(DOOM ETERNAL: THE ANCIENT GODS PART 2 is out now. Distributor provided review copy.)
Once more, with screaming
DOOM ETERNAL: ANCIENT GODS PART TWO is the final expansion pack for this iteration of DOOM games. It’s a challenging but satisfying romp through demon-infested worlds that made my boomer-reflexes cry. I loved every minute of it, but I’m not convinced it’s for everyone – even if you liked the base game.
Set in the immediate aftermath of its predecessor, ANCIENT GODS PART TWO finds everyone’s favorite Doom Slayer on the to Immora, the city of hell. From there, his path will take him on a roaring rampage of fury in a final effort to bring down The Dark Lord for good. Or at least for now.
Into the depths
While surprisingly light on story, even though a final showdown does quite a lot with very little, ANCIENT GODS PART TWO is nevertheless a brilliant conclusion to the rebooted DOOM saga. It captures everything that made DOOM ETERNAL such a joy to play while also amplifying the newer elements, like platforming and secondary weapon skills, to dizzying heights. The super shotgun, for example, is now your go-to tool for swinging from place to place, making the Doom Slayer closer yet again to games like TITANFALL than ever before.
Some of this won’t sit fine with hardcore DOOM devotees, and that is to be expected. ETERNAL already pushed the series into new directions, which ruffled feathers in some circles. Things like limited ammo capacity and the necessity to often switch between weapons are still here, but they now feel more organic to the big picture. There’s a certain moment of zen that comes when you get into the flow of rampaging from one enemy to the next, ripping and tearing your way into hard-fought victory.
So hard, so very hard
And hard-fought is undoubtedly the word. ANCIENT GODS PART TWO, like its predecessor, is hard. Even on normal difficulty, I found myself considering the move into an easy mode more than once. I think this is what it feels like to get old. Some of the combat scenarios, where demon hordes of varying sizes spawn at an alarming rate, left me a shivering mess by the end. It is no longer enough to have the biggest, baddest guns at your disposal to survive. You now have to remember to use their multiple different skills and even the environment to get out of fights alive.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As with my other love-hate series, DARK SOULS, I found myself enjoying the unrelenting nature of ANCIENT GODS PART TWO. It’s never a breeze, though more minor skirmishes offer a way to vent frustration at helpless grunts, but it is rewarding. By the very end, when you can look back at the long line of carnage left behind, there does come a certain feeling of satisfaction knowing that it was you – and only you – who took on biblical forces and survived.
I think that’s where DOOM always shines brightest, and this new series amplifies further. The Doom Slayer story is part monomyth, part heavy metal album cover, and the combination of the two creates a stunning fantasy for both modern and 90s audiences, who once imagined what hell could look like once graphics improved. Now, with almost anything possible with current computing hardware, DOOM crafts an immense dystopia for the taking.
THE ANCIENT GODS PART TWO isn’t something you’ll want to jump into if you haven’t played DOOM in a while. It’s wholly merciless in throwing you into the deep end, and there’s very little in the way of tutorial to help. Instead, it’s probably best to first replay DOOM ETERNAL or even brush up with your skills in DOOM before diving in. Not that such a task is inherently bad. After all, both of the previous games are some of the best things the genre has to offer.
And so it is with ANCIENT GODS: It’s more of the same, but sometimes more is better. At least when it comes to decimating hellspawn with a BFG.