I will play every level in Marathon Infinity and comment on them.

For topics about the story, help in a certain level, game discussion, or finding/discussing content.
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RyokoTK
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I already have established my opinions on Rubicon X as a whole.

Marathon Infinity is probably the least favorite game of most Marathon fans, but I think it's actually my favorite. My opinion wavers between it and M2, anyway. Where M2 was a much simpler and more "pure" action game, the level design in Infinity is so much richer (to the point of excess at times, sure) and the atmosphere is more complete. While yes, the combat is sometimes a bit weaker and there are some pretty awful levels in Infinity, overall I think the level design is pretty admirable as far as any Marathon scenario is concerned. Most scenarios don't seem to reach for the stars as far as level complexity, which is fine; they prefer to focus on the storytelling and more simple and direct visuals.

However, if you read the other topic or basically anything I've ever written about scenario development, you know that I'm not as concerned with that.

Marathon Infinity is at least substantially shorter than Rubicon X so this one won't take me as long. I will play through the game once more on Total Carnage and, as I do, comment on the game level by level. I will rate each level, out of five, on the quality of the design, aesthetics, and combat, starting with:

01. Ne Cede Malis
Infinity begins with a level that's essentially meaningless to the plot at large and is a tremendous genre shift from the more action-packed M2 from the get-go. Rather than the vigorous and exciting intro in Waterloo Waterpark, instead we're treated to a pitch-black maze of a level in Ne Cede Malis.

And I don't like it. Infinity's level design in general strays more to the storytelling side than the gameplay side at times, to its disadvantage, and I think NCM is one of the biggest examples of that.

It doesn't help that the storyline from the start makes very little sense. Time travel in general is a plot device that I loathe because it tends to be an excuse for the writers to confound a simple story "artificially" rather than adding legitimate depth to it. This is true in Marathon Infinity, not to mention the medium just doesn't work. It's very difficult to find out what's going on at any point in the greater storyline in Infinity, which caused me at least to just start glossing over the terminals since they were never any use. In any event, I still don't fully understand the story in this game, but I've never really felt any compulsion to figure it out.

I'm dithering. NCM is not a good level. The fact that most of it is pitch black doesn't help much, though the amount of detail in the architecture is pretty outstanding, so at least it gets that. The use of bright lights to "gesture" at form in a dark space has inspired my own work. Nonetheless, the darkness does the level a disservice and turns what should be a fun and simple objective into an irritating maze of overlapping spaces and tiny twisty corridors.

The combat is also pretty lousy since, by tradition, the first level in a Marathon game has to be all pistols. I mean yeah, there's some secret stuff on this level, but LOL you lose it immediately at the end of this level, which is definitely a screwjob for people that find all the stuff, but what are you gonna do? At least you don't lose much in the scheme of things. Fighting major compilers and major fighters with a pistol is a pretty tedious task, coupled with the fact that there's almost no space to work in, so...

Thankfully the level is mercifully short. And yeah, for secret hunters and explorers, there is some stuff here, which at least adds a bit of depth to the environment. The level as a whole is a stylistic nod to Marathon 1, but much better. In that regard, I do like it; it's developed well, just not in a direction I appreciate.

The abrupt and bizarre ending is difficult (read: impossible) to grasp without multiple playthroughs or an outside assist like the Story page. Not the best way to start the game. Or perhaps I'm just an idiot.

Level design: 2.5/5 for an unnecessarily confounded layout and a plodding pace; not the best way to snare in the player
Aesthetics: 4.5/5; too dark for it's own good, but impressively detailed
Combat: 2/5
Last edited by RyokoTK on Jan 8th '10, 21:39, edited 1 time in total.
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02. Rise Robot Rise
Rise Robot Rise does right what Ne Cede Malis does wrong: it's a simple enough level but with enough action to engage the player from the get-go. The way I see it, even if you want your scenario as a whole to be more plot-driven and not really about the action, the beginning has to be exciting and attractive to draw in the player from the start, otherwise he'll lose interest before the plot warms up. This is a problem Rubicon X has, where the first real level is the fourth one.

