So after the massively successful Doom and its insanely popular followup Doom II: Hell on Earth, and main development focus shifted to Quake, what do you do about the fans that want More Doom? This was the problem id Software had in the mid-1990s, and it was admittedly a very good problem to have.
The solution was to turn to possibly one of the best things about the Doom series — its ability to be customized with new levels and assets. Many people had the tools and the know-how to create their own Doom levels, and the internet was flooded with tons of them, ranging from simple asset replacement to allow you to shoot Barney the Dinosaur complete with sound effects to new levels to entire episode replacements, and in some cases, a full Doom II-sized megawad of maps.
id Software decided to take two of these megawads and create a standalone expansion to Doom II that would contain not just one, but two full games. The first, TNT: Evilution, was created by TeamTNT, a group of level creators responsible for a lot of custom Doom maps, and is set on the Jovian moon Io with Doomguy having to deal with an invasion stemming from new dimensional teleporter technology. The second, The Plutonia Experiment, by Dario and Milo Casali, deals with secret experimental technology that attempts to close portals to Earth in time to stop another demonic invasion. Predictably, it fails, and Doomguy gets to clean up the mess yet again. Pfft, plot. Let’s shoot some demons.
The hook of both these megawads is the difficulty level, which is much higher than that of both the original game and its sequel. While not quite as high as some insanely hard user creations that sends unreasonable numbers at you and expects you to survive, the megawads still provide a very good challenge for those who have mastered the original games.
And to me, both these episodes bring back something that Doom II faltered with a bit: consistent level design. While II had several levels that could have stood a bit of reworking, nearly every single level in both TNT and Plutonia is a solid, well-constructed labyrinth of demons and doorways that are very satisfying to work through. This is why it is my opinion that Final Doom actually beats Doom II in quality and is probably the better game. (The original Doom still beats them both, though.)
Kudos to id Software of the mid-90s for having the courage to bring out a two-for-one pack of what was basically fan-made content. The quality of both were incredibly high and TNT went even farther by giving us new music that is on par with the original games in quality (gotta love that MAP02 driving bassline).
A standalone expansion that is better than its base game and gives you more content? What’s not to love? Just make sure you are good at Doom before giving it a try.
[Proper RGotDs will return tomorrow. This weekend has not been kind to me.]