Prodoomer - Review

Sometimes, mods that have good or fun gameplay are overlooked for small reasons such as poor english on the author's part, or a topic post that doesn't explain much about the project. I initially overlooked Prodoomer (by PsychoSilverTH) as I wasn't sure what it was, but a post on another forum inspired me to give it a shot - whilst it's quality level is mixed at times, I didn't regret spending the time to play and finish it (roughly a week on and off) at all and can see myself playing through it again in the future.

Prodoomer's story is simple and told in game through cutscenes - you're a marine called Dash and the demons have invaded. The plot takes you through a wide variety of locations - from invaded bases, to rooftops, to cities, and then to futuristic space stations before culminating in a demonic planet. The English in the mod is poor, but fortunately it's not like the plot is hard to understand. There's a few recurring bad guys and it's enough to help drive things forward, which is good enough for games.

Before each level begins, you start in a small hub map where you can purchase weapon upgrades and ammunition. Cash starts off at a trickle, but soon enough you'll be pulling in hundreds and then thousands from each map as you beat them. There's also a leveling system in place, and tied to this is a spell system. It's a very simple system, as each time you level up you gain access to a new spell. These range from simple attacks, to armour shields and turbo speed, to accuracy buffs, damaging auras, and timestopping abilities. Spells are powered by mana (what else) which recharges slowly but fast enough so that most of the time, just running around and looking for supplies is enough to recharge it. Naturally as you level up your max HP and Mana increase, so at the end of the game you have a huge amount of health and armour available...and you'll need it. Some enemies are incredibly tough, but most of them are fair - with a few notable exceptions such as a hit-scanning railgun/laser zombie and a tornado throwing Archvile (there are also sniper zombies in the mod, but fortunately they show a visible laser beam before firing giving you ample time to get out of harms way) Weapons have a mish-mash of art styles, but they all pack a neat punch and get more powerful as you upgrade (with some having new firemodes added) One thing that will throw players off though is each gun has strong recoil which throws your screen off - a spell negates this effect, but it may take some getting used to. I play a lot of shooters that love to throw your aim around so it didn't hurt me too much and I was able to keep my cursor on the enemies easily enough, but if you're not skilled in doing that you may struggle at times with keeping your sights on an enemy.

Combat in the mod starts off simple enough, with a new weapon set to go along with it - ammo is in short supply so making use of melee attacks to save ammo is pretty important. The difficult rapidly climbs alongside your power set however, which is part of why I was pretty impressed with the game on offer here. Spells don't end up overpowered as Prodoomer starts to throw the nastier choices of the custom Doom bestiary at the end of the game you will absolutely need to utilize the heavy hitting spells intelligently to succeed. That's the interesting part though; I don't know if it's accidental or if just the base combination of spells and super enemies work so well but I was using a wide variety of spells and spamming a single one wasn't an effective tactic (there is a cooldown timer on spells, but it's actually fairly short which encourages fast gameplay) Even stopping time can only help so much...but it all feels satisfying and finally winning a combat encounter is a great rush. You will definitely need to upgrade your guns as well for the later fights - fortunately there's no level scaling to be found so by the end your upgraded shotgun will kill the tougher vanilla Doom enemies in just 1 or 2 shots. The leveling, of both yourself and the upgrading of your weapons, moved quite naturally with your progression in the game itself. I managed to just reach level 30 and upgrade all of my weapons as I entered the last levels. One thing to note is that I didn't encounter any slaughter maps in the mod - the highest monster count ranged around 400, but most of the time you'll be battling tough groups of enemies from a wide variety of angles rather than huge clumps of weaker ones.

Level design is somewhat mixed. The overall build quality isn't high - I wouldn't say bad at all just not at the upper tiers of mappers I've played. However the author uses coloured lighting to create lots of colourful scenery - it never feels gratuitous and feels like an extension of Doom 64 in some maps. A few maps are also styled after that game as well, but many others have wilder locations such as the aforementioned space station (which reminded me of Super Sonic Doom) One thing that may put people off is that there are quite a lot of jumping puzzles in the mod, which combined with Doom's slippery physics can be quite frustrating. There's also one section with sea mines which wasn't fun at all. You gain some more jumping abilities as you progress however - at first a double jump and then a wall jump that is fairly easy to pull off and feels quite cool. Gaining new abilities was a pretty interesting idea that's not done too often in Doom, and it felt good to have later maps open up a bit with what you could do and where you could go. You will need to utilize some spells such as turbo to proceed as well as the newer jumping abilities - this may put some people off but I enjoyed having to utilize the z-axis more than usual. Other maps include typical city maps - the best of one being an open ended romp throughout a suburb. Sweeping buildings and gradually clearing the streets of enemies and snipers is always satisfying, especially in this scenario.

The whole style of the mod feels very arcadey - it's a mish mash of different styles (some of which are a bit weird - the Call of Duty level up sounds and graphics, the gears of war logo when you're nearing death if you're hit .etc) but it all kinda fits together well. From what I understand most of the music is from Phantasy Star online with a few exceptions. It feels like typical JRPG music at times, with a relaxed and kind of jazz style to it - but that actually works towards the mod's favour. It definitely felt like I was playing a obscure arcade shooter, and that works to the mod's strengths. There's also some built in replay value - getting all the items, kills, and secrets on a map grants you an S-rank which is visible above the level's entry in the hub map. Getting consecutive S-ranks allows you to unlock helper allies for purchase. I didn't understand this system at first until later in the game so I had to play without them, but it's a nice reward for players who want to get a perfect score. There's also hidden rings throughout the maps - gained only through tricky jumping skills, getting all of them unlocks a hidden surprise (if I ever get them all I'll edit what it is in here)

I enjoyed Prodoomer a lot - there ARE tough and somewhat frustrating sections littered throughout, but the good ideas on display and the gameplay system make playing through and beating maps rewarding. The music and general level design work really well together and give the mod a nice atmosphere which kept me going till I saw the whole thing through (which is rare with most megawads) If you're looking for a good GZDoom campaign filled with custom content that works well, Prodoomer's not a bad project to check out at all.

Link to release topic on Zdoom forums