Tuesday, August 20, 2019

One-Week Megawad (ONEWEEK.WAD)

Sam Woodman was bitten by the bug. Inspired by the Quake community, Doomworld was hosting Speedmapping Sessions on a weekly basis. Another site, Doom Center, kicked off a week in tribute to Knee Deep in the Dead. The intrigue was amplified with a contest where authors had a fortnight to craft an E1-themed level, to be judged by John Romero. Metabolist ultimately settled on hosting ten consecutive invitationals. The turnout was... less than spectacular as far as numbers go. He received an average of 1.5 submissions per event. The eleven that Sam did not reject were collected and compiled into the One-Week MegaWAD. Released in 2001, this Doom II episode is generally limit-removing but ought to be played in a Boom-compatible port due to MAP10 at the very least.

ONEWEEK has an interesting place in community history for serving as the vehicle for Erik Alm's debut. Nearly half of the included levels are his and feature a healthy if quickly accelerating variety of gameplay. "Industrial 4" (MAP01) is the closest that it ever approximates the easygoing atmosphere of Scythe's early episodes. "Industrial 5" (MAP02) gets the blood pumping with a pair of crowded zombie shootouts. "Hell Simple" (MAP07) is a bit closer to challenge mode Alm in its setpiece encounters but its mancubus clear is a long and not particularly rewarding process. "Castle" (MAP08) is almost normal if punchy until you trigger the wide outdoor invasions. "The 24 Cyber Spirits" (MAP11) is not for the faint of heart. It looks and feels like a smaller-scale Holy Hell and is a grueling ordeal.

The entire set has a strong lead toward intense encounters and Alm isn't the only culprit. Doug Merrill's "The Archvile's Revenge" (MAP09) makes a firm claim to the Hell Revealed spirit and even presents a discernible theme. I'm happy to see it so solidly built since playing his half-finished Doom Center E1 Contest submission left me confounded."In and Out" (MAP04), by Gregory Dick, is marked by moments of intense, overwhelming ambushes. These come in chaingunner mobs, a cloud of cacodemons, and an inescapable finale. Dan Crowley's levels are the most uneven. "F A B C F" (MAP05) is exceptionally dickish in its traps while its feature encounters are lukewarm circle-strafe brawls. "Caverns of Malice" (MAP03) opens on a grueling layout that is hostile to player mobility and finishes on a faux-pas due to the complete absence of a rocket launcher.

It feels as though Dick and Dan wanted to ensure the existence of "challenging" fights without understanding how to still make them fun or fit within the context of their works. Phil Brown and Virgil feel downright normal in comparison, not to say that Bobkov didn't have growing pains as witnessed in his AfterDoom 2: Deep Space Pirsuit. Liberation's layout looks cramped but the thing placement plays to the strengths of a corridor shooter. The only truly questionable moment is an arch-vile who separates the claustrophobic half from the latter which is more typical of a Doom level. Virgil's "3-Tech" is punchy but its most surprising elements occur early. This allows you to settle into its hard-hitting but small-scale action.

One feature that adds a veneer of quality is a hand-picked selection of classic Klem tunes. The soundtrack gives the final package a more consistent tone. It certainly doesn't hurt to pull from one of the best. Also, while my mood may deceive me, the track choices feel as though they match the levels in their slots. I'm not as impressed with Woodman's sky choice since the bright backdrop doesn't match the dark outdoors of, say, Vick's MAP10. It's a give and take since the level fits nicely alongside Mark's "Midnight Call" (from Memento Mori II). It looks okay, though, and gives the set just a little more glue. Not enough to make it feel something like "Erik and Friends", of course.

ONEWEEK is an important part of community history given Alm's legacy and continued influence. His debut works here are not representative of the style for which he is most popular but they offer an early look at his sensibilities regarding challenging gameplay - especially "24 Cyber Spirits". This makes it a tricky recommendation since fans of Scythe are - generally speaking - more in love with the speed of its action rather than the absolute depths of its difficulty. I can't even suggest dialing down the skill setting because MAP11's differences hardly matter to novices and Opulent's MAP09 appears to be identical. It'll help on most of the other levels, though, particularly the off-kilter stuff like "Caverns of Malice". Its Hell noble tunnels are filled with barrels o' fun and the rocket launcher is actually present.

