Castle of Evil


Fact Sheet

Authors Stanley Stasiak
Engine standard Doom engine
Date 1994/10
Levels 1

Review by Colin Phipps

My main memory from the last time I played "Castle of Evil" was the size, and I remembered right - this level is huge. These days, talk of levels with over a thousand sectors usually means extreme detail, but in CASTEVIL's case, it just means that the level is enormous, with dozens of major areas. The last time I played CASTEVIL was in the days of Doom v1.9, 486's and the savegame bug, so it's size became the major drawback in a review where I dismissed it as unplayably slow.

screenshot But recently I decided that, with the benefit of Boom and a faster computer, I am better able to review this sort of old level. Basically the level uses two main styles. One half of the map is done in marble and the Inferno textures. The other half is done in the Knee Deep textures, cement and stone. On a small scale some of the rooms look good, but there is no overall texture style. When you consider the sheer size of the level too, a picture emerges of a level built up in fragments over time, with no common texture theme imposed. There are more basic errors evident too, with misaligned and poorly chosen textures that make places look tacky.

screenshot Having criticised the texturing, however I must say that the structure of the level has many good points. There is good use of varying height levels, curving staircases, and windows between areas. There are good common structural features, like corridors with a crack at floor level, which looks into a room at a lower level, usually with snipers shooting through.

I seem to have a soft spot for the gameplay in Doom 1 levels. There is great action throughout this level though: lots of traps, teleporting monsters, monsters looking down from battlements or balconies or windows, and good use made of all the types of monsters. There was perhaps a little too much health, but not enough armour; ammo was very well judged though, very limited in the early parts, adequate but never plentiful later on, just as it should be. Apart from the early ammo shortages, and one or two fights, it's not too hard, but it certainly keeps you busy.

Perhaps inevitably for a level of this size, there isn't a route you can follow. I just blundered around, exploring area after area, battling through, hoping I'd eventually come across a keycard. It took me over 2 hours at least to find the first keycard; after that I had fought most of the level, and found the keydoors and other keys easily. I marked loot on the map that I couldn't use immediately, but I don't think I ever got back for any of it, I was either lost or too far away most of the time.

There are almost 50 secrets to find at this level (again emphasising how big the level is), so secret hunters are in for a treat. In fact, all the weapons except the shotgun are concealed in secrets of one sort or another, and you'll have ammo trouble if you don't find at least some of them, but the chaingun and rocket launcher at least aren't too hard to find. Alas the secret doors are not all well done, often whole walls of the castle simply lift to reveal the secret, or a secret is concealed behind a walk-through wall.

It's ironic that a raise in the quality of Doom engines and levels can actually make an old level seem better than it did in its own day. The piecewise construction has left it's mark in the form of no texture theme or level progression, it's just a sprawling jungle of rooms and stairs and courtyards. But the structures are generally good, and there are some excellent fights. Whether you like this level or not will depend on which of these aspects of a Doom level is more important to you. I'm glad I played it, if only to set the record straight by revealing the good points of this level that had passed unnoticed before.


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