Monday, June 9, 2014

NOVA: The Birth (NOVA.WAD)

Way back at the tail end of 2011, Doomworld Forum superstar kildeth had an idea for a community project. Where the Community Chest series aimed to combine the works of authors who would never be capable of making a megaWAD on their own, NOVA's goal was to make a limit-removing PWAD out of maps made by newbie authors. Now in 2014, more than two years later, we can reap the rewards of their learning experience. NOVA: The Birth doesn't have a story outside of the new intermission texts. Hell is warping reality again, and no one else can see it, almost as though it's drawing Doomguy into its infernal embrace. You're nothing if not an unstoppable evil-destroying siege engine, though, so the outcome of this encounter is all but predetermined.

If these are the contributors' fledgling works, then the future holds a lot of promise for these previously disparate Doomers. Sometimes the sampling is too small to get a real feel, but a handful of these authors have a crazy amount of talent and the others show readily improving skills within the course of the megaWAD itself showing in true anecdotal fashion that practice is the best way to develop your talent. I hate picking favorites but I'd hate for anyone to pass this up when it has gems from the incomparable mouldy, plus others from compatriots dobu gobu maru, kildeth, cannonball, Stygian, and Paul D.. Not to bash those not named, like EvilNed (now named), who I'd also love to see more stuff from. Shoutout to Phobus, who performed the megaWAD equivalent of a photobomb with his "Phobus Anomaly".

Progression is par for the course, with maybe a bit of nukage base fatigue settling in from all the early levels. Partway through it turns into a mixture of tech and Hell before full on inferno. It feels more care was placed on average in the later works, but that may just be how the map order shook out based on what was made. There's one major outlier, the amusing "Riptide" from Hurricyclone, which tackles an... unusual theme. That's secret levels for you, though, a nice contrast with the atmospheric and ominous "Iron Exuviae". The pairing almost feels like a mirror of "Pharaoh" and "Caribbean" from Evilution, at least in terms of mood.... Thanks for the mostly fresh soundtrack and skies, by the way. It's almost as good as new textures.

The gameplay has some big variations and spikes in places. While a lot of it is comparable to Doom II, if slightly tougher, you've got examples of linear adventure maps ("Immaterium"), puzzle treks ("Iron Exuviae"), slaughter-lite ("Ring of Gyges"), and backbreaking slaughter ("The Seventh Circle"). cannonball's stuff is more in line with newschool Plutonic madness while the rest fall somewhere in between that and "Entryway". MAP30 is a beast, composed of four unique areas plus a Frankenstein of NOVA's greatest hits that you'll have to navigate before the boss shooter. It's really cool if a total chore to play all the way through on UV.

I'm not saying that I expected NOVA to suck, but I was pleasantly surprised by this collection of Doom's up-and-comers. I hope the authors enjoyed the experience and keep making cool stuff. Definitely check it out, though be on the lookout for the occasional batshit insane slaughterfight. Just don't let the first crop of levels kill your interest in the rest - it's worth it.

by assorted authors

by John S. "PRIMEVAL" Weekley
Your bog standard MAP01 replacement, with a lot of pistol play. You can grab a shotgun and berserk pack about 2/3 of the way through; berserk punching the rest is definitely the way to go. The scant thirty or so monsters don't offer a lot of opposition when they're mostly zombies, so this stands firmly in the category of mild warm-ups. I do like some of the details, like the canyon out back.

MAP02Administration Center
by "Jaws in Space"
Techbase map with some E1 refs like the armor in the tower and that outdoor area with the soulsphere. It's also got sector toilets and sinks, some of the worst I've seen. Anyway, you spend a lot of time pistol-whipping zombies in the beginning. Enemy layout isn't spectacular except for maybe the tower room where lost souls from the edge of the map sneak up on you. The final room is more crammed full of stuff than anything but the addition of demons on the ground with hitscanners in the air is a nice way to end things. The secret canyon in the back is pretty cool.

Water Treatment PlantMAP03
by "mrthejoshmon"
A short, claustrophobic map from joshman with a lot of green stuff. I dig the irregular triangle underground area to the west which has a mancubus in the pit taking potshots at you with the imps and spectres running around. The other highlight is the outdoor area, which has some sneakily-laid out commandos that will chew you up if they catch you off-guard. There are a few secrets you open up late in the map, I think by crossing an arbitrary threshold, which give you a rocket launcher you can use to speed up the death of the baron and an Easter egg with what I assume are josh's initials - J.B..

