Friday, September 25, 2015

Doomed Space Wars (SPACWARS.WAD)


Doom is no stranger to Star Wars; I've seen a massive, light-hearted TC (Star Wars: Chibi Rebellion) and I know that Rex Claussen has had a few SW-themed releases. Heck, according to John Carmack:
Seeing how someone had put the death star into our game felt so amazingly cool. I was so proud of what had been made possible, and I was completely sure that making games that could serve as a canvas for other people to work on was a valid direction.
This time, Paul Corfiatis is taking a swing at the pairing. Doomed Space Wars is a twelve-map release meant to be played in ZDoom, published in 2015. While it uses textures that will be familiar to veterans of Dark Forces, Paul isn't really trying to channel the gameplay, and has confessed that he's not overly familiar with it. So, if the phrase Dark Forces got you all hopped up, I'd make sure that you're willing to settle for visual parity, if nothing else.


The story is really simple, provided you don't even question the fact that the Star Wars universe and Doom universe have some apparent overlap. Apparently, a derelict Imperial Space Station named "Ondor" (now just which -ndor is this referencing, huh?) has been hijacked by the forces of Hell, who are now heading for our Solar System. I assume they mean Sol, since the UAC was capable of sending marines to investigate. Any way, on arrival you discover the nature of the station's newfound mobility - Hellspawn - and must again ready your trusty shotgun in defense of the human race.


More than anything, Doomed Space Wars is a success of visuals. Paul's use of the Dark Forces texture set is clean, competent, and striking, especially when paired with all the colored lights, which look great on the textures, if not on some of the monsters. The 3D structures aren't extravagant, but stuff as simple as bridges add a lot to the dynamics of Doom's level geometry. Paul rarely gets too crazy with the architecture, but never loses the big picture. Imperial macrotecture abounds, with tons of light pillars and inexplicable cavernous starbase vacuoles. In spite of the episodic naming scheme that separates the trilogies of levels into their own minisodes, there isn't much of a distinct theme tying them together.


There's sort of a template to Space Wars, and from what I've gleaned, it isn't much different from Paul's work in Whispers of Satan. Sort of a "space marine sees key, space marine follows linear route, space marine gets key" thing. You'll know pretty quickly - or you may already know - whether you dig this style. The combat is dominated by sizable ambushes - think hallway-length monster closets - and, after and including MAP03, enormous climax-style death arenas. The only trope that didn't sit well with me was the occasional repetitious sequence of monster closets. Unfortunately, you see it as early as MAP01 on the walkway to the switch that lowers the yellow key. About the only time the resulting series of ambushes was threatening was when it involved the security droids... and you'll be seeing a lot of those anyway.


The other thing... Paul has added a bunch of new DECORATE monsters. Most of them don't add much if anything to the gameplay and seem to follow the Doom model of new and exciting ways to throw straight fireballs at the player. The most worthless example is the Sith Hell knight, a gray-skinned Hell noble that sits between the Hell knight and baron in its HP. That's it. At least STRAIN's Demon Lord had a shitty firing spread that commanded some respect from the player. Then, of course, there's the... GIANT CACODEMON, seen only once in UV, which just breaks up into smaller cacodemons. Great. The Dark Trooper is just a chaingun guy with more HP. The darkside cacodemon isn't completely offensive, since it's transparent, fast, and has quick fireballs, but it usually gets eaten up in infighting before it ever makes an impression on the player. Last, the hectebus, an even bigger HP sponge than the baron. I guess what I'm saying is, the bestiary could use some tweaking.


It's not all bad, though. The security droid comes out as the Space Wars MVP, a mobile little motherfucker that will no doubt draw comparisons to Valiant's arachnodrone. They're ubiquitous and their movement pattern is erratic enough that slaying an ambush is rarely as simple as a circle strafe pattern. The tortured soul makes a few appearances, growing to be one of my few Realm667 favorites. Its breath and death attacks create a mobile area of denial that add an appreciated element to gameplay; it's a pity that they don't appear more often. There are also some appearances by the afrit, who brings this concept but in the style of a boss monster. He's more or less misused in these wide-open areas, either dragging out firefights when played over a chasm or wasting most of his time infighting until the inevitable BFG bump from the player.


