Master Levels for Doom II is a pack of fan-made levels handpicked by id Software and put together for sale as an official product. As the name would suggest, these levels are intended for those who are already familiar with Doom II. I’ve also already reviewed Doom II and its predecessor so if you want more information on those basics then go check those out. If you’re still here, let’s talk about this one, shall we? Note that this is based on the Steam version of the game which runs through the program DOSBox. And additional thing to note is that I played the game with a controller using an extrernal program to map key presses to button presses. This means I can’t speak much for the control beyond how responsive it is to key presses rather than the layout and whatnot. Alright, let’s hit it!
So this pack contains 20 levels made by the community that you select from what I can only assume is the original menu you’d see in the DOS game. It’s in alphabetical order and levels must be played one at a time as completely separate affairs. These levels all pretty much play like your typical level of Doom II. You run around finding weapons, shooting demons, collecting keys, and looking for secrets. The difference is that these levels are a bit more difficult. Some of it is in enemy placement. Some of it is in enemy numbers. And some of it lies in the secrets you might just NEED to make it out alive. It has some tricks and traps thrown in as well to force players into more hectic situations. Sometimes you’ll be locked into arenas with groups of enemies. Other times the enemies will be teleporting around the room with invisible warp points that constantly change their position. There’s even some architecture you may not have thought possible in Doom II. It’s designed to challenge those who have played Doom II to the point of near-boredom.
This pack definitely delivers on that. It is pretty tough, but still balanced for the different difficulty levels. So even if you’ve only mastered a certain level of difficulty in Doom II, you can jump into Master Levels for Doom II on that same difficulty and feel like the difficulty curves yet doesn’t spike. I very much appreciated this as a wimp that always plays on the easiest setting. I also really liked the way the game surprised me with it’s tricks and traps. I didn’t really know some of these things were possible so being assaulted out of nowhere with them certainly kept me on my toes and learning new ways of surviving. Also, one of the levels here has this elevator in the middle with a bunch of different floors to explore. The engine can’t do rooms over rooms but it still managed to make the level feel very vertical and large despite the limitations. It was pretty cool. And hell, it plays like Doom II! What’s not to like?
I’ll tell you what. The presentation. The Steam version of this game has had no improvements made to it. There’s not some nice menu to launch the levels or even to play them in the format of one big episode. There’s no controller support or modern resolution options or anything. It’s just the game and a version of DOSBox… which doesn’t even work. Maybe that’s not the case for everyone, and it’s an easy enough fix, but for me to have to do and delete this version of DOSBox and then replace it with a functioning version in the file folders is definitely not the kind of thing the user should be expected to do in a Doom game. It’s a franchise as big as Doom and somehow this isn’t fixed by now? Really? I also believe one of the levels I loaded was a repeat later on with a different name. So either that’s some kind of glitch here on my end or this pack just has some explaining to do.
So I would definitely recommend this pack. It’s great if you like Doom and Doom II and want more of that action with new levels. It’s only available in the Doom Classic Complete package which includes the first two games and Final Doom. On the one hand, it makes sense because there’s maybe not enough in this pack to sell it on its own merits. It’s more likely to get people to splurge for the bigger pack, which I think is still a bargain if you like Doom. That’s kind of the problem with it, though. If you already have Doom, Doom II, and/or Final Doom then you’ll be buying them over again just to get this. It’s not worth 15 bucks on its own, but if you don’t own one of the other games in the bundle then I think it’d still be worth your while. The other problem with it is that, if you’re NOT already a Doom fan then it might feel like an extra gamble for you to buy this whole pack. So it’s frustrating, but it CAN be worth it in this context if your circumstances are just right. The pack itself is solid. It’s maybe not the best thing to happen to Doom, but it’s hard not to recommend more Doom action to those that want it. Speaking of this pack, I’ve never actually played Final Doom either… yet.