Thursday, September 22, 2016

Alpha Accident (AA_E1.WAD)

Most of what I know about Wraith came from a megaWAD I haven't played yet but know due to its subject matter: Wonderful Doom, a loving tribute to the Ultimate Doom, which many have enjoyed with others slagging it for its... thorough level of devotion. Enter Alpha Accident, another megaWAD for the original Doom that's been in development for... quite some time. I remember playing the crazy demo level, but I've also had the opportunity to play each level as it's been completed, and as of 2016 the first episode is complete. It's basically source port agnostic, especially thanks to some extra work from some helpful forums goers, but is limit-removing due to the dreaded visplane overlord (plus some levels break game saves).

The story happens in conjunction with the original Doom. Remember Mars? Well, your squad happens to be the ill-fated first responders to Phobos, including Our Mutual Friend Doomguy. While the rest of the team lights out to the research station, you stick around. Your official title is "Marine Security Inspection Officer"; Wraith sort of mentions it, but you're on Mars investigating corporate misconduct. The Mars facility - at least, the part you're located at - is a prime example of rusted, run-to-failure operation. It could just be that the guilty parties at the UAC had you garrisoned there as a sort of passive-aggressive fuck you. In any case, a few hours after your buddies respond to the Phobos distress call, Mars proper falls to the Demon Rush. You only survive because of the reluctance of two guards to investigate a body; when you check it out yourself, you're outside when the demons arrive, leaving you on the best side of a blast door... and with a very long way home.

Alpha Accident is not another Doom alpha project. Like the Favillesco and Nihility episodes, its alpha association is mostly due to the appropriated assets. In Wraith's case, there have also been a number of edits to said resources in order to create a familiar yet alien aesthetic, a description I believe I've used to describe Nihility. Alpha Accident establishes a different atmosphere, though, one that has little if anything to do with horror. The MIDI soundtrack evokes shades of the '94 era of Doom mods, though as I recall correctly this is not so much a deliberate choice and more Wraith just pulling from the same sources that lots of early WAD authors used.

Aesthetics are the least important fashion in which Alpha Accident differentiates itself, though. Wraith's design language involves incredibly complex and non-linear layouts combined with a variety of gameplay changes that made me think of some kind of Doom dungeon crawler. The core of Doom's action is there, but all of the added objects create a more... tangible experience, for lack of a better term. First: the non-toxic barrel. Like the normal barrel, it will impede your progress, but when "killed", it merely falls over and no longer serves as an obstacle. Depending on the situation, these barrels can serve as a hindrance or as consumable cover from enemy fire.

More exotic is the destructible crate, an object that can be destroyed and contains a potential pickup, like health, ammo, or armor. In actuality, the crate is just a larger object that's been placed on top of the item it "contains", but it is another environmental addition that gives Alpha Accident a more interactive feeling. There are two different varieties of columns that you can destroy. One looks like a slightly discolored classic tech pillar but blows up in a dangerous explosion. The other cannot be damaged except by splash damage from rockets, adding another function to the rocket launcher and perhaps setting up a devious secret further down the line where the player must use a Cyberdemon to blast away said hindrances.

There are a handful of new monsters, too. Two are regulars and lend greater credence to the idea of the UAC as some sort of technological firm, but their ubiquitous presence on the terraforming colony might have raised some questions. Sentry guns are stationary turrets that have a hitscan attack. You'll usually find them in fortified positions, but they're more of an annoyance given that they can't move and periodically announce themselves like any other self-respecting Doom monster. The sentry bots, on the other hand, are far more dangerous. They can move and they can fly, worming their way toward the player much like lost souls but faster and their hitscan attacks make them a high priority target.

The last of the new monsters serves as a sort of final boss, but much like the Barons in Doom, there's more than one of them, unleashed in a finale. They appear to be some sort of space marine phantasm, specterized shadows firing bursts of plasma and most importantly having the ability to WALK THROUGH WALLS. Interestingly, and this is a lesson that I learned the hard way, projectile attacks pass right through them. This leaves you with your two workhorse weapons, of course, and the fact that these Pioneers Over Company H start out all over the place makes it a very tricky fight. I wouldn't relish meeting these guys in future episodes...

Wraith does make a few weapon modifications. The first one is a subtle increase to the rate of fire of the pistol, making it a less frustrating weapon for pistol starts, especially since the increased speed makes for more damage and a better rate of stunlocking for beefier foes. I believe that the rate of fire of the chaingun has been tweaked in your favor as well. However, these small boons come at the cost of a major annoyance for Doom veterans; the chaingun has a little bit of "recoil" added on the wind-down frames that's meant to discourage chaingun tapping. In practice, of course, I believe that many players will just curse under their breath and continue to snipe with the chaingun, rather than use the pistol as Wraith intended. The weapon alterations come with a small boost to your bullet count, 450 with the backpack and 225 without.

