Saturday, November 28, 2015

Big Woodchip (PH_WDCH3.WAD)

by James "Phobus" Cresswell

Big Woodchip, released in 2014, is actually the third entry in a trilogy of wood-textured levels by Doomworld Forum superstar Phobus, "Woodchip" was part of Abyssal Speedmapping Session 2, and the follow-up - "Woodchip Woodchip" - arrived in Abyssal Speedmapping Session 3. While this was originally conceived of as a speedmap, the only thing it truly has in common with the rest of the series is its texture theme. The end result is a limit-removing MAP01 replacement that has more of a traditional map progression than its progenitors, and that's cool, because I usually find myself wishing that the authors of these speedmapping sessions had been given a little more room to really bring the proposed concept to fruition.

Anyway, Big Woodchip has a pretty solid gimmick. Most of the action takes place on wooden walkways that surround a red rock damage floor. An early secret will set you up for success, granting access to a rad suit and berserk pack and chains by way of opportunity to an automap which reveals more essential goodies as you make your way through the level. All of the important weapons are stationed on little wooden altars, with Phobus requiring you to truly earn the later ones. The plasma rifle is located at the end of a gauntlet through the center of the level; the first and switch-fed ambushes are pretty easy to oust, but the final fight - if you make a break for the plasma gun - will pit you against two up close and personal revenants with a pain elemental at your back.

Strangely, the combat shotgun is absent, perhaps because its skirmishing firepower is too useful in many of these fights. or maybe to encourage the player to use something besides the sawed-off killing stick. The other weapons are more than enough, though, with the regular shotgun functioning as a typical mid-range sniping tool. The only truly hairy moment is the finale, which pits you against two arch-viles with some columns for cover and a Spiderdemon in a caged area in the back. If you've been pretty frugal with your ammo, though, it should be no problem dispatching the Spiderdemon and then using your rockets to off the two sorcerers. In spite of being staged on a staircase, the Cyberdemon fight is pretty much a gimme.

There are some other unique set piece areas, like the winding cage near the final moments, but Big Woodchip remains true to its origins as a fast and fun adventure. Phobus manages to squeeze quite a bit out of that raised walkway motif, and it's interesting to see a non-animated flat used as a damage sector, a relative rarity. Phobus has always been one of the go-to guys for Doom content, and this is just more proof to add to the pile.


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