Breach is beautiful.
“Intricate” or “detailed” would also be accurate descriptors, though you’ve often gotta steer clear of those words in Doom circles. I think both terms are starting to transition out of bad word status — in part thanks to creators like Viggles and projects like Breach — but in the past they were too often associated with maps that either include so much detail that the architecture interferes with player movement, or that focus on detail as a substitute for any kind of stimulating gameplay.
And trust me, I wouldn’t be talking about Breach if either were the case here. Whether you’re working your way along the blasted ramparts, diving into the sanguine sewers, or bumbling around a black void, the fine detailing and complex sector work never get in the way of the fast-paced Doom action.
All of this 100% sells the setting of a base actively being invaded by Hell. Destruction porn has never been so well-realized in the Doom engine, and while the WAD will no doubt turn heads primarily for its visuals, every moment of its gunplay is exciting and challenging as well. The demonic invasion that’s breached the base and thrown half of it into ruin provides some tough resistance. Aside from all the meticulously-crafted ruins nailing Breach‘s sense of place, they also provide settings for the WAD’s heavily arena-focused firefights.
For a map that feels as grand as Breach, the actual square footage and running time are on the lower end of the spectrum. Entry to the base requires shooting your way through a short gallery, after which you immediately access the first of the map’s large battlescapes. There’s one major setpiece arena you’ll be fighting through a total of three times, plus several smaller ones. Connecting those areas are short, hyper-cool trips through a mysterious void.
Not to oversimplify, and certainly not to sell the WAD short (which would be a huge crime), but that’s basically all there is to it. I think my favorite thing about Breach is that it doesn’t try too hard. Other mappers attempting what Viggles does here might choose to compliment the physical scars and battle damage of a demonic invasion with overblown architecture and huge slaughterfests. But Breach keeps it simple and intimate — and lets the small details speak for the larger invasion. With environmental storytelling like this, we don’t need to see the bulk of Hell’s forces. Our imagination can do the rest.
Viggles returned from something like a twenty year mapping hiatus to bring us Breach. I don’t know if he’d been secretly honing his skill all that time, but it sure seems like he was.
Speaking of hiatuses — no, this blog isn’t dead. I just took one of my famous accidental breaks, but don’t worry. I’ve returned to set things aright!