One of the first comments I ever read about this WAD was that it’s absolutely perfect if you have a lot of time on your hands. That rings true, with the 6 fecking episodes that are on display here. It kinda plays like Eviternity on steroids, if only a little more inconsistent. Personally, I loved Doom The Way id Did, although I never truly felt it “truly” did Doom the way id did (lol), I found that it was a genuine, solid, creative, excellent map pack that was a pleasure to play. The Lost Episodes is purely an extension of that, corralling a ton of the maps that didn’t make the official cut, but are no poorer in quality or anything like that. There’s a really interesting episode of just tech bases which I enjoyed, as well as the episode of just boss levels, which ranged from the easy peasy to the re-donk-ew-luss in difficulty levels. There’s simply too many levels here for me to pick favourites, but I really enjoyed this massive companion WAD to the main piece.
Doom 64 was a game that I never thought I would get around to playing, but with the recent remaster and re-release, I was able to get it on Xbox Live. Which is great, because I was never going to buy an N64 or sort out an emulator, let us be honest. Doom 64 is markedly different from the other Doom offerings from the 90s, but is a canonical release and continues the loose story on from Doom II. It looks more like Quake, I guess, and focuses more on puzzles and exploring creepy as fuck levels than it does on intense gameplay. Which is great for me, because some WADs are so insanely difficult that I just get a bit fed up. So it is a nice change of pace. Atmosphere is big here – gone are the gore drenched tech halls of classic Doom, instead, sterile and cold industrial complexes take up the majority of the levels (even the “hell” levels kind of have this theme). The monsters are all redesigned and the whole thing just hits differently. Aubrey Hodges brings the TOTALLY different vibe musically from Bobby Prince, where Doom’s soundtracks began to go off the cliff completely into absolute terror. I’m glad I played this, but I doubt I’ll ever go through it again.
I’ve been meaning to check this out for a while, and to be honest it wasn’t bad, give or take the fairly weak story line. Musically, I think the soundtrack manages to strike a good balance between modern and nostalgic, with more callbacks to the original run of 90s games happening in the gameplay rather than in the audio. On the downside however no particular artist here stands out, especially as I pored over the closing credits looking to remind myself of stand-out contributions and composers, none sprung to mind as worth noting down, which is a shame. Hey, it’s a good soundtrack. It just didn’t really excite me, personally.
The Doom II Master Levels is a mixed bag. One of the most irritating things about it, is that whilst a lot of the files occupy map slot 01, you get the same soundtrack over and over and over as you play. Thank any metaphorical heavens then, for the Doom community. Megasphere has popped up a few times in regards to soundtracking WADs, but this was my first encounter with his work. Honestly, he puts the MIDI format to shame, these sound absolutely massive, and I’m sure there is an element of which sound font / card / driver is used (surely a more modern one on the YT uploads from the man himself?), but wow – way to push the boundaries of a sound format! If by some strange and crazy coincidence you are going to spin up the Doom II Master Levels in 2021, then this new musical accompaniment is an essential addition.
Doom The Way id Did is a community WAD pack that intends to pay homage to the original “classic” Doom mapping trio of Romero, Tom Hall and Sandy Peterson, by emulating their design philosophies and – literally – make a new Doom campaign, but the way id did. The problem I have with this is that outside of pigeonholing Romero into his now-famous, tech-base-based (lol) design criteria (you just need to look at Sigil to realise that this has gone the way of the dodo), Hall and especially Peterson are harder to pin down. Specifically when it came to his contributions for Doom II, Sandy’s maps are all over the shop. Granted, the man was under an intense amount of pressure to deliver on a tight deadline, but the worst thing about Doom II is the inconsistency and half-arsed feeling of some of the levels. Anyways, at the end of the day – does this have anything to do with the quality of the WAD? Absolutely not. This is gonna be high on the list of WADs that I’ve played. I love the episodic nature of classic Doom, and these folks have nailed the progression nicely, and even though these levels were culled from a smorgasbord of entries from tons of contributors, there feels like there is a genuine flow and purpose. Another refreshing element of this WAD, is that even on Ultraviolence setting, this wasn’t astronomically difficult. Yes, of course it was hard, but it felt fair. Some of the WADs I’ve played recently are beyond stupid in difficulty. I was able to put Doom The Way id Did down with only four deaths, on UV in Brutal Doom, and all of them occurred in the third episode, with two of those being on the spiderdemon boss map. As a fairly useless / casual Doom player, I was quite impressed with myself lol. Anyways, if you’re new to Doom community WADding (lol), I can’t recommend this enough as a starting point.
