Friday, January 24, 2020


2013 was one of Memfis's biggest years. He published something like sixteen solo releases between /idgames and the Doomworld forums, not to discount the release of his contributions to community projects like Interception. The year was officially kicked off with Kuchitsu, which received a Cacoward. Gordia wasn't much later, though. This is a short, two-level minisode for Doom II that, according to the author, was inspired by the year 1995. The era of user levels, I assume. It's suggested for playback in limit-removing ports and, while I don't see anything obvious, it's conceivable that its layout could invoke the dreaded visplane overflow spectre.

I don't know what the title specifically references but it's probably safe to assume that the root is an allusion to the myth of the Gordian Knot. Perhaps not coincidentally there is a manga with a similarly-derived name! As far as the claim to '95, the vibe isn't particularly strong. The classic era has been such an influence on Memfis's style, though, and it's difficult to tease out something specific without him just stating a PWAD theme. The only obvious thing to me is one of those stained glass pentagram windows from the original Memento Mori. The actual layout and architecture are too polished to reflect any obvious association with the internally idiosyncratic MM (or, for that matter, MM2). In order to draw a closer comparison you need to look at the way in which the player both moves and fights through these two levels.

Many of the top authors of 1995 and 1996 wanted to push the boundaries of what the executable was apparently capable of. Some went for more intricate geometric detail while others looked toward realism in sector lighting, in part influenced by Quake. One of my favorite aspects is how authors tried to use Doom's three-dimensional space. Midtexture bridges are cute but I'm more a fan of leaping across gaps through the upper tier of an already-cleared room or over previously-traversed pathways. Gordia has a bit of this going on. The stepping column in the western part of "1995 Dozen Dead Leaves" (MAP01) is a classic Memfis trope and there are a few other examples in "Mother Aine's Home Village" (MAP02). You have to leap to a key in the southern portion of the level as well as vault across the blood gutter to access the northeasten area.

The author's levels typically include sustained bits of ammo austerity at the beginning. This means using the pistol on zombies and saving shells for imps and demons. Neither entry in Gordia shares this characteristic. You're given the shotgun and quite a bit of ammo for MAP01's hot start and the SSG is available not long after. MAP02 opens with a plasma gun of all things and while your cells are ultimately limited you still get plenty of combat and regular shotty action. You won't have to think too much about conserving ammo but health is still fairly restricted. These maps are trappy in a classic sense and feature tons of windows for hitscanners to shoot through in addition to monster closets. The last major ambush is a delightfully classic scenario where a section of hallway drops down, exposing caches of monsters on either side of you. There are plenty of other surprises on the way, some nastier than others.

These levels are highly interconnected with windows and, in the case of MAP02, passages. The route through the second outing isn't exactly tangled but it overlaps at several points and each of the key grabs involve subsequent drops into the previously-explored southwestern badlands. Memfis does a good job of weaving you through the layouts and there should never be much of a question as to where you're going next. Unless, like me, you completely blank after the pit fight and don't realize that the newly-exposed button is lowering a short lift to the final passage right behind you. My favorite moment of this mini-set is in MAP01 when you drop into a blood pool with a spiral staircase in its center and the resulting ambush. It's an interesting geometric setup. The arch-vile kickstarter in MAP02 is pretty cute, though, and I'm amused by starts where you see the exit at the very beginning but have to work your way toward it.

Gordia has two small, excellent levels that could easily fit into a low-key classically inspired megaWAD. It's nice to see Memfis give the player the ammo required to fight just as punchy as the monster placement dishes it out; it's a neat change from his usual modus operandi. If you've been chomping at the bit for some levels that aren't overly difficult then you ought to check these out.

by "Memfis"

1995 Dozen Dead LeavesMAP01
A fun, hard-knuckled little outpost. The SSG is available early which is nice considering how many revenants show up during the course. You may end up doing quite a bit of work with the regular shotty, though, depending on where your will takes you. The monster placement isn't too tricky but Memfis is pretty big on abusing interconnectivity to put you at the momentary mercy of hitscanners. The single most potentially dangerous encounter occurs after the blue key grab, I think. It's really up to how well you handle skeletons. The progression has a few wicked cool spots. I like the jump into the blood pool before you run up the spiral stair and the inevitable ambush. I also think that the dual use of the pond teleporter is neat.

MAP02Mother Aine's Home Village
This one's a bit larger, something like a stone fortress built into a granite mountain. It starts out with you facing down an arch-vile; the immediate forced movement belies how much more treachery is afoot. That said, the plasma gun is offered up early so the firepower is available. The layout is highly interconnected with windows and passages so it's fun to explore. Memfis has crammed the level full of ambushes. The exterior cacodemon fight was the most dangerous to me. I think it's because there are several sneaky hitscanner angles in addition to the fliers and initially limited player movement space. I guess that the drop-down ambush near the exit could be bad if you seize up. Ammo is relatively plentiful for a change but health is at a premium. Still a fun outing.


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