Sunday, July 26, 2015

Pinnacle of Darkness (PINNACLE.PK3)

GZDoom WADs are few and far between, and the ones that really make full use of the engine are even rarer. Pinnacle of Darkness is one such delight, a MAP01 replacement released in 2015 by Nick Laurent, aka Hobomaster22, whose most recent contributions have been to Doom the Way id Did and Back to Saturn X Episode 1. Pinnacle has nothing to do with vanilla limitations and everything to do with embracing the aspects of GZDoom that make Doom feel less like the limited-geometry game that we know and love. I believe that this mapset should play nice with most mods since it doesn't change any of the gunplay or enemy behaviors, though there's one custom monster you'll have to deal with.

One really important note, which the .TXT doesn't point out. Jumping is REQUIRED. So go, jump your little heart out. You'll need to in order to to grab the blue key and there are a bunch of secrets you access by catting around. And, well, this level has a ton of secrets. Most of them are basically just health / ammo stashes (no big secret areas that I found) but it's nice to know that the author is looking out for you since I squandered so much of my health failing to dodge revenant rockets. I guess the motion of GZDoom is still just a little foreign to me. Pinnacle isn't that hard, actually, but it's got plenty of monsters so that you have ample opportunity to cock up.

What it lacks is highly choreographed firefights. Outside of a few battles, Pinnacle is incidental to the core. It's just as dangerous, of course, but in its own particular fashion. Not having all of the enemies delivered up front increases the likelihood that you'll catch a fireball or revenant rocket to the back of your head. About the most planning you'll get is a miniboss-style encounter where you have to fend off a handful of arch-viles that will merrily resurrect the already-dead monsters that have been placed around the room. The Cyberdemon battle is just sheer chaos as almost all of the monsters can tool around and a fair number of them are fliers, including two pain elementals. There's nothing rigorous about the final fight, which is a slower-paced boss shooter, though as I peek inside the PK3 I can see that Laurent has limited the variety of monsters that can spawn.

This level is also pretty big, and navigating three-dimensional space in addition to the occasional bout of backtracking will likely challenge players that are used to Doom's slightly more straightforward pathing. Hobomaster22 does what he can by putting down key poles like gates to direct you to the next objective, but I still totally blitzed past the yellow key door, in spite of the fact that I'd seen it several times before. I think it's just a natural consequence of having to build a mental map of a level this size. The final area isn't quite as confusing since it's a long trek across a Hellscape with the occasional small tower, though there is a moment of panic when you hear the boss shooter wake up.

As far as modern features, Pinnacle makes fantastic use of 3D floors and portals to give the map an amazing sense of depth. There's also a seamless elevator, deep water, floating platforms, and changing light levels. One of my favorite surprises had a section of ground that's okay as long as you're moving, but if you stand still on it, causes you to sink through to the pit below, which will probably have a few enemies rattling around in it. Escape is as easy as either staircase to the side, but it's still a nice little trap. One of my favorite bits of scripting spawns in cacodemons by having them erupt from the ground like little pustules. It's pretty classy, and cacodemons are one of Doom's most enduring monsters since they can fly and occupy a lot of space.

Laurent included one regularly appearing custom monster, the tortured soul, aka that pain elemental thing with the stitched mouth that shoots gas clouds. Curiously, the dark imp and cacolich are present in the package, and I can see that there's some kind of logic that's meant to control when they appear in the PWAD, but I couldn't figure out how to get it to happen. I was thinking that it was going to be like one of Tormentor667's works, with a "New Game +" mode that activates once you finish the level, and it DOES kick you back to the beginning with all your guns and ammo. The monsters are all exactly the same, though. At least, as far as I can tell.

The sole misgiving I have is that this dark trek through the proclaimed Pinnacle of Darkness ends in a fairly anti-climactic firefight against a pretty discrete skull computer with a brain. I mean, it's definitely not a wall texture, but there isn't any sense of spectacle or showmanship in the architecture. Its building is basically no different from the rest of the towers in the northwestern yard. It just happens to be the one with the bossbrain in it. There's also no magic spot you have to stand in to shoot the darn thing, you just have to free yourself up so that when the blind lowers, you can shoot your rockets relatively unmolested.

All that aside, Pinnacle is a pretty cool GZDoom level that takes it relatively easy on the player when it comes to bullshit instant death monsters and the like. While the pacing may be off compared to the lightning-fast murderfests we're used to seeing, it pairs up nicely with the soundtrack to give the PWAD a brooding atmosphere. If you want a solid example of where source ports can take the action of Doom II, you could do a whole Hell of a lot worse than Hobomaster22's latest.

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


  1. It was quite the surprise to see hobomaster re-emerge and get this thing to /idgames after so long, he hadn't released anything since 2007 prior. This may be his opus in some aspects, but I'd whole-heartedly recommend most of not all of his back-catalog from the mid-2000s.

  2. well made design. but I can't clear.