Wednesday, January 31, 2018

3-Tech (VRGL_3T.WAD)

by Vick "Virgil the Doom Poet" Bobkov

Ol' Maligheri wasn't much of a community project guy beyond his work with Plutonia 2, but he did try to get in on a few contests during his active period. One of these was 10 Sectors, where Vick had the faint distinction of being picked for the top 32 leftovers collection, 10 Sectors 2. The other considerably less popular contest nonetheless had him rubbing elbows with Erik Alm and Doug Merrill and might also have been the genesis of his Sam Woodman bromance. Though The Metabolist ultimately collected the results as the One Week Mapping Contest collection in 2001, Virgil saw fit to publish his one entry on its own during the same year. The fancifully-titled 3-Tech is a MAP01 replacement for Boom-compatible source ports.

There isn't any framing information in VRGL-3T's .TXT but he apparently submitted a little vignette alongside the contest entry, immortalized in ONEWEEK's accompanying document. Vick establishes the location of the technological facility as somewhere in a city, likely during the events of Doom II given the post-apocalyptic blackout description of the skyline and the building itself. The image of Doomguy casually strolling around an urban wasteland might seem a bit off if you haven't bought into the marine's nature as an almost fate-driven unstoppable force. I think it works just as well from a more vulnerable perspective; I doubt that the perennial suicide mission soldier would be in any rush to die, particularly when Earth's interdicted survivors have already been saved. Slow and steady melts the face, after all.

As a survivor of AfterDoom 2, I was pleasantly surprised to find 3-Tech more... economical in its combat when compared to the dead horse flog of ADSP. I sort of suspect crushing monotony to be a relic of Virgil's past approach to encounter and level design, though, especially after having played the more inspired Ash to Ash. It might just be a factor of VRGL-3T's efficient layout since most of the level's area and action consists of a large room housing a couple of nukage vats. I also enjoy opening a door to a hallway and not finding it crammed full of monsters.

The encounter arrangements in the main playing area are largely monotypical, causing you to deal with species rather than specimens. That's why the first and final fights are my favorites, the opening because of the monster placement in a starting scenario is mixed and invites some amount of thought. The end pits you against a Cyberdemon and two arch-viles which takes advantage of the archies as a resurrection threat on the killing floor and then involving ol' Cybie in a shootout in an irregularly shaped room much like a similar showdown toward the end of Dark Castle's MAP02. It's a more dynamic encounter than Virgil tends to go for, at least.

While you may not hew through hordes of fiendish flesh, the combat still feels fairly thick because of Vick's pacing, best manifested in the little elbow corridor clogged by some interstitial revenants. The most unusual design decision is pairing scrolling floors with Boom's silent teleporters. It's basically an aesthetic choice as far as the player is concerned but if you don't mind demons suddenly materializing without the telltale green fog to obscure its inherent awkwardness then it works as a disarming surprise with more flexibility than pop-up pits, the go-to method for instantaneous inundation. I certainly enjoyed its prospects as a way to re-arm previously explored areas when I realized its utilization in KUSOK.

3-Tech may not be groundbreaking in terms of PWAD history but within Vick's portfolio I find it much easier to enjoy. I hope that his close following works - Lost Seraphim and his entry in 2002: A Doom Odyssey - feature more spacious spaces and less sardine stoppages.

1-TECH, 2-TECH, 3-TECH, 4

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