Friday, October 23, 2015
Way Too Many Dead Guys
Way Too Many Dead Guys is Urthar's first release, a seven-map episode for Doom II published in 2015 that targets limit-removing ports... and, the author recommends, something that also disables infinite actor height. Personally, I only ran into a couple of problems with cacodemons biting the top of my head. While this PWAD isn't on the archives yet, it's pretty much finished, and it's definitely worth a play. Urthar shows a lot of craftsmanship and a style that is very much his own in terms of architecture and what he decides to fill his architecture with.
WTMDG does not have a written story; as of this writing, it doesn't even have a .TXT. There's an implied narrative, though, that takes the player through the bowels of some monolithic UAC outpost in search of the source. Per usual, this heavily involves the station aqueducts, sewage, and nukage channels. When you finally make your way through, you'll find that Hell's outpost isn't any more hospitable, passing through a glorified torture cage before the marble palace that lies beneath. The entire journey is wrought from enormous, monolithic architecture that leaves an impression of great depth, as though you're only battling through a tiny fraction of what must be a massive complex. This effect is at its greatest in "Contact" and "Descent", which shows something in the Star Wars scale of Imperial construction. It's refreshing to see this applied in the context of a techbase, since the usual size of UAC tech tends toward something more squat.
Urthar also has a uniquely geometric sense that grounds his designs as I imagine an engineer would. Take the circular sense of MAP01, or the triangular (isogonal) hexagons in MAP02, or all the half-realized octagons of MAP03, then back to hexagons and triangles in MAP04, not to mention the pentagons of MAP07. It's all there, but it's developed in such a fashion that it never becomes stale, looking beautiful on both the automap and in person. In direct contrast, Hell proper has nothing to do with the curvilinear slice offered in MAP04. It's overwhelmingly orthogonal, interesting when juxtaposed with the more interesting shapes that dominate the rest of Way Too Many Dead Guys. An unconscious commentary on the Hell of rectangles in Doom level architecture? Or is Hell just playing it straight, for once?
While much of WTMDG is built from mastodonic masonry, Urthar leaves the player acutely aware of the space involved rather than fill the areas up with demon flesh. There are only a few instances where you're flooded with monsters, the largest being an enormous teleport ambush in MAP04 - the only one of its kind. The only other encounter that really comes to mind is a two-pronged assault in MAP06 that's still mostly built from demons and imps. Much of the time, you're on the catwalks that surround the pits around which these structures are built, trading potshots with monsters that are just as grounded as you are. MAP05 takes this concept to its logical end, with the main crossroads built from tiered gangways, your only sources of opposition corralled into cubby-holes built into the outer wall. The resulting atmosphere imposes on the player from sheer architecture alone.
Geometry isn't the only thing dividing the first four levels from the second two. MAP05 marks the beginning of set piece encounters as the dominant force, with some pretty dastardly setups. At least, they feel cruel when compared to all the stuff that has gone before. MAP06 combines the two for a few relaxed-pace areas contrasted against a couple of locked-in encounters that will put your contortionist skills to the test... as much as I would expect from this style, anyway. It's an interesting change of pace and speaks pretty well of what other tricks the author might have up his sleeve.
And, really, that's one of the best aspects of Way Too Many Dead Guys. Urthar has a distinctive style, and we've only seen seven-ish levels of it. What other delights await in the future? Only time will tell. Until then, enjoy these precious polygons.
WAY TOO MANY DEAD GUYS
TWO TOO MANY?