Thursday, July 25, 2019

Game 5: Catacomb 3D

The tale of a valiant wizard who goes to defeat his evil nemesis. I would say that's a bit cliche, but full-fledged wizards doing things on their isn't really a common plot in most stories I've seen. Usually they're relegated to the side plot. I guess Earthsea partially involves a plot like this, but it is amazing that what should be a general plot is almost never used. Catacomb 3D is this shoulda be generic plot. You are the wizard Petton Everhail, and your evil nemesis is Grelminar. Your nemesis has captured the "Nemesis of Kelquest". I think we can safely say the Greek gods are not real in this game's universe. I also recall that Nemesis is an antagonist in later games.

There are sourceports, but DOSbox works fine.

Like Commander Keen 4&5, there's a little pong game on the main menu. Because I am not a fun person I will not be playing this game. Catacomb features three difficulty settings, labeled like ordinary difficulty settings. I'll be playing this on medium, because I don't want to get stabbed in the back too many times.

The first level uses a track from Commander Keen 4. This track will go on so long that I suspect it is the only song. I like a little mood music, but this track has about four bars repeated endlessly. It was fine in Commander Keen, but here I have to listen to it for like thirty minutes. This is not good. I've complained about other games reusing music, but in this case it is unacceptable. As to the interface, we have our little items at the bottom, our portrait/health bar to the right, and our shot power. Which gradually rise until it is in the form of a nuclear blast. We have a compass and a little note above the items. This actually makes navigation easier than Wolfenstein. Rather than having to manually check your map to see where you are in a sea of identical corridors, you have a little description to help you find out where you are. You can remember that so you know when you're near where you need to go. In theory.

Item-wise you have scrolls, which tell you about things I don't believe I encountered, in addition to potions you can use at any time, which makes this game easier than other FPS of the era, since a level you do well on will result in more health later on.

You have four weapons effectively. A single shot, which doesn't do much damage. A charged shot, which doesn't do enough damage. A bolt, or rapid fire item. A nuke, or shot in all directions. With exception to the charged shot, everything was more or less useful. I never really used them because I only had two for much of the game. 3/10

You have a small variety of enemies. Bats, which are easy to kill; The trolls, which we previously saw as mutants in Hovertank; Orcs, which are kinda there; Demons, who are reskins of trolls and take a million missiles to kill. There's Grelminar, who is a lich and is rather easy for a boss character. He was also in Dangerous Dave. Make of that what you will. 3/10

You have Nemesis. One guy on the last level. 0/10

The way the game is set up makes it less annoying to navigate than other flat FPS games. The descriptions usually give you a better sense of where you are. I said usually, sometimes there are giant hallways with the description "White Hallways" for half of a level. There's some interesting stuff I think. You have the first hub, beating out Hexen and Strife for first FPS to have a hub level. Sometimes they're sneaky and start you with just enough time to turn around and kill an enemy that saw you as you entered. I in particular liked the one area called "Room of the Recently Dead" which had blood all over the walls. The secrets though, eh, they're not easy to pick up on. The one secret level I found wasn't anything special. 6/10

Player Agency:
I complained of tank controls in Hovertank 3D. There's not really any difference here. Your afterburner is replaced by sidestepping. 3/10

You can shoot the walls. That's neat, isn't it? That won't come back in a major FPS until Duke! 1/10

I'm not really getting a distinct atmosphere from this. Its like, eh, you're a wizard now, kill some orcs, trolls and demons. Now you're in some kind of tar pit and now you're in Hell. 2/10

I feel like every pre-Doom iD game I see is just stuffed to the brim with reused textures. I'm pretty sure some of this stuff was touched up for Wolfenstein. I'm also pretty sure I've seen some of the other wall textures in another game. 4/10

There's nothing much to it beyond the scrolls you find. Eh. 1/10

No. You don't get anything for this category. I listened to the same musical track for the entire playing time. The sound design is lackluster. The bumping sound against walls sounds like farting. Oddly, this was also taken from Commander Keen. I keep hearing sounds from that. How unfortunate. I don't mention it to be funny. If I wanted to be funny I'd make a whole gag about calling him some juvenile name about how gassy he is. The little boops and beeps you get when you shoot things is not enough to make up for that. 0/10

That brings us to a total of 23. 8 points lower than Wolfenstein. That's a bit shocking. I don't really think Wolfenstein is necessarily more fun than Catacomb. I guess if you picked out the best twenty levels from Wolfenstein and played those instead of the entire game that'd make sense. Catacomb doesn't really wear out its welcome. The two hour investment it takes to play this compared to the ten hour investment in Wolfenstein makes this more enjoyable overall.

Final Score: 130900

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