Saturday, March 5, 2022


by John Romero

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022. John Romero had been working on the beginnings of his Doom II follow-up to Sigil. After the start of the invasion, he elected to release a teaser as a purchasable download on his website,, with all proceeds supporting humanitarian aid in Ukraine through the Red Cross and the UN Central Emergency Response Fund. If you wish to help in this particular fashion then you can download One Humanity for five euros. Like Sigil, this MAP01 replacement is meant to be played in any limit-removing port. The key differences are that it's for Doom II and - as a demo, more or less - it has no wicked cool soundtrack, Buckethead or otherwise. After such a wicked cool 2019 episode, well, D_RUNNIN just doesn't cut the mustard.

If you were hoping to be eased into Doom II then, well, think again! If the .TXT file is anything to go by then this is possibly the prospective MAP05 of the full project (S2MAP05). As far as action goes, One Humanity kicks off at or above the same average level of difficulty seen in Sigil. The style is essentially Romero - what a surprise! - with a sort of "Circle of Death" / "The Living End" design, the theme also running throughout Sigil to some extent. You start out roughly in the center of the level in an exposed position with ledges of imps and chaingunners serving both as foils as well as future destinations. Oh, and the miserable platform that you open on has two imps and a Hell knight to hold you up. John's peripheral enemy placement excels at leaving the player feeling exposed.

It's a challenging Doom II level, fraught with hitscanners. Attrition is a constant concern all the way up until the final area and its prominently-displayed invul sphere. There's an early bottleneck at the very first walkway toward the red key door and the following warehouse has another morass of inhumanity to wade through. These hold points come with avenues of attack from the same areas as the opening platform, just through narrower channels so as to leave the player with a false sense of security. This is in addition to more immediate stressors, like a caged commando. A later edge-skirting ledge leaves your ankles exposed to a zombie pillbox, forcing you to rush on ahead into entrenched opposition. All of these snipers are likely to be the death of you.

Romero's big power move involves dumping two Cyberdemons in the now bifurcated floor pool. These water hazards don't need to be directly engaged in order to complete the level but they do restrict how you move around the already constrained ledges and walkways. If you aren't hugging the outer walls then you run the risk of eating some level of splash damage. I found this most likely to occur on the central starting platform, for whatever reason. The Cyberdemons also make the previously accommodating lower tier magnitudes more dangerous to hang out in, effectively removing it as a bailout / escape path if things get too hairy.

The warehouse is one of two wicked cool destinations you visit over the level's action. Romero has a devious trap of perceived necessity that leads to a crazy, corpse-walled cavity and its arch-vile architect. It will likely seem like a horrifyingly random death on a clean slate playthrough but, gentle reader, there is a nearby secret BFG that will all but assure your victory. This has the added benefit of you not getting hammered by the hitscanners from the other side .of the cage wall while you freak out with the SSG. This is where John starts to tickle the player's secret senses as well as subverting expectations. One discolored wall leads to a substantial hidden area with the aforementioned BFG where the next, "obvious" pathway leaves you utterly exposed to a crowd of shotgun guys.

I actually missed the author quietly revealing a switch behind me at first, I guess because I rushed to open the not-secret-wall. The button opens up the primary route to the flooded basement, making combat much more manageable. I wonder if this is going to become an element of Sigil 2 - seeking out safer, alternative routes, that is. I imagine that the high road is still relevant for speed runners and the like. Between that and the substantial secret area, I'm pretty stoked to see how Romero develops the element of exploration. The eye-switches felt like a fairly sanitized or streamlined way to get the player to look off the beaten path.

Speaking of which, the shootable eye switches appear and are the primary progression mechanism, echoing their prominence in "Baphomet's Demesne" (E5M1). This also suggests some continuity between this and Sigil's story of a postponed reckoning. They must be triggered in order to raise walkways connecting the current area to the next or open critical doors. In the later portions of E5, familiarity with the design language assured easy access to some of its secrets. I hope that Sigil 2 is no different. I have no idea whether Romero will design the Doom II set to break in new players as forcefully as he did with E5M1. I imagine that returners who have experienced Sigil vastly outnumber folks who are newly drawn in by One Humanity, thus requiring less a training course and more a refresher.

The other familiar trapping consists of the fragmenting reality style that started with Tech Gone Bad's cherry-red cracks and proliferated throughout Sigil. The circumscribed pentagrams that debuted in E5M1 and figured into "Halls of Perdition" (E5M8) appear in the final area. The star has been tweaked, however, to better represent the traditional shape of Baphomet's head as seen on Sigil's TITLEPIC. I'm intrigued by the presentation. Pentagrams are ancient symbols of protection and have become associated with Satanic iconography as a necessary means of containing demonic entities while consorting with them. Here, an invul sphere is found in the center of the pentagram and retrieving it both opens up the exit and summons a Baron protectorate at the star's points. It seems as though Doomguy is drawing power from the seal. Time will tell if this the implementation of another design feature.

Sigil occured in some sort of a crumbling pocket universe and had more of a gothic, E4 look outside of dalliances like the substation-like structure in E5M9 ("Realm of Iblis"). One Humanity more resembles a confluence of our reality and nightmarish intrusions from Hell. The arch-vile murder pit and burned-out pentagram room are major examples of this phenomenon but there are a number of smaller details that show two worlds connecting at the seams. The warped door right behind the starting platform is one, as is an Icon marble pad that protrudes out from under the northwestern wall. The real-world spaces - the warehouse and the computer station to the northwest - ground the setting as some kind of ruined starbase. I also see it as a bit of a cityscape, too, mostly because the elevated playing area has sort of a tall building / skyscraper feel to me. The abstract metal structures that the opening catwalk winds through don't really resemble anything in particular but could easily be representative of any dingy futuristic infrastructure, industrial or otherwise.

I had no idea what Sigil 2 was going to look like but this teaser has got me excited, to say the least. There are so many more game-changing monsters for Romero to play with and the design directions point toward some interesting departures from his celebrated Sigil episode. There's a lot to speculate about based on this limited selection but for now I'll have to be content to wait for John to continue his craft. If you've enjoyed Romero's work at all then you won't be disappointed with One Humanity.