Friday, December 6, 2019

Blind Alley M., The Citadel (BNDALYM.WAD)

by Gene Bird

G.B. had been mapping since 1998 but he was one of those authors who kept his works to himself. Until 2002, that is, where he started to publish them as he finalized each entry. Most people who are familiar with Gene know his entries in the original Community Chest and CCHEST2. He still hangs out on the forums as Searcher, though, and appears to be primarily interested in watching the speed demos of other players. All of Birds's works are part of a series called Blind Alley, each one having a letter designator to signify where it would have appeared in the running order of the finished megaWAD. The Citadel is situated before the previously released Nukage (O) and The Boardwalk (P), probably occupying MAP22. As an individual release in 2002, though, it's a MAP01 replacement for Doom II.

The series isn't tied together through consistent environmental design but the author did have a vague framework for the campaign. It basically boils down to demons invading Earth again with you putting the boot to them in your home town across a sub / urban landscape. Nukage reflected the theme through its weird, sort of city park grilling pavilions and The Boardwalk had a vague hint of a commercial waterfront. There isn't much relatable material in The Citadel, though. I guess that it has a sort of chateau-like facade and a kitchen / dining chamber with fountain on the opposite end. The connective tissue, however, is irregular yet perfunctory.

As with Gene's other levels, BNDALYM is a shell-shooting grind. The rocket launcher comes as an early grab but you aren't exactly swimming in explosives. The plasma gun appears later, too; both weapons are great for softening up some of the hardened monsters like Barons or quickly chewing through the final, outdoor area. It's important to note the beginning room. This isn't the first time that Bird cribbed from Doom II's "The Catacombs" (MAP22) but in here being familiar with its machinations pays off. Make sure to get well into the torch-accessed portion because you aren't going to acquire the super shotgun any other way and you won't be able to come back once you take either teleporter out.

In spite of being named after some sort of superstructure, The Citadel is a stringy gauntlet. You have a large, open area that serves as the front door but once you get inside you are slowly - painfully - making your way west through corridors to a nexus of hallways. Monsters are packed into many of the spaces like sardines and higher-HP opponents, e.g. Hell knights and revenants, pad out the combat. It isn't particularly difficult as long as you take your time but I can see difficulty for players who aren't adept at dodging homing missiles in halls. The beginning, exterior area is probably the single most dynamic scenario because you have to raise several bridges to get to the front door. You need to endure revenant and mancubus attacks at least until you snag the rocket launcher on the second landmass.

After plowing through some fairly dense corridor clearing you're treated to the heart of the map. It sort of looks like a storage area since it has a lot of open space on the sides and four individual rooms which could just as easily have been jail cells. Given Gene's storytelling through decorations, though, I'm inclined to believe the former because he would almost have certainly put some bodies inside if they were meant for internment. The segment is a typical funhouse setup and to the author's credit there are different enemy types lurking behind each door. He also creates some tension because half of the chambers open up monster closets for more bloodletting.

Bird's layout isn't exactly inspiring but his grasp of sector machinery is at times deliciously classical. The quotation from "Catacombs" is the most obvious element, of course, but the northwestern bunker is a more novel feature. Each of its corners is separated by a cross-shaped platform that you can't climb up but can lower albeit momentarily by using four corresponding switches. The lowering pillars in the grilling area are another classic bit. I'm also fond of the final, southwestern yard since the architecture is at Bird's peak, especially after having slogged through the gently zig-zagging tunnel crawl.

The Citadel isn't my favorite installation of Blind Alley thus far but it will allow you to dependably grind through nearly four-hundred Hellspawn in a relatively straightforward fashion. Give or take a few monster closets. Folks inclined to enjoy the more scattershot style of the community circa 1994-1995 may find a few gems of engineering here. I'm amused to see that this became the super-secret level of the first Community Chest but I can see it due to the MAP22 lead-in followed by the swerve toward the majority of the level. I wonder what the rest of the series will bring.


No comments:

Post a Comment