Friday, January 25, 2013

Winter's Fury (WINTER'S FURY.WAD)

Every so often a super-ambitious GZDoom project manages to climb over the sea of bodies left by its fallen brethren and grab the brass ring. 2012 had Ed Cripps's Putrefier, but it also had Pyroscourge's Winter's Fury, a twelve-map episode for Doom II packed with tons of goodies. Winter's Fury, like many PWADs, begins some time after the events of Hell on Earth. The demons lost the war on Terra, but rebuilding has been a long and costly process. The UAC kept the corpse of the uber-demon - Baphomet - interred deep in the mountains of Siberia while tactical units traveled across the globe, wiping out the remaining bastions of infestation. Of course, when scanning Earth for demonic activity, recent results revealed a presence in the top-secret facility where Baphomet's body resides. When the exploratory team failed to report back, well...

Winter's Fury has some thought going into its narrative, including a pretty extensive character bio. You're Sergeant Major Elliot Morse (no relation to Doomguy) and it's up to you to put a boot in Hell's ass after you get separated from the rest of your squad. Of course, when the spoiler-worthy plot twist crops up, my eyes about rolled out of my head, but I'll say that the narrative is more or less consistent, even if it happens to be built around an incredibly goofy concept. Then again, that's Doom in a nutshell, so strap yourself in for the ride. Quick note - there's a side story to Winter's Fury revealed through hidden (but not secret) logs found per each level. If you happen to grab one, the text is pasted to the console, so hit whatever your console key is if you want to see another side of Pyro's piece.

First off, Winter's Fury makes some important gameplay changes you'll want to keep in mind. All of the weapons have been mucked around with. Most importantly, the shotgun and SSG have a metric ton of thrust, so the fact that the SSG's been slightly nerfed (or the monsters have been buffed...?) eventually escapes you as the things you're so desperate to kill get kicked halfway across the map. Of the rest, the only "off" thing is the fact that the plasma rifle's new projectiles are identical in color to fireballs thrown by the new strain of demons, which makes busting it out against them a dicey proposition if you don't have much room to move.

As mentioned by Pyro, all of the levels in Winter's Fury are pretty short, clocking in either around 150+ monsters for normal maps vs. 50 or less for boss levels. It's mostly tried and true grab key --> find exit stuff with the shorter levels serving as intermissions. There are a few snags, not just in scripts but in bits like various power conduits you'll have to destroy in order to shut down nearby forcefields. They're usually obvious but a few might escape you. Jumping and crouching are not verboten but they're not headliners, usually leading to secrets. Another unmentioned change is the berserk powerup, which increases your rate of fire for as long as the haze lasts, a fact I didn't realize until running through the levels to test out HMP.

There are a lot of new monsters. Most of these are "frozen" recolors that behave differently, mostly in their attacks. The trails left by their ranged strikes tend to make dodging a large number of them tricky, and some cryo-Hellspawn attacks don't resemble the originals at all, like the revenant. A few demons don't appear in normal varieties (vice versa with some monsters not appearing as frozen) and there's one you won't see at all - the stalwart pain elemental. MAP07B, "Void", has a handful of exclusive beasties that work well at establishing the setting, even if I have grave misgivings about Pyro's use of one of them. Then, of course, there are the bosses.

The only real bone I have to pick with Pyro is in his execution of the boss fights, and this mainly comes down to one detail. To balance UV, the main thing (the only thing as far as I can tell) the author did was increase the health of the bosses to about double the original. Sure, you don't have to play at UV. All you get is a thank you and a teaser at the very end. But for those who do, beware. These battles are LONG, and while the scripted scenery bits are appreciated, that and waves of monsters don't justify the sheer padding that turns the fights into endurance matches. Especially for MAP08, which has three consecutive boss battles, and you'll probably be down to your last bullets when you end the game.

EDIT 26/01/13: I erroneously reported that difficulty choice changes boss health. According to the author and from what I can see in the coding on further review, this isn't the case. I guess I just have a very hopeful imagination! Sadly, boss fights are tedious no matter the skill selection.

Even with this, I'm not to keen on adding waves of trash in the fights. The new guys are just ammo sponges with the exception of the monsters in MAP06B, where they force you to focus on two different heights. Non-boss monsters should be integral elements of the encounter, but that might be asking too much. As it stands, the boss fight in MAP06B is my definite favorite. The intermediate finale brawl has two different big bads that work together quite well. It's a pity that the cycloid emperor recolor is so grossly destructive, such that choosing between the two isn't much of a decision unless you enjoy your own suffering.

