Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Classic Episode (CLASS_EP.WAD)

Jan Van der Veken showed his love for the original Doom back in 1997, when he authored Dawn of the Dead. The Classic Episode began life as a series of solo releases that Veken worked on whenever he got bored with mapping for The Darkening E1 and it sort of caught on with his teammates. Jan eventually collected the individual releases and, after adding two more, released the package as this in 2000, though not in the order you'd expect. He updated the release two years later - version 2.0 - with various balance tweaks and level changes, and that's the version that I'm reviewing. Since the scope of the project was somewhat incidental, there's no attempt to tie these levels together with any kind of story, just a note that the authors were attempting to mimic the atmosphere of Doom as accurately as possible.

Veken and gang are pretty good about nailing the id-like atmosphere that was their target, though the levels as a whole seem to borrow mostly from E1 techbases rather than any of the other Ultimate Doom themes and are more than anything else the offspring of their contributors. Like Doom, they start out fairly easy - though harder than KDiTD - and then accelerate into some pretty hairy situations, particularly E2M7, Veken's "A Place of Sin". Expect to backpedal against mounting hordes of monsters while stoically firing your shotgun in a desperate attempt to thin the herd out. That's Doom in a nutshell, though, so job well done!

Historical sticklers take note - Jan's Dawn of the Dead was missing a map in its E1M5 slot, "Outpost 666". Indeed, that outpost and the one in this E2M6 are one and the same. Anthony Soto finished it off; according to Jan, Soto is responsible for almost everything after the blue key door. Veken does tend to dominate this set, but Travers Dunne, Nick Baker, and especially Soto bring their own idiosyncrasies to the project, just as they did to The Darkening E1 and E2. I'm especially fond of the "Thy Flesh Consumed"-style level, squirreled away in the secret slot, for its uncompromising start and a few neat progression tricks.

The Classic Episode is a pretty sweet lookin' collection of maps for the original Doom that plays great. If you've been dying for more Doom action and haven't yet touched it, then you owe it to yourself to load this up and give it a shot.

(by assorted authors)

by Anthony "Swedish Fish" Soto
Cool jam-packed level with lots of monster closets crammed full of beasts and a neat layout. The imps are thick and there's plenty of ammo for blasting, plus health, so you can horse around and get a feel for this heavier opposition. I like the leap of faith required to make your first major bit of progression. There really aren't any crazy fights, just a lot of zombies and imps to slay. I also like all the windows, which make the layout feel a tad more involved.

Mars OutpostE2M2
by Anthony "Swedish Fish" Soto
Soto builds on his style with another cool Phobos map. This one packs a little more punch with distant snipers and teleporting imps to keep you on your toes near the start. Past that, though, it's pretty easygoing. You get some nice height variation and larger areas to play around in, like the nukage room, and Soto does a good job of gradually opening the various areas of the complex as you progress to make it more navigable. Favorite section, probably the southwest corner of the base with that dark tech room. It's kind of spooky since the area's shaded and not initially accessible.

E2M3The Deimos Complex
by Jan Van der Veken
It says Deimos, but this is Phobos to the core. Veken steps things up with a monster count that just about doubles Soto's. It's still weighted toward Doom trash, but the pinkies and spectres and pretty much every enemy feels more dangerous. As usual, I like Veken's architecture, especially the large rooms to the northwest and southeast. There's a lot of great crossfires going on and ambushes that put pressure on the player as you press on and wake up more enemies / open more closets. Veken does a fantastic job of drawing you in and keeping you panicked. Standout fight, probably the computer room 

The Evil BaseE2M4
by Jan Van der Veken
Veken gives us a cool E2 map in his style, complete with cherry-red monster closets for cacodemons. There's a lot of ground to cover and it'd be in your best interest to find the secrets, some of which aren't officially tagged, like that handy chaingun. The monster weight (adding in cacodemons, lost souls, and a baron or two) means that the combat slows down a bit, but it wouldn't really be E2 without a solid wall of HP moving toward the player, who is constantly shooting the shotgun and backpedaling. Some cool bits of architecture in here like the poison walkway and the westernmost area with the nukage pit.

E2M5Deimos Observatory
by Jan Van der Veken
Veken stops playing around. You'll want to grab the secrets, since they have handy items like soulspheres, armor, and a rocket launcher. The latter will help speed up the clearing out of the three barons that populate the observatory. Be careful moving around since Jan has so lovingly stuffed snipers into key areas, like the horseshoe in the middle of the level. The cacodemons aren't so bad since they're stuck outside the level, but they might surprise you. That demon ambush on the chainsaw grab was a nice wake-up call.

by Travers Dunne and Jan Van der Veken
A supercool blastathon in the E4 style of marble and wood. It's all about the opening room, which starts out laden with monsters and shotgun snipers and you with little more than a chainsaw. Darting into an alcove with some armor and ammo lowers the floor, revealing a brand new field of play. The enemies are dense and Veken starts throwing those rapid-fire teleport traps at you, with a big mess of enemies challenging you for the blue key, though not all at once. He also lets you sneak up on some barons and get the crush on them, if you didn't already unload all your rockets into them.

