Thursday, November 15, 2018

No Sun 2 (NOSUN2.WAD)

by Malcolm Sailor

While he did most of his mapping during his early teens, MS is primarily known for his CHORD series because of its soul-crushing difficulty and gorgeous, detailed environments. If you forget about his contributions to The Talosian Incident then you might be surprised to find him responsible for another series, this one actually attempting to draw a narrative through its action across a grand total of five entries. NOSUN2 is understandably the second level and was re-released in 1997 though I strongly suspect that it was originally published toward the end of 1996. Like most of the levels released by Malcolm, it's a MAP01 replacement for Doom II.

Sailor spent a lot of words establishing the setting in the first .TXT but the rest appear to just depend on the narrative momentum of the action. To summarize: Earth's sun is dying but scientists have discovered that aliens are poisoning it from a solar station (actually built on its surface). You, a prisoner of war in a cartoonishly dystopian future, were sent to shut down their outpost and then use one of their ships in order to travel to their homeworld. The previous level ends with you securing a spacecraft on the sun. It should come as no surprise, then, that the sequel takes place inside the alien vessel.

In stark contrast to the original's adventurous scope and pace, NOSUN2 is a considerably smaller and tighter outing which puts it much closer to Malcolm's Quick is Good ethos. It only follows since the saucer featured at the end of the first map does not represent a particularly large playing area and the author elected not to turn it into the spaceship of Dr. Lao. The tight confines thus define the action of the level so if you have problems handling monsters in close quarters then I suggest playing at a lower difficulty. The two biggest stumbling blocks in my opinion are the revenants guarding the switch that opens the blue key in what I can only assume is the operating station and trying to confront mancubuses in the awkward as hell tunnel-like cylinder at the very end.

The confines just result in all-around awkward gameplay. This is a large part of what makes the revs and mancs the true killers but the contorted kinetics translate to just about every other aspect of the level design. Placing spectres in the dark adjoining hallways made them practically invisible to my eyes. The lost souls that rise from the pits come as another surprise to catch you off-guard. The level's biggest brawl starts you on the high ground but has both imps and skellingtons on the low where it's tough to get at them with your combat shotgun, copious shells or not. You can't even get out without riding the slow cyclical bamboo pole lift. Witnessing the arch-vile guarding the yellow key was a nice bit of levity since he's trying to hard to be sneaky but fails and thus becomes prime SSG fodder.

The limited scope of the setting means that the layout ends up feeling kind of flat but it still managed to hook me as a sort of death labyrinth. It's true to the shape of the space craft and has a few portholes looking outside though they'd have been way more effective had Malcolm elected to include Dr. Sleep's starry sky from his Master Levels, something he specifically mentioned in NOSUN's .TXT. I'm not sure what the practical applications of the glacial tech machinery are but I only rhetorically question the abstract items I bear witness to in PWADs... Mostly. Also I'm glad to see a couple of cute "unofficial" secrets which are really easy to get to and should definitely help to buy some margin versus the craftier opponents.

After the original No Sun I was thinking that this would end up being a lot bigger but in retrospect I don't see room to expand in any direction. It will be interesting to see where Sailor takes things from here. Though I doubt that it could be anything as wild as BATTLING ON THE SURFACE OF A STAR.


This post is part of a series on
Malcolm Sailor's NOSUN series


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