Barons & Beyond!


Fact Sheet

Authors Jason Michelsen
Engine standard Doom engine
Date 1994/10/28
Levels 1

Review by Colin Phipps

There is a particular style of Doom level that is perculiar to Doom 1 and the early days of level making - the monster level. Usually this is the first level an author makes... but instead of learning the trade and then giving the messy experiment a decent burial, they continue adding to it, tacking on area after area, for months or even years. Perhaps it stems from the fact that far fewer people had 'net connections, so people tended to build their work in isolation and had no incentive to actually finish and release a level. I remember my own first level was built in this way, but fortunately never reached epic proportions (and was lost in a disk cleanup you'll be glad to hear :-).

screenshot Barons & Beyond! is definitely a good example of the genre. All the classic features are there - the hugely scattered main areas, the long winding featureless corridors where the author must've thought "hmm, it would be nice to have this area joined to that one", mismatched light levels, and the general absence of texture matching and alignment.

But in fact B&B is one of the better examples of the style that I have seen - while there are inconsistencies, the level at least avoids the classic mistake of trying to use every texture in the IWAD, sticking to a basically stone-and-tunnels texture theme for most areas. More importantly, many of the individual areas are actually quite good, with some quite interesting architectural features, with many good features like overlooking ledges, windows between areas, acid and other features.

screenshot It's definitely no B&B either (OK, I promise not to make any more jokes), with around 400 monsters in the level all told, including a good number of barons and spectres (you'll be cursing the lighting I can tell you). These all contribute to a level which is quite interesting to play too, with the tricky layouts in many areas make for some interesting fights. There some good hordes-of-monsters fights in the main outdoor area which the level is built around, and plenty of opportunity to get the enemy infighting. The indoor areas are good for tricks and traps; there are a number of places where the player is forced into a new area by either teleport or acid with no room for retreat. Oh, watch out for the shoot-through-wall tricks too...

By the way, unless you're immortal you will probably have to avoid Ultra-Violent - it's designed to be played with a super-weapons dehacked patch (and looks totally unreasonable without). Ask for Hurt Me Plenty and it will - although there's plenty of health and ammo, as you'd expect for a level of this age, so it's not hard to beat.

The monster style does have some disadvantages in play - you can easily tackle things out of order, for example I didn't get the rocket launcher until very late on, so ended up using allmost none of the ample ammo supplied for it. You often feel lost in the maze of passages, and getting between areas can be difficult - but this wasn't a huge problem in B&B as just wandering around found me all the keys in due course without ever really being stuck. I did note that the exit room, which was meant to be guarded by a yellow key door, was in fact a red key door, so you could exit the level without playing most of it...

Overall, a mixed level with some quality areas and some good fights. If you like the style, then there's plenty of action in this level.


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