Friday, September 29, 2017

Post (POST.WAD)


I may not know Tony Sideris, but I know that he loves three things: shotguns, staircases, and Bjork. His love affair with shotguns began with Genesis, a two-level minisode released in 1996 that struck me as pleasantly bland. It continued on to Debut, published later the same year, but with an added abundance of interesting stair work and lighting, hinted at in his first offering. Debut borrowed its title and many of its level names from Bjork's similarly-titled solo album. Post, released toward the end of 1996, is an eleven-level Doom II episode that continues the tradition and deepens the connection in ways no other Doomer has dreamt of.


Post actually has a plot and declares that it's a story-sequel to Debut which the author acknowledges means nothing since you can make up your own mission-notes for it. Whatever the case, you're back from action and need some time to relax and unwind. What better way than to travel to a club to see a Bjork concert? The demons start to invade again while you're on your way, though, forcing you to fight through them to get to the venue. There's a missed opportunity, here, since few if any of these levels resemble the topography of a city, but I digress. Later development has Bjork kidnapped by demons to fulfill some weird ritual. Spoiler: you don't save Bjork. Tony obviously held Iceland's chief export in high regard so I find it curious that he couldn't imagine a happy ending for her. Something about Poe and the death of a beautiful woman, perhaps? Of course, it's hard to argue for any sort of seriousness when Bjork's simulacrum in this Doomed world is a badly-cropped headshot that only leaves the parts of her face that weren't obscured by her head. And which sings a highly-compressed snippet of "Delicious Demon" when it's shot.


Most of Debut's level names came from the album's tracklist. Post has a far more eclectic sampling that pulls from the breadth of her career at the time. From her time in The Sugarcubes, there's "Traitor" and "Delicious Demon" from Life's Too Good; "Planet" and "Shoot Him" from Here Today, Tomorrow Next Week!; and "Hit" from Stick Around For Joy. "Play Dead" is one of the few tracks from Debut that didn't make it into the PWAD. "I Go Humble" actually comes from the b-side of "Isobel" from Post, not actually appearing on the original issue. "Car Parts", "Bottles", and "Cutlery" come from the lyrics to "Hyberballad", the only song to actually appear on Post. "Ooops" is the furthest outlier, a guest collaboration on 808 State's Ex:el. What I gather from all this is that Tony was a pretty huge Bjork fan, not that I didn't already know.


Included are several DeHackEd patches meant for v1.7, 1.7a, and 1.9 of Doom II. In today's healthy source port world the 1.9 .DEH should be all that you need. Tony doesn't change the nuts and bolts of Doom's gameplay but he has cobbled together some destructible decorations like the hanging corpses and one of the new trees. I didn't know that these were a thing until the accidental immolation of a pine tree caught me off-guard. He's also changed level names and intermission texts. There's an Easter Egg for players who continue past the climax of MAP11, but I'll leave you to find it.


Post is a fairly deceptive mapset in that it starts out acting like Tony's been balancing for pistol start gameplay and putting the super shotgun into the player's hands on quite a few occasions but such attentive weapon placement is nowhere to be found in the later portions of the episode where it's Debut Deja Vu all over again. Sans the berserk-fueled Baron rampage, of course. This will smart on those occasions where you're forced to deal with the tougher holdouts from Doom II's bestiary including arch-viles, Hell knights, and mancubuses. The expanded cast of evil sort of leads to more punchy gameplay due to their inherent threat level but in practice the emphasis on the regular shotgun makes Post feel even slower than Debut. If you're not a fan of dancing with shotguns, then I heartily suggest playing with carryovers as it's the only way you're going to be able to use the 100-plus rockets in "Car Parts" or the surplus of cells in "Cutlery".


Tony's architectural game and attention to lighting is clearly on par with his earlier episode and gimmicks like the sector machinery assembling / opening your path through the northern area of "Planet" really bring the levels to life. The playing space is often more open than Debut, favoring the player's movement capability when it isn't dominated by toxic cisterns. I think that the airy confines develop the atmosphere of the set giving it a more "grounded" character. I wish it offered more variety in color combinations within levels since the visuals feel overwhelmingly brown and metal with monoschematic exceptions in the uniform mossy stone caverns of "Hit" and the green metal / marble floor of "Delicious Demon".


