Friday, February 7, 2020

3 Heures d' Agonie 3 (3HA3.WAD)


The Doom community has several, thriving international scenes. The French have developed over the last few years, spawning some prolific authors as well as auteurs. The front face of the FDC has been the 3 Heures d'Agonie series, which debuted in 2012 and was founded on the premise that all of the submitted maps be built over the course of three hours - give or take a few. These speedmapping megaWADs were conceived as an attempt to rejuvenate their community, which had become burnt out by the now-Quixotic construction of Necromantic Thirst. 3 Heures d'Agonie 3 is the third and purportedly final installment of the series as far as megaWADs go. It is a full, 32 map replacement for Doom II and ought to play well with any source port.


One of the bigger differences between this and the voluminous Abyssal speedmapping sessions is that the levels were not made during a single, timed event. Every participant was allowed to produce their petite mort on their own, as long as the total build time did not wander too far past the three-hour mark. The end result is a brick of fast, punchy levels. They aren't guaranteed to wow for sheer scope but the solid construction and short duration deprives potential duds of time to overstay their welcome. Supposing, of course, that you don't fall afoul of the inevitable, incredible challenge provided by Darkwave0000.


3HA3 is, I think, the most difficult outing of the three. I have always associated the FDC with the community's rougher output. Part of this is due to a strong first impression made by their involvement in the international Plutonia: Revisited but also the more prominent authors' own predilections. JCD's Survive In Hell, itself a broader tribute to Hell Revealed-styled megaWADs, made a splash in 2012. franck had his own collection of insane challenges with 2015's Swift Death. Necromantic Thirst was originally born as an E1-but-more-detailed personal project but exploded once the rest of the boards involved. Authors name-checked HR, Alien Vendetta, and Kama Sutra at the same time as they looked forward to Deus Vult II, Plutonia 2, and KS2. While I haven't been following NT I can see that the changing sensibilities of its contributors reflected new trends in level design as seen in the works of authors like Ribbiks.


Franck has five levels in the running. All are emblematic of his miniature design with "Négligence" (MAP01) being the most approachable as befits a megaWAD opener. "La Géhenne Rouge" (MAP27) is a great late-game breather and plays like one of the author's earliest Swift Death levels in its level of player overexposure vs. being able to think and move tactically. The rest of the entries are little death Sudokus that attempt to crowd out the player during vulnerable moments. "Déficience Aiguë" (MAP19) is the worst of these in terms of horrifying randomness but attempts to make up for it by giving you a BFG and scads of ammo for its teleporter invasion finale. "Funeste Rendez-vous" (MAP13) and "Infligeance" (MAP16) are more puzzle-oriented in how their monsters are staged.


Huber and JCD gave three maps a piece. All of [WH]'s have the names of women and feature distinctly different styles of gameplay. The layout of "Jessie" (MAP10) takes the player through like a race track with the second run revealing a few new surprises. "Nassima" (MAP18) is probably the most typical of his slaughters but makes use of some clever setups. "Véro" (MAP28) is excruciatingly balanced for pistol start and has a handful of evil encounters situated around cell-ammo weapons. Two of JCD's outings, "Entrepôt" (MAP09) and "Les terres de l'enfer" (MAP24), are paced like normal levels augmented with some extra punchy monster placement. The middle one, "Donjon sanglant" (MAP20), is a grimy green network of passages with a handful of slaughter-ish fights. All three have extra-wide corridors and fun, tiered layouts that make moving around a joy for the player... while also facilitating the free flow of monsters.


Datacore has been perhaps the most prolific of the bunch both within and without the community projects. All four are tough but short traditional levels, each one interestingly with a distinct color theme. "Ombres Boueuses" (MAP06) is a dirty brown subterranean tunnels / abandoned mine thing. "Epsilon indi" (MAP14) swerves toward a bright orange temple, followed by the more naturally green "Chlorophyll" (MAP17). It's only understandable that the third episode entry is the blood-red "Hemoglobin" (MAP23). Necrotikflesh similarly appeared in 3HA but sat the sequel out. His contribution to 3 Heures d'Agonie 3 is "Violently Imply" (MAP05), a compact slaughter which features imps plus a few arch-viles to spice things up.


