Saturday, October 3, 2015

Erkattäññe (ERKATANE.WAD)

Nicolas Monti has made a lot of PWADs that I have not yet played. After a single level release in 2010/11, he exploded out in 2012 with Eviltech: Soul of Megawad, a Doom II release, then cranked out four Doom episodes, all centering around tech themes, whether it's Phobos, Deimos, or the Alpha aesthetic. While his Doom II followup - Reticula - remains in development as of this writing, he published this eleven map episode for Doom II in 2015 - Erkattäññe. And, now, I'm finally giving Monti a try. Erkattäññe can be played in any engine and comes in two distinct flavors. The first uses Doom II textures while the other is draped in the Phobos theme that Monti is so fond of. Both can be found in the .ZIP file. For this playthrough, I stuck with the Doom II theme.

Erkattäññe doesn't have any story. It is heavily steeped in the tradition of Doom II levels that are less a realistic representation of an actual place and more a futuristic, gritty playground that fosters demonslaying. Outside of a few instances, Monti tends toward organic, non-orthogonal layouts that run counter to every notion I have of Doom II's first eleven levels, which is cool, because I'll always have MAP01-11. What I didn't have, until now, was this particular author's style as rendered in that particular texture theme. And it's pretty cool. Monti is great at developing architecturally simple yet vibrant layouts that keep your imagination fueled. His sense of lighting is just as classic, bringing things over the top for a wonderful experience.

Of course, there are a few things that some players will have issues with. Zero effort was put in texture alignment, derived from Monti's perceived standards of the '94-'96 era of Doom user levels, plus one of the design mantras of Doom II the Way id Did. Another thing that puts it out of touch with players expecting a more "modern" experience would be the soundtrack, culled from 80s pop (Billy Idol's "Eyes Without a Face" and Janet Jackson's "Escapade" to name two), and other things that I would probably have never heard on my own (like Argentinian artist Julia Garcia's enchanting project, Sobrenadar). It isn't what most people expect from a Doom soundtrack, though it fits perfectly within that time period that Monti is attempting to mine.

Of course, these objections are purely aesthetic. The only one derived from the actual gameplay of this mapset is Monti's highly interconnected and abstract layout style. It facilitates dynamic action but creates levels that may be challenging to navigate for players who are used to more traditional, spoon-fed design. This is exacerbated by confounding factors that put pressure on the player through mechanics like damage floors to be traversed under time limits imposed by rad suits. Of course, none of these levels are long; they're just tied up in knots, and I like untangling them. The only time Monti's layouts really got me was in MAP09, but it wasn't an issue of confusion, just boredom. The sheer height of the navigation tubes is pretty impressive at first, but it doesn't hold up after the repeated drops you'll endure during your first experience. Thankfully, there's only one supertall elevator; your normal way back to the fountainhead is via teleporters.

One gameplay parallel this shares with Doom II is the careful, almost pain-staking introduction of enemies. The author begins with a pretty simple palette, composed of zombies, shotgun guys, and imps, and then slowly builds up from level to level until everything including the Spiderdemon and Cyberdemon have been showcased. The complexity of the action shares a sharper curve on UV, hitting its stride in MAP05 and then rarely letting up. Snipers are certainly a problem, but it's nothing out of the ordinary. Certainly, some fights will serve as potent curveballs for less apt Doomers, though I hardly thought that anything was particularly unfair once I remembered that I was toting a BFG from earlier in the level. Your mileage may vary.

Erkattäññe is really cool. I highly recommend it if you think you can stomach Monti's quirks; it's a rock solid beast founded on oldschool sensibilities and built in a very unique style. It's kind of like... Doom II the Way Nicholas Monti Did, and I think these particular kinds of experiments are the best of the brand.

by Nicholas Monti

First MattersMAP01
An interesting opening into Monti's style... Doom II textures used in an organic fashion, creating a simple yet complex layout that is crawling with zombies, imps, and shotgun guys. The biggest threat you face is pretty much getting chipped to death while you pistol whip the undead until you secure the shotgun. Shotgun guys only appear on a few occasions, either as snipers or as a sizable ambush when you reach the exit, which may cut low-health escapees low at lightning speed.

MAP02The Scorpion
Not sure what the significance of the title is, unless it's a reference to the fact that the layout vaguely resembles a limbless scorpion with the eastern wing serving as the tail. This one's built around a central compound with a small but dense network of rooms. Monti ups the difficulty with the inclusion of chaingunners, and on a lesser note, demons and spectres. I think that the secrets are the most fun element of this level, like the rocket launcher and tunnel to the outdoor area accessed via the "tail" section. The combat has more of a Doom feel with the closets either trickling in enemies or keeping them in areas of the level that you return to, and the chaingun is pretty much absolute power.

