Friday, August 25, 2017

PhobosDeimos Anomaly (PD1-ANOM.WAD)

When Hellbent more or less started Doom the Way id Did, I doubt that he considered its potential to become a movement. It's daunting to think of all the levels associated with the project, from the 27 in the official release to the 55 of the Lost Episodes, the insanity of No End In Sight's 38, and isolated releases like ProcessingControl's Castle of Fear. Callum Guy Oliver, aka phobosdeimos1, had no less than twelve submissions (thirteen if you count "Dark Passage"). Unfortunately, like his contributions to Interception, Oliver passed away before his DTWiD levels were published on the archives. PhobosDeimos Anomaly, released in the latter half of 2015, is the final element of his legacy supposing that no one has the unfinished third chapter in his Raw Action series.

PD1-ANOM is a collection of eleven solo works and one joint venture with Walter Confalonieri for a grand total of twelve levels split between two episodes as arranged by Xaser, who had the unfortunate task of curating virtually every bit of DTiWD runoff. Since Oliver submitted levels for all four of Doom's episodes, the final presentation doesn't completely jive with the stereotypes we're used to seeing across episodes, but it works. If you're looking for any sort of story, Xaser suggests a fairly classic take by using pictures of Phobos and Deimos for the E1 and E2 intermissions (plus the E1M8 / E2M1 blend titlepic). That puts it taking place at roughly the same time as the initial invasion; whether it's more manic moments from Doomguy or another Doomed space marine entirely is up to your imagination.

Oliver was always one of the Doom community's less-appreciated authors. He could put together a functional map but his style was pretty threadbare, erring toward the simplicity of the early 90s as opposed to Tormentor's Detailing Guide. This definitely suited the goals of DTWiD, but it's easy to see why his levels were not part of the final running. pd1's submissions vary ceiling height more often than the elevation of the player and frequently break down into thinly-veiled gauntlets that coil in on themselves, using features like windows to make them seem more interconnected. The former isn't much of an issue but the cinnamon roll layouts leave a lot to be desired for a dude who often espoused his affirmation of Sandy Petersen. I've always wondered, since I don't think anyone ever fessed up - was phobosdeimos1 the enigmatic Sandy Claws of late 2011?

It's been a very long time since I played DTWiD or really anything Oliver made, but if my hazy memory is correct then the monster placement in the former is far more deliberate than most of the content in PhobosDeimos Anomaly. A lot of pd1's gameplay is straight-forward, what you see is what you get stuff excepting the occasional pistol start meant to send you screaming, deeper into the base in search of a shotgun or chaingun in order to make your stand. Sure, there's the occasional big reveal with a long wall of cacodemons, but PD1-ANOM isn't big on monster closets or most other kinds of ambushes. E1M1 is interesting in having a pair of traps that you have to go out of your way to trigger but it's in the minority as far as surprise factor goes.

For my own part, I had one runaway success story in PhobosDeimos Anomaly, the E4-style "Succubus" occupying E1M6, in spite of an abundance of soul spheres and a severely missed opportunity in the drip feed shotgun guy teleport "ambush" neutering any challenge. Its architecture and open layout are an elevated departure from the rest of the mapset. I'm also fond of E2M2's "Carcass Cave" which picks a neat style of red walls and interstitial piles of skulls, even if it includes a self-quotation from "Siege HQ". Another level that struck me was "Enter the Layer" with its caverns of corroded piping juxtaposing man-made chaos against totalitarian terror.

PD1-ANOM won't be the best-looking or even polished set of maps you'll play, but don't let my faint praise dissuade you from a set that would easily have garnered highlights back in '94 or '95. They are clearly a product of the way Callum Guy Oliver felt about the original Doom. If you don't mind hopping on his rails there are some cool things to see and I would probably steal for my own levels, provided I ever make any. Rest in peace, Callum.

by Callum Guy "phobosdeimos1" Oliver


A spooky start in a Deimos-style base. This map isn't particularly challenging with its monster placement and if you do some exploring and secret hunting you can have more plasma cells than you could ever need. On the other hand I find the atmosphere to be superb with some stretches having just the right amount of monster-free space to leave the base feeling haunted. The nukage section past the red key door is interesting if only for how you have to just about tear down the walls to trigger the traps, almost as if you yourself are rending the veil between realities. Teleporting to the upper platform linked by the curved hallway and feeding back into the starting area is a classic progression speedbump, thumbing its nose at optimized map flow.

On to Phobos for the horror-free but still grungy base look with the occasional exposed tech. I don't really get the "Barracks" but for the multitude of zombies. The abundance of shotgun guys will still wreck careless players but you're otherwise fine since it's E1 all the way and in no danger of running out of shells or bullets. There was a moment when I entered the southeast courtyard and thought the level was much bigger than it was since the first switch I flipped started the chain that led to the exit. The further I got, though, the more the west wing clearly became all I was going to get.

Siege HQE1M3
Another E1-style escapade that's cool in its use of dynamic lights and the constantly changing roof height, moving between low, high, and open-air. The combat is slightly less predictable than "Barracks" because of the sheer number of enemies but it's just that much more impossible to run out of ammo vs. the hordes of shareware suckers. There are some inspired bits of architecture hidden in the sprawling layout; my favorite, I think, is the pair of wafer-thin technology slabs with running lights on the sides located in the northwestern outdoor area.

E1M4Damage Zone
Sending you back to Deimos for an expansive, infested moonbase. "Damage Zone" is a fairly large and busy level and offers more of a challenge over the previous two maps since it's got the rest of the regular bestiary folded in. The layout is a little too irregular to facilitate organic monster movement but there's a few chances for imps and other things to sneak up on you. It's a pretty cool map as far as the look of the areas goes. I especially like the easternmost marble and westernmost dark brick segments.

