Wednesday, January 12, 2022


by Andy Leaver

If Andy has a major claim to fame in the community then it's his consistent participation in the CCHEST series. Those being for Doom II, it's interesting to see that the vast majority of his other output occurred from 2000-2003 and consists of levels created for the original Doom. bitebwad was a three-map minisode and he led the No Hope For Life team, crafting an entire E1 replacement between himself, Pablo Dictter, and Jay Trent. Indifference was uploaded to /idgames in 2003 but the timestamp appears to indicate - along with the glut of May uploads - that it was published elsewhere, perhaps as early as 2002. It is an E1M2 replacement and appears to be vanilla-viable.

In a twist that garners a complete lack of surprise from me, Indifference - like the rest of Andy's works - has no framing narrative. It is a Phobos-themed level, however, and I was surprised by the time that I finished to realize that it is completely shareware. In fact, it doesn't even use Barons of Hell. To draw parallels between this and the original Doom, this might take place during the original invasion. You begin outside of the installation so the player appears to have been roughing it through the rugged wilderness at some point. Whether you were knocking around unawares while your buddies were massacred or happened upon the bunker in the middle of your bid for survival, well, it's all head canon anyway.

Indifference would have been a great level for No Hope For Life. It is still a fantastic standalone map, even more so for continuing to be engaging over the course of its 270 monsters with nary a registered Hellspawn - or goat man - in sight. A lot of this is due to a highly interconnected layout that uses a plethora of windows and cage bars to leave the player exposed to avenues of attack at all times. The primary section of the level consists of a slightly elevated floor that runs the length of a flooded canal, across which the majority of the larger chambers lie. Most of the early aggravation comes from clearing out these two segments while the freely-moving monsters are free to wander into line of sight at you and take a potshot through the numerous openings.

It's an intense, hornet's nest-type opener. It doesn't exactly let up after snagging the blue key, either. The larger rooms on the north and eastern edges are just as flush with monsters; they're just hiding in every nook and cranny in order to inflict attrition whenever your guard slips up. Because of its encounter stylings there isn't really anything like a standout fight or ambush. There are a few lengthy monster closets, the kind that he used in No Hope For Life, but these are not the source of an organic ambush a la Romero's Knee Deep in the Dead. They're easy to see on the map - particularly if your thorough scouring of the level reveals the computer area map - so the scope of their surprise is hamstrung as the beasties wait patiently for the player.

The level is slightly challenging to explore as the automap is not a reliable indicator of how you can move through the map given all the cage walls and windows. It isn't too difficult to get a grasp on, however. My biggest obstacle to progression may have been obtaining the red key. It is clearly visible off the causeway when you begin the level but by the time you lower the dividing wall that it sits on you may have forgotten that it was ever there. I don't know if I ever actually noticed where it was during my initial playthrough, an unusual oversight on my part. I blame the constant distraction of combat.

Indifference's architecture is highly orthogonal with a few choice deviations and the opening area has a very heavy dungeon crawler Doom vibe as the height is both low and uniform. It's nice that the canal ceiling is so much higher, same with the string of larger rooms that arc along the map's northern to southeastern edges. Andy leaves you some interesting hideaways to discover and his sector lighting is, as usual, classically excellent. Some of Leaver's NHFL levels had a very strong symmetric component. The starting area of Indifference is built around this but the rest of the map branches off organically like an overgrown potted plant.

I really enjoyed this level and am looking forward to playing the rest of Andy's output. I feel like making a map with this limited bestiary and keeping the action engaging is commendable in and of itself. The complex layout and side areas to explore knocks it up another notch. If you're a fan of OG Doom combat and like the frantic fury of the last marine on the verge of being overwhelmed then you really ought to give Indifference a try.


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