Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Power Metal (PWRMETAL.WAD)

by Robert "Zalewa" Zalewski

Zalewa has been something of a presence in the Doom community, the author of 2009 Cacoward winner Tribute (which I haven't played as of this review) and a co-author of the Doomseeker utility. Power Metal, released in 2015, is a single map meant to be played in any limit-removing port... but describing it as a single map is not an adequate representation of the experience that awaits you. More accurately, Power Metal is a single HUGE map, with nearly 1,000 enemies on the map to start. There is no context given to the gameplay, though the explanation of the title may offer some hint - it's called Power Metal because it's not as Heavy as Black Metal.

While this level fields around 1,000 monsters, it is far from being a slaughtermap. Its style of gameplay feels something like Hell Revealed II-lite, crammed with awkward setups and tons of bodies. Well, the large, outdoor area to the south - which makes up more than half of the level's play area - isn't really swarming with enemies, but they feel very numerous, especially in the beginning when your walking space is a trench whose north and east side is flush with imps. You'll want to race to the entry into the southwestern complex and engage in a claustrophobic shootout with some space-consuming arachnotrons. It's a quick route that will net you a rocket launcher and a backpack to set you up for the rest of the map, plus the blue key, which is a major progression point.

From there, you can prowl around at your leisure... though the term is relative. There are imps and arachnotrons and Hell knights and barons and revenants every step of the way, some serving as snipers. There are three different buildings locked in some fashion by the blue key; I don't think that you have to do them in any particular order, but the natural flow due to sheer monster count seems to be inner yard, northern building, and then the southern yard. The southern area is huge, looking like some kind of dig site, and has no less than five structures to investigate around its fringe, plus a setup that's just ripe for a classic "Gotcha!" showdown. As you make your way around the edge, Zalewa offers up spontaneous staircases as return checkpoints.

The biggest gameplay switch-up occurs in the final leg of your journey, which runs you through an obstacle course - a sort of combination maze and race-track that opens as you race around - before accessing the final arcing hallway that leads to the exit, which has perhaps the most dangerous fight of the level. It's one, possibly two Cyberdemons depending on if you killed the one on the western balcony before starting the fight, plus a posse of four arch-viles. The hallway demands quick and precise BFG strikes, but it's awkward to move around in and easy to fuck up, especially if you're facing the aforementioned two Cyberdemon scenario.

The combat isn't the most engrossing, more like a methodical grind as you pick your way through monsters both entrenched and wandering. The finale is the closest thing it has to a real set piece fight outside of your first visit to the quarry, which is a neat moment as you sort of weave around the arachnotrons while gathering intel on what you're up against before making your attack. The huge crowd of arachnotrons that Zalewa lets loose onto the ground floor during your tour of the periphery... Not as enthralling. But it works, in its own way. If you get hooked, you've got plenty of demons to chew through, and the locale is unique enough to suggest something of an adventure map.

That's partly because Zalewa has chosen to exploit Freedoom's resources to give Power Metal an exotic yet strangely familiar look. A little bit of lightcasting would have gone a long way toward giving the outdoor segments a lot of character; the fullbright dominates much of the playable area, squandering some of the atmosphere derived from using the sort of alternate universe aesthetic of Freedoom. It still looks pretty cool, what with the mysterious rows of copy-pasted outdoor machinery and the light poles at the dig site. The combined look, with all the metal, nukage, excavations, and machinery, is very industrial.

Power Metal didn't blow me away, but it's a substantial journey that's filled with action. Plus, I like the weird feel of Doom-but-not-quite evoked by the Freedoom texture pack. If you enjoy sprawling, epic adventures, you ought to check this one out.


  1. Ha! What's up with people always not getting my name right :(

    Anyways, thanks for the great review. You make some good points, especially with the lighting levels that are difficult to pull off as those pesky sectors get in the way. I love making maps for Doom though; it's so easy.

    The arachnotrons in the south area are meant to be dealt with invulnerability sphere that you can see from the outside and get by pressing the wall on the other side. When you get that sphere, the doors blocking the arachnotrons will open immediately and you can blast them, thus removing the danger later on.

    Eeringly, the order in which you feel the areas should be beaten is also the order in which they were made. However, I meant this part to be completely up to the player's (random) choice and I tested the areas several times in different order. I guess that weapons that you find in each of the areas subconciously suggest the "true" progression order.

    1. it is probably cold comfort, but i swear that i copied that particular error from somewhere else, not that i can find it right now. in any case, it has been corrected.