All of these objects of uncertainty are then liberally sprinkled throughout nine levels, most of which are massive and field an impressive number of secret areas and passages along with multiple routes allowing you to pursue your own fate. E1M1 is fairly large and fails to hint at the labyrinthine depths to follow, the piping nightmare corridors and nuke trenches giving way to the massive cargo holds of "Fright Yard", then rolling into the pseudo-city of "The Colony" before finishing with a massive underground cavern complex in "Terraformer". It's kind of like the original Doom meets Eternal Doom with a more traditional set of tricks, replacing all the texture trickery with the destructible objects; if you're one of those players rushing from fight to fight a la Crank, you might want to give Alpha Accident a pass. Then again, you might not be caught playing the original Doom, anyway.

Speaking of action, Alpha Accident is all about that E1 style, moving somewhere between drip feed and babbling brook and using very basic surprise tactics like monster-in-the-corner and monster closets as well as stuff you don't see as often, like walk-to-player-from-distant-monster-closet ambushes. Whenever the levels open up, there are usually plenty of places for monsters to snipe at you from. There are even a few big arena firefights, none more so than the mighty octagon in "Fright Yard" where you are embattled by crate after crate of monsters, usually encroaching on your position from several different directions. Each map is sort of slow to start, though Wraith has tried to make the pistol a more attractive firearm. Ammo and health begin scarce in pretty much every level, emphasizing that pseudo-survival horror feel of Doom, but you'll eventually build up a good head, especially if you chase down any of the myriad secrets. The later levels are much quicker at punting you into the fray, of course.

I really like Alpha Accident. I hope that Wraith drags it out to its intended conclusion; I also hope that he continues to stick with the labyrinthine level design and maybe even finds someone to do all the custom work that he says he cannot, especially if it means any more new objects to mess around with. While I can't guarantee you'll have as much fun as I did, I think there's plenty here for fans of the original Doom to enjoy.

by Eugene "Wraith" Guschin


Introducing the flavor of Alpha Accident. The action is entirely limited to pistol play with some shotgun action, which gives it a slow pace, especially if you don't figure out how to get outside to check out on the body that was the whole reason for your being here. Venturing outside also begins a massive secret chain that is more or less endemic to the episode, including some machine-wrapped duct work. There are a few packs of monsters toward the end, but it's mostly incidental combat. The otherwise useless zombies do a good job of chipping your health down since health is a bit more scarce. While there are plenty of cool rooms, the octagon-ish structure to the southeast is a great piece and sets AA's trend of "major open room with plenty of branching paths".

E1M2Tech Tunnels
"Tunnels" ought to be the galvanizing point as to whether or not you're able to stomach AA's level design. It's a great big complex built around one main tunnel worthy of an underground military installation; your quest involves opening up the various barricades so that you can make it to the exit. This also involves opening up various other side passages to facilitate free passage throughout the rest of the map. The shotgun arrives much earlier and the chaingun makes its official debut in a cute little "hold the line" ambush; Wraith understandably turns up the burner, resulting in thicker, beefier monster placement. It's still limited to the shareware bestiary, but you ought to be pushing demons back throughout much of the level. The one major flaw as I see it is the northwestern nukage room; if you cross through without the blue key in hand, using up the one rad suit, you'll need as much health as you can gather for your next trip.

Wraith kicks it up a notch in this nukage-heavy level. "Distillery" has toxic tunnels and tons o' monsters, including the debut of the cacodemon, which may come as a shock considering how cramped some of these channels can be. The resulting fights are a bit meatier, like the ambush in the room with the secret rocket launcher or the skirmish at the southern yellow key door. The two major set pieces include the penultimate room, which has a few massive staircases and a hazard course with enormous crushers, and the long, winding nukaduct that starts out in the central-northern area and eventually dumps out into the southern drain you'll need to explore if you want a crack at the secret exit. Beware; the nukaduct has a healthy number of monsters to snipe as well as a few ambushes of its own. Another highlight is the "Chasm"-ish annex that houses the blue key.

E1M9The Shaft
All roads meet up at circuitry monument valley, but you have your pick of three different starting routes. The trip down is one-way; the lifts you haven't used, however, serve as elevators. I believe that it's possible to lock yourself out of the red key, but that would be a fairly deliberate action on the player's part. "Shaft" marks the first appearance of Barons as well as the debut of the splash-vulnerable tech pillars, which add the slightest bit of Metroid flavor. It's also got collapsing mine walls (re: monster closets) as a gimmick. Excepting bits like the descending platform room with the red key and the tech-monument atrium, it relies on congestion and claustrophobia for its combat challenges.

