Assault on Tei Tenga


Fact Sheet

Authors Sam Ketner
IWAD Doom 2
Engine ZDoom
Date 1999/5
Levels 6

Review by DrCrypt

Judging this level set is difficult. In so many ways, it is completely innovative and will most likely change the way we all design and play DOOM levels (I may be speaking a bit prematurely, but the consensus among the generally drooling and slope-foreheaded "community" is in favor of this accessment). On the other hand... even though it is so innovative and creative, as far as pure level design is concerned, I would hardly rate it above mediocre. I enjoyed this level for innovation, but as far as pure design and gameplay is concerned, I don't think I can rate it above a three.

Apparently, the story from Tei Tenga is taken from the DOOM Bible, the very interesting but almost completely discarded design specs for DOOM originally written by Tom Hall and John Romero. Essentially, the story in Tei Tenga is that you are a space marine on your way for some R&R when your space shuttle is diverted to a space station above the moon Tei Tenga, where communications have gone down. Throughout the mini episode, you have to do battle with an evil computer, a la Hal 9000, only he can warp in imps, and some insane Space Marine Major who seems to have gone crazy for some undefined reason. The story isn't much, but it is hardly as if DOOM has a profound and philosophically plausible plot line to justify your acts of random killing. How does it play?

Well, on one hand, Tei Tenga has some of the coolest effects in a DOOM level that we've seen yet. It fully takes advantage of the level-design functionality of ZDOOM.

screenshot First of all, Tei Tenga is an hub, meaning you can go back and forth between levels. I didn't realize that this was the case at first, since I'm an old-schooler, and found myself completely perplexed and befuddled at first, when in the Nuclear Power station and trying to figure out how quickly I needed to run between a set of laser beams to get into the next area safely. It turns out you have to go back to the colony on Tei Tenga and take -the other- train to the Hydro Plant, which connects you to the back door of the Nuclear Power station. This sort of thing is a lot of fun and I hope to see more of it in future ZDOOM based levels. Switches will effect events in other levels, leading to a lot more immersion. Tei Tenga is full of immersion: characters speak to you, computers need destroying, you can take trains to and from different areas. In several parts of the level, rockets come zooming in from the skies just as you enter the area as if shot by some distant missile launchers . One of the most interesting areas, I thought, was a portion when you have to shut down the nuclear reactor. As you do this, the water, once heated by the nuclear coils, freezes in the Hydro Plant section of the level, allowing you to walk over the ice to get to the exit of the level. Security cameras are all over the place, allowing you to look into other sections of the map before you enter them. There is fog, mist, and conveyor belts. You can even (sort of) pilot a space ship around.

However, even though all of these tricks are thrown into the level and certainly had me thinking "Cool!", I can't say that these tricks make Tei Tenga a brilliantly-designed level. Innovative, yes. Brilliantly-designed, no. The downfall to these levels is that, essentially, as far as architecture and playability is concerned, they are quite mediocre. Difficulty is pretty easy, even on Ultra-Violence, once you find out that the levels are a hub and that you have 40 medikits at your disposal in the first level. Most of the cannon fodder are imps and sargeants and not in a high volume, either. The end boss is almost ridiculously easy. He is a very cool, insane Major, firing a railgun at you... however, you have a rocket launcher and plasma gun to take him down, plus an Invulnerability Sphere, and he is about as tough as a Baron from Hell. His railgun seems to take off about 25 health with each shot... hardly a serious threat.

Level design is rather middling as well. I noticed quite a few texture misalignments or inconsistencies. Also, although this is hard to explain, the level design just -feels- drab. There seem to be a lot of 90 degree angles, stacked crates, and the like that make up these levels. There certainly is not enough action in them: walking the halls of Tei Tenga is usually rather lonely and there are very few jump-out scares to punctuate the levels. Levels are, for the most part, short, easy, and populated by at the most 50 monsters, making this 6-level hub about the play length of a large one-level wad.

I also have complaints about the writing of the episode. While it is certainly more plot-heavy than any other DOOM level I have ever seen, it still seems to have the dialogue of a bad RPG game, and you are never entirely clear exactly what it is you are doing or why. Having played the levels, I have no idea why this Major went evil, why I need to shut down the computer or the nuclear reactor, and why the hell I was diverted from my R&R to this planet in the first place. Still, this is hardly a level-design issue and it certainly doesn't warrant points taken away from Tei Tenga's score.

I guess my main problem with this level is that it seems to me just like a tease. It sets you up with all of its fancy doo-hickies and tricks for a completely fun, long, raucous and stimulating experience, and then dumps you in thirty minutes with the notion that you just saw a lot of cool eye candy and tricks but didn't really take any true fun out of the experience... simply novelty. It is a mediocre level jazzed up by some cool tricks but in the end, it left me about as apathetic towards its existance as do a number of simply average levels. If the level design had been better and the difficulty had been harder, I would be standing up and applauding this in accolades. As it stands, I felt it needed to be twice as hard, twice as long (at least), and be twice as good as far as level design (independent of snazzy ZDOOM tricks) and texturing is concerned for Tei Tenga to warrant the "5" that a lot of review sites are giving it.

Don't get me wrong. This level is DEFINITELY worth downloading for the innovation that it employs. However, innovation does not necessarily equate to quality. Tei Tenga may be the wave of the future for DOOM levels, but as far as level design is concerned, it is simply mediocre.

Post Script: I also want to mention for posterity's sake that some of the music in this level pack absolutely rocks.


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