Ch0wW, Nils, and Jambon all made their speedy debut in 3HA2. Bon's levels are baroque in the employment of their architectural themes (MAP03's "Séréna, reviens, on t'aime") and heavy reuse of playing space (MAP11's "Ca tombe Satan s'en tape"). Nils's and Ch0wW's are more traditionally structured but feature potentially back-breaking encounters. Desmottes has a plethora of beefy ambushes lurking in the walls of "Spirales" (MAP12) and a few clusterfuck traps in "Helldoors" (MAP25) alongside a no-clue-exit. Vandamme's first spot on the card is the relatively clean techbase of "Réacteur Chimique" (MAP04). While it has some snipers, the encounter design has nothing on the potential frustration of "Autel Ecarlarte" (MAP22) and the basement altar fight in particular.


Memfis managed to find a spot in 3HA2 alongside his good friend Plut. The latter did not return but the former has offered up another two player predicaments, each one reflecting the set's overall difficulty and their position in the megaWAD. "Storm Warning" (MAP08) has an open layout where the exacting monster placement sees each beastie get a ton of mileage. "Empire of Dirt" (MAP26) is a great deconstruction of "The Living End" or, more appropriately, its difficult descendants. 2017 was the first time that Roofi released any levels but it kicked off a productive career. He brings a breath of fresh air to the set due to the adventure style of "Ile Paradisiaque" (MAP15), continued with a harder edge in the secret "Eau trouble" (MAP31). "Atterissage" (MAP02) lengthens the time before the rest of the authors start stiffing you on UV. I was also pleased to see a relatively straight E3-style level, MAP21's "Apero d'enfer".


Oxyde has been a minor fixture of the series. "Six Seulement" (MAP07) is intriguing as its green and black stylings appear to hint at Necromantic Thirst. It can be a ball-buster of a level in spite of all of its monster-blocking lines. He also joins the "Go 2 It" crowd with "Doom deux" (MAP32), a super thick MAP01-derived slaughter. Darkwave0000 is a similarly peripheral figure but has consistently provided manic slaughters either in the penultimate slot or close to it. "Serment de Noirceur" (MAP29) is no exception though it is perhaps the most focused and thus potent of the author's 3 Heures trilogy. 3HA3 also has the craziest finisher of the three megaWADs, provided by regulars Franck, JCD, and [WH]. It will shock anyone who expects a traditional boss shooter, especially since it misleads the player with a fairly sedate outpost before pouring the slaughtoline on the fire.


I am kind of bummed that this marks an end of sorts to their community speedmap collections but William Huber has taken up the torch with the more adventurous 180 Minutes Pour Vivre. I also miss the rugged charm of the original and its scatterbrained level design. It felt like there was lot less pressure to make a "good" map, instead favoring sheer enthusiasm in simply putting anything down on paper, no matter how simple or rough. 3HA3 is more approachable in terms of overall polish insofar as it ticks off the boxes for community expectations regarding quality and it appears as though the next phase will continue this trend.


On the flip side, the pursuit in craft often walks in hand with an escalation in difficulty. As a trend, it's mirrored in the history of WADs as the encounter setups that used to challenge authors lose their lustre as they become more experienced. It's impossible to cover the broad range of skillsets with three different monster setups and leave everyone feeling as though things are "just right". The contributors have nevertheless adjusted the lower difficulty settings in order to accommodate less skilled players. This may not always change the character of the fights - it doesn't remove the slaughter components, for instance - but it ought to tone down the most outrageous moments.


It is no less an honest reflection of the French Doom Community's love of difficult and acclaimed mapsets - with an eye, perhaps, toward delivering a more thorough tribute in Necromantic Thirst. As the FDC forges onward I can only hope that it continues to draw out more players to express themselves via a level editor.





3 HEURES D'AGONIE 3
by various authors

NégligenceMAP01
by Franck "franckFRAG" Livolant
Blue sky and dark metal techbase with green grass and brown earth... It's been so long since I've played through one of Franck's simple setups. This is a fun opener because none of the monsters are immediately, physically threatening. The hitscanners can chip away at your health but there are a few packs lying around... if mostly toward the end. The title comes into play due to how much of the initial opposition is initially ignorable. The author's use of three-dimensional space requires you to clear out the imps on the columns, though. I liked the end-of-level ambush / transformation with the three alcoves on the upper tier. The revenant trap is a nasty sucker punch.