MAP04Factory Factor
by "EvilNed"
Ned makes a pretty cool tech level with some interesting shapes. It's loaded with hitscanners but the shotgun grind isn't that bad and a few of the ambushes, like that row of imps that pops up when you flip the door switch in the first area, are slightly taxing. The hallways are whatever but the southwestern annex has some neat rooms, particularly the one that has the switch opening the door to the blue key. Barons and Hell knights offer some decent pressure when the best you got is a shotgun and a chaingun.

Hazard FacilityMAP05
by Michael "kildeth" Kilderry
A fun little mess of sectors in a techbase flavor with some nukage to muck around in, likely the source of the "Hazard". You've a couple different directions to pick starting out, either the safe road or the toxic low road. I took the low road and found myself propelled forward out of danger for a bit before I could settle down and start clearing enemies, so that's nice. I dig the layout, especially that big "S" curve room leading to the end, which has a ledge visited via teleport. Again, lots of Hell noble pressure at the finale.

MAP06Sewage Processing
by Collin "Arjak" Pierce
Another quaint little nukage facility. This one is chock full of secrets, though, including a combat shotgun / backpack and a run through some toxic waste and slow crushers to a rocket launcher, not that you'll really need it if you snagged the SSG. Pretty basic map but the combat is alright. I like the big barrel room since the pain elemental, mancubus, and revenant together represent a bit of a step up in difficulty, even if you can just run back down the stairs.

Service Station SickMAP07
by "EvilNed"
A second fun level from Ned, again in the style of a nuke base. It's got a hub arrangement with a central structure you'll be revisiting. Any real exploration requires a leap of faith and a battle with demons in the dark, after which you're free to take on the outdoor catwalk to the southeast and that '94-ish series of platforms and bridges behind the yellow key door. A lot of the fights are more about inching forward than something more pitched (as demonstrated with the spectre / imp series to the north) but the yellow door room has some big surprises for you, like a big ol' pack of cacos in relatively cramped quarters.

by "mrthejoshman"
Another short level from Josh. You move from a courtyard to a densely-packed storage facility before the finale, a careful stroll across the Hell-torn landscape. The crate maze is easily the hardest part of the level. You don't have enough health or ammo to just wade in because pushing in the wrong direction will have one or more Hell knights working toward your position with no recourse. Grabbing the shotgun is a must, as is not getting torn up by imp fireballs. The rest is pretty easy, especially if you grab the SSG. There's no shortage of ammo after the yellow key door.

by "Fuzzyfireball"
Fuzzy gives us a definitively linear techbase gauntlet. There are a lot of zombies and imps to clear on the way along with some stronger enemies, like the occasional revenant or Hell knight. Things step up toward the end with some arch-viles you have to chew through, so mastery of combat shotgun play is key since this is the strongest thing you'll have available. Some of the hall trash plus teleport ambush pairings are pretty nasty but any player worth their salt shouldn't have much of a problem. The few packs of commandos might do it, though. There's also a secret plasma rifle at the end for those carrying weapons over.

MAP10Hell's Furnace
by "EvilNed"
Ned knocks out a distinctive map with some cool macrotecture (dig that furnace wing) and a ton of enemies to chew through. You've got plenty of ammo to do it with, and the author even floats you a bunch of rockets for some of the nastier segments, like two arch-viles teleporting into a location that's potentially rife with monster corpses. There's usually a pack of dudes waiting whenever you hit the switches that eventually unlock the yellow key, a nice mix of monsters. The spectres appearing out of the dark is a nice touch.

Phobus AnomalyMAP11
by James "Phobus" Cresswell
Phobus crashes this novice party with this little map that splits the line between tech and Hell. Beware - this kitten has claws! Monsters are lurking in every corner, and while the opening may set the tone, things aren't really made evident until you grab the blue key and find yourself beset upon by pain elementals. There are several paths to the blue key door, but the only one you should be worrying about should take you through to the rocket launcher, an indispensable piece of weaponry for the madcap finale which sends a cadre of monsters at you, ending with an arch-vile / revenant exclamation mark. Diabolical.

by "mrthejoshman"
joshman steps up his game with this infested base map. "Incubator" subverts all Duke-related expectations with its upbeat OG Doom tune and raucous gunplay. My only warning - I hope you're adept at killing revenants in close combat lest you be agitated. There's a lot of claustrophobic action in hallways and cramped, dark spaces, but you generally have enough room to breathe or a door to go back through. The three roads after the red key are pretty fun. The soul sphere comes with a nice fight and there's a false exit fakeout plus an atmospheric ending.

