Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Oblivion (OBLIV666.WAD)

Back in 2010, Stormwalker aka Vordakk released Phobos Massacre, an episode replacement for E1 of the original Doom. Then he did a lot of work in both Heretic and Doom II before coming back to this, making him the first of several 2015 authors to go back and take a second crack at something they felt disappointed with. So, here's Oblivion. Like its predecessor, it's an episode one replacement for the original Doom, but where PHOBMASS only worked in ZDoom, this was tested down to Boom compatible ports at the very least, with an optimistic outlook of limit-removing... but I can't guarantee anything.

Oblivion doesn't have any kind of a prep story, unlike the voluminous prose associated with Flashback to Hell, but the end text indicates that these events occur on the Phobos base. Whether it's a retelling of the Doom marine's story or the narrative of one of his more fortunate compatriots isn't as clear. It's not like we need an excuse to go killing demons, though. This marine's story takes him through nukage-inundated techbases that will seem familiar if not in appearance then in spirit to the original Doom, eventually crossing the breach through to Hell itself.

Vordakk's remastering leaves some aspects of Phobos Massacre intact, but it's a very different product with more polish and intricacies. Most noticeably, the injection of resources from Community Chest 4 leaves the episode with a visual style that's very similar to 2014's Flashback to Hell, a freewheeling blend of new stuff and textures from the original Doom that make for some unusual color combinations. Well, unusual for the original Doom, at least. All the colors can get to be a little busy at times, but that's pretty much Vordakk's style, which you can see more of in the first eleven levels of FTH. I doubt that it will bother most players outside of the most aesthetically inclined. I'd love to see him play around outside of the starbase theme; his paint jobs seem a little scatterbrained at times, but once he's in the realm of fantasy, he's full on.

My favorite changes in Oblivion... First, all of the monsters from Doom show up. The big guys are reserved for the finale, but the lost soul, cacodemon, and baron all emerge from the shadows to put the hurt on Doomguy and the action of the mapset is much better for it. PHOBMASS was more or less true to the pacing of the IWAD, so it was lots of Doom trash all the way, and while it flirted with danger on several occasions, it doesn't match the action of the remake. You'll also see that the imp has had a minor makeover; the color of oblivion, I suppose. There's also the soundtrack, comprised mostly of selections from the much appreciated Plutonia MIDI Pack.

The architectural renovations are appreciated, getting away from the sort of boxy / stringy look that PHOBMASS had in the early levels. I'm surprised that some of the areas I liked the most completely disappeared, but my tastes are not necessarily aligned with the author's. Oblivion actually has a lot of outdoor areas for you to poke through and various examples of haphazard UAC storage practices. In an attempt to avoid creating the crate maze nightmare in the Deimos complex, they started piling boxes in just about any corner they would fit. I'm sure that keeping track of everything is a nightmare for the quartermaster. As usual, Vordakk does a fantastic job when you finally get to Hell proper.

If you really liked Vordakk's work in Flashback to Hell and might be wondering what his talents look like when plied toward the original Doom, well, look no farther! Oblivion is a solid episode with plenty of demons to slay. Perhaps he'll go on to fill out the rest of the episodes? I'd love to see an "Inferno" replacement.

by "Stormwalker" aka "Vordakk"

Eve of the MassacreE1M1
A pretty good upgrade over PHOBMASS E1M1. Vordakk has twisted some of the symmetrical rooms into more interesting shapes and added a lot of window dressing, particularly in the western area, with all sorts of views into sections of the greater base, with the northwestern section appearing to be some sort of research center. A few of the hallways have been widened out into irregular rooms, to great effect. The action is a bit tense at first with an absence of shells and an abundance of imps that seem to trickle into the central area the way that zombies did in PHOBMASS. I like the peeks into nukage areas in the starting room.

E1M2Technical Butchery
This level has a little less divergence in the layout, but Vordakk knocks out some holes in the walls to make some windows that breathe a lot of life into it, and I really like the yellow key area with the staircases and ledges, and the circular area to the southeast is much improved. This level fields a lot of enemies, but they all go down pretty fast. Vordakk makes pretty good use of snipers to vary up the gameplay, though the four imps embedded in each northwestern pillar feels more tedious than threatening.

Evil WithinE1M3
Lots of great window dressing has been added to this map. The toxic pits that were inaccessible in Phobos Massacre are now a major progression route. The actual way you traverse the level is basically identical, but the monster count has been increased to the point that the enemies in the northern area, when combined with the slightly irregular geometry, are an actual threat. Interestingly, I prefer the original look of the eastern sewer over the remake, which trades in the atmosphere for standard newschool greebling.

E1M9Tetrad Terror
Vordakk did a pretty good overhaul. The central area is exposed from the very start, with no connecting hallways full of dead air to suck the life out of the early game. Progressing through the side areas is just as straightforward, but the order is a tad bit switched up, and sections like the northwestern loop got a kickass makeover. I like the cubic computer area and the new pillar room. Like all of these levels, the enemy count has been dialed up quite a bit. You'll have plenty of monsters to chew through on your way to the exit. This map also marks the first appearance of cacodemons and lost souls, who serve as some much-needed confounding elements.

