Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Valiant (VALIANT.WAD)


Skillsaw owned 2011's mapper of the year with two releases; Vanguard, an episode inspired by Speed of Doom that elicited cries of "make it a megaWAD!", and Lunatic, a minisode full of projectile-dodging that takes place on Earth's moon. In 2015, everyone who prayed for a megaWAD got their wish... and then some. Valiant is another full replacement for Doom II, and it's got all the bells and whistles, including five distinct episodes, extensive DeHackEd work that adds a handful of new monsters to the roster, and changes to Doom's most overlooked weapons, the pistol and chaingun. When all is said and done, the megaWAD hopefuls may have got more than they'd bargained for, or at the very least, something completely unexpected.


Valiant is a plague, a noxious concoction of infernal origin that Hell has engineered in yet another bid to wipe out humanity. Those that aren't turned into murderous mutants will live a brief, tortured existence. Furthermore, the plague has generated a new S.T.R.A.I.N. of freakish Hellspawn, creating new and exciting ways to die as you commit to defending the earth, stalwart as ever. The truly valiant must pay a price, however, and Doomguy must suffer two simultaneous races against time as his quest leads to an ultimately bittersweet ending. What more could you expect, though, from a perfect, seemingly-immortal killing machine?


Vanguard set the standard with a solid few minisodes worth of action, eventually topping out with frantic, freewheeling slaughter. Lunatic and Hanging Gardens showed Skillsaw's desire to push the standard boundaries of Doom's gameplay with new monsters. Valiant, then, is the curious amalgam of all this madness. If you're playing in a port that supports it, the episodes are already divided out for you, and take you on a journey through overgrown techbase, infernal mountain strongholds, toxic waste dumps, the darkest depths of Hell, and... the moon. Well, if the episode title is to be believed, it's not the SAME moon as Lunatic's, but it's close enough.


The most important aspects of Valiant are the gameplay changes. Skillsaw hasn't touched every monster, and a few are graphically different but otherwise unaltered. The things that he has changed, though, are liable to give every player a shock. The imp has always been a core staple of Doom, and the new bastard's fireballs are both faster and unleashed in pairs. You'll be used to dealing with them by the time you reach the end, but the learning curve is pretty steep when you're so acclimated to being a lazy-ass Doom marine. The Hell knight and Baron are also gone, replaced by the pyro demon and Cybruiser, respectively. The former shoots fireballs in bursts of rapid fire that will burn slower players to a crisp and make them infighting tanks. You won't see the latter for a very long time, but their primary attack is - you guessed it - a rocket. Two tricks to Cybruisers - they are immune to burst damage, which makes them effectively weak to every weapon but the rocket launcher, so use the plasma rifle or chaingun to make short work of them. The other thing is that they use the baron's attack coding, so if they start to shoot and you run into melee range, they'll claw at you instead. That's fringe case usefulness, though.


The real star of Valiant for me is the arachnorb. These floating shitheads are about as tough as lost souls but way more dangerous, and Skillsaw loves to use them in swarms. They are also randomly born on the death of arachnotrons, making spiders a bit more unpredictable in large-scale battles. The arachnorb just adds a lot of flavor to Doom's anemic gallery of fliers, managing to fill in a niche of its own. The same can be said for the kamikaze trooper, which Skillsaw played with in Hanging Gardens. If you're unfamiliar with the concept, these dudes basically hail from Serious Sam, at least in spirit. A constant screaming heralds their arrival, because it would be really rude to have one of them sneak up on you and then blow you into oblivion. They're really satisfying to kill, like popping bubble wrap, and Paul manages to make a few encounters based around their presence that feel appropriately balanced.


The last big change is the super mancubus, who sports a gajasura look and who you really don't want to get close to. He's the actual baron replacement as far as the code goes, and sprays a pretty nasty volley of flamethrower fire, but you should be good as long as you dodge right and hose him down with chaingun bullets or plasma fire. You're rarely if ever put up against one toe to toe, anyways. One notable consequence of the monster shuffle, originating from the fact that the Cybruiser took the Spiderdemon's slot so that it could be immune to blast damage, is that the Spiderdemon is now vulnerable to rocket fire, not that you'll really find yourself in a position where spamming ordinance is an attractive solution.


