Project Warlock Review

It seems that when I said “I’ll have to try it some time” I was referred to literally ten minutes after posting that update. I’ve now finished Project Warlock, currently a timed exclusive on GoG but soon to be available on Steam.

tl;dr I like it and I had fun playing it. It’s a great game although it isn’t a game-changer. It’s not an evolution on the formula or a brilliant return to form, it doesn’t blow me away, it’s just a solid game. For the price you pay for it it’s worth getting.

I settled into a rhythm and didn’t stop till I was finished, running from room to room killing everything that moved. It wasn’t very difficult, and I found myself enjoying it, but not getting immersed in it like I did with DUSK or Ion Maiden. A lot more thinking is required to play through those two, compared to Project Warlock.

Project Warlock uses low-res textures and chunky, cartoony sprites. The artwork is retro-inspired, not retro. Monsters are chunky cartoon-styled sprites that are about as detailed as you’d see in the 32 bit era. The textures are low-res, and give the world a weird almost GameBoy style feeling (there’s even a filter in the menu that can give all the colours a GameBoy filter).

Project Warlock uses pre-built levels that tend to be flat and grid based like Wolfenstein 3D. The engine can clearly do more, as room over room, platforms, elevators, and slopes appear at various points in the game, so this appears to be a stylistic choice. The levels flow well and don’t feel limited, like Chasm The Rift (a game that shares a lot of thematic similarities with Project Warlock).

After finding enough treasure and killing enough monsters, you level up and can spend upgrade points on increasing Strength (more melee damage), Life (more health), Spirit (more magic power) and Carry (hold more ammo). The spells are not actually very useful (except for ammo generation). You’re far better off sticking to guns, which are for the most part very satisfying to use. There’s a nice feeling of progression to the guns as well, and you can also upgrade them at your character’s workshop in-between missions.

Generally the graphic design in the game is good. The final episode has a particularly evil and oppressive feel, where you journey through strange corruptions of previous episodes, it almost felt like a ‘corrupted game’ creepypasta at first. Episode 1 is a slow burn as you gradually take over a medieval fortress. Episode 2 is much more enjoyable, and is a great homage to The Thing. Episode 3 is a little dull, taking place inside endless underground tombs in Ancient Egypt, while Episode 4 a frenetic battle in a dystopian city against increasingly powerful enemies in Appleseed inspired power suits and mecha.

Balance is an issue, with the game becoming significantly easier as you upgrade your high-tier weapons (even with the final episodes significant bump in enemy power). The bosses are impressively sized and look great, but are unfortunately too easy. The first boss of the game is the hardest by far; everything after that pales in comparison as by the time you reach the end of Episode 2 you’ve gathered enough upgrades to handle most challenges. The boss of Episode 4 was an absolute joke; dead before he could attack me once, and the final boss feels like he should have about twice as much health. [Edit: The latest patch has updated the final boss and made them significantly harder, although the Episode 3 boss is still a complete joke]

The final gun, a BFG homage, isn’t even that useful. If you have a hyper-sonic rocket launcher and the ‘Sammunor’ ammo generation spell, you won’t need to fear enemies again. This was part of the reason I was able to turn off my brain and play; I never really felt like I was in danger. After completing Episode 2 I only really remember my health dropping below 50 once, and I didn’t even notice it until the end of the level (where I escaped with 2hp remaining) – I think it needs to be more obvious when you take damage.

So that’s my impression of Project Warlock. The shooting is fun, the levels mostly flow well, the secrets are satisfying to find. Some of my critiques may get fixed by the devs soon, as they seem to be quite active fixing the game. They’ve already altered light levels by the looks of things, which a lot of other reviewers have mentioned, and a huge optimization patch is coming out very  soon too.

The Verdict

Project Warlock has clearly been made by people with a lot of love for the game. Sneaky references abound. It’s something that deserves a look if you’re a fan of the genre. It’s a competently made and interesting game. It won’t change your life, and it doesn’t redefine the genre, but you’ll enjoy playing it.

