Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Nostromo's Run (NOSTROMO.WAD)

by Rich "Nostromo" Johnston

Rich "Nostromo" Johnston would go on to be one of the major players in Banjo Software, responsible for the unfortunately half-baked HACX TC. He got his start here, with Nostromo's Run, a MAP01 replacement for Doom II that was released in 1995. Johnston didn't make a whole lot of levels, but the ones he did tended to be big, sprawling affairs. Like this one! Nostromo's Run made it into the favorite lists of ancient Doomers who like fairly big, sprawling levels with a lot of different themes, kind of like your Polygon Bases. It helps that Johnston was pretty good about stuff like vanilla detailing and lighting.

If I may generalize, there are two main camps of people when it comes to Doom PWAD plots. The first is fine and happy with id's assertion that the creatures of Doom are indeed from Hell and are literal demons. The others, for whatever reason, play up the sci-fi aspect, with the monsters becoming hostile aliens. NOSTROMO falls into the extraterrestrial camp. In this adventure, you're a single, skilled warrior who has been assigned to infiltrate an alien outpost that houses a gauntlet that exists for entertainment that is anything but altruistic. Clear the facility, conquer the arena, and wipe the blight from the interstellar map.

The first time I played this level was as part of a compilation by the infamous Legacy advocate, Jive. As far as I can tell, nothing really changed in "translation", though I'll leave the technicalities to someone more well-versed in the edits that Jive typically made when collecting maps together. Every Doom II monster is present and utilized to great strategy as well as all of the weapons. The ammo balance will keep your coffers full for most of the map, and that's with you getting your backpack in the first area.

There's a variety of memorable places and encounters in the map. The basement trek at the opening has a neat hell-themed room with multiple monster packs that don't stand as surprises. This spills into a techbase area with a cool darkened store room trap with a lot of toughs outside, including an arch-vile sniper. This place gives way to one of the key features of Nostromo's Run. When you proceed to a new area, Johnston cuts you off from the rest of the map until you complete the current section. Locomotion becomes more transparent as you clear the level by the use of several different teleporters that are also there to facilitate co-op play.

First things first is clearing the southern and northern sections, including a toxic river puzzle to ford. When you get all that sorted out, you're hustled into a grand chamber with the boss shooter graphic. Don't worry, though - there are no spawn cubes to be seen. It's got an interesting if confusing layout with criss-crossing paths that loop like some cross section of a ziggurat climb. There's also a bit of a shootout with forces on either side of the main divide, but nothing serious. The battles in the structure are a bit tepid but there's at least one nasty surprise.

This leads to the finale, the arena discussed in the .TXT. It's a huge nukage pit with a Y-shaped raised walkway. You've got two Invulnerability spheres to access, in keeping with the WAD's emphasis on co-op play and overkill in monster-slaying aids, but you'll be pressed to make good use of them, because there's a Cyberdemon on the walkway ready to blow you off it, two arch-viles on either side, and a Spider-Mastermind in the drink to eat up more of your limited time. Funnily enough, when you raise the exit walkway, symbolic of your clearing of the level, it forms something similar to a peace sign. There's one final jab at the player but it's so telegraphed that if it hits you, you pretty much deserve it.

Nostromo's Run is a great exercise in what makes a large standalone level great. It has excellent architecture, distinct areas, and a deserving finale. It works great as a single level given its variety of fauna and by its sheer size. It's a spectacular play and a great showcase of Rich Johnston's mapping talents. Though he may not have been the most prolific author, his few contributions, especially in shaping STRAIN and HACX, have stood the test of time.

Thanx for dropping by!

This post is part of a series on
Doomworld's Top 10 WADs of 1995

Fava BeansInfinity
Boothill / A Fistful of DoomH2H-Xmas
The Final GatheringArtifact
Nostromo's RunObituary
The Enigma EpisodeDWANGO5

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