Requiem (PC) review
"I can pretty much guarantee this isn't my requiem as far as talking about Doom games goes."
When it comes to names for Doom megawads, Requiem feels pretty appropriate for a particular 1997 fan-made release. Essentially a spiritual sequel to the two Memento Moris, it proved to be the last hurrah for a few prominent level designers in the community and, at least at the time, was also considered a last hurrah for Doom level-building due to the ascension of Quake in the FPS genre. Sadly, as with so many final chapters, issues kept it from being the true magnum opus it should have been.
Much like its predecessors, Requiem's levels were created by a number of people who tended to be pretty damn skilled at this sort of thing. Some of my favorites from the two Memento Mori games such as Thomas Moeller, Jens Nielson and Matthias Worch return for one more go-around. That by itself was enough to inspire me to play this one, but there was more. Some really talented guys not on those prior projects proved to be more than up to the task. In particular, Iikka Keranen garnered lots of praise for his ability to program technical feats never before seen on the Doom engine.
Let's just talk about his work for a little while. An early-game level, The Reactor almost feels like a self-contained game. You start out by blasting your way out of a small holding cell and then progress through a large installment until finding the exit — which in this case takes the form of a detonation switch that blows up the place when you interact with it. Then move on to some of his other levels such as Town of the Dead, Arachnophobia or Cursed Kingdom and marvel at how he can create what in actuality is a pretty linear jaunt, but have it feel like something far more open and spacious.
He'll toss in faux-3D effects via bridges to create multiple elevations. He'll give you a large building where you have to walk on narrow ledges around the exterior to get from one place to the next. He'll give you a large city and stick you in one small part of it at a time, but also gradually lower walls so that backtracking isn't an issue. He's the most prominent name in Requiem with a total of seven levels to his name, so it's a good thing his stuff was so enjoyable to experience. Even if his overall style was such that a person could quickly identify an Iikka level within moments of starting it, those things are flat out fun to play through with their cramped corridors, large rooms and hordes of tough foes to overcome and outlast.
And he wasn't the only designer to have really cool aspects to his levels. The early-game Sacriificium includes a rock structure reminiscent of Stonehenge. The level might have been short, easy and containing a few enemies that, for whatever reason, aren't programmed to react to your presence until you start shooting them, but it definitely grabbed my attention simply due to atmosphere. Late in the game, Fetals' Remains has a neat take on the usual key collection you'll be doing along with monster blasting and switch activating. You'll only have to find one of the three possible keys to get near the exit, where you'll find an alter containing the other two. Interact with that thing and you'll place your key on it to access the exit.
Really, when this .wad is on, it is ON! Many levels look beautiful and it was cool to see talented designers take the Doom engine to its limits and beyond. From what I've read, a few levels in this one even kind of require the use of a source port due to having too many monsters and triggers for the vanilla program to perfectly handle. And, unless I missed something — which is always a possibility — one stage, Dario Casali's Hatred requires you to jump to clear a gap and collect a key.
That was one level I had a bit of an issue with. Most of Requiem centered around intricate levels with a wide variety of challenges. Maybe you'll hit tons of switches to advance, maybe mid-tier monsters regularly assail you in cramped corridors, or perhaps a lot of imps and undead soldiers are situated in tricky spots to catch you unaware. Hatred is a Casali special, meaning that you'll have huge wars with lots of foes, including a total of three Cyberdemons. It's not a bad level, but it feels a bit out of place in this collection. And, to be frank, the end of it was just annoying, with an instant-death teleporter located near the one you're supposed to take, as well as a battle against the Icon of Sin final boss. Whether it's the basic Doom 2 experience or one of these fan-made games, I've never liked that confrontation, so having to deal with another one wasn't exactly something I wanted to do.
But one level doesn't make a bad game, especially when its "issues" greatly come down to my personal preference. A greater issue simply comes from it having a somewhat troubled production. It seems that a few designers decided that Doom was dead a bit prematurely and never provided their work, leaving Requiem without levels 20, 25, 26 and 32. Help was provided by designer Adam Windsor, who had a few spare levels hanging around; however, they tended to be short and the overall order wasn't rearranged to account for this.
When you think about it, Doom is like most other video games. You'll start out with short and simple challenges and, as you progress, the layouts get more elaborate and the opposition gets more deadly. There might be a breather level here or a difficulty spike there, but there is a logical progression from easy to tough as you go from the beginning to the end. Sadly, those replacement levels somewhat screw with that. In Memento Mori II, the final 10 or so levels were a great challenge, with virtually each one of them being tough experiences that felt rewarding to overcome. Here, you'll endure a couple tough levels and then get through the next one like it wasn't even there. It's not that these levels by Adam are bad, they just feel like early-game stuff placed close to the end.
Requiem is a rewarding bit of fan-made Doom to play and it deserves its reputation as one of the all-time great megawads — it just could have been better if not for those designers no-showing and forcing the use of those emergency substitute levels. When at its best, I'd say it is comparable, if not better, than both Memento Mori efforts. I just don't think it's quite as consistent from top to bottom, which is a shame, as that issue has nothing to do with any of the talented people who did their best to make this a fitting requiem to one of the most influential and greatest games of all time.
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (December 08, 2022)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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