Monday, September 5, 2016


After an enormous outpouring of material in 2011, valkiriforce's enthusiasm seemed to taper off and apparently ended in 2013 with the release of PULSE. It was a sort of a rarities collection of rejects and stuff he had laying around from various efforts. They always come back, though, and while the majority of 2016's Vispire may be rooted in a collection of speedmapping sessions in 2013 the rest comes from a few sporadic bursts in 2015 and 2016. Altogether, it's a new 17-level megaWAD for D2, though I've gotta warn you if you're expecting something akin to Doom Core or Reverie. Vispire has a style all its own.

Like PULSE, this PWAD has no associated story. You can make one up if you want but valkiriforce's execution is so purposefully abstract that it feels steeped in an arcade atmosphere, complementing the action. This is all about a Doom where you get to move fast and kill a lot of demons with small exceptions like the cottage and faux room-over-room of MAP13 ("Seaside") or the opening portion of MAP10 ("Absolute Zero Ground"). Many of the levels also feature layouts and thing placement that appear to facilitate coop play. Not perfectly, of course, but I'd say it's more "Dead Simple" and less "Tricks and Traps".

The theme of the first eleven levels sort of goes from tons of red brick to a dingy sewer green with some bleedover across maps. The twelfth marks a change in sky and while the cistern you play in is bound by land it and the following maps are very heavy on either trudging through water or taking place on an island in the middle of nowhere. While valkiriforce has plied an unusually streamlined style you'll still see flashes of silliness. There's a football field in MAP09 ("No Man's Game"), for instance, and one of the little encounters of MAP15 ("Kalamatos Islands") features an air-dancing session with a Cyberdemon... over a pool of lava.

The difficulty is very punchy and at times a sort of Hell Revealed-lite. Krizik even finds interesting ways for you to lay down rocket-fueled suppression fire, like MAP09 ("No Man's Game") where you've got to balance shots between the demons coming down the center lane and the Hell knights on either side, especially since you can't hit the nobles over the poles that join the bars together. In parts between you're picking off scattered zombies with the chaingun or battling spaced-out heavy monsters inside a sort of "Dead Simple" spacing. It may not be  difficult on its face or perhaps it's just grindy. This may lead to you taking risks, though, and Doom makes fools of us all!

Vispire is a pretty fun play and while its simple style came as an initial shock it definitely grew on me. I'm hoping that finishing it gave valkiriforce the kickstart to rejoin the fold. If you're looking for more of Krizik's tributes to classic megaWADs then you'll be better served by replaying his first two. This seems more oriented toward people who dig Hell Revealed's style (albeit watered-down), not that valk was aiming for it.

by Michael Jan "valkiriforce" Krizik

The Darkest NightMAP01
A portent of things to come. "Darkest Night" is an arena with a red brick central platform. Cacodemons and mancubi make up your initial opposition. The player scrounges for shells at the start but the count quickly snowballs. The surprise is the switch, which lowers the ground floor and exposes a lower tier featuring a couple of boring side passages clogged by imps and some arachnotrons. You'll want to take your time when handling the latter.

MAP02Rescue Mission
The beginning has some arcade action with a goofy zig-zag step up to the teleporter as you use the plasma gun to saw through cacodemons and revenants. Then it's a micro-slaughter as you're dumped on a catwalk that splits two balconies full of chaingunners and imps and a squad of Hell knights and barons clustered around the exit. The biggest surprise is the Cyberdemon, though, since the curved tunnels that make up the outer ring are... less than straightforward for ousting him.

The Song of YesterdayMAP03
Another brick arena with a few side areas. If it was beige then I'd say that the level almost looked Plutonic... Shades of "Cyberden", I guess. The initial monsters are pretty light. Grabbing the rocket launcher reveals the main gimmick, which you might have already guessed. There's a Cyberdemon and he'll be pounding around the ground floor arena until you kill him, which you can do immediately with the guns and ammo given. OR you could let him stick around and work some monster infighting. The crowds after the cacodemons (identical packs of demons) are not quite so interesting, though.

