Friday, October 13, 2017

Torment (TORMENT.WAD)


Shamus Young made a bunch of maps from 1995 to 1996, starting off with Slugfest and then moving on to the seminal Doom City before ending the year on Torment. The last is a six-level minisode released in 1995 that continues in Young's tradition of trying to make levels just as playable in single-player as they are in deathmatch. I can't speak as to their multiplayer quality but there's a pretty clear difference between these maps and those featured in Slugfest, seeming more polished and less distinguishable as oriented toward player vs. player.


Torment also has a rock-solid theme. Five of the six levels are composed of concrete walls and flooring and most of them contrast gray against swatches of blue water. Some of the liquid bodies are larger than others, of course, reaching a peak in "Well of Tears" (MAP03). The only real outlier is "Cry Blood" (MAP05) since its primary use of the BROWN1 texture strongly reminds me of Phobos. The new sky is okay when juxtaposed with the concrete. It's bright, so it doesn't clash on top of the gray and the faded brown mountains offer a gorgeous, naturalistic view that buffers the beige stone against the aerial haze.


The layouts are quite different compared to Slugfest. The latter felt dominated by levels composed of a clear central area and extraneous annexes. "Angry Minions" (MAP01) opens Torment, featuring a tight yet complex structure made up of assorted platform tiers. They must be navigated by a series of elevators as the edges are hemmed off by impassable railings... at least, they are without the aid of a secret. "Halls of Suffering" (MAP02) expands the action with Young's largest offering at the time, an abstract concrete wonderland using activated staircases and teleporters in lieu of manifold manlifts.


The others strike a much better median between single-player and deathmatch in that they're small and easy to move around in. The egalitarian layouts somewhat facilitate non-linear exploration since tightly controlling player motion flies in the face of multiplayer. They feel sort of like individual elements of "normal" levels taken apart or twisted around and rearranged to keep you from having to muscle through the nuts and bolts of level progression. Instead you can focus on poking around and trying not to get shot to pieces which may be tough since the marriage between level architecture and monster placement is more complete than Slugfest's often incidental arrangements.


It does have a few similarities with Shamus's previous works though they seem to me to be more superficial in nature. Young again provided his own music and I daresay that it's improved in quality over his early productions, maybe not on par with contemporary tunesmith Mark Klem but enjoyable just the same. He's also linked the levels together by the single player starts and exits to create a contiguous playthrough which really unifies the experience when paired with the dominant concrete theming. It's clearly a product of Shamus's creative intelligence, also showing the development of his craft.


Torment is a neat little mapset and easy for me to recommend it for some fast, disposable Doom II gameplay. I like that it's a bit more composed than Slugfest's sometimes freewheeling texturing and layouts and the combat feels a bit more organized but not so much given Young's pains to appease deathmatch sensibilities. If you're looking for a quick jaunt through demon-infested outposts, you could do a lot worse.





TORMENT
by Shamus Young

Angry MinionsMAP01
This is a pretty cool level with multiple tiers of play to be navigated by elevators that makes for a real 3D sense since the entire concrete pit is open-air. It can also be slightly confusing and it's perfectly possible for you to step out from an elevator and get sandwiched by a mancubus. That almost happened to me! The only thing I didn't like was the dead time spent backtracking to the various key doors since all of the monsters in the main area were dead by the time I snagged the blue key. I suppose this is due to their unimportance to deathmatch. Still, quite neat.

MAP02Halls of Suffering
Another concrete jungle but using teleporters and stairs instead of elevators. "Halls" has several distinct areas like the shotgun-guy teleporter hub to the northwest or grand staircase to the southwest that help to anchor it down as something other than a laser tag arena. There's always a bit of player exposure from either hitscanners or the imps and Hell knights waiting in the peanut gallery but nothing too bad. I really like the teleport ambush with the red key; it's a proper rapid feed including an arch-vile, a pain elemental, and some heavies in addition to the trash beasts so you'll want to have found the rocket launcher and plasma gun. The secret chess board is DoomCute perfection.

Well of TearsMAP03
Still concrete, but continues the slow transition toward more water by making artificial stone the periphery and using wooden walkways to move between the two major sections of the level. The west side is a little tough to break into because it has a couple of arachnotrons as snipers and a mancubus patrolling the walkway. The east has a few surprises including two far-off revenant snipers and a mess of shotgun guys milling about in the water. One of the secrets as well as the rocket launcher grab require you to do some mountain goating, which is always appreciated.

MAP04Hell's Kitchen
Moving away from water and toward a more typical map layout. This level's nadir occurs quite early and involves pistol whipping a TiC-style crowd of zombies. You're free to explore after that and embrace excitement as you round corners and see monsters you weren't expecting, like the pair of mancubuses on the other side of the courtyard. Once you figure out how to reach the combat shotgun and by the same token the blue key the rest falls into place quite quickly, even the pair of pain elementals in the end. My favorite detail is the overhang running along the southern edge of the level, the spirit of which also intrudes in the exit room as a curved metal strut.

Cry BloodMAP05
This time Shamus sends you up an elevator and into more familiar yet beige confines, evoking shades of Phobos. "Cry" is a tough little nugget leaning heavily on revenants, cacodemons, and pain elementals, not to mention a hot start that requires prompt handling of a handful of shotgun guys lest you let your health margin collapse. It's also over just as quickly as it began. The architecture has some neat features like slats and columns and a toothed UAC door.

MAP06Place of Reckoning
Boss fight!!! The finale returns to concrete but with a mix of marble and guts to show the corruption. You could probably hang back and just slay the monsters as they come to you through the fatal funnel or go ahead and let the Spiderdemon raise up so that infighting does a fair amount of the work, leaving you free to collect the other weapons and power-ups. The only thing I'd watch out for is that arch-vile.

OBELISK

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