Sunday, December 2, 2018

No Sun 3 (NOSUN3.WAD)

by Malcolm Sailor

You probably know him best for the CHORD series but young Malcolm had quite the storied career from 1995-1997 before laying out the material that would enshrine him in Doomworld's Top 10 WADs for three different years in 1997, 1999, and 2000. It's almost all single level releases, though, even if a good number of them (13) were gathered together as separate PWADs in .ZIP packs. NOSUN3 is the third entry in a series that started in 1996. This release marks Sailor's first official step into the '97 era though I can only assume that he was also working on The Talosian Incident during the same period since it was released a few months later in June. Like the first two installations, it's a MAP01 replacement for Doom II.

The full story has the background of sardonic dystopian science-fiction but the main plot resembles something more like pulp sci-fi. Most of the world's population is "imprisoned"; pollution is rampant; and slavery is legal. Your government has the authority to pull you out of internment and give you a mandate: die or embark on a suicide mission. To the sun. Because aliens have built a base on it with the technology to "poison" it, degrading its fusion reaction and potentially plunging Earth into a permanent dark age. The end goal for the interlopers is to swoop in after mankind dies out and then harvest the planet's delicious resources. During the previous episodes you follow the plan and take down the base on Sol and then commandeer one of their spacecrafts in order to travel to their home turf. When the scene begins you've just docked in one of the alien underground municipalities.

NOSUN3 resembles the original more than the transitory second, largely because it isn't set inside the cramped interior of something like a flying saucer. There are a lot of monsters to clear out as you work your way through the subterranean cities. I'm not entirely sold on the sub-urban aesthetic since the portions you see look like sprawling back alleys but I can imagine that the hodgepodge of rectangular structures can only be navigated by teleportation, an ability you do not naturally possess. Otherwise the doors are just invisible and only open to someone possessing the correct clearance. I dunno, it's an interesting idea if you really embrace the pulp angle.

The combat is heavily weighted toward super shotgun play and some of the sections bog down in the rote SSG clearing of meat like specters, Hell knights, and Barons. The opening shootout on the spaceship pad isn't bad considering that you get a couple pillars for close cover and, more importantly, an invul sphere. Malcolm is pretty loose with the invincibility artifacts, supplying them for several arch-vile dominated ambushes. They're arguably the nastiest combat scenarios excepting the dickish Cyberdemon gauntlet where the horseshoe you have to run through is populated by specters who are nearly impossible to see. The inclusion of an Icon in the finale was another surprising decision but an aforementioned invul makes it easy to escape and Sailor sneakily placed a method for you to use to lock the evil out.

There are other instances of Malcolm's past history of sector machinery and switch-fu, too. One of them involves hitting a button and then taking a teleporter to a different section of the level to access a timed lift that you just lowered. Furthering my theory about hidden alien apertures, the red key room door is perfectly camouflaged  with hints as to its location consisting of a lighting effect as well as snagging the automap from one of the level's disused corners. You can also see the continued progress of his attention to lighting and lightcasting to further the installation's atmosphere. Some of the areas like the wood / flesh annex that leads to the tech bunker look very cool and while the execution of the underground city aesthetic is ultimately underwhelming it's an interesting proof of concept.

No Sun 3 is a neat follow-up from the boy wonder that sees him once again harnessing his imagination to take the player on a journey to somewhere the original Doom or its sequel never did. I'm excited to see how this serial pans out.


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


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