MAP04Ruined Refuge
Feeling a little more substantial. The parking garage-esque bunker gives way to two different wings, both of which are accessed by teleporter. I'd go with the right one first. The opening monsters are fairly light fare and you get the combat shotgun and rocket launcher, even if killing the following packs of demons is a bit tiresome. The left is jam-packed full of imps and some revenants toward the back; they're much easier to handle using rockets than the plasma gun Krizik gives you. The finale is a downright normal level segment with a building spiral staircase and an initially fearsome mob of revenants and Hell knights that's followed by some light-hearted zombie action. Fun stuff.

Essence of ChaosMAP05
Red brick and maybe a slight bit of Orin Flaharty since Valk is using a few catwalks and stuff in the periphery like the shotgun guy cage at the teleporter and the rounded corner where the skeletons harry you for most of the level. When it isn't trading in exposure it's doing cool paranoia fights like imps in the dark in the computer stacks room who are shortly followed by revenants if you don't hold them at the door. The monotypic packs of demons and shotgun guys are hammering home that speedmap Krizik is painting with a really broad brush.

MAP06Juniper's Sorrow
Slaughter and awkwardness abound in this level. Three keys at separate teleport destinations; the tanker is pretty straightforward revenant suppression fire lest you be overwhelmed. The circular sewer is more about handling skeletons on stairs and is otherwise normal. The arc-shaped room with revenants on one side, Hell knights on the other, and a pit of demons in between will be one of the killers. Once you get the pinkies cleared out you can sort of use the arc of the room to soak rockets while you slay the revs and then turn on the HKs, but that's the tough part. Last, the Cyberdemon playing king of the mountain at the top of the main staircase. You'll have to be very careful and agile since your battleground is both uneven and curves behind you.

The "Dead Simple" setup is kind of clever in this grungy sewer segment since you have to shoot the zombiman in order to wake up the mancubi and teleport them in. It seems squandered, though, unless the point was to just prevent the player from carefully waking them up and killing them at the openings one by one. The arachnotron wave comes with a Spiderdemon but it's just begging for some infighting and is over quick. The blockmap hitscan bug seems strong when fighting the arachs for some reason; I had more luck against the fatsos. I had the most fun weaving in between the revenants and demons with the plasma gun at the level's end.

MAP08Destination Zenith
Sort of settled into the dingy sewer brick. It's a CYOA but one of the three paths will get you all of your weapons and a bunch of ammo for minimal fuss. Of the other two, one is a pretty packed segment featuring imps, demons, and Hell nobles. You're better off rocketing it all. The other is a big, twisty sewer pipe populated with a line of cacodemons that's a pain to fight in due to attrition via the damage floor down the middle. The finale is a big ol' revenant roundup around a tower but it shouldn't kill you unless you lose all sense of caution.

No Man's GameMAP09
The opening fight feels fairly advanced. You've got to beat back the advancing column of demons while also swatting the Hell knights as they approach from the sides. The corner poles that form the joints of the bars will block any rocket aimed at the nobles so it's a relatively tricky balancing act to make sure that neither front gets close. The following battle is just infighting silliness. There is a football field with a crowd of imps, a Cyberdemon in each end zone, and a bunch of barons in the scrimmage. Just don't get caught up in the - crossfire!

MAP10Absolute Zero Ground
No more skylights! This underground sewer level is downright normal, has an intimate opening that looks kind of cool (shades of Alien Vendetta's "Toxic Touch"), and features different coop starts. Once you start heading north the scale opens up to massive pipes and other bits of cascading green goo. The toughest action occurs past the blue key bars. This begins with a Plutonia MAP28-ish teleport ambush and culminates in a very difficult to break into red key room, mainly because it's so densely packed. You might be tempted to blow all your rockets on the mancubi on the return trip but you'll want all the splash you can get for the final room.

Hollow's EndMAP11
If you can make it past the first fight, a mess of zombies meant to be handled while using the combat shotgun, then you're pretty much set. The finale here comes as a relief after the awkward Cyberdemon positioning of "Juniper's Sorrow". Unless, I guess, you're the sort of person who keeps backing into columns. Playing peek-a-boo with skeletons on staircases is still far from ideal but it's over fast and you should have plenty of ammo after the mancubus / revenant / arachnotron circle strafe party.