MAP02Atterissage
by Alexis "Roofi" Jeanson
Silver and gray techbase with blue highlights. It's a nice look and has some interesting level geometry considering the time limit as far as how lights and things are cut into the walls. Initial combat feels super-slow but both shotguns are found in relatively out of the way places. The monster placement is almost entirely Doom trash and not threatening. The revenant in the outer yard is the major exception since it is so far out from the main playing area that its rockets can sneak up on you. I like the little room with the zig-zag to the blue key; it feels as though it echoes "Hangar" in a miniature homage.

Séréna, reviens, on t'aimeMAP03
by Jean "Jambon" Bon
A weird quasi-city level that feels partly inspired by "The Inmost Dens". It's all beige brick and blue water in a highly interconnected and three-dimensional layout. Most of the action takes place on much higher, elevated catwalks and moves in and out of buildings. There are a few crucial cisterns, though, that feature as key progression points. You'll have to jump down into these spots and then find your way back up. Bon has monsters in windows to act as snipers. The revenants in particular are troublesome but nothing is super lethal, just awkward to deal with at times. I'm not sure why but I really enjoyed Bon's usage of monster closets.

MAP04Réacteur Chimique
by Nils "NilsTheRed" Vandamme
This a brown techbase features a lot of fast, furious shotgun action vs. mostly imps and sergeants. The latter make things more dangerous than it initially appears due to the prevalence of hitscans and the openness of some of the spaces. Nils's architecture is serviceable with a few symmetric but interesting room shapes making up the body of the map. The blood pool / reactor chamber has a neat look but the offshoot to the west is my favorite touch. The foes who await your return trip make for a suitable minboss fight considering that you're limited to the shotgun and chaingun.

Violently ImplyMAP05
by Christophe "Necrotikflesh" Calamoneri
It's cool to see C.C. return after sitting out 3HA2. This is dark metal techbase has a single bright note in the outdoor balcony you start on. Of course, it's surrounded by nukage falls and sports a marine corpse. The encounters are perfectly bookended and consist mostly of slaying imps with the super shotgun, later the rocket launcher. The opening is probably the single hairiest fight since imps start out surrounding the sole major piece of cover you have from the arch-vile master. The rest is an exercise in crowd control and has a great sense of escalation in the bowels of the base. Rockets plus imps generally leads to a fun time. Nice stuff!

MAP06Ombres Boueuses
by Maxime "Datacore" Bisiaux
Max opens up with a very powerful "The Waste Tunnels" vibe but it also has the feeling of a derelict mine. I love the bit where you have to stand on the door in order to get to the upper tier in the western room. The arch-vile in the central chamber has its potential for area denial all but maximized, making the rocket launcher a tricky snag. I really enjoyed the eastern room. The cages of imps are stacked so you need to dedicate some time and dodge if you want to clear them all out as you move to the other end. The Hell knights are great distractors and the followup red key brawl is a nice, punchy fight. The acquired rockets are essential for quickly sniping the troublesome vile. A cool outing.

Six SeulementMAP07
by Arnaud "Oxyde" Florian
Do my eyes deceive me or is this an incarnation of the Necromantic Thirst theme? It's a green and black brick fortress cut into some rocks. The title refers to six arch-viles, four fought during the same ambush. Oxyde's encounters come as a step up in difficulty given some of the newschool placement. One of the corners is entrenched with revenants, for instance, and rushing the green armor / plasma gun triggers an incredibly nasty ambush. In other places the monsters are hamstrung by blocking lines. This keeps down the potential chaos of the courtyard fight once you get on the ground but just guarantees an awkward Cyberdemon battle. Of all the battles, my favorite is the newschool triangle arena with the creamy revenant center. The spectres run great interference, a headache that you don't need given the corner-stationed arachnotrons. As far as details go, though, I love the look of the viny stone intrusions in the canyon leading up to the yellow key.

MAP08Storm Warning
by "Memfis"
A mostly-outdoors base in the sea. It's all about the manic beginning since there are oodles of hitscanner snipers and they make taking stock and grabbing weapons quite awkward. The chaingunners kitty-corner to the SSG and rocket launcher were the MVPs, not to forget the sergeants in the background. Once you get all of the zombies under control it's comparatively smooth sailing. There are a handful of cute bits based around the malleable sector machinery, all of which feature revenants. My favorite is the northeast shack door. It slams shut on approach, but when you reopen it you're greeted by a screaming surprise. 