I can't recommend the set as a whole because it's so uneven and the difficulty slider only amplifies the disparity. Parts of ONEWEEK will appeal to diehard Alm fans, slaughterfest addicts, and folks who enjoy the strange level design of beginners. I suggest checking out MAP01 if you're looking for some fast and fun Scythe-style action. Virgil's "3-Tech" is probably the most well-rounded "normal" offering, particularly if you're a fan of SFX like midtexture bridges. If you really want to dig in then, by all means, do so. Just proceed with caution.

by various authors

Industrial 4MAP01
by Erik Alm
A cute and promising beginning. This level is a hub based around an outdoor yard that features a cool central construction. It's something like a metal gazebo but surrounded by cycling lifts / plates; neat sector machinery. The north and south annexes have more piston-based stuff. Alm keeps low-key with his monster placement, sticking to shareware villains. The shotgun guys are the MVPs, particularly in the southern area since they form the second half of a memorable two-front ambush.

MAP02Industrial 5
by Erik Alm
Quickly changing gears to a real blood tornado. The core of this level is based on a "Containment Area"-esque series of stacked boxes. It's rough out of the gate since stepping forward triggers the running of the revenants. Ammo is a little tight to start and the threat of having to confront the skeletons is very real. It can't prepare you for what follows, though. You'll have to endure two huge incursions into the starting area, both of which are threatening by virtue of the number of hitscanners involved. The second has more health available to you but it's balanced out by having to handle the chaingunners. I enjoyed the foray into the infested tunnels as well as the BFG gimmick battle. Alm also makes sure to get one last dig in at the player, so be on your toes. Brutal but fun.

Caverns of MaliceMAP03
by Dan "SpinSpyder" Crowley
Or, how to spin a scant fifty-seven monsters into an eternity. This looks and feels like a beginner's work and not just because one of the rear walls in the final room is functionally an exit switch. The opening involves slowly grinding down a handful of Hell nobles with the combat shotgun. The ammo balance is precise, though, and you'll want to scrimp and save because the big finish has forty rockets but no launcher in sight. It's a challenging encounter to 100% since the hitscanners and pain elementals make infighting a precarious tradeoff.

MAP04In and Out
by Gregory Dick
Named as such because you enter into an installation and then exit out the other side. Greg's level has a few really cool vistas. The centerpiece is an enormous, circular shaft. It comes with a cloud o' cacodemons fight that could fuck you up if you raced down the platforms toward the mancubus. Acquiring the blue key is a bit obtuse but I imagine that the average player will be turned off by several squads of commandos. The worst involves a multi-front battle just beyond the locked door. Dick keeps his foot on the player's throat the whole way, the final ambush perhaps serving as the greatest will-killer of them all.

Fort Aphex Bioweapon Containment Facility (F.A.B.C.F.)MAP05
by Dan "SpinSpyder" Crowley
Dan takes things in the exact opposite direction as his previous level. "F A B C F" has an inauspicious beginning where the author turbofucks you by surrounding you with shotgun guys for a hot start. The FIREBLU colonnade room speaks to the scale of the level but nearly all of its combat is found in two side rooms. It's SSG vs. chambers with infighting-prone armies of imps, cacodemons, and mancubi. You can circle-strafe and then polish off the losers. I was hoping for something a little different for the second fight but, no, it's more of the same. I have no idea what's up with the Hell knight cargo container sequence. You can safely skip the BFG unless you're dying for 100% kills. In that case you must also desire slow super shotgun grinds vs. Cyberdemons.

MAP06Close Combat
by Phillip "Liberation" Brown
A slower-paced level in two parts. The first is a dark and cramped corridor shooter. It's completely guileless apart from the obvious secrets. The second part has wider areas and more appealing architecture though kicking it off with an arch-vile is a bit of whiplash. Once you have him handled it feels like a more or less regular level. I was drawn into the moody opener, plain though it may be. 

