Monday, September 5, 2016

Vispire (VISPIRE.WAD)


After an enormous outpouring of material in 2011, valkiriforce's enthusiasm seemed to taper off, apparently ending in 2013 with the release of PULSE, 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 Doom II, though I've gotta warn you if you're expecting something like 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, which goes along with 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 from map to map. 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, at times a sort of Hell Revealed-lite. Krizik even finds interesting ways for you to lay down suppression fire with the rocket launcher, 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 knights 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 with a sort of "Dead Simple" spacing. Maybe not difficult on its face, just grindy, which may lead to you taking risks and, well, 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, I think you'd be better served by replaying his first two. I think that there's something here for people who dig Hell Revealed's style (with a lot of water added), not that valk was even aiming for that mark. Heck; I'm probably missing it, myself.





VISPIRE
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 mancubuses make up your initial opposition, with the player scrounging for shells to start and then becoming quickly flush with them. The surprise is the switch, which lowers the ground floor to expose a lower tier with a couple of boring side passages clogged with imps and some arachnotrons you'll want to take your time with.

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 brick, I'd say the level almost looked Plutonic... Shades of "Cyberden", I guess. Anyway, 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, though the crowds after the cacodemons (identical packs of demons) are not quite so interesting.

MAP04Ruined Refuge
Feeling a little more substantial. The parking garage-esque bunker gives way to two different wings, both accessed by teleporter. Me, 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 with imps and some revenants toward the back, much easier to deal with 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, 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 three 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 and Hell knights on the other, with a pit of demons in between, will be one of the killers. Once you get the demons 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 very agile given that your battleground is both uneven and curves behind you.

EntrenchedMAP07
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 mancubuses and teleport them in, but it seems squandered 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 that's just begging for some infighting, so that's over quick. The blockmap hitscan bug seems strong when fighting the arachs for some reason; I had more luck with 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 with imps and demons and Hell nobles that you're better off rocketing and 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 that 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, 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, with an intimate opening that looks kind of cool - shades of Alien Vendetta's "Toxic Touch" - and plays with coop starts. Once you start heading north the scale opens up to massive pipes and other bits of cascading green goo. The toughest action begins past the blue key bars beginning with a Plutonia MAP28-ish teleport ambush and culminating 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 mancubuses 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 with you starting with the combat shotgun, then you're pretty much set. After the awkward Cyberdemon positioning of "Juniper's Sorrow", the finale here comes as a relief. 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.

SeasideMAP13
A punchy, relatively normal level that takes place on some sort of island with a shack and a sinister, cavernous basement. The backyard of the upper level is rough going with mancubuses on high and an ambush of cacos with 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 messing with you if you try to stick it out with the nobles and jumping to the bottom only opens you up to two clogs of demons backed with 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 with a "Circle of Death" / Flaharty aesthetic, if not with the catwalks then that opening room with all the 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 mancubuses 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 need, and you'll need a lot if you're to take on the several hordes of revenants, mancubuses, and Cyberdemons that Krizik throws at you. Infighting does a great job of clearing most of it out. As per usual, there are a few destinations reached by teleport - like the ammo pad - that you'll have 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 three, though. 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, though you 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 with monsters like chaingunner ledges, but I'd be more concerned about 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. Still marshalling its forces, 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.

DOOM CORE SOLID: VR MISSIONS

6 comments:

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

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

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    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

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  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.

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

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