Swarming AggressionE1M4
Not much changed from the original. The cool staircase bit was axed, unfortunately, but there's a lot more action and progression tied into the eastern half of the level, which has a bit more of a natural feel since you first explore one side of the checkpoint and later on visit the booth, lowering the gate and the two monster bunkers. The fight is actually pretty good since it's got a dual-front thing going on, even if the dudes on the north tend to bunch up on the staircase up to the booth. The cacodemons, of course, will find a way. I still don't much like the northwestern section, but the initial fight is pretty decent since the monsters - including specters - are pretty good at sneaking up on you.

E1M5The Corrupted Machine
The beginning of this level is kind of similar to PHOBMASS, but then it wildly diverges. All for the better, to be sure. The baron debuts, here, a much needed handful of cameos. The way the first one is set up to open his own door is pretty cool. There are a lot of windows and ledges and stuff to tantalize you with visions of adjoining spaces and the level feels pretty interconnected, though there's only one real path through the whole thing. All the higher-level meat makes for some tougher battles, like in the northeastern room, which is ringed with hitscanners and imps and has a few cacodemons waiting to sneak up on you while you're clearing out the scarier stuff. Lots of quality time with the rocket launcher, here. Cool map.

Infested ReactorE1M6
A pretty cool retooling. Again, Vordakk cut out my favorite area - the tan / blue maze that served as the penultimate room - but all of the combat makes up for it. Heck; if you can figure out the secret, you might even get some plasma gun action up in here. There's one big fight in the outdoor area that works based on congestion but my favorite is the quartet of barons in the eponymous reactor, which when paired with the rocket launcher make for a careful, tense firefight. The opening feels a little ammo-starved, but the need for resources sends you ever onward in search of more goodies.

E1M7Mainframe Assault
It's kind of buried in there, but this level is barely recognizable from PHOBMASS E1M7. It's got a sprawling layout, tons of monsters, and lots of naturalistic outdoor areas, which Vordakk is pretty good at rendering. Opposition is thick from the beginning to the end, but none more so than the teleporter ambush in the northernmost area, which teleports a metric ton of demon flesh to your location in the air, the sea, and on the balconies. The barons mixed in with the trash monsters makes efficient rocket launcher usage a bear, which means that a lot of your legwork will probably be done with the single shotty / chaingun. Snipers abound - it's pretty dangerous terrain to conquer. Interestingly, there's an alternate route locked behind blue key doors that sends you through the final nest of monsters, but I imagine you can skip it entirely if you so choose.

The Exclusion ZoneE1M8
Paving completely over the E1M8 homage with this dark dream. Half of this level takes place in the dark hallways of the Phobos base, featuring interstitial teleport ambushes and the sole occurrence of a pit trap, probably the hardest fight in the entire episode. Once you make the jump, you're in Hell, which is a bit of an aesthetic shock when compared to the freewheeling color combinations that tend to dominate Vordakk's techbase levels. After a big battle with barons and cacodemons, you enter the final cavern, which lets you go hog wild with the plasma rifle vs. bunches of imps, some cacodemons, and the major confounder - a pack of lost souls. When you eventually call up the beast, you'll have to beat down the Mastermind and its two Cyberdemon guardians, either of which will happily replace the brain when it's brought down. There's enough cell ammo to get the job done; just try not to get splashed / chipped to death. A pretty good finale.



  1. 2015 seems like a year of going back to your early (or earlier) work. It's quite a coincidence because I don't recall seeing many (if any) episodes like this, Hadron, or Monument released in the entire previous five years, let alone any individual year; now we see three in one year. I wonder if Oblivion inspired other authors to do similar stuff. The text file mentions Chris Hansen (the author of Monument and its related solo releases) as a tester for this wad; I don't see cannonball anywhere in the text though.

    1. I can see how you'd think I was inspired by this episode since I was one of Stormwalkers testers. And maybe I am, but it isn't a deliberate choice. This episode was long in the (re-)making and it's a long time since I played the first of the revamped levels. I think the idea for Monument came when I, back in may, made completely revamped a really old level of mine for a small contest on Doomworld. When it was finished, I realized that if I split up The Wailing Horde and made a scrap map into M8, I had enough maps for an E2 replacement. I think it's that simple really :-)

      Anyway, Oblivion is a great episode and Stormwalker is a terrific mapper that pays great attention to detail and gameplay! He's in great control of this creativity and it shows. I recently played some of his Heretic stuff and it blew me away. Absolutely awesome stuff!

    2. When you say Monument started in May are you talking May 2014 or May 2015? If it's the later then that is quite fast to update and build all the maps into an episode! I hope,Monument is still well alive and sees /idgames this year. And thanks for sharing all the information of course. :)

  2. May 2015. I've had a good, long summer break ;-) And you're very welcome btw.

    1. Is there still a planned idgames release?

    2. Yes. Absolutely. I'm just waiting for some final comments on the latest beta, so a September public release and to the archieves is what I'm currently aiming for.

  3. Bonus points if anyone can figure out where the title screen music is from.