Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Installation B (AP_013.WAD)

by Alex Parsons

For better or worse this is the final standalone release in the World's End series. The levels spanned eleven individual publications with another two appearing within the original Community Chest. Alex had an epic adventure in mind based on the short, punchy descriptions and titles. He lost the thread around the same time that he started looking into a new theme, though, leaving us with a handful of small but competent techbase levels. Installation B, released in 2003, is a limit-removing level for Doom II. Parsons teased a "C" in the series but neither it nor the more relevant AP_10.WAD ever materialized.

World's End was named for the debut level which was a location in an unspecified region. It could be another planet but there's no reason to believe that it isn't Earth. The player tours the overworld, traversing regions like The Outlands and The Highlands and rooting out occasional haunts, e.g. The Underground and Sinistrad. The fifth level in the set sees you transition into the heart of the demonic infestation, where you conquer the Mossvale Estate, its Dungeons, and its Catacombs. Alex never linked the techbase levels that followed so it's unclear whether they are meant to represent overrun UAC strongholds at the epicenter of the invasion or an entirely different mission.

Installation B has none of the fancy presentation of AP_012 (TITLEPIC, music track, new sky). I wonder whether this is a sign of the author's waning interest. It is definitely a UAC base, though, and it even has a concrete thematic link to Parson's other work through the granite wildlands that make up the level's eastern portion. The rocky wilderness featured in most of Alex's levels but its geometry has very little of the irregular, iterative design found in the rest of the World's End series. The overall aesthetic is still open-air, even if it's a base, and has both tan and dark green walls as well as a healthy amount of crates. If the compound is tied together by any one particular feature then it's the sheer number of staircases.

The opening has an exacting ammo balance but if you pistol many of the beginning zombies and some of the imps then you will be set to last until Parsons begins to dump shell boxes on you. The overall action is more akin to the original Doom to an emphasis on shotgun and chaingun use in the early game and the absence of the SSG. One of the /idgames comments mentions a Hell knight pincer attack but I found its difficulty to be overstated. The revenants were way more lethal, particularly the one monster closet where you start out jammed up in a semicircular cubby. If supplies seem scanty, well, there are a couple of choice run-through-windows type secrets that will net you a soul sphere in one instance and some extra cell ammo in another.

Parsons has a bit of fun at the player's expense, none more so than the exit hub. It's pretty easy to reach but has two different key doors. Neither of these lead directly to the finish. In fact, you have to snag the yellow key from the red's nukage annex after which you are forced to backtrack all the way to the storage facility. When you finally grab the blue you are routed via a cleverly foreshadowed shortcut to the exit. Except its locked hallway has a switch which reveals the hidden guard tower where a revenant has been fussing up a storm! That's like, what, three total fakeouts? I didn't mind the back and forth but your patience may vary.

I'm bummed that Alex didn't close on another epic a la Foul Ruin or Mossvale Estate but I'm happy to have seen his unique level design. Looking at the floor plans for his Community Chest levels they definitely ply the man-made angle in his particular style. Installation B is hardly indicative of the heights that he was capable of but it's a solid, small techbase for those players who don't mind being slightly outgunned.


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