Tuesday, November 22, 2016

THT: Threnody (THTTHREN.WAD)


You don't maintain the /idgames archives for eighteen years, marshal the Doom community's longest-lived and most productive authorship collective, and found what became the de-facto standard for "advanced" source port features without getting some kind of a send-off. While we were fortunate enough to pass him the Espi award in 2014, it wasn't until he died in 2015 that the community attempted to pay tribute in a more familiar format. The end result of the Ty Halderman Tribute Project: Threnody, a 20-level megaWAD for Boom released in 2016.


Hell has struck again, but the forces of evil finally found a mark. The most recent casualty is a highly decorated general, overseeing a number of secret projects at a top secret UAC installation. Further information suggests even more incompetence on the UAC's part; after all, history has shown that any paramilitary research worth a shit is pretty much the first place demons show up. I wonder what career prospects all those scientists at the labs think they have. You, the most efficient weapon in Earth's arsenal, have been chosen to investigate the general's disappearance. The assumption is that he is a living prisoner; otherwise, you are to deliver your reckoning.


Threnody ticks what ought to be a few familiar boxes given the subject matter. It targets Boom-compatible source ports, for one. It also uses assets from TNT: Evilution in addition to Team TNT's The Return resource pack. Last, it's a community megaWAD, and the relatively tight stable of authors leaves me with more of a Team impression than your typical "one then done" community project, having a more tangible character. Chris Hansen, the organizer, has credits on four of these levels. Doomkid, close behind, has three. Paul Corfiatis, fonze, didy, and antares301 avoid spreading themselves thin with just two credits each, the rest of the authors only appearing once. It would have been cool to see even more designers throw their hats into the ring, but I believe that some were turned off by the relatively informal project organization. And here we are, with THT: Threnody and no second, "pro-tier" offering. Passion trumps professionalism, no?


There are quite a few surprises. Mechadon's "Fomalhaut" will likely be the major standout for coupling sheer size with a more congenial approach to his slaughter-lite combat style. The Fonze and didy joint "Big Freaking Guardians" is no less technically accomplished, perhaps even more so, but it's plagued with punishing monster placement, a quality also shared with Fonze's other tag team match. "WormHell" is the most obviously inspired by Ty, borrowing from and blending "Wormhole" with "Shipping/Respawning" and then dragging things out over three largely similar layouts. I didn't recognize didy's solo level at first, but once I hit the roof I realized that he'd found a great home for his Bauhaus reject.


antares has a couple of great levels. I especially enjoyed "Parallel Dimension", the OTHER "Wormhole" tribute with a lot more interplay between the worlds, but the solemn island sanctuary of "Sky Pillar" is a great finisher if you can stomach the very demanding slaughter bits. dobu gabu's "EnWrong" challenges "BFG" for most convoluted layout; I highly recommend it, if only for all the Easter eggs taking swipes at a scandal that's fifteen years old at the time of this writing but also because it's just fun to untangle since the monsters aren't nearly so bad. Hansen and Paul do a great job of rounding out the set with shorter, more approachable offerings. I'm most fond of the former's "Ayahuasca", as rough as the start can be.


Doomkid is dependably... Doomkid. It's interesting contrasting his three levels against the almost complete open air of Mutiny's MAP09 ("Construction Site"); his style in Threnody consists largely of rooms that feel more isolated but make for relatively interesting action on a room-by-room basis. The rest of the single-entry authors aren't too crazy, tending toward more open-air layouts excepting Gothic's "Fort Halderman", feeling the most generally TNT out of the whole bunch. And, uh, I mean that in the best way possible. I suppose that anyone desperate for Morrowind-themed levels might want to take a gander at Angry Saint's "Tyvivec".


While there are a few action-oriented music tracks, the general feel of Threnody feels much in line with its namesake, in no small part due to remixes of two of the most popular tracks from TNT: Evilution, apocryphally known as "Death's Bells" and "Legion of the Lost". There's more, too, like Doomkid's pick of "Kraid's Theme" from Metroid. You'll also see a variety of tribute shrines, some hidden and some not, either built as level features or written into the geometry itself and which help to remind you that this isn't just a map pack but one that attempts to pay tribute to Ty Halderman, if not in absolute imitation then as part of a project that attempts to emulate the trappings of his legacy.