Anyway, my understanding of the Infinity storyline is that there is a shift to an alternate timeline between NCM and this level, which is pretty damn tough to figure out just by reading the terminals so anyone playing this for the first time is going to be hopelessly confused. Especially since you're on the Pfhor ship, just like Durandal suggested you should do at the beginning of NCM, only this time Tycho isn't even looking for Durandal yet, he's busy usurping this little Pfhor ship.

Rise Robot Rise is a decent level by itself. The mission is ostensibly to kill all of the Enforcers, but that's kind of an "honor system" mission since the engine isn't good enough to do extermination by monster type, so really all you have to do is reach the end of the level. And this works to its advantage, because this level sprawls and is fairly confusing, and having to comb the entire level for monsters would be a pain in the neck. Unfortunately, the mission starts off awkwardly by having you stripped of your weapons and with Enforcers shooting at you from the start. Oh, and the Fighters are your friends, but you don't actually know that, so you will almost certainly kill them too. I don't think Tycho even explains that particularly clearly in his first terminal, so you might kill off all the Fighters and Hunters out of confusion.

I digress. Rise Robot Rise is a good starting level for Infinity because it doesn't assume that you're new to the series. So where Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Fortune has you fighting off tiny groups of Flickta and Fighters (bottom tier crap) with your lame little pistols, Rise Robot Rise brings out Enforcers right away (fairly difficult enemies) and gives you 2x health from the beginning. It's still a pretty easy level due to the assistance of the aliens, but it's not pampering you in any way.

It's also a level that encourages exploration, and this time you get to keep what you find. The hidden Assault Rifle and TOZT are good prizes to start off the game with, and you can get a fair bit of mileage out of that toaster in the next few levels so it's definitely something worth having here. (There's also that secret exit to Robot World Arena, but I won't be discussing those levels.) There's some other side rooms, some with ammo, some just with monsters, but on the whole it's a neatly laid out level that's big but not to excess.

Aesthetically, though, it lacks. The Infinity Pfhor textureset is an unnecessarily drab and bland variant of the M2 Pfhor textures, and worse off, they're all the same dull blue color, which gives every Pfhor level made this flat blue appearance that's impossible to overcome. This level does a pretty good job of it with some nice lighting choices, but the architecture is kind of loose and sloppy and the texturing is passable at best.

Still, it's a good level, and a much better start to the game than Ne Cede Malis.

Level design: 4/5
Aesthetics: 3/5
Combat: 4/5; fighting alongside the Pfhor for once is a fun change of pace for people that played M2 to death
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03. Poor Yorick
I knew him well.

Poor Yorick is one of my favorite Infinity levels though I can't pin a good reason as to why. The layout is awkward and unnecessarily expansive, with a whole bunch of running back and forth on boardwalks in the same spaces without actually accomplishing a whole lot.

The level continues the trend set by Rise Robot Rise, pitting you this time against Troopers with Hunters as your allies. It's a pretty tricky level on TC if you never found the TOZT or Assault Rifle, or if you don't find the concealed Shotgun or secret SMG on this one. Taking down all of these Troopers with pistols isn't impossible but it sure is kind of a pain.

There isn't a lot to say about this level. Visually it's pretty uninteresting, but it does put differential shading to great use to cover up the mediocre texturing and poor architecture. Overall it looks okay. The layout has a bit too much backtracking for its own good, but that's alright. Difficulty wise it's alright, but again, not great; there just isn't a whole lot of fighting, and most of the time there are enough Hunters to mop up for you.

Interestingly, there's an entire branch of the level that's completely ignored. After opening the two locked doors there's a terminal shortly beyond that point that displays the second half of the mission, and points you to another terminal to exit. But it's the same terminal there, so if you complete the objective and return back to that point, you move on to Confound Delivery, allowing you to skip the big Flickta maze (which is a boon if you missed that TOZT). You also miss out on the visual connection from Poor Yorick leading directly into Confound Delivery.

Oh well.

It's an alright level overall.

Level design: 3.5/5
Aesthetics: 3/5
Combat: 3/5
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04. Confound Delivery
I used to think this level was the weaker cousin of Poor Yorick, but in more recent times I've become more appreciative of its more developed architecture and design in general. The gameplay takes a little twist here, making humans the enemies for a change, which is a pretty fun idea that gets worn out a little throughout the course of Marathon Infinity but works out alright here.

