what do you get if you roll three eggs down a hill
the eggs lose gravitational potenSHELL energy and gain kinEGGtic energy
That may be the worst joke I've ever thought up but it's not as bad as having to fight a roomful of mancubi, imps, and spectres, in pitch darkness!
One of the reasons why I've not been writing so many map reviews these past few weeks is because I've only been playing one wad, and I've only just today finished playing it. Armadosia, a 32-map megawad that came out earlier this year
but isn't in the archives (unless it's been put in there since a few weeks ago; they're not updating because, well, if you look in /incoming there's a file named "maintainer_lives_in_new_orleans") UPDATE (28/02/2006) Armadosia is now in /idgames
For something made by one author it is the biggest megawad ever. I'm not even joking. Most maps took over 50 minutes game time to finish and several were well over an hour. To put it another way the monster density is mostly around the same as the Doom 2 IWAD maps and most of the maps have over three hundred monsters.
I'm not going to do an individual map review. There's too much of it and they've all sort of blurred together. They're all quite similar; Doom maps are rarely identifiable anyway, I mean what does Doom 2 map 16 have to do with suburbs? However there are some broad trends. Here is a summary of the "typical Armadosia map", a category into which probably 25 of the 32 maps fit.
- It's huge. As I said before, it has typically 250-350 monsters and a monster density around that of Doom 2. Instead of like a slaughter map where you kill lots of monsters at once the monsters kind of queue up and you kill them a few at a time.
- It has decent architecture and a lot of interesting texture replacements, many based on original game textures but edited. For example there's some nice reworkings of the marble face textures; a red version of the one that looks like an archvile looks positively glowing with evil, etc. Texture alignment is lacking indeed practically nonexistant in some places (but that doesn't bother me so much...)
- The level doesn't have a specific overall theme but there are different areas in different styles. Some of them shouldn't be in the same map. A map may have areas taken from some or all of the following list and perhaps others I've forgotten at time of writing
- Tech/industrial. This is the predominant theme and I'd say about half the WAD is in this style, maybe more.
- Canyons, either on the floor of a rocky canyon outside, or on a ledge above a lava river.
- Abandoned temple. Dark, forbidding, somewhat overgrown, possibly flooded.
- Hell. Usual thing, a mix of hot rocks and lava, and blood and skin. Yes, you do get tech and hell in the same map, although since Kama Sutra 29 pulled that off so well, why not?
- Gardens. Grass, areas of water, ornamental ponds (some have teleporters hidden in them)
- Coloured bricks. There are a number of textures that seem to have several versions, in red, yellow, green, blue, etc. Used in combination you get an entirely monochromatic area that's a kind of poor man's coloured lighting. Cf. Alien Vendetta, map 31.
- There's a set of textures that look like white tiles and they really remind me of being in a bathroom! These areas are fairly common but never very large
- Villa. Think pillars and white marble with patterns round the top, I don't know.
- Switch quests and lots of them. You will be shown something desirable like the exit or a key, and then have to go off and find the thing that unlocks it. This will often result in a detour that goes on for dozens of rooms and seems to last forever. Furthermore be aware that Armadosia is not afraid to give you a button to press that opens a door or whatever miles away, and you'll have no idea what it did. I used the map editor a lot.
- Speaking of the buttons Armadosia has a number of styles of switch that although are not unique to it are used frequently enough to make them distinctive and an author's gimmick. This is especially the case with what I shall call "significant" switches; that is ones that open up a new area or raise the bars in front of a key, not the ones that just lower a lift and are repeatable. For example:
- Popup switches. You'll fight your way through a bunch of enemies only to find an empty room, but as you walk in, a button will pop up out of the floor. In the same vein there are switches that come down out of the ceiling as you approach.
- Pressure pads. Especially common in temples and canyons, these are small pads on the floor about the size of a teleporter. When you walk on them, they lower (and something else opens too)
- They're not switches but I will still mention the floors with messages written on them. There's a good few places where it says, for example, "DIE", usually just before a trap that turns out to be wimpier than the buildup would suggest...
- The maps broadly follow on from each other. This is often done cheaply - the map ends at a "dimensional gateway" and the next starts on the other side of it - but sometimes is better. For example a common theme among some of the maps is a system of large tunnels with runners on the roof and the entrance/exit is in a little red cable car thing. Further to the "world" illusion is that you will often find a dead end doesn't look like one. Tunnels will carry on but be blocked by bars, instead of just coming to a flat wall.
- I think many of the maps would be incredibly frustrating and difficult to do from a pistol start. I think playing this thing through one map after another is pretty much mandatory. You can do some of the levels from scratch but not very many. It's not very replayable or demo-friendly.
However not all the maps are like this
- Maps 7 and 17 are a lot smaller; 7 is your usual mancubus/arachnotron map and 17 is a sweet little villa with an inner building and a moat and a lot of monsters, and it is fun.
- The monster density starts to rise a little as you get into the twentysomething maps. In particular map 29 is much more like a slaughter map with larger crowds of monsters, but it's not too hard if you bring 30 maps' worth of guns and ammo with you. The aforementioned fighting groups of monsters in pitch darkness doesn't kick in really until the last few maps, either.
- Map 30 is just like the usual map 30 only larger and harder and the face on the wall is different. I assume it is the author's photo.
- Finally there are the secret levels; the first is a real slaughterfest in a Wolfenstein map, except that there's no health. Being full of zombies, I barely managed to finish it
- The second secret level is just odd; it's mostly in space with a huge creepy skull in the sky, but eventually you find what I can only assume is a version of the author's house. His posters of huge-breasted japanese cartoons are even creepier. I don't understand the ending - it's in a hidden room on the far side of the garden, there's a couple of sofas, and the floor is a pattern of black and white static. Is this the control room or something? I don't know. I do know there's not a shred of ammo, health, or even a weapon for most of the map, though.
The website says Armadosia was tested with Doom Legacy but should work in most ports. I found one incompatibility with PrBoom that stops you being able to finish level 26; there's a room with a switch you need to press where the ceiling is covered in hanging bodies that block your path. Legacy has proper 3d thing clipping so these wouldn't be a problem in it. Also there are enough middle textures (vines, gratings etc) used in spaces with not enough room for them so that they bleed into the floor that suggests to me that Legacy's renderer fixed this bug and clips them to the floor. Also there's a couple of monsters in a trap that never opens on level 28. There's probably other bugs on earlier levels but I can't remember them. To be honest it gets more irritating after map 24 and I don't think those maps have been tested so well.
In summary Armadosia is a gargantuan effort that really deserves to be played but I think it's probably too long and/or annoying for most people to slog through! Much like a reading of this review, then!