With DOOM Eternal being one of the greatest First-Person Shooter games ever released; expectations for the game’s first story DLC are quite massive. Subtitled as The Ancient Gods Part 1, the DLC has been kept under tight wraps right up until its release. With a focus on expanding the DOOM Universe while challenging players in ways previously unseen, does The Ancient Gods Part 1 live up to the massive expectations?
DOOM Eternal: The Ancient Gods Part 1 is a story DLC for the the action FPS masterpiece DOOM Eternal, and was developed by id Software & published by Bethesda Softworks. The expansion released on the PC via Steam, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 on October 20th 2020, and will be available on the upcoming Xbox Series X & PlayStation 5. This review will focus primarily on expansion itself, but will reference the standard game as well; including spoilers for Eternal’s main campaign as it directly sets up the DLC’s story story.
A Godly Story
The Ancient Gods Part 1 continues the story that started in DOOM (2016); and follows right off the heels of DOOM Eternal’s climactic ending. After slaying the Kahn Maykr & the dreaded Icon of Sin at the end of Eternal, an imbalance of power threatens all of creation. With the legions of Hell overrunning the heavens & threating to expand control across dimensions, The Slayer must seek aid of an old ally to fight the horde & restore order to the cosmos.
Working closely with the ARC & Dr. Samuel Hayden, The Slayer sets off in search of The Seraphim; a servant of The Father and an ally of his past. Soon after, the plot begins to twist as it’s clear not all paths lead to the same destination; and decisions are made. This brings The Slayer through the deadly Blood Swamps and eventually back to the heavenly realm of Urdak; as The Ancient Gods Part 1 sets up the inevitable finale to the current story arc.
The Ancient Gods Part 1 puts its gameplay & level design first, as DOOM always has; yet is still able to tell a compelling story without compromise. With well written dialogue, in game events & perfectly shot cutscenes; the story here is memorable and epic throughout. It’s able to answer compelling questions & payoff certain plot threads while simultaneously setting up exciting new ones for The Ancient Gods Part 2 to answer.
The story told & set up in The Ancient Gods Part 1 is nothing less than outstanding in every sense of the word. It’s every bit as ridiculous and over the top as 2016 & Eternal, yet stands apart as it’s own unique story that is violently satisfying. The Ancient Gods Part 1 perfectly sets up its other half with a powerful story with perfect execution and an unbelievable cliff-hanger that will have fans guessing for the months to come.
The Slayer’s Gameplay
The Slayer’s Core
To understand the absolute brilliance of The Ancient Gods Part 1’s gameplay; we must first step back into the realm of DOOM Eternal itself. The DLC shares the same adrenaline infused white-knuckled gameplay; heavily inspired by the FPS games of old mixed in a blender with new & advanced elements. The Slayer carries all his weapons in a convenient weapon wheel, always moves at high speeds, and never has to reload his weapons; allowing for the player to focus and the slaying & advanced gameplay mechanics.
DOOM Eternal’s movement is extremely fast and requires rapid & aggressive decision making; your survival depends on constant moving. A Dash ability has been added that allows the slayer to quickly move in any direction; alongside the ability to grapple & climb up designated walls and swing from monkey bars like an bloodthirsty gorilla. This introduces new dynamics to the frantic ripping & tearing, such as some much needed verticality and outstanding platforming segments between massive battles.
As an odd comparison, Eternal’s gameplay is like an ultra-aggressive game of chess; it’s much more than just big guns and gore. There are special attacks that players will need to implement into their combat loop if they want to live; performing glory kills will provide health, chainsaw kills will provide ammo and scorching demons with flames will provide armour. Players will also need to know the best weapons to use against each demon; such as using projectile weapons to blow off canons, the freeze canon to halt larger rush enemies, or blazing canon fodder with fire before rocketing them for armour.
Once all these core gameplay elements come to together in an unholy blend, Eternal becomes one of the most refined & perfected FPS games ever made. These gameplay elements transfer directly over to The Ancient Gods Part 1, and is actually perfected even further throughout the DLC. id Software has conjured some true black magic with the gameplay that is truly unique and violent in every aspect; it doesn’t get better than this.
The Ancient Gods Part 1
Do you feel you are prepared now, for this? This DLC in unapologetically hardcore, unforgiving & challenging that even the most brutal of DOOM players will struggle to survive; all while maintaining its perfectly balanced core gameplay. The DLC only 3 missions long, composed of; UAC Atlantica Facility, The Blood Swamps & The Holt, all of which are progressively & naturally more difficult than Eternal’s main campaign. For clarification: this is one of the best compliments the DLC could receive.
