Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Visions of Eternity (VOE.WAD)

You may not be familiar with the name Tobias Münch, but Pablo Dictter might ring a bell. The two are partners in crime, coming together to bang out the lesser-profile Doom II episode Hatomo Battles the Yomi Demons in 2007. This isn't a joint venture, though; Tobias made Visions of Eternity all by his lonesome, releasing it in late 2013. It's a single episode for the original Doom, but plays in ZDoom. The only caveat is that I see very few reasons why Tobias picked the engine since he doesn't go wild with the detailing, the main one being its presence on the menu as a fifth episode.

The story takes place right after the events of... Inferno, I think? It isn't clear since the narrative casts some doubt as to the veracity of your own experience. Was the climax of Hell a dream? Or the Hellscape traversed during Thy Flesh Consumed? Regardless of what happened, victory is snatched away from you once again as you wake up in what appears to be another UAC moon base in Hell, just like Deimos. It's never made explicit which moon base it is, though the author purports that there are bases on every satellite in the solar system. You may not even be on a real moon, just a dark seed planted in your brain, but the only way out is to fight your way through.

Tobias excels at recreating the atmosphere of Ultimate Doom. The architecture and layouts are basically spot on, with enough of his own sensibilities injected to keep the experience feeling fresh. You'll go through the typical progression of tech to corruption to Hell, though the reliance on base layouts makes it feel more like a Phobos episode than anything. It also looks pretty sharp with clean texturing and detailing that feels more vanilla than ZDoom. I'm not sure what kind of wizardry the author performed, but the only gameplay element that really requires ZDoom is Tobias's penchant for shootable secret switches placed at odd heights, requiring some variety of freelook.

The gameplay is about what you'd expect from something that draws so heavily from the original Doom. Most of the difficulty of Visions of Eternity is attrition-based, with the weight of shotgun guys bearing down on you as you try to navigate the Hellish moon base. Tobias isn't bold enough to throw many encounters that require a whole lot of thought. A handful of fights that force the player to fight on multiple fronts would go a long way toward making this mapset more exciting. As it stands, VOE is more survival horror than anything, with the only real scare coming when your ammo stores dwindle down while you slowly back away from the next corridor of monsters.

Visions of Eternity looks very nice and has plenty of ground for you to cover as you battle the shadows of Hell once again. I just wish Tobias gave players more credit when it comes to making interesting fights. It's still a must-play for any fans of the original Doom and even manages to come up with a less-annoying plasma gun sound. Maybe next time the author will see fit to play around with something more than the admittedly cool custom sky.

by Tobias Münch

Tobias sets the stage in this E1-meets-E2 aesthetic with a base built into a moon crater. The action isn't that thrilling since it's patterned after early E1 maps, of course, but the layout is a fantastic lattice of pathways with plenty of visual panache. There are some neat looking rooms in here plus a few nice (for opening level) fights. The only one that really sticks out though is the mess of shotgun guys and imps when re-entering that hallway made out of squares.

Corruption starts to creep into this derelict section of the base as you start noticing eerie candelabras and sleeping gargoyles. "Dump" must mean toxic, because there is plenty of nukage to wade through on your way to the exit. The longer of the two paths to the blue door is a poison maze, but there are plenty of rad suits to make sure you don't suffer. Tobais steps up the difficulty with lots of hitscanners; the opening ambush may slay unprepared players dead and there are plenty of opportunities to have your health chipped away in a battle of attrition. Demons and spectres add a welcome source of pressure that invokes Doom's sense of creeping survival horror.

Tobias constructs a dense network of hallways and rooms with plenty of height variation in a simple braid. It's thick with all of the typical monsters but the stalwart cacodemon makes its debut in a miniboss-type encounter in a visually distinct outdoor area after retrieving the red key, which is basically the driving goal of the entire map. Of course, you'll grab the other two on the way, but the flow is naturally linear without beating you over the head. The monsters are a lot thicker and ammo is a bit low in the beginning but I had plenty of ammo to end with. Granted, I also found all three of the secret backpacks (!!!), but finding the first that's associated with the chainsaw secret should prep you for the rest of the action.

