Thursday, June 19, 2014

Odessa 7: 6 Keys of the Asmod Monks (ODESSA_7.WAD)

by Bob "Odessa" Evans

Bob Evans released ten of his seventeen LORDDOOM levels as the Odessa series. One of them ("Silures") ended up in Eternal Doom. As for the rest, no man save Bob can say. The Odessa series is a nice run of fairly polished 1995 Doom II levels, with a diabolical twist. Evans loves Doom puzzles where most people can't stand them. The previous four Odessa levels were pretty good about it, but Odessa 7 takes a sharp left turn into something more like "Silures", which figures, as it's the only Odessa map published in 1996. This time, you're tackling a sanctuary for monks that at one point practiced black magic. They're no longer inhabiting the temple, but the infernal aspect remains with various evil shrines tucked deep into secret passages that you have to navigate in order to secure all six keys, for without them, you will never escape.

Grab your magnifying glass and get ready to do some sleuthing, and then give up and start wall humping, because the six keys of the Asmod monks won't come easy. Some of the road blocks have clues that are apparent in retrospect while others, like the wooden panel you use to open up the gargoyle door to the blue key area, make no earthly sense. About the only advice I can give you is that if you get stuck, the solution is almost definitely within the immediate area. Don't get caught up in the tech keys just because you see them first, though. The tech and skull keys have their own, separate orders, and just starting the skulls is a chore, though once you find the wooden attic that houses both it and the SSG, you'll be a happy camper. Hint - it's just off the eastern crate storage area.

For cramming a level full of headscratchers, Evans complements it with brawls and architecture. Sure, the enormous hallways leading to the blue key aren't much to look at, but check out the outdoor blue skull key yard (the site of some higher-tier Doom II monsters) or that kickin' rad staircase just off the lowest floor of the tech key elevator. There's more than enough eye candy to make up for every eye sore you bump into, like the run of columns in the isolated red tech key area. Odessa 7 is also oozing with atmosphere, enhanced by the choice of music ("Suspense" from Doom). You won't see a monster for a good little while, after which they tend to come in spurts.

A few of the ambushes are masterfully done. The imp ambush in the easternmost yard is a nice way to get things flowing as you're pretty much restricted to the shotgun at that point, and the very fast demon scare just past the yellow skull key shrine is nice and also has a cool room immediately following. The ambush off the western hallway had such perfect timing it seemed like monsters were opening up hidden doors from secret passages to get at me. Of course, they're squirreled away in monster closets, but it was a great first impression. I was surprised to encounter an arch-vile and a squad of mancubuses, since after the first Odessa Evans seemed to be keeping his bruisers close to the vest. I like the sparing but effective revenant use. If you're industrious, you'll only have to take one out with the single-barrel shotgun.

The first four Odessa maps cut a nice split between traditional gameplay and puzzlephilia but if you have any dislike of secret sniffing you should steer well clear of Odessa 7. I'm surprised to say that it comes as something of a shock, but not an unwelcome one. Just, uh, make sure you have some time. And patience. Time and patience.

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


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