Monday, June 11, 2018


by Malcolm Sailor


DARKER, then 3PACK_1, and later probably DS-61-2... 1995 was likely a fairly productive year for Malcolm. The last .ZIP I mentioned had most of its contents updated and then uploaded as DS-61-3 in 1996, which is where this version of WASTEME comes from. And it's a good thing that the author fixed it! The initial release appears to have lacked an exit switch. It's still a MAP01 replacement for Doom II and while the monster count is a tad higher compared to the PWADs comprising the rest of the collection it's still shorter than the average bear. This level has nothing in the way of a framing narrative but information provided by Sailor suggests a lack of his own enthusiasm for it.

The playing area is divided into two different segments. The first I'll tentatively call "above ground" and its theming is mostly marble and blood. The second is definitely subterranean and has the feel of a sanguine sewer system but ends on a daring leap across a deep chasm. The early half of WASTEME is emblematic of the author's reliance on sector machinery. I love how dynamic the level geometry feels as a result, particularly with the drop into the blood pit. When you conquer its meager challenge, exacerbated by the damage floor, you flip a switch that "drains" most of the hazard and also raises a walkway to your next objective where you're confronted by a previously locked monster closet.

The major outdoor area with the tower is a cool little hub since it has four doors accessible in any order leading to three distinct surprises. The Berserk pack trap feels like a classic twist but ammo isn't tight enough to require its use. The one thing that will drive some players nuts is the role of the shotgun as your workhorse weapon. It's the only feasible choice to kill a number of non-trash enemies including several Barons. Two of them are revealed in the marble tower / gazebo thing and while I'm rarely upset about having to diligently whittle down a handful of pink goatmen this appears to be a classic pet peeve scenario where they can't actually approach the player and thus offer little inherent challenge. The one on the granite staircase immediately following would just be salt on the wound.

The underground finale is more of a coda than an equal part but I enjoyed the blood canals area. The focus on relatively high-HP monsters like Hell knights and cacodemons plus the difficult-to-spot specters emphasizes the minute-long timer on the enviro suit. The showdown is a first of its kind among Malcolm's levels thus far, though the excitement of fighting a Cyberdemon is tempered by the tedious process of killing it via the rocket launcher. ...And maybe finishing it off with the shotgun, depending on how much ordnance it happens to dodge. The look / atmosphere of the final segment is equal parts cool and oppressive.

WASTEME is a fun if largely linear and occasionally grindy adventure with an OG Doom feel to its combat due to heavy use of the regular shotgun. It forms a respectable collection alongside LAB and BOOM that is similar I think in quality to the Master Levels For Doom II. If these maps were made in the same order that Sailor lists them in his .TXTs then this time period appears to have been a watershed moment in his growth as an author.


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