Friday, November 21, 2014

Thy Flesh Turned Into a Draft-Excluder (DRAFTEX.WAD)

Cannonball debuted his first megaWAD, ConC.E.R.Ned, back in 2013. It was an OG Doom mapset that spanned three episodes worth of author growth. He followed up on the experience in 2014 with Thy Flesh Turned Into a Draft-Excluder, which pursued the Episode Four theme as rendered in Powell's own particular style. It's still limit-removing, much like his megaWAD, but there is a certain elegance in the architecture and combat that suggests that Cannonball has grown vastly as a mapper in the interim.

If you're wondering about the title, it's because the demons have kidnapped you from your flat in Basildon. which the author describes as a Hell unto itself. Coincidentally, its government home page is... orange. Anyway, demons steal you away in the middle of the night and release you to play a Hellish version of the most dangerous game, the punchline being that if they catch you they're going to skin and stuff you and turn you into a draft-excluder. Yup. You're not about to let yourself get turned into a glorified pillow, though. Can you escape Hell and your fate as a home decor object, or are you doomed to an existence of protecting the ultimate evil against modest chills?

I have a hard time believing that Draft Excluder is by the same author of CONCERN, at least until I hit some of the later, difficult levels, which feature a good selection of slaughter-caliber encounters. The level of craft feels... mature, for lack of a better term. It also has a nice variety of gameplay, running from scrappy Tyson to constant pressure from Cyberdemons to typical ruins-clearing to a map where most of the fighting is restricted to one big fight in a massive secret area. The later maps have their fair share of slaughters but they're usually paced much better than ConC.E.R.Ned's E3M8, which was more than I could really handle in the context of the original Doom.

So, yes. DRAFTEX is challenging. Some of it's sheer attrition and Powell does a good job of easing you into the slaughter scenarios that round out the back half but ultimately your ability to complete the PWAD will be based on whether you can handle battling Cyberdemons in some of the most awkward shootouts possible, just from crazy shit like back and forth teleporting (the terrible twins from "Temple of the Forbidden Gods") or three in a really cramped space ("Dungeons and Demons") or peak Cyberdemon saturation ("Palace of Destruction"). It never lasts long enough to feel like drudgery, though, and it comes with a host of fantastic landscapes and Hellish marble constructions to battle through.

Draft Excluder is a very cool Ultimate Doom episode and if this is any kind of an indication of Cannonball's current level of experience, I'm stoked to see what he'll come up with in the future. After all, he kind of has a Doom II megaWAD kicking around. If you love the Episode Four theme, especially when it comes with increasingly crazy gameplay, then you ought to give this one a shot.


by Matt "Cannonball" Powell

The Lost BastionE4M1
Cannonball kicks things off with this nasty little level based on an outpost in the middle of a sea of blood. Resources are sparing and with all the imps and demons running around your greatest resource is a berserk pack, which should help you keep enough ammo around for the major badasses if you're unable to figure out how to get the rocket launcher, like me. Getting into the eastern annex is dangerous, but shotgun sniping should be rewarding. The western area has the rudest fight, a blind drop into the mix of things where you have to carve out a safe space.

E4M2Putrefied Docklands
A dockside retreat with a sinister sentinel. Powell makes a bad situation worse by forcing you to run between the elevated marble flood walls while being shelled by rockets, not to mention a number of other confounding factors. When you finally bring the yellow key to the door, you open up another ambush that attempts to push you back into Cybie's loving arms. Of course, having a skyscraper with goat legs isn't as bad as it's often made out to be and if you snipe the hitscanners while you do your chores he will take out most of your opposition. All you have to do is not get blowed up. I like the scenic view into the next level's location...

Thy Mappeth FailethE4M9
Diabolical! This is a very simple yet very punishing level from Cannonball that relies on exposure and movement restriction. The hardest thing you'll have to do is make it through the opening blood trench while shotgun guys fire down on you from afar and demons impede your path. If you can get out and through the second tier you just have to weather a storm of projectile monsters including cacodemons that the Cyberdemon will be more than happy to help out with, after which you can administer the coup de grace.