That's a lot of words about boss fights... but that's because they tended to drag down an otherwise very cool Doom II PWAD. Winter's Fury is gorgeous; screenshots can't do it justice so you should just get GZDoom working and load it up yourself. While it's all (mostly) set in the barren Siberian base, there are plenty of excellent vistas and instances of distinct architecture with great mood and lighting that make other GZDoom mapsets look like donkeys wearing helmets. It's also quite graphics intensive, being the one of the few times I've seen my computer take any performance dips while running GZ. Not enough to be unplayable, but enough to be noticeable. There's also some added gore for cosmetic effect, but it takes a backseat to the level design.

If you have a computer that runs GZDoom just fine and love seeing "advanced" Doom mods, you should download Winter's Fury. That's no small order, as the file clocks in at over 100 megs, but it's definitely worth it. Just figure out whether you want to elbow past the grueling boss encounters and you'll be set. Sure, there's a little bonus for you, but I can't recommend fighting Pyro's titans straight up. Suffice it to say that there will be more action in the Sergeant Major's future supposing the author gets around to crafting it - and I look forward to playing it.

by "Pyroscourge"

You are HereMAP01
A pretty cool opening level that takes its sweet time with the atmosphere before kicking you square into the madness. All of the special effects like collapsing snow are great and while there's a bit of cinematics at the beginning and the end, in between it's just boom, baby. Demons seem more durable but the pushback of the weapons makes it all good. There are a lot of great ambushes, and that blue key grab reveal is fantastically disorienting, probably my favorite fight, though it was pretty satisfying to start cutting loose with the SSG. A good intro that sets up the new dynamics.

MAP02Unexpected Losses
Something a bit larger with more scripting inside the level itself. Certain parts meet up with the previous level, as you'll see, like the view port into the previous exit room. Some nice outdoor areas, like the cliff to the blue key door or the exterior that dominates the north with the mountain that houses the rocket shrine. It's a pretty dangerous area if you recklessly dodge into it, staffed with lots of fireball-throwing monsters whose tracers can be distracting. The base interior has a ton of good stuff going on, like the battle at the top of the elevators coming out, but my favorite surprise is the blue skull key ambush. Very devious!

Basically a boss map with a nice atmospheric opening. The cliffside and arena look quite gorgeous and in spite of the projectile spam, the lightning demon thing isn't all that damaging. The fact that the fight is broken into four phases, gated at 25%, is kind of annoying. Boss behavior doesn't deviate significantly enough for the breaks to matter, especially with three of them, though it's nice that Pyro warps in plenty of supplies to last you the battle.

This is more or less a cinematic boss fight vs. two of the aliens you just fought. Unfortunately, it's basically a timed battle. I think if you pump your ammo into them the timer goes down faster, which is good, because you're bound to run out of health sooner or later. You'll almost certainly end up dumping all your ammo before the end...

Highway to HellMAP04B
Nice to have a breather and a free plasma rifle. Your buddy swears the ammo for it is rare, but that's a crock. Anyway, the eponymous highway runs through an infested fortress you'll have to clear out so that you can open all the gates. The whole thing is pretty scenic when you're not ducking fireballs and doing SSG / rocket weaving. Most of the gunplay happens in the western portion, with a cool segment on a clear glass floor over water. The standout encounter is pretty easy. As you walk to the red key door, you'll see some obvious stony revenants, standing frozen sentinel. Once you crack the door open and see your first cyberdemon, of course, they're on your tail. The wave of monsters teleporting in caps things of nicely.

Another cinematic map, but this one's purely exploration. After some more whispers from something calling you “mortal” (never a good sign) and some reality-bending you end up on an impressive mountain ridge leading to a massive fortress door. Walk inside and, well, look out...

Cold SnapMAP05B
The toughest level in the set so far, if only because of the opening sequence. Your tentative stabs into the dark recesses of the main cavern complex will wake up monsters on multiple fronts, which do a good job of sneaking up on you or simply distracting you so that you eventually slip up. There's also the tricky yellow key fight, which shows off the first spiderdemon and some arachnotrons to boot. The other outdoor area with the catwalk looks gorgeous – not that the rest of the map doesn't – and the sheer amount of heavy hitters will give you plenty of time to abuse your rockets and plasma. That long trek down into the Aurora chamber is delightfully spooky.

