Friday, July 12, 2019

Out of Phase II (OPHASE2.WAD)

It's 2002 and I have one map left to go before Karthik gets his shit together to make the sort of level that I would expect to see in Doomworld's Top 100 WADs of All Time. Out of Phase was a paradigm shift from the awkward construction of Ick and Chaos Punch. Its sequel, OPHASE2, has more of the same aesthetic and isn't much different on its face. Some of the elements hint at his potential, though, and have me excited to see what sort of critical leaps he'll take between now and then. I was surprised to find that Out of Phase II is actually a two-level minisode, replacing MAP01 and MAP02 of Doom II. When you consider its origin, though, it makes a bit more sense.

These selections actually have their roots in Karthik's participation in the Doomworld Speedmapping Sessions from the early '00s. Specifically, the end area of MAP01 is part of DWSPD017 (MAP05) and the caverns of MAP02 were originally in DWSPD016 as MAP07. As of now I'm not sure how the originals played but based on the differences, i.e. what Abhiram bolted on to the selections, they must be quite different. The majority of MAP01 is a brand new fabrication and the additions to MAP02 effectively doubled its size. I don't want to mislead you, though. These are still very short levels, much on part with the original Out of Phase.

OPHASE2 has more of the same general aesthetic but it also sports some different design decisions that hopefully point the way toward the rest of 2002. The least mechanically affective change is a custom sky. This is great because it promotes a better sense of the otherworldly than Doom II's stock sky. I also appreciate the non-rectilinear mine area that forms the foundation of MAP02. It's nice to see evidence of the engine's capacity to do angled geometry. The most important trend is an increase in the breadth of the playing area for greater maneuverability. The narrow corridors of the original Out of Phase were the true killer when it came to dealing with revenants. Skilled / experienced players have enough wiggle room here to handle the skeletons. This comes at increased vulnerability to the arch-viles of MAP02, though.

OPHASE2 isn't exactly a stylistic leap forward but it's promising to see Karthik's design decisions facilitating more interesting combat and visuals. It's still pretty far from the kind of map that I'd expect to see in a best-of list but its chunky architecture is crudely charming. Not to detract from the heft of its encounters, of course.

by Karthik Abhiram Krishna

The custom "sky" texture makes this look a bit better than Karthik's first level. The gameplay style is still the same but the author has classed it up with a big, meaty brawl in the eastern portion of the base. You can mix it up using the super shotgun or just carefully strafe and let the big lugs wear themselves out. The wide hallways make it significantly less cumbersome to bear the multiple revenants.

Abhiram does a much better job of pulling me in. The southern half of this level is an irregular mine / cavern thing and and is a nice change of scenery from the more or less identical techbase corridors. I was wondering where all the arch-viles were while playing MAP01. Turns out that the author stuffed them all in here! This can be a very tricky level to finish because opening the wrong door will activate them earlier than you'll like. There is a metric ton of ammo and even a blue armor stashed in a split secret but you have to be in the devil's den to make use of it. There's a Berserk kit at the start, hearkening back to Chaos Punch as you throttle a small pack of demons.


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