Friday, March 23, 2018

Omega Facility (SWOMEGA.WAD)

by Sam "Metabolist" Woodman

The early 2000s had a lot of crazy stuff going on at the same time and Sam Woodman had at least one finger in each of them. Alien Vendetta, Hell Revealed II, Plutonia 2, 2002: A Doom Odyssey... Heck, I wouldn't be surprised to hear that he had something kicking around in Millennium too. There's even his One Week Mapping Contest where he played the part of the "organizer". In between all of the submissions, projects, and his Mortiser series he still cranked out the occasional level. This one is Omega Facility, a MAP01 replacement for Doom II released in early 2001. It's a medium-size techbase level consisting of roughly equal parts brick and metal. I thought that it was station in space at first but there's definitely a green grass yard.

SWOMEGA doesn't have a narrative backstory but it does feature two long paragraphs in its .TXT. The latter is dedicated to his selection of music and includes a fairly detailed history as to how it was introduced to him by way of texture manipulator Nick Baker. I'm not sold on "Memories of Arden Road" as far is its optimum compatibility with this relatively mundane futuristic outpost goes but it's a fun, upbeat track and works to offset the typical issues with Woodman's action. Sam's statement of intent to sell some of his extensions of Michael Walthius's work as part of a forthcoming CD will be more interesting to Freedoom scholars.

The former paragraph includes authorial observations on the finished product and they're basically spot on. Omega Facility has some definite strengths. It's large compared to his previous outings, features lots of interlinked spaces, and isn't a simple, straightforward slaughter. You need all three keys in order to exit the map but none of them are required to obtain the others. Highlights include a warehouse that contains the rocket launcher, a waste facility holding the plasma gun, and an optional prison wing where the Hell knights serve as guards. Since the levels are so interlinked with smaller passages it's pretty easy for wandering imps, demons, commandos, or possibly a Baron to sneak up on you. There's even a seek and find element with the level's unusually high secret count.

On the other hand, I don't like the monster placement. So many of the wider halls are just crammed full of either imps or braces of chaingun guys. They thin out the further you penetrate into the facility but that just means a lot of up front shotgun grinding. The architecture is also highly orthogonal but more importantly almost the entirety of the action occurs on the same flat plane, the only exception being the lifts up to the rocket launcher tower which has a shaft you can use to jump down to the eastern storage section. Ockham Complex's inner yard and long, curved staircase did a better job of portraying a three-dimensional space. For all its careful lightcasting and detailing the final impact is just a bit too flat.

It's still good for a light spot of action and may be favorable to some players for its relative lack of Doom II monsters, having only one pain elemental and a pair of revenants from the Most Hated of 1994. You might even be able to look past the sole teleport ambush... or not, since it's all commandos. If you should give this a try, beware of a particularly obnoxious red herring when hunting for hidden objects.


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