Well it is that time...time for 2004 now...
And of course anyone on this planet knows what the most monumental release of the year was. I will cover it, and commentary about it is perfectly acceptable as usual. However, the year bought plenty of other rich work into the community. And these posts are to cover a year, not focus 100% on a single revolutionary release. So - please keep that in mind - and here goes as I show all the other quality 2004 had to offer as well:
Dec 2004: While this month says "NO AWARD", this was the month of, you guess it, EoD. And I know that it wasn't at all than Brian did not thing it was 100% deserving of getting a golden award, but rather that he chatted once that Areyep/MCS themselves requested not to get awarded. I think it had to do with some initial bugs and nothing else, but ultimately Brian is not going to go against the authors' choice. Anyways I'm not going to write paragraphs of thoughts on this as it is obviously one of the best things I have ever played and together with Spear Resurrection, THIS shows how to properly follow up Spear of Destiny, and clearly the poor graphics and designs, and half-baked efforts of he Lost Episodes fall so far behind in comparison that it is impossible to even compare them. Now this was released ten years after the Lost Episodes hit the shelves, so obviously a lot had changed, but that's why they say better late than never. I feel so lucky I managed to get this things to actually run fairly stable with DosBOX, because if there was one non-SDL mod that would keep me crying all night if I couldn't play it, this would be the one. The reasons why I like this so much are the same reasons numerous other members do, and they don't need to be rehashed. It is obviously a monumental release, a milestone in Wolf3D/SoD modding, and the best release of 2004. So with that being said, it is time to move on to the rest of the year, because there's definitely some stuff that would be criminal to overlook just because of EoD.
Nov 2004: Monkey's Image World - I'm sure it is a good graphics source but I don't feel proper reviewing something that doesn't have levels.
Oct 2004: Operation Mutant Strike - The first OMS, it is almost definitely the weakest one, and pretty repetitious, but it's still designed fairly solidly. Also Oct 2004: Paderborn - It's a Lakota Bucksnort set. Like I've said many time I don't think they're anywhere close to terrible but I don't find them special either.
Sept 2004: Operation Letzterschutz - Here's the first "gold" of 2004 going in reverse order other than EoD. I absolutely loved this game; it is a definite conversion, the theme is very consistent with excellent variances between all the episodes but equally excellent consistency within the episodes, and all the mapping, being it Majik Monkee or ack is rock solid as well. I have a hard time thinking of a way to fault this game because it all blends together and is done really, really well IMO. This is exponentially my favorite release involving Majik Monkee. Top it off with the fact that it's been converted to SDL too. Also Sept 2004: The Untold Story - Never looked into or played it, but I've heard stuff by MaX is more for effects.
Aug 2004: Secret Missions 4 - Was never a big fan of Joshua Weight's release because the mapping was nothing special at all. Also Aug 2004: A Time to Die - Another Lakota set. No need to restate opinions.
Jul 2004: HOS Special Edition (but really just the sequel to HOS) - The mapping, theme, etc. are all very solid and it is a true conversion but somehow I can't quite get into the HOS games as much as I think I should. Something seems missing, that I can't put a finger on at all. Still it is a very strong release all things considered. Also Jul 2004: ZW1 Phase One - Never played this at all, yet.
Jun 2004: Coming of the Storm - Pure, pure gold. This is far and away WSJ's best Dos release. Like Letzterschutz or EoD, it's very hard to think of how to fault it at all. If I had to say ONE thing, it would be that there aren't any secret levels. A total masterpiece just like everyone else has always said. It probably fits in top five and almost definitely top ten.
Apr 2004: Dead World Rising 2 - Never played this, somehow the Doom theme just didn't sound appealing in this case. Also Apr 2004: Operation Hundscheisse - Average and relatvely uninteresting mapping IMO (and TBH).
Mar 2004: Alliance of Powers - Absolutely one of the best levels only Spear sets ever released. I don't think it can be matched by anything other than possibly Spearmpixsod (which is actually much older) and this year's DHW SoD set. Two famed authors, that I will not list because they wanted aliases here, combined together to make something that rocks from start to finish and truly proves you don't have to touch the code to make something great. Also Mar 2004: The Anticipation - I'm sure anything by ack has to be good, but I question using SR as a base. It would have to be really super-outstanding to not leave a slightly negative impression when comparing it to SR itself. That said, I have not played it, though despite my comments I still might.
Feb 2004: There were two awards this month; once went to a set by Mario and another by Mega. They later paired up as a team, of course. I can't really give input because I haven't played either of these. Mario's is Project Verwusting, and Mega's is Project: Unzerstobarer Ritter (what a weird middle name). Maybe I'll look at them someday because perhaps they aren't as hardcore as the Mario/Mega combined efforts.
Jan 2004: Batman: Wrath of Mr. Freeze - I'm not a fan of ISJ's work, even though I love WSJ obviously. ISJ seems to make much, much less serious efforts. But maybe okay if you want a silly type of set.
Well we all know what the best release of the year is, but there is no doubt in my mind that Letzterschutz and Coming of the Storm are way, WAY up there and would easily be candidates for top release of the year otherwise. And then we also had Alliance of Powers, which I felt is truly just about the best mapset-only release you could possibly ask for. Add all that up with EoD and I think 2004 offered some real dynamite in every manner.
p.s. I have played Operation Hidden Secret. I fully agree it was very good and should have gotten an award.