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John Romero seems like a pretty cool dude. According to his Wikipedia page, his name is tied to a lot of games but I only really know about his work from when he was with id Software and the infamous Daikatana which I have yet to play. But he’s one of the many people responsible for the classic Doom games, my favorite first-person shooters ever so I have respect for the man. When I found out he was making a new megawad for the original Doom, I was excited. I then quickly got upset because even though it’s free, I wanted the boxed version but it was sold out. SIGIL was released in May, 2019 and I believe it’s considered an unofficial expansion. It comes with nine single player levels each with their own deathmatch arenas. I’ll admit, I was a little disappointed he didn’t make it for Doom II because that means none of the content introduced in that game is present in SIGIL. But it’s free, so I can’t really complain and it’s coming from the one and only John Romero. I played through the megawad using the GZDoom source port and made sure jumping and mouselooking were disabled because according to one of his tweets, both of those are considered cheating. It’s a standard Doom megawad that was designed to exceed the difficulty of Episode 4: Thy Flesh Consumed. That’s what they say, anyway.
The story here goes that a powerful sigil was placed in the teleporter at the end of the last episode and it brings you back to Hell. The entire megawad is set in Hell. You’ll use the classic Doom firepower to mow down all of the foes in your way. There’s nothing really new here in terms of gameplay. It’s just a new set of levels with the classic weapons and enemies.
SIGIL is tough and does get more challenging as you progress. However, much of the difficulty comes from the level design, itself. The megawad is full of narrow paths and corridors. It’s very claustrophobic. There’s not a lot of room to move around. There’s a lot of dark areas where it can be hard to see anything, enemies will frequently spawn in behind you, and Barons are thrown you at the end of many segments and they always ended up eating up my ammo. On Ultra-Violence, Cyberdemons are placed in several maps and just make navigation more dangerous. I usually didn’t engage them in order to save ammo. I found the shotgun to be very useful here and would save the rocket launcher for the tough encounters. The chainsaw proved to be very useful in dealing with many foes like Pinky’s and Cacodemons, it also helped me save ammo which is not always in abundance.
I’ve always felt Thy Flesh Consumed was the toughest Episode for the original game and I still feel that way. SIGIL is hard but in my opinion, it’s nowhere near as tough as Episode 4. Ultra Violence makes things more difficult but it doesn’t feel impossible. SIGIL likes put you in a lot of tight and confined areas, but the enemies thrown at you are nothing like the enemies thrown at you in Episode 4. There are certainly areas that feel a bit cheap. There are areas where enemies are attacking you from behind walls, areas where enemies way out in the distance are draining your health, and areas with plenty of monster closets, but I really don’t think this megawad exceeds the challenge established in Thy Flesh Consumed. You’ll walk into areas with shotgun guys ready to blow you away. You’ll activate something or reach a location and then are immediately surrounded. Cacodemons will seemingly come out of nowhere at times but the threats always felt manageable. I never felt overwhelmed or had a very difficult time dealing with any of the threats. Many of the enemies can easily be dispatched. If anything, I think SIGIL feels a bit more fair than Thy Flesh Consumed. The level design can be a bitch sometimes but it’s not relentlessly difficult.
All of the narrow paths and small spaces can be a nuisance and it can be very easy for first-time players to struggle figuring out where to go and the low visibility doesn’t help. It’s not always obvious how to proceed so you will need to look around and consult the automap from time to time. The small areas can make dodging enemy projectiles problematic. There’s not always a lot of room to maneuver or circle strafe. You’ll want to quick save often because many encounters are simply trial and error. I find that SIGIL is more enjoyable if you take your time. You’ll want to use all of the weapons at your disposal and at the right times because not having ammo can make certain levels more difficult than they need to be. There are plenty of hazards to watch out for and there’s a section in map four which is full of crushers which kind of sucks but I do like how the levels are consistent in their design. You’ll have to find keys to progress which isn’t anything new, there will be some backtracking here and there, you’ll have to shoot objects to proceed which is established in the very first level and remains consistent throughout, and buttons and switches will reveal new areas. It feels like there’s always just enough health, armor, and ammo lying around in plain sight to get you through a level but there are secrets to find which usually house goodies making them feel like life savers if you’re low on resources. The megawad ends with battles against the Spider Mastermind and Cyberdemon and I didn’t have too much trouble getting passed them.
SIGIL looks like Doom because it is Doom. It’s just a megawad with new levels and music. The levels contain good architecture and the look and feel of each one is consistent. If anything, SIGIL is a very atmospheric megawad. All the Satantic imagery, low visibility, and great music add to the atmosphere. The music was composed by Buckethead and the soundtrack is quite memorable. It’s not full of intense heavy metal jams but more atmospheric tunes that back up the visual presentation nicely. There’s not much to say in terms of audiovisual presentation because if you’ve played Doom, much of this megawad will look and feel familiar which is to be expected. On the technical side, I didn’t run into any issues.
I did have fun with SIGIL but the real novelty here is that it was made by John Romero. The fan community as produced some truly excellent content over the years including new levels, megawads, and overall enhancements to the game. I do think there are better and more detailed megawads out there but I appreciate what John was trying to do. I’ve heard SIGIL wasn’t very good and I have disagree. It has some frustrating areas and I can see why people wouldn’t like it but it’s not terrible. I truly don’t feel this is as difficult as Thy Flesh Consumed nor is it anywhere near as challenging as a megawad like Hell Revealed. It can be a bit tedious, especially on Ultra-Violence mainly because every level is so claustrophobic and you’re not able to easily maneuver around tougher enemy types. But overall, I thought it was well designed.
I would recommend SIGIL because it’s just more Doom and there’s really no reason not to play through it. It’s free. That alone should be a good enough reason to at least check it out. I think there are better fan-made megawads out there but the thing about SIGIL is that it was designed by John Romero and contains awesome music by Buckethead. SIGIL isn’t breaking any new ground but it’s certainly worth checking out.