Monday, March 28, 2016

Overdose 2: Comatose (COMATOSE.WAD)

COMATOSE
OVERDOSE 2
by "Lainos"


Way back in 2011, the now defunct Clan [B0S] released a Doom II adventure through a haunted, deserted world - Sacrament. Among its more visionary elements was an ornate city level titled "Doxylamine Moon". Responding to feedback, its author - Lainos - released a second version of the map, titled Doxylamine Moon: Overdose, which offered more gameplay and more of the world to explore. Now, in 2015, he's taken its spiritual sequel from the project it was in and which I haven't heard anything about until now - Pain - and released it. Thus did another Russian PWAD begot another Overdose. I guess you might call its full title Doxylamine Moon: Overdose 2: Comatose, but I'll be referring to it as Comatose from here on out.


Like its predecessor, it's a MAP01 replacement, and I strongly suggest you play it in GLBoom-Plus. I usually get ZDoom running pretty well on Lainos's stuff, but the FPS took a nosedive as soon as I left the starting area. Eternity choked on it while trying to load the level and PrBoom-Plus looked semi-playable. GZDoom did pretty well, and it's what I used to take screenshots, but GLBoom is #1 Da Best, even if it still takes a very long time to load. As Lainos himself boasted, or perhaps warned, he completely ran out of linedefs in crafting this level. And, well, a lot of that stuff is burned on DoomCute things that emphasize the amusement of the author over gameplay conceits... for the most part.


If you're not familiar with the setting, well, I'll try to help! Sacrament detailed your journey through a world in the not-too-distant future that has undergone some sort of Rapture-like scenario where Earthlings have turned into bloodthirsty monsters. I think that some of them may have been spared this fate, but the only survivors seen are more experienced through their own eyes in Lainos's post-Sacrament narratives, which also include 5till L1 Complex, Lost Way, and Deneb Colony, I believe. Lost Way started to include enigmatic slices of Egyptian iconography; Comatose employs it in full force, and while you may not recognize - or even see - the head of Thoth, the eye of the Illuminati is all but unmistakable. Comatose may look like another mission of free exploration, but there is an implied narrative that emphasizes its sinister setting.


And, uh, while it's got the scale of Lainos's larger adventures, the action comes at you in a very different fashion. The sheer breadth of the playable area gives Comatose a sort of open-world feel, and in true Doxylamine Moon fashion, you only need one key (between the red and the blue) in order to reach the exit. The big difference in action has Lainos turning nearly all monsters into silent, specterized versions of themselves, not unlike Xaser's dead.wire. Most of them appear in quiet ambushes where you are none the wiser until you hear the "whoosh" of a fireball. Since Doom's tried and true early warning system has been disarmed, AND it's hard to see all the specterized fuckers running around, you'll either accept and adjust or reject and ragequit. If you're on the fence, well, you won't run into commando snipers, and the pain elementals, arachnotrons, and big-bads are non-existent. There are a grand total of two arch-viles, but they're the only visible monsters in the level, and they both appear in the same secret encounter. So, excepting revenants and surprise mancubuses, you don't have it all that bad.


Also emphasizing the free-roaming feel is the layout of things like health, armor, weapons... and secrets. All of your powerhouse weapons are tucked behind one obstruction or another, requiring keys and other things to obtain. The difficulty in doing so makes these acquisitions feel like major milestones. In a level as open as this one, having all the monsters pre-placed would result in a full-on hunt for much of the level, barring judicious use of sound-blocking lines. While the phantoms are potentially annoying, they fit right into the post-apocalyptic atmosphere and obscure the fact that Lainos is attempting to keep you from feeling overwhelmed. There's plenty of health and armor around, especially if you're used to sniffing secrets out, so the potentiality of a revenant rocket hitting you in the back of a head doesn't sting so bad since you can soak at least one of them at full health with no armor.


Of course, that also means that Lainos's sense of combat isn't as memorable here except as its overriding gimmick of sensory oppression and some of the cute touches, like commandos flinging closet doors open to ambush you. And, uh, the secret subway battle with the dual arch-viles, which is my single most memorable encounter of the entire level. The interior areas play like any other corridor shooter, with monsters lurking around the corner waiting to get in some kind of cheap shot. You're rarely in any real danger unless you're walking around in a permanently dazed state; after all, with all the ambushes you've run through in the outdoor area, I can't imagine that you'd just think that the inside is just sunshine and roses.


Lainos excels at providing a slice of a universe rendered with surprising verisimilitude. I mean, apart from all the phantoms and things. It's a pretty good block of urban buildings, understandably boxy, with details like elevators, park benches, and... cigarettes. Lots and lots of cigarettes. And cigarette packs, and ashtrays, and wastecans. I guess people just can't be arsed to pitch their stubs. I dunno if it's just Russian realism with regard to littering or part of the post-apocalyptic narrative, what with details like all those aluminum cans (health pickups) strewn about the place as well. Do these all mark the places where the people of the city were standing before the majority of humanity was swept away by an anomalous catastrophe?