Pirate Doom has to be one of the most ridiculous yet ambitious custom Doom WADs that I have played. It comes across more of a total conversion than a level set, with a complete overhaul of the entire game to feature pirate-based landscapes and levelling, weapons and most hilariously, demons. Fighting the swashbuckling hordes genuinely had me in stitches at points, especially when a new monster was introduced. Some of the new game mechanics are class too, like the underwater movement for example. Some of the levels are not far from TES II: Daggerfall in their labyrinthine scale, which made finding keys etc. a bit of a slog, but for the most part, this is an amazing example of what the Doom community can offer.
Speed Of Doom is an incredibly well made set of maps for Doom II. Honestly, the fact that these began as a speed mapping exercise (hence the name), truly boggles the mind in terms of the level quality. But there is one problem. This is far, far too hard for me. I’m one of those cats that plays on UV because it’s “the” way to experience everything Doom has to throw at you, but Jesus creeping shit, this is hard as fuck. Even just a few maps in, things hit ridiculous levels of difficulty, and before we’ve even hit the half way point, things descend into all-out slaughtermap carnage. Speed Of Doom is a ridiculously difficult challenge for the seasoned Doom player who has conquered everything else. Honestly, the only way I could get a look at the later levels was to chuck on Degreelessness mode and just go ham. There is no way in a million years that I am good enough to do this without cheats. So yeah. Solid fucking effort from all involved. But even after 6 months of solid Doom playing, Speed Of Doom is far, far too difficult for me.
When Doom II was ported to Xbox Live Arcade just over a decade ago, the guys given the job (Nerve Software) also made their own expansion / mini-WAD called No Rest For The Living. Honestly, these are some incredibly solid levels and they can be pretty damn difficult if you bite off more than you can chew. It has the length of an Ultimate Doom episode, rather than a full Doom II campaign, but that doesn’t stop the levels being long, hellish and brutal slogs. This is a very high quality piece of work, and a Doom II level set that I highly recommend.
I initially decided I would split out the game review and OST review for this one (like I’ve done with some games and not others – we value consistency here at Lines In Wax) but honestly, the two elements are so completely interwoven and linked, to separate them is alien. Broken Sword was one of my favourite games as a kid. Granted, I was far too young to really understand the plot and also far too young to be any good at it, instead getting places purely out of sheer luck and process of elimination. However, in recent “adult” replays (I think the most recent being 2009), I can confirm that Broken Sword (and its first sequel) are two of the greatest games ever made. Note: fuck the Director’s Cut, which retcons a bunch of shit, adds a bunch of unnecessary extra scenes, and a ton of absolutely shite puzzles. Put that shit in the sea, next to the 1996 Lucas Star Wars re-tweaks. There is just something so special about Broken Sword. I don’t know how or why, but Charles Cecil and his devs blew the PlayStation apart, making a game that was long, detailed and absolutely dripping from every pore with mood and atmosphere. When I finally went to Paris, imagine how disappointed I was to find it wasn’t like the Paris in Broken Sword. Broken Sword romanticised our dark and miserable real world, in a pre-internet age where beauty could be found in the little moments (yeah, the ones you now fill with pointless scrolling on your smartphone). It’s plot, honestly, doesn’t matter all that much to me (even though I enjoy it), because the locations, characters and dialogue are so perfect, I’m happy to just be here. And that leads us to Barrington’s incredible soundtrack. It’s very low key, yet utterly unique. You know instantly, no matter at which point you could randomly select in its total run time, and instantly know, this is the Broken Sword soundtrack. The musical cues, little flourishes and sparks of emotion through a minimal yet classically composed score, are honestly to die for. I think I’ve gushed enough. If you’ve never played this game, I implore you to do so, even today, in 2021. I hope that when I close my eyes for the last time, the piano music from the Hotel Ubu plays me out.
