Thursday, September 4, 2014

20 Years of Doom (20YDOOM.WAD)

The French Doom Community wanted to pay tribute to Doom on its 20th anniversary. What better way than a trip down memory lane? The plan: condense the original trilogy into one single episode by conflating some of the most prominent elements of every three levels, all working in Boom-compatible ports. Interested authors claimed slots and did their best, but don't expect a slavish reinterpretation of the original Doom. Sure, you're gonna get a few homages. When you're doing Doom tributes, it seems to be practically unavoidable, even in 2014. I think it works, though, and these maps are anything but reference-composed patchwork. 20 Years of Doom proves again the vibrancy of Doom's international theater as its long legacy drags on, grunting and moaning.

The downside - it's a slot-based community project, kind of a necessity given the scope. After all, two people burning fuel on something like E2M6-7-8 will turn out to be a waste of someone's time by necessity. Now, the FDC has a lot of fantastic authors alongside a bunch of talent who is clearly just starting out, showcased in stuff like 3 Heures d'Agonie. This mapset's weakest link is the E1M4-5-9 blend, "Control Tower", though I think Zetmeck shows that he's capable of better with his "Cathedral of Pain" (even if it doesn't feel at all like E2M1-2-3). I really like his music, and along with all the other contributors I'm looking forward to watching him grow as an author.

The gameplay is pretty good, excepting some stale corridor shooter slogs in sections like E1M2. It's pretty much hot-and-heavy Doom fare with more monsters so unless you just hate Doom's naturally slower pace you won't get bored. On some occasions it dips into slaughter or more exacting combat, with a full on plunge for the finale. The authors are pretty good about putting pressure on you even when you're not fighting hordes of demons, though, and slowly backing away with my shotgun hoping that I wouldn't bump into anything behind me was not uncommon. Much like the original, you'll be up to your elbows in bullets and shells, but rockets and cells are at a premium unless it's presumed you'll be going through them full force.

I think that the fusion of levels in trios is a pretty fresh concept and it's clear that the authors weren't focused on something with the fidelity of the TWiD crew, so you get a mapset that's a bit more personalized yet still slowly ramping up in difficulty, likely a function of trying to stay true to the episodes themselves (well, less so with those last couple maps). It's a little slow starting out after Huber's E1M1 but E1M4-E1M8 is pretty badass. If you really love the original Doom and don't fall into convulsions whenever you notice an homage to the trilogy, you should load this up. OG haters need not apply.

by assorted authors

Phobos Inner StationE1M1
by William "[WH]-Wilou84" Huber
A very cool E1M1/2/3 tribute. A lot of the elements of the homages are easily recognized but the actual arrangement is different enough that it feels fresh to me. Flipping the nukage switch early on and facing that huge horde of monsters was a pretty cool moment. The western room with all the shotgun guys shooting you on the second tier managed to cut a fine line between cheap and thrilling. Huber's E1 imitation is pretty sharp when rendered in Boom, though I can't for the life of me figure out what's up with those little 2 x 2 groupings of metal poles.

E1M2Control Tower
by Sid Zetmeck
The episode does a 180 and defaults toward boring hallways and a uninteresting packs of monsters. Sometimes the sheer mass of enemies leaves an impression if only in the time it takes to grind them down, but apart from a few fights that have a high hitscanner volume, you're basically unchallenged for the full 350~ monsters. Some interesting architecture could probably salvage some of the monotony by making the combat areas more vibrant, but that would involve a pretty big overhaul. Boring.

Anomaly CenterE1M3
by "NilsTheRed"
The architecture isn't quite there but "Anomaly Center" does a good job of fomenting action with its monster placement. It's a bit more devious than E1M2, at least. I really like the look of the computer room to the west with the tech columns. It's a little too orthogonal / boxy to really feel any influences from "Central Processing" or "Computer Station" besides that sewer maze homage but it kind of has that sprawling layout and the divergent paths feel slightly novel. The exit area is pretty cool.

E1M9Cathedral of Pain
by Sid Zetmeck
Well, I like this more than "Control Tower". For whatever reason the E2 theme lends itself to slightly more interesting architecture. It's still really basic, but it at least isn't drawn out. The literal maze feels pretty bland and the fullbright lighting does it no favors, but Zetmeck unleashes a few free-roaming enemies to surprise you as you make your way back in addition to the usual monster closets. The little teleport annexes are cute at first but the execution is stale as they're glorified hallway rooms instead of something substantial.

