Friday, December 29, 2017

The Day of Chains (DAYCHAIN.WAD)

by "Serious_MOod"

One might think that the community has moved from the original since the release of Doom II, but plenty of members continue to carry a torch for simpler gameplay rendered in an episodic structure. Serious_MOod is one such individual and while S_M's works appear to be slightly canted toward Alpha-inspired episodes (Beta Labs before this and BLABS2 after) he or she actually started out with an E2-derived delectation (Dark Side of Deimos) back in 2013. The Day of Chains, released in late 2016 for limit-removing ports, is a similarly inspired instance though it actually occupies E1M1 with a little buffer / holding pen map in E1M2 in order for the experience to remain on the palette rather than being immediately cleansed by some rambunctious Romero rivalry.

DAYCHAIN doesn't have an included narrative but is suitably generic enough to happen at any point during Doomguy's pandimensional crusade. The real story is that it is a birthday level for Serious_MOod's good friend and partner in crime, Chaingunner. My conception of PWAD presents consists of speedmapped affairs: not necessarily simple or short, but something similar. My opinion is probably a result of the glut of birthday maps released by 40oz back in 2010-11 because most of the ones that I HAVE played are larger, longer levels like Phobus's E2MWalter. The Day of Chains is no exception, clocking in at an impressive 286 monsters contained within an expansive, interconnected, infested base.

S_M has come a long way from the often orthogonal hallways and rooms of Dark Side of Deimos. DAYCHAIN reflects a development of the author's craft, using 45 degree angles to create the irregular room shapes and more organic layouts endemic to "modern" level design. The other big change is an abandonment of the haunting atmosphere that characterized the author's first release. Just about every square inch of this level is designed to drive combat with a hard lean toward claustrophobic clashes. There are no spooky stretches of space or dead-end annexes to build the tension; it's all action from start to finish so you can rest assured that any mysterious monster-free area will have something to throw at you before you're finished. All this hot and heavy hostility is reinforced by a MIDI metal soundtrack.

The fighting usually relies on congestion but you'll run into occasional head-scratching moments where enemy movement is hamstrung by monster-blocking lines. Are they supposed to prevent you being overwhelmed by waking up too many monsters? Does Serious_MOod intend for them to keep the beasties from running away and getting lost when bumping into each other? Or do they enable Hell to hold the line against the Doom marine? Given the variety of situations in which they appear, I would not be surprised if the lines served all of these purposes. If you're really quick when you run out of certain traps you can exploit them for your own ends, leaving the sinister squads ineffectually batting at you from the other side.

As intense as some of the ambushes can feel (think occasional revealed hordes of lost souls), The Day of Chains isn't exceptionally difficult with one major exception at the point of no return. The exitway puts you in the hardest spot of the mapset, giving you very limited real estate with a couple of demons up close, a group of three cacodemons advancing from far away, and two Barons parked out in front of the exit. You could make it a lot easier by saving the rockets you get during your playthrough but if you don't know about the encounter your first instinct will be to blow your explosives on the Barons that are usually located in the same room. When arrived at organically your ability to juggle suppression fire from the nobles and the cacos will be challenged, especially since you can't back up too far without stepping foot into the only damage floor in the entire map.

Like BID II, Serious_MOod has left exploration to the player's predilection and clear most of the base before using all three keys, each one required in order to obtain the next. It's also weighted mostly toward the shotgun and chaingun and while the former comes as a quick pickup - almost unavoidable due to the sergeants - it might take some time for you to locate ye olde slotte four weaponne. I think that I found no less than three rocket launchers spread throughout the map; though there isn't a whole lot of ammo for them (and its placement appears to encourage an uninformed decision) I appreciate the push toward using the entirety of the shareware arsenal.

DAYCHAIN looks great. While it may not be as deliciously deserted as Dark Side of Deimos, the hybrid of tech and organic Hell is beautifully executed and the lightcasting is superb if understated in the better-lit sections of the base. The large blood / tech chamber that dominates the northern portion of the level stands out in my mind in particular but the western area - the site of one of the more vicious ambushes - has a great classic Deimos vibe going on. The shift toward reality-bending at the map's end is a nice change-up and leaves me wondering what other themes might be lurking in S_M's wheelhouse. E1M2 appears to further the void theme but it's actually based on a room from the previous level and its lack of a soundtrack leaves the execution feeling perfunctory.

Still, it's a great action-packed map in a category that tends toward slavish devotion to id's levels and the progression of Serious_MOod's design skills shows the author is fast approaching a creative force to be reckoned with. I look eagerly toward the next S_M project.



  1. Great wad! I love me some Ultimate Doom from time to time. Especially when as well executed as this. Got to check out more from Serious_MOod soon.

    1. It's all good stuff. And I've caught a glimpse of something even more interesting coming in the future.