The power plant, obviously. Tobias has even more of that gorgeous E1 layout going on but he mixes things up with even bigger monster hordes, with cacodemons appearing as regulars and a guest appearance from our very good friends the bruiser brothers. All of the symmetric monster closets don't help the challenge level but the monster mixes are adequate at putting pressure on the player. The rocket launcher room's ambush is probably the hardest thing you've got to deal with, outside of a really awkward opening the moment you step off the elevator. Love the secrets.

Blink and you'll miss it. "Lab" has a very definite aesthetic mixing grays and blues and computer screens for a clean look that stands apart from all of the previous maps. The action is pretty lacking, though. Once you get started it's the same grind of Doom monsters with a lack of interesting ambushes. I wouldn't be afraid to throw monsters at the player from behind; plowing through everything head on isn't much of a challenge when you can always hang back a bit. The biggest threat will be simple attrition from shotgun guy fire.

The full change to corrupted base is a welcome one and I dig the layout, which is a big ol' circle that you can explore at your leisure, with a few offshoots to explore, including the full path to the exit door. There's still a mystery to solve if you want to grab the red key, but Tobias still skirts from throwing any really challenging fights at you. He seems more content to tighten the ammo noose around your neck than up the strength of your opponents. The worst you'll have to combat is a pair of barons and a pair of cacodemons on both sides of a poison river. The normal base wall lowering to reveal that little bit of wooden Hell is a cool moment.

Why yes, you're in Hell! The opening fortress gives you the lion's share of the more demanding, claustrophobic fighting before you exit to the adventure section, which takes you through the unnatural Hellscape to the crypt swarming with lost souls that leads to the final gate. Swatting lost souls conjures up the most frantic gameplay of the mapset so far until you reach the staircase leading to the final room, which has enough monsters starting out that you can run around, flip both gate switches to activate the teleport waves, and get freaky with some infighting. It's pretty fun. I also like the chain of bullshit required to reach the secret exit; it took me a moment to figure out the secret of the candles.

A very fast map best played through at the speed of light. Well, it might drag ass if you grab the keys in the wrong order / miss out on the handy plasma rifle secret, because if you don't bring the yellow key to the red key area you'll miss out on the rocket launcher, and the yellow key area is has a thick bunch of monsters you'll have to gun down. The atmospheric northwest area, the scene of what must have been a great battle, is an odd decision but I like it. The southwest area is just a blastathon that will likely blaze by as long as you don't do it first.

The end of "Eternity". It's more in the Deimos style with the little bits of tech that crop up here and there. It's a long trek to grab the yellow key, bring it back to the hub, then a quick jaunt for the blue before entering the locale of the finale. Appropriately, it's the most difficult adventure, due largely to a tight ammo balance that only resolves itself at the finale, where you're treated to a group of barons as your end-all with a well-stocked plasma rifle. You heard that right - no Cyberdemons or Spiderdemons. The transformation into the final arena is pretty neat, at least.



  1. Other then being a bit of a stroll, a very good Doom style tribute.

    1. stroll is right. if Tobias makes more doom maps i hope he dials it up a bit.

    2. Give Yomi a go, it has about half its maps by Tobias and I recall it being harder. I very the feeling this was intentionally made easy, it is a tribute after all. I still find it fun, anyways.

      Redemption by Slayer is another gem of a UDoom tribute, if interested. Very similar to this wad.

  2. Another wad of this type well worth going for is Slayer's Doom: Redemption. Despite being ten years older (2003), it's pretty much at least on par with VOE, and comes with some nice music remixes as well. The two Flashback Demo wads are good mini-episodes that include all four styles as well, in fact the levels are based on originals, but with more than enough changes to make them feel new. Too bad the Flashback megawad was never finished, it would have been awesome. :(

  3. I don't know why anyone would cough just for the slightly mundane difficulty here, it's overall an episode quite well woth one's time IMO.

    1. you know, some days playing doom on cruise control isn't as bad as others. about the worst thing i could say about visions of eternity is that it's largely inoffensive.

  4. I feel like this could very easily have worked in Eternity, with the use of emapinfo and what not. Oh well.