THE WICKED SERIES
It's been ages since I wrote a too-long, didn't-read article about a bunch of Doom maps. So let's look at the Wicked series, by Rex Claussen, a talented and prolific mapper who has done everything from plain vanilla maps to Star Wars conversions.
So far there have been 7 wads in the series which are all for vanilla Doom 2, no source port required (although obviously I used p/rboom like I always do now) The first five all came out in 2002, but since the last one came out only a year ago I'm assuming the series is still ongoing...
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Wicked_1 replaces MAP10. All of these wads replace non-obvious map numbers. I don't know why but suspect the reason is just that the author feels the MAP10 music fits better. I wouldn't know, I never play with music.
Anyway this map is excellent. You are in a nonlinear techbase. The architecture is solid and believable but not overdetailed. There are height differences and outdoor areas. The theme varies though is mostly brown and bronze, there's some nukage tunnels and brick, but it never looks out of place. The gameplay is a little on the tight side, there's not a great deal of resources available so be sure to use the chainsaw when you can. But I guess a map shouldn't be too easy on a first attempt else it has less replay value.
In many ways the first one is the best one. It's not too big or complicated or easy to get lost in, or too symmetrical, or too easy, or too hard, or have any daft gimmicks that make it feel weird. Certainly it made it initially easy to instantly download and play each map of the series as soon as it came out.
Wicked_2 replaces MAP07. It's the only one that actually needs to be that particular map number - as you might gather from the name it is a map07 clone. Actually that's not fair, it looks completely different to the original map07. You start in a cross-shaped room, the four points of it being the start, the exit and two teleporters. They both lead to circular-ish arenas. The first has a bunch of arachnotrons and a cyberdemon; when all the former die, you can get up the sides and find a big crowd of demons. The second arena features a bunch of mancubi and a spiderdemon. It's more cramped here so it's harder, and there are imps outside it.
I'm ambivalent towards this map. It has the high quality, solid, not-overdetailed architecture common to all maps in this series, but its gameplay isn't much more than a map07 clone, and I don't think those work well as standalone maps.
No Rest for the Wicked
Wicked_3 replaces MAP27 with a red brick castle that is so like a Doom level that the first time I played it I ran into a hellknight and I couldn't believe my eyes! What was a hellknight doing in Doom... oh wait, it's actually a Doom 2 level.
Its gameplay is quite interesting in that you basically can't do it the conventional way of killing each monster as you come to it. If you do that you'll run out of ammo pretty soon. You have to run through about half the level until you have the blue key at least before making any serious attempt to remove the monsters which simply can't be avoided. And even then it's still pretty tight with the ammunition.
For the Wicked Shall Perish
Wicked_4 replaces MAP05. The series returns to its roots with a tech/industrial map. This naturally subdivides into a number of different sections. Starting outside at the south of the map you work your way to the centre, where the exit is, then off to the remaining three major compass directions. Each of these "wings", as it were, gets you a key. The minor compass point wings are just bonus sections.
Each wing is itself large and full of traps. The biggest is probably the one that leads to the red key. Hint: If you clear it out in the obvious way you won't find the switch you need, those bars only open from the inside. You have to notice that one of the four pools of slime in the room with the crossing walkways has a gap in its wall, and follow that round to a lift.
The blue and yellow key wings are much more straightforward, although the blue wing is quite dark and you have to keep your wits about you. In summary this one would probably be the best of the series, but I think it's a bit large, takes a while to get into, and that bit of nonobvious progression.
Death Comes Not Gently to the Wicked
Wicked_5 replaces MAP18. By the time it came out I was in the middle of the awkward DIY->Prboom transition and it sort of got lost. I had this thing where a wad was either a DIY wad or a Prboom wad and it didn't feel right to play the wad in the wrong engine, I don't know why. Anyway since I'd played the previous 4 in DIY, I felt this one had to be as well. So this was the first wad I'd played in DIY for a fair amount of time and it got put off for ages too. Oh well. None of this makes any difference, I just like writing this shit down for some reason.
The map itself is in the Doom 2 city theme, by and large, and especially with the city sky texture, really feels like it. It is most similar to Map13: Downtown, although there are fewer buildings and they are bigger. Like many of the others it is low on health, although there's quite a lot of ammunition available early on. One problem is that the first objective of finding the red key, is quite hard; just like Wicked_4 you have to be very observant. Hint: the biggest building, the only one you can get right inside to begin with, surrounds a walled courtyard with some cacodemons. Search that, there's a button you have to shoot.
The second building is accessed by teleporter, although you might have run through its central passageway already, the building itself is just the top floor. Then there are three more buildings to get through once you have the yellow key, the first gets you access to the second two, each of which teleports you back to the start, and allows you to open the two sets of bars to one last area where there's a switch that opens the exit. That sounds more complicated than it is.
This is definitely one of my favourites not least because of its relatively unique position in my own history with the game, but also because it's a nicely made, large open level with plenty to see and do. It is quite hard and the lack of health can be frustrating, but once you've cleared outside and the first building and have the red key, you're probably okay...
The Wicked and the Damned
Wicked_6 replaces MAP17. By the time mid-2003 came around and this map was released, I'd pretty given up bothering to switch computers to run DIY. So at the time I never bothered to download this map, because I figured I'd never get round to playing it in DIY. So despite being nearly three years old I only got round to playing it this week.
It turned out to be another base/industrial-themed map similar to 4. However, it's a lot smaller. What there is, is dark, and appears to be completely devoid of life. You have to basically explore most of this map looking for, well, anything. It's a complex layout and at this initial stage none of the doors work. It's quite easy to get lost.
Eventually you find a room on the far side of the map with a switch. You press it and shit comes to life! Now you have to get back to the other end of the map, running through a slime river through a now-demolished wall and trying not to die. There is as usual a lack of health and ammo and the longer you can go without firing a weapon after you re-energise the base, the better. Having said that the population of this map is nowhere near as numerous as some prior of the series, and I managed to beat this map on my first attempt.
Once activated the interior of the base is still quite confusing, especially as many of the doors only open from one side. Once you get them all open it's a little easier but still be prepared to be lost. This was a good idea but was quite short and felt slightly gimmicky. Oh and don't fall in the machinery.
Wicked Be The Ways of Men
Wicked_7 replaces MAP10, just like Wicked_1 (so precludes you from loading all seven maps at the same time, I suppose) On entry you have nowhere but a teleporter to walk into. Where you end up... depends on your skill level.
This map is made not on conventional standards. Each skill level is of roughly similar difficulty, and they all have the same objective - find the blue key, find the red key, and use them both to open the exit in the centre of the map. However, the location of the keys and your start position varies, and indeed there are three areas each of which is only accessible on one skill level.
The theme varies. It's mostly a dark techbase in the same style as 4 and 6, the interior of which being typically complex and easy to get lost in as before. There are also peripheral areas: caves, an old brick building, some rocky canyons, and rivers of slime and sewage.
As for gameplay well I already mentioned the changes with skill level. This makes for some interesting quirks, traps going off in not-so-obvious places, etc. Otherwise it's relatively straightforward. Apart from the usual resource deficit the only other thing I'd have to say about the gameplay is that there are a number of monster teleporters which don't go off fast enough (this always bugs me)
On the whole it's a great idea but somehow feels unsatisfying. I don't know if it's because it feels wrong that there are entire areas of maps you can't get into, or maybe I'm just rigid and narrow-minded. But it's nonetheless a very good map, and you should play it on all three skill levels.