Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Hex On You (HEX_ON_U.WAD)

2000 was a pretty big turning point for Rex Claussen. While he was still going by Gurkha Boy, he paused the manufacture of ostensibly limit-removing levels (following the trend of Military Research Complex) and returned to the minisode format of his first release, Quo Vadis. More importantly, Rex started experimenting with texture packs for new level themes. A Hex On You is the first of these "total conversions", a three-level minisode for ZDoom that uses the textures of Raven Software's highly popular Hexen II. The one thing that's not particularly like Rex is the lack of some sort of prose establishing the action, but the author has deigned to pitch the levels like a tour guide in the .TXT.

Two big things, one of which you'll figure out quite quick. A Hex On You requires that you jump. There's no clever way of getting up to that shotgun in the first scene; if you don't jump, you're gonna have a bad time. Remember this as you parade around the level, because if you're as used to leaping as I am, it may never cross your mind as a solution. It's also rarely a sort of "leaping up the stairs" routine; Rex has worked in genuine platforming scenarios, and while they're not of the lethal variety, they do require a certain level of timing as the margin for error is more narrow than classic Doom jumping, a.k.a. running really fast over gaps.

The other thing is that the pistol starts are pretty brutal, not for the difficulty of the starting encounters but for the fact that every weapon in MAP02 and MAP03 is buried fairly deep in the layout and they're swarming with high-HP beasties like squads of mancubuses or Hell knights. Not like floods, but enough that failing to find superior firepower will probably end with you getting flayed alive. If you're going in blind, expect some trial and error in figuring out where stuff is at. I've given the general locations of the combat shotguns, which should help immeasurably since they're also stuck with some ammo caches.

"The Keep" is a pretty fun level to explore when you're not running for your life. Rex has tried to instill a sort of DoomCute sense with all the sector furniture, a lot of which shows up in the keep (with a private bath for the lord of the manor!) and also applies to the tradesman's compound and various scattered coffins. It can't hold a candle to COMPLEX as far as furnishings go but the architecture is much more appealing. The southern promenade, chapel, and throne room to the northeast are all strong fixtures that help to anchor things down in between all the passages and hallways and copy-pasted coffins that make up so much of the surrounding material.

A Hex On You isn't bad. I definitely recommend checking out MAP02, probably starting on MAP01 and taking the basic weapons (dat secret super shotgun) so that you can tour "The Keep" and not just get battered around by mancubuses and Hell nobles. After that, well, you're just about done! Why not finish strong? You don't want to put a hex on the whole thing.

by Rex Claussen

A pretty good intro, set in the space between and surrounding a sequential pair of fortification walls. It's sink or swim since the shotgun is up on a ledge and there's a pack of demons already closing in on you. Better move fast! The action is good ol' corridor-shooting with monster closets in the ruins providing some excitement. Since it's almost entirely demons and imps, there isn't a lot of threat but for an early specter ambush in a low-lit room and the combat shotgun secret, which is staffed with a revenant. The northern area features more pugnacious platforming with a pretty slim margin for error when running dead-on.

MAP02The Keep
A large castle level rendered in the Hexen II textures. The opening of the previous level is behind you, making for a nice touch. The castle grounds have a little village segment to the north, some pretty cool grounds to the south, a chapel to the east, and the lord's palace to the northeast, plus a secret graveyard to the far east. "The Keep" is liberally staffed with high-HP monsters and all of the weapons are stashed deep in enemy territory; if playing from pistol start, I'd make a beeline to the chapel since it has a combat shotgun shrine complete with two shotgun shell boxes, which ought to cut down on regular shotty waltzing. It's more fun to explore when you're not gritting your teeth, frantically searching for any kind of weapon. No real standout fights except for the Cyberdemon in his bedroom. I will mention that there's a blind elevator with a Hell knight at the bottom that might ruin your day if approached from the wrong i.e. natural side.

The CryptMAP03
Low-lighting and tough monsters abound, combining the peripheral areas of "Ramparts" with the muscle behind "The Keep". Also, like MAP02, you'll have to dive deep to get a weapon worth wielding. Tip for pistol starters: head west for the super shotgun. With the thickness milling about, it's a pretty standard corridor shooter with a couple of surprises, though I'm mainly thinking of the arch-vile behind the cross window wall. The only thing that really sticks out in my mind are a few jumping bits, like a timed door on the other side of a long gap in the southwestern labyrinth that you have to leap and all the little platforms surrounding the huge Cyberdemon platform, a pretty cool area.



  1. How are these sort of Wads categorized, as map packs or level wads. Also these textures and the dark atmosphere give off a sort of BLOOD feeling to it. I know for a fact theres a wad out there on the zdoom forums that changes all the doom textures with hexen ones.

    1. I'm not sure whether it's worth making a distinction between "map pack" or "level wad". they both mean basically the same thing to me. perhaps you could clarify what both terms mean to you?

    2. Well as far as I put it or some modders put it, a mega wad would be all 32 lvls or more, a map pack would be 5-32 lvls and a lvl wad would be a single doom map.

    3. i like to use the term "minisode" to describe mapsets fielding somewhere between two and six levels, with "episode" running from there up close to the classic megaWAD definition per /idgames which I believe is fifteen levels or more. it's an arbitrary distinction, though, and harder to pin down mapsets where the levels are not sequentially replaced, like RAGE Doom or Travers Dunne's original Doom and Doom II collections from 1997. to go back to your original question, i wouldn't call HEX_ON_U a "level wad" but i would call it a "map pack". the previous four reviews, however, would be for "level wads".