Warehouse DistrictMAP13
by Daniel "sgt dopey" Townsend
A good ol' working man's city map. "Warehouse District" has a few crates but it's more about navigating a bunch of buildings with some back and forth for switch hunting, which is a bit of a shock after the plethora of more or less straightforward levels that came before. Townsend is a decent hand at trickling enemies to stand in your way with the occasional big fight, like the big teleport ambush in the northeast area, but the fights aren't all that exacting. Ammo is pretty tight to start with but eventually the switch is flipped and it's raining everything, so have fun while it lasts.

MAP14Man Cub Up
by "EvilNed"
Another sewer map, but this one is infested with mancubuses. I kind of got a "Impossible Mission" vibe at first, but that quickly gave way toward a lot of swearing at mancubuses. Some map areas are completely optional, though they house goodies like the plasma rifle and BFG. Others, like the octagon annex, have a good enough idea behind them but seem to last forever with all the ducking around and reliance on combat shotgun combat (unless you grabbed one of the plasma weapons). Breaking into the northeastern room is pretty hectic, possibly my favorite moment.

The PrisonerMAP15
by Matt "cannonball" Powell
cannonball knocks it up a notch with this riotous level. Powell has always been good at tricky enemy placement and "The Prisoner" is no exception, though the done to death jail cell opening seems like an odd choice. Traps and teleport ambushes abound. In a cool touch, you can telefrag the most troublesome element of the red key ambush. There's also a wandering Cyberdemon who you see and then hear in a completely different location before the inevitable showdown, a very tricky encounter with some spiders and pain elementals that already had a nasty opener. I also enjoyed the fight behind the blue key door, something slightly less madcap (unless you make the mistake of running up the platform). Fun and challenging.

MAP31Iron Exuviae
by "dobu gabu maru"
A creepy level dripping with atmosphere, slightly ruined by the reggae beat. It took me a second but once I found myself navigating some tunnels reminiscent of Cygnus IV I settled in to draw on the aura of mystery. It's primarily a puzzle map with some ominous figures that bring to mind the Enigma of Amigara Fault. You can take your time, more or less, and the exit teleporters are nonlethal and straightforward. Unless you're going for the super secret exit, though. I dunno where to get the hint, but I brute-forced it and found myself in total chaos with imps, demons, Hell knights, and then arch-viles while walking on fire. The pack of revenants at the top of the tower are comparatively easier to handle, even if the final guardians are brutally congested. Very cool map.

by "Hurricyclone"
Hurricyclone steps up to bat with this little offering, taking place in a trench in the ocean. Yep! It almost works, with those walkthrough poles doing a decent job at invoking seaweed. It's got another gimmick, though. Grab that chainsaw ASAP and chop what you can, because you don't have very many bullets. If you can figure out how to get to the secret shotgun, it'll make the Hell knight (and some other things) a lot easier to get past. I'd still saw those revenants, though. Kind of cute, but pretty hard.

by Paul D.
Paul shows out with this perfectly serviceable tricky base map. It's got some cool rooms, like the mancubus area to the northwest with its huge-ass vats, and the true "Teleportium" to the east, the site of a fairly relentless barrage of monsters. One of my favorite bits is a secret plasma rifle you lose access to if you raise the nukage level, something you don't need to do if you're any good at pillar-hopping. The final battle is a pretty busy scene, which makes battling those twin arch-viles kind of a pain. I prefer the big mancubus reveal to the west.

Sewer CityMAP17
by "EvilNed"
Again with the sewers. Well, this actually transcends the previous nukage levels to create an enormous, exploratory level that turns from spacious sewer to ruins of evil. There are some chaotic ambushes worked in here, like the yellow key fight whose cycling elevator is liable to briefly trap you and the actual "city" to the east, an incredibly chaotic melee where the streets surrounding the entrance become chock full of monsters. The final segment starts out with a sniper-ridden staircase climb with some nice macrotecture before forcing you to confront a Cyberdemon with very little ground to stand on. Cool stuff.

