Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Nex Credo (NEXCREDO.WAD)


Lots of Doom authors set out to make a megaWAD. Many never make it to replacing all 32 levels, and oftentimes the half-finished works languish in obscurity, something to be worked on a rainy day. Occasionally, the author sees fit to put the finishing touches on it and shove it out the door, grateful to be clean of it. The players may despair of what may have been, as was the case with Vanguard, but at least they have something that is. Released in 2016, Jay Townsend's Nex Credo follows in that grand tradition. It's an 11-level episode for Doom II and it appears that the intention was to pattern a megaWAD after Doom II's themes, but sketched with Jay's hand.


The story was to be your standard Doom marine vs. Hell fare, though it sort of tapers off with a downbeat ending since Jay didn't outline the marine's journey to Hell. This particular incident appears to occur on Mars proper. Some interesting assumptions are made about the zombies; the first intermission text indicates that the undead are a faction separate from the demons themselves. The second suggests that the player is contemplating surrendering his soul on Mars as an ethereal Trojan horse, dealing with Hell in person - so to speak - once he arrives. It ends after that, so the marine's fate is left to your imagination.


After so much Boom magic and limit-removing wizardry, it's nice to dip my toes back in vanilla. Nex Credo's levels are generally short to mid-length, though the sheer difficulty - in pistol starts - skew things toward a slightly longer experience. Jay isn't content to just ape the Doom II experience, though; each level comes with some sort of gimmick that ties things together, felt the strongest in MAP10 ("Silence"), where the slightest peep will wake up the six installed Cyberdemons that serve as the level's main obstacles. Others, like MAP03 ("Inversion Duality"), are more subtle, taking an encounter and inverting its dynamics, putting one party at the other's mercy.


The themes are... heavily weighted toward clean techbase stuff with intermittent outdoor sections. Most of Jay's work was spent on the "starbase" episode, making up MAP01 through MAP09, with MAP10 and MAP11 forming the first two levels of the "city" episode, not that MAP10 makes any more sense in that context. MAP11's stone buildings makes for a welcome change, but it's over all too soon. The layouts feature a lot of open air, the main exception being MAP06 ("The Nexus"), which is essentially a bunch of hallways strung together around the level's namesake, and the purposefully cramped "Silence".


UV difficulty is pretty highly tuned, especially when arch-viles are involved. I wouldn't expect to roll through these levels on your first try unless you're also rolling your guns and ammo, though even with that you won't have a combat shotgun until a secret in MAP06. Ammo is at something of a premium, and the extra time spent using the regular shotgun on bigger monsters gives you a broader period in which to make a mistake. I'm not sure any single definition really encapsulates Nex Credo's playstyle; slow-going, maybe? At least, whenever you're not toting the rocket launcher, which tends to be the tipping point.


Nex Credo is a hard-edged Doom II episode that makes for an interesting adventure with its ever-changing gimmicks and offers difficulty in its slower pace and exacting ammo balance. If you've been hankering for a short stroll through starbase stuff, this may be just what the doctor ordered. Jay has opined that this project is quite far from what he'd make today; I eagerly await any new stuff that materializes. Thank you for keeping this one from the recycle bin!





NEX CREDO
by Jay "Jayextee" Townsend

The ApproachMAP01
A short, "Entryway" style level with a few coiling paths that lead to a small bunker. It's got a slight survivalist bent, given that you are driven to spend a lot of time shooting with your pistol, grabbing the shotgun once Jay starts throwing the heavy stuff - like lost souls - at you. The revenant as a sort of mini-boss encounter is a nice touch. For a MAP01, it's sure to keep you moving, especially if you race through until the secret Berserk opens up for you. I dig the small bits of intruding red rock,

MAP02Waste Conduit
Tangentially related to "Underhalls", but "Waste" has a lot more height variation going for it, which along with the shotgun guy shooting galleries leaves the impression of a much more dynamic level, sans the mid-level influx of hitscanners. Here, it turns out to be a minor horde of imps. The exit is guarded by multiple revenants, but the ring of barrels and the Berserk plus the shotgun shells ought to give you all the margin you need. Fast and fun.

Inversion DualityMAP03
A curious tech outpost with a fairly benign outdoor section to the south and some really cool stuff happening in the penultimate area to the north. Once more, it's taking on the legions of Hell with your trusty shotgun, The sudden increase in enemies makes for a slower, more measured journey, especially when you're shooting imps in a barrel (the red key room). Jay turns it back on you for the yellow key, though, where YOU'RE the one in the middle, bunkering down against the fireball tossers from four potential portholes. I like the true finale, though, pitting you against demons and revenants with some time-release lost souls as great spoilers.

