THE TALOSIAN INCIDENT
This isn't about the first episode of Star Trek, though it's probably where they got the name from. The Talosian Incident is a relatively famous 20-map PWAD from 1997, which which I decided to play after hearing about the guy who was trying to make a tribute to it (the one map he finished appeared as DAC 16)
There's a plot that can be summed up thusly: you are on a transport ship which crash lands on a planet which is meant to be uninhabited. But of course it isn't, and with the rest of your ship's crew dead you try to send for help, only to find something is blocking your transmissions. So off you go to find out what. You end up plodding halfway round this planet through a series of ever more unconnected maps...
- The first map sets the scene. There's one monster but it's in a stasis field and can't be killed. You just get to pick up a few supplies, and find out exactly how the ship is laid out.
- The maps follow on from each other so at the end of the last one you're stepping into the access lift and here you're at the bottom of it, ready to open the airlock. You run out underneath your ship towards a gap in the rock face. The rest of this map is a sparsely populated canyon with a couple of weird buildings, it's not hard especially if you use the berserk to conserve ammunition.
- Map 3 starts with some buildings on a plain, but also has some side corridors, it doesn't make a great deal of sense but whatever. I think it's more intended for deathmatch as there's weapons just lying around and a lot of teleporters. The author seems to have just worked out how to make his map editor make curves of linedefs and is using that feature to its fullest. It ends, bizarrely enough, in a silver corridor just past a hellish underground.
- You're in some caves and there's a few monsters around. In one of the caves is the entrance to the chapel that gives the map its name. Couple of rooms with monsters between you and a key on the other side. Then it opens up into a large underground river of blood, which I quite liked, the exit is on the other side.
- You're inside the fort across the river. This is the first of a number of "corridors, small rooms, and way too many doors" maps that characterise this wad. As you might guess it can get quite annoying, especially when you have to backtrack. To end the map you shoot a tall box with some kind of ball on top. I am choosing to assume this is the transmission jammer you went to look for in the first place.
- The first half of this map is in fact part of the previous map, which you have to do backwards. So, more doors. However it's not exactly the same and it's interesting to see how the two maps differ. You find you can't get back out of the fort the way you came in though, so you have to find a different way back to the ship. The latter half of the map is new, but it's more rooms, halls, stairs and doors.
- You're in some kind of underground structure. It is quite well lit, obviously since it predates limit-removing source ports it can't go wild but it looks pretty good. Run round the edge, clear out the monsters, and get the blue key, then go through the door to find the yellow one. In the centre is a crowd of mancubi, which when killed reveal a load of arachnotrons, which when killed raises steps to the exit. There's a soulsphere to be had if you can find the buttons to lower it.
- A small but nasty map in which you must first explore some brick corridors to release a key (from the start go up the left staircase first) then through a teleporter you have a lava pit and surrounding area and another chapel. It's nasty because there's so many zombies and you can die rather suddenly.
- Although textured in tan rather than dungeon bricks, this is just another one of those maps with lots of small rooms and too many doors! It's mostly easy but don't get too carried away in the huge chamber at the east end of the map as you might end up losing too much health.
- This is a long thin map in an industrial/warehouse style which you have to run to one end then all the way to the other and back. The best bit is the far end where it overlooks an underground river. It gives the impression of being part of a larger whole. I like the architecture in this one.
- This is a small map with some more nice lighting and an "always try to open the door on the right" gimmick. There is a central hub, and side areas mostly using Doom 2 base textures. There is a rocket launcher but you don't get it until you've killed everything. Ammo and health can be quite low, so be careful.
- A typical Doom 2 techbase. Tekgren, grey and silver theme. There's a central reactor, an armoury and the north side is clearly inspired by Doom 2 MAP04. This map isn't so much low on ammunition, but you have to wait right until the end to get most of it (900 bullets, for example) and there are some nasty traps. The lighting in the crate area is fun, large contrast between light and dark, sharp shadows.
