CRUSADES --- An Unholy War


Fact Sheet

Authors Richard Wiles
IWAD Ultimate Doom
Engine standard Doom engine
Date 1999/9
Levels 9

Review by Colin Phipps

screenshot Crusades --- An Unholy War is a 9 level episode which replaces episode 4 of Doom 1. It's quite unusual to see new levels for Doom 1 these days, let alone a new episode and a good one at that. In fact Crusades began life as a series of individual levels for Doom, Spooky01 through Spooky05; the author decided to make up the numbers to 9 and turn them into an episode. The 5 levels formerly released in the Spooky series are little changed, but the others are new for this episode.

Crusades is a mixture of styles, from the gothic nightmare style familiar from the original episode 4, with flickering torches and gory decorations, through to brick and metal bases which would not have been far out of place in The Darkening II (another project which this author has contributed to IIRC). The episode contains a lot of great architecture, from grand courtyards down to lava tunnels, and the levels are are well designed to fit together into a whole, with many wnidows and connections between areas. There is great use of decorations like torches and corpses, and features like crosses and even a scaffold, as well as good use of lighting and textures to create a sinister atmosphere. There are also some new textures imported, including some taken from the excellent GothicDM texture set.

The gameplay is excellent too, with the player under pressure in almost every fight. It reminds me of the NOSUN series in a way because the player is never given an inch of room to spare - but unlike the NOSUNs, it's not always because the architecture is cramped, but just the way the fights are set up, with teleports into hostile areas and/or barriers behind the player. Either you are trapped in a corner with spectres or barons closing in, or you are perched on some platform with overlooking imps firing down while you dance with a baron and try to avoid incoming lost souls. Not to mention the number of times I was fighting my way down a narrow tunnel, blasting imps out of my way, with a baron in hot pursuit. That said, there is a good supply of health and ammo throughout (although there's never much to spare).

One of the signature features of Richard's levels is the crazy level progression. While the areas are generally well connected, the player is forced to go round the level following the most contorted route possible, through heavy use of key doors - often you have to use undergriound tunnels to penetrate the main areas. On the flip side, the tight control the player is kept under means you're usually guided round the level quite well, and are usually in little danger of getting lost, especially if you use a source port which marks key doors.

Here are the levels:

  1. A nice little start level, which really sets the sinister style for the episode. It's no pushover, as the opening fight is tricky and you have to work to get the shotgun; later on there are a number of barons to tackle, and watch out for the teleporting monsters too. The architecture is excellent, with plenty of detail, and there are some great views if you look out the windows.
  2. Formerly released as spooky02, this is a complex spooky base level. The level progression is complex but rewarding, with the player's movements initially quite restricted, but you are guided around the level nicely and once you begin getting keycards things open up a lot more. The interesting layouts of the areas make for some good tricky fights.
  3. This level (formerly released as spooky03) is much closer in style to the original Thy Flesh Consumed (Ultimate Doom episode 4), with its wood marble and rusty metal motif. It's a tough level, where the player always feels cramped for space, with monsters often teleporting in behind you or bars being raised to trap you in an area. Excellent monster placement keeps the pressure on, and ammo is tight too, so you'll have to be careful what you use up, and get them infighting as much as possible.
  4. Nice hellish scenery at this level (formerly released as spooky01), very similar in style to the first level with the snake and lava floors and lots of torches and gory decorations. Once again good monster placement and some tricky teleporting monster traps to keep you on your toes.
  5. A kind of marble and stone fortress level this one (formerly released as spooky04), with some good outdoor views and a network of passages inside to clear out. With barons in the corridors and little space for retreat, wandering cacodemons and lost souls, and crossfire from the imps outside, it's a tough time all the way.
  6. This level is a bit of a respite after the tight action of the earlier ones - you actually get space to fight the monsters every once a awhile. There are still some nasty traps and surprises waiting though. The theme is more varied than earlier levels too, with plenty of wood and stone still but some water tunnels and even an oven featured too. Released previously as spooky05.
  7. screenshot A predominantly outdoor level, with a yard criss-crossed with with firing platforms, vaguely like the original Sever the Wicked (Ultimate Doom E4M3) I suppose. The bricks and wood theme continues; the main yard is a bit dull but the side areas are good as usual. Many overlooking sergeants and some wandering lost souls make the start tricky; later on there are some traps and a couple of secrets too.
  8. The final showdown level is similar in many ways to Against Thee Wickedly (Ultimate Doom E4M6), as you start by working your way through some tunnels of jagged rock to get inside the evil fortress. This first part of the level continues the theme of the episode, with lots of overlooking monsters and wandering lost souls and cacos to watch for while you struggle on the narrow ledges around the main hall. The second part of the level on the other hand is a large arena containing a spiderdemon and an assortment of barons and cacodemons, which you have to get fighting each other. There are a couple of cyberdemons in the level too, easily dealt with using the ammo available. The level finishes with something of an anticlimax, with a rather thinly defended Quake-ish tech base, which could probably be explained as a thin attempt to support the plot if the episode had one, but it doesn't. Whatever.
  9. The secret level is a tough fight - there is a lot of use of acid and teleports to force the player to play aggresively, so you're under pressure for much of the level. The level reminded me of The Darkening with its bricks'n'metal style.

One unusual aspect of this episode, possibly my only serious criticism, is the way the style of the levels changes as you work your way through. Usually an episode gets more sinister and hell-like as you go through - but in Crusades the opposite happens, with the levels becoming more urban and spacious towards the end. It doesn't stop them being good levels, but makes the later levels seem less intense by comparison.

Various other resources are imported, including a title screen for the episode and changed episode name for the menus. There are also various Quake 2 (I think) sounds imported.

Finally, a mention for coop play - don't. The cramped style of the fighting makes it too hard, there's simply not room for two people, and the convoluted level progression makes it hard to keep the players together.

Overall, this is definitely an excellent episode, and certainly a good challenge if you like a tight fight. Unless you've already played the Spooky series and really can't stand playing the same level twice, this is not to be missed.


File List