Saturday, December 31, 2016
Reunion 01 (REUNION1.WAD)
by Ed Cripps
Ed Cripps is mostly known for wild-ass detailing and geometry that uses the most advanced Doom source ports available, crawling colossusi notwithstanding. His level design is usually compared to Quake II's, even if it's a twisted Shores of Hell-styled base (Warp House). Reunion is something quite different, aiming for a vanilla-oriented series of levels for the original Doom. While Ed describes it as a series, his interest must have waned, because he only released one other Reunion level (Reunion 02). This initial iteration, Reunion 01, is an E1M1 replacement released mid-1999.
The plot is post-Doom and probably post-Doom II, considering how closely the two are entwined. The UAC is still A Thing, even in the wake of their apocalyptic apparition experiments. What's more, they are sending investigatory teams into the massacred Phobos base in an attempt to recover top secret technologies. The first four teams managed to scrap by with some success, but the fifth burned down, fell over, and sank into the Toxin Refinery. At least, that's the assumption; they completely disappeared without reporting back. That's when they call in their ringer, the last marine, and you're headed toward the hot zone before you even hear what the specifics are. All you need is the tone in the General's voice, a hint of terror given name.
Reunion 01 is a quick but fun standalone level, longer and meatier than most of id's own episode starters. There are a few Barons and cacodemons to round out the roster, along with one squad of lost souls making a later appearance, but the actual threat level is pretty light and more weighted toward zombies and imps. A good portion of the enemies actually appear as imps in a secret encounter triggered by snagging a handy soul sphere. Many of the rest are delivered as imps, demons, and then specters in a roundabout that again offers little threat but gives you plenty of action. Your shotgun and chaingun should get a pretty good workout.
As far as the architecture goes, it's a bit more pleasing to the eye than the cramped and orthogonal Don't Drink the Water. Cripps uses a lot of 45-degree walls to round off the corners and give some character to the platforms, a welcome touch. The southeastern section may as well be the level's main centerpiece since it has a pit you battle around and must ultimately reach the other side of in order to reach the annex holding the yellow key. The only downside is that there's only maybe a few zombies waiting for you in the northern chamber once you return, so for the length of time you spend going back and forth there's a lot of dead air.
It's an okay Knee Deep in the Dead-styled level, though, and the scads of ammo and simple monster placement will make it a blastathon regardless of the chosen difficulty. Maybe not the sort of thing you would expect to find in the back catalogue of an author of Ed's prestige, but plenty of people have cut their teeth on the original Doom at one time or another. I'm just wondering what the next adventure will look like!
DID YA MISS ME?