MAP18Power Core
by Matt "cannonball" Powell
Powell provides another rough and tumble techbase level, not to be confused with his "Reactor" from ConC.E.R.Ned. The big hook is the trio of Cyberdemons you see at the beginning who teleport away. They'll reappear to guard different aspects of the facility. Each of the larger rooms come with a crossfire setup that's designed to keep you moving, one of the key players being arachnotrons. The southwestern mini-maze (well, it's short but huge) has a nasty clusterfuck for its finale where cacodemons and pain elementals flood the halls while a Cyberdemon stalks you. The blue key trap is actually a huge arena showcasing a Spiderdemon, not that you have to spend much time in it. The biggest threat is an enormous wave of arch-viles guarding the self-destruct switch, but it's actually very easy to cheese. Fun map!

Bad BloodMAP19
by Cyriak "mouldy" Harris
mouldy presents a techbase with a dark secret. As you poke around you'll uncover its demonic influence, provided you can survive much of its claustrophobic gunplay. Areas like the tech trench to the southwest are a rude awakening with your lack of maneuverable space coupled with the shooting gallery. My favorite fight was the eastern balcony, which is a good ol' fashioned teleport pressure cooker, but there was a certain majesty to the swarm of cacos that issue forth from the marble relief's eyes just prior to the ho-hum Cyberdemon / imp shootout, though the room looked pretty sweet. Nice stuff.

MAP20Castle Bloodletting
by Collin "Arjak" Pierce
In a refreshing twist, Arjak unleashes a big ol' castle. The initial onslaught isn't too bad but when you hit the outer yard, you'll have some installed monsters to dodge around before you make things safe. It's more of an attrition level with the lack of health (outside of secrets) and the abundance of hitscanner enemies, particularly in ambushes. The eastern yard is about as hectic projectile-wise as the first big outdoor area but the addition of a Cyberdemon on the return trip gives a hint of gravity to the area.

Beta BaseMAP21
by "joe-ilya"
"Beta Base" is a hot mess, a combination of tech, Hell, and the void. It has a few things going for it, though. The claustrophobic setting is exacting and creates plenty of tension and the finale that starts with you dueling a pain elemental in the void before reality sets back in around you is a pretty cool moment. I managed to run out of ammo during a previous PE fight, though, so the ammo balance of the first half seems a little tight, and some of the visuals look more like map bugs.

MAP22Broken Confluence Point
by "Hurricyclone"
Starts out looking like a pretty meh techbase but Cyclone has some neat hooks that keep things interesting. Hell is actually in the process of invading the installation, which you'll hear via several explosions, after which several walls of the base will be torn apart, revealing slices of infernal reality. These usually come with big waves of monsters, ripe for rocket launcher harvesting. Most of the fights aren't that threatening but Hurricyclone uses arch-viles in a few areas to make things about as tricky as you can expect, particularly when that first big horde is bearing down on you. The real challenge is in remembering that most of your health is back in the starting room.

by Paul D.
A sequel to "Teleportium", judging by that start room. Everything's all wrong, though, as you're led through a series of cinematic turns while blasting your way through Hellspawn left and right. It's got more of an OG Doom feel with the reliance on the shotgun (there may be a combat shotgun, I didn't find one). It's a linear funhouse as scenes you recall from the previous level (MAP16) go pear-shaped. The atmosphere is good and the pressure is fine. It could use a little more autonomy, though that's the price you pay in adventure maps.

MAP24Ring of Gyges
by "Stygian"
This is a big ol' slaughtermap set in a crater with some surrounding structures. The end goal is to secure the blue and red keys, one of which is located in the pyramid-like central island. Most of the monsters clogging up the floor are imps, demons, and cacodemons. Sniper Hell knights and arachnotrons pop up on the outskirts but the revenant missiles from afar are what will fuck you up. You'll have to visit the annexes, each of which is worth it for goodies like an invul sphere, rocket launcher, etc.. I was expecting one Hell of a fight for the red key but it was disarmingly straightforward. Cool and action-packed.

Vile ArteriumMAP25
by Cyriak "mouldy" Harris, Michael A. "Death Egg" Jurich, and "dobu gabu maru"
An enormous, non-linear Hell fortress designed so that it invokes the image of a nightmarish labyrinth. This level has no key, your goal being a bloody dais on the east side of the map. Getting there is the hard part because the way is choked with enemies and entering the final room reveals its two Cyberdemon guardians. The authors have done their best to keep you from just rushing through by adding in some nasty ambushes, like that enormous wave of revenants in that four-pillared room, which I miraculously survived my first time through. Getting things started is the hardest part but once you get yourself a safe zone you can start exploring... on the tips of your toes. Kick ass.