- This is basically one large room in which you get a rocket launcher to remove two archviles, two arachnotrons and a bunch of revenants. It isn't exactly hard but it is easy to screw up or have bad luck or whatever and can be quite frustrating. There's also this glowing force-field thing that you shouldn't walk into.
- For some reason we've dropped back into the caves. This map is one of the more clear indications that you're not supposed to do these maps from scratch as there are 73 rockets and nothing to fire them with. However there's enough of the rest that, with monster infighting to help, you should be all right. The super shotgun is better than rockets for spiderdemons anyway.
- You emerge from the underground tunnel with its pillars of flesh and wire, and what's on the other side? Well, I don't know but it is silver. The first part is all silver, but transitions oddly into brown bricks in one part. This one is probably the one that takes the longest time to do, with all the backtracking. Be on the lookout for very small switches, you don't just need them to find the secret exit, you need them to find the real one too.
- The first secret level is pretty much just a monster arena. The start is a bit annoying with all the barons and lost souls and only having a chaingun, but it improves and you can end up running round a large chamber organising monsterfights with a cyberdemon. The secret exit isn't too hard to find, I think.
- A typically bizarre super secret level is centred around four magic doors. Two of them take you to some side areas where you must kill the hanging corpses of marines emblazoned with the Quake logo. On doing this you get access to the third which takes you to the exit. The fourth makes you restart the level, or the entire wad, or crashes the game depending on what source port you use (it's a secret exit on a map that's not supposed to have a secret exit)
- So as the name suggests you're in a canyon that's basically Y-shaped. Take the left fork to find some more of the doors, halls and symmetry you're already familiar with. At the end of this arrangement is a switch that opens the fortress in the other fork, which contains the exit.
- 12 and 13 were quite bad but this, this is probably the hardest map in the set. You're stuck on one side of a gorge with not one but two monster spawners. You get full health and ammo but it has to last for two whole minutes after you press the switch that raises a bridge from one side to the other. So basically, there's nowhere to hide so you're running around on one side of this thing keeping the pain elementals and revenants' homing missiles at bay, hoping no archviles show up. After what seems like hours the bridge, which is crawling with monsters by now, shows up, and you dash across it, which lowers a wall on the other side.
All of a sudden, you remember the plot. You're back at your ship! It turns out the gorge was opposite the passageway by which you left it, all the way back in map 2. Unfortunately, during your absence the monsters have laid siege to your vessel, and there are about 20 cyberdemons guarding the entrance. With the gorge - rapidly filling with monsters - no longer an option, you can only run around in desperation, as there is nowhere near enough ammunition to remove the horde. However, running full speed past the airlock, you manage to trip the mechanism and the door flies open! Luring the cyberdemons away once more, you make one final attempt - charge in, and hit the switch...
- Okay, so you're back in your ship, having removed the transmission jammer. Fortunately you know the layout, from map 1. But things have changed - the thing in the stasis field escaped and let on an army. You have to activate a bunch of manual overrides for half the doors in the ship (yeah, your ship has way too many doors too) and rid it of monsters. Finally, you make it back to the cockpit - and not a moment too soon, as clearly it is being subverted. Success! Wearily, you activate the communications panel at the front, and the level ends. It's just a good thing that battalion of cyberdemons you left underneath your ship at the end of the last level can't do any damage..!
So, there you go. I think the wad falls short of being a classic - some of it is good, but some of it isn't and dare I say part of its fame is due to having been made by some "names" who've gone on to bigger things in the gaming industry. There's a lot of decent architecture and as pretty lighting as you can do with the limits of the vanilla engine. But, all those doors, and the maps are quite empty - sometimes it feels like there's more doors than there are monsters.
All the maps are possible to do from scratch but some aren't easy. However, doing the wad as a mission run, and carrying ammunition forward, probably makes it too easy - although it isn't easy to do the whole 20 levels in a row without dying or using saves (and it took about two and a half hours of gametime so it's not something you could do any old time)
In summary, I don't know. It's pretty good but not wonderful and in some ways I'm glad to be done with it.