Here’s an idea: Pick Mario 64 and Doom 2 and put them in a full-speed blender. Whatever came out of it wouldn’t be as good as one of 2018’s best indie releases so far: Golden Souls 2, a mod for Doom that feels and plays as its own standalone game.
The mod, which I’ll call game, is a fine blend of concepts. Doom’s fast-paced, waltzy gameplay is kept intact and improved, while the stages pay a faithful homage to the best of Nintendo 64’s Mario title, steadily following (and often, dare I say, surpassing) the master.
There’s a satisfying coin collection system and shops to spend them on. There are also some famous Mario enemies, good examples being Hammer Bros, Boos and Magikoopas, being translated perfectly into the FPS realm. Many stages have gimmicks that never let the player sit too comfortable with already-proved approaches to problem-solving. This is a fine display of dedication to a concept. It manages to extract the best from good examples, putting everything together seamlessly and coming up with something that’s both fun and original.
The Doom engine is pushed to its limits in this beautifully rendered project. The maps are huge, but they’re also really fun to explore. Both indoor and outdoor stages are carefully built, with extra care taken in the lighting and choice of rich palettes and textures.
Some parts even go as far as having an uncanny similitude with what could be an official Nintendo game, and we’re talking about a one-man, zero budget project.
There’s a lot to enjoy in Golden Souls 2. We have obstacle courses, mazes, underwater segments and heart-pumping platforming that’s both challenging and enjoyable (most of the time). The game also treats the player with a nice soundtrack that reminds us all the time that this all might be Mario’s coke-induced hallucination.
This is a content-packed mod that begs for a standalone release. All in all, just do yourself a favor and go play it. You can also have a closer, intimate look by using the Doom Builder software if you’re, you know, into it.
Also don’t forget to check out our exclusive interview with Golden Souls 2’s creator, Batandy, who also made Castlevania: Simon’s Destiny, another brilliant Doom mod that’s tough but nice, just like my grandma.
Interview with the creator of Golden Souls 2
We’re very impressed with the overall quality of the level design found in Golden Souls II. Could you tell me a little about your influences?
People often say that this is a "Mario Doom" mod, while actually, Golden Souls 2 is a remix of all my experiences with Nintendo classics such as Mario, Zelda, Metroid and even games which have been on Nintendo consoles but aren't exactly made by them (like Castlevania or Megaman). My major influences are probably games from the Gamecube era such as Paper Mario 2 and Super Mario Sunshine, in fact, my main objective with the creation of The Golden Souls 2 was to try getting at least a bit closer to that sense of wonder you'd get as a child when playing those games.
And maybe a little about the process of creating these stages? From conception to testing...
Stages were not pre-planned, I basically just had to stick to one theme per world and do whatever I wanted to in order to make every level different. Sometimes, stages were born from a simple idea, other times from maybe creating an interesting texture. It's not exactly an "organized" workflow, but considering I was alone during the development and I didn't have to coordinate a team, it went smoothly. A level could take from one week of development to one month depending on the complexity of the ideas. There's a very specific level that did give me some trouble to the point that I had to take a break for example (And so, Castlevania: Simon's Destiny was born, it basically was a "stress relief" project). A friend of mine, Duke_Nume, playtested every level, and considering he was the only main playtester during the active development, things have been hard to balance. Now that I'm getting tons of feedback, I'm doing my best to polish the few remaining rough spots, with the help of the community.
How has the Doom Modding community participated in this project?
While I made most of the mod alone, It wouldn't have been possible without the community's help. I've received tons of advice from Doom veterans through these years, especially for scripting and polishing things up. In the game, you can find a lot of easter eggs which reference works of other fellow Doom Modders. Being a Doom Modder is kind of being part of a big family, everyone looks forward to other people's work and is ready to give advice and even help with their projects.
Has any content been cut off?
No content has been cut off exactly, but I'd say some ideas evolved as time went by. Maybe the only thing that I didn't manage to complete was an extra star world with 5 more levels, but that's because I was satisfied with the final level number.
What were the biggest challenges faced when creating this mod?
The biggest challenge was definitely keeping it together. I've planned 8 worlds with 5 levels each from the start, it can be overwhelming. But when you're fueled by the passion for your work, it's all that it takes to get by.
What would you tell to beginners wanting to get into Doom Modding and game design?
My advice for beginners is to start simple and stick to whatever you are creating. Do not jump from project to project, learn how to take care of yours, and don't be afraid to ask on the forums for advice, everybody there is happy to help you learn. Do not mindlessly steal other people's work, if anything, open it up and study it, learn how other more experienced modders do things.
Looks like you’ve found a great formula here. Any plans for a standalone commercial release of any sorts? Will we be seeing anything like that anytime soon?
I have no plans for a commercial version of my work, I've been planning to make the jump to indie games at some point, but it will probably be something entirely new, who knows?
Are there plans for Golden Souls 3?
There probably won't be a Golden Souls 3. Golden Souls 2 has been a very fun project that has been a huge part of my life, but it's also been something very stressful to develop. At the same time I feel satisfied with what I made, so I see no reason to make a third chapter. Maybe I'll start working on a brand new project, who knows? At the moment I'm kinda taking a break and working on small proof-of-concept ideas.
Could you recommend us a Doom mod to try (besides yours)?
I'd totally recommend The Adventures Of Square, it's a great standalone Gzdoom-based game, there's also The Wool Ball saga, two cartoony mods heavily inspired by Wolfenstein and Rise Of The Triad, and Pirate Doom, a fantastic Monkey Island themed pirate mapset. If you want gameplay mods, I'd recommend GMOTA, a really cool medieval themed mod, DemonSteele, which basically brings Shadow Warrior's katana gameplay to Doom and mixes it with metal, anime, and retrogames.
Thank you very much.
You can download Golden Souls 2 from here.
And the best source port to play it here.
You’ll need a copy of Doom II to load doom2.wad into it.