To combat these vagrants, there are two major alterations to your weaponry. The pistol has been replaced with a machine pistol that feels much more satisfying to start with than the old standby and is great for dealing the coup de grace for those enemies that for whatever reason managed to survive the standard two shotgun or two super shotgun blasts. The chaingun is thus appropriately upgraded in speed, becoming a beefy weapon that's great for stunlocking, damage-dealing, and eating ammo like popcorn. It almost supplants the plasma rifle in being the go-to weapon for ambush preparation. The super shotgun kind of falls by the wayside in Valiant's gunplay. It's still a formidable weapon, but when your back is against the wall, you'll want higher-tier weapons in hand. A good choice for mopping up the remainders, anyway.


Valiant plays quite differently from the Skillsaw levels that have gone before. Both Vanguard and Lunatic peaked in mass slaughter, a style only hinted at here on a few occasions, the largest of which are both secret. Valiant is more about keeping the player moving, because if you stand still too long, you're going to have a bad day. When players adjust to the new projectile-spewing monsters, they'll realize that Paul has dealt them a pretty fair hand, because revenants - the bane of open-layout levels that capitalize on exposure - are at an all-time low. You'll still have to be on the lookout for tricksy arachnorbs, who do a great job at finding angles of attack that their land-bound compatriots can't manage.


As far as design, this megaWAD is composed of pure, clean layouts. Maybe a little too clean. I can see where some players might get turned off during the first episode; MAP02, MAP03, and MAP05 don't have much separating them as far as set pieces go, with their layout alone differentiating them from each other. I would have liked to see more crazy stuff like that building off in the distance of MAP01, since the feeling cropped up a few other times as I was playing, but it's not something that dominates the megaWAD. Paul does his best to give as many varied gameplay hooks as he can. The secret maps are of course wonderful divergences, but you get plenty of crazy moments like the Cyberdemon quad in MAP19, or the mancubus in MAP07, who you must safeguard to the finale or risk being inundated by arch-viles. It's pretty far from being "Skillsaw by numbers", whatever that may be. I would have liked to see a few more instances of his slaughter-lite preferences, but, so it goes.


Valiant is Hell of cool. By the time I was done, I loved the gameplay changes, and Skillsaw takes you through a whirlwind tour of aesthetic themes to put you through your paces, culminating in a harrowing finale. I have a feeling that its audience will be unusually split, with slaughter fans missing the orchestrated chaos of 2011 and less hardcore players being put off by the changes to what were previously the most manageable projectile-throwing monsters. If you're willing to learn, though, there's a new paradigm just waiting for you to sort it out.






VALIANT
by Paul "Skillsaw" DeBruyne

EPISODE ONE
A DIFFERENT BREED

Bad ReceptionMAP01
A fine intro to the ceremonies with this gorgeous mountain base. Skillsaw forces you to get acclimated to the pistol, which is more than adequate for starting play. It also introduces the nasty super imps, which will come as quite a shock to just about any player. The secrets are thick, though, and you should have plenty of ammo to best just about every encounter. I'd save some rockets for the final battle, though, unless you feel like suffering a few extra blasts from a MAP01 arch-vile. Favorite fight, the imp swarm on the terrace outside the exit room. Dig that superstructure off in the distance.

MAP02No Rush
Something more... intimate in this more typical Skillsaw level. Revenants, pain elementals, and cacodemons make their debut here, plus the modified chaingun which has a lot of stroke. Slaying the opposing hordes in the sewer with such an impressive bullet-feeder is Hell of fun. DeBruyne tries to reuse the layout but the fact that you retread your exact steps up to the red key may leave some players feeling cheated, plus most of the freed monsters tend to bunch up at the staircase in the plasma rifle courtyard.

