Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Eye of the Beholder (EOB.WAD)


Jon Landis was one of '94's pioneering WAD authors, going on to contribute to STRAIN of all things. Eye of the Beholder, originally released in 1994 (with a small '95 update) has been lost to the sands of time as far as the archives are concerned, funny considering there is no draconian distribution clause. Some of these maps will look familiar to veterans - !POIS!, !PIPE!, and !WOW! can all be found here as E2M1, E2M2 and E2M8, respectively. The others, as far as I know, are all brand new additions to the Landis library of gameplay. So, EOB is an episode replacement for The Shores of Hell. There's no attached story, but Landis loves to talk about each of the levels in his .TXT, going so far as to give you hints, and you'll need them.


If you haven't touched a Landis map before, you should know that they're brutally unfair by today's standards. There are dozens of death traps, claustrophobic combat, precarious positioning, secret switches, and situations where if you don't take the right path the first time, you basically fuck yourself. I would think that it is a FDA-player's nightmare, and probably a nightmare for any casual player. I can't help but enjoy myself, though; some of these maps were basically designed to be suffered through until you get the correct order of operations and then blaze through, at least compared to your previous fumblings. They are very much non-traditional Doom levels. Some of them come with huge waves of monsters that turn into slaughters, though they're not all that challenging after playing through Landis's level-design-as-combat.


Landis makes a pair of changes to Doom's original gameplay via DeHackEd. You won't find any barons here - the noble has been replaced by the super imp, a super-fast green dude that chucks cacodemon fireballs and eats several rockets before going down. Thankfully, he's pretty vulnerable to stun-locking. The other thing is the BFG's replacement, the plasma cannon. It looks like the BFG but fires something that looks like mancubus fireballs and aren't nearly as potent as a BFG blast. You'll wish you had the original when you're staring down Cyberdemons and the like; bumping is so much more fun. I don't care for the cannon, of course, but the super imp is a nice change-up that likely changes the dynamic of !PIPE! and !WOW! from their original incarnations. There's also an original soundtrack (!), with the exception of an midi render of "Stairway to Heaven", used as the end-of-episode theme.


Consider very strongly what you're up to experiencing before you take a crack at Eye of the Beholder. It is about as obtuse as level design can get on virtually every front. To some, though, this style of gameplay will thrill as you contend with the very geometry of these maps. It'll be interesting to see what Landis decided to do with the expanded bestiary in Eye of the Beholder II...




EYE OF THE BEHOLDER
by Jon Landis

The PrisonE2M1
Landis immediately shows why he's thought of as such a cad as far as difficulty goes. "The Prison" starts off with borderline Tyson action; once you find a berserk, you're pretty much set, though there are still some puzzletacular bits that lead one to think that he would have fit right at home in Eternal Doom. He can't help but spoil his puzzles, though, as seen in the .TXT; he really wants you to succeed! There is some very nice architecture throughout. The caco death ledge seems kind of neutered, unless of course you take the wrong exit on purpose.

E2M2The Sewers
If anyone remembers Landis, it's for this utter bastard of a map. It's significantly easier if you carry over from E2M1, but there are still dead end death traps, total clusterfuck fights, and - funnily enough - attempts at subverting map-revealing cheats. It's a very tight sewer level with tiny pipes you have to carefully step into that send you into the next danger. The nastiest monster here is the cacodemon, which swallows up a lot of space. Several fights become quickly congested, especially the one leading off the switch roulette room. To me, it's very much an order of operations level, which will be very frustrating for casual players or FDA enthusiasts. It's a kind of twisted genius, though.

Caves, Rocks, and CacosE2M3
Instead of pipes, you get some wide, open spaces. The space you have to move in is pretty small, though - think "Chasm". Actually, the opening is a pitch-black chainsaw battle vs. demons and spectres, and then lost souls. Then it's on to tightrope acts and some less fun sequences, like taking out the super imps guarding the soulsphere, whose approach cannot be completed at low health, or that pack of lost souls unleashed after the blue key, which is more tedious than anything. There's a secret plasma rifle you'll want for the finale, since there are so many cells lying about, but if you make good work with your chainsaw you probably won't even need it. I didn't grab the BFG...

