StarCove - A Tribute to Ty Halderman (STARCOVE.WAD)
STARCOVE A TRIBUTE TO
by Michael Jan "valkiriforce" Krizik
Ty Halderman passed away in 2015. He remains an Essential Pillar of the Community for a variety of reasons, the most prominent in my mind functioning as the steward of the /idgames archive for nearly twenty years; the only reason he stopped was because his terminal illness dealt him such a blow that he could not even tell the Doom community why their regularly scheduled updates had ceased. It was no surprise to see Doom authors gathering together in an attempt to pay tribute to the man, many of whom gathered under the banner of Christian Hansen's THT: Threnody (Ty Halderman Tribute) project. Classic megaWAD officiando valkiriforce had a slightly different idea, likely because Threnody was a Boom-compatible release and Krizik is more of a Chocolate kind of guy.
StarCove is a MAP27 replacement released in 2016 that's for Doom II, but you'll need Team TNT's Icarus: Alien Vanguard to play it. If you're familiar with ICARUS, then you might recall that MAP27 is originally host to Ty Halderman's "Starhenge". STARCOVE isn't exactly a copy of Starhenge, but it cribs from a few Halderman levels, including the famous "Wormhole" from TNT Evilution as well as "Prestidigitation". I'm sure there are others, but my knowledge of Halderman's career isn't as categorical as I would like. As with VF's more recent releases, StarCove has no given story, but given that it's a MAP27 replacement it's very easy to place it in the same context as the rest of the adventures of Doomguy while on the good ship Icarus.
It also begins with a bang of a start, probably the toughest moment you'll encounter during the level apart from the upper tier of mixed monsters including zombies in the southwestern area. While VF has offered you the combat shotgun and rocket launcher with a bunch of ammo for both, carving out a safe spot what with the revenants patrolling the central monument, the invading cacodemons, and the arachnotrons gumming up the outer areas plus the monsters lurking in the side pockets means that you've got some tricky maneuvering ahead of you. The cacodemon swarm in the "Prestidigitation" homage is another fun micro-slaughter moment, though it's fairly easily chased using the BFG.
The rest of the combat is mostly incidental, using heavies like Hell knights to pace the player through the less congested areas, with some surprises in the cove section like an arachnomomma. The distant yet burning mancubus is an interesting installation that can only be eliminated via a secret, at least while playing under vanilla engine limitations (no vertical aiming!). The level has teeth, to be sure, but the main event happens the moment you step off the bus so the rest pales in comparison, particularly when that deep water effect past the cacoyard renders the monsters outside it mostly harmless.
As a series of homages, Krizik ties everything together reasonably well, especially the main section of the level that spans from the southwest through the northwest to the northeast. I think turning the dark side of the "Wormhole" segment into just another teleporter launch pad is a missed opportunity when it could have junctioned to the "Prestidigitation" segment just as easily, especially considering that the dark side has no monsters to speak of. Not that there's anything wrong with lacking any monsters, since the eerie silence drums the tension up, at least until you do your full sweep and find nothing of import.
It's inevitable that there would be some sort of shrine, of course. The Icarus crew was only happy to oblige when furnishing the Easter egg tombstones for Gary Gosson's "Nightfall". While it can only come across as sweet in a single level, I wonder how many I'll encounter in THT: Threnody and beyond. I wasn't expecting the exit portal tribute, though, which reminds me; I hope some brave soul kickstarts another Icarus-format megaWAD in my lifetime. The yellow key requirement to exit may come as a surprise to some players, since only the red and blue keys are required to access the ship teleporter, but it's pretty easy to figure out where you haven't been.
StarCove is a pleasant little memorial level, one of many for the most important member of the Doom community in the past, present, and potentially future. It's got just that hint of Things Not Yet Seen that TNT tried to bring to the table. If the presentation and homages are a little too cloying for you, well, I hope you can see past that to the sentiment behind it.
SECOND STAR ON THE RIGHT,
AND STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING