Review - John Romero’s SIGIL for DOOM

in gaming •  3 months ago  (edited)

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Times Played - 3 / Hurt Me Plenty - 2/Ultra-Violence - 1
Mods Used - Smooth DOOM/2 Runs
Secret Level Found - Yes

It’s finally here, and ready to be played.

Before getting started, a few things. First, my thanks to Mr. Romero for giving the DOOM community an Episode 5 for this long-standing title. Second, I was one of the people who bought the boxed copy of SIGIL from Limited Run Games when it was announced, thus I got to play it before the official release date. I will do my best not to be biased because of my purchase, but consider this a heads-up for context.

So, what is SIGIL?

SIGIL is an unofficial 5th Episode of DOOM, taking place immediately after the end of Thy Flesh Consumed. The premise is Doomguy’s trip home at the end of the episode is interrupted by Baphomet, and he is pulled back into Hell to go up against more of the monsters he fought before. Succeeding in this will return him to Earth, and put him in position to start DOOM II.

Simple and to the point. I like it.

Now, how does SIGIL stack up against the other four episodes given the 23-year gap between releases?

Before speaking on this, I feel I should bring up the two reinterpretation maps Romero made for Episode 1 of DOOM. These maps redesigned E1M8, Phobos Anomaly, and E1M4, Command Control. They were released in this order, with the latter serving double duty as a demo of sorts for another game project. So, there was evidence that Romero still knew what he was doing with the DOOM Engine/IDTech1.

Here are links to the two missions in question.

This being a fifth episode, the challenge was expected to be greater than what we got in Thy Flesh Consumed, and from my time playing, it is. My first run was on Hurt Me Plenty, which went pretty smoothly aside from one hiccup that I’ll touch on shortly*. I also made sure to ignore as much of the pre-release discussion of the .wad as I could to be sure nothing was spoiled, and I was both pleasantly surprised and well reminded of Mr. Romero’s tendency to throw wrenches at the player as I went through SIGIL’s maps.

  • The hiccup in question has to do with a mechanic of SIGIL’s maps: Shooting Evil Eye objects to open new routes. The way these things are set up, if you use the chainsaw on them, or shoot at and hit them from the sides, it’s possible to close off the switch yet not trigger the changes to the level. This happened my first time playing Mission 4, Paths of Wretchedness, though I was crushed shortly after realizing what happened.

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On an Ultra-Violence run, the shotgun will quickly become your go-to weapon, and I recommend using it and the chainsaw to save other ammo types, cells especially. While getting enough ammo so as to not run out is rarely an issue, I would still advise managing your shots and watching for secrets. Many of them contain supplies that will make your life easier when playing on Ultra-Violence.

Also, I should touch on a talking point others have brought up: the lighting. SIGIL is designed to be a dimly lit .wad, so much so that if you’re playing on a rendering setting that’s too dark, you can’t see squat in places. So, my recommendation: Use GZDOOM and use the “Software” setting under Display Options>OpenGL Options, and be sure to listen for monster noises.

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Here's how the first room looks in Software Rendering mode.

In terms of the maps themselves, they’re well designed and as the episode progresses, grow more unsettling and claustrophobic. Fitting for a series of levels with the Hell theme, and some secrets have to be discovered by way of platforming or taking advantage of quirks in the engine. For example, the increased speed from strafe-running.

Now, to the music. One of the selling points of the .wad, literally in the case of those who bought the boxes or the soundtrack of the .wad, was the instrumental soundtrack composed by Buckethead. There is also a MIDI soundtrack by one James Paddock that comes with the .wad, but having listened to both of them, Buckethead’s version is the one to listen to every chance you get.

Be ready for Mission 5, Abbadon’s Void, if you’re using that soundtrack.

Now, with all this said, is SIGIL a recommended .wad? Yes. Without question. Not only is it well-designed, it’s great to see a designer of the original game continue to work on it this many years after release. Of course, now I’m left wondering if American McGee, Sandy Petersen, Shawn Green, or Adrian Carmack will try their hands at making levels again.

SIGIL will be free to any and all who want it starting tomorrow, the 31st of May, though if you want the Buckethead soundtrack .wad that goes with it, that costs 6.66 Euros and gives access to SIGIL right away. (https://www.romerogames.ie/si6il) Buckethead himself also has the soundtrack for sale in digital formats, though it is missing two tracks that came on the box edition CDs: the level end track, and the episode end track. (SIGIL Soundtrack)

And with that, I’m off to play SIGIL with one of my all-time favorite DOOM mods: Brutal DOOM. Should be a fun time.

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Until next time, and be sure to “Rip and Tear”.

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