Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Odessa 11: Sojourn (ODESSA11.WAD)

by Bob "Odessa" Evans

"Sojourn" is the eleventh level from Bob Evans's LORDDOOM mapset, most of which was released as Doom II singles in 1995 on Compuserve, only made available more than eighteen years after the fact when the author revised his distribution clause, which was intended to deter shovelware producers from profiting from free material. The story sort of seems like a series of loosely-connected vignettes about Doomguy as he travels across a planet that's inhabited by humans but mostly covered by demons - err, aliens. After clearing out an alien-controlled airport, followed by something that only Evans can tell us, you find yourself clearing out an underground base full of the beasts, but the opposition is thick and there's a lot of area to cover.

ODESSA_11 has an unusual hook, one Evans also used after a fashion in his "Silures". When I reached the exit of the level, I realized that I'd only fought half the monsters. Why was that? Well, early on you'll catch a glimpse of a tantalizing trophy, a BFG9000 illuminated in a column of light. There's almost a whole other half of the level you'll have to navigate in order to get there, coming off of a secret switch I'd found but hadn't quite yet determined the effects of (though I had a good guess early on - just the wrong column), leading the player through some relatively slaughter-lite encounters. Of course, by the time you get the BFG, you won't have much use for it, but it makes for a fun double take when you see the final door.

Evans knocks it out of the park with all the battlefields you'll plow through. While it has its fair share of tight corridors and claustrophobic encounters in the beginning, there are about six major rooms you'll get to travel through, though one of them - the nexus with the BFG pillar - has little if any action surrounding it. The ones that do have some pretty memorable fights to go with them. Visually, I enjoyed the northwest bridge / pillar section with its verticality as well as the catwalk over waste immediately after, the scene of some sneaky ambushes. The northeast tower - well, I assume that it's the tower - is a cascade of ambushes, one after another, with an interesting layout that restricts your movement and leaves you open to enemy fire, though all the projectile-firing monsters aren't too threatening unless you do things the fun way.

The tiered indoor courtyard to the east isn't exactly striking and practically demands a stronger fight, but it's a good visual and architectural hook and the upward crawl isn't a total cakewalk, just mostly. It ends with a three-pronged arachnotron / mancubus ambush that would be a nice setup if it weren't for the invulnerability reveal that neuters things straightaway. From there you get your payoff, the now mostly useless BFG9000. I guess you might still have the exit room left to clear, though. I would get the BFG being some kind of cool secret weapon to carry on to the next map, but ODESSA_9 hands out one as a freebie. At least, I thought it was a freebie. Maybe the puzzle wasn't that obscure.

In any case, ODESSA11 is a pretty cool '95 Doom II level with some nice visuals and areas to explore and some fun fights to go with them. It seems like a slightly older Evans map in terms of polish - and the October 1995 date seems to confirm that - but it's just as solid as any other offering Evans put out. It may even be a bit less obtuse. If you're at all a fan of Eternal Doom or Jim Flynn, or indeed any other Evans map, you should have a go at this.

This article is part of a series on
Bob Evans's ODESSA series


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