The new monsters aren't bad, per se, they just feel like wasted opportunities. I know there are plenty of people who hate the monsters that id added in Doom II, so Paul's selection of muted mutations will sit right at home with them. Interestingly, I've seen a correlation between these folks and those who are fans of the PSX version of Doom. And, well, funny I should mention that. Paul cribs two big items from the PSX / N64 side of things, the most obvious being the sound effects, which are pretty disorienting. There's also quite a bit of colored lighting, and I'm not talking about the laser pillars. The author even went so far as to make a PSX Doom map as a secret level, complete with animated fire sky and haunting, atmospheric soundtrack.


That isn't the only Easter egg, either. The very same level contains a shrine to Quake, complete with Cyberdemon sendoff. In earlier maps, you'll see a Nazi-splattering Wolf3D annex, a MYHOUSE display of sector furniture, a tiny slice of Super Mario Bros. 3, and... some other things. Paul is very committed to leaving interesting segments to explore due to a self-described lack of confidence in his gameplay as designed. I certainly appreciate it; I'm a spelunker at heart and love when the secrets are enormous non-sequitors like these. Immersion-ruining for some, but my enjoyment is pretty flexible.


I had a lot of fun with Doomed Space Wars, in spite of all the HP sponge fireball generators. It's not the most groundbreaking or challenging of mapsets, but the whole Dark Forces aesthetic is very cool, and it will be interesting to see if anyone takes the ball to their own court. If Star Wars, colored lighting, or Paul Corfiatis in general appeal to you, you ought to give this a shot.



DOOMED SPACE WARS
by Paul "pcorf" Corfiatis

RED ZONE

Command AdminMAP01
Welcome to DSW! The Dark Forces textures are an immediate eye-grabber, and Paul quickly introduces you to his style of encounter - masses of monsters. It doesn't come across with the zombies, but you'll know it by the time you hit the fifth imp closet on your way to the first switch. There is also a lot of potential hitscanner Hell. Paul is nice enough to give you plenty of room to move around in, but it's a double-edged sword when you have zombies teleporting into several different locations in some of the staged areas. It'll keep you on your toes, though. Some cool bits of platforming and 3D architecture. I really like the area behind the blue key door; it's a great place to introduce the security droids.

MAP02Chiron Sector
Paul increases the difficulty with a greater number of enemies, including several memorable encounters with both security droids and cacodemons, though I was pretty much done with the series of aerial closets to the southwest by the time the third opened, issuing forth a paltry couple of cacos more. That room is just begging for something bigger for a finale. Some cool visuals with all those imperial-red laser colonnades in the depths of the station. There are also some scenarios that really do a decent job of locking the player in to some nasty odds, like the easternmost room of the first area (running with the demons... and sideswiped by cacodemons!) and the yellow key battle in the second. You might have the plasma rifle by then, though, in which case it's not too tough. There is something of a boss fight, but it's just against a single arch-vile.

Imperial StrongholdMAP03
This time in something in a bit of a different style. After a very short base segment, you're out in the open in a sort of sandbox-style level very evocative of Star Wars Imperial architecture as it's on a sort of platform out in the middle of fucking nowhere inside an enormous inner chamber. The opening is all about killing the zombies as quickly as possible without sustaining too much damage. A nearby blur sphere will do you wonders. Once they're out of the way, you can work on getting the yellow key, taking you through a nondescript shrine of some sort to the southeast and a prison to the northwest. Both switches unleash packs of security droids into the main area, which blend in pretty well with the Imperial gray. Grabbing the yellow key triggers the boss fight, which spawns a squadron of arachnotrons spread out across the platform and one big mamma jamma. Once you get inside the eastern building - and through a decent cacodemon / tortured soul fight - it's back to installation clearing. Cool level.

MAP10Rusted Mystery
Most of this level is sort of a strange mix between the rusted techbase look of Quake with some Star Wars trappings. It's more hitscanner-focused than the last few maps with more claustrophobic encounters in tunnels that eventually takes you through a storage room before the big finish. The final area, where you'll fight the other half of the remaining monsters, is a huge arena that's obviously built for a slaughter. Pressing the central switch begins a series of invasive waves that showcases, among other things, most of the custom monsters that Paul has added. After releasing the eight Cyberdemons from the corners. It's tempting to dismiss this as an easy battle that can be trounced with the almighty circle strafe, and that's somewhat true, since you won't have to worry about infinitely tall fliers blocking your path. On the other hand, walking monsters teleport back to gum up the routes you would usually use to weave through traffic, and some of the monsters - like the security droids - are pretty good at intercepting you, and you are better served by at least picking off the pain elementals, so Paul forces you into action and forces some of the action on you. Eventually you'll just have Afrits and Cyberdemons left, not that there aren't enough cells and rockets laying around to zerg most of it into oblivion.


