- Title: Xen Level Pack!
- Author: MatthewDoomer
- Game: Doom2
- Engine: Skulltag/Zandronum
- Game Type: Singleplayer/Coop
- Total Maps: 6
- Release Date: 2014
Xen Level Pack is a 6-map Doom 2 episode for Skulltag (and thus equivalently Zandronum with skulltag_actors.pk3 and skulltag_data.pk3 loaded). The description mentions 7 maps, but there only appear to be 6 in the wad, and the game ends normally after map 6 so…oops? The story is the standard clean-up-the-demon-infestation fare.
The mapset’s theme borrows ideas from quite an eclectic mix of wads: 90s maps, knee deep in zdoom, and a somewhat obscure skulltag wad called UAC mutation complex. The first couple of maps start off using stock resources and sparse detailing. Afterwards the theme begins to migrate toward hyperdetail and skulltag’s darker set of textures, though personally I find the detail isn’t usually used that well (it relies almost entirely on repeated wall consoles and light fixtures, and some textures don’t look right when they are warped by sharp slopes). Light levels take a nose-dive after the first map, so darkness is something to quickly get used to. The areas I found the most aesthetically pleasing were the outdoor natural sections in map03 and map05, and the less visually cluttered layouts that were present in the first three maps. Some other additions to the experience include smooth weapon animations, cheesy 90s weapon sounds, and the silver status bar from the Invasion wads.
Map navigation is quite straight-forward. There are very few branching paths (with many locked doors acting as road-blocks), and only the third map has a secret area. The layouts consist of cramped corridors and small rooms for the most-part, so prepare yourself for close-quarters combat. Starting at map 3, enemies and items from the Skulltag realm make their appearence ( and mostly consist of dark imps and super shotgun guys). As expected, difficulty starts off tame in the beginning and gradually builds up toward the end. The opposion is placed in such a way that the claustrophobic nature of the fights throughout the episode actually work to its favor, and it was just challenging enough for me to be engaged to the end. The only eyebrow-raising moment I recall was when I stepped in a centimeter of insta-death lava on map 3 that showed no hints of being instant death. Other than this, I thought the gameplay flowed pretty well throughout the episode.
All in all, it’s decent fun while it lasts, but it probably won’t stick out much in your mind after you finish it. Still, I think it’s worth a shot.