Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Update and A Review (Doom)

Hoo, boy, it's been awhile.  I think we need to hit up a quick roundup of what I've been doing since I last posted here.

I stream sometimes on Twitch, mainly random Doom playthroughs, sometimes some Pokemon Red speedruns as I race early parts of the game, and occasionally other stuff.  Depends on the whim.

Beat Mega Man Battle Network last night,  Game was... alright?  Really up and down?  Something like that.  The ending was very "What the fuck" and "Well, that was anti-climactic".

BattleBlock Theater, Divinity: Original Sin, Broforce, Nidhogg are other games I've played.  Those last two, maybe in addition to BBT might get a review.  Haven't played enough Divinity.

So, we caught up?  For the most part, at least.

Alright, time to talk some motherfucking Doom.

I never grew up on PC games, so the Doom/Duke Nukem/Quake era sort of passed me by.  While id and 3DRealms were having their blowstuffupathon, I was playing Mario and Sonic games.

Quite different from the market they created, no?

Anyways, I started getting into Doom about 4 years ago, when I realized that I'm awful at first person shooters, but had always heard bits and pieces about the Doom series.  So I picked up a source port and started poking around.

First impressions were along the lines of "OK, this is easy enough" which turned into "Oh my god, what the hell is going on here??".  The lack of mouse look, which I'm sure was a technical limitation at the time, makes for an interesting experience.  The vertical auto aim certainly is a godsend in that regard.  Seriously, if you released a shooter now-a-days without mouse look, and with this much auto-aim, they'd get crucified.

Now, let's look at how I view Doom now: I fucking love Doom.  If you're reading this, and trying to decide for some reason that you want to know more about the game, I am going to try to keep my enthusiasm in check a little, but just be warned.

So, what makes Doom so enjoyable for me?  It's fast paced, it's got good weapon design, and it's got good enemy design.

Let's start at the top.


Doom is very fast.  DoomGuy runs at an insane speed, and even his base walking speed is nuts compared to modern FPS games.  What this leads to is some crazy fire fights between you and the enemy.  At any given moment, you are dodging between projectiles, trying to outrun others, and circle-strafing a big demon while you're health is at 10%..  All this creates a sort of fluid exhilaration.  Almost a sense of ordered chaos.

Some key elements you'll notice when you play Doom, Doom 2 or either Final Doom chapter

- No health regeneration
- No cover system
- No aiming down sights, and by that token, no headshots
- Only autosaves are at the start of a level
- Lots of auto aim
- Movement is paramount.  Speed is your friend.
- The games are from the mid-90s, so, don't expect high fidelity.
- Monster Infighting.

So, if any of those elements do not appeal to you, this may not be a game for you.  If you're not put off by them, let's continue.

You play as DoomGuy, an unnamed, silent protagonist, and the grandfather of all future Space Marines-as-player-characters.  You're tasked with stopping a hellish invasion of ...

OK, I'm going to level with you.  Doom games, at least Doom, Doom 2, and Final Doom, have next to nothing for story.  It's presented as walls of text every handful of levels or so.  The short version is Demons invading X, let's go kill them.

And who exactly will we be killing?  Well, I'm glad you asked.


All sprites below courtesy of Spriter's Resource.  Also note, characters not to scale.

Left to right: Zombieman, Sergeant, and Chaingunner

 These, along with the Imp (later) are the bread and butter enemies of the game.  They are all hitscan enemies, meaning that their bullets travel instantaneously.  The Zombieman uses the equivalent of your pistol, the Sergeant has a shotgun, and the Chaingunner, well, a chaingun.  These enemies have relatively low Health, but if left alive, they can deal out a surprising amount of damage.  Except the Zombieman.  Him, not so much.  Sergeants can be annoying, if you don't have a way to quickly deal with them, because shotguns at close range will hit you with more pellets.  More pellets equals more damage.  As you get further away though, they become less of a threat, due to the pellets spreading apart.  Chaingunners, on the other hand, have the uncanny ability to take off huge swaths of your Health, especially if you don't see them before they start shooting.  A single round from them is no problem, but factor in the hard-to-dodge aspect of hitscan weapons, and their insane rate of fire, and they can quickly turn from nuisance to threat.  A handful of these guys can take you from 100% to dead in a matter of seconds. 

The Zombieman and Sergeant were introduced in Doom, and the Chaingunner debuted in Doom 2.

