Friday, November 29, 2013

Forsaken Overlook (FSKNOVLK.WAD)

by Matt Tropiano

Forsaken Overlook, published in 2013, is part of the Doomworld "Secret Santa" project, arranged by one Brian "Snakes" Knox. The idea was to randomly pair off participating authors in a gift-maker to gift-receiver relationship, where the gift-maker created a single level in the target author's style. The results are then posted anonymously in the project thread, with players able to guess the target author before Snakes pulls the veil back and exposes the charade. In this particular case, the role of "Santa" was played by Doom veteran Matt Tropiano, and his recipient was "LupinX-Kassman" of Community Chest 4 fame. Tropiano did a job of studying his quarry, also producing a document that documents his entire creative process, which you can find and read in the .ZIP. A fascinating read, especially for other authors, I'm sure. The result, intended for Boom-compatible ports, plays in the MAP01 slot.

Forsaken Overlook actually has a bit of a story to frame the action within, maybe drawn from Kassman's insane double-whammy from CCHEST4? You're an adventurer attempting to wrest a magical sword of power from a cursed castle. Tropiano hands you a berserk pack to get things started and just lets you fly from there. FSKNOVLK reminds me quite heavily of the final level of Tropiano's Coffee Break E1, "Stalker". They're both castle-ish and they both have this intricate, deliberate flow that weaves the player through a central area on several occasions. In "Stalker", the stakes are upped with a Cyberdemon shooting at you most of the time. Here, the action is a bit more relaxed, which gives you time to appreciate the care with which Matt's given the architecture.

The overlook is a nasty place to be. Tropiano runs the player through tons of open spaces whose upper walls are speckled with imps, for the most part, with the occasional commando, revenant, or sergeant to ruin your day. You'll also find yourself beset upon by cacodemons and pain elementals in an ambush or two. You usually have enough room to knock about but one of the island ambushes involves a bit more desperation. He also throws many clumps of monsters at the player, usually low-tier enough to be fended off with the SSG, but lethal if ignored. There are a few really cool staged fights, like one where Matt raises a pillar for the sole sake of arch-vile cover, which takes place in a nice darker castle area with a blue / dark gray motif that breaks up the brown and green of the outside. I also like the finale, whereupon grabbing the sword, you're subjected to a three-Cyberdemon crossfire (with a little cover) that requires some deft maneuvering and situational awareness.

I like the layout of the map. There's a lot of space to move in, which helps when monsters are perpetually raining death upon you, like in the massive curved area to the east where your best bet is to press on and come back with the rocket launcher to deal with those mancubuses. There's also a series of jaunts to previously seen islands toward the end, the site of claustrophobic encounters. It would have been cool to see a few more of these little sojourns throughout the level rather than have them backloaded, but it was nice to see them. It also looks very pretty, and not just streamlined, with bits like the fortress facade you eventually exit out of.

From its first offering a la Tropiano, I'd pronounce Knox's Secret Santa project a success. FSKNOVLK is a neat level with tons of monsters to kill, an easy to navigate castle with grand architecture, and a few big surprises for more experienced players. The constant whittling down of scattered imps and zombie snipers might bring you down, but if you stick it out, you'll have some nice fights in store. Plus, you actually get to find the sword in the readme. How cool is that?

This post is part of a series on
Doomworld's 2013 Cacowards

The Top TenBest MultiplayerRunners Up
Back to Saturn X: Episode 1EyedeaInterception
Doom 2 the Way id DidSamsaraHadephobia
Unholy RealmsEon DeathmatchHellbound
ZDoom Community Map Project: Take 2Best Gameplay ModHigh / Low 5
Fuel DevourerProject MSXSoulcrusher
KuchitsuMordeth AwardStomper
Forsaken OverlookZDCMP2
Stardate 20X6Mockaward
Pirate DoomExtreme Weapon Pack
Swim With the WhalesMapper of the Year


  1. An awesome map, and I was flattered when I found out Matt was imitating my style. (I also found it cool that he author'd dot.wad at 13 years old, which is one of the earliest megawads I played). I think he handled monster placement better than I tend to, and I really appreciated the storyline text at the beginning (it was one of the tips that started me wondering if I was the one being imitated). I think adding an objective to a map gives the player one more reason to reach the end of a map. At least for me, it makes me want to persevere if for nothing else than to see how the author managed to pull off the storyline's resolution within the engine's limits. The "curse" that is released when you get the sword is neat. =)

    1. Yeah, agreed on all parts. I think there's tons of potential still left in the project, and an "everyone imitates lupinx for a map" project would be a fun pipe dream.

  2. One of my personal favorite maps from all of 2013. It's got everything: architecture, gameplay, theme, music, and a sense of adventure! I actually liked it (enjoyed it) more than either Coffee Break or Kassman's CC4 maps. And those are great to, so that's saying something!

    1. It's pretty cool, indeed. I think I still prefer Kassman's stuff for the visuals; he makes cyberspace awesome. Hope he ends up working on Hacx 2.0.

    2. Visuals, most definitely. But I don't find the gameplay any better; if anything, I enjoyed this level a bit more.