an Indiana Jones adventure meets Conan the Barbarian. A modern day sword and sorcery, if you will. One big departure is your ability to choose between four different characters - two women and two men. There aren't any story differences between PCs; the choice affects your speed / durability and some cosmetic factors.

If you've played the previous installments of the series, you should know what to expect gameplay-wise. Alan favors short, linear levels that combine naturalistic mountain jungles and caverns with ancient temples bearing mostly Mesoamerican iconography. His texture alignment is very clean, but while you may not see any eyesores, his structures run the route of looking like a pretty bland assemblage of corridors. Many of the enemies starting out are melee-only, so traps either favor hordes of lizards or up close and personal monster closets until the bestiary branches out. It does, though you rarely see the kind of vibrancy in encounters that Doom is known for.

TOTLM kind of has a puzzle aspect in the series, but Alan errs on the side of pointlessness, here. Most of the situations you'll encounter lack any kind of guile; rather than trying to discern which element of the room is the solution, you end up activating every element. Like, if there are four gargoyle heads, you have to use all of them. That's something anyone brute-forcing the puzzle would do, essentially putting the player in the place of someone who is incapable of intuiting the correct action...not that it would take very long given how close the switches are typically together. In another section late in the game, you need to grab seven keys, six of which must be reached by finding its sister key in the same mini-ruin.

All that aside, there's more care taken with this edition of TOTLM than previous iterations. The story is more...substantial, even if that means a few cutscenes of nothing but talking. It actually might explain the bizarre behavior of the chieftain from TOTLM2, though the stories seem disconnected as the existence of Lizard Men always seems to be a mystery to the military. There's also a lot of voice acting, in both the cutscenes and some dialogue while the player is able to move. The...voice acting isn't great, though. There's an almost total lack of passion in the lines which renders scenes like a dying marine humorous given his banal recognition of his imminent demise. I think there was one PDA recording - of a guy being chased by a monster - that didn't involve some eyerolling on my part.

Alan's biggest success is in the utility of his weapon loadout. You probably won't get much use out of the pistol outside of the occasional spider section, but the weapons all have their niches, except for the two rifles, one of which is superior to the first and replaces it if taken. It probably makes more of a difference when you're doing pistol starts on every level...but doing that robs you of the reward weapon earned in either of the secret levels. I used the double-barreled shotgun and rifle as my staples, with the grenade launcher for larger monsters or groups. The sniper rifle was too unwieldy to me to take out the fast-firing projectile monsters when using the scope. There weren't a whole lot of rockets to really get a feel for it, but it was a pretty handy rapid delivery explosive. The serpent wand is required for at least one fight but it's pretty handy the whole time you have it as long as you get some ammo. Therana's Sceptre is secret only and is basically a BFG replacement. If you save up the charges, it can knock a good chunk of time off the bigger bosses.

I enjoyed TOTLM3, except for Alan's overwhelming fascination with gore that dominates the first episode, particularly the sexualized stuff. It may be what we've come to expect, but I hope that he lays off the mutilation the next time around. I think this format could be pushed a lot farther with more dynamic battles and interesting architecture / layouts, but as an adventure-style level (as in adventure movie, not adventure game), Alan's done pretty well for himself. I think his weapon balance is pretty tight as well; could have used either some more rocket launcher action (tough in those cramped corridors). If he can work some more interesting architecture and fights into his next publication - whatever that may be - I'll be stoked.


by Alan "alando1" D.

Practice LevelMAP19
Ye olde demo level. It doesn't hold your hand, but it teaches you about reloading, flares, flashlights, jumping, teleporters, and walkover switches.


MAP01Dig Site
Short, atmospheric, and linear. You get tag-teamed by two groups of lizards on two occasions but your pistol is more than enough to ward them off. It also demonstrates a new aspect of the Temple of the Lizard Men series, bringing in the puzzle-solving noise from Hexen so that you know you're doing something when you solve parts of a sequence. Also introduces a new PDA system, rather than just printing the stuff to your screen before it quickly vanishes.

Underground PassageMAP02
Short, linear, and the puzzles lack guile. Shoot four chains, press four gargoyle switches, and then pull four chains. There are about twenty lizards, and a few more varieties, but they all fall to the super-powered shotgun assault as they run, single file, to their deaths.

MAP03Subterranean Water System
Well, hey! Things get a little larger but are basically just as linear and cramped. Exceptions include that double canal room that serves as a hub and the darkened maze leading up to it, which is basically just atmosphere building. The lizard sorcerers make a debut; they're pushovers but still pretty dangerous to fight, if only because they can hit you from afar.

