My 2 Cent Take on Paradise
Paradise - Tango
DooM2 (GZDooM) - Solo Play - 27,091,523 bytes
.: OverviewThis is a single-player map that plays on Maps01-03 of DooM2, and requires GZDooM v3.6.0 or higher. These vary from compact to expansive, but they are all intense levels that will keep you on your toes. It features plenty of new stuff: enemies, weapons, textures, music, sounds. [For this review I've used criteria that I put together in my recent article.]
.: AestheticsWhether you're looking for a consistency of theme, atmosphere, architecture, detailing, lighting, or custom texturing, Paradise has it all. From start to finish the game is visually appealing, encouraging exploration and frequent pauses to admire the breathtaking vistas and complexity of the structures. The game hearkens back to the days of high-end "classic" mods, when developers had mastered the use of new textures and complex geometry. To me, the aesthetic is a combination of HeXen, Strife, and Eternal DooM, and it works very well.
One of the things that initially bothered me was the absence of slopes, especially considering this mod was specifically designed for GZDooM. However, upon giving it further consideration, I realized that the absence of slopes reinforces the retro feel of the game, and I soon stopped noticing that there were no slopes.
.: Level DesignThe maps are designed to be part of a contiguous, hostile environment, and the seamlessness of level design very much reinforces this notion. Map01 is mostly linear, with little back-tracking required. But Maps02 and 03 are complex, non-linear masterpieces that loop around and have multiple intersecting paths and "reveals". Initially, these two maps can be confusing (and the confusion is compounded in Map02, where a significant chunk of the map is not visible in the auto-map). But with some exploration (and the occasional stumbling around) the player is guided back to the path.
There are a fair number of switches and keys to find, but their location makes it intuitive to figure out what happens after using them. There are secret areas, some of whih are clearly visible, but I was unable to access most of them (probably because I wasn't patient or observant enough).
.: GameplayThe gameplay is challenging almost from the get-go. At first, I tried the game at "Hurt Me Plenty" skill level (having read the text file, which cautioned that "Ultra-Violence" skill level might be too difficult). But even at this level the opposition was wiping the floor with my ass. Some of the fights were just too frustating for me, partly because I was too impatient to learn the author's intended way of doing things, and partly because I wanted to make progess and see what lay ahead. In the end, I played the game at "Not Too Rough" skill, which seemed to work very nicely for me.
Despite having my butt handed to me on a platter many times over, I believe the gameplay is properly balanced (especially because multiple skill levels are implemented). There are plenty of surprises and traps, often in places with only one way out and little room for mistakes. But there is a reasonable amount of health, armor, weapons, and ammo to help the player survive. (At "NTR" skill there seemed to be too much scrap ammo and too little shotgun ammo, but this is a minor nitpick.)
.: Custom Weapons and EnemiesThe game has new goodies galore. Virtually every weapon through Slot 4 has been replaced, the exceptions being the fist and the chainsaw. The biggest improvement to the arsenal, in my opinion, is the four-barrelled Scrap Gun; it would be deserving of the title "Devastator", cutting lesser enemies to shreds, while even putting serious hurt on the bosses. One feature of the weapons that I greatly appreciated was the requirement to periodically reload. It goes with my methodical style of gameplay, wherein I like to pause or make a strategic withdrawal.
The game has custom variants of almost every DooM monster, and many of them are now far more lethal. In particular, the archvile and baron replacements are deadly. [One very cool thing about the Cyber Noble, aside from its ability to shove rockets up your kiester, is that afer it takes enough damage its rocket-firing arm gets ripped off and it then fires baron nukage balls.] I found it fun to engage the new enemies and learn their strengths and weaknesses. All-in-all, the new enemies greatly enhance the quality of this mod.
.: Other ConsiderationsThere are plenty of other new things in this mod. For one thing, there's all-new music. At first, I felt the music was too 1970s-style pop-bordering-on rock. But it grew on me, and it is clearly appropriate for the retro look of the mod. [Don't get me wrong, the music has a professional ring to it, and is in no way cheesy. But it initially seemed a little out-of-place to me.] The weapon sounds are full and resonant; I was particularly impressed by the staccato sound of the Assault Rifle. Also notable are the sounds associated with the terrain (e.g., splashes when the player enters water or nukage).
.: Wrap UpThis map is fun and chaotic, if somewhat difficult, and looks beautiful. Seasoned players may be comfortable at HMP or UV skill, but others may want to try a lower skill level to avoid the tedium of constantly taking damage and restarting the map. It has plenty of goodies, from satisfying new weapons, to formidable new enemies. And the level design is superb. This mod deserves to be played more than once.