Monday, September 9, 2019

Installation A (AP_012.WAD)

by Alex Parsons

The original Community Chest took in submissions from authors who had previously released them, like Gene Bird and Sphagne, in addition to exclusive originals. AP differed because he published two levels in the collection - AP_015 and AP_016 - and then placed them in the running of his World's End series with his next outing in 2003, Installation A. It's an unusual spot in the timeline because CCHEST hadn't been released yet but they occur after this level, AP_012, and his last solo venture, AP_013. It's still dependably a MAP01 replacement for Doom II for play in a limit-removing port but... other things have changed.

I'm sad to see that Parsons has ditched the threadbare narrative which had carried me through to The Catacombs. I don't know if he had an idea in mind to link up this run of techbase levels with the World's End journey through the heart of demon-infested territory. He left himself a three-level gap to transition, I guess, but he never delivered on it nor the teased Installation C which would have likely hooked it up to the few levels featured in Community Chest. The title of the series wasn't named for an apocalyptic event but rather the location where the first level of the set takes place. The rest were the sort of locations that you might find on a Dungeons and Dragons campaign map. Fun stuff, and with just enough consistency to tickle your imagination.

Alex made a handful of changes in his presentation that take this straight into bizarro-land. All of the previous levels used Doom II's stock resources. AP_012 knocks it up a notch with a custom TITLEPIC (!), a new sky (!!), and "The Imp's Song" as background music instead of D_RUNNIN (!!!). Consider my mind completely blown. I already thought Parsons to be an unsung genius of 2002 but this got my attention all over again. Of course, I peeked ahead and found that none of these elements made it into AP_013. At least I'll get to finish the series in the same way it started.

Techbase is actually a completely novel setting for Alex. Every one of his previous levels was weighted toward rugged wilderness or infested ruin. This particular instance has a very small but still recognizable slice of the former, found in the outdoor portion of the installation's northern-central area. There isn't anything particularly interesting about the orthogonal portions' architecture but Parsons has green paneling and hewn stone mingling throughout. In some bits, like the nukage area to the northwest, the earthen theme is stronger. The crate bay shows off more of the tech but still has many if not most of its columns made of rock.

Some folks on /idgames complained about how short this one is. At 47 monsters it is indeed a small adventure. Alex still manages to pack a wallop, though. Most of the placed monsters are easily-killed zombies and imps but one segment has you fend off a pack of lost souls. Another has a great cinematic feel where the lights on the darkened techbase corridor blink on, after which demons start to teleport in. By far my favorite element involves the two Hell knights in the northwest area. When you start plinking away at the first one the other behind the cage window can move to the ledge overlooking the previous area. Which the player may have just backed into. It's a wicked smart spot.

Installation A is a short and fun gameplay experience which isn't something I've been able to say about most of Parsons's output. Mostly because of the mounting monster density. I can't help but wonder what the rest of his output would have ended up looking like had he stuck around to finish out World's End.


No comments:

Post a Comment