Wednesday, December 19, 2018


NokturnuS doesn't have the most visible legacy (barring the Top 25 "snub" list, which was conceived of after I had already written this review) but he did participate in two PWADs that were selected as part of Doomworld's Top 100 WADs: 10 Sectors, where he initially tied for first place, and Caverns of Darkness. He is quite fondly remembered by demo recorders, though, getting accolades from the likes of Erik Alm (Scythe and other challenging / definitive releases) and Yonaten Donner (Hell Revealed). I knew his 1998 episode - Realm of Shades - by reputation and recommendation but DemoniZed was one of those curious discoveries made while delving through an author's back catalogue. Released later during the same year, DEMONIZD is a two-map minisode for Doom II and it's made to be played in the Boom engine.

Emphasis on the last part. I ran into one major bug that "broke" the level progression while I was playing in ZDoom. As you play MAP01 you'll eventually run into an area gated off by a row of four tech columns. These block access to the basement, which contains the red key. They are designed to disappear after you have cleared out the northern side of the same building, I think via some short-lived scrolling floors. While this appears to occur correctly in ports where demo platform simulation is a feature (tested in Eternity at least), it didn't work in (G)ZDoom. The rest of the features seemed to function correctly so if you're stubborn then you can play up to that point and clip through the bars.

I didn't because, well, making any headway in DemoniZed required a significant time investment on my part and I wasn't about to restart in another port. I would have been pissed, too, because I'd already done most of the hard work in MAP01. You start out in a small compound but have to step outside and find out that you're in a huge level with multiple other buildings, the connective tissue consisting of a big, outdoor yard. There are plenty of snipers to make wandering around a sketchy proposition - including several arch-viles - and the only weapon that you'll initially find outside triggers a sizable teleport-delivered wave of monsters. What a reward!

The actual progression path - not counting the combat shotgun pickup - is near the beginning and starts your whirlwind tour of cool Boom effects. NokturnuS uses voodoo doll scripting, silent teleporters to fake substantial room-over-room areas, transparencies, and palette-changing deep water, not to mention fun with scrolling textures and midtexture ledges / bridges. One of my favorite bits is when you jump down into a pit only to land on a platform on a spire first glimpsed during your initial trip through the northeastern installation. I also like the black mist shrouding the teleporter that sends you to the balcony / hallway leading to the exit room. There are about a dozen other reasons why DemoniZed looks fantastic and it's definitely worth trying out a lower difficulty setting if the ubiquitous snipers and dense monster placement gets to be too much.

The general premise of both levels is the same but the specifics of the settings are different. The first's yards are quite spacious where the streets of MAP02 feel intensely claustrophobic, interesting since MAP01 begins inside a building while the other starts in the open. I felt a lot more empowered in the former's layout regardless of my actual exposure whereas the latter's congestion draws death closer until you feel as though it's only a hair's breadth away. If you try in vain to clear everything that you first see then you'll find yourself sorely wanting the rocket launcher. It isn't absolutely difficult to get in either scenario but you're at such a loss when you first start. The average player will probably find forward movement a case of trial and error as you feel out where you have to go. Be prepared to die.

As you explore and conquer you will slowly reveal the tools and angles of attack required to root out all the area denial snipers until you can proudly walk around, head held high, and marvel at the visuals. MAP01 is the bigger adventure and feels like a big, proper demonic city level with surprises that lie behind the doors in the periphery. Conversely, you can see everything there is to see in the second and the challenge is in locating the yellow key in order to finally step across the moat and root out its three annoying monster bunkers. I kind of prefer the setting of MAP02 because it's like some sort of city floating in the sky and has these staircases that dead-end with a fence serving as the only barrier between you and the void.

Puicón must have really loved one of the concepts because he apparently felt compelled to use it twice: a well from which sprouts a small army of cacodemons mixed with a handful of pain elementals. It's used toward the end of each level but I prefer the way in which it features in the second map. The monsters empty into a wide-open yard and are probably - typically - fought from the ramparts where it's relatively easy to be overwhelmed if you don't have the BFG at that point. If you do, though, it's just good fun blasting them and the crenellations sort of limit the display of your raw power. In MAP01 the aerial assholes spring up into the foyer of the northern building which makes them more of a nuisance than anything. It isn't difficult to just push past and handle everything from the great outdoors.

After all the crazy action the biggest surprise came when I reached the end and found out that neither finale measured up to the building action. Both are a reflection of the themes explored in their layouts, though. MAP01's exit is on a small island with a time-revealed teleporter and it's overseen by a few scattered snipers. It's really easy to kill the hitscanners and the boss isn't a huge surprise, especially if you grabbed the secret BFG. The worst part is killing the arachnotrons if you're going for 100% kills given that the two in the southern corners are out of your autoaim range. MAP02 doubles down on the claustrophobia by surprising you in relatively tight quarters. You don't have to stand your ground but if you do then you'll want to be ready to dance. The surprise killed me my first go but such is the fate of the prepared.

Demonized is wicked cool and the lower difficulty settings are implemented to give players who aren't interested in soldiering through a sea of meat some breathing room. It's cool to see the lesser-used Boom specials like transparencies get showcased and the mix of Quake, Plutonia, and GOTHICTX textures are used in a way that feels more cohesive when compared to Realm of Shades. If you like big, sprawling levels and don't mind ducking some sniper fire than DEMONIZD may just be your kind of adventure.

by Pedro Francisco "NokturnuS" Puicón

A vast hornet's nest rendered as some kind of Hellish city. The layout is riddled with snipers and even the combat shotgun should you foray to it is all that great for defanging things. Especially since it triggers a substantial teleport delivery. No; progression is through the double doors near the end of the staircase. The weird demon-tech compound has some wicked cool special effects including silent teleporters to seamlessly simulate room-over-room so that you can jump down into a pit and onto a pinnacle you saw before taking the stairs. I also like the trick with the opening columns, though it's broken in ZDoom, and the delivery of the red key in the basement beyond.

The annex protecting the yellow has a cool lock-in trap but you might want the plasma gun before you take it on; then is a good time to go and find it. Its secret is possibly tied to a certain progression step but I can't be bothered to verify. The penultimate area behind the yellow door is a durance of hate given the peanut gallery in the back and all the monsters who teleport in but I appreciate the secret route to the BFG. Making the final hallway the balcony on the eastern side that you've seen since the level's beginning is a nice way to tie everything together. It also makes up for the relatively underwhelming series of final encounters.

This appears to be some kind of floating castle in the sky, or maybe built on a peak. The opening with its ubiquitous revenant, Hell noble, and arch-vile snipers is similar to MAP01, just on a considerably smaller scale given how much tighter the maneuvering space is. The plasma gun is available right at the beginning. What you may not figure out - for a while, at least - is that the same room also accesses the yellow key. Knowing where all the weapons are will significantly change the way you play. If you spend the beginning flexing your tactical muscles while clearing out the inside, for instance, you'll feel the absence of the rocket launcher. That's because it's in the outer perimeter in one of those elevated bunkers full of meat. They're kind of a chore to clear out but you won't get the RL or BFG any other way.

There are only a few setpiece fights and one of them, the well of cacodemons / pain elementals (back again), might be missed entirely. Snagging the yellow key comes with a wild teleporter wave, though, and the balcony that stands opposed to the blue key door has a similarly meaty ambush in a smaller area. Most meddlesome feature: a revenant tower staffed by a hidden, resurrecting arch-vile.


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