Friday, October 25, 2019

No Quarter (DOME1M3.WAD)

by Will "ArchVile46" Hackney

Some Doomers have big dreams. Will, who later went by Kid Airbag, had a grand vision borne out of a failed project that I've heard little of - Doom Revisited. He salvaged his submission and set out on his own epic, Doomed Once More, which would span the Ultimate quadrilogy and - he hoped - the entirety of Doom II as well. DOM barely got off the ground, though, and Hackney eventually released the finished portions of the first episode in 2003. This was after the release of the original Community Chest, in which he was a participant. In 2002, though, came this promising teaser. No Quarter is an E1M3 replacement for limit-removing source ports.

Hackney didn't outline a specific plot for the project but the overall bent would have been a different, more realistic take on the entire idtech1 arc. Not in the same sense as Roger Ritenour's Phobos project, though, which attempted to take the original level titles as literally as possible. Will had his own idea about how the demonic invasion was going to shake out. Part of it was inspired by the Doom Bible. No Quarter is an attempt at creating the Phobos Living Quarters. You've got to fight your way through the expansive facility in a bid to access the monorail and thus ride further into the heart of the complex.

This is a very large and cool level but will mostly appeal to folks who like playing Doom in quasi-realistic floor plans. The installation is expansive and features a mess hall; barracks; officers' quarters; recreational facility; and monorail station. The rec center makes up a large portion of the grounds and has a full-scale swimming pool, soccer field, chapel, theatre, and shooting range. Oh, there's a little jogging track, too, and even an extensive hidden leg that winds around the periphery of the level and leads to the secret exit. You also have an optional key to discover, which grants access to a few otherwise inaccessible bonus areas like the kitchen and snack booth.

The thing placement is exclusively incidental. There's a certain gallows humor to Will's setup; you have massacred marines everywhere but it looks like the zombies went back to their old lifeways with the imps joining them. You see it the moment you light into the cafeteria and see a huge spread of undead, all of which break off to greet you. Monsters are also secreted in the various rooms. They aren't thrilling clears but Hackney has gone out of his way to make every space its own little setpiece. It would have been easy to copy-paste stuff but the furnishings are fairly varied and you also get charming details like the garden in the officers' quarters.

I don't mean to imply that No Quarter is easy to clear, though. It's anything but. The main areas are interconnected by hallways which propagate sound. It's very easy for monsters to sneak up on you and get in a cheap shot or four. Just the initial firefight is challenging given the number of hitscanners you're exposed to. Easy if you had the chaingun, perhaps, but it's a long ways away and health is disproportionate to the number of hitscanners you encounter. There are a couple of soul spheres to be had if you know where to find them so good luck. Just be aware that you are poking your head ever further into a hornets' nest.

The layout isn't especially confusing but Will has a few choice words of advice. In the spirit of "realism", this is a fairly interactive level. Some of the computer terminals can be used to open doors. In fact, you'll need to in order to get a few secrets as well as one major progression point! My own personal roadblock had nothing to do with this, though. I couldn't figure out how to open up the door to the monorail control station. Well, there is a tiny color-coded switch on the right-hand side of the alcove. I guess that I had passed over it in my haste! In my defense, there's only one other key-switch operated door in the entire map and it's right after this one.

If you go the realistic route then it helps to go all in on real-world accoutrements. Hackney's look pretty good! It's certainly a level or two beyond The Baron's Domain, his 2001 debut. The layout is peppered with helpful signs to let you know the general location of each service. He has some custom assets from Paul Fleschute's Invasion which I wouldn't recognize since I haven't yet played through it, the 2.0 sequel, or Vengeance. I dunno what stuff he added himself but between the custom textures, sector furniture, and line art he's done a pretty good job of making a theme map. The alignment is meticulously clean and smart usage makes little details like the pool cues. The pinball machine is freakin' great.

No Quarter is pretty cool and I'm always a fan of Mark Klem soundtracks. Peeking ahead at the remains of Doomed Once More it looks as though this was the peak of the project's complexity. It's too bad; Hackney appears to have had a great talent for fiddly levels and the way in which the secret exit route weaves in and out of the regular playing space feels pretty clever. I think that it's worth a look unless you hate picking your way through realistic floor spaces.


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