Serenity v2.01


Fact Sheet

Authors Bjorn Hermans Holger Nathrath
Engine standard Doom engine
Date 1996/07/24
Levels 8
Other New music, intermission screen, minor new textures

Review by Colin Phipps

E3M1 screnshot Serenity is an eight level episode for Doom 1. It's a mixture of Shores-of-Hell bases and some Inferno like hell-holes - most of the levels seem to start in some kind of base but often descend into mazes of wooden rooms, nukage dungeons or hell areas. Although dated 1996, this is just a slightly updated version of Serenity, which was originally released in 1994; the levels definitely show their age, with some misaligned textures, poorly chosen door ceilings and lack of detail throughout. There is quite a bit of variation in the quality of architecture; some are quite stylish, some suffer from very bland areas and some parts are positively beginner.

I wonder where the name for this episode came from - serenity is not exactly a common characteristic of Doom levels. Perhaps this episode is trying though - a supplementary WAD containing new music for all the levels is provided, which I guess could be described as easy listening. I didn't like it at all - it added to a rather trivial feel at several of the levels.

The levels do a bit better for gameplay, but there are some issues. Firstly, the levels are all quite easy, with a very good supply of ammo and health. Combine this with the way the monsters tend to be broken up into relatively small groups at most of the levels: one perculiar feature of this episode is the number of monster-no-cross lines used - these make some of the fights seem artificial, and having a safe line to fall back behind takes much of the pressure off of the player. That's not to say it's all going your way, because a few of the levels do put up stiffer resistance, and there are a some good traps.

As there's quite a bit of variation through the episode, I'll move on to the comments on each level:

  1. A Warm Welcome - I like the name for this one - presumably it foreshadows the main outdoor part of the level, where the player gets burned if they move out of the shade. Aside from that, this level is a series of stone and wood rooms; the architecture is simple but there are some nice areas. There are some tricky fights particularly in the early part of the level, and some traps later on although these are easy to spot.
  2. Doom - The Movie - This level is based on very well known level, the example level which was included with the editor DoomEd "The Real Thing". I actually based one of my levels off of the same level, so it feels strange to be playing another variation on the same theme. All the main areas are recognisable, including the huge concrete hall overlooked by ledges, the winding corridors and the windows between different connecting rooms. To the basic structure has been added a small tech area and a movie theatre (Aliens currently screening). The complex structure of the level makes for some good fights with lots of different directions to watch, and there are some good traps too.
  3. R You Lonesome? - This level starts out in a series of wood panelled rooms and passages - the texturing is a bit plain but there are some nice structural features, in particular windows between areas. The windows and no-cross lines mean the gameplay here mean the player is not under much pressure. There is a nice area of nukage tunnel leading through to a box room to end the level which redeems the level somewhat.
  4. All The Marbles - E3M4 screnshot A series of marble halls make this quite a stylish level, and the most is made of features and decorations to make a nice looking level. The complex layout makes for some nice fights in the main areas - the side areas have some good little fights too. Towards the end there's a nasty little maze in a hell theme with lots of demons, sergeants and barrels - the use of darkness and constantly varying floor levels makes it tricky.
  5. Dungeons Of The Dark - The main part of this level is a tech base, decorated in those classic Doom 1 ICKWALL textures. There are also some tunnels leading away to a marble dungeon deep underground, which is dark and sinister with lots of monsters in cages. The use of cages, and a number of traps and tight fights, make for some good action at this level.
  6. I'm Here. I'm There. Stairs Are Everywhere - This level is a bit more of a puzzle - the first part of the level is a kind of base, and below it is a kind of maze of wooden rooms and passages connected by steep staircases and lifts. There are some nice parts to this level, in particular a couple of outdoor bits and a box room, and a few good fights in this area; sadly the rest of the level is very bland with just a maze of rooms linked by lifts and staircases with very few features, and only small groups of monsters which are easily beaten.
  7. Big Time - Perhaps "big mess" would have been more appropriate. This level hails from the school of doom editing that makes rooms into weird shapes for no reason, thinks making random wall textures scroll is cool, makes lifts and doors as thick as a room, and loves extreme flickering lights. Very beginner level with little detail, bad lighting and texturing. With few interesting structures the fights are never going to be good, and the only slight redeeming feature here is a few traps, and that enough barons and cacodemons are used to hold up at least a bit of a fight - but a huge excess of cells and health guarantees success.
  8. Church of The Poisened Minds - This one starts out quite well, as a kind of stone church with some stained glass windows and some good architecture in the early parts. Strangely you get a choice of routes to the exit, and the hard route is quite tough and had me struggling for a couple of minutes, but once you get to the final showdown the spiderdemon is made easy by the availability of BFG and invulnerability.

It's always hard trying to rate an episode, especially when there is substantial variation between the levels. There are some good ones here - E3M4 and E3M5 certainly, and E3M1 is good - but the latter levels in particular let it down badly. In the end I gave it a generous 3 overall, on the basis that you can play the first five levels and see the best parts, and I try not to mark down just because a level is easy.

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