Friday, November 29, 2013

Forsaken Overlook (FSKNOVLK.WAD)

by Matt Tropiano

Forsaken Overlook, published in 2013, is part of the Doomworld "Secret Santa" project, arranged by one Brian "Snakes" Knox. The idea was to randomly pair off participating authors in a gift-maker to gift-receiver relationship, where the gift-maker created a single level in the target author's style. The results are then posted anonymously in the project thread, with players able to guess the target author before Snakes pulls the veil back and exposes the charade. In this particular case, the role of "Santa" was played by Doom veteran Matt Tropiano, and his recipient was "LupinX-Kassman" of Community Chest 4 fame. Tropiano did a job of studying his quarry, also producing a document that documents his entire creative process, which you can find and read in the .ZIP. A fascinating read, especially for other authors, I'm sure. The result, intended for Boom-compatible ports, plays in the MAP01 slot.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Temple of the Lizard Men 3 (LMTMPL3.PK3)

Temple of the Lizard Men has become somewhat of a Doom institution. Alan D., aka "alando1", started the ball rolling in 2009 with the original TOTLM, where a marine investigates an ancient temple, the site of some mysterious disappearances, including a military team sent to investigate. Temple of the Lizard Men 2 knocked it up a notch with another marine investigating a different temple, this one with a power-mad Lizard Man chieftain executing all of the women of his tribe. Temple of the Lizard Men 3, released in 2013, may be more scales than you can handle, with three distinct episodes and a story involving an archaeological team that Dug Too Deep, unleashing an ancient evil and rekindling the age-old battle between the forces of light and dark. All of this across roughly 32 levels for GZDoom, with some fudge factor for the practice map and the falling action.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Doom 2 the Way id Did (D2TWID)

Doom 2 the Way id Did is a sequel to, well, the incredibly popular Doom the Way id Did, of course. Headed up by Doomworld forum superstar Alfonzo after the release of the latter, D2TWiD aimed to mimic the styles of the architects of Doom II. John Romero, American McGee, and Sandy Petersen are the headliners, of course. I think Shawn Green and Tom Hall were considered, but if they're represented, it's probably in Tom Hall's sprawling base layouts. As was the case with DTWiD, there is no change in the "story" of Doom II. Just load it up and ask yourself - if one of these levels had shown up instead of one of the originals, would you even have noticed? What if you mashed the two PWADs together - would anything seem out of place?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Interception (INTERCEP.WAD)

Interception started around the height of vanilla megaWAD madness, back in 2011. Matt534Dog wanted to make a megaWAD, and there was enough enthusiasm knocking about that everyone not working on their top secret projects said "Hell yeah!" and started pouring in the maps. Then on release, the Doomworld MegaWAD Club played it, undergoing a sort of playtesting by fire, after which the PWAD underwent some significant changes. The super double ultimate final release happened sometime in 2013, but there are still a few game-breaking bugs to stamp out. Funny, unless you're playing it and run across them, trying to find out whether you just don't have the solution or whether the puzzle itself is inherently broken.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Temple of the Lizard Men 2 (LMTMPL2.PK3)

Alando released the original Temple of the Lizard Men in 2009, following it up with the sequel in 2010, the aptly titled Temple of the Lizard Men 2. The TOTLM series is a conscious attempt to weld the gameplay of Doom to that of Unreal, more specifically the action of the former and the environments of the latter. Where the first installment was pretty much action for action's sake, though, the author attempted to work more story elements into his sophomore effort. TOTLM2 doesn't have any cut scenes, but there are a few NPCs you WILL chat with, and a number of digital journals to collect, one of the most prevalent quirks of Unreal, hammering in the depressing ends of a number of corpses.

TOTLM2 takes place on a mysterious island where vacationers have gone missing for weeks and counting. A squad of marines went in to investigate and promptly encountered some action before they themselves disappeared. You are the sole person sent to discover the squad's fate, and perhaps that of all the individuals. Of course, you soon encounter the titular lizard men, plus the recently-oppressed lizard women. One of the latter, named Azula, seeks your help to break her people of the oppressive hand that guides them. If you're lucky, you might manage to find a marine or two alive.

Part two is essentially a continuance of the style of the series, but more refined, with a few memorable boss battles and lots of reptile-slaying goodness. Alan has pared down some of the weaponry to give a more effective selection. There is no SSG, sadly, but the normal shotgun will prove to be your workhorse weapon alongside the chaingun and on some occasions grenade launcher. There's a sniper rifle, but it feels pretty weak. I wasn't sold on the serpent staff's initial appearance, but it's pretty useful, and the knife is a great backup with great reward for comparatively low risk against the slightly sluggish lizards.

The bestiary should seem familiar to veterans with the lizards appearing in a variety of colors alongside weredragons, their ranged combat counterparts. The sorcerers return, as do the minotaurs. There are eels to complement the creepy gill beasts but the major addition are the berserker lizards, recolors of Shadow Warrior's rippers that are basically a faster and tougher variety of the main antagonists. There are a few bosses to fight, with some nice attack patterns to keep you on your toes, but as always, mobility is the main advantage of Doomguy.