Ty was a part of the Doom community's machinery that remained largely separate from the Doomworld forums, up until the end when he began to assert some sort of minimal quality control over the /idgames archives as its curator. What I most fondly remember him for was his commentary on the Evilution portion of Final Doom the Way id Did. That is, tearing into maps that the authors had stamped with his name. I think that he would have appreciated the stamps / shrines included in these levels. I just wish it didn't have such a downer ending; there are better places to put the PWAD simulacrum of Ty than the infinite void of space, I think.







TY HALDERMAN TRIBUTE PROJECT
THRENODY

by assorted authors

EireneMAP01
by Chris Hansen
A petite techbase level fielding roughly 50 Doom II trash monsters, mostly of the original Doom variety. It's a quick play and while the shotgun guys may inject a bit of danger, there's enough health lying around to keep them from being a true threat. What ambushes you'll encounter are relatively defanged, like the computer stacks horde bottlenecking at the doorway. Some pretty cool areas; I really like the northern yard with the balcony. For a small map, it's very visually interconnected.

MAP02Rockage
by Ilya "joe-ilya" Lazarev and Chris Hansen
Another small level, this time with an earthen theme. There's a little-utilized outdoor area, the section under the overhang where you start out, and a network of small caverns. The opening is the most fun since the low-tier monsters come at you from a variety of directions and the caves tend toward the claustrophobic. The revenant serves as a nice mini-boss, though, since you're still limited to the chaingun and shotgun. I like the keep-away bit with the red key.

Chemical FacilityMAP03
by Paul Corfiatis
A very fun techbase and toxin level from Paul that flows quite freely, the layout gradually opening up as you mow through all the zombies and demons. All of the high-tier weapons besides the BFG make their first appearances alongside most of the mid-tier foes. Each segment behind the key doors has its own sort of character, but most important is that Paul gives you plenty of room to move around in for bits like the big brawl in the southern annex and the fountain fight where you've got to duck imp fireballs from the corners while being mindful of a drip feed of lost souls from the center. The finale is great just for having as many imps to chew through as it does; between the SSG, RL, and PG, they don't stand a chance. Cool stuff.

MAP04Manly Hatred
by Chris Hansen
Another techbase level, this one from Hansen. There's a really cool feature where you either head up to the top portion of the installation - the normal way - or through a secret passage that takes you through the cavernous bowels of the outpost. Much of the top-side is dominated by an outdoor area with deep water and snipers. A lot of the monsters are lower fare, but there are a few big brawls lying in wait, like the rocket launcher trap, to keep you from getting comfortable with the more incidental fighting. I like all the platforming. The descending floor trap revealing the hole in the wall in the level's southern portion is pretty cool, too, and I appreciate all the Boom bits like the barrel conveyor belt.

NukevilMAP05
by Adam "Doomkid" Post
This time, it's Doomkid Does Nukage Processing. "Nukevil" has a lot of big, open rooms but it's balanced against those open rooms having windows and other portholes allowing monsters on the outside to get cheap shots in, best exhibited in the starting area. The combat shotgun is available pretty quickly, though, and there's plenty of ammo, so you can get into it with the heavy monsters that quickly crop up, like that arachnotron in the opening room. The rocket launcher will come in handy for those rooms that are just jam-packed full of enemies, like the hallway leading to the exit and the catwalk room just beyond. Fast, hard-hitting arcade action... Very fun.

MAP06Cut Throat
by Adam "Doomkid" Post
While "Cut Throat" still has some breezy spaces, it has a much more enclosed feeling; the most transparent moment is right off the opening room which looks into a little yard with a pond. Again, it's a bit of a base hodgepodge with one notable departure near the level's end. The monsters are thick and ripe for rocket blasting and, should you acquire it, some surgical BFG action. I especially like the dark blue computer room, with hitscanners stuffed in the hiding places and enough high-HP meat wandering around the central area so that the player is easily lured into some sort of mistake. The inexplicable marble annex is an interesting bullet Hell room. Its circular outer ledge makes for an ideal dodging track, but only once the monsters gumming it up have been cleared away.

