Saturday, June 6, 2015

Titan (TITAN.WAD)


You don't see a whole lot of "normal maps but with ZDoom features" nowadays. It looks like most of the people are making mods instead of maps. If you're looking for Doom+ gameplay, though, this one's for you. Titan is a nine-map episode for Doom II, released in 2004 by one Jesper Krag Rasmussen, aka Ixnatifual. This one WAS made for ZDoom, but a now ancient release, and ZDoom's continued development created a game-breaking bug at the end of MAP02 stemming from a malfunction in the execution of a handful of Rasmusen's major teleport traps. This led to an update back in 2014, which I nonetheless missed out on due to my insistence on using a copy I had downloaded back in 2010. Sorry about that!


Titan is based on - what else? - Saturn's frozen moon. Except, well, it recently started thawing out, a product of aberrant geological activity deep below its surface. The UAC, which has never learned the proper respect for fire, stuck their hand in it again as they established a mining colony and research station with intent to see what, if anything, they could exploit from the situation. Then, abruptly, all communication from the moon ceased. That's never a good sign. You're sent to investigate because you're the best at what you do, and what you do is kill demons.


The beginning isn't so hot. Sometimes I feel like authors ought to go back and redo their first few levels from a project because they learn so much by the time they tack the ending on, and Titan isn't much different. A pitch-black warehouse hardly makes for compelling gameplay, and "Top Floor"'s standout encounter drags on forever if you don't have something like the secret combat shotgun or rocket launcher. As you play on, though, Rasmussen starts embellishing the geometry with slopes and stuff, and the layouts and architecture get slightly more complex. I know there's a Titan 2 in my future, and I'm curious as to see how the author has improved his craft between 2004 and 2009.


There aren't a whole lot of ZDoom features in use besides the sloped floors. I mean, sure, there are some scripts for triggers like killing monsters, and there are a plethora of security cameras that are meant to clue you in to changes enacted by nearby switches. You'll also get some instances of dirty diving through all manner of fluids, and creepy noises, both ambient and triggered, to help build atmosphere. The colored lighting isn't gaudy enough to be annoying, which is good, and there's nothing wrong with the occasional particle fountain. There are a lot of mirrors, but they only figure into one surprise, and it's a pretty good one. Titan is definitely on the lighter side of Doom+.


Rasmussen doesn't add any new weapons, but there are four new monsters, all of which are used sparingly. The chainsaw zombie is, yes, a zombie wielding a chainsaw. They're not at all threatening in the contexts they appear in, but I suppose one might mess you up if it got the drop on you. The zombie marine is a plasma-firing jackass who has a select few appearances, much like the Lord of Heresy, whose biggest showing is as a ridiculous final encounter in MAP08. The Hectebuses are the final boss encounter, and they're pretty damn annoying considering their super plasma spam. If you're using mouselook, though, you can probably just pick a safe spot and slowly chip the survivors down with rockets after BFG-zerging the ones you can easily reach.


All of the darkness, creepy triggered sounds, and chainsaw zombies might lead you to believe that Rasmussen was aping elements of Doom 3... And you might be right! The action is all Doom's, though, especially those moments when you're beating back what feels like a never-ending tide of monsters. The use of original Doom music tracks only serves to emphasize the author's pursuit of that elusive survival horror / action-oriented atmosphere which Doom II so glibly left behind and whose faster-paced elements Doom 3 distilled away. That said, I'm not the biggest fan of slow-paced Doom II action. Your own mileage may vary.


If you like slower-paced Doom II levels that attempt to build a mood of malaise, then you ought to check out Titan, especially if you like seeing those little ZDoom features that have fallen by the wayside in the BooMBF-era. It's no masterpiece, but it's alright.



TITAN
by Jesper Krag "Ixnatifual" Rasmussen

Mineral StorageMAP01
An inauspicious beginning. After teasing you with a security camera feature, the lights are out the moment you enter the warehouse and it's deep dark crate maze time. Things are a little tense because you can't just go nuts with the shotgun and the pistol is not the safest weapon for killing shotgun guys. Jesper has some moments of attempting to channel Knee Deep in the Dead, like with the monster closets that unleash zombies into previously-explored areas (a forgotten skill) and the outdoor area secret which nets you a chaingun.

MAP02Top Floor
This tech level ends in a tense encounter in the exit room, a double-pronged teleporter ambush that will have you scrambling to clear rapidly diminishing space. I don't like potentially having to take down three Hell knights and a baron with the lowly shotgun / chaingun unless you managed to locate the combat shotgun or rocket launcher. A lot of the enemies are tied up in zombies that Rasmussen throws at you in the return trek through the dark hallway, coming from off-shoot rooms. It's almost TiC-level zombie slaughter. I like some of the little embellishments, like the particle fountain things just south of the opening room. I hope the hidden weapons won't be an ongoing trend.

Warp PointMAP03
A grueling trek across the Titan landscape. All of the difficulty is compounded by you vs. a bunch of hitscanners without much health to show for it. You'll only need to slip up a few times before you're just scraping by. One of the larger complications is the darkened cavern with the staircase / ledge, which has several cacodemons and lost souls that will intermittently sneak up on you, imps firing from the darkness on high, and several alcoves to explore that are usually staffed with zombies. I like the blue key area fight, which has a hint of desperation with the squad of imps clamoring for the teleporter pad, and doing a nukage dive to reach the level's exit is kind of novel. I think we also start to see Rasmussen playing around with slopes, here...

MAP04Experimental Labs
Rasmussen continues to develop the character of the Titan base with this curious outing. There's very little lab involved and parts of it are inundated with water for whatever reason. Several segments feel as though they channel the opening moments of "The Crusher". Most of the action is confined to the southern outdoor area, which has a combat shotgun, well worth making a beeline to. I love the subtle touch of the lost soul that descends from the ceiling - very cool. The only other snag is the room just past the red key door, where a teleport ambush can make things quite dicey.

SubstructureMAP05
The pacing gets a bit better. This is a semi-Deimos styled base map with a pretty frantic opening that settles back into a groove that carries you all the way to the climax, centered around the yellow key. The zombie marines aren't too bad; it's "Subject Alpha" you have to be worried about, leading to a tense shootout around those slow waste crushers as you try not to soak too much splash damage. I like the obstacle speed, because they're slow enough to offer actual cover but will still move during the course of the battle and force you to some safer ground. There's a big ambush waiting for you on your way back to the yellow door, but I think it's broke for the same reason that MAP02's is.

MAP06Healer's Pass
The healer, of course, being the arch-vile, who owns this particular corner of Hell. After some mildly intense room-clearing and a sluice filled with fire, you can assault the main fortress, which has a decently-sized pack of Hell knights and then another force of imps lurking to the east. The battlements themselves are nothing special, but the barons might be a bit of a bother considering the close quarters. I liked the cacodemons emerging from the spawning vats in the main building. The arch-vile is a good "oh shit!" moment, but you should have enough ammo to prevent him from being a real bother if you're quick.

Theater of PainMAP07
Rasmussen cranks out a pretty good Hell level in an E4 style. For some reason, I get a "Hell Beneath" vibe, but I'm sure that's just due to the opening area. The atmosphere is pretty good; I like the whispering pools of souls, and the fog effect gives the level an otherworldly feel. It's almost like Doomguy himself brings color to this foul dimension. The monster count is much higher than previous levels and the monster placement a bit more tricky. Clearing out the main yard will be job one and inquisitive players can find a secret stash of cells, very useful. Ambushes in the ancillary areas tend toward the claustrophobic. The library is my favorite, with rearranging bookstacks that funnel you back and forth. The enemy HP is a bit much, though. Also, props to that Baron / mirror trick.

