Doom Eternal: The Ancient Gods Part 1 feels like a thrilling action movie that is occasionally interrupted by ISpy games. You want to keep watching John Wick’s ballet massacre, but your unfriendly host won’t pause Blu-ray until you find a fig in the background.
It’s tough like a nail. If you haven’t played Doom Eternal since it was released in March, the first moments of the new DLC, The Ancient Gods Part 1, are almost always not a good idea. Once you’re back in the devilish swing of things, it’s exciting to be able to play higher levels of Doom Eternal without being constrained by the need to reintroduce the basics. But still: get ready.
Ancient Gods Part 1 begins where eternity is interrupted. DLC takes you back into action after a cutscene that opens the “Previously On” text screen and reminds you that Doom Eternal has focused too much on story and proper noun-filled folklore. The entire list of weapons is unlocked from the beginning, with the exception of Crucible, the overwhelming glowing red sword Doomguy, who scored towards the end of the vanilla game. Ancient Gods also throws a major downside to Eternal’s late game roster just outside the gate. I had my first fight with a predator within an hour.
Ancient Gods doesn’t take the time to re-educate you about Doom Eternal’s mechanics. When the eyes flash green, the grenade belongs to Cacodemon’s open mouth, Mancubus must be thrown into the cannon on his arm, and blow up Marauder with a super shotgun. Please do not forget. There are many things to remember! Doom Eternal is, at its best, a chaotic, enthusiastic, tactical, bloody dance, and as soon as I started the ancient gods, I noticed that the stairs were foggy. I did.
Doom Eternal: The Ancient Gods Part 1 is a direct continuation of the base game campaign and, if successful, will be based on Doom Eternal’s already success. Ancient Gods maintains Doom Eternal’s powerful roster of enemies and Doom Slayer’s matching weapon weapons. The battles are still predominantly multi-layered arenas, with platforms for getting on and off, portals to jump over, and jungle gyms to swing. This is an acrobatic game that requires almost equal the liquidity of movement and tactical thinking like chess.
But just as ancient gods succeed in the strengths of base games, so do they decline in the familiar way. Eternal has the same heavy story as Doom games, and its focus doesn’t work for players like me who come to Doom for ripping and tiering. The Doom Eternal story fails because it goes all-in to self-serious folklore. This is a pairing that feels out of step with the idiots inherent in that brutal killing. Ancient gods are no exception. Doomslayer is scrutinizing the demon, angel and human realms for MacGuffin and spends very little time establishing the stakes needed to care for you. Base games always expected you to know who the important angels and demons were, but it didn’t take long to introduce them. So far, the ancient gods have the same problem.
Ancient Gods’ non-combat platform is slightly improved over the base game traversal. In Doom Eternal, it’s often difficult to decide where to go, and sometimes (like the arc complex level where the floor is stuck and covered with purple sludge), the game makes your progress in a frustrating way. I actively delayed it. However, with this extension, the platform isn’t that broad and most are simple, so you can focus more on combat. And when the platform is the focus, it works well. I especially enjoyed one section with the Doomslayer mission of hitting trees to build and move bridges. It’s easy, but it takes advantage of Doom Eternal to turn platform puzzles into excuses and come up with something new for novel results.
This DLC is anxious between all the speeds Doom Eternal does very well and the slow and cautious sniper that stops dancing on the track.
The three new levels that make up the 5-10 hour campaign of the ancient gods are well designed with a variety of interesting playgrounds. Eternal multi-layer arenas are still widespread, but are divided by different purposes and level hooks. One section, tasked with chasing a ghostly dog through a miasma that hurt you too far from your peers, is a welcome break from a typical battle and is generous enough not to be frustrating. It’s long enough not to get boring. In one of the battles later in the game, you’ll fly between platforms to avoid damage when lit. Then, as the platform rises overhead, the skirting boards cover the violent hydraulics that lifted the platform. Ancient Gods Part 1 has some interesting settings like this, but it’s a lot of fun to fight, even if the arena is the more standard Doom Eternal fare. Environmental art is also powerful, with each level visually different from the previous and next levels, whether it’s a stormy military base or a foggy swamp.
As mentioned above about Marauder, the Devil Warrior seems to have influenced the direction of movement in Ancient Gods Part 1. The devil who wields an ax, holds a shield, and commands a fire dog felt more like an enemy of Dark Souls than a kind. The number of opponents expected to be seen in the Doom game. Fighting predators requires concentration, careful timing, and careful measurement of the distance between you and your enemies. I like the vicious changes in pace that Marauder offers, but Ancient Gods Part 1 adds multiple new enemies that work in a similar way. A spirit that can own and empower an enemy must attack with a microwave beam of a plasma rifle after killing a host and before owning another host. The turret, which looks like a candle-foot with a purple eyeball in the place where the flame hits, must play a peekaboo when looking in that direction and quickly shoot the eye before it disappears again. Blood Maykr needs to be shot in the head with a heavy cannon in a short window after completing a violent attack. All of these enemies need precise aim and timing, and you need to closely monitor them to hit your weaknesses at the right time. As a result, ancient gods often feel slower than base games. You spend less time dancing in battle and more time waiting for the opening. Over time, I’ve gotten used to this pace change, but I don’t think it’s going to be good.
This is especially true as turrets and Blood Maykr need accuracy and high damage output to be dispatched quickly. As a result, he leaned against the Doom Eternal assault rifle, a heavy cannon that doubles as a sniper. This is a powerful antidote to both enemies. This means that certain sections of the game require very little of the remaining deadly weapons. In a battle later in the game, I noticed that I was using very little of the remaining weapons. The Doom series is one of the few FPS holdouts that continues to reject aiming downsight designs in favor of speedy strafing. However, Ancient Gods Part 1 feels like it was made to showcase the Heavy Cannon (a gun with a traditional scope). As a result, this DLC is anxious between all the speeds that Doom Eternal does very well and the slow, cautious sniper that stops dancing on the track.
Despite some new and lasting weaknesses, Doom Eternal’s desperate battle continues to shine (almost). Even after returning to the action swing, Rockpaper Scissors’ design philosophy brings great time. I wish Doom Eternal could get out of his way.