A Hell Of A Good Time

HIGH This is some of the finest videogame combat ever created.

LOW Buff Totems are still inexplicably awful additions to any encounter.

WTF They removed the DOOG easter egg? Give it back, cowards!

Does Doom even need an introduction these days? It almost seems pointless to mention that it’s a first-person shooter where players are tasked with battling the forces of Hell itself since it’s such an iconic series at this point. The 2016 reboot was almost impeccably successful at reinventing the series for modern audiences, Doom Eternal made the combat even wilder and more intense, and now we have The Ancient Gods DLC, which continues where Eternal left off.

Interestingly, The Ancient Gods isn’t DLC in the standard sense since owning the base game isn’t necessary. Although it’s a direct continuation happening after the end of Doom Eternal‘s campaign, it can be bought and played as a standalone package. However, since Gods starts off at endgame levels of difficulty and only ramps up to near-ludicrous extremes from there, I can only imagine it would be a brick wall for new players. There are selectable difficulty levels, though.

I played through The Ancient Gods on “Ultra Violence” difficulty using a controller, which offered a fairly stiff challenge without feeling completely over-the-top or insurmountable. Players start out fully-stocked with all of the upgrades and weapons from the base game aside from the Crucible sword, so things start out the way they mean to continue — i.e., eyeball burstingly violent.

Like all the best combat titles, practice makes perfect, and some of the enemy encounters here practically had me spitting blood the first time I took them on. During a second runthrough, I had to stop and check that I hadn’t accidentally dropped the difficulty down a notch as I was ripping clean through sections that had initially seemed like progress-halting walls of sheer difficulty.

The fights are set in all-new environments. The first stage is magnificently atmospheric, taking place on a storm-battered oil rig in the midst of a rampaging demon invasion. The next involves traversing a cursed swamp that somehow defies videogame conventions by not being bland as hell, and then it all culminates in a return trip to Urdak. The design here is consistently strong, occasionally breaking up combat with extremely simple puzzles and traversal, and completing hidden challenges will unlock new power-up support runes.

Gods offers a few new enemy types that shake up the core combat loop slightly. The “Spirit” in particular is a real pain to contend with, thanks to its possessing nearby enemies and making them significantly deadlier until forcibly evicted from their host via the business end of a shotgun. They also remove certain weaknesses from their host such as flinching animations, but they do have a vulnerability to the plasma rifle’s alt-fire even while inhabiting another body, which evens the odds a little.

The other enemy additions are more standard fare. There’s a turret that pops up and takes potshots so long as the player isn’t too close or aiming directly at it for too long, and a new Makyr variant that’s completely invincible apart from during certain attack phases. These enemies require a slightly different approach, though some players will undoubtedly find the inability to simply pump lead into them as restrictive as they did with the Marauders in Doom Eternal.

Incidentally, those same players will be delighted to hear that there’s now a section featuring two Marauders attacking at once, as well as a Marauder hopped-up from a buff Totem. Never say that id Software doesn’t listen to complaints. They do — they just laugh at them.

The music remains fantastic throughout, with Mick Gordon’s noted departure from the series more than capably handled by Andrew Hulshult and David Levy. There was concern that the change in composers would result in a lesser experience in a game renowned for its soundtrack, but that’s not the case at all.

If I were to complain about any one thing The Ancient Gods does, it’s that the storyline is still clinging to the Elder Scrolls level bullshit that Doom Eternal introduced to the series. It’s pure cringe that tries to stuff a turgid high fantasy tale into a series featuring an angry space guy who shoots baddies in the face. This time he’s tasked with resurrecting “The Father” at the behest of “The Seraphim” with a surprise appearance by “The Dark Lord”. It’s about as interesting as its sounds, which is to say, not in the slightest.

If I were to complain about two things, it’s that buff totems are still one of the dumbest additions to the Doom experience. Suddenly being expected to go on an impromptu treasure hunt mid-battle to punch a stupid little object  hidden away somewhere that happens to be powering up nearby enemies into murderbeasts isn’t an amusing or entertaining twist on the gameplay, it’s just plain irritating. Thankfully they don’t show up too often, but the correct amount of appearances at this point is ‘zero’. (Still, at least there’s no purple goo this time out.)

Oh, alright. Three things. The bosses in Doom franchise continue to suck ass, with two more unique yet less-than-thrilling level finales to encounter. It’s almost remarkable that they haven’t been able to design even one boss encounter in the last two games that’s been a pleasure to fight. I’m fairly sure the developers know it too, given that dying multiple times on a boss encounter allows players to slap on some special armor and effectively bypass these lackluster creations.

Still, while it’s easy to nitpick, it’s even easier to rave about how great the rest of the The Ancient Gods is. I’m not sure this is the best place to jump into Doom Eternal given its initial difficulty, but picking up the whole package is absolutely recommended. The Ancient Gods consistently delivers some of the best combat ever seen, and delivers it in spades.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by id Software and published by Bethesda. It is currently available on PC, PS4 and XBO. This copy of the game was obtained via paid download and reviewed on PC. Approximately 6 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. No time was spent in multiplayer modes, as the Battle Mode reportedly has no changes made to it.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M and contains Blood and Gore and Intense Violence. I’ll just cut and paste most of the ESRB breakdown here, because it’s pretty good: Players use machine guns, shotguns, laser rifles, and blasters to kill demons in frenetic combat. Large blood-splatter effects occur frequently as enemies get decapitated and/or dismembered during combat. Players can also use blades and chainsaws to dismember and decapitate enemies at close range. Combat is frenetic, highlighted by realistic gunfire, screams of pain, and large explosions. Hell yeah!

Colorblind Modes: There are colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: While there are onscreen indicators showing where damage is coming from, playing Doom Eternal without sound would be very difficult on higher difficulties. Knowing where enemies are coming from is crucial, and the only real way to do that for an enemy outside the player’s view is listening out for their telltale sounds.

Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers fully remappable controls, at least on keyboard and mouse. The controller has a variety of preset modes to choose from instead.

Darren Forman
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