MAP12In Ruins
A small little rocky bunker, ready for a massive assault. Shooting the barrels triggers a major teleport ambush, the only encounter you'll have to field, the main points being a pain elemental and an arch-vile. Staying on the ground floor is especially dangerous so you'll have to figure out some way to thin the herd out and take out your priority targets before moving on to the clean-up phase.

A punchy, relatively normal level that takes place on some sort of island. Major features include a shack and a sinister, cavernous basement. The backyard of the upper level is rough going with mancubi on high and an ambush of cacos plus a revenant as a spoiler. It's tough maneuvering and your initial attention will be split between the zombies on the ground, the stronger but durable Hell knights, and the fatsos. The cavern below is even worse since the monsters on the other side do a great job of screwing you up if you try to stick it out with the nobles. Jumping to the bottom only opens you up to two clogs of demons backed by those space-hogging arachnotrons. To top it off, grabbing the yellow key unleashes two arch-viles on the ledge you started from! I hope you saved rockets.

MAP14Key to Ignition
Another tight level. It has a decidedly "Circle of Death" / Flaharty aesthetic if not with the catwalks then the starting room and its little alcoves surrounding the access pillar. The opening has some pretty heavy pressure and it rarely lets up though a handy secret will allow you to bypass the massive monster closets that choke the hallway after grabbing the blue key. Making sure you have cover from the mancubi while simultaneously dispatching the pain elementals is yet another one of the map's challenging moments.

Kalamatos IslandsMAP15
More like a Spanish fort built on an oil rig, if you ask me. Whatever you do, make sure you use the switch on the plasma gun shelf first. It lowers the nearby teleporter and gives you way more ammo than you want. You'll need a lot, however, if you're to take on the several hordes of revenants, mancubi, and Cyberdemons that Krizik throws at you. Infighting does a great job of clearing most of it out. There are a few destinations reached by teleport - like the ammo pad - for you to muscle through, including a constricted Cyberdemon showdown. He has a tendency to get stuck on the bordering track, though, rendering him harmless.

MAP16Island of Patmos
Six microcosms that offer you some freedom in how you want to tackle them. You'll need keys from the first three to finish the second trio. Each island has its own peculiar challenges. One is a techbase that plies claustrophobia and congestion to overwhelm the player. Another involves a climb around the interior of a fortress which has a Cyberdemon and Spiderdemon attempting to act as turrets. The player can easily set up a "Gotcha!" moment and neuter them entirely. There's even a very brief surprise attack from two arch-viles. A fun, fairly normal outing.

Ocean of ConfusionMAP17
A gray stone fortress in the middle of the sea. The interior is liberally packed full of monsters like chaingunner ledges but I'd be more concerned with breaking into those yards of arachnotrons that guard the blue and red keys. It's all about surgical BFG spam, rocket suppression fire, and cautious skirmishing with the SSG. The Icon makes an appearance but it's defunct when it comes to spawning demons. Still capable of marshalling its forces, though, judging by what's standing in the yard with it. You can kill it the old fashioned way or get the Cyberdemon to do your dirty work, much like Valk's MAP30 from Doom 2 Unleashed. A nice finisher.



  1. Fun read! Thanks for the review. Hopefully it won't be too long before I release my next project with 40oz. ~vf

  2. Great review! Could you review Doom 2 Reloaded next time?

    1. well i have a lot of 2016 and 2015 stuff i want to get done before dipping into "indulgences", so to speak, and there are oh so many. it's just been a bad year in some aspects

  3. Took me some time to get into this, as I couldn't help but compare it to vf's best output. It's hard to rival Reverie and Eternally Yours, or even the best parts of Doom Core. Your posts on tumblr gave me the push to try these out one more time, actually! But that otherworldly calm atmosphere I associate with vf maps is still there, and the entirety of the island levels are damn fantastic.

    1. its definitely a different take from vf. i am looking forward to the 40oz / vf joint when i get around to it