MAP26Hell's Playground
by "joe-ilya"
Another visual mess of a Hell map, but this one is less focused on the void so it's not quite as "quirky" as joe's MAP21. There's still a lot of claustrophobic combat and some compromising fights like the big outdoor yard which is hitscanner Hell to start with, but ammo isn't quite as tight. The marble tiered area just north of the courtyard has some dual levels of combat going on but you probably won't even be able to see the lost souls, at least initially. The finale is a letdown, consisting of a Cyberdemon in a pit you just circlestrafe around. 

by Michael "kildeth" Kilderry and "Alwaysdoomed"
"Sensorium" has a highly-tuned feel like one of Plutonia's later levels, apart from its intro, which is more puzzle-oriented. It doesn't take long to stick your nose where it isn't wanted and wake up a ton of aerial monsters you now have to take out, or a wandering Cyberdemon that you'll have to deal with if you want some peace of mind, or the exit switch's Spiderdemon guardian who oversees his lake of blood. Just keep moving, kill some monsters, and eventually thin out your opposition. Oh, and make sure you find that hideaway with the rocket launcher to the southeast.

MAP28The Seventh Circle
by Cyriak "mouldy" Harris and John S. "PRIMEVAL" Weekley
A superhard slaughtermap set in the deepest depths of Hell. It will be a long, long time before you can catch a breather, since the placement is designed to keep you running. That cloud of cacos at the start is just the tip of the iceberg. You can grind away at this from several angles, but I ended up locking myself in the library at first. It's a pretty complex construction of lifts and reveals that eventually turns into a balls to the wall congested slaughter with a handful of arch-viles you'll want to chase down before they make your life a living Hell. The middle area has some impressive columns of revenants and arch-viles with a very cool solution - just add Cyberdemon! You barely have to clean up, too, which is nice considering the pain mouldy puts you through. There are two secret keys that unlock a megasphere and BFG for the finale, so you'll want to have both in hand. Your added weaponry makes it easier to swallow than the library but the three Cyberdemons are still some nasty wildcards. Very cool and very challenging.

Extorta NovaMAP29
by Paul "fiend-o-hell" Stasiuk and "Memfis"
The calm before the storm... This is an odd level in Stasiuk's particular style, which aims for atmosphere. The damage floors and grand total of three Cyberdemons makes this a tricky map to power through, but it's more about not slipping up than any major challenge. The visuals are spot-on, at least. It's hard to tell that you're on an island fortress, surrounded by blood, but you'll be more concerned about those towers of terror than what it is you're trying not to die on.

by Michael "kildeth" Kilderry, "dobu gabu maru", Matt "cannonball" Powell, Cyriak "mouldy" Harris, and Collin "Arjak" Pierce
The bad news: each of these authors has contributed their own little slice of Hell for you to navigate in order to reach the end. The good news: you only need to clear three of the five areas, and some of the worst parts are completely optional! kildeth's area is a nightmarish river of fire that springs forth from a little pyramid. There are all kinds of nasties lurking in the shadows and spoilers like an arch-vile island to keep you running. dobu stitched together a patchwork of areas seen in past levels, plus the beginning and ending. Watch out for that super secret battle. cannonball's area is a classic slaughter playground with lots of room for infighting and BFG zerging. mouldy's section sticks out for being made of tech and blue and has a lot of nasty claustrophobic fighting plus sneaky arch-vile placement. Arjak's area is the smallest and sanest, a modest cherry red cavern. The actual finale is an utter bastard; whether or not your rockets strike true is up to the capricious machinery within the eye. It's a cool map, but utterly exhausting.



  1. Heh I don't even know what I did in map29. I just submitted some unfinished level up for grabs and fiend-of-hell modified it but honestly I can't find anything resembling my map there. :) - Memfis.

    1. VOV it apparently helped FOH out, so thanks for that

  2. Thanks for the review! You can call me by my full name like you did with the others if you want. It's in the readme file.

    1. Forgot that was in there while I was writing it up. Thanks for the reminder!

  3. This megawad actually kinda reminds me of the first two Community Chests, what with them all having plenty of lesser known newish but promising mappers of the time, getting their chance to shine.

    1. it kind of has that sort of atmosphere, especially since there are several people with multiple contributions

  4. Pretty damn good! I really enjoyed the level variety which made it feel fresh through the end.
    Also, is the music on Map30 from an actual song? It kinda grew into an ear worm of sorts.

    Keep it up!

    1. according to NOVAinfo.txt, the track is a MIDI version of "Silent Screams" by Rob Halford, arranged by Paul D.