Monday, February 3, 2014
Shadowman released Khorus in 2012, the same year he published The Inquisitor, which was set on a fan-fictional world called Khorus. I don't know whether the two are related, unless this is where Doomguy winds up after scouring Khorus from the taint of Eidolon. Given that Hexen iconography features in the title and intermission screens, that may very well be the case. KHORUS is a 9-map Doom II episode for Boom-compatible ports that takes place across wilderness landscapes, canyons, temples and sewers. I never did find my missing red cow, and I always knew why no one likes the Cyberdemon's voice, but I did feel the Spiderdemon's wrath. What is the court of Doom? Given that the episode just slides right in to "Refueling Base", it's a mystery I'll never solve... until Khorus 2.
Two big things you need to know before loading this up. The first is the music selection, probably the most contentious point. Shadowman has pulled from a glut of Russian folk tunes (and one Diablo II song) which will probably ruin the atmosphere for some players. Personally, I found the selections charming, even if I can't tell what the guy is singing in "Muryonka's Song". It gives the set a very distinct tone that sound slightly goofy, to me, which is a-okay. It's good to not be afraid to smuggle a joke or two into the mapset. It kind of reminds me of the super-secret Whitemare level...
The other thing is the fact that Khorus could stand in as some Eternal Doom levels if you want to get your puzzle on. They're pretty to look at, though you've got three outdoors maps and then six ancient ruins maps that are some kind of never-was hybrid of various cultures, though Egyptian iconography is to me the most obvious. The layout is as much your enemy as the monsters. There's one feature I've seen a lot, a prominent motif in Shadowman levels, and at this point it's not interesting anymore - the grid 64 switch mazes. I get that he likes them, but by the time you reach the dual labyrinths in "Traps and Tricks", they'll have overstayed their welcome.
So, Khorus is very pretty to look at. Shadowman has put together some very coherent themes and the architecture and detailing are quite nice. It would be nice if he'd gone a little crazy with the interior design but I guess he's married to semi-realistic dungeon crawls. The combat is heavily in favor of the claustrophobic when you're inside and sniper paranoia when you're out. The former isn't helped by the 64-wide mazes and the latter is amplified by all the foliage around, which makes sighting the hitscanners chipping away at you difficult at times. You may also find yourself prey to height differences, only to catch a shotgun blast on the top of your noggin. Expect a ton of trappy gameplay to go with the gorgeous visuals; monster closets and teleport ambushes abound.
If you want some great atmospheric levels with some challenging, at times survival-style gameplay, then you could do a lot worse than Khorus. It's loaded with puzzles, monsters, and intriguing musical choices. It's a great example of why Shadowman is such a highly-regarded author. I just wish he could come with some better map filler than grid 64 switch mazes...