MAP08Bloodthirst
A grueling drip-feed slaughter that starts out in a vast, underground chamber full of cascading blood. Imps, demons, Hell knights, barons, lost souls, and cacodemons all file in to keep a constant source of pressure on the player. There are several invulnerability spheres available and a safe haven in an underground cavern, at least, after you clear it out. The fighting goes on for a long time and will probably involve running from side to side for a good long while. The second half is a series of marble tunnels with some spooky sounds that plays more toward the congested side of things, with a few spoiler arch-viles thrown in for good measure. The penultimate fight has a pretty good size of imps coming from the rear chamber while a mixed pack attempts to come in behind you and two pairs of barons at your sides. The final battle could be pretty nasty... But I had left the invul sphere right next to the Lords, so it was rocket punching time for me.

The NexusMAP09
The armies of Hell converge to do you in at an enormous step pyramid that serves as the nexus of the invasion... But first, you'll have to slay that gatekeeper at the top and then take one of the portals to the corner of Hades where they've stashed the BFG. After a short but deadly romp, it's on to the grind. The finale has three big waves of monsters you'll have to contend with. The first is purely imps and should last a good, long while. Granted, it's satisfying watching them explode on death for the purposes of cinema. The second wave is a greater threat and is full of a mixed variety of monsters, but you won't see any pain elementals or arch-viles or hitscanners. Heck, Rasmussen even sits the revenants out. The final wave puts you in a crossfire with twelve Hectebuses, which spray giant blue bullet Hell everywhere and are pretty annoying to deal with, especially when some of them just sit around the entry portals. Thankfully, the author gives you interstitial invul powerups to make things more lighthearted, though he drops it to megaspheres for the final wave. Not quite as cool as I was led to believe by the comments, but decent enough fun.

UNSTINKABLE

13 comments:

  1. "You don't see a whole lot of "normal maps but with ZDoom features" nowadays."

    Think its because people expect "normal" maps to at least work in PrBoom+ nowadays, for demo recording. Kinda wish we had a new mapping format that offers more than what Boom/MBF have, but still be designed around classic gameplay. And of course, a demo friendly engine with such format. If not to be, than I just wish PrBoom+ at least had partial Mapinfo support for episode/map/cluster definitions.

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    1. my pie in the sky doom-plus port would have some kind of Mapinfo support just like you said. it would be nice to free authors from the arbitrary confines of the Doom II format. if we're talking about something that's basically vanilla (or limit-removing), it would also have some kind of sky transfer support (because multiple skies r cool) and maybe more room / flexibility with DeHackEd. it sucks seeing guys like Wraith666 struggle to make ends meet within DeHackEd's limitations (namely frames) when they are clearly full of cool, vanilla-compatible ideas.

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    2. I never cared about PrBoom+ to begin with. I find Eternity a much better port for playing vanilla, limit-removing and boom-compatible wads. I don't even have the original DOS EXES as I own Collector's Edition (which comes with shitty Doom95 port) although I used to own shareware versions of Doom (v1.2,v1.666 and v1.9) and "pirated" Doom II 1.666 back in the day, so nowadays I just use a source port for my all time Dooming (not right now as I'm studying for exams, I only visit this blog and other sites occasionally in breaks). I used Chocolate Doom couple of years ago for playing original IWADs, the result was OK but not a huge fan of pixelated low-res graphics (and this is coming from an old games fan!). I just prefer my resolution at least 640x480 to look nicely and see where I'm going. Ironically, I'm using DOSBox to play most old games (Duke Nukem 3D, Heretic, Hexen, Quake, Strife, etc) so resolution doesn't bother me sometimes. Sucks that I have to use a source port to play Doom.

      Anyway few months ago I tried Eternity (well, not really first time trying it as I tried before many years ago but have forgotten about it until recently) and does a much better job at playing IWADS and PWADS. The only bad thing about Eternity is that save games aren't compatible with Chocolate Doom and therefore not compatible with DOS version but I don't find this that bad, as long as people will download Eternity and try my saves in case they are stuck on a certain level or for reporting bugs on certain custom maps in case screenshots aren't enough.