Hell To Pay is probably the tackiest Doom WAD I’ve played thusfar, with the exception of The Lost Episodes Of Doom, which was just awful. Thankfully it was one of the first WADs I’ve started with. I’d never be able to make it though it these days, having played some top quality custom levels since. Hell To Pay isn’t bad. In fact, it has a pretty good story and some incredibly ambitious level designs (ever fancied a Doom battle in outer space? Well, now you can!), but some of the replacement weapons and enemies do leave a little to be desired. The final map is also one of the more frustrating Romero-demon finales I’ve come across, and I had to switch on iddqd just to see it through. H2P’s sister release, Perdition’s Gate, which I recently covered, wipes the floor with this WAD.
As I work my way through some of the earlier WADs that circulated the official main Doom releases, of course a stop on the Master Levels was required. I had the Master Levels on disc, I bought it in I think 1997, along with Doom II and Ultimate Doom. However, in the absence of any Doom loader like GZdoom or the likes, 8 year old me found it immensely difficult to load any of the maps (which need to be played individually) and I therefore consigned it to the bin. I do however, in a contradictory memory, remember dipping in to the massive list of the Maximum Doom shovelware, and spinning up a few WADs which were absolute garbage. The Master Levels itself though, as in the core 20 levels (fuck Maximum Doom, I’ll come back to those 3000 if I literally have nothing else to ever do), is a realllllll mixed bag. Some of the levels are great, others are pure shit, others are OK but without the guiding hand of a coherent project or a publisher watching over them, lose their way in obtuse design and mind-numbing puzzles. However I will say, for 1995, there are some incredibly complex level designs here. The Titan maps in particular are a headfuck (in both bad and good ways) and TEETH is an absolute bastard of a map, deserving of its reputation. Dr. Sleep’s maps are really cool, as are Cranium’s, but the rest are a mix of quality. Absolutely this is a collection for completionists only.
Perdition’s Gate was one of the commercially released yet unofficial Doom II expansions. From the creator’s website, its hinted that Perdition’s Gate was supposed to be a part of Final Doom, but for whatever reason that didn’t happen. Anyways, dodgy software company Wizard Works eventually released this, on the sly. The thought of that being done in 2021 is really quite impressive. None of this is to shit on Perdition’s Gate, however. I have been playing Doom WADs now in my spare time since about March or April of this year. These vary from old to new (mainly old), and I must admit, that Perdition’s Gate has been my favourite so far. I love the story, I love the level design (often short, sharp and to the point) and I love how challenging it is without being ridiculously impossible to complete. I also draw a lot of parallels between Perdition’s Gate and Quake II (falling down a sewer pipe and starting a new level, dicking about with computers / stopping an alien invasion, and the 2 minutes bomb sequence at the end). Honestly, this one was an absolute ton of fun to play.
Due to the success of Doom, id quickly followed with the now legendary Doom II: Hell On Earth. Personally, I prefer the original, and I find some of the levels, especially in the middle, to have really bad designs, but you cannot deny that this not only expanded, but perfected the Doom world. How can I love a game where I think the levels are shit, I hear you ask? Well, for starters, and anyone who has played this game will know this, I have two words for you: super shotgun. This is the daddy of video game shotguns, and is nothing short of a pure and utter pleasure to shoot. Its so goddamn satisfying, blasting gaping holes into virtual demons with this thing, that I can wholly overlook the crap level design (well, not crap as much, but definitely rushed!). The second reason of course would be the monsters that were introduced in Doom II, such as the Revenant and the Archvile, which made the game so, so much harder (you had others too, but these were the utter bastards, those and the chaingun commandos, yikes!). Lets not also forget that Doom II is the base on which countless incredible custom Doom .WADs have been created. The levels may lack inspiration in the base game, but all the great, quality ingredients were here. The Doom community is continuing to mine these even today, so that should say it all, really. Soundtrack wise, there’s nothing really to write home about. In fact, I’m pretty sure Bobby Prince plagiarised a bunch of metal tracks for this one, almost as if he was running out of steam. There are some iconic sounds in this, but there’s also a bunch of boring ones too.
