Friday, February 19, 2016

The Heart of Stone (THE HEART OF STONE.PK3)

by "evil space tomato"

So. Tormentor may not be known as the most organized community organizer, but he sure knows how to kick a party off. Take 2015's Doomja Vu, for instance. The project kicked off with a lot of discussion on Doomworld, but the furor just seemed to evaporate once things got underway. At the end, with all the people giving their opinions, we only got six levels built around a sort of abstracted layout of E1M7 ("Computer Station"). This one is The Heart of Stone, from evil space tomato. Like every other entry, it's a MAP01 replacement for GZDoom. And, like some of the contestants, EST has given the action a bit of a framing story.

And it's pretty familiar, though a narrative like this usually ends up getting spread out over an entire megaWAD. The demons have cobbled together some kind of supernatural superweapon, a Satanic space station that's capable of destroying entire cities. Thankfully, I guess it's a lot harder to teleport entire assault platforms than individual demons, which might be why Deimos made the trip while Phobos was left behind. In any case, Earth's defense force executes a desperate, covert plan using a cloaked ship to get you to the site and then teleport you aboard to destroy it from the inside. Fortunately, you're pretty used to those odds.

evil space tomato doesn't shy away from the fact that the level is suspended in the void, and the reality that you have a cloaked ship with teleportation capability nearby. If you happen to fall off the edge, you have a limited number of lifelines to return you back to the beginning before you die. Now, there isn't any reason I could think of to walk the plank, but it's nice to know that you won't have to just flat-out reload / restart... and I guess you could even use it to escape a couple of the traps, if you're thinking along more exploitative routes. The final goal is to nab all six of the keys so that you can destroy the soul crystal that powers the superweapon, not that it's clear how the finale's action is explicitly tied to your victory.

You'll need just about every trick you can think of. The monster count may not look imposing at first, but it nearly triples with Hell-born monsters as you fight your way through the infernal machine. Some of these are in monotypical swarms like cacodemons, lost souls, imps, or even zombies. And some of them are sizable waves of arch-viles that start mass-rezzing monsters. There's a zombie for every weapon you're going to pick up, because Hell has learned not to leave firearms just laying around, so you'll really have to pry them from their cold, dead fingers. There's even a bulky BFG zombie, but he wasn't keen on dropping his stuff, not that it would mean much at the tail end of the level.

The orbital platform is awash in some pretty cool details. I love the Hellish crusher-pillar-piston things that add some nice, harsh ambiance. I also like the marble skull toppers in the level's northwestern area; they rotate nonchalantly until you get near them, after which they track you, glaring until you get out of range again. There's also a secret megasphere whose solution is handily indicated on a nearby texture. The actual layout is well enough, consisting of relatively contiguous sections - like the blue marble and dark stone of the red skull key area - that abruptly transitions to another theme. You can see this pretty clearly if you take a scenic flight around the outskirts of the level, not that you'd ever get to see it during normal play, but you still get flashes of this in the relatively thin metal borders the author uses to divide the themes.

evil space tomato has done a pretty good job with a relatively unique theme, even if the final result is something of a hodge-podge in space. All the infernal bio-machinery kind of ties the whole thing together and there's a bit of a puzzle to the way that you eventually snag all of the keys and confront the loathly final guardian. Maybe there'll be more demonic space-farers in the future. Who knows?


This post is part of a series on
Realm 667's Doomjá-vu competition

Mouldy Old VoidPut Up Your Dukes!
dead.wireBlack Magnetic
The Heart of StoneCelestial Site


  1. Only one more to go! It's time for the build up to the true winner of this contest now!

    1. which is not to say that i am scorning zrrion, or the contest, or anything, but I can't help but laugh at the emphasis suggested by the choice of the word "true"

    2. I do say you're absolutely right here, just 'winner' or maybe 'official winner' or even 'voted winner' would be better. I think just 'winner' is best, actually. The only map I've played myself from Doomja-Vu is dead.wire, and it would take a bit of effort to top it for me, not to say that there isn't a decent amount of effort put into all six maps though.

      And if a goal of Doomja-Vu was to have each unique submission be clearly distinguishable (as in, you can tell them apart just by looking at screenshots, and not seeing the map itself), I think the project (contest) succeeded at that.

  2. Great level, well designed and filled with features and enemies to keep hardened Doom veterans on their toes.

    I also like the theme and the music fits well with it. Overall, one of the best levels I have played for a while.

    10/10 ***** (5-stars)