Sunday, July 20, 2014

Robot Junkyard Workshop's Doom Pack (RJWDP.WAD)

Nick Baker wants you to be certain of one thing - he isn't the same Nick Baker as NiGHTMARE. Also known as Robot Junkyard (Workshop, I guess), he published his debut nine-map episode / Doom Pack for Doom II in early 2014. While it is theoretically compatible with vanilla, RJW only tested it in ZDoom, and that's what I played it in, so I can't speak as to the existence of any of the typical ZDoom follies. His notes suggest using a limit-removing port at the least, but if you want all the bells and whistles you'll need something capable of processing MAPINFO lumps, or else you'll miss out on the rearranged skies and music files.

RJWDP has no written story but there's a sense of the levels flowing into one another that gives it a bit of a limited continuity. It's a mixture of Hell, Earth, and Hell on Earth that doesn't progress on a linear scale. You'll do a bit of jumping back and forth with some levels smacking of OG Doom designs (Phobos, Deimos) and others feeling... less typical. Heck, one level exists on two different planes, an outdoor fortress housing a box and the pocket dimension inside that you have to navigate in order to conquer the battlements. Another is wide-ass open Hell with a big outdoor area whose sections are separated by a tricky labyrinth.

I may have let my health dip too low from carelessness, but the one thing you won't be lacking in this PWAD is ammo. Baker has shit lying all over the place to the point that you'll be kicking boxes of bullets and shells aside, with plasma just as plentiful when it shows up. Health isn't quite as generous, but the combat is easygoing enough that you can get away with being reckless. It leans toward being claustrophobic while avoiding the kind of stuff that strikes one as being annoying if you can't handle it. The difficulty does pick up as you fight on with some choice ambushes in the later levels. The one thing I don't like are the occasional slaughter packs of zombies or imps that pad out some of the maps. If you get a thrill from that sort of thing, well, you can expect a few here.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with Robot Junkyard Workshop's Doom Pack. It's an unassuming mapset with some cool ideas and architecture and it only gets better as you play on. If Baker ever finds time away from his programming to bang out another set of maps with what he knows now, I'd love to see them. I'm sure there are some choice tidbits banging around in that scrapheap of his.


by Nick Baker

Radio ControlMAP01
A mild-mannered Phobos-style level with a couple of cracks of Hell showing through. The opposition is light, but the shotgun guys might sneak up on you and toward the end, Baker injects a few lost souls. Nice clean architecture and I like that northeastern room. I also liked the spectre that replaced the demon at the yellow key, like an evil echo...

Something more in the vein of Doom II. You start out with an elevator descent that turns out to be in a big tower whose outside is sectioned off by a blood moat. You're pretty much flush with ammo through most of this set; there are a few chaingun snipers you'll want to watch out for, but the only real danger for me happened after I grabbed the berserk pack, where I had to fight demons, spectres, and imps in a blinking light room. Oh, and I guess a cacodemon almost snuck up on me through a teleporter!

Cabrit Sans CorMAP03
An out-and-out Hell map. It's got a big outdoor area with some cliffs carrying imps and hitscanners, a mess of corridors and claustrophobic rooms to the northeast, and a little techbase jaunt via teleport that breaks things up a bit. Combat is a little slow at first with the reliance on the shotgun vs. some larger monsters like cacos and barons, but you'll eventually get the combat shotgun, and once you reach a certain point all of the weapons become available. The secrets trivialize the latter portions of the map, like the zombie swarm in the tech section or the Cyberdemon, whose open arena and lost souls are no match for your mighty BFG.

MAP04Shipment Facility
Starts out looking like a retread of the tech portion of MAP03, but it's actually a different teleportation hub that leads to this, kind of an outdoor crate base. It's a pretty fun city / base map with a bit of exploring and a lot of backtracking if you want to grab all the secrets. The combat isn't hard and there's tons of ammo but Baker is now throwing heavier monsters at you with more regularity, not that the SSG isn't enough to comfortably dispatch most of them. He also lets loose a bunch of enemies in the streets partway through, but they're not strong enough to really give you pause. Cool stuff.

This has more of a Deimos feel; it's a dark techbase with a few bits of industry, like the crushers in the beginning, that gives way to more infernal crushers and some pretty nasty reveals, one of which is my favorite encounter - a giant wall lowers, revealing a Hellish landscape with mancubuses on spine platforms that raise and lower while a line of cacodemons converges on your position. The huge horde guarding the red key isn't nearly as threatening when they're being funneled through two apertures, and you with a mostly-loaded rocket launcher. Dig the vibes and enjoyed the wandering around. Cool level.

MAP06The Starless Beneath
Another Deimos incursion, but the level is a bit bigger with a sort of "Living End" feel, not exactly in the action but in that initial view - there are imps everywhere, especially off in the great wide yonder in the underground cavern. It's got a pretty cool layout that is slowly sending you upward through the cavern tiers via several excursions. The fights aren't that bonkers up until the end, when a couple of clouds of cacos and pain elementals are let loose. The rest is claustrophobic fighting with the occasional revenant popping up to wreck your shit. Fun stuff!

A short map that draws on the "Dead Simple" death arena, but it feels a bit tamer with that outer ring giving you plenty of maneuvering room so that you can take your time with the mancubuses and Hell nobles. You may not even get to fight the big finish if you fail to wake up the big bads; I had to deliberately provoke them to see what Baker had in store.

MAP08The Box
A Hell map that switches off between the box, which is contained within a fortress in a crater filled with blood, and something that appears to be a pocket dimension contained within it. It's actually pretty straightforward and has some bar standard close-quarters fighting. You need both the red and blue keys to get to the exit, doing different circuits of the realm within the box to grab each one. Favorite moment was the trio of switches, one of which lets loose a pretty sizable ambush. The packs of zombies and imps at the end are utterly underwhelming, even more so if you find the secret BFG.

Research CentralMAP09
This is a big, exploratory base level and my favorite of the whole set. There aren't any real pointless slaughters and Baker is kind of devious about throwing revenants out on a few occasions while you're exploring the area. It's honestly a real treat to explore and feel out the various keys and things. Ammo is still bountiful but it lets you relax and enjoy, picking your own direction through the complex. Not sure of any real standout fights, maybe the mess of rooms that open along with cells 1-4 into that big, curving hallway.


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