MAP04Jade Tumult
"The Healer Stalks" comes a bit too soon for another sewer-based map, but Jay changes things up with the welcome debut of the chaingun as well as the commando and - in a very tight spot - arachnotron. The new beasties make up my only real memorable encounter (due to the sheer surprise and the commando shooting gallery that follows) besides the way the outcrop of green stone makes the imps move in the eastern outdoor area. Some fun, light action.

The BasinMAP05
This rugged waste processing facility has one of the dirtiest tricks you'll ever encounter in a Doom WAD, coming after a main walkway policed by commando sniper towers and a few other minor challenges, like the green armor trap. The level's recurring motif is a 3 x 3 grid of square, blue pillars, appearing four different times. Whatever you do to one of the grids affects the others. This may not seem like a big deal at first, but when you reach the finale, well, I'll invoke a tired cliche: waste not, want not. The good news is that if your rocket aim is true (and snag the soul sphere and combat armor just before going down like I did), you'll be able to endure the burn long enough to survive. I really enjoyed the early rocket launcher secret, though it's sort of a one-time thing.

MAP06Nexus
A large, stringy level that's centered around a small, computerized crossroads accessed by lifts in the cardinal directions. The emphasis on hallways gives it a rather cramped feeling, making battle with revenants and lost souls difficult. A couple portions, like the lost soul sewers to the northwest - granting access to the first and secret combat shotgun - drag on a bit too long. The environment looks great, but the columns of lost souls emphasize the grind.

Conquietus ExplicitusMAP07
A dead simple nightmare based in a circular arena, the outer ring patrolled by mancubuses. It's a slow fight, but you can save ammo if you find the secret combat shotgun, which is incidentally guarded by an arch-vile. Make sure you kill him first or he'll undo your hard work! The inner ring starts out with a small group of revenants, but the red key is guarded by a Cyberdemon. Have fun trying to kill him in his little bunker. If you roll past all that, there's still a matter of the gate guardians, a perfect pair of poisonous parselmouths. Good luck.

MAP08Processing
The interior of this industrial facility is pretty impressive and the opening is as action-packed as it gets, all but pushing you forward until you find the combat shotgun and then returning to root out those troublesome mancubuses. The western leg has some nice verticality and platforming, while the north is all about massive, circular machinery with identical mancubus / zombie layouts for your opposition across four identical chambers. You get your pick of paths to the exit; one darts through a number of crushers but rewards you with a plasma gun. The other is all moving platforms. The final is an elevator drop. If you don't slay the cacodemon packs quick enough, you'll be overwhelmed when the final welcome party arrives.

The PathMAP09
Another tech installation with a formidable front. The outer area is dangerous to hang out in, since there are revenents stationed at the level's final funnel, so you'll have to duck inside and look for stronger weapons. The combat shotgun is a long time coming, but you'll be glad when you have it. "The Path" refers to the western loop of the level, which winds in and out of the building. It's dotted with low-tier monsters, but you'll have to make the journey three separate times since it dumps you out at the aforementioned funnel, grabbing the yellow then the red key and then making your way to the exit. The two trips will unleash some reserve monsters, including arch-viles, which are the level's major challenge. You'll want to kill them without burning too much ammo, since there's still a Spiderdemon - included in one of the reserve contingents - to contend with. It might come down to the wire; it nearly did for me.

MAP10Silence
A puzzle level! There are six Cyberdemons at key locations. All of them will wake up if you attack. There are a handful of imps to work as spoilers. Making it to the exit is the easy part; the tough part will involve actually killing them. There are three easy telefrags, but the two obvious ones involve actually shooting. The toughest Cyb will be one you have to immobilize by pushing in and then punching to death, I believe with the Berserk pack purloined from one of the shoot switch Cyberdemons. At least, I'm pretty sure that's how you have to do it. I think ZDoom breaks that particular exploit, because the dude could still attack after I immobilized him. Once he's down, though, the rest will fall very quickly, requiring a couple of BFG blasts to finish. A fun, little exercise.

EgressMAP11
A tight, highly dynamic level that takes place around a courtyard which contains the exit. There are a lot of high-HP monsters roaming around the outdoors and your major weapons - the combat shotgun and rocket launcher - are pretty far from the starting point. If you grab all the weapons and use them to kill everything, which will still be rough since the arachnotron snipers and mancubuses on the floor are pretty tenacious, not to mention the cloud of cacodemons, and it'll be a close call with your ammo once you bring the Cyberdemon in. Of course, I'm sure it's a lot simpler if you just activate Cybie and let him infight most of it to death, but hindsight is 20/20. The Doom realism in the room you run through to access the upper walkway is a bit of a change from the rest of the mapset, making a nice contrast from the clean techbase look that makes up the rest of the episode.

NEX HARMSTRONG

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