Oh well, leaves me more time to play through some fan-made Doom WADS.
Grabbing GZDoom to play through the original two Doom games turned out to be more of a blessing than I had originally realized. I’m useless with computers, and I also have an incredibly short attention span. When it comes to downloading mods for games, I tend to get frustrated too easily unless the process is relatively simple. The beauty of Doom and GZDoom is that the “process” of installing a mod isn’t even a process at all. You download the WAD, you drag and drop onto GZDoom, and you’re done.
So the first WAD I started with was Going Down.
Going Down kicked the shit out of me.
Going Down made me realize I wasn’t anywhere near as good at Doom as I thought I was.
So Classic Doom has five levels of difficulty. Now I’ve become a little more entrenched in the Doom fandom I’ve come to realize two things: One; Of those five difficulty levels, Ultra-Violence, the one below the highest difficulty, is considered the way to play. The second thing I realized was that Doom WADs are generally made as a way to push skilled players with incredibly difficult, intense maps.
When I previously played through Doom and Doom II, I had only been playing on the normal, standard difficulty. In other words: I was in no way prepared for how vigorously fan made Doom WADs were going to brutalize me. Even playing through Going Down on the normal difficulty was crushing me. When I got to around Level 21, a level in which they take all of your weapons away and then throw this at you, I realized I was in way over my head.
Thankfully I found with Doom that I was having an experience I’ve never really had with video games before. I typically only play through games on the “normal” difficulty. Rarely do I push through to the harder difficulty settings, not because I’m not interested in being challenged, but because I like to appreciate as much of the game as possible without the games difficulty getting in the way. As Going Down repeatedly kicked my ass, I found myself relishing the challenge. I don’t think there’s a better feeling in all of video games then running into a furiously difficult encounter in Doom, thinking there is no way you’ll be able to pass, then conquering it through sheer skill and determination.
I imagine this is how people who enjoy Dark Souls feel.
Anyway, I replayed Doom 1 and Doom 2 on Ultra-Violence so I could get really good, so I could understand the baseline with which these people were creating their challenging WADs.
After Going Down, I figured I should check out John Romero’s SIGIL, which was part of the reason why I wanted to get into classic Doom in the first place. I enjoyed Sigil, but it felt a little stale compared to what I had experienced in Going Down. The levels look astonishing, but I found myself getting a little tired of it pretty quickly. It’s difficult definitely felt frustrating an experience I wasn’t having with every other set of Doom levels.
After that, I pressed on into Eviternity, which might be one of my favourite gaming experiences of the year.
The beauty of Doom’s combat largely lies in the enemy variety combined with your available arsenal. All of the enemies fit together and fulfill specific roles in such a way that every encounter needs to be approached differently depending on what enemies your facing and what weapons you have at your disposal. The whole thing feels like puzzle pieces being fit together in slightly different ways but still providing a vivid picture. When they designed Doom 2016, they referred to the combat of Doom as “combat chess.”
Eviternity is made by a group of modders who understand this balance incredibly well. Not just this, but the game provides a few new enemy varieties (all based on existing enemies) which manage to complement the existing enemy group without feeling out of place or like it disrupts the delicate balance. The mod is also built using new texture maps, so the levels themselves have a wildly different atmosphere than the base Doom levels do. A good example of this is Level 15, a colossal castle in the middle of a snow-swept landscape. Astonishing stuff.
All-in-all my journey into the world of fan-made Doom WADs has only made me appreciate Doom even more, a feat I didn’t think was actually possible. Earlier in the year myself and a friend were talking about Tetris, a game we’ve become obsessed with since the release of Puyo Puyo Tetris on Switch, and then with the release of Tetris Effect and Tetris 99. As we were talking, I analogised our new found appreciation for Tetris as being like one day actually noticing a painting or photograph hanging in your childhood home and suddenly taking the time to appreciate how wonderful it is. Now, looking at my newfound appreciation for Doom feels the exact same way.
My list of Doom WADs to dive into next is long, but my next stop is No End In Sight, built by a team of modders trying to capture the feel of the original Doom’s level design.
My question for you guys this time: my experience with Doom’s difficulty felt rather unique for me, but has there ever been a game that you felt compelled to replay on higher difficulties? Did pushing through to that higher difficulty make you appreciate the game more? Let me know in the comments!