This level is as much about exploration as it is about combat though, which doesn't work out as well as I'd like because the actual level layout is pretty linear, there's just a detour that you have to take in a place you wouldn't really expect to find this S'pht AI. It doesn't work out very well, in part because it's underwater and I hate that, but also because the pools you can jump into are in kind of random places and don't really stand out. Deep water pits are something you tend to avoid. I tend to, anyway.

This level rounds out the arsenal of concealed weapons with a Fusion Pistol in another pool. It's pretty nice to have all this stuff given to you if you know where to look. The high point of this level, though, is undoubtedly the mini Juggernauts. They're so cute with their grenades! Aww. Between them and the multitude of Hunters, the combat on this level is ridiculously easy; Bobs don't scale in difficulty, or at least these ones don't, so even on TC they go down if you sneeze on them, and while their attacks hurt there's no real shortage of health on this level so it's not a big deal.

Overall it's a pretty good and fun level, though the basement area and water caves are a bit too confusing for their own good. The surface fighting is good though.

Level design: 4/5
Aesthetics: 3.5/5
Combat: 2.5/5
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05. Electric Sheep One
I like the Electric Sheep levels, I do. They're a quirky but interesting interlude that metaphorically gets the point across of the whole timeline shift thing. Unfortunately it's kind of inconsistently used; that or there is no time warp between Ne Cede Malis and Rise Robot Rise and the exposition is just inconsistent.

Anyway, Tycho announces his intent to deploy the trih xeem and the Security Officer bails out of reality, leading here.

Not a lot to comment on these levels, though it's cool that you can skip to Whatever You Please fairly easily and skip the offensively bad ACME Station/Post Naval Trauma tag team of terrible.

06. Where are monsters in dreams
Dream levels in general seem like wank to me, and where Rubicon X generally had it pretty bad, in reality, Infinity had it a lot worse. All three dream levels to me are frustrating, stupid, and tedious. Well, Eat the Path is okay, but barely.

This level is just pointless. And isn't the dream metaphor already encapsulated in the Electric Sheep levels? Why am I doing this? Anyway, this level is a time-consuming chore, running through dark hallways while invisible, invisible S'pht'Kr pelt me with their murder rays. Since as far as I can tell there isn't any health available on this level, this makes this level not just an irritating maze in darkness, but one where if you aren't frantically running around, you die.

While it does look kind of nice, it's just an obnoxious level for the sake of it. I can't appreciate this kind of frivolity.

This level is worth it for the secret exit; Aie Mak Sicur is actually a very profitable level ammo-wise, as opposed to the other two AMS clones which are not, but other than that there's few levels as dreadful as this one.

Level design: 1.5/5
Aesthetics: 4.5/5; actually, like in Ne Cede Malis, the use of lights in darkness to accentuate the architecture works very well
Combat: 1/5
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07. Aie Mak Sicur
I truly admire Aye Mak Sicur; it is a masterpiece of level design, with a thoughtfulness in every aspect of design that's rarely matched by any level in any scenario.

So I understand the compulsion behind multiple secret levels that are all basically variations of the same level. I'd want to reuse it too.

The problem behind most of them (though not this one) is that they're very difficult and leave you at a disadvantage -- in other words, you're better off not taking that path. And while there's a metaphorical reason for it (they're failure paths, and you shouldn't be rewarded for failure), at the same time, they are also quite clearly secret levels, and from a gameplay perspective you ought to be rewarded for finding secrets and beating some of the game's toughest levels.

In that regard, Aie Mak Sicur is a great level. It is certainly one of the game's toughest, spawning you face-to-face with a Major Juggernaut. The level is crawling with Hunters and there are almost no Defenders to lighten the load like there are on the real Aye Mak Sicur, nor is there a save, near as I can tell. So yeah, it's tough.