Tiers of PainMAP03
In a fun twist, Skillsaw leaves a Pac-Man trail of health bonuses that draws you up to the top floor, where you choose your own adventure - the red key or the blue key. It's pretty simple shotgun / chaingun / SSG (!) combat but the open layout and enemy restocking makes for a fast and fun experience regardless of which route you pick. Pity the two waves feel so similar. I dig the shoot switch secrets, though.

MAP04Moonlit Stroll
Something with a little more teeth in this more wilderness-oriented level. The network of caves that opens things is full of enemies and your panicked rushing around will no doubt awaken most of them in your search for munitions. There are a few big teleport ambushes including a nasty double whammy with the non-secret soul sphere, especially if you're already in the throes of the switch trap. You also get a nice intro to the arachnorbs, which come as quite a surprise. Nothing really lives up to the cavern section, your best bet for action.

AggrovatorMAP05
Sort of a bunker style level with a central fortification and a surrounding track. Most of it's just running around and clearing out the enemies on the upper tier with the major ambushes relegated to the times where you explore the buildings. It's actually pretty light fare, though the arachnorb release stands out as one of the true surprises. That revenant / arch-vile ambush at the crushers got me, too.

MAP06Engineering Disaster
The dam bursts! This is a pretty cool flooded city level that starts out with a lot of running around hunting for weapons while a bunch of snipers composed of arachnotrons, mancubuses, and imps harry you. Eventually you figure out that one of the towers grants access to several different areas of the city a la "Against Thee Wickedly", minus the teleporters. There are a few major encounters in between all the roof clearing and skirmishing. My favorite by far is the enormous wave of arachnorbs after clearing the fairly underwhelming revenant battle, but turning the ring of arachnotrons on the Spiderdemon is a close second. Some very cool scenery.

The Mancubian CandidateMAP07
This level's gimmick is pretty obvious from the opening scene. Whether you can keep the mancubus alive until disarming the dead man switch that unleashes an arch-vile apocalypse will depend on how observant you are and whether you're comfortable working within the tight spaces covered by the assorted pillars. I accidentally lofted one rocket his way but as long as you can work within self-imposed tight spaces, this shouldn't be too bad. The big Cyberdemon finish is more disorienting with the specters on the ground in the cyclical lights, but once you kill the few bits of interference, ol' Cybie should quickly crumble to plasma fire.


EPISODE TWO
ABATTOIR OF THY MADNESS

MAP08Bushwhacked
A sniper-heavy level where you run around amidst entrenched mancubuses and arachnotrons. The impulse is to try to clear the enemies that form the basis of the gauntlets, but after going back and painfully pulling teeth in the blue key area after grabbing the rocket launcher, I realized that Skillsaw must have had some more elegant method of clearing this stuff out in place, and true to form there is a much more straightforward avenue of attack as long as you're willing to push forward and wait for your opportunity. My favorite set piece is the chasm-like snake to the yellow key. It's an optical illusion; if you just walk down the incline, the natural slope will protect you from mancubus fireballs, with the only thing you have to worry about being the chaingunners. The crusher platforming sequence is also Hell of cool. Fun level.

14 Angrier ArchvilesMAP09
More naturalistic caverns, but Skillsaw introduces the gothic fortress in a big way with a nice lead-up as you get spooked by a bunch of arch-viles, a callback to Vanguard's similarly-titled level. There are a lot more enemies hanging around this time, though, including the debut of the new Hell noble, which is about as tough as a Hell knight but way nastier to fight. There are a lot of cool setups, with a huge cavern to the west that ends in a cacodemon / arachnorb swarm, but most of the fun scenarios are in the eastern area, which has three obstacle course-style arch-vile fights. I like the pillars in the damaging blood floor, and I like the switch shoot-out on the bridge between the lifts. The big melee to the southeast is simple but effective and if you're not careful you might get fried. Very cool.