Underground TempleMAP04
Uh, more of the same, though Alan is throwing some tougher monsters at you in closer quarters. The shotgun is still superior, but the lizard woman assassins debut here; their arrows are almost hitscan-worthy, making them kind of dangerous in the bridge room. The puzzles are all lightweight too-many-switches stuff, kind of a growing trend. I did like the bridge room, though.

MAP05Sacred Chambers
This is a bit more like it... Even with the introduction of obligatory annoying popcorn enemies. Atmospheric lurkers in the sewers, predictably, but some more open areas for lizards to actually sneak up on you, since any idiot should be able to tell when and where you'll find the monster closets. The opening room looks kind of nice.

Caverns of Holy WaterMAP06
Alan does a little better here, but if you're paying attention, you'll see that those lovingly crafted larger caverns are roughly rectangle-shaped. It's basically another linear lizard crawl, with more shadows in the dark at the beginning, afterward leading to some up close and personal fights. Nothing really stands out to me except the monsters in the second darkened caverns, the big fight in the largest cavern (all about crowd control), and a pretty cool double chaos serpent battle for a key.

MAP07Tomb of Nikutani
Larger and slightly less boxy. There are a few "well, shit" moments where you walk into some pitch-black room, knowing something bad is about to go down. There's also a lot of backtracking after you clear the wings of this tomb. The only really threatening monsters are the rapid-moving rippers (ahem, T-Rex Men) and the assassins, and I guess the sorcerers when they appear, one encounter involving three of them in a fairly open area. That run across the jutting stones in the northernmost room was okay, if painfully obvious.

The GuardiansMAP08
Some quick dialogue followed by a boss fight bookended with two slightly less dangerous encounters. The normal monsters are thrown at you in mobs; the boss encounter is an OG Doom-ish pair of super-powered ettins I've seen elsewhere. They're pretty handily circle-strafed to death, but a bit faster to take down if you get a hand on the secret grenade launcher. The other stuff, not so pressing, though if you get backed into a corner those lizards will get you good.

MAP09Temple of Drazil
There are a few nice, larger temple structures here, like the main chamber with the relief of Drazil and the murky water area. The rest is about what you'd expect. No memorable encounters unless you count mowing down four monster closets worth of lizards as exciting. I guess there's a lot more exposition, getting down into the "why" of TOTLM3.

Alan has disturbingly stepped up his game when it comes to varied depictions of mutilated bodies. "Torment" is if not the only then one of the sacrificial chambers powering the dark spirit. The combat is pretty bleh, apart from a huge wave of lizard people protecting the final sacrificial chamber. Most of the level is gore of several kinds, though as with TOTLM2 the emphasis is on women. Pretty much all of the good architecture went into the final area, which won't even have things to fight once you get to it. I do like the bit of scripting with the scare scene in the caverns section.

MAP10ATorture Chambers
More torture porn, but the atmosphere is somewhat more appropriate, like the chasm with the disciples. You know it's creepy at first but when you grab the searchlight secret and pan around a little you see a lot more of it. About the only really visually interesting areas are the terminal of the underwater section (gill beasts, bleh) and the first major room to the east. There's also a boss, the "smoke monster", which is a pain in the ass to fight. You basically just hammer it with grenades and duck around corners like a fraidy-cat until you run out, then shotgun its ass and try not to eat too many hits. It dies eventually, though.

Deeper into the ruins. More spiders, more lizards, more stalkers. The design is a little less straightforward, and there's an honest to God actual puzzle in the northeastern rooms, but yeah it's mostly corridor trudging and mowing down lizards with your weapons.

MAP11APath to the Palace
Alan squanders some decent scenery on some monotypical monster packs. Twice you'll arrive at a huge cavern only to battle reams of airborne monsters; the first is a pack of chaos serpents, not terribly annoying. The second is a cloud of twenty or more disciple monsters that represent a huge slog of just chipping away at a blurry mess. Of the other fights, the only things that stick out in my mind are the pair of disciples that serve as key guardians and the really cheap tag team at the end of the level. Sure startled me!

Palace of SpectraMAP12
Well, this is actually a pretty decent level. Still the normal quota of BS puzzles, but the fights are semi-engaging, especially the ones in the opening room. Granted, trying to take out the dangerous lizard woman assassins is a bit of a pill even with the sniper rifle, but Alan gives you about enough room to maneuver while having enough pillars and stuff to get caught up on if you're not careful. The finale is yet another bunch of chaos serpents, but at least you get some more real estate to move around if you really want to.

