Saturday, March 7, 2015


by Franck "franckFRAG" Livolant

Muskadet is a single level for Doom II, released by Doomworld Forum superstar franckFRAG in 2014. franckFRAG is a member of the French Doom Community's talented stable of authors, but the vast majority of his available material is a bunch of small, action-packed speed maps spread out over 3 Heures d'Agonie, its sequel, and franckFRAG's own Swift Death. When he actually takes the time to build out a more traditional map, it's a memorable experience, with his contribution to Interception becoming one of the WAD's major highlights. Muskadet is not remotely the same thing as "Vertigo Plant", but in the context of the rest of his work, a level like this makes more sense to me in some ways... and less in others.

Muskadet has all the freewheeling aesthetic sensibilities of franck's less-focused speedmapping stuff. It's a very dense level, with all of the areas crammed in on top of each other and incredibly interconnected. A lot of the transitions are done via blind lifts, cutting down on visplane overflows and helping to keep texture schemes from clashing. It's cool to have the areas both compartmentalized and varied, but it leaves the final product with something of a patchwork feel. The kitchen sink approach works in stuff like Rick Lipsey's enormous base levels where each section of the map has some room to breathe in. It's less useful in a level as tightly constructed as this one but nothing approaching a major pitfall.

The overall feel of Muskadet is a base level. There are a few bits of strange here and there, most notably the fissure in the blue key section, but it's basically a big ol techbase. Most of the areas you'll run through tend toward the claustrophobic, and in an interesting break from his more exacting enemy placement, you're going to be weighed down by tons of Doom II's low impact trash monsters. Considering that your room for dodging and juking is comparatively limited, it makes sense that franck would err toward a more forgiving approach in encounter design. The layout is too congested for run and gun to really flow well, though. I'm not put off by the labyrinthine design, but there are a lot of blind lifts and drops that slow the pace, which doesn't really match up with all the easy to slay monsters hanging around. I think that using some harder monsters would have helped to justify the stop-start pace.

Because the opposition is so light, there aren't many fights that really stand out. Stuff escalates near the end with bits like a sentry post filled with revenants and all the monsters attempting to waylay you at the bridge, but by and large you are slaying imps and demons and hitscanners with the shotgun and chaingun. The room-clearing isn't exactly perfunctory, and the start does a good job of pushing you into action, but I could have done with a few more pitched fights. As it stands, one of the nastiest fights I had was the eastern annex, and that's mostly because I came in through the library, where the Hell knights were up close, and I in my infinite wisdom was trying to kill them as expediently as possible with a rocket launcher. Well, it was certainly the most tactical encounter I had.

franck makes two subtle but important changes that help to keep the action from feeling stale. First, a gorgeous blue sky that helps to contrast against all the browns you'll be seeing, plus some people have got to be tired of seeing the original Doom II's skies by now. Second, though it isn't an original music track, "Kitchen Ace (and Taking Names)" is certainly not D_RUNNIN. In a smaller context, this doesn't really matter. In a broader context, someone who has played a lot of levels in the MAP01 slot is probably going to be suffering from D_RUNNIN fatigue, plus I like having music switch-ups.

Muskadet won't blow your mind but it's a solid Doom II adventure. Yeah, I'd like it if it were a little more challenging, since it has more of an Ultimate Doom feel than anything with its layout and monster weight, but it won't take up too much of your time unless you're one to get hopelessly lost in intricate level layouts. Enjoy, or don't. The power is yours!


No comments:

Post a Comment