EntrepôtMAP09
by JC Dorne
JCD knocks it out with a fun, multi-tier base setup. There are a bunch of monsters overlooking the courtyards but the placement of the hitscanners makes them much easier to remove. Especially since the chaingun is close to the start. Once they're gone you can take things at your pace - more or less. The author has a couple of very punchy monster closets as you build toward opening up the exit area. They're pretty fun and the afforded weapons are more than enough to handle each surprise. The finale is a great, pure teleporter fight since it's you vs. a two-pronged trickle of revenants with the plasma gun.

MAP10Jessie
by "William [WH]-Wilou84" Huber
A multicolored techbase map that is based around a rarely-used hook. The path is basically like a race track. You have to do two circuits and there are a couple of switch-ups as you re-run your initial course. The whole Spider yard is a hazard to be mopped up your second time through, for instance. WH dumps some additional monsters into the descending platform bit but I think that authors could have way more fun with this format. Just a fun, fast outing.

Ca tombe Satan s'en tapeMAP11
by Jean "Jambon" Bon
A squat sort of basement level made mostly of dark metal plus some splashes of water. On its surface, this is an annoying exercise that leverages ammo austerity during its first half only to cut loose after a later Berserk grab. The key is the track, though - a version of Pachelbel's Canon. The author reuses and reroutes you through the same playing space on multiple occasions and uses a fairly limited bestiary. It's mostly zombies, imps, and demons. The resulting repetition - both in encounters and playing space - is an unusually, ahem, baroque approach. It reaches its climax with a pretty hairy arch-vile fight considering how many zombie corpses may lie on the killing floor.

MAP12Spirale
by Maëllig "Ch0wW" Desmottes
Another ruined base. The layout has a ton of backtracking built into it, first to make the red key available and then come back from its door to the start. The naturalistic cave section looks pretty neat and the goofy base explosion / boss brain finish is Hell of DoomCute. Combat is at times very punchy. You can easily find yourself at the mercy of an arch-vile toward the end. I'm not entirely sold on the opening bit - investigate three similarly-shaped rooms / closets to get access to the west side - but it's over quickly.

Funeste Rendez-vousMAP13
by Franck "franckFRAG" Livolant
The initial appearance of this coffin is off-putting. You're confronted with an arch-vile on one hand and, opposite it, a squadron of imps on the other side of a line of barrels. You can't possibly know what happens next but it's not impossible to execute, especially if you snag the secret Berserk behind the entrance. The door-clad switch gives you some workable cover which ought to get you to the next part. The opposite end of the imp box sports a super shotgun and a conspicuously candle-marked segment of wall. It's your salvation and also the way to the rocket launcher, though you'll have to muscle through a "U"-shaped arena first. The finale involves killing even more viles and then laying down rocket suppression before a clumsy moving platform / switch puzzle.

MAP14Epsilon indi
by Maxime "Datacore" Bisiaux
Another tangerine nightmare, backed by the opening bars of Black Sabbath's title track from their s/t album. This is a tightly-focused keep built out of orange stone. The palette doesn't suit it since it turns bright up close but it's an interesting look. The author tries to work in puzzle-like combat scenarios. The beginning slams a door over the SSG and requires you to play ring around with an arch-vile in order to re-open it. The majority of the fights are straightforward, the most awkward one being the arch-vile / revenant cage room. You don't have enough rockets to just slam through both fortified positions but you can quickly and reliably clear one of them. 

Ile paradisiaqueMAP15
by Alexis "Roofi" Jeanson
A naturalistic, watery canyon adventure. The level has a bit of a slow start due to the demons on the ground but once you venture in and garner turret fire it takes off. It's a fun map to wind through with several different ways to circulate back from elevated portions, some of which open up later on. The author does a decent job of giving you new monsters to chew on as you make your return. The layout is pretty open due to the outside setting. My personal favorite fight is the army lying in wait for the wooden ship / red key ambush. Very cool stuff.

MAP31Eau trouble
by Alexis "Roofi" Jeanson
An extension of MAP15's theme - brown stone and lots of water - but with a more traditional layout. This one better marries the monsters to their environments for some memorable firefights. The Cyberdemon battle is interesting because your maneuverability does not match your cover. The author has given the pillars super-wide bases to mess with your chakra. The blue key battle may be the nastiest due to the number of chaingunners poised to hit you behind the one wall you can use to block the vile. Figuring out the secret launcher may help immensely. The opening area has a bit of a stop / start pacing because of all the pop-up ambushes, not to forget the friendly pillar-bound arch-vile.

