Another Doom anniversary, another classic Doom-styled mapset. What better way to celebrate Doom‘s 22nd birthday than with what, in an alternate universe, could have been id’s official Doom levels?
Doom the Way id Did is the Doom homage to end all Doom homages. Tired of mapsets only textured to look like E1 but that don’t play anything like it? Done with the straight lines and right angles of modern maps? This is the WAD for you: for the first time, a full, three-episode megaWAD that attempts to recapture the essence of id’s original levels in every possible way.
I can’t list all the names, but there’s some truly wonderful talent behind the scenes here — from modern legends like Esselfortium and Xaser to oldies-but-goodies Paul Corfiatis and Christopher Lutz. What’s different on DTWiD is that that talent stays mostly behind the scenes, given how closely these guys were required to emulate John Romero and Sandy Petersen. Still, I don’t see a project of this scope turning out nearly as well as it did without a rock-solid team like this.
This is a spectacular WAD, from start to finish. The maps stick to the look and texture of the episode they represent, they play fast and casual like old id maps, and the designs are totally nonsensical and angular. I love what the mapset does with nooks and throwaway side areas (or even secrets) that contain barely anything worthwhile and instead just exist to be cool and interesting. Secrets in general are especially well-done, often with an entrance and an exit, which allows you to keep dashing through the levels without missing a beat.
These certainly appear on the surface like classic id maps, and you’ll occasionally marvel at how much one feels like a lost Romero or Sandy map… only to realize a second later that it’s because the creator lifted layouts or architectural details right out of the original levels. Not in a hacky way, but in a way that’s kind of distracting for someone who knows the id levels as well as I do.
The illusion is broken like that a lot, and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s an uncanny valley sort of thing where these maps are so close to the original that you see the flaws that much clearer. Maybe it’s that when we’re told it’s the 100% authentic id experience, we can’t help wanting to prove that statement wrong.
For one, the set breaks out its complicated, interconnected design right from the second map, with E1M2 and M3 being about on par with id’s E1M6 and M7 in terms of complexity. Then there’s the confusion-factor. Layouts simply aren’t as elegant or clear as they should be — for Romero maps especially. I didn’t get lost in his levels even as a kid, but DTWiD had me wandering around confused at least a few times per episode.
And on and on. Traps and monster closets everywhere. The distinct flatness of some of Sandy’s E2 and E3 maps isn’t a trait that shows up at all in DTWiD. The big, open vistas that Doom reserved for boss maps (and Mt. Erebus) are suddenly pretty common. Same with multiple entrances into keyed sections; the number of times you’ll see two different doors of the same color that just lead into different ends of the same locked area is bizarrely high for a phenomenon I can only actually remember seeing in two or three original maps.
It’s all nitpicking, for sure. But I can’t help it. It may work for some, but as a WAD that wants to be the Lost Episodes of Doom, it’s just not quite there for me.
Fortunately, that’s an easy thing to get over, and the moment I stopped judging DTWiD as if it were an authentic Romero and Sandy production was the moment I started loving it. I stopped picking at the seams and started enjoying the WAD for what it was. Regardless of whether each map fits your Platonic ideal of an id map, these levels are full of charming, ultra-oldschool gameplay that makes it feel like it’s 1994 all over again. And I’m perfectly happy with that.
I can’t point to a single lackluster map across all three episodes. But if we’re picking favorites, there’s E1M1, perhaps the only concise map in the whole WAD, and one of the most id-like too; E1M8, a cool, creepy buildup to the obligatory baron showdown; E2M4, another eerie map that mixes super-bright and super-dark areas to brilliant effect; and E3M4, which is everything an Inferno map should be and more. Also, shoutout to that moment in E2M2 where you have to choose between a rocket launcher and plasma gun, and then the other one rises out of reach before you can get it. That was a mean trick.
That’s it. 27 levels of pure, old-fashioned, vanilla Doom. This is your father’s Doom, and it’s damn proud of it.
Doom the Way id Did requires DOOM.WAD and should run on any source port under the sun. If you’re not sure how to get it running, this may help. An optional soundtrack for DTWiD by Mr. Freeze can also be found on the official website. And for more awesome WADs, be sure to check these out!