When the trailer for DOOM Eternal: The Ancient Gods – Part One was revealed, you could practically hear the screeches of woe across the internet with the revelation that you would be fighting two Marauders — the main game’s most annoying enemies — at the same time.
Long before the end of my time with DOOM Eternal: The Ancient Gods – Part One, I wished for a dozen Marauders instead of the torrential pain I crawled my way through. The Ancient Gods is like one long Slayer Gate that just gets progressively harder and harder — and also much cheesier.
I am not bad at DOOM Eternal, which is also my game of the year. While I will never be able to pull off what this maniac can, swapping between and shooting weapons like Bruce Lee and his nunchucks, I’ve beaten the main campaign on Ultra-Violence and was making good progress through a Nightmare run before I had to return to real world responsibilities (boo).
The Ancient Gods, though: it’s like I’ve never touched a mouse and keyboard before.
The very first level of The Ancient Gods, set across a UAC facility out at sea, is significantly harder than anything within the main game. Despite not raizing Hell for a few months, my muscle memory kicked in within the first few Glory Kills and Flame Belches, Andrew Hulshult and David Levy’s new, impossibly meaty soundtrack making me feel like I could probably chin God. And then, as if to lay a marker down, the level just casually spawned a Marauder. No grand entrance, no warning — here is the pain you ordered, sir.
Then two of them came along and my ego promptly fell out of my arse.
From there, I wandered through swamps before finding myself back at a location from the main game, scratching and clawing my way through each encounter. The Ancient Gods – Part One only consists of three levels, but each are packed with long, taxing encounters that require you to play at the top of your game. There aren’t as many collectibles and fun secrets, which I found disappointing, though it does make The Ancient Gods’ first entry more laser-focused.
Support Runes are new for the expansion, allowing you to equip one of three new mini-abilities to your overall Rune composition. I can’t say these felt like game-changers or drastically switched up the way each fight played out as they’re like small, situational buffs to what you already have. The Ancient Gods’ new combat variety doesn’t really come from Doomguy himself, but rather the expansion’s new enemies.
The first and most merciful new enemy are the eye turrets, who you have a brief window to shoot when they pop out of their little tower. They don’t hit that hard and are more of a nuisance than anything, but you’d be wise to whip out your Heavy Cannon and scope in to take them out quickly when the room starts filling up with nonsense.
And what a lot of nonsense The Ancient Gods likes to throw at you, mainly in the form of Spirits.
I think Spirits are what may make people give up the most in The Ancient Gods — they tempted me to do so many times. These ethereal foes possess the strongest enemies in an encounter and seem to buff them by double across health, damage and speed while also making them resistant to staggering and frost grenades. They are tough. Once you do manage to kill their host, you then have to swap to your Plasma Rifle’s microwave mod to basically Ghostbusters them within a very short window or they possess another enemy. This addition makes the most of one of the worst weapon mods in DOOM Eternal and does ask you to vary up your arsenal, but the cheese factor involved in these encounters usually feels a little cheap, especially in the very last fight.
In fact, there’s a lot of cheapness throughout The Ancient Gods, so much so that it borders on just being cynical and almost half-assed in terms of encounter design. While you may think I’m just terrible at the game and an equally terrible loser (both valid claims), The Ancient Gods’ M.O. seems to be just throw everything at you and then double it. It doesn’t feel like a lot of thought has gone into the engagements for the most part, save for a fun sequence out in the swamps where you have to stay within a safe dome. Apart from that, The Ancient Gods’ fights are like someone has opened the debug menu and gone a bit wild on the spawn button.
But that feeling when you finally, finally overcome just the crazy trials The Ancient Gods throws as you should be bottled and sold as a stimulant. I guess that’s the point of the DLC, for it to truly challenge veterans who gobbled up Nightmare, to separate the Doomguys from the Doomkids and for you to become better as a player by the end. I certainly felt like I’d transcended my physical form at some points, my hands dancing across the keyboard and my eyes wide like a man possessed. We won’t mention all the swearing and the sweating.
It helps, too, that The Ancient Gods’ story drives things along nicely, thought it’s still completely ignorable if it’s just some hectic violence you want. The supporting characters do all the talking and there’s even some light relief from an intern, who I sincerely hope becomes Doomguy’s Alfred. I can’t mention specifics of any scene without it also being some kind of spoiler, but let me just say that it sets up Part Two very tastily indeed.
What you personally get out of The Ancient Gods – Part One will likely come down to how much you like to be challenged — punished, even. If you’re a casual FPS player like me, it’s not a DLC that is as immediately empowering and gratifying as the main game, but does provide plenty of harsh lessons that build to a joyous sense of accomplishment when you do overcome the hell that Hell throws your way. For veteran Doom players, it’s time to do the thing more chaotically than ever before.
A DOOM Eternal: Deluxe Edition key was provided by PR.
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