Doom deuxMAP32
by Arnaud "Oxyde" Florian
Another member of the noble line of "Entryway"-amplified levels. This one is practically carpeted with monsters. The density and cramped spaces require a tactical approach. And, uh, trial and error when Oxyde dumps a bajillion arch-viles on your head. I thought that the only way to snag the invul sphere - essentially required for the ridiculous BFG fight - was via an arch-vile jump. I discovered the obvious secret teleporter much later in the level. You may still want to coax the RNG into an early grab since it makes the outdoor brawl much easier once the Barons arrive. It'll also speed up the three or so Cyberdemons on the way. The viles constitute by far the most dickish parts of this endeavor but neither surprise is impossible to handle. As long as you know what's coming, anyway. My favorite part of the whole thing was the way that demons continue to meter out as you poke around what used to be MAP01's penultimate room.

MAP16Infligeance
by Franck "franckFRAG" Livolant
This tiny, grimy techbase is built like one of fF's more puzzley Swift Death levels. Most of the available periphery is still staffed by monsters, of course. Bad stuff happens once you climb out of your hole and the severity escalates toward the end. I think that the most troublesome moment involves clutching the combat shotgun and then using it to fend off the initial vile aggressors. Unlike SWIDEATH's later levels, however, it feels less subject to horrifying randomness. I would advise saving all of your rockets for a big wall of Hell noble flesh that is unleashed at the end. And, uh, the sneakily-released arch-vile finish. It's a killer!

ChlorophyllMAP17
by Maxime "Datacore" Bisiaux
Green! Marble, grass, and whatever those mossy sort of ZIMMER walls are. This is a very punchy level through ruins and grottos. Hell knights, arch-viles, and arachnotrons are the norm. The most dickish ambushes occur up front and are simple killers. I sussed out the parallel archie alcoves but the revenant bruisers got me on my first go-around. As the action wears on you can flip the script and use the level geometry to your advantage. I'm mostly thinking of the collapsing wall. There is a big feel when you're handed the BFG. The Spiderdemon boss is underwhelming, though, and the arachnotron placement is more awkward than anything.

MAP18Nassima
by William "[WH]-Wilou84" Huber
This late in the set it only figures to see slaughter-lite from WH. The gritty metal base makes for a tough, knockabout level with some great setups. I'm not too fond of the chaingunners based around the starting elevator but the rest of the action is rife for in-fighting. My favorite daring strategy was using the initially installed Cyberdemon's rockets as an explosive distraction during the soul sphere ambush. The second one does a similarly great job of taking out a ground horde. During the panic you can use the return teleporter and plasma snipe the highly unwelcome pain elementals. And, of course, move on to the other shit that William has dumped in the periphery to keep you from running.

Déficience AiguëMAP19
by Franck "franckFRAG" Livolant
Another Swift Death slaughter. It's like a waystation in a network of nukage. The opening isn't terrible since the eastern pit is manageable; you can establish a foothold there. The insanity doesn't begin until you flip the southern switch that grants access to the rocket launcher. This opens up the northern yard and ushers in a horrible, multi-prong teleporter invasion. The explosives are something of a red herring; you're supposed to grab the RL and then jump back into the nuke pit. The newly revealed vile / revenant trio guards the BFG and an insane amount of large cell ammo. The way in which enemies teleport at random into the playing area still makes for a challenging fight but it's at least manageable with the BFG.

MAP20Donjon sanglant
by JC Dorne
A grimy, green-brick dungeon. The layout emphasizes ease of flow as it's a network of wide tunnels with a few places where paths criss-cross. JCD has a few nasty surprises to combat, one of which happens fairly early on. The SSG is the first right down the chaingun corridor; it's a choice pickup for handling the early arch-vile and ensuing imp horde. The author has a couple of other big ambushes but the finale offers the only major slaughter threat. If you aren't packing a bunch of rockets then you run the risk of being overwhelmed. Fun and fast action.

Apero d'enferMAP21
by Alexis "Roofi" Jeanson
It's nice to come back down to Earth - so to speak - following the previous slaughter. This is an Inferno-themed level with red rock, guts, and an OG Doom bestiary. You have to hunt to find all three keys in order to exit. The level feels kind of crazy initially since there are so many imp and hitscanner snipers but they aren't all that dangerous. It isn't far to the chaingun, either. There's enough cover to cheese most of the fights if you so desire but the southwestern alcove has the best potential to get out of hand. The way the keys are situated gives the level almost a sort of 3D platformer collect-a-thon feel; I like it!

