Friday, March 13, 2015

Soldier of Fortune (FORTUNE.WAD)

by Lisa "MadPup" Moore

Lisa Moore was one of the peripheral authors of Team TNT. She contributed a handful of deathmatch maps to a few projects (Pursuit, Eternal Deathmatch) and has one single player level to her name - Soldier of Fortune. It's a MAP01 replacement for Doom II, released in late 1997. The story and setting peg it as one of those single-location mansion style levels, as it's set after the events of Doom II, when the Doom marine a highly sought-after combatant due to the experience that comes with the name. While residing in your mansion, there's an intrusion, which wouldn't ordinarily concern a badass of your caliber, except it turns out to be no ordinary home invasion.

Your mansion is one of those abstract Doom smorgasbord deals, containing a lot of cool things but nothing that's really relevant to actually living in a mansion, like glorious sector toilets and furniture. I mean, there's a library, and there's a front yard with a dock, boat, and watch towers, and there's a basement attached to a sewer system, and even a theater complete with stands, I guess because you love to patronize community theater on your coastal / island fortress. It's funny that it seems to have everything besides stuff like the kitchen sink. It's not actually a big level, all told, but it has a few large areas inside it.

If I didn't know any better - and I don't - I'd say that this level was partially inspired by Eternal Doom, in particular the theme levels of Jim Flynn. The soundtrack by Rich Nagel is something of a giveaway, but all of the Doom cute puzzles and floating text / text posters feels like it could have come straight from ETERNAL.WAD. After a liberal coating of new textures, of course. FORTUNE has a ton of complex sector machinery that will likely frustrate players despising switch hunting, timed triggers, and all points in between. There's even a vault scheme, hinted at with the library, that grants access to an important lesson - "Patience is a virtue". The eventual reward, I believe, is access to a utility that greatly simplifies the final encounter.

One of the simplest puzzles is ingenious, but until you figure it out, completely maddening. The performance theater has a lot of surprises, including wavy techblu curtains. Anyway, the monster layout is already oppressive, starting off with a bunch of hitscanners and a surprise arch-vile but augmented with an invul sphere. Once you take them out you basically have to wait out the cacodemons so they don't mess you up while you're taking out the lead actor and its agitated peanut gallery. When you make it up, a pleasant reminder to act in consideration of the performers. On activating the switch, the exit door will open, but every time you step off the stage, it closes. It took longer than I'd like for me to realize that the switch opens the door indefinitely, with the closing action a simple close and wait 30 seconds before reopening, usually a staple of Doom traps.

The sewers are one of the trickier bits. You get your pick of east vs. west, but truth be told, the east path is the better route as long as you're willing to suffer through some goofy switch / lift puzzles, as success rewards you with access to the rocket launcher and some armor, plus another rad suit to tackle the west section with. Your first foray to the east side of the level is pretty nasty, too. The thought had occurred to me the first time I saw the alternating color bars on the teleporter, but I forgot, only to realize later that the set piece is actually quite multi-faceted.

FORTUNE is unforgiving on UV. Ammo and health are very tight, amplifying Lisa's somewhat uncompromising enemy placement. Try to save every rocket you got, because you'll need every bit of scratch to clear out those watch towers on the exit run, not to speak of the revenant platforms, intermittent caco demons, and pain elemental for good measure. I already mentioned the theater. The cage room is an early encounter that puts the player in his or her place with imp and spectres in close, confusing quarters, given the fireballs flying in from either side. There aren't a whole lot of enemies, but what ones Lisa does use, she uses very efficiently.

Whether this level was done with Eternal Doom in mind (and looking at the .TXT it almost certainly was) doesn't really matter, because it's a pretty cool map from 1997. It's got everything I love: monsters, music, and enough moving parts to befuddle a Labion Terror Beast. I wish Moore had kicked out more levels, because it looks like she would have been my kind of author. In any case, she's shown herself as one of my favorites, along the likes of Jim Flynn, Bob Evans, and Sverre Kvernmo. Thanks, Lisa!


  1. It's about time you've covered Soldier of Fortune! I had a feeling that it was probably intended to be an Eternal Doom entry, given the puzzle theme of the map. It's very rare to find a Doom map designed by a female, with Lisa Moore and Alice Jameson (Community Chest Map 05) being the only well-known authors, but other than that, this is well thought out with solid gameplay, clever puzzles, tight challenge, and nasty traps that can really throw off the ill-equipped. This review made me want to go back playing this wad again. Great job. :)

    1. idk about it being an Eternal Doom entry per se, but I think it's very clear where Lisa was drawing from, given she was hanging out with the Eternal Crew

  2. IDK if this exactly would fit as an Eternal Doom map (if retextured), but Eternal has a couple makes that were not very impressive at all even for 1997. Particularly Map14 and 32 leave very little impression. Maybe those could have been thrown away and she would have had two potential entries, that's would've been interesting.

    1. I think if it had a custom texture scheme like Flynn's stuff (Monster Mansion esp.), it would have worked as another location-based gimmick map