MAP13Domain of Asudem
Well, as far as boss maps go, it's got a decent buildup and plenty of ammo. Asudem is a pushover, though, given how slow she moves and the amount of pillars you have to just kite her around if needed. Maybe I just managed to avoid whatever her handicap ability is supposed to be.

Burial GroundsMAP14
A pretty big network of ruins. Alan does nice at establishing a creepy atmosphere with some new monsters, a lot of which are now vanishing into shadow. This is also - I think - the first appearance of the R667 vampire monsters, pretty dangerous even with your loadout. Corridor shooting is moderately more interesting, though trying to off all the disciples in that eastern section is annoying. I just wish the rectangular nature of the main outdoor area wasn't so freakin' obvious.

MAP31Secret Cave
Pretty cool level with some nice features like a pool featuring the visage of the goddess Therana and a pool leading to a very nice sunken city, the site of a pretty easy but still fun battle against a ton of gill beasts and eels, which then morphs into a full-on slaughter back on land. The action is again about as linear as you can expect from Alan, but I like this otherwise generically-titled map.

Cavern of DarknessMAP15
Not as cavernous as one might think. Seems to be in a more mountainous area with some nice isolated streams and a little hut in the middle of nowhere for some scientist bodies to hang out. Things are getting more dangerous; many of the "gimme" lizard men enemies originally seen have vanished and been replaced by tougher fare, including shadow lizards, which have the ability to throw their own fireballs. There's a bit of backtracking to be done, but only via straight lines.

MAP16The Shadow Serpent
A boss map with a bunch of homogeneous monster packs leading up to it, none of which are particularly threatening until you start fighting disciples and vampires. The shadow serpent - Shadoch - has a boat load of hit points; you'll need practically every bit of ammo on the island to destroy him. What you're most likely to do is kill yourself off the little shadow beings he sends your way when you find out the alt fire does splash damage. Taking the secret weapon from MAP31 and doing a few direct hits will shave a ton of time off this battle; don't leave home without it!


The KeepMAP20
A short introductory map to the shadow realm. It's a largely symmetric castle-ish thing, down to the monster placement, which once you adjust to having to fight phantoms and shadow lizards, isn't very exciting. It's the exact same puzzle on both sides to open up the teleporter, too. Boring.

MAP21Chambers of Souls
Uh, basically the exact same comments as the previous level, except this is indoors rather than outdoors. Except for the beginning and ending, you go through the same encounters twice to open the door to the exit, which is staffed with some lizard mages. At least the stairs to the two teleporters go up and down, alternatively...? The flying skull enemies are kind of lovably weird, though.

Dark CanyonMAP22
Well, it's a change of sorts, as long as you don't mind the fact that every section of the narrow ravines criss-crossing the canyon looks pretty much like the next one. Most of the monsters start out confined to the larger areas where multiple paths branch out; you'll need to explore them all for ammo and the two keys required to exit. About the only rough part is the fact that you tend to back into the narrow passages of the canyon to avoid getting mobbed by beasties. Oh, and when you grab all the keys, you'll have to fend off some chaos serpents, which is slightly more interesting with the layout.

Basically the TOTLM equivalent of a slaughtermap. You start out clearing disciples and phantoms from the upper and lower floors and then flip some switches, triggering huge waves of phantoms flooding the lower floors. After that you work your way to the center of the level where the key grab triggers a massive invasion, made slightly uncomfortable due to your limited real estate. After that it's a quick hop outside into an aerial slaughter. It's a shame the architecture is so boring since Alan managed to cobble together a few decent rows. Those little step pyramids in the eastern area are pretty neat, though.

Sewers of BloodMAP24
A TOTLM-ified "Underhalls". The basic layout is recognizable, and that makes this one of the more dynamic levels of the set. It's claustrophobic yet gives you some room to breathe. The fact that the phantoms are used as flimsy but dangerous popcorn monsters helps to make it decently threatening, especially when you're fighting eight at a time.

MAP25Valley of the Damned
Alan kind of has the atmosphere down, but beware of a lot of pointless backtracking, given that he doesn't even have the decency to throw some more monsters at you when you have to do stuff like trudge back up the Disney-style line dividers toward the exit room. There are a few neat moments, though. I enjoyed the double-ophidian pillar battle and while the clusterfuck of disciples killed me a few times it was nice to be a little threatened.