Subsystem ComplexE1M5
Another network of underground tunnels with a few splashes of organic Hell - mainly at the beginning - that suggest a sickness growing in the deepest recesses of the base. I'm starting to see Oliver's techbase levels sort of blurring together within their respective themes; the room shapes and corridors look organic enough at first glance but ultimately fall into a well-defined route like a chain of sausage links. The starting area is considerably entangled, at least, and he's spot on when developing the visual character of the base.

Defying everything mentioned in E1M5 by using a tight yet open layout, but this is an E4-style level that mixes granite, green marble, and STARTAN. All of the starting monster placement works and the Baron showdown featuring helpful arrow points / invul-fed Cyberdemon battle got some DoomCute smiles out of me. I'm not a fan of the shotgun guy parade that starts after grabbing the red key, though. It's vaguely reminiscent of E4M1 but they only have one landing destination so there's barely any real threat, especially with the player tripping over health and soul spheres.


Enter the LayerE2M1
You're in it, now. "Enter" has a pistol panic start and is divided into rigid, Hellish portions mixed with organically shaped caverns of STARTAN piping. It's an odd aesthetic sense that furthers the feeling of a growing corruption deep beneath the base but could just as easily be the forces of Hell whisking Martian infrastructure away to line their nightmare world. Once you get a shotgun in hand the level's not too bad. A few sergeants might sneak up on you but you'll suffer far worse delving into the dark, poisonous dredges without a route in mind.

E2M2Carcass Cave
Oliver has a definite aesthetic here; I dig the red walls with occasional metal bordering and facades of skulls. I wish the playing field didn't feel so flat but the ceiling variation does a decent job of keeping things far from Wolfenstein 3D, similar to "Siege HQ". Also like "Siege" is the southwest area that dominates much of the map. It's an architectural copy of a similarly-oriented section in PD1-ANOM's E1M3, adding a hidden alcove accessed via a timed lift. The full cast of Doom regulars make this iteration a more memorable melee. The baron waiting in the granite, naturalistic cave exit may be a rude resurgence unless you took the time to snipe at him when grabbing the yellow key.

Brimstone KeepE2M3
This time using some more festive colors with red brick, green marble, and plenty of floor variety. "Brimstone" is a very meaty level using a large number of cacodemons and Barons to get the point across. You're in demon country, now. Thankfully Oliver provides plenty of cells and, later on, rockets as well as a secret BFG. That ought to make the big cacodemon shootout in the eastern segment move pretty smoothly, but the horseshoe hallway wrapping around its exterior is sporadically dotted by Barons. That's a timesink no matter how you tackle it, supposing you don't just run. The opening firefight is the most interesting section for me since the starting layout is fairly open giving the imps and zombies a decent chance to sneak up on you.

E2M4Skin Deep
Another seedy outpost in Hell. This one's built into some brown rock walls and has a southern annex rendered in skin from which the level derives its name. After all, you've got to go inside the fleshy enclave to exit. The combat is pretty good and features a lot of pressure from imps and shotgun guys, especially in the outdoor area to the north. I like that the big reveal of the rest of the southern fortress isn't just another door opening but an entire node lifting, better blending the new with pre-existing geometry.

A tight, spooky E4-style level using a lot of marble and blood and some wood mixed in for good measure. Expect the usual drip feed of monsters and plenty of shotgun action. The one big exception comes when you open up the southeastern area, starting out with a sizable monster ambush and then followed by a brace of Barons between you and some rockets scattered among a ton of barrels. I really like the blood pool alcoves that spin off the southernmost corridor; they add a nice splash of character.

E2M6Marble Yards
with Walter "daimon" Confalonieri
Ending on a bit of a weird note as this is another strange Hell level. The first thing that will strike you are the staircase ceilings right off the starting area. Action is a little slow to start since you'll be hunting down a weapon but once you've got something in hand the rest is lighter than most of the surrounding material, save the mini-Babel encounter that occupies "Marble"'s easternmost portion which still hands you an invul sphere and plenty of cells for another Nerf (tm) Cyberdemon. My favorite moment is when you grab the yellow key and the infernal gazebo sinks just a little bit into the ground, enough to get you ankle-deep in toxic blood. I was expecting a crusher, or some sort of big ambush. But this? Too cute.



  1. Thanks for the review, and for making me aware of this mapset. And props to Xaser for putting it together.

    I liked Callum. I liked his spunky defense of The '90s Way. I liked that he started with MacDoom and had even used Hellmaker, both of which were so unusual as to be astonishing considering how young he was. MacDoom and Hellmaker were both memories of the distant past when he came along, so it must have taken some serious determination for him to find a cracked version of Hellmaker -- it hasn't been registerable since '99 or so -- and then use it in MacOS X's Classic Environment.

    I liked Callum's maps, too. I only played his Doom 2 work, which I found to be action-packed and a little quirky. I was thinking about working with him, but then came news of his tragic death. I've heard speculation that it was an auto accident. When I saw a picture of him, he looked just like one of my friends, albeit a much younger version. He was college age.

    So thanks to you and Xaser again. I've downloaded the mapset and will give it a go soon.

  2. Good to see more uploads KMX E XII, as far as I've gone around some of the Doom forums, seems like a lot of big mods are coming up.

    They seem to be TC mods; One for certain is a TC mod that turns Doom 2 into Xcom (the original one) and Terminus has been pumping out some pretty spectacular mods. Will you review any of them in the future?

    Also will you still write your reviews for the next Caco Awards, always enjoy reading your reviews on Doom mods

  3. These levels aren´t the prettiest and really have strange level design choices, but i admit they have that charming 1994 pwad nostalgia feel. Phobosdeimos1 was a young fella who had certain attraction to old school DooM and i think he had potential. RIP phobosdeimos1