If you’ve played Doom the Way id Did, its Lost Episodes are essentially more of the same. A little less id-like, maybe, but with a wider quality spectrum. Doom the Way id Did: The Lost Episodes, to put it indelicately, is six episodes of leftovers and cut maps that didn’t make it into the official DTWiD release. What you have to keep in mind when saying these maps were “cut,” though, is why they would have been cut. The strict rules of DTWiD mean that submitted maps could easily be, and often were, rejected not for being of low quality but simply because they weren’t The Way id Did enough.
Honestly, even many of DTWiD‘s maps weren’t entirely consistent id’s style anyway, but I enjoyed the WAD just the same. Jumping into the Lost Episodes, I was more interested in playing a fun, classic Ultimate Doom mapset than in being wowed by how faithfully the mappers could channel their inner John Romero and Sandy Petersen. And with that mindset, I was not disappointed.
Well, maybe a little disappointed — at first. I was not having a good time for my first half hour or so, but I think that may be on me rather than the WAD. If there’s anything that the DTWiD WADs have taught me about myself, it’s that I’m getting awfully bored with the Knee Deep in the Dead style maps. On top of the tired aesthetic, some of Episode 1’s maps also have a bit too much openness and maze-like layouts for the style they’re trying to emulate, and I found that I just plain had more fun with the concise and straightforward maps like M1, M6, and M7.
No surprise that it was there around M6 or M7 where I started getting into the swing of the WAD. And really, with only a couple exceptions, once Lost Episodes picks up, it doesn’t let off the gas pedal until the end. The first episode ends with Xaser’s “Darkside Lab,” a boss map that’s not even remotely id-like, but is as beautifully atmospheric and clever as vanilla Doom can get. You could easily compare the slow-burning “Darkside Lab” to another of my all-time favorites, Apostasy on Amalthea‘s E4M8 — the thing’s so far up my alley, it’s basically kicking down my front door.
It’s hard to live up to that standard, and honestly nothing in the rest of Lost Episodes or even the original DTWiD does in my opinion, even if it makes an admirable attempt. E2 starts way strong, probably helped along by my love of the Shores look, and stays strong mostly throughout, with one outlier perhaps being a vaguely homely and obtuse M5. If we’re looking at the line graph of Lost Episodes, Episode 3 holds the line steady, fluctuating only once when it hits the WAD’s second-best map, E3M7. If you want to see a long, meandering map in this style done to my liking, this is the one to check out.
Surprisingly, it’s Thy Flesh Consumed that’s the most consistently above par, not to mention the most The Way id Did of all the episodes. If you think about it, though, it’s probably due to there not being any Thy Flesh maps in the original DTWiD release, so all of the best E4-style maps submitted found themselves in Lost Episodes instead. That’s except for E4M6, which it turns out was crafted long after the fact, specifically for this project, rather than being cut DTWiD content. And it shows: overly-detailed and symmetrical environments, infuriating labyrinths, and more pitch-black spectre encounters than I’d have preferred seeing in a lifetime of WAD-playing. I actually wrote a long, angry rant about how much I hated this map immediately after playing it, but I think it’s best to keep this short. The column is called “What’s Awesome, Doom?” after all, not “What’s Awful, Doom?” So back to the awesome.
The good news is that Lost Episodes‘ fifth episode contains plenty of awesome: some better E1-style maps than many that were in the actual E1 (including the wonderful “Phobos Garrison,” E5M4), as well as three great Shores maps. And if you’re into boss maps, Episode 6 is a full episode of nothing but bruiser brothers, cyberdemons, and spider masterminds.
Really, you can read my review of DTWiD and more or less know how I felt overall about Lost Episodes. There are at most two or three real stinkers, but just as many maps that are totally genius. The rest are proud to simply be great classic Ultimate Doom maps, and you’ve gotta respect that.
Doom the Way id Did: The Lost Episodes requires DOOM.WAD and is vanilla-compatible, though Episode 6 requires either ZDoom or Eternity to be accessed. If you’re not sure how to get it running, this may help. And for more awesome WADs, be sure to check these out!