Worth the price of admission.

Anonymous Ask: Fav. Mods?

[Anonymous Question] “Do you have any doom mods in particular you recommend? I’m new to even the idea of modding it and don’t know where to start ??”

Gosh, there’s so much out there now! It’s hard to know what to recommend first without dumping way too much text.

Trailblazer is a mod that turns you into a Snake Plissken-style bad ass. I always come back to it, it’s lots of fun and probably my favourite at the moment. https://forum.zdoom.org/viewtopic.php?t=47494

High Noon Drifter is a fantastic “Weird West” mod that keeps the core gameplay intact while adding a lot of cool features. https://forum.zdoom.org/viewtopic.php?t=57098

Demonsteele is Devil May Cry: Doom Edition. It’s a favorite and by the same author as High Noon Drifter but it’s very different to normal play. Try something else first. https://forum.zdoom.org/viewtopic.php?t=46787

Combined Arms wasn’t originally a favourite, but the new update has really improved it and it just feels great. It’s a not a bad place to start as it’s a nice and simple armoury replacement. No extra controls or special moves, just new guns (and an optional monster replacement pack) https://forum.zdoom.org/viewtopic.php?t=51066

Final Doomer is a great weapon replacer that gives you a new armory themed around five famous megawads (mega-wad = map pack that replaces all the levels in Doom 2) and a tweaked version of the default armory. https://forum.zdoom.org/viewtopic.php?t=55061

If you’re totally new to the scene you should probably also look at Project Brutality or Brutal Doom. Their code is a mess (please don’t try and learn anything from them) but their high profiles got a lot of people back into Doom, including me. These mods basically turn Doom into the Doom Comic Book.https://www.moddb.com/mods/brutal-doom
https://www.moddb.com/mods/brutal-doom/addons/project-brutality

Honourable Mentions (ie, stuff I like but haven’t played lots of yet):
Guncaster
– super cool mod that turns you into an OP dragon with a gun. Might feel a bit overwhelming if it’s your first mod.https://forum.zdoom.org/viewtopic.php?t=37066
Russian Overkill
– a RIDICULOUS weapon mod which I don’t play a lot of but most people adore. https://forum.zdoom.org/viewtopic.php?t=29915
MetaDoom – every Doom game smashed into one gameplay mod! I haven’t played the latest updates. https://forum.zdoom.org/viewtopic.php?t=53010
Colorful Hell – a monster replacer that adds harder monsters based on MMORPG rarity tiers – combine it with an OP mod like Trailblazer. https://forum.zdoom.org/viewtopic.php?t=47980

Off the top of my head, you want to keep an eye on TerminusEst, Combine Keegan and Pillowblaster. They’re putting out some good stuff.

The levels you pick will really affect your enjoyment. Try looking through the Cacowad’s (https://www.doomworld.com/cacowards/) and downloading anything that appeals. ALL the stuff listed for the Cacowad’s is quality – but it’s only some of the good stuff out there.

Finally, Doom Mod Madness on YouTube always manages to find weird and interesting new mods. I don’t watch as regularly as I used to, but it’s been a useful series for me.

The mods above require GZDoom to play. I also highly recommend using the ZDL launcher because eventually you’ll have way too many files in your core Doom folder to do the drag and drop thing. Let me know if you need any help with that.

Learning Doom: Let’s Examine Yuan_Ti_Replacer.wad

Hexenmapper has been working on some monster replacements for Heretic and posting them in the HUMP discord server.

I asked if I could use them, since I want to make an expanded ‘Doom 2′ style monster roster for Heretic and he’s already made an Arch Vile type creature. He said yes, because he’s a really cool person.

I’m going to walk you through the inside of a simple monster replacer mod. Let’s have a look at what sort of stuff is inside…

1) First I’ll have to open SLADE, so I can rummage around the data file.