MAP10Candlecove
A gorgeous, blood-filled grotto that feels open yet claustrophobic at the same time. Skillsaw gives you paths to walk, but there's room in the blood for dodging if you really need it. You're under a constant threat of cacodemons and arachnorbs as you slowly explore, plus the occasional sniper, both tough and not so tough. "Candlecove" is pretty light on the teleport ambushes, though the ones you'll have to deal with have some pretty heavy hitters, fielding arch-viles and fire barons. The one at the western battlements is probably the worst, but there's an even bigger roadblock at the two flesh pits to the east. One is purely for aid and sets you up for the other, an incredibly tight Cyberdemon fight that will put your dodging skills to the test as you slow dance with your combat shotgun. Good luck, and watch out for that cool Plutonia homage.

Yesterday's InsanityMAP11
This one's got more of a "Crimson Tides" vibe with a gothic fortress standing in a sea of blood. It's actually a crater, though, with rocky wilderness surrounding you on all sides, with an in-between buffer of pyro demons standing sentinel on a ring of columns. The opening is pretty hectic since every square inch of the fortress is filled with monsters and there's plenty of outside interference shelling you with fireballs while you run around trying to grab some gunsnammo. It might take a few tries before you nail down a good route to some goodies. There's a secret telefrag circuit that will smoke all of the pyros, but it's up to you whether you want to wait; there's plenty of ammo lying around either way. The free roaming cacos and pain elementals constitute the largest single threat you'll face, but there are plenty of sneaky arch-viles lurking about, just waiting to catch players off-guard.

MAP12Bane Capitol
A multi-tiered fortress that deals in equal parts exposure and congestion. There are potent mancubus and arachnotron snipers everywhere and imps in high places that rain rapid fire down upon you. The brown bastards will chip away at your health, not that there isn't a ton laying around. When you hit the inevitable packs of meat, there's usually something like pyro demons crammed in there, but these hordes are pretty easy to deal with. I think the hardest stuff, apart from the final ambush room with its four corners of commandos, is safely taking out the snipers, one by one. Well, the yellow key ambush is pretty hairy, too, but it's nothing that some well-placed rockets can't handle.

The NetweaverMAP13
Aesthetically, it's kind of similar to "Bane Capitol", but with a much larger scale. The combat isn't any different, either, except none of the weapons are handed to you, so you have to do a bit of exploratory running and gunning to snag something useful. The imps show out in full force as the expert harriers, and thankfully there aren't too many revenants tucked out of sight to surprise you with homing rockets. The only real pair's demise signals a major step in progression. Once you have the main area sorted out, you can move on to the west end, which has two separate tracks to explore, plus a big ol' welcoming party to kick things off. Dealing with the imps and pyro demons is a pretty neat fight. The finale is... kind of a let down, but the threat is still there considering the outer ring of chaingunners. Otherwise, it's a fuckin' cool level with a fantastic layout and a Stonehenge-bound secret BFG.


EPISODE THREE
MEET THE NEW CORRUPTION

MAP14Implosion
Barrels! E3's look is apparently clean techbase design with tons of nukage. It's green, baby, and full of arcade-style gameplay as you strategically detonate barrels to take out enemies as efficiently as possible. You don't have to be too canny, but if you mess about too much, you might be running low on ammo. The big surprise is the debut of the kamikaze troopers, who are potentially quite dangerous. The health feels a little tighter than previous levels but I suspect the resource imposition is due to that elusive arcade feel. I think the big wave of enemies including the pyro demons is my favorite bit of madness.

Screams Aren't a Crime... YetMAP15
This map has far less "safe" real estate, confining the player to walkways above nukage when you aren't hemmed in by monsters indoors. The gameplay is fast and furious, the tone set by the opening battle, where enemies invade your personal space from four corners and you're pretty much stuck with the rocket to defend yourself. Things reach peak madness during the yellow key fight, where the body count balloons to ridiculous proportions as a torrent of zombie troopers teleports in with the occasional kamikaze guy sneaking in. It's a genius setup and shows how strong a niche the exploding wonders have. The western installation is loaded with hitscanners, chiefly commandos, but Skillsaw tempers the fight with a couple of blur spheres that even out the odds as long as you play it smart. Fantastic map.