The other thing that doesn't really help is Tony's use of symmetry in his level design, also present in Debut. As in there, the author does a decent job at keeping the repetition slightly off-kilter with asymmetric auxiliary annexes but it had a good try at wearing me down when combined with the bland color schemes and shotgun grind. "Cutlery" (MAP09) is one of the worst offenders given that it does virtually nothing fresh with the sandbox-style village grounds you start out in, revealed to be little more than cinematic building facades and then ends with the ultimate pellet pushers - Hell knights and Barons.


I'm having trouble figuring out if I prefer Debut more just because I played it first. The gunplay isn't that much different and it ought to be more exciting thanks to the inclusion of Doom II's monsters. I'm sure that stolidly sticking to my start from scratch style didn't help matters. In any case, Post is a solid Doom II episode that goes down smooth with continuous play and should be solid fun for anyone branching out from finishing the Hell on Earth campaign. If you lean more toward classic Doom II gameplay then I heartily recommend it.





POST
by Tony Sideris

OoopsMAP01
Tony begins things with a beige brick and metal fortress. The layout feels like there's a lot more ground to cover, particularly in the exit area with the grass round the drainage chamber but also in indoor segments like the mancubus battleground, probably the best shot of action in the level considering that the big hook in the exit area is just a big crowd of demons. Nothing really off the wall but I dig those skylights and the imp alcove in the southwestern portion of the exit yard is a nice detail.

MAP02Hit
Copious cobblestone caverns abound. Tony does a pretty good job with the naturalistic setting, though the monochromatic texture scheme leaves a lot to be desired. There's actually a super shotgun tucked away in a fairly clever secret which would help liven up the more stale fights like the Hell knight / Baron battle. The most inspired sequence of the level to me is a precarious ledge-hopping stairclimb while a crusher ceiling comes down between the two sides. It also became one of my biggest roadblocks on the return trip. For your information, the switch alcove of questionable purpose re-starts the crusher when you step inside it. You'll also want to read the automap to figure out which cavern walls open up as they're not marked.

I Go HumbleMAP03
This techbase level is relatively normal by Tony's standards. It's characterized by four major segments each with an airy, open feel, even if the first zone is segmented and riddled with zombie snipers. The denser denizens of the Doom II bestiary start to make themselves known with the appearance of both revenants and mancubuses, the former serving as rudimentary area denial spoilers where they appear. The author recycles the soul sphere trap from his early Genesis MAP02 but builds on it with two other reveals in the same general location during the dark metal tunnel segment. The Baron of Hell trap is a classic jab at the player. My favorite area is the large southeastern courtyard but my fight of choice is the reveal in the northeastern nukage pit because of the inflicted suspense given revenants on the platforms, spectres in the muck, and mancubuses closing in from afar.

MAP04Play Dead
This is a cool waterbound outpost-style level with the main fortress to the north, a network of waterways above and below ground to the west, and a large outer yard with a couple of smaller bunkers that connects the two. The layout is really open which gives you plenty of running space but opens you up to all of the zombie snipers in the level periphery. Picking a holding point is a little tricky what with the initial flesh mobs but as long as you don't hang around outside where all the shooters can see you should be good. The waterways area can be slightly confusing because there are lifts "disguised" as waterfalls. The fortress to the north houses a warehouse that appears to be based on the storeroom segment of Genesis from the crates you can walk under to the autonomous lifts, but it's like Tony took the raw components and rearranged them into a battleground.

TraitorMAP05
There are echoes of Debut's E1M2 in the outdoor cage section but this level is mostly a mortar and metal fortress whose central column is bisymmetric (and a good show of the author's careful lighting) with two side areas, each accessed by teleporter and each fielding a key, that start out looking identical and then give way to fairly different encounters. The early segments have something of a hitscanner Hell theme with the occasional imp crossfire while the side areas are a bit more straightforward. The east one is a bit hard to break into because skirmishing up and down the stairs to fight the mancubuses is awkward and compounded by the revenant rogue gallery. I appreciate the optional megasphere chamber.