Fort HaldermanMAP07
by "Gothic"
Another fun techbase level with a couple of large outdoor sections, giving the fort the feel of a mountain base, or at least something built into the sides of a canyon. I like that Gothic gives you two different key-locked points per color of key. It might frustrate some players since they're all progression points, but if you go with the natural flow of the level you won't find yourself backtracking to open an essential door or two, unlike tries-to-outsmart-the-level-me. Teleporting out to the yellow key annex is a nice sawtooth surprise. The open outdoors has a lot of snipers that do a good job of chipping away at your health. The finale is a standard Spiderdemon fight with plenty of cover and cells, so if you die, you only have yourself to blame.

MAP08Fightnancial Crisis at Enwrong
by Darryl "dobu gabu maru" Steffen
"Enwrong" is sort of a techbase level, a wonderfully abstract and visually busy techbase level that confuses you in the way it sort of backs you into a corner and then off a ledge and now you're really up to your neck in it, you big dummy. The layout is sprawling and full of little Doomcute swipes at Enron, like a brilliant parody of the corporate logo ("OOPS") and a chomping Icon of Sin mouth behind which lies a stash of gold and the chewed-up remains of those driven in pursuit of greed. The design is positively cryptic, featuring a teleport maze, a steel cube-based three-dimensional vaulting area, and plenty of ways to move between the segments... once you've figured them out. Most of the difficulty is rooted in attrition since the beefier monsters are few and far between; expect to be peppered by shotgun guys and chaingunners until the very end, when you can dig a crazy exit door segment. A joy to unravel.

Forgotten ReachesMAP09
by Adam "Doomkid" Post
Doomkid's hodgepodge style translates a bit better to the more medieval theme. "Reaches" is a rough and tumble map with lots of higher-HP monsters, including two Cyberdemons. It's a pretty easy run to the combat shotgun, though, and the BFG is available for the latter Cyb provided you lure him into tripping up the teleport tripwire. I was probably just getting sloppy, but the revenants and arch-viles felt particularly potent during this run. The cage room is kind of tough to break into without grabbing the rocket launcher from the Cyberdemon room since there's so much meat penned up in there, and that's not even counting the several monster closets.

MAP10Fomalhaut
by Brett "Mechadon" Harrel
A fantastic adventure from Mechadon, and rendered almost entirely in vanilla Doom II textures, too (the main exception being the sky). "Fomalhaut" - perhaps an exoplanet of the loneliest star - involves an impressive fortress built into a rocky, extraterrestrial landscape. While it has Mechadon's characteristic combat tendencies, using large groups of monsters and multiple slaughter encounters, the difficulty is somewhat muted as the most demanding portions of the larger fights are probably having to deal with the clouds of cacodemons and maybe some revenants. Things will be much, much easier if you can figure out how to snag the secret BFG, accessed via a combination of two shootable switch actions. The northwest area has a gorgeous network of caverns bordering the northwest yard and may have the most interesting fights of the map since the demons released per the major progression points will matriculate through the various tunnels toward wherever you are. Outstanding.

Parallel DimensionMAP11
by "antares031"
Obviously inspired by "Wormhole", but antares makes dimension-hopping an integral part of level progression as you activate sympathetic objects in the base world and castle world. Both levels are lousy with monsters; the author has given you tons of ammo, though, so you can get wild with the rocket launcher and plasma gun, and while there are several directions you can poke your nose in to begin with there's a combat shotgun in all of them. It's pretty easy to get your foot in the door if you can weather the opening shootout. The two standout fights occur in the yellow key areas, the first being a total clusterfuck ambush once you flip the pedestal-lowering switch, the second a kickass elevator fight that has you deal with zombies and revenants in the periphery with the occasional thing warping to your platform and cacodemon stand-ins to replace the outer enemies, coupled with one final push from the trap's exit. Great stuff!