BLUE ZONE

Central LabsMAP04
The difficulty takes a bit of a step up. There isn't a whole lot of "Labs" in here, but it's still got some bits of Star Wars macrotecture, like the red key platforming section and the leap across the chasm homage to the exit. The opening feels a bit back to basics with a lot of shotgun-fed imp slaying. Once you enter the claustrophobic ambush in the room with the BFG, though, it's on... supposing you don't just flee out through the door you just came in. Hitscanners rear their ugly heads again in the circular northeastern room ambush. Once you break into the western corridor, which has four tall, circular lifts, it's back to some tried and true room clearing, but all the crates at least have you wondering just what is going to pop out next. The finale introduces a couple of enemies for their normal debuts, the hectebus and the darkside cacodemon. It's a pretty dangerous battle given all the columns and mancubuses leave you in the perfect lurch for an impromptu ambush. Of particular note is the silly Wolf3D annex, an Easter egg that features a message from the author, plus an opportunity to slaughter a bunch of Nazis with the BFG.

MAP05Laser Power Generator
A really cool map that makes heavy use of those security droids. Most of the main complex action is unremarkable but you'll occasionally bust into an open area and have to dance around those darned droids. I think the northern battle has the best action in this regard. There are also two Easter eggs in succession, one a little MYHOUSE.WAD annex with screenshots of some of Paul's secret exits of Christmas past, and the other a fabulous slice of Super Mario Bros. 3 that tells you that all that stuff was from Paul's past levels. I think he's just trying to make up for the fact that the second trilogy of maps doesn't have a secret level. The real battle is the enormous field of lasers that makes up the level's eastern section, a series of catwalks connecting platforms surrounding light engines that are liberally sprinkled with imps. Then there are the hectebuses on the inner walkway, death sentries that hide in the shadows. Then you've got all the flying monsters, including a bunch of those droids but also cacodemons, tortured souls, and at least one of those goofy darksiders. Thank goodness he didn't use any pain elementals. It's a fun fight to figure out since taking your time will involve a lot of dodged fireballs, and just wading in with a BFG isn't enough when the platforms are so spread out, limiting your mobility. You'll want a healthy mix of both to clear things out without taking ages.

Dynamics ProcessingMAP06
Paul steps the visuals up and leaves this level's encounters feeling a tad bit more dynamic. Again, the quick security droids serve as SPACWARS MVP, given how quickly they can gang up on the player, which works really well in areas like the first major hallway, and makes them threatening even in something that would normally be a kitefest like the very first battle for the red key. The eastern section of the level has the cool criss-crossing catwalks over the hectebus battlefield and moving from one tier to the next involves a water ballet with two tortured souls, which feels like a really good setup. After a couple of curious laser turrets you'll only see once (one of which shoots BFG projectiles and guards... the secret BFG), you'll get to the end-of-level slaughter. It's a two stage fight, the first of which feels a bit anemic as you skirt around the map hitting switches that triggers four plasma turrets that will slay the Cyberdemon overlords dead or at the very least leave them really close to death. If it didn't quite do the job, great! You can grab all the ammo in the now open side passages and prepare for the storm. You'll want to sweep through the huge pack of demons with the BFG... if you've got it... and punch out the Spiderdemon, sweeping back to take care of the stragglers and the power players, the afrits. A semi-secret invul should help you out. Lots of fun action, here.


GREEN ZONE

MAP07Stardate Constitution
Paul ups the ante again. This level showcases the dark trooper, which is basically a slightly stronger chaingun guy, and will be the bane of your existence on several occasions. "Consitution" is loaded with cool rooms and catwalks, with the southeastern area being a big, wide-open space where the author catches you in a pincer attack between two groups of aerial monsters. Getting there may be the harder part considering that you may be jumping down into a zombiefest. This map also busts out the rad suit for the first time in the PWAD in a room that turns into a full-blown hazard course when you return for the blue key. The ship's computers are staffed by guards who sort of mill about but will not hesitate to swipe at you if you get too close. They don't count as monsters, though. The final battle is a total clusterfuck, pitting you against a big cloud of security droids... and an arch-vile. Fudge! You'd best run back and grab that semi-secret BFG behind the other yellow door.