But at the same time, it's good; you're truly rewarded for it by the copious amount of ammo you receive. And while yeah, you have to spend a good chunk of it on that Juggernaut guarding the exit (I recommend using those shotguns), you still have tons of AR and rocket ammo to take with you through the next part of the game. And you'll use a lot of it. Plus having 2x health walking into the dreadful Acme Station isn't a bad thing either.

So yeah, I really like this level; it's fast-paced and exciting, and while you never need to leave the starting area in order to finish the level, doing so rewards you with even more ammo if you can put up with fighting extra Hunters. And as Hunters are my favorite enemy, I don't mind at all.

Aie Mak Sicur is what a secret level should be. Well, if it were an original level, that would be okay too.

Also the final terminal message, left by Tfear, is pretty haunting. Failure sucks, I guess.

Level design: 5/5
Aesthetics: 5/5
Combat: 5/5
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I hate Acme Station so I will continue this later.
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Very good analysis of the levels so far, Ryoko! Since I'm a lot more familiar with Infinity's levels than Rubicon's, I think I will enjoy following this commentary even more.
Last edited by Marathoner325 on Jan 8th '10, 02:51, edited 1 time in total.
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oh!oh!oh! now do your impression of one thousand thousand slimy things!
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i actually like 1k 1k slimy things, when i played it like a kid it got stuck in my head so i get nostalgic every time i play it.
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I love level commentary. I can't wait what you'll say about Acme Station.

About Pfhor textures, I preferred the MInf set to the M2 set because, although MInf was drab, at least it didn't rob me of my corneas, like candyland M2 did.

Oh, and Ryoko, what about the secret Rocket Launcher in Where Are...?
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I really think that I like completely different things than other people. Ne Cede Malis is on my top 5 levels. It was dark, moody, and had an air of isolation. It was almost scary. That's why I liked M1 the best: it had the darkest atmosphere of the three. I mean, my favorite game is Silent Hill 2, which is pretty much all atmosphere (that, and it had characters that were at least slightly three dimensional, which is more than almost any other game has done).

EDIT
This is also probably why Tempus Irae is my favorite scenario. It's atmosphere wasn't creepy, but it did have a distinct feel. I think the reason I like atmosphere so much is because it gives a sense of immersion into the game.
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Although I quite liked Tempus Irae (that was infact because of the atmosphere; the combat was OK), the most scary scenario I've played is Return to Marathon. By far. And the combat in RtM wasn't too shabby either, especially when fighting in the 'medium' of space.
Last edited by Dugit on Jan 6th '10, 14:06, edited 1 time in total.
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Dugit wrote:Oh, and Ryoko, what about the secret Rocket Launcher in Where Are...?
This isn't Volunteers, this is, Ryoko Bitches About Levels. Both are worth reading.
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Dugit wrote:I love level commentary. I can't wait what you'll say about Acme Station.

About Pfhor textures, I preferred the MInf set to the M2 set because, although MInf was drab, at least it didn't rob me of my corneas, like candyland M2 did.

Oh, and Ryoko, what about the secret Rocket Launcher in Where Are...?
I forgot about that. Fun fact: if you drop down the pit in the wrong place, you can get stuck and you'll have to restart.

If you go to Aie Mak Sicur you get a SPNKR anyway so it's a moot point.
CryoS wrote:i actually like 1k 1k slimy things, when i played it like a kid it got stuck in my head so i get nostalgic every time i play it.
I also like that level, it's pretty fun and probably the high point of your Bob genocide.
gmanyo wrote:I really think that I like completely different things than other people. Ne Cede Malis is on my top 5 levels. It was dark, moody, and had an air of isolation. It was almost scary. That's why I liked M1 the best: it had the darkest atmosphere of the three. I mean, my favorite game is Silent Hill 2, which is pretty much all atmosphere (that, and it had characters that were at least slightly three dimensional, which is more than almost any other game has done).
I love Silent Hill 2, but the thing is, I expect different things when playing Marathon and Silent Hill. SH2 is far, far more successful at building a creepy atmosphere than any Marathon level ever made, though, in part because Jaaaaaaaaaaaames isn't particularly good at anything.