Unfortunately I had played the Plutonia WAD before I realised there was a glorious 90 minute fan-made OST for it. I thought at the time, “damn, why doesn’t this fucking WAD have its own OST like TNT did?”, and obviously I can’t have been the only Doomer to have thought this, otherwise this beautiful creation wouldn’t exist. There’s a mixed bag here, of styles more than quality, due to the number of composers on board, but the music is handled in the traditional MIDI styles of Doom / Bobby Prince, but with extra flavours. A lot of the stuff actually sounds like something out of Mortal Kombat 3, and the more metal-based tracks are modernised and much more complex than the compositions brought to the table for the original game(s) in the early 90s. A gargantuan effort from all involved, and one that has my utmost respect.
Frequent readers of the site may have noticed that I’ve started accumulating a few posts about Doom WADs. What became a nostalgic plan to replay the original Doom games in the recent version of Brutal Doom (Google it!) has now become a frequent past time for me. Its the perfect way for me to unwind from life, work, and the adult responsibilities of being a dad. For an hour or so every few nights, I fire up Doom, throw on a heavy album, and blast demons into dust. Honestly, its a system that works. But the relaxation of it can quickly turn to shit if you’re playing on bad maps. This is the risk you running playing mega WADs such as TNT Evilution; there are so many fingers in the pie, some map contributions are bound to be a bit shit. All in all though, TNT plays well. The levels are for the most part quite long, and the whole 30 map campaign (secrets aside) was a fair undertaking for me. The hell-based maps at the end were pretty challenging and designed well, and the Icon Of Sin tribute final boss was well made. At the time, this was pretty much as good as it got with Doom modding, to the point where id software took this and another mega WAD called Plutonia (I’ll be getting to that soon enough) and released it commercially as Final Doom. Confusingly, the PlayStation version of Final Doom was a super cut WAD campaign of levels from this, Plutonia and even The Master Levels For Doom II, all reorganised into another 30 map campaign. This is the Final Doom I played as a kid, not that I can remember it. However, to Doom purists, TNT and Plutonia stand separate, outside of the Final Doom situation, and to be fair they are 2 seperate 30 map WADs so I understand why. I enjoyed this one a lot. The soundtrack, just to add, is a decent composition in the MIDI format. As you can tell by the names listed above, the task was shared amongst many of the modders (Soundtrack designer Aubrey Hodges did the PlayStation version, which I will do a separate entry for). I appreciate when a WAD comes with its own soundtrack, which really helps because a.) the same Doom II music over and over is tedious, and b.) it helps convey the mood and atmosphere of the levels the music has been designed for. It adds a whole new aspect. Great stuff! (Its worth noting the TNT Evilution itself has been used by many other custom WADs.)
Lost Episodes was my first unofficial yet commercially released WAD. It starts off really strong, and whilst I don’t own the actual book that came with it, I was able to navigate and enjoy most of the earlier levels. The problems begin however, when towards the end of episode 2, a second designer takes over. The maps all of a sudden become sprawling, enormous and mostly empty. This is proper amateur hour here, with the map quality ranging from downright atrocious to the not-so-bad “empty and eery” feel. Starts really strong, ends badly. But its super cool to play some custom WADs from Doom’s infancy, with these being created in 1994. Remnants Of Earth, an episode 4 replacement but based in Doom II, on the other hand…. I had this WAD on the list but it was tacked on to my version of The Lost Episodes Of Doom. I accidentally ran it in Ultimate Doom rather than Doom II (for which it is intended), but I guess some sort of GZDoom or ZDoom (or even Brutal Doom) fuckery allowed all the monsters and guns to load without issue, but there were a few missing textures. I’d argue that these maps do not compliment the original Lost Episodes. In fact, they are absolutely nothing like those maps. Because these are infinitely better – and much harder to boot. Even on a lower difficulty setting (I have to play it lower on Brutal Doom, don’t crucify me, UVnerds!). Some of the maps are a bit obtuse in finding the exit or a missing key, but all in all, this was a great – and challenging – addition to Doom.