E4M3Ravine of the Damned
Powell knocks it out of the park with this difficult adventure level. The only way around the ravine is through some locked doors so you have to go deeper into the canyon, exploring the infested blood tunnels for the keys. The outer area is dangerous due to all the free-flying projectiles and the cacodemons that are hanging out, plus your limited move space. In the tunnels, it's mostly about traps, the worst of which comes with the blue key and will put your weapons to the test in a blaze of barons, imps and cacodemons. A very cool level; I really like the layout which instills a sense of place without sacrificing anything in terms of gameplay.

Nuclear JellocideE4M4
Another nasty level, this one in an odd fusion of marble and UAC base that is split wide by an enormous, green (but not toxic) aqueduct. The western area is where you spend your starting time, a wonderful network of organically shaped marble tunnels that connect some larger rooms that serve as your set piece locations. It's nothing too crazy, but Cannonball steps up the pressure in his fights with encounters like the rocket launcher trap or the big event which opens up monster closets from far away, serving as a classic way to pace the fight. The eastern area isn't as dangerous but has some neat architecture in stuff like that catwalk that extends into the aqueduct. The Spiderdemon alone fails to measure up to the penultimate fights, one of which includes barons and demons in a crowded room while the other floods the exit path with tons of space-hogging monsters, but I suppose it might serve as a rock or a hard place if you can't fight your way back through the invaders. Neat stuff.

E4M5Life Support
This is an interesting, organic-shaped red rock level with lots of cherry-red goodness. The monster density is down a bit for most of the map with Cannonball looking toward sneakier encounters with a healthy amount of spectres stalking the darkness. The assemblage of rooms is interesting including a secret jaunt to an ominous void marked with cherry-red platforms that is your key to kickstarting the slaughter finale with an invulnerability sphere. The big finish floods the room with imps, demons, and cacodemons, plus a potential setup for some "Gotch!" infighting if you can hold out and line up the major players. Fun stuff.

Temple of the Forbidden GodsE4M6
"Temple" takes the main gimmick of E4M2, multiplies it by two, and then drags it stomping and howling through the entire length of the map. The layout is ingenious, taking the player through the infernal construction on an epic trip that loops in on itself several times, eventually ending at the starting area where you can now push through to the exit. Along with all the monsters to kill, you'll have to dodge rockets the whole way through a variety of scenarios that separate the quick and the dead, with later instances involving both at the same time. The finale is an enormous clusterfuck that throws another two Cyberdemons at you from up high while the terrible twins teleport back and forth, plus a bunch of cacodemons and lost souls that turn it into a maelstrom of explosive death. An ingenious work of relentless pressure.

E4M7Dungeons and Demons
An odd change of pace. A large portion of this level's action is tucked away in a secret annex, visible from the northeast wing. It's easy to find, but difficult to best off the bat as stepping inside unleashes a massive swarm of cacodemons from almost every direction. Your reward is presumably the plasma rifle in the center, which is guarded by a pack of barons, but I think that coming back with the BFG would be a better use of your resources. Speedrunners are welcome to show me the error of my ways. The real finale turns up the heat with three Cyberdemons in very close quarters, plus the usual space hogs.

Palace of DestructionE4M8
Of course, if you knew Cannonball you could have figured everything was leaning toward this moment. "Palace" is a big ol' slaughtermap, though not as insane as the stuff that ended ConC.E.R.Ned. I mean, dodging Cyberdemon rockets as you run back and forth through the palace to unlock the BFG is pretty intense, but for whatever reason I really enjoy the pacing of this map since it's locked at 350+ enemies, most of which will be carelessly slain via infighting. The only encounters you really have to think about are the dead drops for the blue and red keys. After that, it's a careful, twisty BFG zerg as you attempt to cleanse the grounds of your lethal foes. The ending can't quite live up to the verve of the main action but it's a very cool level through and through.