Hell SimpleMAP07
by Erik Alm
A vast, infernal fortress surrounded by ruins and guarded by mancubi. A lot of them. The individual elements aren't that scary but they combine to form a grueling grind. Alm borrows from Hell Revealed's "City In the Clouds" in stuffing all of the weapons deep in enemy territory. You have to pass some sort of a combat challenge to acquire the super shotgun, rocket launcher, and plasma gun. The SSG is understandably the least of all. The cell consumer is a roided-up version of the blood tunnels featured in the original Doom's "Limbo". The middle child is a tricky descending elevator-style setpiece fight since quarters are close and the insurgents are revenants, two at a time. Clearing all of the outdoor fatsos is undoubtedly the worst aspect, though. Engaging with one side exposes you to withering fire from the other. There's a secret annex that sports ammo and health caches for challenge mode players. The availability, however, depends on the order in which you get the weapons. The arachnophobic finale barely registers except for the delightfully dickish "Spirit World" homage.

by Erik Alm
A fortress in two parts. The first consists of the structure itself and puts the player through some low-key battles apart from the Cyberdemon-guarded blue key. Alm has a little "Gotcha!" setpiece, too, though with the players so close together it's the Spiderdemon that typically wins. As you explore you'll be granted viewports to the outer yard where the second half takes place. It looks fairly deserted apart from an annoying, teleporting Cyberdemon. It's just waiting for the author to deploy a few slaughter setpieces, though. We've already seen the hitscanner Hell gimmick in MAP02. The line feels longer here and it's shotgun guys instead of chaingunners. The arachnotron mob looks like an eyesore but there's an available invul if you can just tease enough of it out. Only the Hell knight invasion feels truly overwhelming. It's a lot of them in five different places, see, and Alm dumps another teleporting Cyberdemon on you to add to the chaos. Fun and rough.

The Archvile's RevengeMAP09
by Doug "Opulent" Merrill
A serviceable slaughter level. The gimmick is basically that arch-viles are annoying. You'll have to handle a platform mixed with them and chaingunners as well as a horde of revenants backed by a pair. The red key section essentially uses them as area denial monsters but the BFG bump will let you quickly off the Cyberdemon in their blind spot. The penultimate battle could be the hairiest moment since they come mixed with Hell nobles and one of several Cybie pairs. The Baron brawl at the end comes across as an afterthought, especially since there's an invul sphere out in the open.

by Vick "Virgil the DOOM Poet" Bobkov
The author released this individually. His solo publication is mechanically identical so check out my review for a more in-depth summation. It's a techbase level, of course. Sam's bright, sunny sky clashes with Virgil's dark ambience but the selected Klem tune sounds about right. The action through the base is linear but full of straightforward, punchy setups. The biggest surprise will be Vick's use of scrolling floors and silent teleporters to quietly and suddenly deliver monsters. The most awkward encounter is probably the Barons on the midtexture bridges across the toxic vats.

The 24 Cyber SpiritsMAP11
by Erik Alm
There's a lot to unpack, here. This is a slaughter in the inferno and easily the hardest level in the set with more than a thousand beasties. The scale isn't completely ridiculous but the vanilla textures and simply brutal setups remind me of what I've seen of Holy Hell. The action is thus far more in tune with the finale of the original Scythe. As opposed to the features that the broader Doom community lauds, I mean.

Its name comes from the twenty-four Cyberdemons, most of which you will encounter over the course of the map. I managed to accidentally skip three of them during my first playthrough but sixteen of them are unleashed in pairs into the starting area. This is mostly an annoyance for skilled players since two at a time isn't crazy bad and the pillars provide adequate cover. In fact, having two up for the insane arch-vile / revenant clusterfuck from the western hallway makes for a great confounding factor.

If you go in blind then it's challenging to figure out which of the directions you should first pursue. The northern mine tunnels are claustrophobic and have at least one BFG frenzy fight. The western is my favorite, I think. The aforementioned ambushes will probably kill you the first time but it was fun leading them back to a couple of Cyberdemons. From there I could BFG snipe the occasional arch-vile until they were all dead. The "Spirit World"-ish cave is just fun to fight in since it's so open. The archies are a challenge but you can clear out the back and then shoot rockets out of a relatively safe space.

The east has a huge tiered floor that pits you against the same revenant fight five times. There's a simple methodological approach and it boils down to "BFG the first alcove and then RL the other from your new cubby". The track afterward has shades of "The Living End" spin-offs with its caged arch-viles and chaingunners. And, uh one of many rocket suppression invasions. The final leg of your journey, the gore sewers, is heavily reliant on this type of fight.

I'm glazing over some of the particulars but I ought to have covered most of the high points. This is a hefty time investment for a single level; only the strong-willed need apply.


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