The IsletMAP03
The surrounding nukage hallway reminds me of Nicholas Bell's "Infestation", but on a much smaller scale... Anyway, it's another strange organic layout, kind of like the interior compound of MAP02 but expanded. Same exact bestiary as MAP02, but the commandos have a stronger showing, and the distant monster closets seem better arranged for your ambush. Exploring the periphery is kind of dangerous since the safe path involves hugging the inner wall, and health is a little tight, but it's a pretty easygoing level that matches its soundtrack. The southeastern room, with its false bottom trap, is pretty cool, and I dig the backpack secret.

A sewers level, whose innermost confines contain... a bunch of urinals. Interestingly, that's where you'll find the clean water. This is a pretty cool level that introduces cacodemons and Hell knights in a big way, as part of a large ambush in the eastern area that knocks down the walls and forces you to do some target prioritization. Fuck those hitscanners, naturally. The basic progression has you check out an outer area, then an inner, and alternate until you've opened up the channel leading to the exit, which prompts another ambush heavy with demon flesh. The plasma rifle makes a welcome appearance, but the prevalence of hitscanners leaves the chaingun as a still worthy weapon.

Camara ObscuraMAP05
The dulcet tones of Billy Idol grace this dark, waterlogged base level. Most of the map is composed of a bunch of cisterns, one of them an outdoor lake of lava, with some raised areas and passageways for connective tissue. The shadows contain some real threats; my early deaths were spent trying to figure out a quick route to the good weapons since clutching at shadows in terror isn't really my style. The route is there, but you'll want to do some precision work with a chaingun that you pick up on the way, since there are plenty of hitscan snipers to ruin your day, plus the debut of the almighty revenant. Some neat bits here, like jumping down the metal platforms to grab the red key, or that big revenant pack reveal at the blue key. There's also a really dickish blind teleporter trap that pits you against a pair of skeletons, but if you move quick, you should be able to ready your plasma rifle... if you found it.

MAP06Dead Signal
This time going for a sort of a dense labyrinth of passages with a few larger rooms, liberally sprinkled with nukage. Monti has afforded you plenty of rad suits, so toxicity isn't the main problem. I'd be more concerned about all the snipers you'll run into, especially the chaingun guys. The pain elemental and - gasp - a baron make their first appearances, and all of the weapons are pretty easily available, so you won't be lacking for firepower. The irregular (non-orthogonal) hallways makes movement a little difficult, where battling Hell knights in a grid 64 hallway is just about cheesy. Favorite fight, I guess any of the stuff involving revenants, who are used to pretty good effect.

The FountainMAP07
A unique theme here, something like a city level built out of techbase textures. It's pretty cool and not too dangerous to explore at first, though you're best off knowing where all the weapons are for a quick grab so you can start clearing in earnest. The goal is to find the switches that raise the water of the fountain so that when you step in the pit, you don't get stuck. When you accomplish this task, stepping on the marble center causes a vast transformation, sealing off pretty much every hidey hole available and letting in several crowds of mancubuses. As if you didn't already know, killing them reveals the second wave, composed of arachnotrons. There isn't a whole lot of cover to abuse so you've got to be up on your dodging and baiting. Neat level.

MAP08Peri Physeos
Taking the nukage / rad suit gimmick of MAP06 to a different extreme. "Peri Physeos" has a much less constricted setting, with the poisonous channels you trudge through being much wider, but all that newfound space adds a new sense of urgency to navigating the tricky tunnels. Monti has finally settled into the standard Doom II bestiary, with plenty of appearances from mancubuses and arachnotrons to soak up your precious rad suit time, plus the usual cast of characters. The early arch-vile red key trap sets the tone and shows that the author is not afraid of throwing specters in the dark to complicate an otherwise humdrum encounter... though some of that you can counter by an obviously audible secret that contains some light amp goggles. I really love the layout and the way the level ties together, very cool. The arch-vile / demon encounter is probably the nastiest thing you'll see, but you got a BFG right before it, so what's the worry? Fun stuff.

This level has a gimmick I've seen a few times, but is used quite potently here. The map is composed of a series of areas in an enormous, underground cavern that are isolated by lengthy, blind drops. The only downside is that it leaves lengthy periods of descent that come out as being a bit stale if you have to drop down the same shaft multiple times... which you probably will. Another important element - the toxic area right off the starting zone is a dead end until you have the blue key, but not checking it out once will deprive you of the rocket launcher, which is super useful for virtually the entire level based on the number of rockets Monti throws at you. Not that it really helps with the level's nastiest trap, an up close and personal battle with an arch-vile in a superlong elevator. Thankfully, the rising floor absorbs the worst of the explosion. The caged arch-vile plus demon hall is just begging for some invul-fed rocket punching. The Spiderdemon fight isn't so thrilling, but the lowering water table is a cool final descent to tie the whole thing together.

MAP10High Voltage
Another fairly intricate map, tied together by catwalks and tunnels. For some reason, it gives me an E1M7 vibe through its geometry. Monti keeps up the surprises, with plenty of tricky enemy placement for the player to wade through. You'll want the BFG out for the several arch-viles you have to oust, most prominently after taking the portal behind the red key door. Meanwhile, the plasma gun is great for taking on the handful of pain elementals spread out around the level, among other things. It's just as gripping as you could expect, with a humdrum Cyberdemon finale guarding the exit. The battle through the toxic trench near the south is my personal highlight.