MAP22Autel Ecarlarte
by Nils "NilsTheRed" Vandamme
A brick ruin swamped with sanguine fluid. The opening visual - a hallway set against a blood-filled viaduct - looks great. The monster placement is poised to undercut you through its the roaming shotgun guys, lost souls, and opening cacodemons. The flying skulls seemed especially prone to screwing me up during the early game. I had more trouble handling the simple pain elemental ambush than I expected. The most lethal fight is the second of the bloody altars. I was supremely fortunate in that none of the four chaingunners fired on me and the surprise arch-vile got distracted, allowing me to run. The blue key finale is a fun arena brawl with plenty of room for you to do some SSG-waltzing.

HemoglobinMAP23
by Maxime "Datacore" Bisiaux
Like MAP14, this ruin has a strong color theme. It's blood red - as implied by the title - and is a tight and fun little level. The new assets and recolors look better than the orange of "Epsilon indi". The chaingunner alcove walkway may be a bit drawn out for some players but the thing that got me was the first key. It took me a long time to realize what the purpose of the tiered wall structure was for and got a real "Eureka!" moment. The resulting revenant ambush looks pretty sharp.

MAP24Les terres de l'enfer
by JC Dorne
Another red brick keep, this one featuring brown metal highlights. JCD's style is present but the level isn't quite as in your face with the hordes as his previous "Donjon sanglant". It's a fun romp and has dickishly cute monster placement, i.e. revenants tucked conspicuously around corners. The author dumps multiple arch-viles on you on several occasions but neither the library shootout don't feel the least bit oppressive. I think that the close-quarters Cyberdemon fight will be more dangerous to the average player. Nice stuff!

HelldoorsMAP25
by Maëllig "Ch0wW" Desmottes
This corner of Hell is quite moody. You start on the landscape and then move east into a cistern of lava. You work your way through the surrounding structures until you reach what appears to be a dead end. The secret is that the southern wing - the first one visited - houses the exit, which opens up via the north. Ch0wW throws some beefy foes at you so the emphasis on single shotgun / chaingun combat draws out the pace. The craziest killer fight is totally obvious on the automap but will almost certainly catch less-savvy players off guard due to the sheer density.

MAP26Empire of Dirt
by "Memfis"
Kickin' out the love with this subterranean Hellscape. There are two distinct sections. The opening area has the air of a miniature "Dark Dome" a la Alien Vendetta due to its gently carpeted raceways and sniper cages. You might die a few times as you get your bearings but once you suss out where you can run it isn't very tough. The main track isn't, anyway. The side areas are another story, particularly the northeast since it has the arch-vile ambush. The blue key unlocks a teleporter annex that feels like a deconstructed "Living End". It's a simple but dangerous firefight due to the tough snipers, fliers, and Cyberdemon stomping on the ground floor. I loved seeing it join back up with the main playing area. Very cool!

La Géhenne RougeMAP27
by Franck "franckFRAG" Livolant
I was expecting something much worse from fF. This level resembles Swift Death's third episode as far as the whole "tiny Hellish city" thing goes. It's infinitely more kind, though, as it's simple to take out some of the hitscanner snipers as you go along and establish a route to the rocket launcher. With it you can coax the playing area into something more approachable, if only by sniping a few arch-viles and the arachnotron. Franck also manages to squeeze in a bit of feel-good slaughter out of the Hell knight / Baron gauntlet toward the end. How you handle the finale is your choice, but realize that there's a BFG and a ton of cells right behind the Cyberdemon's platform.

MAP28Véro
by William "[WH]-Wilou84" Huber
WH sends us off with this little agony. For whatever reason the texture scheme is giving me a huge CCHEST4 E3 vibe; it's dark rock wall Hell but some coals burn brighter. The combat is tightly balanced and emphasizes chainsaw use early on. The larger section of the caverns has a painful ambush that features a chaingunner vanguard and a pain elemental in the back. Between the saw and chaingun it's a tricky endeavor. It only gets worse, though. The plasma gun alley is insane and basically depends on you baiting one arch-vile into infighting long enough to grease the other. This makes picking the first one off amid the Hell nobles slightly less dangerous, considering what little cover you're provided. The welcome wagon guarding the yellow key door is more annoying than anything. Good luck with the sucker punch that follows the BFG, though.