Also the characters in SH2 are ridiculous, I dunno what you're talking about.
Treellama wrote:This isn't Volunteers, this is, Ryoko Bitches About Levels. Both are worth reading.
Hey now, I commend good level design when I see it.
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RyokoTK wrote:I forgot about that. Fun fact: if you drop down the pit in the wrong place, you can get stuck and you'll have to restart.
Hmm... I'll try that...
RyokoTK wrote:I also like that level, it's pretty fun and probably the high point of your Bob genocide.
M2 bobs are a lot more fun to genocide than VacBobs, so yes, it is for me. Heh heh heh...
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08. Acme Station
How can a level this terrible actually exist? Holy hell.

The big problem with this level is that, on Total Carnage, it's a shade under impossible. Oxygen drains so quickly on TC, and there's a finite supply of it to begin with, that if you even get lost on this level you might as well call it quits. Even if you know exactly where to go, to the point that you avoid any health or saving, you're still pushing dangerously close until you find one of the canisters.

On top of that, the save is so far detached from anything else on this level that you can't afford to frivolously use it, not to mention it's very easily missed -- when I posted "I hate Acme Station" last night, I had died before finding the save, and got sent back to Where Are Monsters in Dreams. Fuck. Even just finishing the level now, I eschewed saving for not suffocating (there is, at least, an easy save right at the start of Post Naval Trauma).

The combat on this level is completely screwed, too. Since the shotguns, SMG, and fusion are all hidden weapons, they're all easily missed, and while you can find the SMG and fusion on this level, they're pretty far in. Doing this level with just pistols and maybe an alien gun and hoping to survive on TC is, again, a shade under impossible, mostly because even with all those guns the fighting is quite tough. It's all Cyborgs and Fighters in narrow hallways without much room to dodge any of their shots, and of course you're trying to hurry because of the whole vacuum thing, but you can't really go around the monsters because the corridors are so narrow. Christ, this level is bad.

It is, blissfully, a fairly short level if you know what you're doing, but holy Christ it's not fun at all. An oxygen recharger would at least be a start so you aren't desperately trying to hurry through this level, or maybe a save that is easier to find.

One thing I will credit the level for -- it looks absolutely amazing. The architecture, the texturing, and the lighting are all stellar, plus the design of the level is unique. Definitely one of the best looking levels in any Marathon game.

Level design: 1.5/5
Aesthetics: 5/5
Combat: 1/5
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RyokoTK wrote:One thing I will credit the level for -- it looks absolutely amazing. The architecture, the texturing, and the lighting are all stellar, plus the design of the level is unique. Definitely one of the best looking levels in any Marathon game.
That it does. I liked the touch of compliers floating around outside the craft.

Mind you, I found Acme Station awfully easy once I'd been through Aie Mak Sicur.
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RyokoTK wrote:The combat on this level is completely screwed, too. Since the shotguns, SMG, and fusion are all hidden weapons, they're all easily missed, and while you can find the SMG and fusion on this level, they're pretty far in. Doing this level with just pistols and maybe an alien gun and hoping to survive on TC is, again, a shade under impossible, mostly because even with all those guns the fighting is quite tough.
Don't forget you get penalized extra oxygen when either trigger is down, so fire manually instead of auto for guns where it makes sense. You lose extra oxygen when the run key is down, even when you're not moving, so use it sparingly.
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The 2x health and the shotgun and fusion ammo you can grab from Aie Mak Sicur really helps.
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Treellama wrote:Don't forget you get penalized extra oxygen when either trigger is down, so fire manually instead of auto for guns where it makes sense. You lose extra oxygen when the run key is down, even when you're not moving, so use it sparingly.
Yeah. Gotta love all of these unknown machinations that make vacuum levels so goddamned difficult.
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RyokoTK wrote:Yeah. Gotta love all of these unknown machinations that make vacuum levels so goddamned difficult.
I just play on Normal :D

If you suck as much as I do, it's still challenging enough to be fun.
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09. Post Naval Trauma
What's better than one vacuum level? Two of them. In a row.

This is definitely the soul-crushing nadir of Marathon Infinity, and to be sure, the worst of Infinity is worse than the worst of M2 or M1. The good news is that things rapidly improve from here. The bad news is that you still have to get past this one first. (Unless you skip over them from the secret exit from Electric Sheep One! But you miss out on some good levels too.)

