Sunday, May 27, 2018

From a Dream (FROMDREM.WAD)

by Malcolm Sailor


MS was a busy bee since his release of 3PACK_1 which collected his three most recently completed maps as individual files, one of them being an update. The followup was DS-61-2, a bundle of six PWADs totalling seven levels whose most recent incarnation is DS-61-3, an update made after the release of Quick is Good. The first few maps I played from this .ZIP (ALAPOLGY) were very short affairs and FROMDREM is no exception. It doesn't really have a strong hook or gimmick made manifest in the level but you may find it interesting that the nature of its design came to the author in a dream.

The opening is deceptive and punishing but I like its look. You climb up a staircase, grabbing some bullets and a chaingun on the way, and reach an open area with a "U"-shaped upper tier, a taller platform in front of you boasting a plasma gun and soul sphere, and a pit below that's divided by a bridge which leads into a gap in the wall opposite the entrance. Chaingunners dominate the high ground and the low contains imps and cacodemons, the latter rising to meet you when you get close to the edge. The entryway is wide, making it difficult to hang back and using the chaingun to spray / sweep the zombies in order to intermittently stun them.

I had more success rushing through one of the legs of the U and using a pillar for cover from the alternate side while locking down the approaching zombies with suppression fire. You'll have to worry about the cacodemons then, but it beats hitscanner Hell. The rest of the level is otherwise straightforward since you'll have taken the plasma gun off of the soul sphere pedestal and collected a near-maximum amount of Cell ammo. Two Barons and a Spiderdemon can't hope to stand against your might... as long as you don't do something really stupid in a bout of overconfidence.

The end result does not represent the sort of psychedelia I think of when I hear the word "dream" associated with a PWAD but I believe this to be a function of how much fantasy we imbue in the notion of the spectres of sleep. Most of my own dreams are mundane in nature and their weirdness comes in retrospect from those moments that are at odds with the logic of the real world. Doom II levels especially are already rooted in the abstract so it's difficult to differentiate conscious artifice from something that exists purely because it happened as such in a dream.

In a world of nonsensical virtual playgrounds, FROMDREM's overwhelming linearity is the single strongest suggestion of its dream-derived nature. A non-linear network would be more fun to explore but is not as true to the singular focus of my own dream worlds as Sailor's gauntlet. If I were to make them more palatable from a gameplay perspective then it might involve a significant amount of embellishment on my part. Its just-so design decisions like the catwalk that runs through the narrow fissure to the Barons are indistinguishable from the indulgences of an author's active imagination.

There are a few really cool things to like in this very short level. I appreciated the upper horseshoe / deep pit area not just for a potentially dynamic encounter but also because the soul sphere / plasma gun makes for a tantalizing treasure with which to trap you. I also find it neat that the map appears to end when you obtain the yellow key. The conflux of commandos might make it a tough pill to swallow for many players but I found nothing repulsive in this restful remembrance.


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