Bringing it all together with this tough level that sort of resembles MAP07 as far as a tech city style goes. There are two major fields of play, the ground floor and a series of towers and walkways on the interior and periphery of the level. The monster placement is pretty treacherous; don't forget that you have a BFG, or some of these will cause undue stress, like the Spiderdemon / mob of spectres showdown. There's also a pair of Cyberdemons resulting from a "bridge out" trap near the end, but a nearby secret invul makes it easy peasy, not that you can't just jump behind the crumbling bridge and then confront them in the yard. Forcing the player through the northwestern route a second time to get to the blue key door kind of runs counter to the spirit of the rest of the episode... apart from MAP09, I guess. Still, a neat map.


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. I just peeked at the text file and was surprised to see my name in there, as I haven't even played this yet! (If I recall, I had just started playing through the Favillesco series when Monti first posted this to Doomworld.) I'm nearing the end Fav Alpha 2, so I'm really looking forward to this one; I just absolutely love Monti's style.

    1. i think that anyone that said anything in the erkattanne thread got a mention, which is why i am mysteriously present in one of the Favillesco texts

    2. Yeah, that was my guess as well. Heck, I'll take it. :)

  2. Really liked EvilTech and the Favies, but had missed a couple of the other WADs. Glad to see there's more to play. :)

    1. i am looking forward to going into his back catalog, but have been dreading eviltech for being a megawad of polygon bases

    2. Heh.... old Polygon Base is one of my very most fave maps. All three versions (that I know of!!).

    3. its more that i like polygon base, but thirty (twenty) levels of it seems daunting

  3. This guy had his quirks and is a bit an acquired taste, but quite a few people who like him in fact flat out love him. I'd be interested in seeing coverage of the E1 version, also how it compares to Favie E1, an older E1 release of his.

    I do wish in a few cases he used more textures/colors per level.

    1. RE: "E1 version"

      The "E1" version of Erkattäññe - ERKAKNEE - is still a Doom II episode and has all of the Doom II monsters appearing. Initially, I thought that it was just a skin job, but I found one shocking difference on warping to MAP11. The monster placement is more or less what I remember, but most of MAP11's ground floor is covered in nukage. Now, there were plenty of rad suits laying around in order to compensate, but I would not be surprised if there were even more instances of nukified floors running through ERKAKNEE.

  4. Apparently Tarnsman/Alfonzo hated to go over and see their latest Twitch stream. (tarnsmandw channel)

    1. i don't have to go over and see anything

    2. Well this is more on response to what you put on DW but: You have the right to your opinion, other people have a right to theirs. You are NOT 'flat out retarded' for giving this a Caco. That's why you get your picks, and Alfonzo got his. Plus there's definitely people out there that love Monti's style...I've seen them post it right on DW or even in one of your reviews. He's been very busy releasing stuff since mid 2013 (and there was Eviltech prior to that) so for his work and those who he does appeal to, you could very well argue it's about time he got a Caco. No need to make this an argument or fight - nuff said.

    3. i know i'm not flat fucking retarded, but the implication is that any reasonable human being would have hated the shit out of it if they had actually played it. it wasn't "dang erkatane isn't really my thing for such and such reason" it was "i bet nobody even played it" and "Who the fuck nominated Erkattäññe for a cacoward?", more thoughtless commentary from the doomdtwid echo chamber.

    4. Just thought I'd say talking about Hadron being a wad Alfonzo was insistent for, this would probably have been one he was insistent against - except he hadn't played it yet. Either way, it's fine to me that this got in, Monti's done a lot of work and clearly has an audience he appeals to.

    5. Yeah, this comes across as some sort of two-bit smear campaign against kmx, and by extension myself, given that what you claim it is that I've said is a complete falsehood. Either you know this already or you're too busy doing something suspect to have checked the facts behind your assumption, so I won't waste time getting into details except to say that I'd rather you not fabricate stuff to slander a fellow writer and member of the Cacowards team, or say things in jest, and then have my name attached to it to boot. Cheers.

      Erkattanne was a selection made in confidence, as were all of them. I was not insistent against it. I was not enthralled by the experience, either, but I respect and understand the reasoning behind kmx's wanting it awarded - hence the award. We do not have "picks." I did play this mapset through in its entirety.

      I'm sorry to have had to make this post. kmx is too busy living a life outside of blogging for Doom and understandably doesn't have the time to check up these sorts of things for himself, so surprise! - here I am calling you out. Please don't do this again.

    6. yeah in case anyone doesn't know exactly what happens in the selection process, there isn't some sort of "alfonzo has five picks and kmx gets his five". we agree on a rough award lineup and then pick which articles we are going to write, though the selection process is understandably fluid when, uh, certain pwads that were touted aren't released in time, and we generally do not put one over on each other since any changes are discussed and on a select few occasions argued to death