      When the PWADS require ZDoom (like this one), I usually mix with Aeons of Death mod for freshening things up, much like other people use Brutal Doom to play most mapsets (though I'm not a huge fan of Brutal Doom, but the recently released v20 looks promising, can't wait to try it next month after final exams) but I understand using mods will break the way map was intended to be played and as such I choose carefully what wad I want to play in ZDoom mixed with AEOD. I also play less popular (limit-removing or boom-compatible wads) with ZDoom + AEOD because Doom's gameplay gets repetitive at times, especially when you play multiple megawads in a row. Not to say Doom's gameplay is boring because I like Doom very much but it does become boring after a while and sometimes it's a good idea to play something else once in a while and then come back to Doom to finish the said megawad. But in general, I play Top 100 Wads + Cacowards in Eternity Engine (except wads that require ZDoom or other source ports to be played). Every other wad that wasn't featured in Top 100 Wads or Cacoward, gets played in ZDoom with Aeons of Death.

      To end my long-ass message, the reason why I don't find PrBoom+ as good as most people say is because: 1) People seem to use it for creating and sharing demos and as such I don't record demos unless I'm very bored and 2) It has some features I dislike such as changing .wad files to PrBoom files when you start PrBoom+ for first time, some default settings such as the aspect ratio is incorrect and in general it doesn't feel vanilla at all, it just tries to be but fails miserably. Eternity does a much better job at recreating Vanilla feeling.

      This is my honest opinion regarding source ports.

      -FistMarine

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    3. I have been preferring Eternity for casual play, myself. Certainly has a better software renderer than PrBoom+'s. And I like that it has mapinfo support, so Valiant feels more at home with it.

      Problems are, it hasn't exactly caught on with many mappers. Some features it allows are a bit anti-classic, such as disabling infinitely tall actors, and jumping (I'm aware that these can be turned off, but it opens the window for maps to require them). It also lacks strict compatibility settings for demos.

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    4. it would be really cool to see eternity take off, since what few levels that exist for it are very cool (well uh vaporware demo really)

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    5. Thanks for replies! I also really like Eternity's software render and some of the features. But yeah I talked with Quasar a while ago about bugs I found, compatibility settings and other features and suggestions but unfortunately he didn't seem to bother replying anymore to my messages. I really hope he will complete Heretic support soon because it's been left unfinished since many years, as well as adding some of my suggestions.

      I guess I forgot to say that I dislike PrBoom+ render, it feels more like it uses OpenGL rather than software and I'm not talking about GLBoom which IS PrBoom with OpenGL render. But yeah, Eternity could benefit from having compatibility options because this is why people prefer using PrBoom+ when comes to playing all kinds of maps (vanilla, limit removing and boom). And it's not just that, some people seem to be bothered by the options menu as well, although I don't really care about how options menu looks but still I hope Quasar sorts out these things in next version.

      -FistMarine

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    6. IMO, Eternity really needs to make -Vanilla command work without having to use the -warp command, as its the only thing that actually makes Eternity fully compatible with Vanilla. The compatibility options in the menu seem to suffer from many bugs, making it impossible to actually have full vanilla compatibility through such means. I don't even understand why "Bullets Only Hit Floors and Ceilings" is even a thing. No other port has this, and having it on fixes some vanilla maps that are broken with it off (AV 15 for example), but breaks others that were fine with it off (Icarus 01).

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    7. I've also now noticed that Eternal Doom map28 is broken regardless of "Bullets Only Hit Floors and Ceilings" being on or off. Only works in -vanilla command period. I hope Quasar fixes this.

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    8. And now I feel like an idiot. It seems using the latest non-dev build doesn't have this issue at all.

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  2. I fixed the teleporter issue over a year ago. Perhaps you're not playing version 1.1 of the level set? It works for me at least.

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    1. oh wow, rather than download a fresh copy of /idgames, i used one that had been sitting on my hard drive since 2010, when i was feverishly downloading doom WADs. updated

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    2. It's cool. Enjoying your reviews by the way, including this one obviously :)

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