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09/01/2017 - "Skaarj Castle V2" by Drew

Each week a single map is discussed here in detail.

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Subject: 09/01/2017 - "Skaarj Castle V2" by Drew

Post Posted: 10 Jan 2017, 01:40

Map Title: Skaarj Castle V2
Author: Andrew "Drew" Ross
From: Skaarj Tower - Shadow and Fire
Filename: Skaarjcastle_v2.unr
Music Files: Digsh.umx, Moroset.umx, Return.umx, Starseek.umx, Warlord.umx.




Synopsis: You have to infiltrate a Skaarj Castle high on a mountain, there's a lot of obstacles in the way though, including a huge maze.

Discuss!
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Subject: Re: 09/01/2017 - "Skaarj Castle V2" by Drew

Post Posted: 11 Jan 2017, 15:59

This was the map I've passed my afternoons with back in the day. It took always so much time to finish it but reaching the mountain top (for how bad it was because you'd touch the skybox) was always worth. I never played RTNP beforehand so this was the first time I did hear Starseeker which was amazing. The maze absolutely sucked though.

The map is big but it's very noob-ish in a lot of parts. Doesn't hold a candle against Skaarj Tower.
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Subject: Re: 09/01/2017 - "Skaarj Castle V2" by Drew

Post Posted: 12 Jan 2017, 19:06

UBerserker wrote:The maze absolutely sucked though.

OMG that maze!!
I have played Skaarj Tower a couple of times, even with 227 on highest difficulty and always found it really enjoyable. OK, retracing can be a bit tedious but basically you're never undersupplied so no matter how hevay the fights you've always got even odds. And that maze .... I just godmode through it or if I feel a bit masochistic, have summon searchlight on repeat (I hate the darkness, especially considering the size of that maze).
Even with its flaws it ranks very high on my list of favourite maps.

I guess no playthrough video is coming, does one exist even?

UBerserker wrote:Doesn't hold a candle against Skaarj Tower.

Probably not but "Tower" is a bit unfair in the water section.

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Subject: Re: 09/01/2017 - "Skaarj Castle V2" by Drew

Post Posted: 15 Jan 2017, 01:39

This is the kind of level where there's one major issue that gets in the way of my enjoyment of it, which is obviously the maze in this case. I mean, now I would just ghost to the exit and forget about it, but it's awful to go through when you don't have a bunch of players searching for everything at once (which is obviously the intention). Despite the visuals being plain the sheer scale of it does manage to be memorable, and there's a sense of satisfaction in finally making your way to the top (it helps that the actual castle has some of most unique design in the level, and plenty of chances to look over all you've been through). It also suffers from blatantly being a much earlier map than Skaarj Tower despite following it in the level set, but it works given Skaarj Tower is the main level of the set, and the maps are pretty much standalone anyway.

salsaSkaarj wrote:I guess no playthrough video is coming, does one exist even?


There's actually a one and a half hour co-op video by JBlade on Youtube, it's got voiceovers and I'm not sure on the general style as I haven't seen it yet beyond the start so I probably won't put it in the OP, but I'll put it here (it's actually the first thing when you search for "Skaarj Castle":

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8KB6LPrjZ8
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Subject: Re: 09/01/2017 - "Skaarj Castle V2" by Drew

Post Posted: 15 Jan 2017, 17:38

Semfry wrote:...
salsaSkaarj wrote:I guess no playthrough video is coming, does one exist even?


There's actually a one and a half hour co-op video by JBlade on Youtube, it's got voiceovers and I'm not sure on the general style as I haven't seen it yet beyond the start so I probably won't put it in the OP, but I'll put it here (it's actually the first thing when you search for "Skaarj Castle":

Thanks,
Had a look at it but got bored. This playthrough makes it seem very easy (but of course this is coop and probably on a low difficulty setting).

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Subject: Re: 09/01/2017 - "Skaarj Castle V2" by Drew

Post Posted: 16 Jan 2017, 00:59

Simply one of the best.

Sure it is far from perfect, but the overall impression is very strong - it's basically unforgettable!

Like Skaarj Tower, Skaarj Castle is basically perfect in terms of conceptual grandness. It blew me away the first time I played it. And oh boy, it's freakin' HUGE - I still remember measuring the amount of time it took me on my first playthrough: 4 hours (!), 4h15 if you count the final backtracking out of the castle (and through the maze!) up the surrounding mountains and into that cavern which allows you to exit the valley (for the sake of comparison, it took me 4h30 for Skaarj Tower!). While it's true that the build is, generally speaking, inferior to Skaarj Tower (mostly with respect to lighting), there's still plenty to like and the sense of place and progression is phenomenal. Even the problem with touching the "edge" of the map on top of the ridge didn't bother me too much, the skybox is actually really nice (the glimpse of the distant mountains from further down in the valley is sweet) and the whole map is so generous that I easily immersed myself in it and my imagination filled in the gaps where the mapper had been more figurative.

Ah yes, there's the maze. It's true that coop was always central to Drew's effort, but thanks to permanent decals with Oldskool I wasn't too bothered. I spent some time in there, yes, and I did get somewhat agitated but I figured it out in maybe half an hour (I also explored the entirety of it, and on the return trip the decals allowed me to navigate the place with ease but I do pride myself with having a good sense of orientation :P ).

The Skaarj General inside the castle made for a good fight: unlike in Skaarj Tower, you will face the General here and the new skin is great - in addition, I like how the General suddenly shows up (and that gave me one hell of a fright! and I died :P ). The overall experience is quite hard, like Shadow and Fire's previous map.

It's almost sad to think that probably no one would attempt to make a map of this scale today (in Unreal/UT). Maybe 227 and its increased node limit can help...

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