Thursday, September 29, 2016

END POINT (ENDPOINT.WAD)


Another year, another Eternal mapset. Some times, Russia's favorite son loves to push Doom's boundaries, like the visionary Voodoo Guns. At other times, he's content to pay tribute to the golden age of the community, as was the case with last year's ICAR2015, a loveletter to Icarus: Alien Vanguard. END POINT, released in 2016, seems to pull inspiration from the classics though not from any particular PWAD. As enigmatic as Eternal is, he's pretty good about pointing out his authorial allusions. It's got its own complementary texture set and features seven levels of hard-hitting Doom II action.


Unfortunately, for something that seems to draw from the mid-'90s, it lacks any sort of a framing narrative let alone an overblown backstory that includes a drawn-out mission brief from your reserved superior officer. The levels themselves imply a typical 90s megaWAD mission taking place at another remote UAC outpost gone bad with the titles "Drop Zone" (MAP01) and "Mountain Lake" (MAP05) while the others drive home the importance of Doom II's combat using names like "Hand to Hand" and "Reflex Action", finally terminating with a showdown in the relatively abstract "Concept Threat".


I'd like to say that END POINT is basically a beefier take on the style of gameplay we associate with mid-'90s Doom, but that is purely a gut feeling based on the amount of time I spent dirty dancing with demons while wielding the workhorse weapons (shotgun, super shotgun, and chaingun) and could be pretty far off the mark since I've only played the Memento Mori megaWADs and their ilk once, some five years before writing this review. There are still plenty of easily disposable monsters running around and lurking in alcoves or room corners. You might even start to feel clever as you tease them out from their hiding spots or burst around their corners and let loose a combat shotgun blast. That's the formula at work, though. It'll make you feel like a Doom god, back in the good ol' days.


END POINT isn't mind-blowing, never really reaching the best excesses of what I think of as the classic era of Doom, but it's an assumption on my part that it's supposed to be and is otherwise an incredibly comfortable play. For fans of the olden days who don't mind things being a bit more streamlined, it's an easy recommendation.





END POINT
by Alexander S. aka "Eternal"

Drop ZoneMAP01
A relatively mild-mannered techbase with a good number of monsters to start. What few ambushes you'll have to endure are fairly straightforward, the worst being the yellow key basement depending on your approach. The design is elegant and non-linear, based around an inner hallway that unites the eastern, outer hallway with the outdoor courtyard area, where you begin and which has a DoomCute little plot of grass overlooked by a ledge carrying a handful of commandos. The only teleport ambushes are a couple of up-close demons, but they're just pinkies. The lighting gradients from the tech pillars to the northeast look Hell of sweet.

MAP02Whisper of Time
Eternal steps it up in this techbase with some pretty meaty ambushes that put you up close and personal with Hell knights in several situations, requiring either deft maneuvering or reflexive retreat, even if retreat means running further into the lion's den. The slowest moment comes from an early Baron that essentially guards the combat shotgun and will likely be whittled to death with the regular shotgun, which must be pried from the hands of one of the sergeants. My standout combat scenario involves a flood of zombies that appears when approaching the blue key, appearing at several different points and requiring a lot of suppression fire. Death via attrition is a very likely scenario. This level's DoomCute moment is a little dinghy visible from the southernmost point and which may come with a shock depending on your thoroughness as a player.

Hand to HandMAP03
A tense gauntlet located in the underbelly of the base. There's trouble behind every door, chiefly in a nexus of sleek tech corridors that dominates the level's northern area but also to an extent the darker, grimier southern section with its large cacodemon chamber. Grabbing each key will open up one of the central sections, unleashing a squad of monsters, the first weighted toward zombies and the second fielding a healthy mix of mid-tier foes along with the usual chaff. Both are great chances to get to work with your combat shotgun, which features a prime instance of potentially getting mobbed but getting the SSG's ammo efficiency vs. being able to block them at the upper balcony but spending more ammo. Plenty of action, here.

MAP04Reflex Action
Extending your stint in the underground with a nice, moderately complex BASEment level with some tech guts, particularly in the large northern room that sort of serves as the map's main set piece. There are a lot of hitscanners and a fair number of traps, so you'll probably settle into a nice rhythm of "enter room, assess monsters, slay monsters, repeat". Experienced players ought to find swinging around the corner to hose a zombie with the chaingun to be second nature. I really like the tech room since the added size and obstructions give the monster placement a bit more depth, even if the biggest surprise is a lowly pain elemental. I also like the very tall room to the southeast, leading to a spiral staircase that leaves the player's tasty ankles exposed and prompting a rush to the bottom.

Mountain LakeMAP05
An intricate brick and mortar stronghold that begins at the front door with an excruciating crossfire. There are a few tricks that you might call essential, like a secret teleporter that telefrags the revenant and also gets you to the mancubus-guarded soulsphere, or the combat shotgun in the western chamber, but putting all the pieces together and not getting swiss-cheesed by all of the hitscanners or donkey-punched with a revenant rocket will be the truest test. The maze ambush is lamp-shaded and is really just a fun brawl once the walls come down. The western arc-shaped room is kind of tricky since you can't shoot over the fence unless you're standing on those little pads, which might turn out bad if you're fielding the wrong weapon (i.e. rocket launcher). Lots of secrets and lots of action.

MAP06Gidro Spider
More sewers, but with a fair bit of outside areas - including the finale - that break up the atmosphere. The monster count is much tighter, about half of the previous level, and Eternal is more precise in his usage. Expect up close and personal encounters and other bits of orchestrated chaos, like the northeastern cistern room which has chaingun sniper cells, Barons in the middle, and other unsavory things roaming around. You might have even brought in the revenants from the super shotgun grab. I like the height variation and water level manipulation gimmicks. The secrets are also pretty simple if you bother to spend any time puzzling them out, with some essential weapon grabs, particularly for dealing with the double-whammy of the Spiderdemon followed by the Cyberdemon to close out the level. A tight, fun adventure.

Concept ThreatMAP07
Interesting setup in a rather abstract outdoor level. The inverted step pyramid-style pits make maneuvering a little tricky, but all you've got to do is kill the mancubuses to begin your journey into the exterior ring, which is all about chaingunners in windows and various monsters lurking in the alcoves; it's easily approachable, if potentially rote. The only outer ring fight that really sticks with me involves a clown car commando teleporter that will probably cost you a good bit of health; there's an added hazard, too, if they manage to get far enough to teleport away. The other two big fights in the central area are pretty tame, though, especially since the walkway does a great job of hobbling the Cyberdemon so you can just hose him down with white-blue hot plasma.

THE END OF IT ALL... AGAIN

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