MAP06Planet
Some kind of waste treatment facility with tons o' toxic brown stuff. While you've got a locked red key door the bulk of the gameplay takes you on a roundabout way to the other side of the door, reaching the newly revealed exit path once you return to the entryway. There aren't any real standout fights but the sequence of revealing pathways that takes you through the northern outdoor area is pretty cool, including the bridge in the northernmost indoor area that rises up from below with the support bars descending from the ceiling. You've also got a 50% chance to miss out on the combat shotgun for the majority of the map supposing you don't fully explore the starting area before moving on. If you jump into the poison without the SSG in hand, you've gone too far.

Car PartsMAP07
The centerpiece is a huge marble arena but most of the action takes place in the level's periphery. "Car Parts" is basically a "Dead Simple" clone and if you don't bring a rocket launcher from a previous level almost all of it will be fought with the combat shotgun. The mancubuses are more about cover shooter gameplay since all of their locations are ripe for slightly awkward skirmishing but I dig the second stage reveal where the floor drops out to unleash the arachnotrons and there's some careful space management / maneuvering required to not get fried. That goes double for the Cyberdemon; if you don't have rockets available you'll have to snatch the BFG and then bump him twice in a tight space. Not sure what was up with the Spiderdemon corpse, though.

MAP08Bottles
In some ways this feels like a retread of concepts from Debut's "Cover Me". It's got a key circuit that feeds back into the starting area, is otherwise pretty linear, has a cool / complex stair / metal assemblage, and shows off Tony's lighting. It's all shotgun action until you get behind the red key door, though, which will be tough considering that there are not one but two arch-viles that must be contended with. Not at the same time, thankfully, but metering these fights with the single shotty is the perfect potpourri of patience and peril. It's otherwise pretty low key. There's a big brawl waiting behind the red key door along with the combat shotgun but some of its monsters are going to teleport to the island where you got the red key, neutering their threat.

CutleryMAP09
This one starts out in a sort of gothic brick and metal city which makes for a nice shootout since there's a mob of monsters that tends to congregate in the southern portion and then surprises you as you rush around considering there are a few surprise reveals with the cacodemons. The action that follows is pretty stale, though. The trident-shaped house interiors offer only shotgun guys in identical layouts and while I really enjoy the middle area with the column-bound revenants and zombies poised to snipe at you on the other side, the interior section breaks down into a total shotgun grind reaching its nadir in the southernmost point where a Hell knight / Baron pair stand guard on each side. There are a ton of cells, though, so you should be able to cut loose with carryovers.

MAP10Shoot Him
A nice UAC base broken up by some waste management canals. I really like the architecture in the northern part of the map and Tony does a fair job of playing off the expectations brought on by the symmetry of the eastern area which kicks the level off. Zombie snipers are pretty plentiful, particularly in the indoor segments, but you snag a chaingun fairly early which will also make monsters like the pain elemental a breeze. The hairiest thing I think is the blind drop you have to take to get the blue key but if you play your cards right I think you can either snipe or provoke enough of the meat to make it manageable. Or just pray and spray with the chaingun.

Delicious DemonMAP11
Two rectangular corridor-style UAC installations rendered in green and connected via teleporter. The first bit is sort of a sprint since the first shotgun you find must be pried from the hands of your foes in the second area and with imps, cacodemons, and a couple of chaingunners, it's not the sort of thing you want to hang around in. The second area has the bulk of the gameplay starting off with some pretty grueling placement for a pretty grueling shotgun grind. I got stuck at the slow elevator bit but my eventual hunch revealed the solution, just not in the direction I was thinking. The big showdown is in the final area, a teleporter ambush that backs you into a little bunker and is a pretty good example of putting pressure on the player with a cavalcade of creatures including an arachnotron and a pain elemental in a fairly small room. Enjoy the Bjorked ending.

WILL MY EYES
BE CLOSED OR OPEN?

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