If you didn't play the original TOTLM, you're in for a bunch of linear crawls through temples, caverns, and death-filled wilderness, with a fair amount of monster closets. I think they look pretty cool, but Alando doesn't stress the exploration aspect of adventure, instead focusing on some hybrid of Indiana Jones meets sword and sorcery where the adventure is in the action. He delivers, for the most part, though gunning down hordes of lizards and their ilk can get wearisome with some of the hordes thrown at you in later areas. He still manages to rustle up a few novel encounters, though, and I think that the architecture has improved in comparison to his debut.

The story is inessential to the action though it's nice that you aren't locked into cutscenes. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense in that the lizard man chieftain is ordering the execution of all of the lizard women, who are thus grateful for your intervention. There may be a greater power that isn't really hinted at that's causing such asinine decision making, but really, it's an adolescent sword and sorcery wet dream, but with guns. You arrive in a mysterious world, find the subjugated and tortured women (lizard and human) and rescue them by killing their masculine oppressors, afterward basking in their gratitude and barely-clothed glory. It is one of the premiere male power fantasies, though I don't buy into it, and truth be told the partially nude and mutilated bodies of both species are more than a little off-putting.

Anyway, if you liked the idea behind TOTLM but wanted something a little more...advanced, Alan takes things to the next level with Temple of the Lizard Men 2. If you're not a fan of his intended atmosphere or the essential linearity, you might want to give this a pass, but it's a nice piece of action and plays a bit better than its progenitor. It's almost the Evil Dead II to the original Evil Dead, though I'll admit that most of the comedy I see in this release is unintentional, mostly due to the awkwardness of the author's narrative.


by Alan "alando1" D.

Almost entirely atmospheric level that consists of a walk up to the Temple proper. Some neat sights like that bridge by the waterfall, but that's what most of the level is - neat sights. As far as nailing Unreal, Alan isn't far off the mark, but he fails when he shows off the final outdoor area, which is disappointingly boxy, in spite of its little pond with lily pads.

MAP02Temple of Water
Something more action-oriented. It's a decent temple section with lots of brown and green lizards to dispatch, and a few weredragons for good measure. The shotgun makes short work of most of these beasts but with the hordes you'll be fighting you'll have to beat them back quite a bit. I like the look of the individual areas, with the southern dual-secret room my favorite.

The SwampMAP03
A linear trek down some marshlands that are rife with stalkers, which means that most of your experience consists of creeping down the river and then shooting the ugly bastards as they pop out of the water. It's not that thrilling, though the few appearances by green lizards come as welcome shake-ups to the otherwise excruciating crawl. It certainly has a decent atmosphere.

MAP04The Mountains
A few cool sights here including that massive gorge with the waterfall but after you enter the temple it's a bog-standard corridor shooter blowing tons of lizards away complete with monster closets. The only real surprise is the brown dragon at the end, which is mostly dangerous due to the confined space.

Night FallMAP05
The jungle is pretty nice-looking but the level isn't anything you haven't seen before. Its defining features are a few mobs of lizardmen that will have you pinned back to entrance points until you thin the herds out and, surprise surprise, the return of the chaos serpent, though you get the drop on him this time. This level also debuts the serpent staff, which is honestly a lackluster addition to your armory when you have stuff like the basic shotgun.

MAP06The Dungeon
Another trek into a stronghold of the lizards. "The Dungeon" isn't very dungeony due to its small size; one small area with a few cells fits the bill, complete with the answer to the question that's been burning within you. If there is a lizard man, is there not a lizard woman? There's also a human woman in here, too, but all are bound to function as simple props in the Doom engine, unable to do anything but grunt. The fights are pretty standard though there's a lot of water action for anyone wary of swimming with gill beasts and the bridge section has some questionable design what with the big-ass weredragon at the top on the other side. Save your sniper rounds, I suppose?

Underground TempleMAP07
This linear trek justifies itself with some great visuals and atmosphere with the jaunts into the rainy spaces. I love the huge altar room and as usual Alando does a decent job of making subterranean caverns, though his choice of texture leaves something to be desired as the first major chamber tends to blend together, robbing it of some of its spectacle. There are some tough fights, some of them sheer mob frenzy but the trickiest stuff revolves around the minotaurs, bad dudes that move fast and can crush you if you let them get a swing in. Cool stuff, and I love the treasure room.

MAP08Arena of the Minotaur
Just a boss map. You've been fighting baby minotaurs but the big bad can swing his weight around with his two hammers. Your first main adversary is the slightly raised area in the center of the arena which has a tendency to bounce your grenades wildly; after that it's just getting your explosives to connect before finishing him off with the chaingun. Like any good boss, once you learn your counter-maneuvers, it's a cinch.

The VillageMAP09
Some cool vistas and a nice, long trek to the finale. Things get tense, here, as I ran so low on ammo I had to resort to the knife, which is incidentally a pretty powerful alternative. And that's after using infighting to sort out most of the big fight, found at the village proper. No real surprises except for the final boss, a big ol' berserker lizardman (gorilla) with a pretty obvious tell for its death charge and a ton of cover to block its LOS. The only real trick is nailing it with your shotgun blasts with how fast it moves. And, well, there's some hot springs to be found, but...

MAP10Home Stretch
Post-action roundup of loose ends with some nice scenery on your way to the exit.