This post is part of a series on
Doomworld's 2014 Cacowards

The Top TenBest MultiplayerRunners Up
Going Down32in24-13Bauhaus
The Adventures of SquarePushBloody Steel
Back to Saturn X: Episode 2Rage CTFMayhem 2048
PlasmaplantBest Gameplay ModWhitemare 2
Shadows of ChronosDemonSteeleYou Dig
Monster Hunter Ltd. 1/2Mordeth AwardThe Wailing Horde
ResurgenceDoom 2 in Name OnlyReconstruction/
Mayan MishapMockawardDecomposition
Urban Brawl: Dead of WinterBrutalist Doom
Thy Flesh Turned Into a Draft ExcluderMapper of the Year


  1. I sort of wish the author would have released this as an update to ConC.E.R.N.ed, it would have made a full 36-level UDoom megawad and also as E4 would have been a nice continuation of showcasing how the author's style and quality have progressed. Not that it really matters all that much, though, I'll take the release any way it comes in the end. :)

    I also thought the last level in ConC.E.R.N.ed was one of the best in the wad, at least until the massive outdoor area from that point for some reason I neglected to ever finish it. But I know nothing was left but that area and the finale room.

    1. i think draftex would be pretty jarring when juxtaposed with concerned. the whole difficulty curve of concerned is building up to this huge, ridiculous og doom slaughter. following it up with the more reserved draft excluder would be an even bigger shift of tone than concern's e1 vs. e2.

    2. Perhaps but on the other hand, I honestly didn't have that much trouble with most maps in ConC.E.R.N.ed except the very end. On the other hand, Draft Exclude drops you into the challenge right from the word go - you start the first level and there's already no time to breathe easily (on UV).

    3. draftex might fit in with the tone shift compared to the original trilogy --> thy flesh consumed. i just like it as it is. if anything i would rather have cannonball go back and make a brand new og doom mapset since e1 was so lackluster. but you know what they say, wish in one hand and map in the other and see which hand fills up first

  2. Cheers for the review, glad you enjoyed this :)

  3. Excellent E4 replacement. As a big fan of the original game, I'd really like to see more wads like this. Congrats Cannonball !

    @ KMX : I tend to write some little wad presentations for the French boards, and I'd like to borrow some of your screenshots, because they give the wad proper justice and I'm lazy and all. Would you mind me doing this ?
    I'd give due credit, of course.
    Thanks in advance,

    1. you are more than welcome to, tho i post the hi-res screenshots on my tumblr if youre interested

    2. Thanks. :)

      By the way, the same screenshot is included twice in your review ( just before the /idgames link ).

  4. A really good episode. I find it to be at least on par with the second half of ConC.E.R.N.ed, if not superior.

    Also this is definitely in the running for the best full E4 replacement I've played, including E4 of any 4-episode megawads. The only competitor IMO is 'Death Tormention 3' released by Paul Corfiatis and Kristian Aro in 2005. (The first two DT wads are nice but not as good as DT3.)

    1. i really need to get to playing more of pcorf's back catalogue, too bad people are releasing all these great new maps

    2. New maps never lose their importance, either. Especially with that day that is coming up in under a week. :D

  5. Now HERE is your challenging Doom I/UDoom episode! Unlike most, this should please both newschool fans and nostalgia hunters alike. It's impressive how much the author's skills have improved since the first episode of Concerned, I hope he has more in the pipeline. A must have wad, the best UDoom episode in quite some time, at least since Double Impact!

  6. This wad should be highlighted in grey, BTW

  7. Very good, but not cooked to perfection just yet. The pacing on E4M2 could use more work. E4M2/E4M9 are a bit similar for being consecutive levels. The end of E4M5 is a letdown, make it much more threatening. E4M6 will annoy many with its Cyber gimmick that could have been a bit gentler, and E4M7's a bit weak in general, other than the optional area. E4M8 won't appeal to all. I don't think it would be a wasted effort for cannonball to play around with these maps just a bit and release an upgrade (though certainly not to the caliber Hadron is to E1 of Concern). Still, quite a solid effort, better than Concern and it's definitely still his best solo work through 2014 as is.

    1. i don't think that these levels need any tweaking, lest we polish off the rough edges that remind us that these are indeed cannonball's maps. my own inclination would be to cut down on the cyberdemons, but i didn't make this episode. I guess that E4M7 doesn't really live up to the idea of a conventional penultimate map, given what he did in ConC.E.R.Ned's E2M7 and E3M7, but variety is the spice of life.

    2. Well I think cb is trying to take some of the rough edges off his maps in general. Hadron maybe even his NOVA 2 maps as examples.