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.

Quake: Scourge of Armagon (Revisit)

Well-coordinated and heavily armed group of eldritch abominations beaten by a ranger with the genre’s weakest shotgun and a grenade launcher with 14 foot max range.

This morning I finished my Scourge of Armagon run.

Scourge of Armagon is good fun and worth playing after finishing the ‘main’ campaign of Quake, but I don’t think it was worth full asking price. The new ideas are forgettable and (most) of the levels indistinct. I like the idea of Ranger (and possibly his homeworld?) continuing the war against ‘Quake’ which now seems to be the codename for all the Lovecraftian entities that want to attack Earth.

Scourge doesn’t seem to have had a lasting impact on Quake multiplayer, and its’ new features and weapons aren’t found in later Quake mods. It has this feeling of not being ‘canon’ as it introduced nothing iconic, and I doubt Id Software will ever care to reference it.

It’s just a new set of levels with a couple of new weapons, some new power-ups and a very small amount of new enemies. The new laser gun is great, and much preferred over the charge-eating lightning gun, while mjölnir went largely unused.

It starts fairly strong but the levels started to feel bland by the halfway point. They’re all fairly well put together but progression feels disjointed, even for Quake. Armagon having 0 personality and impact certainly doesn’t help things. He’s just an enemy fought in the last level (even Shub had some text at the end of each episode). There’s no sense of an evil plan, no feeling that you’ve invaded his home. The boss fight against Armagon himself is pretty lame; I had him dead in about half a minute.

The later levels feel samey. There is a noticeable overuse of Vores – while it is nice that the designers wanted to escalate Quake’s challenge, the lack of a new high-tier monster on the level of the Shambler / Vore hurts the encounters.

Scourge of Armagon is a competently put together expansion pack, but it is just a retreading. Good but forgettable. More Quake is always nice though.

Time for Dissolution of Eternity. Widely said to be the inferior expansion but which seems to get remembered more.

Doom: Halloween.wad

The Halloween level was never publicly released, so here it is.

It’s been a busy few months. Wish I could say I spent all of it making levels but no. I’d love to make another one tied to this. It was a good learning experience.

Halloween.wad, by Rolo
http://www.mediafire.com/file/0uit0i22xgoii4g/Halloween%20by%20Rolo.wad

The map is built in Boom format but uses decorate to replace a monster, so you’ll need a source port that can support that. I used GZ Doom.

Ion Maiden Reveal Trailer

After Bombshell had a, uh, lackluster debut, the planned quirky tie-in promo minigame expanded in scope to become a full-fledged actual game, bringing along the developers of eDuke32 and several prominent Doom sprite artists (such as Cage and HDoomguy) to turn it into a bigger project.

Has launched in Early Access with a “preview campaign” spanning five-ish maps.

A Little More DUSK Episode 2

WE SOLD OUR SOULS FOR KNOWLEDGE
ALTARS OF CONCRETE
FED WITH BLOOD AND BONE

I finished Dusk episode 2. It has a bleak, oppressive atmosphere. That, plus the sense of reality breaking down made Dusk Ep 2 really great to play. At the same time though I’m in no hurry to replay it. All those wendigos, crying cyborgs, and Lovecraftian machinery fueled by corpses.

The second to last level was great, but the final level really could have done with more as it doesn’t deliver the payoff promised by the previous two levels.

In an ideal world Dusk would only be an average game in a sea of great shooters. Even then I’d still recommend it.

DUSK Episode 2

My sound card is buggered right now so I’m using headphones. I’m not sure whether that was a genius move or a terrible mistake. Dusk episode 2 is scary.  I yelped when the new bad guy spoke. I screamed the second time I met a wendigo (I expected the first one).

It’s also harder. I mastered episode 1 on hard but I feel off-balance in episode 2 on hard. In a good way – I think the difficulty so far is just about right for me. There’s a LOT of enemies and all of them are very dangerous if left alive too long. You’ve got to keep moving and weaving between cover if you want to survive. The popcorn enemy dies quicker but hits harder, and the tanky scarecrows have been replaced with the incredibly dangerous welder.

There’s plenty of new enemies, although at least one is a pallet swap (super cultists). There’s no new weapons, but that’s to be expected. This is/was supposed to be like the old 90s shareware games after all. According to the devs their ambition has grown since DUSK’s “shareware” episode got such great reviews. There may be further unique art assets and monsters in episode 3. I’m excited about this, even though the promise of uniquely styled episodes reminds me of Daikatana.