MAP31Cyberwar 7734
This level wildly oscillates between blocky VR trappings and a big, underground slaughter arena. The VR stuff reminds me of JCD's secret levels in Survive in Hell (EDIT: borrowed from Invasion UAC, thanks memfis!) but it's got a layout distinct to Paul's style and favors lots of rocket action, for the most part. The second trip is the best, in my opinion, as you'll snake through tons of tiers of enemy combat, with several slaughter scenarios and snipers galore. The alternate area, which looks more mundane, is the scene of total slaughter chaos in two installments. The first is pell-mell with enemies stationed everywhere and waking up more and more of... just about everything. The second has some fairly unified enemy packs coming from several major directions. Stuff gets out of hand pretty fast with the pyro demons tending to bunch up in the middle, but there are plenty of cells stashed around the place. Just don't get cocky with the BFG; the new enemies have enough hardwired ingenuity to trip you up while you're reaping. Fun and furious.

The Ghosts of the Old KingdomMAP32
A surprising turn toward an Egyptian setting. "Ghosts" encompasses two sides of the same world, one that's in color and a grayed-out shadow realm that's full of phantoms. The intro is pretty jarring, starting you out amid a bunch of super-mancubuses that you have to run around to get a few decent weapons. Once you've cleared out the initial opposition you can move onto the other side. If I'm not mistaken, I think the specters here have a bit more reach. You'll also battle a wave of specterized revenants (oh gosh!) as well as arch-viles. If you're alarmed, don't be; these things aren't quite as durable as the originals. Interesting gimmick level.

MAP16Toxic Traverse
A toxic wasteland that lies between two man-made outposts. You've got to fight your way up one, come back down, cross the stinking field, and then surmount the other. The gameplay is oriented toward the rocket launcher, with there being plenty of space for blasting, though you've got to be quick to make the most of it in the final ambush, which is laden with a few kamikaze trooper packs. Some bits, like the approach on the northern base, require a little more finesse if you're to quickly clear them out with the rocket launcher. Others, like the dual arch-vile encounter near the middle of the map, are a good, sharp shock. I think I'm more fond of the base encounters, especially the revenant-backed suicide bombers in the southern installation.

PrecipiceMAP17
The title is something of an homage to "The Chasm", and some of the level's raw elements crop up in this map, namely big square platforms you have to leap down and the narrow walkways that cause so much ire among less dexterous players. There are two moments of peak madness, one of which involves a grid of walkways with pyro demon turrets and complementary pillars topped with mixtures of imps and commandos. The other is a secret kamikaze trooper free-for-all that has you trying to pop them like the rancid blisters they are for exploding combos that give you just a smidge more room to continue to evade. Very fun stuff.

MAP18Crush Depth
If you haven't already figured it out by the title alone, crushers are to this level as barrels are to "Implosion". Two major battles require you to shoot switches as deftly as possible so as to start locking down enemy packs placed on pillars, with a lot more desperation involved in the second. Starting out in this level is pretty rough due to all the exposure and free-roaming enemies, but if you can get a foothold (which I did by running around and up to the zombie ledge), you should be good to go. There's a lot more freedom than I would have thought with each of the pit areas constituting its own microcosm that you can fight through for goodies like armor and plasma rifles and stuff. The Spiderdemon shootout is probably my fave, just because it feels more like a pitched battle than the others. The running of the arch-viles at the end isn't particularly dangerous, but the pressure is palpable.


EPISODE FOUR
THOU ART ANNIHILATION

The Popes of RoamMAP19
Welcome to Hell! And what a welcoming party. "Popes" sets four Cyberdemons loose in a fairly tight space, turning the level into a mad rush for switches and keys until absolutely everyone has turned out and fighting each other. If you're interested in killing the Cybs, the secret plasma rifle is a must-have, considering that ammo stores are otherwise pretty tight. In any case, I hope you're good at maneuvering through monsters.