Commander's FortressE1M4
by "NilsTheRed"
This is a pretty cool hodgepodge from Nils, who has the dubious task of fusing the essence of sprawling maps like "Deimos Lab" with the infamous "Fortress of Mystery". It's a much tighter level than I would have expected albeit with some big homages, like the main outdoor area from E2M5 (with a central structure that looks like Strong Bad on the automap). There are a bunch of cool fights and the secret with the teleporters turned out to be a big surprise when the first one I took dropped me into a big battle. The blue key fight is pretty neat, too.

E1M5Gardens of Babel
by Jean "jambon" Bon
I really like this map. It has a few big homages to E2M6-8 but the actual layout is pretty sharp, a solid Deimos fusion of sprawling base that undergoes changes, some subtle and others not so much, as you fight your way. jambon got at least two double takes from me. The start is a little hairy since the shotgun pickup station is a good ways away from you but nothing is so bad that you can't scavenge and tyson around until you get some headway. I love the secret sequence to the plasma rifle and the four cacodemons that attack in the nukage room. The buildup to the boss fight goes on a bit too long but when it finally hits you it's a fantastic sucker-punch. Diabolical.

Slough of Kept PandemoniumE1M6
by Arnaud "Oxyde" Florian
Another cool-ass level, this one from Oxyde. "Hell Keep" is all in the linearity of the layout; as far as appearances, there's way more E3M3 with an obligatory "Slough" section in the middle. The keep itself is a bit more open-ended about how you're going to approach it. It's also infested with monsters, with the initial entry having a pit of panic about it and the red key ambush turning loose a metric ton of Hellspawn. Monsters rarely come at you from multiple angles, though; I think a couple of rear teleport ambushes would do wonders for a true sense of danger, especially for entering the castle the first time. The final fight is pretty bleh with all the rockets you've been given.

E1M7Unholy Mt. of Pain
by JC "JC" Dorne
JC gives us a big-ass re-treatment of "Mt. Erebus" with a "House of Pain" in its center. I'm not really feeling E3M5 except for that obvious homage in the big slaughter fight. Oh, yes - there will be many demons to kill. The water pit is the biggest battle in terms of sheer numbers but the cacodemon-laden finale will give you a run for your rockets. They take a good while to bring down, at least with all the items available without secrets. I assume you'd be worse off if you didn't make the trip to grab the plasma rifle. It's a neat level that gives you enough ground to explore but enough empty landscape to not feel overwhelmed. The rush to useful weapons is a bit hectic, but fun.

Living InfernoE1M8
by William "[WH]-Wilou84" Huber
Huber has the daunting task of mixing "Limbo", "Dis", and "Warrens", three very different experiences... and succeeding. Most of this level is wrapped up in "Limbo" as experienced through WH's Hellish subterra, with poison floor here and there for that classic feel. Monsters come in droves as Wilou creates a challenging adventure complete with sequence-dependent teleporter puzzle linked up to the northern area. The yellow key fight is a good one, tangoing with two Cyberdemons in some pretty limited real estate. I also like the big pentagram reveal near the center of the map which comes with its own clusterfuck. The "Warrens" - inspired section is a true brute, but it's worth braving the halls of hitscanners for the BFG, which you'll need for the finale, where the other 1600 monsters are found in a cramped slaughter assault. Don't forget where your spare cells are or you might be finishing up the slow way.



  1. portrait of the marine in the titlepic taken from

  2. I really loved this set. In retrospect, yeah, the earlier maps (especially #2) are fairly weak, but I fell in love with E1M1 immediately, and the second half of the WAD is just phenomenal.

    1. it really is, there is some top-tier talent hiding in the french community

  3. Ha! So, only after playing through the original DOOM last weekend for the first time in like 15 years do I realize just how homage-y this set is. Which is not a complaint. Quite the opposite: it's like they took the original game and pumped it full of steroids.

  4. Good review of quite an impressive episode (M2 and 9 being the weak links). And I can't understand people complaining the game play is repetitive either. Certainly if you find the play here repetitive (M2 aside but simply because it's a rather poor map), there is no way you could legitimately argue the original Doom I isn't repetitive as well, so I think it's a pretty bankrupt argument to make, at least if in the context of just this wad and not Doom I in general. And of course new takes on original tributes are always welcome.

    1. well e1m2 is a pretty big hurdle to overcome. this episode is pretty backloaded (no offense to sid and nils, just keep at it) and i can understand where people might give up before the mapset hits its stride

    2. Nils? His maps were good for me. Sid's really the only author for me here whose maps kinda lack IMO. I guess maybe it's too bad he has two of the FIRST four levels, people get the impression of a mixed bag and don't realize the stream of quality that follows.

    3. i didnt like nils stuff as much as the other authors but his output feels better than sids

  5. The only maps I found boring are Sid's.