Ditching the nukage and caverns a bit for a cleaner, more tech-oriented look. "Medlabs" is the purest base level; while it's got plenty of interesting rooms, they're buried in the context of the greater UAC campus, an impressive network of corridors. There's evil lurking around every corner along with one of the successful experiments: sentry drones, subjected perhaps by their clearly organic components. You'll also find the first instance of teleport technology as well as some "recovered" specimens. The more updated look of the main parts of the facility are a nice contrast to all the nukage and dingy metal that made up the first three levels, not that there isn't a bit of both here as well. The monsters aren't quite as piled-on as in some of the previous maps, as though Wraith is attempting to give you some time to cope with the drone.

The octagon and parts thereof heavily inform this aggregate of toxic channels that ultimately surround a central, interior structure. There is a lot of open air, giving the impression of space, but all of the settling ponds gives you less room to safely move in than you may think. The difficulty is augmented by lots of snipers on ledges and a fairly door-free network of passages that allows the monsters - including those canny drones - a relatively easy time of flowing toward the player. You'll also see the sentry guns for the first time, not that they're much of a shock. The open layout also means that it's pretty easy for the player to run from area to area, waking up monsters in a desperate attempt to find more ammo, only compounding your problem. Pitched battles and bug hunts abound; stay frosty, marine.

Fright YardE1M6
"Fright Yard" is the culmination of all that has gone before, plus a couple of huge crate zones that bring a sense of sprawl missing from the now familiar "Containment Area". If the incidental combat of the previous levels was not to your taste, you should be pleasantly surprised by the larger firefights, especially the gauntlet in the outdoor yard which unleashes a wave of monsters with each switch press until the inevitable Cyberdemon showdown. There's also some pretty sizable action to be had in the outskirts, where the rugged Martian wilderness gives way to invasions that might not be too bad, provided you snag the BFG. The southern cratemaze is more in keeping with the Alpha Accident approach to progression, functioning as a labyrinth in all three dimensions but pretty satisfying once fully unravelled. You'll also see one of Wraith's electricity hazards, though it's more something you have to pick up based on context clues. A stunning, scintillating adventure.

E1M7The Colony
Wraith takes things in an entirely different direction. "The Colony" is a sandbox-style map with about a dozen or so different buildings to go through, plenty of ground to cover on the outside, and a sewer section to the southwest. It's a bit of a hornet's nest to begin with but you have plenty of space in which you can take your time. The combat rarely gets too crazy but there's a Cyberdemon surprise lying in store and the finale, which does a good job of sneaking some monsters behind you for one Hell of a shocker. The change in locale offers the first rumblings of demonic corruption affecting our universe, with several sections of the colony going full Gothic, notably in the southwest and northeast regions. Another dream for Martian explorers.

There's a world going on underground. "Terraformer" is a large level, but once you've cleared out the initial - if massive - cavern, it's on par with E1M1 in terms of linearity. The cavern is a pretty big hurdle, though; there are low-tier snipers stationed on ledges in the walls and on the various rock and machine platforms and still more things roaming on the floor and in the air. Wraith also reuses it for one of the most memorable encounters of the set, a battle royale where monsters trickle in from all directions in the periphery with a Cyberdemon providing overwatch from the center platform. That comes later, though. First, you've got to enter the eastern section, a series of mine shafts connecting UAC equipment and sinister ruins together and which eventually links you back to the northwestern base, whose front door was locked. After such a long journey, I hope you remembered where you saw the red key door! The final boss fight is pretty different from your typical clash of the titans. Step lively...


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
Alpha Accident: Terra NovaLudicrium
Japanese Community ProjectMapper of the Year
Blades of Agony E1Lainos


  1. I was hoping you'd have pics of the ghost marines, too, but I imagine they're just "fuzzy" like the spectres.

    Is it weird that I think the brain turrets are kind of adorable in a twisted sci-fi way? Maybe because they remind me of the Bow enemies from PO'ed: boogly-eyed, brain-powered death buggies that fire bouncy projectiles and jibber-jabber when they take damage.

    1. yeah the ghost marines look exactly what you guessed, specterized soldiers.

  2. Terra Nova is well worth the price of admission alone! But it would be nice if AA was still alive.

    1. It's been a little while but I've actually played E2M3 and seen the design docs for the rest of the episode's maps. Wraith is simply not a public developer.