Anyway. As far as vacuum levels go, this one is both better and worse than Acme Station. It's better in that there are multiple oxygen rechargers in the latter half of the level. They don't do you much good coming off Acme, though, when you're nearly suffocating to begin with. There is one oxygen canister early on, but as usual it's easily missed and far enough into the level anyway that you can quite literally ruin your game with a bad save here. This is obviously much more worrisome on Total Carnage when you lose O2 so much faster.

But at the same time, it's worse, because it's so much longer than Acme Station and it's full of bad guys. Fighting in a vacuum is tedious work because you lose your convenient go-to weapon and you're forced to resort to inconvenient ones as a way to make the level more "challenging." (Read: boring.) Vacuum levels are tolerable when they're short because the gameplay is a combination of panicked (looking for O2) and slow-paced (without the AR), but it's a challenge you can deal with in small doses. Acme Station would be fine with an O2 recharger. But so much of it at once is frustrating, annoying, and not in the least bit fun.

Which is a shame, because Post Naval Trauma would be a great level if you could take your time and enjoy yourself. The objective is pretty novel: blow up all of these disabled Juggernauts, which is a hilariously satisfying objective because there's always a crowd of dumbassed Fighters you can pick off with their explosions too. The combat is reasonably challenging, though it would be a lot easier with the AR. I think Fighters got an inexplicable health boost, though, which is really unnecessary; it takes 8 pistol shots to kill them when it should take 6. Even the layout of the level isn't that bad, though not really conducive to frantically looking for oxygen, because a lot of it is twisty corridors and lifts and stuff like that. There's no central section to the level where you can stock up and save your game and stuff like that.

Once you reach the back half of the level and find an O2 recharger, as well as the secret 2x recharger or secret 3x recharger, the level improves noticeably, but it's still not great. Aesthetically, the level is okay, but not really noteworthy.

This game gets better real fast though.

Level design: 2/5
Aesthetics: 2.5/5
Combat: 1/5
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10. Where Some Rarely Go
Some people really love this level. I think it's alright. Not the best, but pretty okay at least. I'm grateful to just be on solid ground again so I can use the AR.

The big issue that I have with this level -- in fact, the only issue -- is that it's just so easy it's ridiculous. Fighters, compilers, and flickta? I mean this is early M2 stuff, and yet here we are midway through Infinity fighting the same stuff. If you have a copious amount of AR ammo stockpiled from Aie Mak Sicur, there's no need to even stop running to mow down the bad guys here.

Aside from that, though, the level's pretty good. I really like the layout, especially at the beginning, with the bridge going over the big sewage river. The texturing and architecture itself are pretty lackluster, but like on Poor Yorick, exceptional attention to lighting makes the level pretty attractive anyway (at least for a sewage level). The level is kind of strange in its environments; one courtyard with a tower, a winding bridge, some weird corridors, and a room full of Compilers being crushed (the story behind that is so strange). It's a weird level.

I do like how it leads directly into Thing What Kicks, but it's the exact same trick used on Poor Yorick/Confound Delivery.

I dunno. There isn't a lot to comment on, at least to me. Nothing really stands out. The combat is so boring and there isn't really a lot of eye candy to make up for it. It's not a bad level by any means, but it's not a great one either. There is a way to skip most of it by a teleporter tucked into sewage near the beginning that takes you to the Compiler-crushing area, which I normally take to move on to the superior Thing What Kicks.

But maybe I'm looking at it wrong. It's a breather level. Acme Station and Post Naval Trauma are challenging and intense, not to mention frustrating. This level is very relaxed and easy. Maybe that's intentional, to help you kind of mentally recover from those two. Who knows. I'm still not really impressed.

Level design: 3.5/5
Aesthetics: 3/5
Combat: 1.5/5
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Dugit
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What about the secret 2x on Acme Station, and the secret room full of Alien Weapons on Post Naval Trauma?
And the super compliers (which were shit) on Where Some Rarely Go?
Polyplicity my second (less sucky) net pack. Go on. Download it. You know you don't want to.
Marathon Aeon- My scenario in the works ~on Simplici7y

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