E2M6Outpost 666
by Jan Van der Veken and Anthony "Swedish Fish" Soto
It gets worse! Veken and Soto combine their powers to bring you this rough and tumble Deimos base that leaves little room for escape. Knowing where the shotgun is helps, but the difficulty level has been stepped up ever so slightly. Some of it is just taking down packs of shotgun guys before you suffer from attrition and some of it is encounters structured like the yellow key ambush, which starts off with a lowly baron you don't really care about while a pack of cacodemons sneaks up behind you to send you scrambling without much room to move. It would have been nice to get that ledge of nearby ammo and health lowered; I couldn't figure out how.

A Place of SinE2M7
by Jan Van der Veken
A badass Hell level with a desperate opening. Go west and you wake up a baron, go east and you have to contend with a pack of shotgun guys and (if you move a little further) another baron. Either way, you're going to get some cacodemons teleported into the area, plus some demons on the ground running interference. It's a glorious clusterfuck, but still pretty breathable if you keep calm and don't run all over the place. It does tend to make things feel slow, though, as you slowly shave off HP with the single shotgun. I like that optional soul sphere dungeon to the west, which has a baron / demon climax where you get to use a bunch of rockets.

E2M8Evil Refinery
by Nick "NiGHTMARE" Baker and Travers Dunne
Well, this is different. After clearing out a hub you get your pick of east or west teleport zones. You'll have to visit both of them, each one fielding some nice initial opposition plus a few thick closets, before the main event. The Cyberdemon ring has a cool construction and the big bad himself must be called to the room by hitting a sequence of switches, each adding more enemies. If you save them all and goad them into battling Cybie, you'll be a lot better off ammo-wise. Facing him down isn't hard unless you get too ballsy since there's plenty of cover.


This post is part of a series on
Doomworld's Top 10 WADs of 2000

The Darkening Episode 210 Sectors
Chord 3Classic Episode
Hell FactoryPainful Evil
Atomic TombContainment Area


  1. Holy crap, E2M9! They nailed the Thy Flesh Consumed vibe so well that for years I remembered this as an official level. Imagine my surprise, then, when I played through Ep4 and it was nowhere to be found! I've been wondering about this map's home WAD for months now. Amazing. (And it's just a great set of maps, all around.)

    1. hey, glad i could help solve a personal mystery! it is a p cool set of levels, especially for og doom fans

  2. It may be worth mentioning that this WAD shares the accolade to be one of six PWADs that are allowed for official Compet-N speed runs. However, only the first version, which predates the balance tweaks, is accepted for that.

    1. if nothing else its certainly a marker of implied quality insofar as what demo recorders thought was worth battling over

    2. I agree and would even go as far saying that the six Compet-N PWADs are the best of their respective time. They only missed to include Icarus and Eternal Doom, but I guess these were intentionally not considered for "political reasons".

  3. There is a second 'Classic Episode', with only 4-5 real maps, but it has a recurring hub (BTSX like, in fact!) between all the levels. In fact the only differences between the hub of Classic Episode 2 versus BTSX are the frequency in which you visit it (after every normal level) and that it IS infested with monsters. It's a worth sequel that should be checked out!

    1. Singularity Complex, right? it's definitely on the list

    2. Yes that's the one :) It had just dawned on me how the hub in a way reeks of BTSX though.

  4. Singularity Complex was fun. I actually think it would have been better without the hub map; the other levels were cool, though.

    1. I could argue Singularity Complex would be better without the hub simply for the purpose of having more levels, but I like the hub idea itself, it reeks of BTSX, but with some monsters thrown in.

  5. In modern day maybe this episode could use an update with sky transfers for ports that support it?

    -Convert E1 style levels to Phobos sky.
    -Convert E2M7 to Inferno sky.
    -Convert E2M9 to Thy Flesh Consumed sky.

    In some cases I think having the E2 sky on levels that aren't in that style even dampens the classic feel, that's why I bring this up. It doesn't actually affect the quality of the gameplay though (of course).

  6. Also along with wads already reviewed or mentioned in the comments section (this episode, Singularity Complex, Visions of Eternity, and 20 Years of Doom) I would highly recommend giving Doom: Redemption and the Flashback demos (given the full project has long been dead, but these demos still add up to around 10 levels) a go for Doom I (single) episodes that contain levels in most/all of the original UDoom styles.