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Climbing DOOM's Argent Tower


FMPONE
This article may contain slight spoilers
 
DOOM's Argent Tower is a superb Single-Player level. The Argent Tower motivates players with an obvious goal, expands in scope (almost unbelievably), and masterfully controls pacing. A playground for new a ability and a giant environmental puzzle, the Argent Tower is the best level in this excellent reboot of the franchise.
 
Now, let's explore the reasons why this level feels so memorable!
 
OBJECTIVE
 
Players will know their goal from the outset: climbing the Argent Tower. In addition to verbal instructions, the level's construction and composition never fails to aim you upward. Warm lighting moves up vertically, so that players' eyes are always drawn upwards.
 
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Even the item you acquire in the level's prelude is a double-jump upgrade, which the level then associates with an oft-repeated green light motif. Players will be doing a LOT of double-jumping in the Tower, so the game articulates a method to guide them.
 
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While players may or may not consciously respond to this green-light motif, the designers clearly believe it works as a navigational aid: it is repeated with brutal consistency throughout the level.
 
SCOPE
 
When players reach the Tower's inner core, the vast power of DOOM's engine is indisputable. Great music kicks in, monsters spawn all around the player, and the game "gates" engagements without muddying players' central, long-term gameplay goal.
 
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The symmetrical, circular design of the Tower's core proves extremely useful in several respects. Because players can only progress upwards, they get to experience fun combat engagements and jumping puzzles before they are neatly stuffed into small corridors adjoining the main core.
 
This contrast between the core's verticality and its cramped side passages makes for easily controlled progression through the level and amplifies the awe of returning to the core. In one side area of the Argent Tower, players experience a "monster closet" ambush, a classic DOOM design trope in which a demon emerges from a closet adjacent to a corridor. Here, the designers chose an exploding demon for extra "oomph"!
 
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There's just something timeless about monster closets. That the game dives down to its most granular level (the monster closet) additionally provides contrast to the heights of the massive core. 
 
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PACING
 
DOOM carefully reminds players of their progress ascending the Tower. In one cramped side-area, players are faced with the seemingly trivial task of shooting canisters that underpin an elevator blocking their path. After destroying the canisters, the elevator falls down its shaft. 
 
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Half-Life 2 used similar imagery to convey the scale (and ongoing destruction) of The Citadel:
 
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An additional point of this elevator diversion was to slow players down, to keep them away from the showpiece core a little while longer. 
 
New players will take a minute to identify the canisters overhead and discern that they need to be destroyed, because this is a novel task and because FPS players notoriously fail to look upward. Later in the game, the designers repeat the canister mechanic before providing players the BFG, the defining weapon of the series. Without the subtle change in momentum the canisters provide, gaining access to the Tower's rooftop or the BFG would feel too straightforward and simplistic. 
 
Having artificially lengthened the break players take from the core, the designers have guaranteed that environmental contrast will enhance perception of the Tower's scale AND that player intelligence and momentum has been challenged by a new problem. (...but because this is DOOM, problem solving is still ultimately about destroying shit.)
 
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Players complete more than six different jumping tasks including riding a flying drone to climb the Argent Tower and enter a portal into Hell. 
 
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Such a variety of jumping puzzles and hazards makes the level memorable and is another technique enlarging perception of the Tower. To be clear, jumping puzzles are universally terrible in every FPS game, but their annoyance here is dulled by the focused grandiosity of the level and the ability to grapple onto ledges. The designers ultimately cared a lot more about giving players a memorable locale than sparing them falling deaths.
 
CONCLUSION
 
After reaching the top of the Argent Tower, players are greeted by a giant, climactic battle which ends with a wonderful fade to white.
 
Only now are players ready to enter Hell confident that they've truly gotten to experience Mars. 
 
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It's important to remember that, fundamentally, the Argent Tower is about going from point A (the foot of the tower) to point B (the top). Faced with a similar Tower-landmark, some designers might path this route with nothing more than a simple elevator cinematic or miss countless opportunities to do something special. DOOM's designers, however, missed nothing: they recognized the need to offer players dense and varied challenges, careful pacing, and spatial design rich with contrast.
 
Later, when players return to Mars, the destroyed husk of the Tower provides an instantly recognizable landmark re-orienting players on their adventure and a tantalizing hint that things are different now.
 
The Argent Tower goes to show that great levels are not about the destination, but the journey -- and all the controlled chaos along the way!
 
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Thanks for reading!
 

 


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42 minutes ago, nikkoship said:

Cool read! DOOM was such a great blast from the past. Just raw level to level gameplay, pure experience. Can't wait for what they work on next!

Yeah, really enjoyed playing this one. It's funny, I kept saying to myself "they still make games like this??" It's kind of special.

It felt like a throwback with enough modern twists to be fresh. IMO it got a bit repetitive towards the very end, but definitely a really exciting experience.

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Couple of things I'd like to add here as I remember this level very well (from my experience of playing the game),

- The objective to reach the tower is so clear as the tower stands majestically in front of a very pale sky. The silhouette is so strong that at 1st when I played the level, I did not even realise that you could walk back the bridge a bit and get some other cool stuff for the level. The bridge works out as a good practice for the double jump boots. However, once you were on the bridge, the lights were all bright from here and there and you are no longer looking up vertically during the clashes that happen on the bridge. 
Also, the green lights trick was there in every other level before this one. The one place where this is most noticeable is the factory level where amongst the thick yellow color there are small green lights indicating to the player that he/she can jump on that. It's a good contrast in that level and ledges are easily identifiable because of this. 

Why I remember this level so much because is the fact that it's a ride from the bottom to the top. A straight vertical line. Some interesting platforming, pacing, and circular level design made is really interesting. 
Also, the thing about stairs.. yeah, I really dont think a flight of stairs would have worked here. I can actually see if feeling a little boringI don't remember the game even having that many stairs. Doom to me was all about having space to run about and not get cornered which I see happening in a dog-legged staircase. 

Good read. Reminded me to instal it again and have another go :D

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Great article!

I love the Argent Tower and I think it's one of the better chapters in the game.

The only thing that really bugs me about it is how it "closes the door" behind you sometimes. It makes secret hunting that much more annoying.

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On 9/9/2017 at 8:06 AM, MegaKosan said:

Great article!

I love the Argent Tower and I think it's one of the better chapters in the game.

The only thing that really bugs me about it is how it "closes the door" behind you sometimes. It makes secret hunting that much more annoying.

I didn't look for secrets. Not sure how that would change my interpretation of the level, but it would be interesting!

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On 9/9/2017 at 2:06 PM, MegaKosan said:

Great article!

I love the Argent Tower and I think it's one of the better chapters in the game.

The only thing that really bugs me about it is how it "closes the door" behind you sometimes. It makes secret hunting that much more annoying.

I agree - This is what bothered me the most about DOOM's otherwise excellent Level Design. Points of no return kill the motivation to explore in me. Very often I am like "oh, there is probably a secret over there - but let's clear this area first" and end up at a point where I cannot come back to the assumed secret location. To be fair - in DOOM it did not happen a lot, they do have a few points of no return however.

Thanks for the read @FMPONE interesting to see other people's impressions of my favorite game from the last few years! I did not like the Argent Tower level too much tho.

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