MAP20Swept Into Immolation
A gothic fortress set inside a Hellish chasm. "Swept" feels more like one of those hornets' nest levels where every step you take incurs the wrath of demonic taint. A lot of the most troublesome action occurs on the east end of the palace, starting with the rocket launcher grab and having recurring instances of arch-viles alongside other unmentionables. I somehow managed to miss the side-passage to the plasma rifle, which would no doubt have helped me out in a lot of fights, including the clusterfuck that results from the yellow key switch. Once all that's sorted out, there's a cool moment where the walkway to the exit collapses beneath your feet, resulting in a mad dash for an enviro suit and a tense shootout ankle-deep in lava. I wish I'd grabbed that plasma rifle earlier!

Skindustrial ZoneMAP21
An infernal enclave rendered in flesh- and blood-toned marble and wallpapered in the unsettling SKINTEK, hence the title. The layout is suitably organic, with the only truly "industrial" section involving an inspired arch-vile chase, with you desperately shelling your pursuers as you flee. It's actually a fairly low-key level, with most of the threats coming in the form of snipers stationed around the level's border. Getting a foothold is about as tough as this map gets with the way Skillsaw's placed everything, though there is a secondary invasion in the starting area, though you're going to be much better equipped for it.

MAP22Spiraling Into Nether
A striking battle across SKINTEK islands floating on lava that are suspended in the void. You need all three keys to exit, but the order you grab them in is wholly your choice. Each of the keys has its own peculiarities. The northwest area turns into a lava-bound ambush with challengers from all sides but will more than likely end up with you slicing a swath through the impling peanut gallery, with you doing the mop-up decked out in rad suits. The southern area is I feel the most straightforward, and probably a nice direction to start out in. The east crams a lot of troublesome fliers - arachnorbs and lost souls and a couple of cacodemons - into a tight area with a mancubus shooting gallery caged off to the northeast. It's pretty dangerous all the way around, though I had great success just running up and down the track and jousting with the combat shotgun.

Genocide MotorMAP23
Same exact aesthetic as "Nether", but this time the gameplay is more compartmentalized as you take teleporters to the various islands. The encounters are more challenge-based than anything as you get locked into combat scenarios you have to fight your way through, like handling the imp / arachnotron crossfire with the rocket launcher pickup, or the Cyberdemon gauntlet to the northwest, which you'll definitely want the plasma rifle for. The catwalk encounter to the south has some interesting pacing, though it's as congested as can be. I like the side areas you visit by teleporter and especially the ones you get to explore by grabbing a rad suit and hoofing it to; the latter give the level a decidedly old-school feeling.

MAP24None More Merciless
Ditching the void stuff for a more concrete Hellscape that echoes the earlier portions of the Hell episode. After an odd, abstract bit involving octagons and arachnorbs, you emerge into the meat of the level, an enormous, Satanic cathedral surrounded by a river of fire that cuts through the chasm. It's a very (un)naturalistic setting that's gloaming with snipers with some critical pieces of hardware tucked away here and there. The big battle is in the cathedral itself, which invades your area with imps on three sides while pyro demons block your egress. There's actually a lot less action in the southern section than I was expecting; the BFG showdown with the token Cyberdemon is probably a more harrowing experience. There's a nice series of surprises in the finale, though, introducing the Cybruiser as a sort of boss fight. Cool level.


EPISODE FIVE
NEW MOON, OLD GRUDGE

The Eagle Has LandedMAP25
Back to a familiar setting, the lunar landscape of Lunatic. Starting to feel a bit of survival pressure, here, with your armaments being confined to the pistol and shotgun for most of the level, though with a healthy dose of barrels as supplemental firepower. There are definitely echoes of Lunatic in the circular architecture, not to mention the topography. Putting the player between two windows with a revenant on either side does a good job of making skinny bones jones a legitimate threat. Grabbing the chaingun is the best thing to happen, since it immediately ramps the pace up.