Other things you can see are bits like apartment blocks (though generally underdetailed), a supermarket with spoiled goods, and a fair number of ruined areas. Lainos has kind of stepped up his urban ruins game with Urotsuki: Radical Way, and Comatose carries the mark of his experience, minus the more obvious instances of copy-pasting that robbed Radical Way of some of its magic. There's also a huge, lovingly detailed community to the level's northwest that you don't actually get to step foot on, but looks strikingly brilliant from the distance at which you get to view it. A significant feat of world-building, along with all of the carefully furnished rooms.


The key to deciphering the underlying narrative of Comatose can be found in the many instances of graffiti that litter the level. They are emblematic of some kind of turf war between different factions, with each color of key belonging to a particular organization, unlocking their various safe-houses. The pentagrams, of course, belong to the Satanists, and their hidey-holes are stuffed with the remnants of occult rituals and unsavory gore. They claim protection under the red skull key. The emblem of the "G-group" is the eye of the Illuminati, and as secretive as they are, it's no wonder that their symbols can only be found within their hidden areas. The caches of the Illuminati are locked with the yellow key card.


The swastika will be about as familiar to Doom players as the pentagram and does indeed mark the territory of neo-Nazis. Interestingly, they are not associated with any particular key and their iconography is otherwise absent from their safe houses. I'm assuming it's owed to how mundane they are when compared to the other three gangs, the last of which is the plague doctor cult. Yeah, you heard right. I have a feeling that the plague doctor guys are the key to the whole thing, given the introduction of Egyptian iconography in Lost Way and the increased prevalence in Comatose. After all, the iconic plague doctor mask is a material invocation of the Egyptian god, Thoth, many of whose traits feel appropriate to the extended story of Sacrament. There is his role as the overseer of balance between Good and Evil, especially in astronomical conflicts; the creator of the laws of the universe and everything within it; and his position of absolute authority over every aspect of knowledge.


The plague doctor... reliquaries, for lack of a better term, are housed behind blue key doors. One of these chambers contains a number of odd transmitters, which seem to damage you if you stand among them. A similar arrangement can be found to the level's north, almost mirroring an Illuminati shrine to the immediate east. Just what are those plague doctors up to? If you didn't know what their particular bit of graffiti is, it's the "y"-looking thing that resembles a highly-stylized caduceus, and which the author imparted to me reads like "Alpha". More food for thought. Certainly, a lot of symbolic significance has been placed in the level's layout and detailing, and there's another level of speculation available.


None of the four factions appear to be mutually exclusive. The plague doctor holdings are somewhat linked with the Illuminati, who themselves can also be attached to the Satanists. The secret railway that houses the rocket launcher features one of their All-Seeing Eyes, which - if shot - incurs the wrath of two arch-viles, which are interestingly the only two monsters on the entire level that aren't specterized. As for the neo-Nazis, the only significant base of theirs that I see has a Satanist chamber in its basement. Even without knowing Lainos's backstory, it's clear that there's some sort of manipulation afoot, and given all of the available details - particularly the bank of plague doctor transmitters in the BFG basement - I don't think that there's a benevolent faction among them. Not that the doctors are at all aligned against anything in particular; after all, they may be acting under the auspices of Thoth, who would be more invested in preserving a balance between Good and Evil rather than favoring an outright victor.


Most importantly, while all of these details are here for your edification, you are more than free to sweep them aside and wander the desolate urban decay of Lainos's design to the haunting drone of his chosen soundtrack. Maybe you'll want to dig deeper and try to unravel another piece of the mystery behind his ghost world. Or maybe you'll quit, being fed up with all the specterized monster ambushes, and delete this strange journey. All I can say is that I'm looking forward to the next adventure; I never know what to expect.



I DON'T KNOW JUST WHERE I'M GOIN
BUT I'M GONNA TRY FOR THE KINGDOM, IF I CAN

This post is part of a series on
Doomworld's 2016 Cacowards

The Top TenBest MultiplayerRunners Up
Tech Gone BadAeonDMWarphouse
Ancient Aliens32in24-16THT: Threnody
Nihility: Infinite TeethBest Gameplay ModBloodstain
MutinyDoom 4 DoomStrange Aeons
Absolutely KilledMordeth AwardEchelon
Elf Gets PissedDoom the Way id Did:Shadow of the Wool Ball
ComatoseThe Lost Episodes
MiasmaMockaward
Alpha Accident: Terra NovaLudicrium
Japanese Community ProjectMapper of the Year
Blades of Agony E1Lainos

2 comments:

  1. oh my god it's the best level ever

    ReplyDelete
  2. its definitely got some sort of story behind it, maybe something to do with people clinging to ideologies into the afterlife.. or something. There also must be a reason this city is populated with spectral enemies, rather than the flesh ones in the past episodes.. I hope lainos continues down this path... hes certainly good at bringing that gritty and desolate feeling to the player

    ReplyDelete