Sunday, February 23, 2014

Explanada (XPLANADA.WAD)

by "vdgg"

Doomworld Forums superstar vdgg is a speedrunner and classic Doom II enthusiast. It was inevitable that he'd make a map, and I'm not talking about the interesting proof-of-concept "TAS reversed". Explanada is a single map for Doom II, released in 2013 for limit-removing ports. vdgg wasn't all about accompanying his PWAD with a story; instead, he has a list of influences and credits, including classics like STRAIN, Plutonia, Requiem, Memento Mori II, Insertion, and some less old works like Suspended in Dusk. That's quite a pedigree, and a lot to measure up to. You won't have time, though, to think about what maps XPLANADA looks like, because the entire run will be spent getting your head kicked in.

vdgg is a speedrunner, of course, and like Skepticist's Skepland (though on a much smaller scale), this level is built around forcing the player to twist into uncomfortable positions as they work their way through grueling scenario after scenario. That hideaway commando at the beginning barely hints at the clusterfucks that are soon to follow. You'll be getting up close and personal with some Hell knights in a tight hallway, battle arch-viles in several situations where you already have too much to think about in terms of taking cover, and deal with at least one pack of pain elementals without cover or much room to dodge. I hope you saved up your plasma ammo! It's wicked, but very satisfying when you jump out of the fire. Oh, and that door trap with the two archies was pretty nasty, vdgg.

When you finally get some time to stop and smell the corpses, Explanada shines. It's a great mixture of well-detailed base segments and more abstract tech and earth. The tight hallway sections reflect the former while those large areas to the east and west speak to the latter. The northeast is a bit tamer fight-wise and comes with a nice elevator "puzzle" with the platform / lift and has a great grand staircase thing going. The southeast pulls off that scary macrotech feel and squeezes in what was for me a rough battle, at least until you figure out where the rocket launcher is. I also love the reveal on the long walkway out of the base toward the exit, which turns the tunnel into a dangerous catwalk, thankfully without a ton of beasts so you can actually appreciate the metamorphosis.

After playing Explanada, I could go for a vdgg episode or megaWAD, as brutal as it is. I'm pleased to see an experienced player jump out of the gates with something this solid as a map release, and the new music and few new resources just seals the deal. And, uh, you're welcome, vdgg. Thanks for putting in an Easter egg for us UV saps! If you're scared of skill 4, vdgg has supported lower difficulties. HMP tones it down a little, but easy should be much easier to handle, judging from the counts provided in the README. Anyway, if you are at all interested in classic-looking Doom II maps, you should give XPLANADA a try.



  1. A decent map, but like a lot of maps, the difficulty is generally loaded toward the first half.

    1. Which is really part and parcel of how little control the author exerts as more weapons and resources become available, outside of making a level entirely "scripted"