MAP12WormHell
by "z0k" and "Fonze"
If the previous level wasn't obvious, this one ought to beat you over the head. "WormHell" is a trial, though, since the base map is so much larger. It's actually sort of a portmanteau of "Wormhole" and "Shipping/Respawning" plus an aesthetic that appears patterned after Tom Mustaine's dark metal base levels from Evilution. My first problem with this one is that the layout is warped twice, once for the dark world and once for a brick and blood Hell segment. You're effectively playing three maps with the same general layout and architecture, though the Hell portion plays with these expectations fairly well with bits like the blinking revenant encountered on your way to the torture chamber or the four corners of arch-vile / revenant Hell in the area that occupies the space of the cargo bay in the others. The monster placement is excruciating throughout, a feat accomplished by pairing wide, open level spaces with sniper perches and copious interjections from revenants and arch-viles. I also felt betrayed by the authors since the player can move freely between the light and dark bases once the portals are discovered but is locked into Hell until the end, at which point any attempt to explore and ferret out the remaining secrets is ruined by a boss shooter. With a journey so grueling, I'm not inclined to repeat the experience any time soon.

Blinde Haldetmand PalaeMAP13
by Paul Corfiatis
A refreshingly short Eternal Doom-style castle map from Paul. It's also kind of treacherous in its opening, with a huge storm of monsters arriving that you'll probably have to either infight or, uh, ignore and come back with something like the secret rocket launcher which has one of those neat-o swinging door effects. The cacodemon / lost soul fight on grabbing the yellow key is another hairy moment, but once you're past that it's pretty standard room clearing through the level's northern bits until a demon / arch-vile finale that's pretty easy to exploit. I dig the furnished level exterior as viewed from the northeastern elbow.

MAP14Labour of Despair
by Philip "Liberation" Brown
A blood-drenched ruin, the deeper parts slowing the player to a walk, with a constant threat of distant revenant rockets that you never really learn to respect because they usually come from a long way away. While brown only uses around 150 monsters, just about every one of them leaves a lasting impression up to and including the dual Cyberdemons that close the adventure out. The crossfire hurts more in the starting area since ammo and armaments are fairly lackluster; for that reason, I suggest exploring the western building first, since it'll net you the invaluable combat shotgun and maybe the backpack if you're observant. The southern area is more of an open yard fight with sparse monster placement making for awkward circle-strafing but the blue key shrine looks pretty cool and I dig the sky effect that gives the shrine a reality-warping hue.

TY45-15MAP15
by "didy"
This level began life as the original MAP02 of B/\|_||-|/\|_|S, replaced by didy during development; it's been re-textured to suit the TNT (Eternal) theme, tweaked, and added to, creating a pretty cool experience. The layout has lots of cage walls and things that let you and the monsters snipe back and forth, sometimes with disastrous results. It's mostly skirmishing and incidental fights with the occasional window shooter but it explodes at the end with a rooftop battle that will go by a lot quicker if you snag the rocket launcher. It's easy to skip, though, and the combat shotgun is just as reliable a workhorse. Progression starts out with plenty of barred paths but the level gradually opens up as you make your way through. A pleasant, beautiful adventure.

MAP16Ayahuasca
by Chris Hansen
Hansen's final entry is another dynamite Eternal Doom-style level whose centerpiece appears to be a bridge spanning from east to west that sort of but doesn't really break, making for a nasty surprise when you open up the front door. "Ayahuasca" is a potentially slow starter given all the work you're likely to do with the shotgun and chaingun. Meta-players will know that you can sort of bypass the cacodemon / arachnotron wall and run back with some shells for a more advantageous slaying, but given the surplus of bullets lying on the floor, the chaingun is the most obvious solution. Things heat up after grabbing the yellow key, plunging you into something of a crossfire and leading on to the other main castle segments, those being the toxic blood caverns to the northeast and the underhalls to the south. There's a secret BFG annex that requires some catting around, but there's a regular pickup just in time for the big underground brawl. Very fun to explore; I like how all the paths are braided and intertwined.

TyvivecMAP17
by "Angry Saint"
This most TNT of levels appears to draw inspiration from Morrowind's Vivec City. It's a chain of seven square-shaped islands that stretches from the shore to its terminus in a sort of hopscotch arrangement. Saint gives you a lot of room to move around in and in spite of the open layout the only real sniper you'll have to watch out for is an arachnotron in the southeast corner of the northwestern middle island. Each of the segments has a sort of gimmick, whether it's a three-dimensional feel or a big ol' slaughter or a Hell Revealed-ish monsters as turrets placement as is the case with the penultimate platform.

