DOOM Eternal: The Ancient Gods - Part One Review
Reviewed on Sony PlayStation 4Also available on Microsoft Xbox One and PC
DOOM Eternal may not have been as groundbreaking as its prequel when it released earlier this year, but it did take the best elements from its predecessor and then polished, refined and added a nice mixture of new strategy, combat and gunplay elements to create one of the best titles in the series. The Ancient Gods - Part One, the first piece of DLC for the title, once again doesn’t extensively change the successful formula, choosing to build on the fast-paced combat that made the base game so enjoyable, but does crank up the challenge to hellish levels.
Taking place directly after the events of DOOM Eternal: The Ancient Gods - Part One puts you back in the shoes of The Doom Slayer as he takes on the legions of Hell again. This time they’ve taken over the heavens, threatening to throw the fate of the cosmos into jeopardy; or something like that. The DOOM titles aren’t known for their stories, and like the base game, The Ancient Gods’ six to eight hour story is both forgettable and, at times, downright stupid. Thankfully, you’ll seldom care as you once again rip your way through the demons of Hell at breakneck speed. The Ancient Gods - Part One is available as a standalone DLC package in addition to an add on, so even if you’ve never played the base game you can get your DOOM fix without the full retail RRP.
The Ancient Gods’ lack of a coherent plot didn’t impact my enjoyment of this highly-challenging DLC package though. This is because the fast-paced combat that made the base game so invigorating is as satisfying as ever. You start with all your weapons upgraded, but don’t be fooled, you’ll need to master all the various combat elements, such as how to recover health, shields and ammunition using glory kills, the flamethrower and the chainsaw respectively to succeed in every fight, and you’ll have to master them quickly as The Ancient Gods throws you directly in the deep end and never lets you escape. Just when you think you’ve survived one wave, the next begins, and this continues throughout the entire journey; the only respite you get is when you return to the holding arena between the three new game worlds.
Despite leaving combat relatively unchanged, iD software have added a few new monsters to Hell’s roster, all of which add some additional challenge to combat. From a new spirit that can possess and buff allies, to the Blood Maykr which requires mastery of your sniper configuration to take down. Sadly, the DLC seems to double down on the Marauder, who was the most broken enemy in the base game thanks to his stupid pet ghost dogs and unnatural ability to avoid almost all attacks, and he is equally frustrating here, especially in smaller environments where his introduction, like in the base game, slows combat down to walking pace. Nevertheless, thanks to a few new adversaries, there’s just enough variety in enemy design to keep each battle fresh.
From a gigantic futuristic oil rig UAC Atlantica, to the Blood Swamps of Hell, to the demon-infested world of Urdak, The Ancient Gods’ certainly looks the part and adds some much-needed variation to the base game which suffered from some often repetitive level design. Sadly though, all these new worlds double down on the clumsy, often downright silly platforming that I criticised in my review of the base game. The platforming does offer a slight respite from the brutal, often endless combat, but it comes with its own challenges. While combat is challenging and yet rewarding, platforming feels awkward and uncomfortable and certainly not rewarding, especially when you have to change direction between swings, resulting in numerous reloads until you finally manage the section or get lucky.
The Ancient Gods - Part One doesn’t change too much from the successful formula, but it does crank up the difficulty to extreme levels. Even on the easiest difficulty fights can be deadly, and bosses are often, at times, excruciating. The DLC may be aimed at the more hardcore DOOM fanbase, but the difficulty level here could easily turn the more casual player off. There were times when I found myself fighting off two or three Marauders at once, in addition to the waves of less infuriating minions, making some fights unbeatable for hours - the bosses aren’t much better either. The boss at the end of the Blood Swamps was not only bone-crushingly difficult, it was downright ridiculous thanks to wave after wave of unrelenting groups of weaker enemies, forcing you to split your attention between them and the boss itself. Focus on the boss for too long and you’ll get overwhelmed by the demons, prowlers, zombies - focus on the waves of minions and you’ll never get the chance to shoot the boss’ weak point . After nearly an hour, I had died so much that the game basically offered me an armour set that made me invincible. I enjoy a challenge, but at times The Ancient Gods - Part One felt unbeatable and unfair.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment with The Ancient Gods is that the composer of the base game, Mick Gordon, hasn’t returned for the DLC following a rather public fallout with iD Software. What’s left is a bunch of bland, generic rock tracks that don’t hold a candle to those found in the spectacular base game, which at the time I called one of the best soundtracks in gaming.
Despite doubling down on the dodgy platforming sections, DOOM Eternal: The Ancient Gods - Part One offers a meaty expansion that doesn’t dramatically differ from the base game. The story is as ludicrously-forgettable as it has ever been, and the difficulty spike will cause issues for players looking for something a little more casual, but iD Software have certainly taken the approach of don’t fix what isn’t broken, meaning the breathtakingly-fast combat mechanics are as good as ever, and this alone makes The Ancient Gods - Part One an essential purchase for those players clamouring for their next DOOM fix.