I had an initially rocky start with DUSK with the new climbing power up being bugged, but the devs have quickly addressed this in patches and it’s much better now. I never quite feel like I’m playing episode 2 properly, but maybe I’m just nervous from the thick atmosphere and new monsters. I’m surprised that the Black Mesa inspired episode is scarier than the Blood / Silent Hill themed episode – but I guess I didn’t play episode 1 in a dark room with headphones on.

I didn’t mention it in the episode 1 write up, but DUSK is being developed by one of the guys involved with the Rise of the Triad remake. I’m looking out for bad platforming sections but nothing egregious has popped up (the lava section in the Foundry secret level comes close). I’m also worried that episode 3 will have bad ‘gimmick’ levels, as that can sometimes be the case with “otherwordly” themed final levels in games (levels that make devs go nuts with portal tricks and frustrating mazes), but they don’t seem to be rushing development (far from it) so I’m hopeful they’ll come up with something nicely balanced. So far I’ve thoroughly enjoyed DUSK and not had any causes for concern.

A reminder for the people who are newer to FPS gaming – although I’m saying “episode 2″ it’s not a sequel or an episodic game. You buy DUSK and you get a full 33 level game with extra modes, it’s kind of like an early access thing. Getting the first 11 levels in advance was meant to be a pre-order bonus referencing 90s shareware, but the positive reception has meant they’re taking their time finishing everything off so now the episodes are released as they’re finalized. The entire package is $20 US or £15 UK.

It’s still the same DUSK that I loved first time around – just more intense. More enemies, more intense encounters, more intense atmosphere. I’m just under halfway through episode 2 so this is purely a first impression – but the fact that I felt the need to come on Tumblr to wax about my experience probably says a lot.

Blood

“Now that I’ve played Duke Nukem 3D and Shadow Warrior, there’s only one of the Big Three build engine games left to try.”

“Hmm… I’ve finished D3D and SW on hard, so I’d better put this on the ‘Well Done’ difficulty.”

TEN MINUTES LATER…

Blood is kicking my ass.

The difficulties were made with co-op in mind. If you’re an FPS veteran, play it on the middle skill. If you’re a little less sure, play it on one of the two skills at the top. No shame. Blood on medium and higher is brutally hard, but it’s also one of the greatest FPS games ever made.

Everything about it is masterfully done. There’s so many barely-noticeable bits of ‘game feel’ that make the combat fluid and satisfying. Highly recommended.

STRAFE: Millennium Edition

I knew how Strafe was going to turn out. I read the dev updates. I saw it coming. Strafe was more or less unplayable on my laptop but even then I knew I didn’t miss anything. What a waste.

The devs have since given it a massive much needed overhaul called ‘Millennium Edition’ and I gave it a go.

What is new? New room layouts (especially for the first zone, which is the blandest and worst designed environment in the game), loads of new monsters, new gun sounds, and performance optimization.

I had fun.

This might be because I’ve been cleaning black mold from a dank cellar all day.

There’s still balance issues. The AI still doesn’t feel quite right. The shotgun’s grenade upgrade is still a straight downgrade. Loot still feels too expensive. Armour is far too expensive for what you get. The jellyfish vents are still shit. It takes too long to get back into the game after dying.

I played it for half an hour, which is longer than I could stand to play the original. I enjoyed it and I’m going to play it again. I like the new layouts, monsters and weapon tweaks. If you’ve already bought Strafe you should try it.

I can’t recommend it to new players though. Maybe after the next overhaul.

Shadow Warrior (1997) Review

Who wants some Wang?
Over the summer I played through Shadow Warrior and all of its’ expansions using the Shadow Warrior Redux port available on Steam. It’s finally time to write about that experience.

Shadow Warrior was 3D Realms’ successor to Duke Nukem 3D. While Duke was a Hollywood badass, Shadow Warrior’s hero is an over-the-top Asian badass with callbacks to Hong Kong action films and Japanese ninja shows.

Shadow Warrior was less successful than Duke 3D, probably due to releasing so close to Quake which made it appear dated by comparison.

The Introduction
I first purchased Shadow Warrior Redux last year, but I struggled to get into it. Duke Nukem is eminently accessible. Hardcore, but accessible. I’m going to spoil things now and say that I ended up loving Shadow Warrior. It’s Duke Nukem dialed up. Less accessible, more hardcore, and in the end satisfying as hell.

My first attempt at Shadow Warrior left a mixed impression. The standard shuriken weapon felt under-powered, it was hard to melee the enemies. I stuck with it; learning to use the basic weapons, find new weapons, and how beat the elite ninja with the instant death attack. The game made me git gud and after that things started to get pretty damn enjoyable.

But after that I got stuck looking for a switch. So the first impression was a mixed bag. I stopped playing and took a long break from it.

