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Years before “Doom” was associated with a hell-gate on a Martian moon, it stood for Doomawangara, a remote, dangerous planet that has been the final resting place of adventurers foolish enough to seek out its treasures. Of course, in the Doom trilogy, you play just another fool in that queue, but you have advantages over those previous visitors- namely: game restarts, game saves, and unlimited UNDOs (depending on your interpreter).
The Doom trilogy is not fair by today’s standards. You will not beat the games on the first playthrough (nor the 30th, most likely), and each of the games has at least one puzzle edging on “completely insane”. Still, if you are okay with insta-deaths, mapping (including some mazes), and don’t get too ornery when you have to hit up a walkthrough (luckily, there is one for each game on the IF archive written by Richard Bos), there are enough nice, satisfying moments that I’d still recommend it to people looking for a fun, old-school distraction.
Still, it’d probably be best to give some advice on how to play these games-
1. These games continue the Phoenix tradition of not using “EXAMINE” (or any variation thereof) for looking at objects. Everything you need to know about an object is listed in its room or inventory listing.
2. Map everything, even when it costs you life to do so. The games are very much designed for trial-by-error.
3. “Rods” are supposed to be wands, I guess, and as such, they are meant to be waved.
4. There are several chemistry-related puzzles, so keep that in mind.
5. Read closely. Sometimes your one hint concerning something will be some throwaway bit of text that is printed and never mentioned again.
6. Figuring out the order of doing things is often part of the puzzle.
7. Type “HELP” early on to get an overview of any game-specific notes or commands.
Ok, let’s get to the game itself.
Last Days of Doom
Here we are at the final chapter of the Doomawangara trilogy. The help text describes the game as the darkest chapter yet. Maybe fittingly, the story moves the focus away from the wilds and towards Doomawangara’s civilization. Like the previous game, the intro has a fair amount of frustration but nothing that a bit of exploration and perseverance won’t solve, and exploration is a bit more lax in the midgame. Overall, this game is, by far, the fairest of the three.
It is always interesting to see narrative and characterization explored in old games, and in this case, it is done to good effect. Not only that, but there’s a nice range of puzzles and adventurous, action-packed scenes. There is not a shortage of imagination. All in all, it’s a good payoff for sticking with a difficult series.
I imagine Killworth already saw his game as making steps towards interactive-fiction-as-literature. Even the original 1990 version doesn’t keep a game score for the first time in the series. Honestly, I found myself missing scoring points when solving puzzles, but one has to respect the ambition just the same.
There were only a couple things that really stuck in my craw this time, like the (Spoiler - click to show)glass enclosure that you have to >BREAK (but can’t >HIT) or some mysterious objects whose utility are only discovered by dropping.
Now, I mapped Countdown to Doom in GUEmap and Return to Doom in Trizbort. This time around, I made a map of LDoD in each, so people can get a idea of how the two programs compare. Personally, I think maps are quicker to throw together in GUEmap, and if you are looking to print out your maps, GUEmap will print your map out on fewer sheets of paper (it is possible to compress the PDF that Trizbort makes to use fewer sheets- at decreasing quality, of course). Trizbort, on the other hand, is somewhat more useful in its ability to list objects, and being able to have different sized shapes for rooms helps lend itself towards art-ier maps. I can’t say that I am ready to commit to one or the other. Anyhow, here is the Trizbort version (Trizbort file, Trizbort PDF) and the GUEmap version (GUEmap file, GUEmap PDF). As always, the maps contain spoilers.
This last entry of the series nudges its way up to three-star territory. It still has a lot of the trial-by-error design that would prevent me from recommending it to someone with little patience, but given it largely lacks the screamingly-unfair aspects of its predecessors, I feel content to bump it up to three stars. Of course, ideally, one would have played through the earlier games to fully appreciate the overall development of the story, but I wouldn’t say it’s even particularly necessary.
(The full write-up of the series can be found at joltcountry.com.)