Friday, May 13, 2016

Fait Accompli (GOTHIC.WAD)

by Christian Hansen

This level made me smile before I even played it; reading through the .TXT, I believe that this was intended to be Christian Hansen's final level, back in mid-1999. The Danish dude has of course gone on to have a long and storied authorship, releasing many beloved works, the most recent one at the time of this writing being Monument. No, I haven't played it yet, but I'm working on getting there! Fait Accompli is a MAP19 replacement to be played with The Plutonia Experiment. It's not related to the two Plutonia squeakuels he released before; it's actually something of a remake of the first level he ever released, The Revenge of Avind, but with eight levels worth of hindsight backing his imagination up.

I can see the resemblance in a few of the areas. The opening courtyard has that recessed pit thing going on, of course, though Hansen has sensibly lowered the level of the door to match. There's also the pillared foyer, but it's much smaller. The only other parallel that really stands out in my mind is the pillar platform room, which maintains the imp threat but uses switches to raise a more or less solid catwalk to the next stage. There's also a tiny little staircase to climb up in the event that you fall in, which is a nice gesture for anyone who may have raged at the Certain Death that lurked at the bottom of the pit in AVIND.

The differences are much greater, though. AVIND was rooted in combat against Doom II trash monsters, where Fait Accompli fields arch-viles, revenants, Barons of Hell, and one arachnotron. Now, they may not all be in the most compromising of positions, but you will feel the full panic of the blind teleport to the west, which has two pain elementals, imps running interference, and a caged arch-vile floating in the air doing zone control. You'll pick up a rocket launcher just for showing up, but it's a pretty big shock after having played Hansen's earlier levels. Sure, there's a soul sphere available shortly afterward, but you won't even need it by then. That's not even the first floating arch-vile cage you'll deal with, but the first is much easier to react to, requiring only that you balance your attention between it and the imps you'll have to contend with for cover.

The other instances of enemy placement aren't quite as devious, like the two Barons crammed into the room housing the exit door switch, or the arachnotron and two demons at the bottom of the elevator to the southwest. Well, the arach fight might be a little awkward, but it's nothing the ol' chaingun can't handle. While there are a handful of revenants to fight, two of them are stationed as overwatch for the starting area, which might be annoying but for the small playing field and their angle of attack. Hansen does do a pretty good job establishing a sinister little outpost of Hell, and while it's small, orthogonal, and stringy, it has a certain cinematic sense that makes it a tight little adventure with cool little touches like the arch-vile cages and the blue key shrine.

Fait Accompli is a muscular little level packing a couple of cheap shots and a dark atmosphere. While it doesn't pack the edge of The Plutonia Experiment, with moments like the opening squad of commandos and the blind teleport to the western annex, I might not convince you otherwise. It's also amusing to me that Chris Hansen considered his level design career a Done Deal, when history has shown that it is anything but. As I've said before, they always come back.


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