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Level Review: RAVEN.WAD
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Overview

I first played this episode long ago, near the beginning of my DooMing career, and it immediately became my benchmark by which I judged all other WADs. As time passed and I began learning more about the editing process, every time I played one of the levels I'd notice little mistakes here and there. I remember very well the first problem I noticed: a misaligned texture on MAP02. At first I thought I was seeing things. A misaligned texture within the Raven levels? Couldn't be, I thought, but then I started seeing them everywhere. What could have kept me so occupied that I would miss all these tiny mistakes? Well, the real strength of these levels has nothing to do with textures; Raven is all about layout and gameplay, recreating what Id had done. These levels are to DooM2 what Fava Beans is to Knee-Deep In The Dead: different levels, but a perfect stylistic match. RAVEN is far from being polished, and if released today would be forgotten within minutes, but it wasn't released today. It was released in 1995, and that's why it's a classic...


MAP01 1:30
Easy
A fairly energetic opening places you in a courtyard, surrounded by monsters, with seven possibilities for shelter. Where you go and when isn't all that critical unless you're speedrunning. Too many route combinations to list, so have some fun with it. Brick/Wood design, with a bit of TechLab thrown in. Very three dimensional with excellent use of teleporters. Ideal for DMing... images/raven_01.jpg

MAP02 3:18
Easy
Medium size, comprised of several different styles that don't clash thanks to good progression. The stone area with all the windows and walkways is cool, but the textures are all the same so the individual sections aren't distinct. With some retexturing it could be a very impressive area, visually. Monsters are few and ammo is abundant; just pick a route and start blasting your way through... images/raven_02.jpg

MAP03 4:19
Easy
Slightly larger than the last level. Many styles, but they don't work so well together this time, though the library is memorable. More monsters make gameplay better, but there's some backtracking required that isn't much fun; having some monsters teleport into previously traveled areas would've livened up the journey... images/raven_03.jpg

MAP04 4:00
Easy
One of my favorite levels, it uses the Gray/TechLab styles to good effect in certain areas(shows how the silver textures can be used without being overused). However, other sections, such as the trio of lifts and the Marble courtyard, look out of place. Monsters shoot at you through windows and from many angles, so watch out. Good luck evading those Revanant missles in the opening room... images/raven_04.jpg

MAP05 3:57
Easy
That several areas are attractive helps to offset the fact that they don't match. The first two rooms, with their open ceilings, walkways, and surrounding hallways; the Wood outdoor section and the stairs leading up to it. These all look great, as would the final Marble area if its textures were aligned. Once again Revenants are placed in open sections, which makes the process of losing their missles harder. Gameplay would be much better if you didn't have to revisit the teleporter hub to kill that one Imp. Other than that, quite fun... images/raven_05.jpg

MAP06 3:34
Easy
We begin with a very nice Wood area, progress into a dark Sewer-like area, then into the Marble room beneath it. This first series of styles works fairly well, except for the appearance of both Slime and Blood within site of each other. The next part is TechLab, which looks great until we run into the Stone room. Then it's back to Marble briefly, before the final two rooms which are again TechLab. Confused, yet? Gameplay is the same as every other level... images/raven_06.jpg

MAP07 2:52
Easy
While easily the most interesting level in terms of gameplay, it's also an incredible disappointment from a design standpoint. To start with, there are sixteen secret sectors(though they comprise only seven secrets). Combined, they allow free access to the entire level from the start(no need for keys). This makes gameplay very interesting, as you can stare for a long time at the map trying to plot the fastest route(I speak from experience). However, that doesn't negate the fact that the design is terrible. The architecture isn't bad, but it includes just about every style(even the dreaded Wolfenstein). The whole thing feels completely haphazard... images/raven_07.jpg

MAP08 2:04
Easy
The courtyard is very reminiscent of Circle Of Death and, with the exception of the TechLab areas, it manages to build a somewhat darker atmosphere than the previous levels. However, I don't understand why that Marble room was so brightly lit. For that matter, why is it there at all? It doesn't fit... images/raven_08.jpg

MAP09 2:39
Easy
My personal favorite, this one doesn't have the same stylistic problems as all the others; rather, it progresses appropriately(except for another bizarre Marble area) from one to the other. Lighting is also highly improved and the opening scene displays this perfectly(in addition to looking just plain awesome). Monsters are more numerous and in smaller areas(in the first half). The only technical flaw in the level is that of the Mancubus trapped in a deep pit, where he can't be reached. It's possible to get the Pain Elemental to spawn some Lost Souls and kill him with rockets(radius damage), but it takes too much time... images/raven_09.jpg

MAP10 3:09
Easy
Though MAP09 is my favorite, this is undoubtedly the best. No stylistic inconsistencies, whatsoever. A great layout has you teleporting to four seperate areas. After you've completed them you're given access to the hub that connects them. At the same time, a series of doors throughout the level open, revealing hallways that also connect the areas. A superb example of 3D design, watch for a stairway that lets out in the center of a room, as well as the opening area. Of course, there are enough monsters to keep you active... images/raven_10.jpg

MAP11 1:57
Easy
A fine end to a classic episode, this Cityscape contains very little to complain about. Similar in appearance to Downtown, but with a Wood theme. This being the last level, shouldn't there be more resistance? There's not even a single Cyberdemon in that large courtyard(a perfect battlefield). Well, it doesn't provide much of a challenge(then again, neither did the rest of the episode), but it's one of the best levels from a technical angle(a bit behind MAP10)... images/raven_11.jpg