By now you’ve probably noticed that I lean more toward bigger WADs and megaWADs to talk about on What’s Awesome, Doom? As a result, I have a growing list of one-map WADs I’ve either enjoyed or been meaning to play that’s just been getting longer and longer for years now…
You know what the means! That’s right — it’s time for another special episode! Welcome to the One-Map WADstravaganza: eight single-level releases from the last five years or so. Let’s jump right to it, before I get wrapped up in some long, masturbatory introduction!
Presented in alphabetical order:
Big Woodchip by James “Phobus” Cresswell
Simple, orthogonal design, and a laser-focused concept. Phobus teaches you at the very start of the map how deadly the red rock floors are, and then the rest of the map consists of crisscrossing wood and metal walkways built above the burning stone. You’ll work your way to and then around a central hub area, and at one point or another fight every single enemy the Doom II bestiary has to offer. I was definitely not expecting the cyberdemon in such an understated map, but like the rest of Big Woodchip, it’s tied in wonderfully and poses a serious — but fair — challenge. This is the quintessential one-off map.
Brigandine by Viggles
I could definitely write a whole post about this WAD, though I don’t know if I’d have much to say that I didn’t already say about Viggles’ previous release, Breach. If Breach was beautiful, I don’t know if there’s a word in the English language for what Brigandine is. Is this the best-looking Doom map ever? It’s possible. Check it out for the sheer, childlike wonderment the Hell-city inspires. Stay for the spectacular gameplay and bone-crushingly awesome soundtrack.
Extinguished by Stormwalker aka Vordakk
Stormwalker is one of my personal mapping heroes, so it should be no surprise to see him again on this column. Extinguished is a broad-strokes remake of “Nirvana,” following roughly the same progression through the same thematic areas, but with everything blow way out and the gameplay revamped completely — and sharpened to a razor’s edge. Traps here are brutal close-quarters melees that require precise, careful movement and threat management. My one complaint is that the difficulty falls off toward the end rather than starting easier and ramping up from there. Like the original map, Extinguished is a mashup of tons of different, seemingly clashing textures and styles, but unlike the original, Stormwalker marries them flawlessly in a festival of Doom II goodness. There is no sign that this gentleman mapper will ever stop being an unsung hero of the mapping world.
Flay the Obscene – Reversed by Chris Hansen
Flay the Obscene was one of the WADs that put Chris Hansen on the map, so to speak, way back in 1999. He’s since made two sequels, plus a Obscene-themed DM WAD. The most recent entry is this map, an updated remix of the original Obscene for its 15th anniversary. Flay the Obscene – Reversed is a celebration of Chris Hansen’s mapping career: a metaphorical trip back to its origins as you fight your way backwards through one of his earlier, defining maps. But this time it’s been updated with all the visual, design, and gameplay tricks Hansen has learned in the last fifteen years. Reversed is a beautifully interconnected map alternating between bright, open courtyards and dark, cramped tunnels. It’s packed with traps — not super difficult ones, but enough to keep things interesting even the second or third time you pass through an area. This is straight Chris Hansen, and Chris Hansen never disappoints.
Miasma by Thomas “tourniquet” Seifert
Do ya like the color green?! I know I just implied Brigandine might be the most beautiful map ever, but Miasma gives it a run for its money. Where Brigandine sports a quiet beauty and leverages only the standard Doom resources, Miasma is in your face with its new textures, alien architecture, and neon greens. This map is all about seeing the sights — and sights they most definitely are — but is more amateurish in its layout, and playing it doesn’t feel nearly as good. Navigating the level can be confusing, but I wouldn’t worry too much since it’s such a gorgeous place to get lost in. You may even stop caring about ever getting out, honestly, when it’s such a joy just wandering around this weirdo landscape.
Maihama by Memfis
A whopping 73 WADs are listed when you search Memfis’ name on the Archives — mostly individual maps. They’re consistently great, but it’s hard to find a reason to write a whole post about one short map that’s great… but admittedly nothing mind-blowing. So of course I had to include a Memfis map on this list. His most recent release is Maihama, a deceptively extensive journey through an open-but-linear battleground that evokes the city maps of Doom II and a touch of Mt. Erebus. The approach is classic, from the visuals to the monster usage; Maihama is a challenge, thankfully without resorting to cyberdemons, spiderdemons, or insane monster counts. Delicious, light entertainment — perfect for a little 15-minute diversion.
Shovelware Adventure! by Adam “Doomkid” Post
Pure, goofy magic awaits in this Adventure! Half-assed palette swaps and sprite edits are everywhere, all in a lighthearted callback to ’90s shovelware WAD compilations. It’s rare as hell to see this many custom monsters and weapons assembled for the benefit of just a single map, and while the visual updates might be questionable, the new behavior all works brilliantly and serves a specific purpose. Giving plasma guns and homing rockets to lowly zombie soldiers lets those dangerous baddies pop up way earlier than you’d run into arachnotrons and revenants. A focus on lower-HP enemies overall gives Doomkid freedom to stuff slaughterish numbers of them into later areas without the map feeling at all grindy. And prepare to be caught off-guard; your muscle memory will undoubtedly screw you over the first few times you try dodging the slightly faster cacodemon projectiles. As a whole, Shovelware Adventure! is some delightfully silly packaging wrapped around an unexpectedly rock-solid map — nonlinear, tough, and good ol’ fashioned fun.
The Warlock’s Hearth by Adam “Khorus” Woodmansey
The marble and wood library is one of my favorite vanilla Doom motifs. Hell understated: dim, brooding, menacing, but more subtly frightening than the overt fire-and-molten-lava approach. That’s where the majority of The Warlock’s Hearth takes place: the titular warlock’s manse. The map touches briefly on other themes, including a somewhat out of place section that could have been taken from Scythe‘s “3000 AD.” Things play out fairly linearly, though it never quite feels like it, and you’ll return time and time again to the central library for battles of increasing scale. The greatest strength of Warlock’s Hearth is its atmosphere — exquisitely detailed scenes of slaughter in a grim, unsettling domain. The soundtrack is a knife blade of synthy creepiness that cuts deep and ensures the experience gets under your skin and makes it crawl.
All of the WADs mentioned here require DOOM2.WAD and all (except Miasma) will run on limit-removing source ports (though several are fully vanilla-compatible; refer to their individual readmes for the particulars). Miasma requires a Boom-compatible port. If you’re not sure how to get the maps running, this may help. And for more awesome WADs, be sure to check these out!