Imagine how hyped I was when I found out that this 5th episode of Doom was a thing! As someone who has played through the first 4 episodes countless times as a kid and then as a teenager, this WAD, billed as the unofficial 5th episode of Ultimate Doom, but created entirely by John Romero, was the icing on the cake when I started looking for reasons to play through Doom again. Those of you who are casually familiar with Romero’s levels probably know him for the legendary level design on Doom’s 1st shareware episode from 1993, and also for some of the more notorious levels in the 4th episode, Thy Flesh Consumed. Romero contributed a low number of maps to Doom II, but his style is recognisable, especially against that of the other “main” Doom mapper, Sandy Peterson. Colour me surprised then, when firing up Sigil, to find instead of tech bases, to find the tightest, winding corners of Hell displayed before me. Now, to clarify, Sigil is fucking difficult. A lot of which, is attributed to the map design, rather than the enemies on display. People have criticised the use of the Doom 1 IWAD content only whilst building this level pack, but considering its a follow on to episode 4, that suites fine with me. No, its the intensely packed, crammed and narrow levels, entire levels floating in lava, impossible ledges and mind-boggling red textures and dark spots that make this so difficult. Granted, I”m using Brutal Doom, which makes the enemies hit that little harder and move that little faster, and also make the levels a little darker (I wish it didn’t fucking do that), but Sigil is an absolute task. That being said, I enjoyed all of these levels, where a lot of other people online didn’t, it seems. Music wise, this wouldn’t be Lines In Wax without a mention of the soundtracks. I had the version of the WAD without Buckethead’s OST, so I had to go to Spotify for that, and gave it a listen whilst driving to work. I’m no expert on Buckethead, but out of the four or five albums I’ve heard, they are all mostly the same, and his Sigil album is no different. I found his sprightly, repetitive riffing and intense guitar solo’ing a strange match for Sigil’s creepy and terrifying atmosphere. As always, there is no doubt in Buckethead’s musical proficiency, and something drags me back to his records every now and then, but I think the decision to have him on board for Sigil was a mismatch. The MIDI soundtrack which comes with the free WAD, composed by long-time Doom modder James Paddock is much more fitting and eery. The compositions, especially those on the later levels, are particularly of note. If your into horror or dungeon synth kinda soundtrack stuff, and don’t mind the MIDI compositions, then I implore you to check out James Paddock’s Sigil OST on YouTube. Or, better yet, give this wonderful Doom ’93 megaWAD a play-through. It’s fucking great.
I’ve recently fallen back down the rabbit hole of playing Doom. As a kid I cut my teeth PC gaming by starting out with shooters like Doom. In fact, my original exposure to this terrifying world was the somewhat awful looking Sega 32X port, which culled levels from a few of the episodes and chucked them together. But when I got a pack that contained Ultimate Doom, Doom 2, and the Master Levels, I never looked back. The Ultimate Doom is a bench mark for gaming, not only generally, but specifically for the FPS genre, which is, oddly enough, probably one of my least favourite gaming styles. Modern FPS games, including the Doom 2016 reboot, literally do nothing for me, so I’m not really sure why Doom stands up so much. I can only imagine its because it gives me nostalgia or something like that. I played it as a kid, therefore it makes me feel good, or something like that. I recently played through Ultimate Doom using the Brutal Doom mod, which after manually altering textures / lighting back to its most vanilla-esque state, is a cracking mod. The new guns and the insane new monster speeds and attacks – not to mention the gore – really brings Doom into a new era. Its not to say the original is bad, but even I’m Too Young To Die mode on Brutal Doom can be a serious challenge. I’ll round off by saying this iconic MIDI soundtrack is probably the first experience I had with metal music. That, coupled with the games terrifying horror aesthetic and grimy sci-fi meets satanism feel, makes Ultimate Doom an absolute all time favourite of mine. I’m not a big gamer, but the format of Doom has allowed me to play more of a game than I usually would (save falling into TES II or III for months at a time), so I may review a few of the custom WADs I plan to get through. I’ll definitely follow this up with John Romero’s 2019 release of Sigil, the “unofficial” 5th episode of Ultimate Doom, which has two soundtracks, one of which is performed by Buckethead, of all people. Stay tuned folks, and apologies for the ramble!