E2M4Quick Rising Things
Something a little more traditional. It's still pretty demanding, though. Landis starts you off under pressure and then throws rooms trapped with cacos and super imps at you. You're starved for ammo much of the time, and while you can probably punch out a baron under duress (albeit painfully), the mega-imps demand respect. The only room that really sticks out for me is the circular arena with the fast staircase. There are a few goodies to find post-play.

Outside With the MonsterE2M5
The monster is a big ol' head that vomits forth a huge bunch of uglies in a large, outdoor area. If you didn't grab the secret plasma rifle before taking the one-way elevator to the scene of the battle, well, good luck! The rest of the level is pretty fluid, except for of course the yellow key. You might, uh, have to reload after you find out what Landis wants you to do. The zombie slaughter at the end feels cheap in comparison to the rest of the map, but I do like that secret exit.

E2M9Circle Jerk
Not that this map's gimmick separates it from the others, but it only has one Spiderdemon and three Cyberdemons as your opposition. Oh, and like a metric ton of barrel traps. One of them is pistol-pushing and the rest are designed to slay you dead, I think. Anyway, you can fuck yourself over in the first fight if you don't immediately hit the teleporter after freeing yourself, since the Spider-teleport only works once and you can eat it yourself. Then you battle dual Cyberdemons with the plasma cannon, which I'm not entirely fond of. The finale is a straight shot at the yellow key guardian, who you can flummox or frag with a teleport. The descending platforms look neat in spite of the blood falls.

Falls of DeathE2M6
This is a mad dash through the sewers. Actually, there's an order of operations puzzle to grab an early soul sphere for some buffer, but the door seals off in 30 seconds, so good luck figuring it out. It's more obvious than you think... The big fight here is the caco sluice, which is loaded with red devils. You won't really be able to tackle it unless you rush ahead and then use a teleport to go back to the upper area where you'll find a plasma rifle guarded by three super imps. As far as frustrations, there's at least one or two irretrievable dead ends where you die from poison, and the plasma cannon puzzle is beyond me, given that two of the sides of the fourth pillar are impassable.

E2M7The Gate
The concepts are decent but the execution is a long, slow drag toward the finish line. First of all, to grab all the powerups at the beginning you have to fiddle with a switch-controlled lift, which will take awhile. Then you have to battle a slow-teleporting army of monsters in the expansive southern arena. I think some cacodemons and lost souls were supposed to come out, too, but I don't know if I ever saw any before I opened up the final room, which requires two hidden switches revealed by walking over them. Then you have to battle a ton of super imps and probably clear those side-hallways of their trash, a very dark proposition.

Catacombs and Other StuffE2M8
AKA !WOW!, of course. It's another deathtrap dungeon with lots of dead drops and tricky dodging. Landis routes you through the few areas he has multiple times; if you think you're at a dead end, go check back on previously explored stuff, because something has likely opened up. Most of the fights aren't that hard; the only one that gave me trouble was the shotgun / demon room to the northwest (too much exposure) and that super imp ambush in the series of gates before the finale before I realized how effective the chainsaw is. The end is more about infighting than anything; duck the Cybs and let all the monsters out and then mop up when everything's done. Pretty fun.

6 comments:

  1. The remark about "brutall unfairness by today's standards" is spot on.
    Music from E2M5 was reused in STRAIN (a bit improved, but it's great still in EOB).
    Cool AD&D EOB2 pic :)

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    1. Pretty much. You need a particular mindset in order to enjoy these levels, and it isn't privy to most modern players, from what I've seen.

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  2. To watch the only existing demo (.lmp) as for now, it's for EOB's E2M8. Go to http://doomedsda.us/wad596.html, download the WAD and the demo pack zip, choose E1M8 of HEROES. I think it's the same version. (I had to share it, I had a major "But I must have seen it not a long time ago! BUT WHERE??" thought).

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  3. hey dude did you hear that they are give out doom 4 beta keys to those who preorder Wolfenstein the new order

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  4. Ah neat. I played the sequel but never got around to trying the first. Sounds brutal by your review, but I'm going to give it a shot anyway.

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