Left to Right: Imp, Demon, Hell Knight, Baron of Hell, Arachnotron

Here's where we start to get interesting.  After the first few levels, the imp becomes the primary fodder enemy.  It's tougher than a Zombieman (and a Sergeant for that matter), and can dish out more hurt than both of them. They can attack from both melee range, and they have a ranged fireball attack.  The fireball, in most cases, is your first exposure to non-hitscan enemies in Doom.  Their projectiles are fairly slow, and they're large enough to see from a distance, so you have reaction time.  Like most things in Doom, alone, these guys are a piece of cake once you get the Shotgun.  Get a group of them together, and you have the makings for a minor bullet-hell from the first person perspective.  The Demons are your basic melee ranged enemy.  With no ranged attack, they run right up to you, nary a care in the world.  This also makes them easy to turn into pseudo-allies through Monster Infighting.  

Monster Infighting is exactly what it says on the tin.  If one monster hits another monster with an attack, the struck monster may go after the offending attacker.  Because Demons run in pretty much a straight line at you, luring them into a fireball isn't difficult.  From there, the Demon may ignore you, and go after the Imp that attacked him.  Note this alwo works with Hitscan enemies as well.  If you position yourself properly, the hitscan enemies will still fire, and you can send other enemies after them.  

The Hell Knight is an interesting monster, and probably the laziest design of the whole list.  Debuting in Doom 2, the Hell Knight is a near carbon copy of the Baron of Hell, except with half as many HP.  Apart from that, the stat block for these two are similar.  Especially dangerous at melee, these guys are capable of knocking off 80% of your Health with some luck, due to damage ranges.  Like the Imp, they also have a projectile.  Their projectiles are quicker and more damaging than an Imp's fireball.  Hell Knights do have a use though.  They can be used more frequently than a Baron of Hell, due to lower health, and thus, the player spending less ammo, but they remain just as deadly to the careless player.  The Baron of Hell is an incredibly tough monster, who's hit points are only outclassed by the two bosses.

Arachnotrons are less annoying versions of a boss monster.  They die fairly quickly, if you can place two rockets well, and their attacks aren't awful.  They fire a rapid succession of plasma bolts at you, similar to the Plasma Rifle the player uses.

Imps, Demons, and Barons of Hell made their debut in Doom.  Hell Knights and Arachnotrons in Doom 2.

And now the start of the Asshole Brigade

 Mancubus, Pain Elemental, Lost Soul, Revenant, Cacodemon, and Archvile

Here is where the game starts to go into "fuck you" mode.  Mancubi (Mancubuses?)  aren't too bad.  They shoot out two projectiles at a time, one from each cannon arm, in sets of 3.  They're spaced, so if you're talented, you can duck between them, but avoiding them to the outside is probably best.  Their projectiles travel pretty fast, so be wary of that.  Pain Elementals and Lost Souls go together here.  Lost Souls, once they start their attack, will fly in a straight line.  It's easy to play bullfighter with one or two in order to get a better shot.  Also, they will in-fight when other Lost Souls, which is handy.  Pain Elementals, on the other hand, are goddamned bastards.  Pain Elementals spit out Lost Souls at you.  If you can't find them, or can't access where they've been spawned and/or activated, they can quickly fill a room with Lost Souls.  In addition, when Pain Elementals die, they explode into 2-3 Lost Souls that immediately try to attack you.  Pain Elementals can be hard to find for two reasons: they fly/hover, and they can blend in with the background at a glance.  With no vertical mouse-look, you can't see them if they're above you.  Revenants are kinda sorta glass cannons.  Less Health than a Hell Knight, these skeletal foes aren't too hard to kill.  The problem with them though, is that they shoot fireballs that can home in on you.  If you're not careful, you could find yourself getting hit in the side or the back by a fireball you thought you dodged.  Cacodemons aren't too bad.  Flying, less asshole-y versions of Pain Elementals.  They shoot slowish fireballs at you.  Their ability to go vertical can hide them from your view easily.

Then that jerk.  The Archvile.  He is a high priority target.  The Archvile has two attacks, a claw and an ignite/explosion combo.  If he has line of sight on you, he starts to set you on fire.  If you're still in the fire when the 'timer' runs out, it explodes, dealing massive damage, and sending you flying.  Two attacks like this will kill you from 100% Health and 100% Armor.  The way around this is to use corners and pillars to break line of sight.  That's not what makes them a nightmare though.  Archviles can revive killed enemies in the area.  That is why they're priority one.  There are some exceptions of course, but that alone is enough to warrant focus-firing on them first.  Factor in that they're one of the fastest monsters in the game, and they've got the fourth highest health totals (behind the two bosses, and Barons of Hell), and you have an enemy that should have a target firmly drawn on it's back.

Cacodemons and Lost Souls debuted in Doom, The rest rear their heads in Doom 2.

