Sunday, June 5, 2016

Extinguished (EXTNGSHD.WAD)

by "Stormwalker" aka "Vordakk"

Doomworld Forums expatriate Stormwalker has been cranking out some pretty solid mapsets over the past few years. Extinguished, a single MAP01 replacement released in 2016, has a few things in common with his previous Doom II release, Flashback to Hell. All of the Earth-based levels in FTH666 owed no small amount of inspiration to the levels they replaced. EXTNGSHD is similarly a riff on Doom II's MAP21, "Nirvana", down to the thesaurusized map name. Apparently, it started out as something of a remake, but the final product got further and further away from the original. You'll probably recognize the homages, most obvious at the beginning. Afterward, things deviate further and further.

While it may not be a strict rebranding of "Nirvana", Extinguished still occupies its spot in the nebulous story of Doom II. Stormwalker went so far as to give this level its own narrative, attempting to explain the original's highly abstract layout. As it turns out, the first trick Hell pulls when you enter is dirty mind games, probably since you were able to muscle through its entrenched forces. Since it can't beat you toe to toe, it attempts to break your mind with its grotesque and eldritch imagery. You can't distinguish the pissants from the phantasms, though, and any nightmares left intact will fester like a dark seed until you are driven insane. At least, according to Stormwalker. The game doesn't distinguish whether or not you find the large, secret gauntlet that contains a third of the level's monsters, but Vordakk wants you to have to go... deeper.

Extinguished is a tough level, and Vordakk doesn't fuck around. You're able to grab the combat shotgun in the opening moments, setting the tone as punchy and favoring skirmishing. But, uh, there's that big swarm of imps, and then the ring of shotgun guys, then the rocket launcher vs. mancubus battle that follows the pillar puzzle room, that shows that it's just as weighted toward trapped claustrophobia and cover shooting. Immortal chaingunner alcoves abound in a clever, tiered layout that reminds me of Jim Flynn's early work. At least, they're immortal until you make your way to the chambers that house the arch-viles that are propping the commando brutes up. You'll also be teased with ephemeral Cyberdemons who are gearing up for the big end-of-level showdown, which begins with a canyon crawl riddled with snipers before the forces of Hell surround you in a last-ditch assault.

The secret leg will set you up for success, IF you can survive it. It's patterned after the level's opening sequence, but with a sweeping increase of power level. Hell knights replacing imps, arch-viles replacing revenants, chaingunners replacing shotgun guys, etc.. The fun really starts with the big wooden chamber, which has a sniping sort of layout that explodes into monster overload once you flip the final switch, opening up a clown car's worth of Hell nobles to the upper tier, a bunch of skeletons on the ground, arch-viles and three consecutive Spiderdemons performing area control, and a few pain elementals for good measure.

Excepting the whole big damn secret, the progression is straightforward, using a handful of teleports to shuttle you around a la the original "Nirvana". The biggest "puzzle" bit is the aforementioned pillar room, which has you dip into four different cramped passages in order to raise a sequence of platforms so that you can run across them to open up the next major area. There's a classic faux-3D bit with that elevator in the network of passages that leads to the tiered grid-64 room with the arch-vile-fueled chaingunners. Vordakk has also used tons of lighting gradients along with the darkened interiors to create some great visual contrast. It's an interesting motif when juxtaposed with the level name. Is it the light of reality that brings order to Hell, which turns into a shapeless chaos when its revealing rays are snuffed out?

Extinguished is an interesting take on a very old premise. I think that it meets the sort of trappy fusion of Hell and reality that Vordakk was aiming for. Players who aren't fond of dancing with skeletons and other tough monsters in close quarters may want to dial the difficulty down. I'd certainly be down with seeing the rest of Vordakk's Doom II re-imaginings. If you're no fan of the original Doom II levels, this take might tickle your fancy, and if you had any fun with the rest of Vordakk's work, you'd do well to give Extinguished a try.



  1. Thank you very much for this well-written(as always) review, sir!