Review: Doom, the Roguelike

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Developer: ChaosForge

Genre: roguelike, RPG

Platforms: PC, Mac OS X, Linux,

Released: November 2002 (original); February 2012 (0.996 – version reviewed)

I recently found myself getting a bit tired of UFO: Alien Invasion, so I started looking for a new game to play. And suddenly I had a craving for Doom. But I’ve played it so many times, and I don’t know if I could stand it again. Lo and behold I came across something called Doom: The Roguelike. Reading up more about it and taking a peak at some screenshots I thought it might be worth a try.

The game weighs in at under 100 MB and comes in a zip file – or at least the version I have did. It’s a standalone freeware game which doesn’t require any Doom sourceports like Doomsday (JDoom) or ZDoom etc, or any WADs either, which is a relief if you don’t actually own any of the original Doom titles. This is probably the next best thing for you.

Starting it up, you’re greeted with a very arcade-like main menu with some great art, similar to that you might have seen on the cover of The Ultimate Doom nearly 20 years ago. After poking around a bit you can then start up a new game and select your difficulty level. Here is where things change a bit from the original game. You then get to name your character, choose which class you want to play as (marine, scout or technician) and you can then assign one skill point to one of a handful of traits available to you, which range from taking more damage or dealing more damage to being more accurate with your shots or having more chance of avoiding enemy projectiles. These you can upgrade every time you level up during the game after having accrued enough experience points.

Then you progress to the first level. All levels except boss levels in the game are randomised, so with a few exceptions you aren’t going to find yourself playing exactly the same level every time you start a new game, so you needn’t think that you’ll be able to beat the level that you were killed on earlier, because you might not ever run in to that level again. The first thing you’ll notice when you start off is a rather kick ass cover of Bobby Prince’s E1M1, recorded by Sonic Clang years ago and used with permission. The tracks he composed for the soundtrack, which is the majority of them, were originally made for the Classic Doom mod for Doom 3. There are some new ones that are also in MP3 format but by the sound of it were recorded using an electronic keyboard such as a Roland SC-55, and not live instruments. They do fit the game quite nicely, and take one back to the traditional MIDI tracks of that era.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
You can name your character something other than "Doomguy" or "our hero".Here you can upgrade traits.
You can name your character something other than "Doomguy" or "our hero".
You can name your character something other than "Doomguy" or "our hero". | Source
Source
Here you can upgrade traits.
Here you can upgrade traits. | Source

You play the game on a grid of sorts (which you can make visible or invisible) and you have one action per turn. So to move a square takes a turn; to fire your weapon takes a turn; to reload takes a turn. Who will you be firing your weapons against? Who do you think? Zombies! Yes, the undead former marines and sergeants will greet you when you make it through the entrance. In fact, almost all enemies from the original games are present here, and while not nearly as terrifying as they were, and perhaps still are, in first person mode, they are every bit as lethal. And not only that, but all the weapons (and a few new ones actually), items, textures, sounds, sprites, and obstacles (exploding barrels, anyone?) make a return here. But it’s all viewed from a 2D perspective, rather than 2.5D. I must say that while the graphics won’t win any awards, it is a step up from what it looked like in earlier ASCII versions of the game, and arguably it looks better than having a bunch of ugly sprites shoved in your face up close.

Doom sort of works as a rogue-like title then, except that if you thought the original was difficult, then you are in for a beating here, because even on the easier difficulty levels, this game is challenging to say the least. This isn’t really a run and gun affair like the original, and unlike the original, the monsters keep pace with you, so you make a move, they make a move – which makes it harder for you to evade the hordes when you need to and you can therefore easily become surrounded and quickly dispatched. And seeing as this is a rogue-like, once you die, it’s permanent, and that means back to the beginning for you. There are likely many strategies you must learn in order to master this game, and you’ll pick them up along the way – you’ll have to if you want to survive and make it to the very end.

In addition to being a rogue-like, there are also RPG elements to this game, seeing as you have limited customisation when it comes to your character and you can build him (or maybe her) as you see fit, at least in terms of experience points. You have an inventory system which allows you to store and select all your equipment and weapons, which varies every time you play a new game. It’s a bit like Diablo (Chaosforge has even made a Diablo rogue-like, speaking of which) or Doom: Fall of Mars – except I would argue that this is slightly better than the latter, although FoM is a lot easier and less complicated overall.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
You get bonus missions here too. Mainly in the form of arena matches.Does this scene look familiar? Hint: Bruiser brothers.
You get bonus missions here too. Mainly in the form of arena matches.
You get bonus missions here too. Mainly in the form of arena matches. | Source
Source
Does this scene look familiar? Hint: Bruiser brothers.
Does this scene look familiar? Hint: Bruiser brothers. | Source

What's the score?

Pros

+ Quite fun for a while

+ Graphics are an improvement over earlier ASCII versions

Cons

- Quite unforgiving at times

Graphics: $$$

Sound: $$$$

Gameplay: $$$$

Controls: $$

Story: $

Originality: $$$

Unfortunately the story is all pretty much the same as the original Doom, with not much except a few screens and text to tell the tale. The only real goal is to get through randomly generated levels and keep improving your stats, unlocking medals, new game modes like challenge, and new skills that you can upgrade in a new game. So you’re essentially making your next playthrough easier in a way.

And that’s why I don’t spend much time with this game. You can save a game as long as you are alive, but once you’re dead, that’s it. The end. No loading of savegames before things went wrong. And so unlike any other RPG title that I love, like Fallout New Vegas or Oblivion, there’s no to little reward in investing a lot of time in your character because he could very well die the next time you play and you lose everything, and I’m sorry but I just can’t live with that. It’s frustrating as hell. I just got a worthwhile weapon and suit of armour and now you’re telling me I’ve got to start over? Some people of a more masochistic nature might love this, but I certainly don’t. I think it was a bad idea to incorporate RPG features in to this game. If you want that, then try Doom RPG. This game shouldn’t be that complicated. Maybe I’m just taking it too seriously. Who else would write a 1000 word piece about this game?

While I am somewhat intrigued and impressed with this game, and no doubt it makes for an excellent way to kill a few minutes – and add to that the fact that it’s completely free – I think I’ll really just wait until Doom 4 comes along if I’m ever that desperate for a Doom experience again.

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© 2013 ANDR01D

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