MAP26Blast Wave
More tales from topographic oceans. "Blast Wave" has a faster pace going for it and a few kamikaze trooper surprises to keep you on your toes. Securing the chaingun is a must as it's great for popping the screamers. Much more than the shotgun and pistol, at least. The trickiest encounter is probably dealing with the three Cybruisers to the northwest due to your confinement and the suicide bombers. Navigating the toxic trench that dominates the southern portion is a larger and no less thorny issue, though, particularly with the arachnotron snipers.

Rocket Zone IIMAP27
This time, a VERY strong echo of Lunatic, obviously in some ways a sequel to "Rocket Zone". It's a level very dense with opposition, the first part being a fairly traditional clear of moon base with a pretty cool interior area jutting off to the east and the arc that hosts the yellow key. Once you get past that, though, it's Skillsaw shootout XTREME, starting off with the rocket blast pincer attack that's straight out of 2011. The solid wall of arachnotrons makes getting around pretty hard and making headway puts you between them and the mancubuses to the west. Jump into the rocket pit to the right and you're suddenly dodging imp fireballs while ducking behind enormous machinery for cover from arch-vile blasts. When you finally make it to the top, you have to fend off a terrifying assemblage of pyro demons, Cybruisers, and other such fare.

More importantly, Skillsaw added most of Lunatic's MAP05 as a secret area, though using his new rogues' gallery of monsters, which are far more competent at infighting than the originals. It's a pretty straightforward belt-feed slaughter that gradually opens up the playing area until you can just dodge through the throngs and let them sort themselves out until you're comfortable mopping up with the BFG. A nice Easter egg.

MAP28A Lightbridge Too Far
This level has a badass hook, a series of light bridges and platforms that you'll have to activate and then navigate. It's purely visual, but it looks fantastic. "Lightbridge" has all the outdoor gameplay I've come to expect from this episode, with snipers near and afar harrying your every movement. Getting carelessly buffeted by far away arachnotron fire was a fairly common occurrence; at least Skillsaw seems prescient enough to steer clear of using revenants as glorified turrets. Most of the real action is in the level's east side, which has quite an assortment of enemies stationed about, including a Spiderdemon and Cyberdemon running interference. the true standout encounter is the final approach on the light bridge, though. It's a simple imp battle, but there's a certain cinematic quality to blasting them off the light bridge and the fact that fireballs are flying from every direction instills that sense of true danger. An excellent adventure!

Red ShiftMAP29
"Red Shift" is more of a return to form, echoing the more entrenched fortifications of episodes three and four, accompanied with an appropriate shift in color to mark the new tone. It will take quite a few rockets to carve out something approaching a safe space for you to relax in, not that the location of the rocket launcher (or the plasma rifle for that matter) is readily apparent. This particular section of the moon has a handful of large structures you'll need to conquer before exiting. The only truly massive battle is to the northwest for the yellow key, which at peak madness has a mixed horde of pyro demons and Cybruisers while a cloud of arachnorbs and other fliers closes in from afar. I'm also fond of the imp / kamikaze mash-up to the southwest. Otherwise, the surprises never really trump the opposition you fight through to trigger them.

MAP30Electric Nightmare
Nightmare indeed! The opening is incredibly cinematic as you see all the demon growth vats locking into position. You have no idea the fear that awaits you, though. The super-vile's attack has a shorter charge time and deals successive, smaller blasts in addition to the initial; if you get back in view before the whole thing runs its course, you'll lose control. He's also a fast little bugger, which makes nailing him fairly inconsistent. Fighting him would be hard enough, if fairly rote as long as you're down with pillar humping. There are two confounding factors, though. The electrical towers are pretty nasty turrets that shoot arachnotron shots at you whenever you're in view, so you can't corner camp or stay in any one area, really. There's also a drip feed of revenants, pyro demons, and Cybruisers, dangerous foes that will take advantage of you while you're distracted and who the arch-vile is more than capable of resurrecting. Good luck, marine - you're going to need it.


