Thursday, June 6, 2019

Out of Phase (OPHASE.WAD)

by Karthik Abhiram Krishna

OPHASE is a pretty important stepping stone in K.A.'s authorial career. His earliest /idgames releases - Ick and Chaos Punch - contained strange design mannerisms that suggested a lack of familiarity with editing tools. His work process appeared to consist of making room spaces and then drawing freestanding structures inside of them, the latter functioning as walls. Out of Phase moves past these oddities to deliver a highly claustrophobic techbase map. It's also the first of Karthik's Doom II releases, being a MAP01 replacement, and was published in 2001. The second part - OPHASE2 - wouldn't be released until the following year in 2002.

The PWAD actually has a story, not that Abhiram is about to wow you with his delightful prose. This is a classic case of something going wrong at a UAC installation. Specifically, the structure is floating in the air! How quaint. Karthik doesn't belabor the why of fly. This is handled no differently than any of Doomguy's infinitude of pit stops on his way to purge all of existence of demonic oppressors. Just keep your head down and be ready for any Satanic surprises. Certainly don't think about the purpose of the structure. Otherwise you might realize that it serves no utility. At least, none which are directly related to you.

This is a very short, squat level and it is composed almost entirely of corridors. You wouldn't know whether it's supposed to be set in a floating techbase but for a couple of freestanding floors that are bordered by a thin, sky-revealing gap. And the clumsy holes built into the starting area surface. It's interesting how Abhiram continues to move between extremes since the previous map was built out of large chambers, most of it being outdoors. Out of Phase is less distinguished than its predecessors, then, in the way in which Karthik ironed out the hallmarks of inexperience in an editor. The end result is more technically appreciable but ultimately banal, something like a beginner's attempt at a 1024-style level.

I was initially surprised by the leap in difficulty but in retrospect it's completely understandable. The surge in power is almost entirely due to the 1024 effect. This is the result of a confluence of a congested / mobility-limiting playing area and Doom II's most mobile killers, the revenant and arch-vile. Dodging straight projectiles in a narrow hallway isn't at all difficult but skeleton-shot homing rockets can ruin your day. You're given a plasma gun for some of the tricker sections but ammo is limited and the situation could with one wrong move. Situational awareness and combat shotgun skirmishing skills are paramount.

Out of Phase is an unremarkable, miniature labyrinth. The combat is engaging enough but it does little to tickle your imagination. If you're a fan of Dungeons and Dragons Doom then this might fill in as a fun, little diversion.


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