The Bosses: Spiderdemon and Cyberdemon

These are the big boys.  Both debuting in Doom one, these are the icons on the series.  The Cyberdemon inspired one of the original Protips that reads "To defeat the Cyberdemon, shoot at it until it dies."  The Cyberdemon packs a punch, being able to kill a player who's at 100% Health in a single shot without fail.  The rockets they fire travel as fast as Mancubi fireballs, and they also fire in bursts, except the Cyberdemon's rockets do splash damage near the impact point.  Even if you're at 100% Health, and 100% Armor, you still fall within the damage range of a one-hit-KO from a direct rocket hit.  With four times the Health of a Baron of Hell, with a smaller chance to stun it out of an attack, Cyberdemons are a destructive force to face.

Spiderdemons (also known as Spider Masterminds), are a hitscan enemy.  That's right, this boss monster with the huge chaingun on his frame can hit you at range instantly. This isn't any chaingun though, no sir.  This is a SUPER Chaingun, one that fires 3 shots at a time.  The normal chaingun shot does between 3-15 damage to the player.  If you get hit by all three shells from the Spiderdemon, you're soaking up between 9 and 45 damage.  That's from a single, fraction of a second burst.  If you're unlucky enough to get caught in the open with no cover nearby, well, suffice to say, you're going to have a hard time surviving your encounter.  These guys are capable of shredding health in a hurry.  They are more fragile than a Cyberdemon though, so hey, we got that going for us.

You may ask, "why did you go into such detail about the enemies in a shooter?"  My response is simple: each of these enemies makes the game different from other FPS games I've played.  The combination of hitscan enemies and dodgeable projectiles, coupled with the high movement speed of DoomGuy means that the game is a frantic game of resource management (remember, no regenerating health, and ammo is finite) mixed with a fast paced dance of shooting and dodging.  When I mentioned that fighting a swarm of Imps is like a minor bullet hell, well when you throw in the game's larger encounters with a mix of all these enemies, you get a really tense game.

Let's Wrap This Up

Alright, so before you get the impression that I think Doom, Doom 2, and Final Doom are perfect, I need to say this.  The level design in some places is really bad.  At times, it's overly labyrinthine, and needlessly confusing.  The music for the game is a mixed bag, varying from merely OK to downright awesome.  The problem though, lies in the fact that the songs are short midi clips.  Don't be surprised if you here a midi-fied "Them Bones" (by Alice in Chains) a dozen or more times over the course of one level.  The sound effects for the game are really good, with the Super Shotgun and the BFG9000 deserving special mention.  The Super Shotgun's sound design, paired with it's animation, and actual damage output, makes firing it feel impactful.  When you kill a Demon in one shot with it, it feels like that's what it should do.  The BFG9000 has a very satisfying shooting and impact effect ,both audibly and visually.  The crackle of energy as it charges for a half-second before firing gives it some weight of impact as well.

The first three Doom games have consumed a decent portion of my free time over the last year or so, with me recently finishing TNT Evilution, and working on The Plutonia Experiment of late.  As a person who's terrible at modern FPS, I feel somewhat competent playing this game due to the heavy focus on movement, instead of twitchy aiming, often found in games like Quake or Unreal Tournament.  If I had to pick a definitive Doom Experience (tm), I'd cheat and say Doom 2 and TNT Evilution.  Doom 2 is pretty much Doom 1 but More, featuring a new weapon (The Super Shotgun is a game-changer), new enemies (see wall of text above at who's new), and a more enjoyable experience overall.  TNT Evilution is a nice escalation from Doom 2 in difficulty, with some pretty good map design, and a few new assets (graphics, music).  Plutonia is extremely difficult in comparison to Doom 2.  Plutonia is harder than TNT Evilution as well.  While I'm playing through Plutonia now, I'm having less fun with it than I had with TNT.  Here's the main reason why:  They ramp up the amount of annoying monsters by a lot.  Plutonia contains almost twice as many Archviles as TNT and Doom 2 COMBINED.  It has more Cyberdemons, more Mancubi (On the lowest difficulty, TNT + Doom 2 contain 36.  Plutonia has 92.  On EASY!), and other enemies in general.  Mo' monstahs, mo' problems.

That's all I've got for you, for now.  I'll be happy to answer any questions you may have.  Just leave a comment, and I'll try to help as best I can.

If you want to see quality Doom gameplay though, check out KingDime on Twitch.  Dude's a very skilled speedrunner, and he's pretty good at answering any questions you may have about his run or Doom in general.

P.S. Special shout out to Pirate Doom, which may get it's own post in the future.