While the DLC is only 3 missions long, it still took around 6-8 hours to complete it on Nightmare; not just because of its difficulty but because each mission is roughly twice the length of that of Eternal’s. Each mission is distinctly unique from each other, as well as any previous mission in Eternal or any DOOM game; both from aesthetics to battle segments & even bosses. This DLC also features a larger enemy count than ever before, alongside more complex and longer combat encounters; truly testing the player’s wit and will against the forces of Hell.
New enemies such as the Blood Maykr & Eye Turrets require using precision weapons to effectively kill them in their soft spots. Additionally, new Spirit demons will posses enemies and make them more aggressive; and the only way to defeat them is to kill the demon and use the Plasma Rifle’s Stun Bomb mod to kill the Spirit. These simple but welcome enemy additions keep the gameplay varied and challenging, as it requires players to step out of their comfort zones & habits in order efficiently rip & tear.
After playing through The Ancient Gods Part 1 twice on Nightmare & once on Ultra-Violence; there have been no instances where I felt a combat encounter or situation was unfair as it always boiled down to my own mistakes. This also includes the infamous dual-Marauder fight that was teased in the trailer; which isn’t even close to the hardest segment of the game. The perfectly crafted gameplay mixed with white-knuckled challenges & brutal enemies makes for a flawless experience with insanely satisfying results.
Slaying In Style
You simply can’t have a DOOM game without secrets, Easter eggs and other fun items to collect, and thankfully DOOM Eternal: The Ancient Gods Part 1 offer all that and more! The DLC offers several new skin sets for armour & weapons, menu backgrounds & other nifty unlockable that can be unlocked by just playing the game. While these don’t serve any gameplay purposes, they give you something to work towards while allowing you to slay the forces of Hell in style.
Owners of the Deluxe Edition & those who buy The Ancient Gods Part 1 will receive “The Maykr Slayer” skin; which is the only item in the game that requires a purchase to unlock; and is featured prominently throughout this review! Three new skins can be obtained by completing secured encounters on each level; and with menu backgrounds and gun skins being unlocked for other achievements! Of course, there are also seasonal skins that can be unlocked by simply playing the game; with this months being spooky skins that are fun and worth playing for!
The Ancient Gods Part 1 also features some awesome secrets, from useful items such as BFG ammo & armour pickups to a massive sea monster. Some secrets can be hard to miss while others can be quite difficult to find; but they are a nice addition to the experience that provides a reason to mess around and search levels. While I will save most of them for you to discover, my favourite one is the sea monster that can be seen in the underwater section of UAC Atlantica Facility; alongside Bruce The Shark!
Now for those looking for an extra challenge with a larger reward, The Ancient Gods Part 1 has introduced 3 new Support Runes that can be unlocked by completing Slayer Gates on each mission. These are completely optional, as the Slayer Gates are exponentially challenging, but the risk/reward factor is high! Desperate Punch makes Blood Punch deal twice as much damage if lower than 75% health, Break Blast will make damage to a demons waypoint explode and damage nearby enemies; and my personal favourite is Take Back which allows you to regain your extra life if you kill a demon that just killed you, assuming you have an extra life to lose!
Aside from the brutal demon slaughtering mayhem that DOOM & id Software are known for; the id Tech engine is back and better than ever to visually impress! DOOM Eternal & The Ancient Gods Part 1 run on the shiny new id Tech 7, which features ten times the geometric detail and higher texture fidelity; allowing for better effects and destructible demons! The engine also assists in near-perfect optimization for all target platforms to run at a silky smooth & consistent 60FPS, even on older consoles such as the standard Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
Graphically DOOM Eternal already looked and performed superbly, and The Ancient Gods Part 1 continues to perform admirably; even bringing some small improvements along as well. Environments look extremely detailed as expected, but introducing new environmental effects such as rain and fog that look incredible. Effects such as gunshots, plasma, explosions, blood & gore are visually striking; lighting up & covering the environments in bright colours that react naturally; especially against the erupting demon guts flying in every direction.
Human character models look intentionally semi-cartoony and innocent, making the atrocious demons & graceful Maykrs look that much more threatening; with all of the above chalk full of detailed textures and great animation. Primary characters with most screen time such as The Slayer are designed and detailed to maximum levels; making even the strangest of characters look borderline lifelike. It’s clear that a ton of work was put in to make the characters look and act as authentic as possible, and it absolutely pays off in the final product!
