by Chris "Mr. Chris" Pisarczyk
Michael Jan "valkiriforce" Krizik
Marine's Folly is a joint effort by Doomworld forum superstars Mr. Chris and valkiriforce, a vanilla-compatible MAP14 replacement for Doom II created over the course of three days. The text file doesn't leave much story, simply leaving it at "A place you don't want to wander around without means of defending yourself." It's pretty succinct, and indeed, you don't want to be exploring without packing heat, so it's a good thing they throw you a shotgun near the start.
Reverie is the other vanilla-compatible megaWAD Doomworld forum superstar valkiriforce released in 2011. It's also the one that won a Cacoward (as well as the coveted Brandon D. Lade award, courtesy of Doomworld forum superstar Gez). Why Reverie and not Doom Core? Well, this is basically Doom Core 2.0, by which I mean the same principles and influences are present, tempered by experience gained up to and including Reverie. There's more coherence, more polish, and just higher quality all around. The story follows the marine from Doom, who realizes that the events of the past few games never happened – they were all a dream, produced by his coma-fueled imagination. He must therefore fight his way through another horde of demons, symbolically battling his illness. If victorious, he will return to reality.
Phil's Infested Compound is an outtake from the Plutonia Revisited Community Project. Since the map didn't make the cut for the main event, Doomworld forum superstar Philnemba uploaded it as a standalone work. As one could guess, it's a remake of Plutonia's MAP17, "Compound", whose slot this map occupies. When playing Phil's offering, I got a very familiar feeling, similar to several other PRCP works. I've played a lot of maps since Plutonia, but this homage (more or less) brings me back. I'll mention a few of the references I recalled, but looking around there are more that completely escaped me.
Sin City is a nine-map episode for Doom II by Kurt Maples. From what I can gather, it existed in a variety of versions, each one adding more levels until this final, 9-map edition, released in '95. At the very least, levels 6-8 were produced after 1-5, and 9 was added to this set as a topper. The difference in mapping quality shows, too. The later offerings aren't knockouts, but they're better overall than the first segment, featuring better layouts, better action, and more cohesion. Overall, if there's one design element Maples falls back on, it's mazey corridors. He escapes this mapping trope in some of the later offerings, but if you should load up Sin City, put on your Theseus cap.
Riot Control is a four-map minisode for Doom II and Boom-compatible ports by Doomworld forum superstar Ronald Lubellinkhof, aka "Dutch Devil". The project started out with him playing around with textures from the original Quake, only intending to make a few maps, but he was inspired enough to round the set out at four (the whole set produced over more than two years). They're not very long, with even the largest of the four feeling medium at best, and not too terribly difficult, the main limiting factor being health. Dutch has included no story, with the action speaking for itself. You're a marine infiltrating a series of outposts located in a mountain range.
WHERE SERPENTS EVER DWELL
by Adrian "DeathevokatioN" Hanekom
Here's another map for Heretic, this one from Adrian Hanekom, aka Doomworld forum superstar DeathevokatioN. It replaces E1M1 (with an early version replacing E4M1) and indeed is a little E1M1-ish in its appearance. The story is fairly standard, with Corvus stepping into what he believes to be the portal home only to wind up, you guessed it, fighting more of D'Sparil's monstrosities. Of course, you have to wonder how bad he really has it. I mean, he spends his days traveling to dimensions I doubt he's ever dreamed of, using magical weaponry to tear apart manifestations of evil (which has got to give him at least a vague sense of ethical fulfillment), and it sounds like he knows how to have a good laugh every now and then. Plus I bet he's fallen into his fair share of Boris Vallejo paintings (NSFW).
Doomworld forum superstar Vordakk, aka Stormwalker, gives us another opportunity to play the only elf worth playing with Heretic: Call of the Apostate. It's a sequel to Heretic and replaces its third episode in DECORATE-abled ports (specifically (G)ZDoom and Vavoom, though Vordakk recommends the former). The story picks up after Corvus returns to his homeworld, which still lingers under some shadow of evil. There he catches rumor of the existence of a necromantic abomination capable of resurrecting the Serpent Riders should they perish at the hands of a mortal – the Apostate. Gripping his elven wand, he prepares to hunt down the undoubtedly resurrected D'Sparil, and afterward, his previously silent partner.
Overdose is Russian Doomer Lainos's attempt to make Sacrament's infamous MAP02 palatable to a broader variety of Doomers. Spoilers: If you dislike the original because it was enormous and wide open, offering little direction to the player, Overdose won't take you any higher. If you gave up because he effectively disabled the automap, though, you can rest easy. Like the original, the map is made for limit-removing ports. PrBoom+ is the recommended engine, especially given the sprite-intensive city landscape. The story takes place after the action of Sacrament (hinted at by the blood red moon). The protagonist awakes after overdosing in a museum (more like a private art gallery) and finds the apocalypse in full swing, with the twisted bodies of the unworthy clamoring for your blood. You grab a shotgun and attempt to find your way out of the accursed city.
The 1994 Tune-up Community Project started with a simple concept. The general opinion of WADs from Doom's earliest era is not glowing; most 1994 maps are considered crude by today's standards. The disparity in appearance and playability is attributable to any number of sources, but Doomworld forum superstar Snarboo presented an interesting idea for a project, assisted along by GreyGhost and Travers Dunne. Rather than bitch about how awful '94 WADs are, why not take the ones authors released free to modify and renovate them? The target was limit-removing and Boom-compatible, freeing mappers from the dreaded visplane specter and allowing for a limited number of "advanced" features. The only caveat was to avoid rendering the layouts of the original maps unrecognizable, though contributors were free to make their own additions, provided they not increase the map's size by more than 100%. As a general rule.
Christopher Lutz's Icebound has the dubious distinction of being the first Heretic WAD reviewed on this site (as well as my first Heretic PWAD ever). It has a few more noteworthy aspects... It's the only Heretic WAD featured in the 2011 Cacowards (oh, it won one, too) and was in the running for the Mordeth award (seven years!) until someone pointed out that the 1994 Tune-up Community Project was technically in "development" for seventeen years. Admittedly, that last one seems more like a way to get 1994TU.WAD an honorable mention. Whatever the outcome, Lutz saw fit to thaw this shelved project out, an E1M3 replacement for Boom / MBF compatible ports, and we are the beneficiaries of his dogged persistence.
Sacrament is the second collaboration from Clan [B0S], a loose confederation of Russian Doomers. It's a large episode (thirteen maps) for Doom II for limit-removing ports and features a host of new graphics as well as ingenious use of stock material. The plot isn't very clear, though I suspect it's a language barrier difficulty. From what I gather, you wake up from a nightmare (MAP01) and are contacted to proceed to your base of operations. Gradually you discover that the apocalypse is in full swing, and in some twisted form of the rapture, the worthy have ascended to heaven while the damned turn into unholy abominations and fight each other on a now-deserted Earth. Which begs the question, why have you alone retained your humanity? The mysterious voices – angels, perhaps? - wonder that themselves. It's a question unanswered when the finale rolls around, sadly.