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2) Then I’ll find my data file. Luckily I keep everything well organized…

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3) Here’s what the inside of a Doom (or Heretic, or Hexen, or Strife…) wad file looks like:

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4) This is the DECORATE file. Decorate is a language added to sourceports that let’s you create new monsters and effects without much technical know-how. Pictured below is an Arch Vile type monster that resurrects enemies

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5) Hexenmapper has been hard at work; every non-Boss in Heretic is now replaced by an identical copy with a resurrection animation (their death animation played backwards). Because the other two new monsters replace Heretic’s ‘ghost’ enemies, those monsters’ resurrectable versions are disabled (but can easily be turned back on)

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6) Let’s have a look at the graphics for the new Yuan-Ti Monsters. As you can see, it’s a “Frankensprite” of the Ophidian and the Brown Chaos Serpent enemies.

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7) The side view had some sprite tearing I thought. However, other views of the Yuan Ti are very well done.

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8) Holy cow, that’s how it attacks? That lightning attack looks cool as hell

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9) The Arch Vile type monster is a smaller version of Hexen’s Korax

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10) The third new monster is an Archer, based on the Hexen II enemy. This is from Realm 667 and modified from the existing Archer resource.

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11) The Credits List

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So for reference:

DECORATE contains the programming for the monsters (health, movement, properties, lists of sprites to use for each animation cycle, etc)
SNDINFO is ‘sound information’ which assigns labels to the sound files so that the Decorate file can tell the game which sounds to play
GLDEFS tells the game to light up the area around monsters when they’re using their magic attacks
The rest is sound and graphics data that get used by DECORATE and SNDINFO.

Will I use it? In a modified form, probably.

I was thinking of using the Korax sprite for a boss monster so I might change swap the graphics. I certainly can’t ignore the work put into making each Heretic monster resurrectable though!

I think the archer would make a good “shotgun sergeant”, perhaps if I made their attack more like an ethereal crossbow attack.

I may have already put in a monster that does what the Yuan-ti does, so that one might not be used.

Heretic: Advanced Mapping

For fun and to brush up on my GZDoomBuilder skills I decided to recreate a major location from the freeform RPG I’ve been running on and off for the past 3 years.

There is a LOT of artwork of the various characters.

I really wanted to practice with GZDoom exclusive features more and hopefully this will help me learn some new tricks (the dynamic light shown in the above pic is the first time I’ve ever tried using them).

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The level itself is a small witch’s tower at the edge of a vast forest. So far I’ve only finished the cellar area.

Because Heretic has so few resources I’ve had to add stuff from Hexen and Realm667. After testing out my work in progress I do regret not simply using Hexen as the base, given that the combat feels closer to what I want and there’s so many textures and options available from the start.

Below are some pics from my test map where I’ve been testing out new sprites, animated textures, and monsters. I can’t begin say how proud I am for figuring out how to emulate the Wendigo’s fragmenting ice attack outside of Hexen.

Not only did I get the Wendigo’s attack working, but I’ve also edited the terrain files so that characters sink into mud and create splashing effects as they move in water/slime/mud.

I’ve even managed to create PolyObjects – swingable objects (in this case, a door that creates an ominous creak and slowly opens – this is no mean feat in an essentially 2D game engine based on static sectors).

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Quake: Dissolution of Eternity (Revisit)

1,000,000 hours in MS Paint

It’s time to play Quake’s second expansion.

It dives into the action faster than Scourge. There’s no warm-up techbase to get you started. You’re thrown straight into one of two episodes: a mainly medieval fortress, or a time travel themed episode. Episode 2 is the more interesting of the two, with a much greater diversity of levels offered by its’ theme.

Monster placement is suspect: shamblers in clear rooms, fiends in tight corridors, and ‘let’s spawn a scrag in front of that wind tunnel just as you jump in, so you fall into the lava and die’). The new weapons are minimum effort re-skins and lack oomph but they do make combat feel faster and more exciting.

The new monsters are introduced slowly. Some of the design choices strike me as baffling.

Who thought it was a good idea to make a Spawn the same colour as the wall textures?

I wish I could just click my fingers…

Dissolution is marred by designs like that. Slip ups that make some sections far more frustrating than they should be.