Saturday, July 12, 2014

Odessa 13: Anaxis Courtyard (ODESS_13.WAD)

by Bob "Odessa" Evans

Bob Evans was making LORDDOOM, a seventeen-map megaWAD showcasing his own tastes, when he began releasing individual selections to get a feel for his impending reception. LORDDOOM was never finished, though, and those maps that were released would have fallen into the abyss of time were it not for Bob Evans's return to the community. It's a community that has grown less receptive to the ball-busting puzzle play his style espouses, but some of us are still quite happy to have our brains picked. Odessa 13 comes in at a pretty late number compared to the rest of the series, but if I'm not mistaken, it was the first map he released after Odessa 1. For that reason, there isn't much of a plot; Evans spends more time discussing the fact that there is, of course, a courtyard. There's a bit more to it than that, though.

First off, Evans opens up with a bit of Tyson play, but it's nothing extraordinary. Just grab your berserk pack and punch out some imps and sergeants until you grab a shotgun. You'll quickly find the restock room, full of ammo and (more importantly) a bunch of medikits that you'll be grasping for soon enough. There's only one way to go, of course, and that's over the bridge that splits the courtyard in twain, starting a major ambush with tons of imps and a few Hell knights that might scratch you up, if just a hair. It's a fun shootout, even if you have to basically weather it twice, and Evans is prescient enough to fling some enemies on to the bridge so that you can't just turtle it out.

Like Odessa 11, "Anaxis Courtyard" has a handful of large, grand rooms - the sites of the more memorable firefights - connected by tricksy hallways. The western library is the only one that really feels like a dud. There's too much open space plus cover to toss just a pair of commandos and a pair of barons at the player. I'm thinking too modern, though. It would have been a cool scene for a multi-pronged ambush with monsters coming from all four directions, but high-octane action was never really what the Odessa series was about, at least until 1998. It doesn't help that it's adjacent to a bland, 64 x 64 maze fielding imps and lost souls. Well, there is sort of a puzzle there with the lighted wall panels (I think). They actually make the maze slightly more interesting to me.

Other highlights include the sewer section to the immediate east. It starts out oddly bereft of enemies with the makings of a megastructure and then suddenly imps are spawning in on the catwalk and on the pads, making an ideal imp encounter with numbers, limited space, and obscured vision. The channel to the northeast isn't as thrilling, but you may have the hair on your neck stand up when you wake up the monsters you can't initially see. The northwest courtyard has a similar lead-up but the sheer number of monsters combined with the dual entrances give the enemies there more of a fighting chance. It really lets those pain elementals shine. There's also a trap involving some demons, a horde of imps, and a few skeletons bringing up the rear, and if you stand and fight, you might be handily overwhelmed.

As far as visuals go, Odessa 13 doesn't disappoint, at least as far as it concerns '95-era stuff. Each large room has its own particular visual hook. About the only static thing is the black panel maze, and the use of the rectangular lights lets Evans get away with it. You've also got a neat hook with the switch revealing the exit guarded by two rows of bars that must be lifted from either side in order to gain access as well as, again, a secret BFG, showing a definite trend in the latter levels of LORDDOOM. The eponymous courtyard is probably my favorite exchange of the whole thing, but there's enough care put into the design to make sure that every section leaves an impression.

Being an early Odessa release, Anaxis Courtyard strikes a balance between straightforward and obtuse that tends toward the former. It's got enough punch, though, that I wouldn't recommend it to anyone irritated by Doom's limited puzzle palette. If you're the kind of player who enjoys grappling with the obscure, Odessa 13 will be right up your alley, along with the rest of the series. You've certainly been waiting long enough to play it; jump on in, the water's not that deep! I swear!

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


1 comment:

  1. Are Silures and Excalibur actually official maps in the Odessa series (that just ended up being used in another wad)?

    Also, I noticed Odessa 14 has a 1998 time stamp. That's even past Eternal Doom. Meanwhile, all the older Odessa levels are from 1995 or 1996. I wonder if he lost interest briefly then decided to make a little more.