Dark Covenant


Fact Sheet

Authors Keith Phipps
IWAD Doom 2
Engine standard Doom engine
Date 1996/6
Levels 12

Review by Colin Phipps

This is a 12 level episode, in the high-tech and Shores of Hell styles I would say. It is all written by one person, Keith Phipps; before you ask, no we are not related, the surnames are just a coincidence.

The episode keeps well to a plot, but those of you who hate plots needn't worry: the TXT file gives only a few lines, and the rest you pick up as you go along. The episode has a good progression through a number of areas, including a city, underground caverns, research bases and a space station. There is even a cool title picture for the episode included in the WAD, which appears at the start and on all the between-mission screens.

The levels vary a lot in the style of architecture, and in the quality too. Overall they all lacked detail, but many of the levels made up for this with some great themes, and grand buildings or areas.

The gameplay was equally varied; the level follows a good plot throughout, but some of the levels wasted a lot of time with repetitive SSGunning of minor clusters of monsters, or tedious hammering of groups of barons. Nonetheless there are some excellent fights, and plenty of variety of good fights throughout the episode. Here are my level-by-level comments:

  1. Suburb - A nice suburban level. There are roads, garages, and the buildings have TV's, beds, and even toilets and baths. I knew the design of this level was working when I found myself following the roads in getting between buildings. The level features some great open fights, with good choices & combinations of monsters (hell knights, arachnotrons, demons) to create some great outdoor fighting. On the other hand, some big areas of the level badly lacked detail, and also there was a shortage of traps.
  2. Green Water - This level was a strange mix of marble halls and acid/waterways. Some of the architecture was good; but the level lacked detail, and there were some poorly chosen and misaligned textures which spoilt other areas. Again, there were some good fights, but the more enclosed nature of the level made the lack of traps more apparent. There is also a cyberdemon to be fought with an super shotgun, but with plenty of space and an super shotgun this is no big problem.
  3. Necropolis - screenshot A huge level, designed to look like a city. The roads, motorways (?), and vast skyscrapers are well done; also, the author uses the idea of an earthquake to block the roads, instead of the more usual wall (ala Duke Nuke'm level 1) across the roads. As if that wasn't enough, the level also takes you through the sewers & metro system under the city, which are also well done. While it can't compete with the realism of say Duke Nuke'm, it is very impressive.

    There are some good fights, which make good use of the space and high firing points to keep the player looking all ways at once. There are still few traps, but the author compensates for this with a good level progression, which keeps the player from getting lost in this vast level. However, there are also some poor fights, particularly some barons to be super-shutgunned.

  4. Forgotten Outpost - This is another level following the old E1M1 basic design - a large open area surrounded by windows, where the player slowly works around the outside clearing the rooms behind the windows. The level is characterized by architecture that makes the fights more interesting - in many of the fights the main problem is finding cover from which to fight, and the author never makes it too easy. The aesthetic, OTOH, is not as good. The level progression, as with all levels of this type, is fairly linear, and there are again few traps.
  5. Earth Core - The episode now heads underground into tunnels and lava passages. There are quite a few traps at this level (though they tend to be clustered together) which keep you on your toes. Unfortunately the other fights are of much poorer stuff; round every corner it seems that there are 5 or 6 monsters, so the drill of strafing out and super-shotgunning soon gets repetitive. The architecture was the same old story - some good places, but others looked bland and badly needed detail. The lighting was well done though, giving a sinister atmosphere.
  6. Cavern of Doom - The dark underground caverns continue; I wonder which of them was The Cavern of Doom, as I don't remember any one in particular as being larger than the others. The tunnels are themselves are a bit dark and unexciting; but the other rooms along the way are interesting, and there are some tough fights from time to time.
  7. The Flooded Base - Thankfully this level is back above ground, or above water I should say. The name says it all for this level - you start off by releasing all the water which has flooded the base, then explorer the buildings that are revealed. The architecture is good, with lots of computer panels and other features, as well as some impressive views. But what sets this level apart from those before it is the gameplay. There are lots of tricky fights and good traps, particularly toward the end of the level, although some of the traps are really once only things (the first time they'll probably get you badly, but once you know them you'll have no trouble next time). Right at the end of the level I was really thinking "What more can he possibly pull on me now?", and there was always another surprise for me even worse than the one before.
  8. Gateway - While this level was similar to the original Computer Base (Doom 1 E1M7) in many places, it lacked detail in too many areas. There was one large outdoor area which was excellent, with lots of firing points and enemies, all well placed, which made it quite tricky to beat. But otherwise the level was pretty basic architecture, and apart from one or two other fights there was little of interest.
  9. The Evil Eye - All the different styles from Doom 1 are present in this level - high-tech computers, industrial/acid tunnels, and the hellish Inferno style. Acid rivers are used nicely to link areas, forcing the player to be a bit more aggressive in entering new parts of the level. There are some very good sinister features scattered throughout the level, and some tricky fights too. Alas, the final fight is supposed to be a big showdown, but I found it a bit of an anticlimax: in a vast courtyard, the only danger was the revenants, and there is sufficient time to rocket them before they do any damage.
  10. Research Facility - This level has all 3 keycards present in the starting area, which are only released by switches further on in the level. The author uses the perhaps confusing convention of marking switches with keycard stripes of the colour of the key that they release, instead of the colour of the key that is required. I found the level progression to be a bit confusing generally at this level.

    The architecture is good though; the level is well designed, and fits together well, with several large open areas overlooked by windows and walkways, which all fit into the level progression eventually. The good architecture creates some interesting fights too.

  11. Launch Control - This is a level with some big, nasty badies. The level is essentially a building in a large yard, with some outer buildings around the edge and sides of the yard. Initially the yard is populated with 2 cyberdemon and a spiderdemon (but not conveniently placed to get them fighting one another - I didn't realize the spider was there until I had already SSGunned both cybers from the walkway around the yard). Even if you get them fighting, you'll have to kill 1 cyber yourself, which is rather tedious with SSG, and pointless with the BFG. There is also a nasty building with a shoot-through wall, with lots of chaingunners & shotgun men inside, which frustrated me for a long time (first realizing it was there, then trying to subdue it). Once these features were overcome, the rest of the level is much more sensible; there are one or two good fights, but these are too easy, especially compared to the start of the level. The architecture is nothing special, either.
  12. Last Ship Out - As one might expect, after fighting your way through Launch Control you find yourself transported onto an orbiting space station. There is a spaceship docked, which you have to get on board and take control of to finish the episode. The inside of the space base is a little sparse, with lots of big, rather empty rooms; there are strategically placed monsters which make these areas tricky to fight though. Once aboard the spaceship, there are some nasty fights, but again the architecture lacked detail in some areas. There are some nice views out into space though.

There is new music for the entire episode. Some of these are good, others I will be glad not to have to ever hear again. Liberal use of IDMUS is highly recommended.

I found it very hard to give a rating to this episode. The levels vary a lot in quality of architecture and of gameplay. In particular, I found the underground levels in the middle of the episode really let it down. But I kept wanting to play, because none of the levels are really poor, and there are a number of excellent levels spread through the episode. Keith has put a lot of work into this, and I am glad that I played it.

Download darkcvnt.zip

File List