Another boss fight with a good leadup. The ice cyberdemon doesn't feel quite as drawn-out as the alien queen recolor battle but I think five phases is way too many given that the boss behavior remains consistent. The explosions as you wail on the boss are pretty cool, though. There are a couple enemy waves during the fight but if you let them distract you from the big baddie then you deserve to suffer.

Continuing in the tradition of MAP04A, you get a rematch with the previous boss...with a twist! Cyb is back, and believe it or not, he's walking on air. The vertical component is a nice switch-up and changes the effects of some of his attacks though it's otherwise a similar fight except you're watching two planes for enemy activity. Still, it's more fun than the previous iteration.

MAP07ABlizzard Conditions
A huge, gorgeous outing with tons of moody lighting and understructures. It's also crawling with monsters. The layout is more forgiving than “Cold Snap” but you're still going to have to deal with beasties from multiple sources, including the first appearances of frozen arch-viles, which are pretty tough customers. The level's quite straightforward past the brawls, though you might get hung up like I did on a forcefield whose power conduit is a distance away, on that outer rim to the southwest. There is a boss fight of sorts, against two icy maulotaurs, which isn't so bad as long as you're not blinded by all the projectiles getting slung about. Very nice.

Welcome to the great beyond. The Void isn't at all awful, with an islands in space aesthetic complete with trippy ever-shifting light colors and levels. The new stable of monsters are mostly a welcome treat. They're surprises at first, but you'll get to figure them out quickly. The big exception is the cadre of phantom barons at the finale. It's not clear what's going on at first, and even when you have a faint notion, the sheer number of fake copies flying around is way too distracting. I just rounded them up and let rocket splash damage sort them out.

MAP08Absolute Zero
Boss fight arena. Actually, there are three boss fights to this encounter, one of them with two separate parts. All of them last too long, with the last taking the cake in sheer annoyance with a boss whose attacks include summoning iron lich heads that spew fire lances and evil clouds that shoot homing fireballs, all in addition to its normal range of attacks. Combine that with a blood slick that slows you to half speed which you'll probably eat trying to use your SSG and you might just prefer to shut the game off. Azmodan, who can turn mostly invisible and then shoot super-fast orbs that turn into lethal death blossoms, comes in at a close second. It's satisfying to finally kill the little shits, but is it worth the price?

This post is part of a series on
Doomworld's 2012 Cacowards

The Top TenBest MultiplayerRunners Up
Doom the Way id DidWhoDunIt?Beyond Reality
Strife: Absolute OrderBest Gameplay ModMasters of Chaos
PutrefierRussian OverkillFrozen Time
5till L1 ComplexMordeth AwardPlanisphere 2
Community Chest 4Community Chest 4Coffee Break Ep. 1
The EyeCall of Dooty II
Combat Shock 2Mapper of the Year
Winter's FuryKhorus
Base Ganymede: Complete


  1. Thanks for the review! It certainly helps to be given this criticism, especially with the boss fights. Guess it's time to make a mod to hone my bossfight creating skills!

    One thing I am confused about is that there is nothing in my code which should reduce the boss health(or increase weapon damage)on different difficulties. Not sure why you are experiencing that, but regardless, sorry for the grind-fest just to get through them. :P

    Also, interesting to see you mentioned the logs. It makes me wonder if you were able to open the hidden area in MAP07B or not?

    1. I swear I replayed the first boss fight on HMP and it seemed to go much faster, which I attributed to an actual difference. I'll add a blurb to clarify that; unfortunately, it was the one redeeming aspect of the boss fights that much more relevant.

      No; I didn't manage to reach the hidden area in MAP07B. I think the first time I even knew there were hidden logs was the obvious one in MAP03.

  2. i would like to second everything kmx said. this is an absolutely gorgeous and fun mod - and trust me, it's extremely rare for me to say that about a zdoom project. the boss fights are just annoying though. the most fun ones were easily: 1. the first cyb on the cliff, 2. the flying cyb, 3. the first spiderdemon.

    most of the healthbar bosses were too tedious to deal with and i utterly failed at the phantom flying barons fight. i wasted all the ammo down to the last bullet without really knowing wtf i was supposed to do. i have to admit that level lagged my computer harshly, so my perception was limited. :P

    basically i was purring with delight in the regular levels and sighed through every healthbar-boss map except the flying cyb one, heh.

  3. Amazing conversion. Great, unique atmosphere. Very few flaws aside from boss fights.