Saturday, July 13, 2013

Mountain Base (KHILLS_2.WAD)

by Kurt Kesler

Mountain Base, aka KHILLS_2, is Kurt Kesler's second and final limit-removing PWAD from his classic period (K_KICKIN was published in 2005, seven years later, and KBASE_4 is a conversion of a previously released Boom map). Like KHILLS, it's a MAP01 replacement for Doom II. It also shares some common features, in that it's a techbase set within some mountains, the main difference being that in KHILLS, you started inside the base and worked your way out. In part deux, you start on the outskirts and must find your way in. As per usual, Kesler includes no story, just a two-word HINT in the .TXT - "Kill them.".

I guessed in KHILLS that this short series aligned with the KBASE levels, but after playing them, I can see that that's not really the case. Kurt's first two KBASE levels were pretty primitive and all over the place, feeling more like early Doom II maps than anything like this. KHILLS_2 has a pretty concrete feel as there are two sections to the base, both set in the mountain range, and they're built in a more realistic fashion than the abstract journeys of KMEGA1. He has some wicked faux-3D bridges set up, for instance. They're not the most elegant as he isn't totalitarian when it comes to controlling player flow, but they work pretty good and look nice, and as far as I can tell he's arranged things so that it's tough to get stuck behind them. I also love the final area where you get to run around under the catwalk you just came in on, climbing up into the final stronghold through the storm drain.

In terms of gameplay, it's a short level, fielding just 91 monsters, at least half of which are Doom II trash. They're threatening, though, as there isn't a lot of health lying around, just a handy blue armor. All of the action is either SSG or chaingun, which may turn off some, but mancubuses are the highest-HP enemies you'll find. The toughest section for me was the approach around the final area as you're liable to wake up hitscanners that sap your precious HP, and you'll need all of them to confront a commando trio in the final room. You can get by with very little health if you hug one of the corners and spray wildly but if you don't know what's coming you'll probably be dog meat.

There are some monster packs that may be awkward to take out with your limited movement, like some imps on entering the yellow key compound or some cacos that come out with them, but it's all about the bullets. KHILLS_2 is a pretty cool level; you should really take a look, especially if you don't find the vanilla stylings of KMEGA1 to your liking. I certainly enjoyed it.


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