Monday, September 19, 2016

Asylum (ASYV10.WAD)

ASYLUM
by "Angry Saint"


Angry Saint's Doom debut was as a participant in Tormentor's Doomja Vu contest. Black Magnetic was an interesting, complex techbase as far as its twisted and winding layout intersected with Saint's use of 3D floors. Asylum, released in 2016, dials the choice of engine all the way back to vanilla (or, as the text file advertises, Chocolate Doom), but the author continues to evade the familiar ideas of Doom, this time experimenting with textures originally created by an individual using the handle DethteX and then converted to a set by ZDoom whizzard Rick Clark, THE ULTIMATE DOOMER. The level shares the same name as the texture pack. Like so many single level releases, it's a MAP01 replacement for Doom II.


Asylum has no given story, but you can infer something from the author's execution. The eponymous structure appears to be the current bastion of Hellspawn to be cleared out, judging from the fact that you start out just inside the front gate. The infestation is deep, all the way down to a vast underground chamber that but for the vagaries of its design could work as some sort of deep aqueduct. As it stands its purpose is inscrutable and only serves to deepen the mystery surrounding the misbegotten asylum, which terminates with little fanfare in a booth previously populated by commandos, feeling more like Doomguy planting a flag on a summit.


First - Asylum is a very dark mapset. Saint shows what he can do with sector-based lighting including lightcasting, leading to some pretty good moments of contrast, best seen perhaps in the dual-balcony room that serves as the heart of the level and through which most of the threads of the braid will pass through. This enhances the atmosphere and helps to distract from the relative simplicity of the architecture and detailing, which are for the most part unremarkable. I do like the rounded building front and columns of the starting area. The northwest room that houses the exit looks very cool and the arachnotron / trench basement has a rugged, abstract charm.


The combat starts out very light, vs. traditional zombies and imps, but quickly explodes into punchy, grueling monster placement. If you hate chaingunners, good news! There are only a handful of them in the level, but much of the rest of the map is spent taking on beefy Hell knights, barons, and mancubuses, augmented by various flying monsters and - occasionally - revenants. Angry Saint's calling card in encounter design appears to be having monsters you've just seen teleport behind you, which may ease the sting players often feel toward teleport ambushes since the audio cue now comes with a pretty obvious visual cue that even tells you what's currently poised to spank your ass.


While Asylum has the basic appearance of incidental encounters, its tendency to warp other enemies behind you and otherwise force you into tricky monster positioning - like the sawtooth drop by the rocket launcher - makes for rough and tumble combat, particularly given the relative health of the enemies involved. The outdoor firefight to the east is one of the standout encounters, given that you're limited to the combat shotgun and all of the fliers start out a good bit above you in the darkness which gives the pain elemental a pretty big advantage, with lost souls potentially getting out of hand.


Asylum is a nice experience in more typical level design after seeing Angry Saint show off with the geometrically advanced GZDoom. It's also cool to see someone play around with a relatively untouched texture pack. While I love the original Doom II, it's a joy to wander around a world with a different look, even if the architecture may be relatively unenthusing. Hopefully this prospective level designer sticks around the Doom community for a long time.



COLD IS THE CLIMATE, DARK IS THE ATOMIC NIGHT
SEARCHING AND HOPING, GUARDING MY MIND FROM YOUR SIGHT
YOUR EVIL EYES WATCH ME, YOUR EVIL EYES TOUCH ME, THEY'RE COLD
I CAN STAND PRISON, BUT EVEN MY CONSCIOUS YOU HOLD

5 comments:

  1. This map looks pretty badass and I'm playing it within the hour. Great find!

    I dunno if you noticed my two latest releases, Project Einherjar and Surreal Killer. If you ever get a chance to cover Project Einherjar in the near future, that'd be awesome. You could bump it into Nerves of Steel's slot if you like, since PE is a more recent project and tied to another non-game project of mine.

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  2. It's apparent as soon as you load it up that this is definitely a cool map. It has a very unique feel to it thanks to the eerie asylum-themed texure set, which surprised the hell out of me. Even after reading your review I was expecting more stock textures. It gave the map an eerily distinct sense of place that made me not want to be there. The moments of inactivity emphasize that as well: you're not constantly battling hellspawn, sometimes just walking through these eerie-ass corridors and courtyards waiting for something terrible to happen.

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    1. re: suspense and the unfamiliar - you know, I think i recall feeling that way but forgetting to put that into the review when i was actually writing it

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    2. Hell, it's your blog. You can always update it later. I'm always updating my comments and posts every ten minutes after I post them.

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    3. Of course, I might just be insane. Who knows.

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