Defragmentation ContinuumMAP11
A different creature entirely... It looks like Paul had so much fun playing around with colored lighting that he just had to do a PSX Doom level, sky of fire and all. It's a pretty cool level with more classic-oriented action, including a hint of the claustrophobic. None of the additional enemies feature in here besides the commando replacement dude, though there is an Easter egg accessed via one of the secrets that takes you to a Quake annex with more secret exit screenshots... and a little John Romero shrine. I like the long walk in the chasm to the exit as far as atmosphere goes. The monster selection could have used a little more variation, though.

MAP12Hitler's Theatre
Not to let things rest at a plain ol' PSX Doom map, Paul decides to return to his favorite subject matter... Nazis. "Hitler's Theatre" is a more freewheeling level, feeling like a bunch of cool rooms that are neatly interconnected via arterial hallways vs. the more tightly integrated "Defragmentation Continuum". It's also got, like, a ton of hitscanners, most of them being Nazis, and the health is pretty meagre outside of a semi-secret soul sphere. The room fights are okay, even if the masses of bullets flying around means that you spend a lot of time ducking behind corners and cursing. My favorite battle by far is the outdoor one with the lake of blood, which has a healthy mix of flying enemies lying in wait.

Star TombMAP08
The core of this map is an awesome, intricate network of rooms and catwalks that does away with some of the more expansive areas, favoring congested firefights that will really put your maneuverability - and your tolerance for those fucking dark troopers - to the test. Early on, you'll visit the fortress's lower deck, where you'll acquire the plasma gun in a big ol' imp crossfire. It's really good for dealing with those security droids when they get thrown at you in big clumps. The finale has all the spectacle warranted, and a giant central structure with two "Gotcha!" setups that you'll have to wait for, but those random plasma balls firing out of the walls will soak up your HP like nothing else. Tread carefully or you'll attrition out before the big guys infight. It's just, really chaotic, but if you live long enough you can open up the exit and run inside and then lure all the leftover enemies into the final room.

MAP09The Chaos Machine
The format should be pretty familiar by now, since Paul has ended most of these with something approaching a boss fight. The two big twists are that the final door requires all six keys (!!!) and, once you've killed the big bad and started the self destruct sequence, you need to race through the gauntlet in one minute. There are some pretty cool areas to walk through, but a few of them are a chore to play through. I particularly like the inexplicable molten metal catwalk, which comes with two flying monster ambushes. If you trigger them in succession, you'll be in for a bad time, since you're mixing lost souls with big mouth floaty thingies. The northern tech chasm is a different story since there's no quick way to oust the peanut gallery of imps that rims the whole thing and the death pit makes fighting the afrits pretty awkward. On the plus side, moving from area to area is just about seamless as far as Paul facilitating map flow. I'm not fond of the Chaos Elemental since it's hard to land any solid blows on the darn thing without getting too close and eating its barrage, but if you get it in either of the corners adjacent to the lift, you can knock it around through the elevator aperture with slightly more ease. The escape path isn't too bad, as long as you are aware of the soul sphere right before the final plasma particle gauntlet. If you don't get a running start, you'll be SOL, and so close, too.


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

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dead.wireMapper of the Year
Return to Hadrondannebubinga

9 comments:

  1. There are some similarities in gameplay to WoS but I think Paul improved at least a little. WoS was fun enough too, but had quite a bit of 'lazy' symmetry usage.

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  2. I tried my best to limit it and that was one of my motivations when making Space Wars and as soon a you see one room with even sides you decide to mention it. If this wad was made by a different author you would not be mentioning that. Some rooms (especially boss battle rooms) are like that and in natural architecture you will get many places evenly matched (or symmetric) in dimensions. Some of the deathmatch maps are deliberately symmetrical, that is mentioned in the readme file. -Pcorf

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    1. i am assuming that this is in response to the anonymous comment, since i didnt even mention symmetry in the review

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    2. I wanted to edit my comment but couldn't. It was misunderstanding as I have had symmetry spat into my face 1000 times over the years. Enjoy Doomed Space Wars!

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  3. Looking at the latest comments I think all this tripwire complaining is nonsense. Putting stuff under a trap is a style of gameplay and other people use it as well. I see no reason to justify that it would become really boring as the comments say.

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    1. it took me a second to realize you were talking about comments on /idgames.

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    2. And your thoughts on the matter are...?

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  4. A wad with good looking levels and typical not awesome but very serviceable pcorf gameplay. The theme makes it more unique. Great choice IMO as one of the HM's.

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    Replies
    1. exactly what i was thinking when I slotted it in.

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