As I wrote earlier, I finished Shadow Warrior and every expansion over the summer. After a few months hiatus I started a new game, stuck with it and had a blast. It takes longer to get into then Duke or Doom but it is great.

The Levels
Shadow Warrior has a lot of content to get through. Levels are themed around Asian city streets, rural valleys, mountain tops, temples, and isolated bases. Most levels are highly complex and key hunting is a major feature. Duke Nukem’s abstract realism is kicked up a notch, giving the sprawling levels a strange and almost dream-like quality to progression. The juxtaposition between urban realism, abstract countryside, ancient temples, high tech bases, and mystical weirdness works to create the feeling of a pleasantly bizarre adventure. It’s like stumbling through a shifting dreamworld. Sometimes levels appear to be linked with a strong connecting storyline, and other times you’ll find yourself catapulted into a bizarre new environment with no idea how you got there. Again, a strange but pleasant experience.

The levels are complex and lots of fun, but you need to keep your eyes open. There were perhaps three or four moments in the game where I felt completely lost and play ground to halt for five to ten minutes.

Gameplay
I mentioned the shuriken felt under-powered earlier. That’s because the shuriken is not Shadow Warrior’s iconic weapon. High level play depends on the rocket launcher and grenade launcher. Both are satisfying and dangerous. The grenade launcher has a massive blast radius that you’ll need to get used to, and is used for clearing out rooms. The rocket launcher is for dealing large amounts of damage to single enemies.

Perhaps appropriately, Shadow Warrior will put you into a kind of zen state where you end up leaping across the level blazing away with machine guns and bombs, clearing out unexplored chambers with high powered grenade launchers, blowing up tankier monsters with rockets, and finishing off the stragglers with shotguns and railgun blasts.

Generally the weapons are a lot of fun to use and when you’re in that zen state you’re in one of the best shooting experiences in FPS gaming.

Story and World
Shadow Warrior (1997) rides the early 80s to mid-90s wave of badly dubbed kung fu parodies and ninja shows, which were the only thing most westerners knew about China and Japan at the time. It was accused of racism when it came out and it can be hard to argue against that; but despite the puerile parodies Shadow Warriors’ approach to Asian culture at least seems to come from a place of love, even if not one of respect. The developers were clearly fans of anime and Asian action cinema, they just weren’t interested in making a serious or sensitive story line. Nor does Shadow Warrior need a serious storyline or a deep look into a new culture – it’s pure gameplay with a paper thin plot and a massive amount of penis jokes. Everyone’s mileage may vary, but I’d advise any shooter fan not to miss out on Shadow Warrior because they don’t like the faux Asian styling.

The plot is simple: you are Lo Wang, kung fu badass and former bodyguard to of the head of Zilla Corporation. Lo Wang is betrayed by Zilla. Lo Wang embarks on a quest for vengeance. Body parts fly and anime babes who don’t fit the art style respond to Lo Wang’s clumsy pick-up lines with automatic gunfire.

Sometimes Shadow Warrior slips from silliness into cringey childishness, but it’s mostly silly fun. Lo Wang is a dumb character but he’s also a really distinct character. It’s like the game as a whole.

There’s something oddly mischievous about him. He giggles with glee when the explosions start. He’s a complete wise-ass who’s having so much fun that in the end I found it hard not to get attached to him. As downright stupid as Shadow Warrior is sometimes, I couldn’t help crack a smile when using a phone caused Lo Wang to make a silly prank call.

Hello, is Big Bottom there? First name Iva. Iva Big Bottom? Heeeheeeheee!

Conclusion
Shadow Warrior is an ultra-violent, grossly offensive and ridiculous load of nonsense – and I loved it.

Shadow Warrior doesn’t give a damn what you think about it. It is what it is; a hardcore experience designed by a team of weirdos with a lot of experience making FPS games. It was made in 1997 for experienced first-person shooter fans, mixing late 90s architecture with early 90s design sensibilities.

I felt genuinely sad when I finished it and all the expansions. Someday I’ll return to Shadow Warrior and re-join Lo Wang the giggling idiot ninja.

I recommend Shadow Warrior.

EDIT: I did encounter a rare but recurring bug in Shadow Warrior Redux where the mouse stopped responding. The first expansion pack also has some glitchy sky textures near the end (although this might not be the port’s fault). Neither were deal breakers.

Doom: Halloween.wad

WIP of Halloween level. Ignore the default sky texture, something else is going there eventually. The valley and crypt is the beginning area before the player drops into a deep cavern that becomes a black and orange metallic hell.

I started to get the hang of decorative mid-textures after looking at how Skillsaw uses them. Study other authors’ levels to work out how they pull stuff off.