A modification of the Secret Base mission that adds different enemies and items.
I was not expecting to have this much fun when I loaded this mission.
At first glance there isn't much to recommend it. Like other early community missions, this one modifies an existing level, Secret Base in this instance. But unlike others the core gameplay is mostly untouched, leaving an excellent level in place and just adding a few sprinkles on top. And, dare I say, improving upon the original in a couple situations?
The most impactful alteration to the mission is right up front: you now begin on the rooftop and need to drop down the shaft in order to enter the base. I love this change. Those of us who have played Dark Forces dozens of times know that's how Kyle entered the base, but if you're relatively new to the game this may come as a surprise. There's no need in the original mission to duck into that corner of the rooftop, especially if it's your first playthrough.
There's also something about making the choice to plunge into action that changes the entire tenor of the opening hallway. I found myself running the mission more like I would Doom or something else similarly action-driven. Dark Forces combat to me has always been a combination of ducking in-and-out of cover, long-distance sniping, and barrelling into chaos, depending upon the situation. After running away from stormtrooper fire on the roof and jumping down the shaft chaos seemed the only appropriate choice. Out of the frying pan, into the fire.
Starting on the roof is the kind of perfect alternate reality that add-on missions can offer. The original opening with the player placed in the hallway makes much more sense as the first experience with a new game: it gives the player a very clear objective and on the easier difficulty settings they also have a bit of time to move before they encounter the most harmless adversary in the game. The hallway teaches a new player how to play while a rooftop start throws the experienced player into the thick of it immediately. I love both for what they offer each situation.
I've spent a couple hundred words talking about this single change, but it's not the only thing new in this mission. The lighting outside has been darkened a bit (just the kind of simple change I've been advocating for from other level modifications), a few assets have been swapped, and there are minor new additions. Along with a guarantee of no Dark Troopers (the promise is broken in the best of ways) the author supplied a list of changes in the accompanying text file, which for some might be a thing to avoid in order to be surprised. I took a different tack.
As I often do before reviewing a misison I read the entire text file, and so had a list of things to hunt down. Engrossed in the search for each item I found myself rediscovering parts of the level that the decades had erased from memory. The playthrough became a treasure hunt, guided by a combination of the new hints dropped into the level (stormtroopers on the walls!) and the percentage of secrets left to be found. Your mileage may vary depending on how recently and thoroughly you've played Secret Base, but I had a lot of fun.
Why did I enjoy this mission so much more than Rescue on Endor? The story isn't any different from the original nor do the asset swaps make sense if you stop to ponder them. There are no new technically-inspiring set pieces and the customization is only rudimentary. But the small changes struck me as meaningful and considered, and in the same vein as showcases like Imperial Residence and 3D Mad the attitude seemed to be to share some joy with the world. I appreciate that.
I wish we knew who this author was in order to thank them for the opportunity to look at Secret Base with fresh eyes. It may never be mentioned in the same breath as the Editors' Choice custom-built missions, but when you consider those few early missions that only modified the LucasArts levels, Danuta ranks at the top.