Serment de NoirceurMAP29
by "Darkwave0000"
Darkwave completes a 3HA trilogy with another stock texture slaughter. This level differs from the previous offerings due to its comparative laser-focus. You start out in a sticky situation but the level's early game can be handled in a compartmentalized fashion, allowing you to ease in to the action. Each direction has its own particular pitfalls. The yellow key isn't necessarily required as a "logic gate" but you won't be grabbing the BFG without it and its annex gives you the plasma gun. Its most interesting fight is a cramped showdown in the level's dregs due to the immediacy of the Cyberdemon / revenants and the crowd beyond.

The east area has a cool tiered setup and ends in another green sewer brawl. The opening fight feels awkward to do quickly but the ground-based enemies are blocked from entering the starting area. The climb up has a few treacherous ambushes, the arch-viles specifically sticking out in my mind. It's nothing compared to the claustrophobic sewer / tomb, though. The BFG has its own lock-in fight, preferably complete before triggering the big inevitable invasion. The main battle is mostly about making some room and then using the rocket launcher during a sustained defensive offense. Hopefully you pop the arch-viles early on.

The finale looks crazy on its face due to the solid wall of revenants and Hell knights. It's a fun setup, though, because you can lure the inevitable Cyberdemons into the lion's den before triggering an all-out brawl. Unfortunately the number of free-floating arch-viles pushed me back toward the start so I couldn't enjoy much of the ensuing carnage. If this makes it sound easy, well, it isn't. I appreciated its thoughtful design.

MAP303 Heures d'Agonie 3
by Franck "franckFRAG" Livolant, JC Dorne, and William "[WH]-Wilou84" Huber
This starts off innocuously enough with a base on a floating rock in the middle of the void. It's a fun little outpost to explore and has JCD's simple speedmapping style. The combat is pretty traditional, leaving you unprepared for the madness that is to follow. When you conquer the fortress you take an atmospheric stroll, only to be greeted by one ugly mug. It's the boss shooter! You can't tackle it directly, though. You must find your way to the top of the three Cyberdemon-guarded towers in order to remove portions of its health.

The good news is that you have more than enough cell ammo to spam the BFG and the starting area has a handy six megaspheres. The bad news is that two of the towers require you to handle death-defying slaughter scenarios. The middle path has the grandest scale, taking place inside an extension of the boss cavern. The east dumps you in an imposing death arena where an entire column of a demonic army slowly marches into your space. I like the setups and I enjoyed all the BFG spam but arch-viles were by far my least favorite element of these fights. They inevitably mix in with the huge packs of Hell nobles and become frustrating to extricate. This would otherwise be a crazy fun slaughter experience. It's just so satisfying to have effectively infinite BFG ammo.

THE BLESSED AGONY OF THE BODY

4 comments:

  1. Hello ! Thanks for your detailed review !

    It was nice to see your comments on each map. All maps were my very first maps I built in 2016. :)

    Roofi from the French Doom Community

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  2. Thanks for the review KMX, as usual it's an exciting read :)
    Glad you could take some time to play the last big 3ha episode.

    Screenshot for map 11 is messed up in your review, I see "Cendres Humaines" somehow still haunts you to this day. :p

    I wholeheartedly agree on your analysis as regards to the difficulty of the 3ha series and its roots in us praising all-time classic hardcore mapsets such as HR and AV. High difficulty's a staple of French wads and we fully embrace it, yet I promise we'll spend extra time to make sure everybody would enjoy our next release, from casual players to Doom veterans.

    Have a great day !
    W.

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    Replies
    1. The screenshot for MAP11 has been fixed! Thank you for the heads-up.

      I've seen some comments from the FDC - yourself included - regarding the relative difficulty of 3HA3 when compared to 3HA2. The spectre of time has shrouded much of my memory regarding the latter. I remembered Darkwave's outlier and, of course, Oxyde's "Passage a Vide", but as I look through my old review it's clear that I had forgotten about some of the chunkier slaughter maps and other challenging morsels. I could have done a more in-depth comparison - and it might have made for a more interesting review - but it didn't strike me at the time.

      My opinion was mostly informed by the recency of 3HA3 and the height of its peaks. It's a bit unfair considering the collaborative MAP30 serves as a sort of series send-off but the statement is more of a lead-in to talk about my perception of the FDC's leanings toward slaughter and high skill ceiling encounter design. The fact that I dwell on it in the review is not meant to be an indictment of the direction of how you all handle difficulty in UV. I still generally enjoy myself, exhausting though it may be. Writing about compelling combat scenarios comes more easily and thus tends to dominate my description.

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