Doom Eternal, much like its 2016 predecessor, was a complete package and one of the best first-person shooters campaigns ever made. But id Software has found the urge to expand upon Eternal, a feeling it did not have with 2016’s reboot, with The Ancient Gods Part 1. This debut episode continues where Eternal left off and instead of feeling like a half-baked WAD, it ends up being one hell of a satisfying, challenging expansion.
Hardened through the fires of Hell
The Ancient Gods is hard because it picks up right where the main game left off, difficulty-wise. All of the late-game demons make an appearance early within the first hour and appropriately set a precedent coated in the Slayers blood. And id isn’t afraid to create some insidious enemy combinations to give the Doom Slayer a persistent headache.
Multiple Marauders, Archviles, Fireborne Barons, or Cyberdemons will spawn together in pairs in the same wave. Marauders will team up with Cyberdemons and Doom Hunters. Super Heavy demons will invade you in cramped spaces or in dense, foggy areas that limit your visibility. Everything seems designed to make your life a living hell and turns the main game into a brisk walk in the park by comparison.
While it sounds like it might be cheaply ratcheting up the sadism just for the sake of it, the rock-solid core controls and full arsenal (sans the Crucible) are a match that make any challenge here a healthy and balanced one. Through these tight controls and versatile weapons, you are always equipped to fell Hell’s forces no matter their number or power. Each battle is more like a puzzle you need to work out and solving that puzzle in the heat of battle is why Eternal’s combat is always so engaging at all times. Jacking up the difficulty only forces you to slay more efficiently and experience Doom at its Doom-iest.
Adding a few pieces to the combat chessboard
Each enemy is a puzzle piece and more pieces means a wider assortment of available puzzle configurations. The Spirit is one of the new foes that embodies Doom’s fantastic combat puzzles as it adds another layer to them. It can possess any demon and boosts their speed, power, and durability in the process, instantly throwing that demon up at the top of your priority list. Killing that host will temporarily free the Spirit, making it vulnerable to the Plasma Rifle’s Microwave Mod for a few seconds.
But the Microwave Mod slows you down, meaning you need to also now judge when and where to deliver the final blow. Killing it near other demons means you’re more likely to die trying to vanquish it or let it jump into someone else amidst the chaos. Letting it live longer is also risky since it can easily squash you in its buffed state. It’s a risky proposition and a fittingly stressful new variable in Doom’s combat loop that is the best of the five new enemies.
Those other demons aren’t quite as inventive, but they’re still a welcome addition to the roster. Invisible Whiplashes add a new level of threat to the mid-tier foes. Eyeball turrets can duck your shots like whack-a-mole and are rightfully annoying. Giant tentacles bring the surprise of their smaller brethren but on a massive scale. Blood Makyrs are glass cannons like their drone incarnations, but are more deadly and visually evoke the demonic and angel themes. All fit some niche and Doom succeeds when it has a ton of different niches to pick from to create a near endless stream of varied combat scenarios.
Taking a vacation from the underworld
Most are a little different from the established norm, but are unmistakably Doom, much like its new environments. Whether it’s the Atlantica facility and its range of water-soaked blue hues, the bubbling green bogs of the Blood Swamps, or the sweet pink angelic flora of Urdak, each takes the franchise in a new direction and looks great doing it. Doom doesn’t always have to be locked to Mars or Hell and while Eternal helped prove that notion, The Ancient Gods cements it.
Doom also doesn’t have to be tied to the talented Mick Gordon because The Ancient Gods’ soundtrack is similarly excellent. Andrew Hulshult and David Levy don’t copy Gordon’s iconic compositions but work with a comparable template to create some tunes that match Doom’s ripping and tearing mood. Its fast metal sounds great by itself, but is at its best when complemented with the frenetic pace of Doom combat. Both make each other better, which is a holdover from Eternal’s campaign.
Eternal‘s campaign also tried to tell more of a story, something that The Ancient Gods also does with many of the same ups and downs. None of it too long or overbearing — you’re always back into the action in no time — and it uses its brevity to quickly give context and set up enough intrigue to drive the plot forward. Sometimes its concise nature can cut out some steps, rush others, and hide the rest in the codex, but it knows what it is and does well enough with its purposely terse narrative arsenal. All of it leads up to an incredible cliffhanger that has huge implications for the next chapter and potentially the franchise as a whole.
Doom Eternal The Ancient Gods Part 1 DLC Review | The final verdict
The Ancient Gods Part 1 is a fantastic piece of DLC partly because of those narrative implications, but also for how it wonderfully continues and expands upon the base game’s legacy. Seamlessly dialing up the difficulty leads to more rewarding combat, especially with the banging metal soundtrack and horde of new hellspawns. Environments divulge from the typical Doom template, but are undeniably Doom and beautiful regardless. Part 2 has a lot to live up to, but if it’s anything like Part 1, it shouldn’t have a problem shattering high expectations.
Game Revolution reviewed the Doom Eternal The Ancient Gods Part 1 DLC on PS4. Code provided by the publisher.