The Portal GuardianMAP26
The layout, clearly inspired by "Tower of Babel", is actually pretty neat. The Helltaur, though, is a nasty boss that will slay you dead if he pretty much clips you...much like a normal Cyberdemon, except this guy's attack patterns are less circle-strafeable. Having any spare missiles should help out tons, though, and the pillars work for cover as long as you're not trying to dodge the ground tracers.


MAP27Return to Reality
Back to form with a massive key hunt scoping out six individual sections of ruins, each of which have a key requiring another key found within to unlock them. The one big spin is the emphasis on shadow, not that you will be able to tell with all the flares and personal lanterns found stashed around the site. Once you're in doors, it all plays the same, though the outside area shows some extra tender love and care... even if the outer edge is just about perfectly straight. Actually, there's another challenge - not a lot of health to be found here, or maybe I was just too clumsy for my own good.

Hidden PassageMAP28
Another short underground level, but it's actually got some character as the ruin bits and cavern bits are tied together through a common underground river you'll have to cross. There aren't a lot of dangerous fights apart from one big melee mob but there is a ton of darkness to navigate. For whatever reason hitting every switch in the big dual-panel room was a pain in the ass for me. The secret exit is about three secrets deep but it's kind of satisfying to work out.

MAP32Abandoned Mines
One of the best levels of the set. The level skeleton isn't that much different from "Hidden Passage" - the river being replaced by a four-way mine cart track intersection - but character matters a lot in an add-on like this. As before, there's tons of darkness and plenty of ways to vanquish it, and the somewhat broad mine tunnels lend themselves to more robust enemy encounters. Heck, there are a few points where you might get fired on by enemies from a window looking to an adjacent room. About the one thing I didn't like was a section of tunnel that's just plain blocked off by an impassable line, which is pretty jarring compared to the spirit of the rest of the mapset.

Just a big ol' six-stage slaughtermap. The first three waves are ground lizards, easily dispatched with small arms, though you might catch some flak while reloading. The two stages after that heavily feature disciples and are mixed in with some other monsters; it's pretty hectic, especially the one in the large room with the shadow beast. The final wave is the nastiest as it sends all manner of beasts through a portal at the end of a hallway at you. A few super-ettins heading up the rear and are pretty good at catching you with mega-fireballs while you're dodging the more durable melee monsters, especially those T-Rex men (rippers).

Boss fight! The leadup reminds me of Unreal's finale - likely not a coincidence. There are two stages to the battle, the first against her slow-walking and casting spells. The only one that's likely to catch you is that lightning storm bullshit, but as long as you don't take it head-on you should be okay. She teleports around so the serpent wand's normal fire is great as it tends to home in on her position mid-teleport to tell you where to look out at. The second stage has no teleportation but she spams different kinds of super-fast projectiles, the most dangerous of which rapidly homes in on you and does explosive damage. It seems to end faster than the first, though, probably because she doesn't disappear every five seconds.

Home StretchMAP17
In what has become a TOTLM staple, enjoy your short walk through the scenery toward the extraction point. You've earned it!



  1. I have to say I enjoyed this more than I expected. Alan has come a ways since a chainsaw that bellows "breakin' the law" every time you pick it up and a fight in a scrolling helicopter. Aesthetically, dynamic lighting was probably the wad's strongest point. The various lighting items (like the flares) were actually pretty useful, and sort of added a feeling of immersion. The Indiana Jones vibe and the sprite edits of Doom and Hexen monsters used to create a new cast sort of harkened me back to the Osiris TC for some reason.

    I will say that the difficulty of the episode bosses felt completely reversed. The first boss was balls to the walls difficult, and was the only time during gameplay that I submitted to using zdoom's resurrect command. The Helltaur was difficult and balanced, but the final boss was a walk in the park due to the amount space you are given to fight her.

    That said, it was satisfying through and through.

    1. on the one hand, i agree, because a lot of stuff alan did thru the rest of the series has been improved on by quite a bit. on the other, well, you know. i think more dynamic level layouts would make things way more interesting for me but idk how that would reflect on the dungeon crawler-ish gameplay.

    2. I agree that more exploratory layouts would be his next biggest step. The levels also do tend toward claustrophobic, but that may be the result of most the opposition being melee-only.

    3. yeah, i wouldnt say that im sick of totlm, but i think that id like to see alan do something different with totlm4.