Saturday, February 17, 2018

Testament of Judgement 1.5 promotional release (TOJ_15B.WAD)

by Sam "Metabolist" Woodman

Ol' Sam had a long and checkered history in the Doom community with a number of small solo releases as well as major contributions to Hell Revealed II and Plutonia 2 (in fact starting the latter) and even smaller footprints on 2002: A Doom Odyssey and Alien Vendetta. While his legacy has been tainted by his music submissions to the FreeDoom project, I can't deny his importance as a vanilla proponent during Doom's source port boom. Sam had not one but two stabs at kicking off his authorial career with a one man megaWAD. Both were titled Testament of Judgement and neither really made it past the first map. The Doom II version, called the "1.5 Promotional Release", found its way to the archives in 1999. MAP01 is entitled "Spaceport" in the included BEX patch. There's a MAP02 replacement, too, but it's actually a deathmatch level, I suppose patterned after The Darkening E1 or E2 (though the finished product as advertised was to be a single-player adventure).

Woodman teased at the existence of a story but it was just as evaporative as the finished product. The only information comes from the ENDOOM screen. It's situated during the apocalypse, which could be just about any one of the demon invasions that Doomguy has fended off. Short of asking Sam myself there's no telling where Testament of Judgement would have gone. Doomwiki claims that this iteration eventually metamorphosed into the Plutonia 2 project but I couldn't find anything resembling this map in a 2001 alpha linked in Joe Pallai's map sketches thread on Doomworld. Presumably there's an earlier WIP release?

It doesn't really resemble a spaceport but the layout is okay for a beginner's level. Sam apparently knew enough to make a multistage elevator, featured in the southern section of the map, and some bits like the shotgun guy octagonal network are nice in an abstract sort of way. My biggest issue as far as the actual level machinery is an invisible barrier, blocking you from entering the northern of the two lab rooms off the lift that takes you to the "courtyard", for lack of a better term. It was impossible for me to know without cracking the map open in DoomBuilder as to whether it was a nodebuilding bug or something. I tried to roll with it - a perilous task considering the map's combat issues - and as it turns out, the sealed chamber is where the exit is located. On the other hand, the front side of the red key door is a single use linedef, and you're not going to be squeezing inside with the incumbent arachnotron.

This wouldn't be a huge headache but for Woodman's approach to UV difficulty. An /idgames commenter described it as overusing medium and high HP monsters in cramped and narrow spaces. It's technically accurate but doesn't really do reality justice. The playing area feels about as cramped as encounters featuring in Congestion 1024 minus the thin sliver of maneuverability that made its combat breathable. The blackout room with Hell knights and a revenant is one of the worst instances but the sheer awkwardness of the tech chambers stuffed with skeletons isn't any better considering that they're halfway up the entrance lift. You'll need patience and a strong metagame in order to puzzle your way through the moments of brutally unfair monster placement, especially when the final big ambush shoves two arch-viles down your throat (though you can cheese this one by not shooting and luring the cacodemon in the resulting switch alcove out). Given everything I've seen it's hard for me to believe that Woodman actually played the level through himself.

I wouldn't have enjoyed the finished Testament of Judgement if the rest of its gameplay had ended up being anything like this, but it was Woodman's first map and it apparently didn't meet his standards for the next one-level draft of TOJ. If you're really dying to see one of Sam's earliest efforts then I suggest you play it on one of the lower difficulty settings.


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