The game & DLC run absolutely flawlessly, with absolutely no noticeable frame rate or resolution drops even during the most intense sequences! There was never a moment in my experience that felt like the game ran into any performance or visual issues, nor were there any texture glitches or pop-ins of any kind. On the Xbox One X, The Ancient Gods Part 1 ran like an absolute dream without a single issue to report; making id Tech 7 a engine running black magic as far as I am concerned.
Heavy Metal Music & Audio
With Mick Gordon no longer working on the music for DOOM, composers Andrew Hulshult and David Levy have been brought onboard to compose The Ancient Gods Part 1. Where this was initially a grave fear going into the DLC, my uneasiness was quickly put to rest as soon as the thrashing riffs and razorlike synths roared through the speakers; sounding unmistakably DOOM in every way imaginable. With a larger focus on heavy guitars, the music is angrier, harder and more metal than before; even standing on its own beside Gordon’s masterful 2016 & Eternal soundtracks.
Its feels as if The Ancient Gods Part 1 has returned DOOM’s soundtrack to its fundamental roots; without losing the modern ingredients that the newer soundtracks are praised for. The transition is natural as the music stands out as original & new while taking clear inspiration for previous DOOM soundtracks and other famous metal bands. The soundtrack surpasses expectations 10-fold, adding loads of adrenaline and anger to a game that thrives off of it.
The audio of the game itself is simply another example of how perfected DOOM Eternal: The Ancient Gods Part 1 truly is. Every demon weapon, and item has a specific sound that is used to give the player information that can be used to their advantage. Whether its picking up health and amour or trying to avoid attacks from surrounding demons; with the intensity of the music determining the scale of any given situation.
Important dialogue and item pickups take priority and are always crystal clear; so that the player can clearly identify what is happening in the midst of battle. Everything from the chambering of a shotgun shell to a chainsaw ripping through a demon’s flesh and bone as it bellows out in agony; the distinct sound design is mixed and balanced with extreme precision. This is some of the best in the entire industry and a flawless example of sound design; nothing but kudos to id Software as per usual.
A Glorious Summary
Both DOOM Eternal & The Ancient Gods Part 1 DLC is simply the best First-Person Shooter experience since console generation that started in 2013; and honestly nothing else even come close. The refined gameplay naturally becomes more challenging & more rewarding; making combat feel unrelentingly satisfying as you rip Hell a new one. The way that the DLC continues to provide creative and brutal new ways to rip & tear is astonishing, balanced and fun in every sense of the word.
Without getting into specific spoilers, The Ancient Gods Part 1’s story completely blew my expectations out of the water; and had my jaw on the floor at times. Not only are there huge reveals & teasers, but significant events happen that would typically be saved for a full third game. There are also some satisfying character payoffs that have been teased in codex entries and events in previous games; with The Slayer acting as beastly and intimidating as ever regardless of the situation.
Andrew Hulshult and David Levy deserve massive kudos as they have delivered a soundtrack that is unmistakably DOOM; and they composed it at home in a matter of months. Every track in The Ancient Gods Part 1 is a heavy hitter, with “Trials of Maligog” being the definite standout of the soundtrack so far. Hopefully the official soundtrack for DOOM Eternal & The Ancient Gods Part 1 release soon so that we may rock out to this game’s outstanding music!
Overall DOOM Eternal: The Ancient Gods Part 1 is an absolutely flawless DLC in every department; living up to and at times surpassing the incredibly high expectations that DOOM Eternal had set. With gameplay that intelligently challenges the player in fair and creative ways; id Software has yet again proved that they understand the FPS genre better than anybody. With literally no personal or objective issues such as glitches or bugs to report; DOOM Eternal: The Ancient Gods Part 1 has been crafted to absolute perfection and has earned Informed Pixel’s first review score of 100% in years!
The Ancient Pixels
DOOM Eternal: The Ancient Gods Part 1 was purchased via the DOOM Eternal: Deluxe Edition, no review codes were given for authenticity purposes. The game was played on the Xbox Series X with an Xbox Elite Series 2 Controller for the entirety of the review. The entirety of Hell was harmed in the making of this review.
DOOM Eternal: The Ancient Gods Part 1 is available on PC via Steam, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 for $20. The DLC is also included in the DOOM Eternal: Deluxe Edition for $90, or in the Year 1 Season Pass for $30 (which will include Part 2 when it launches). DOOM Eternal itself is available for $60 and on Xbox Game Pass; and will be available to play on the Xbox Series X|S & PlayStation 5! Stay tuned to Informed Pixel for more DOOM Eternal news and a review for The Ancient Gods Part 2 once it releases!
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