The Darkening - Episode 2


Fact Sheet

Authors Nick Baker Ola Bjorling Ben Davies Afterglow Anthony Soto Lee Szymanski Richard Wiles Adam Windsor Metabolist Kniggit Jan Van der Veken
IWAD Doom 2
Engine standard Doom engine
Date 2000/08/07
Levels 24

Review by Colin Phipps

screenshot This is the sequel to the original Darkening series. Like it's predecessor, The Darkening - Episode 2 is an episode of Doom 2 tech base levels. But where the original series drew some inspiration and graphics from Quake, Episode 2 is clearly closer in style to Quake 2, with its rocky canyons and caves, and tech bases dotted with crates and computer panels. Episode 2 has an even more distinctive feel though, due to the large number of new and customised graphics imported, and the omni-presence of the Darkening 2 three-spurred logo.

Gameplay is up to the same high standard as The Darkening too. Throughout the episode there is plenty of good action, including a good dose of traps and secrets. The complex construction of many of the levels creates some tricky situations that require the player to make sure they get their strategy right. As I seem to have been more verbose than usual with the comments on each level, I'll jump straight in to those...

  1. Outpost Mortem by Ola Bjorlingscreenshot This is unusually big for the first map of an episode, but more than justified by the great approach, where you come down into a valley with the entrance to a large industrial complex. The early stages are interesting, as you penetrate the building while worrying a lot about ammo. Inside it's mostly interlinked rooms and storage areas. Apart from a couple of small tricks and the tight ammo, it's just a warm up.
  2. Biotech Terror by Afterglow, Jan Van der Veken — A small level, with a good tech ambiance. There's a few more tricks at this level, including lots of traps with teleporting monsters. You've still got only the single shotgun, so watch out for those revenants ;-).
  3. Binary Compound by Adam Windsor — This level continues with the stylish crates and such that mark this episode, but nicely mixed with some outdoor scenes. There are some good fights, in particular those slow moving lifts are used to good effect to make escape less easy.
  4. Vindication by Anthony Soto — Another base map. It's a fairly long level - you start outside, get inside and work your way around the base, and end up back at the start. The actual route the player follows is fairly linear, but the level is very complex, with windows between areas, secret entrances, etc. There's plenty of action, mostly still the basic enemies, but some tricky fights, and heavier monsters scattered in for added effect.
  5. Melt-Down by Richard Wilesscreenshot This time the base is located in a rocky valley; the base extends underground into the rocky tunnels. There's lots of interesting fights, with a good mixture of enemies throughout.
  6. At The Heart Of Decay by Jan Van der Veken — A base style level, with a small indoor core and some outdoor yards. The traps and secrets keep it interesting. The theme closely matches the other levels, with the same cement, metal and crate textures.
  7. Waste Processing by Nick Baker — Despite the name, there were only a few acid rivers at this level, and the rest was the same industrial crates-and-computer-panels style of the earlier levels. By this point you should be pretty good at picking off the roaming imps and sergeants, and chaingunners on crates, so the bulk of this level is perhaps a bit on the easy side. There are some good variations though so it's still mostly interesting. The architecture is up to the same high standard, and there are some clever sloped gratings thrown in too.
  8. Lucifer's Laboratory by Richard Wiles — A refreshing level; it's a brick and tech base, and seems rather more colourful than previous few levels, making a good change. The interesting architecture and thematic textures remain. The fighting is tricky in places, but with plenty of loot around it's not hard.
  9. Hard Core by Ola Bjorling, Anthony Soto, Jan Van der Veken — A tough map - this one had me grabbing for the weapons as I kept running low on ammo. There were lots of tricks to limit your ability to retreat, including teleports, acid pits, and drop offs, which lead to some good back-to-the-wall fighting. At least, the latter 2/3rds of the level were like this; the start area was more in the style of the early parts of the episode, a compact base area, good but perhaps not a great match to the rest of the level.
  10. Plasmorgasm by Richard Wiles — This level was seriously fun. It's put together in a funny way; most of the doors in the level are just decoration or hide rooms with a few monsters to be released later; instead you progress at the level via lifts and acid tunnels. Which makes things all the more interesting, as you often are forced into new areas with little way of retreating. There are all sorts of good surprises too - just because you saw an area before doesn't mean it's safe.
  11. Powerplant by Ben Davies — Another good level. The style is somewhat different, with a more empty, haunting feel than earlier levels. There's some good industrial scenery. The level takes a strange route, but not hard to follow. There are some tricky fights, but nothing too serious.
  12. Toxicity by Ola Bjorling — A large level, back in the main style of the episode - gray cement, industrial, and crates. And a damn fine one to finish with. I liked the way your access to the base was very limited early on, you have to think to find your way into new areas: acid tunnels and crate jumps get you ahead here. There's plenty of action throughout, usually great fights when you first enter an area. There's some good traps and secrets too. Once you complete the base there's a grand fight outside, lots of arachnotrons and cacos to get fighting each other. My only complaints: boring cyberdemon, and no way back into the base once you're outside. But it's the final level anyway.

I've played most of the deathmatch levels too. Many of the DM levels are cut down versions of the single player levels above, so the architecture is up to the same high standard. But I'll spare you reviews of those, not least because I'm certainly no expert on deathmatch levels.

There is new music for every level of this episode. The style is quite unusual, favouring more fast-paced, arcade like music. It's not all to my taste and I certainly wouldn't want every WAD like this, but there are some very good tunes here and it gives the episode a different feel.

The level works fairly well for coop play as well. Make sure you have version 1.1 of though, because this contains some bug fixes affecting cooperative play. There are a few annoyances as with any episode not designed with coop in mind, but it's playable.

Overall, an outstanding episode, and a worthy follow up to the original Darkening.


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