This post is part of a series on
Doomworld's 2015 Cacowards

The Top TenBest MultiplayerRunners Up
SunlustDon't Be a Bitch RemasteredDoomed Space Wars
ErkattäññeChaosCore CTFCrumpets
SkulldashBest Gameplay ModPrime Directive
Swift DeathDoomRL ArsenalPinnacle of Darkness
BreachMordeth AwardOl' No Name
ValiantChaosCore CTF32in24-14
50 Shades of GraytallMockaward
Sheer PoisonInstaDoom
dead.wireMapper of the Year
Return to Hadrondannebubinga

11 comments:

  1. You mentioned JCD's tron levels. I just want to say that he didn't come up with the style, he borrowed it from Invasion UAC's virtual reality secret map: http://xsnake.online.fr/invasion/shots.htm
    - memfis

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    1. oh, thanks a bunch! ive never seen a coop map in my life so the influence of coop authors undoubtedly escapes me

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  2. I would describe few things as epic, but this truly looks epic. Also it ends in space (sorta), and I can always appreciate a mapset that ends in Space.

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    Replies
    1. it is undoubtedly a really fantastic map set. i would love to see a Valiant 2 some day with more crazy themes and architecture (and enemies!)

      plus you cant go wrong with space, yeah

      Delete
  3. I don't see why some people make posts like 'can't enjoy this because of skillsaw-ism's' (like teleport traps, hitscan spawns behind players, snipers). It's not like these were just tossed in randomly and without though. And I'd easily argue any one-man megawad will have several tropes common to most or all of its maps. Also all this overhype business on the forums is silly too, I don't think it was even hyped that much, it was just posted when it was ready for a release and the testers just came in and threw in their two cents!

    Oh and looking at the screenshots, I finally realized how blatantly clear it is as to why Map29 is called 'Red Shift'

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    1. valiant pretty much exploded on to the scene. all of the get hype was screenshots in the screenshot thread, i think. its not worth analyzing people that complain about it being "overhyped", because they mad that the project did not live up to their impossible expectations whereas plenty of people are vociferously enjoying it. i think that skillsaw made the kind of megawad that he would really enjoy playing, and asking him to make anything else would be a crime. we are all pounding out our own rhythms in the jungle of doom, and if someone happens to dig what we are doing, then that is fantastic.

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  4. Valiant is one of the few mapsets I think of as something that could have been a really popular commercial expansion if it had come out around the mid-90's (around or prior to Final Doom) and been sold for money.

    In fact I'd even go to say it changes more to Doom II than Doom II changed to The Ultimate Doom, so one could make the argument that in that era, it would have been appropriate to call it a whole new Doom game let alone an expansion set.

    There has been plenty of quality megawads to come out the past few years, but I'd say this one is arguably the best, provided you don't have any significant issues with skillsaw's mapping styles/traits.

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    1. the only distinction i could make is that valiant just plain eliminates several monsters that it replaces, not that skillsaw was really dying to use them. in that regard it's more like STRAIN which was definitely billed as a whole new Doom game back when it was released, and valiant's cast is in many ways more imaginative.

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  5. Awesome wad. Can't dsy much more

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  6. One of the year's absolute champions, skillsaw created a masterpiece, and the VE now only furthers that. There's hardly a dud to be found in here, it's tough fast paced action all the way through across 5 different 'worlds' so to speak. Any of which would make a well worthwhile wad on their own, IMO. Even if it's a bit different from what fans of Vanguard might have envisioned, I'd have to think it's just as good. I totally think if this was older (STRAIN era), it (the non-VE) could have been easily been advertised as a 'new doom game'. If ID has handed off the 'Doom 3' title around 1995 or 1996 (of course I know that's not really at all realistic because they're not going to just relinquish their franchise) and received this, I'd say they'd probably be quite happy with the result! But in a slightly more realistic world, if it had been offered as an expansion to sell around the time of Final Doom, I think they'd have been delighted to sell it, it's one of the few wads that really feels like what an expansion pack could be (and more so than Final Doom, in fact).

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    1. yeah. I think that the Valiant bestiary would make a great addition as enemies to feature in a hypothetical Doom III, which Valiant is more suited to than STRAIN. the only things that Valiant is missing are the originals, an unfortunate limitation of the current cross-port DeHackEd implementation

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