MAP18Fallen Steward - Eternal Archive
by "Mithran Denizen"
A pretty crazy level in two parts. The first is a big open Hellish cauldron overlooked by a Spiderdemon and maybe fifty or so monsters spread around either on the outer edge or in the thick of it, a lot of which are cacodemons and lost souls. The rocket launcher is your work horse weapon, so while it's not so bad if you snag one of the blur spheres, you're still better off having arachnomomma tether to a far away cacodemon and then blast her while she's occupied. After you make your way around you can enter the "Eternal Archive", a decent little building with an interesting, abstract layout full of skeletons and a few arch-viles. You're still better off railing them all with rockets, but the combat shotgun is there if you should choose to use it.

Big Freaking GuardiansMAP19
by "Fonze" and "didy"
In which Fonze doubles down and along with didy contributes to an experience that's more painful than "WormHell"... Except, "Big Freaking Guardians" has some other stuff going on for it, since it's a huge, varied collection of areas that twists the Eternal Doom texture pack into uncomfortable positions, creating memorable moments like the industrial park to the west. As you pick your way through the torturous entrenchments, some ambushes more enjoyable than others, you might notice the occasional tome. These things point the way toward the titular guardians, my favorite feature of the whole map and a very cool effect. You'll need to crush them if you hope to gain access to the BFG, which will be indispensable for the long, drawn out nightmare that begins when you lower the great wall to the ground. Your main goal is the collection of chain switches scattered throughout the map; you'll have to go everywhere and kill just about everything to make it out.

MAP20Sky Pillar
by "antares031"
antares gets the honor of closing things out with a sunny but solemn mausoleum in an endless expanse of water with a monumental pillar that appears to reach up, into the heavens. It's a very tough level with a relatively open layout facilitating the free movement of a wide variety of monsters, the better to surprise you with. Establishing a foothold is paramount and even then you'll have to contend with surprises like a tower flush with revenants, the distant Cyberdemon on the yellow key island who shells you from afar, and a handful of encounters that straddle the line between surgical BFG striking and BFG frenzy. The finale leans more toward the latter, even throwing a few arch-viles into the mix and a Cyberdemon in a space that's open but that I'd still call claustrophobic. A bittersweet ending... but aren't they all?

THE LIVING YEARS

This post is part of a series on
Doomworld's 2016 Cacowards

The Top TenBest MultiplayerRunners Up
Tech Gone BadAeonDMWarphouse
Ancient Aliens32in24-16THT: Threnody
Nihility: Infinite TeethBest Gameplay ModBloodstain
MutinyDoom 4 DoomStrange Aeons
Absolutely KilledMordeth AwardEchelon
Elf Gets PissedDoom the Way id Did:Shadow of the Wool Ball
ComatoseThe Lost Episodes
MiasmaMockaward
Alpha Accident: Terra NovaLudicrium
Japanese Community ProjectMapper of the Year
Blades of Agony E1Lainos

3 comments:

  1. Gotta Say, while the first few levels look somewhat bland (this is due to me being born in 97 and entering the Doom community in 2015) the later levels just pop with eye candy. I'm going to give this a spin and probably get some history of the Doom community while I'm at it. I'll see to write a small review of this when I'm done.

    Also KMX E XII, whats your thoughts on the new DOOM (DOOM 4), if no one has already told you.

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    Replies
    1. I haven't played Doom 4, and it might be a long time before I do (though not because of the computer power required to play it), but a lot of the stuff like the power-up abilities have me looking forward to it. I will not be looking for it to take the action of Doom and Doom II into the "modern" age. I already have the action of Doom and Doom II, and high-fidelity graphics would not coax me from the glut of user-created content that is still out there for me to enjoy. I would HOPE that Doom 4 is quite different from any of the Dooms that have gone before; that is what would make it worth playing, to me.

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    2. I guess so, when Doom and Doom 2 have been, squashed, shaped, and bent, to the communities imagination, it's hard pressed to even like the 4. Hopefully this new Doom brings in some new people into the Doom community. Personally, I prefer the old version due to variety of mods out there, and how great some are (even for its 2D sprites). Doom 4 plays out like an updated version of the "project Brutality" mod, guess some in the Doom community just want to see some blood and guts.

      Delete