Heretic (DOS)

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Developed by
Critic Score
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
User Score
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Optimus (83)
Written on  :  Jul 11, 2011
Rating  :  3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars

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A medieval Doom with boring weapons

The Good

Heretic was supposed to be the dream of medieval fantasy fans of playing Doom in an RPG-like world. In terms of design it does the job well, with its interesting spiral towers, chapels, dungeons, medieval textures and fantasy inspired enemies, really catching the theme of the game.

In terms of gameplay there are some quite interesting ideas plugged into the original Doom gameplay. Mainly the use of special items, from potions that heal you to magic items that can transform the enemies into chicken. Some of the most important items are a pair of wings that make you fly, the tome of power which makes your weapon either strong or more interesting (for example, it makes the hellstaff turn into a weapon that creates a field of acid rain above the enemies it shoots) and then there are items that can heal all your energy, make you invisible or give you invulnerability.

While the weapons are normally underpowered and the enemies take a lot to go down, I found the game quite easy which is something that I liked even though more hardcore gamers will not tolerate. Using the ring that gives you invulnerability and/or the tome of power, sometimes even final bosses can be put to pieces in less than half a minute.

The Bad

There is something in this game that makes it a very boring experience. First of all, the weapons are inspired by Doom repainted in a medieval concept. You have a little yellow diamond in a staff that fires just like the pistol, then the ethereal crossbow fires three pellets similar to the shotgun, the dragon claw is firing frequently just like the minigun, then there are equivalents for the plasma and bazooka from Doom.

Though, the problem is not that of lack of originality. The real problem is that even these bland copies of weapons tend to be far more boring than the original Doom weapons. First of all the weapons power do not scale up. The dragon claw (number 4) which is a reminiscent of the chaingun does the same or maybe more damage than the next weapon which is a staff firing exactly like the plasma gun in Doom. The final weapon which is a mace firing little iron spheres is like a minigun doing the same or less damage than the dragon claw. This is so strange when you would expect that it should be the most powerful weapon of the game. Only the weapon equivalent to the bazooka does a little more damage but it's dangerous to use when you are very close to an enemy.

So, the weapons are weak copies from Doom, don't scale up in power and even they lack feeling, they don't feel powerful, they are not well designed in terms of animation and sound effects to make you feel the blast or something. Put into this the fact that the enemies need enough hits relative to the weapons to go down, even if they also don't scale up in power too much. Well, the enemy deaths at least are great so it's half the fun down.

Imagine going through several levels hoping to find a better weapon in no avail. I was still playing with the crossbow or the dragon claw till the end. I was so bored after a while that I downloaded a Heretic WAD that gives you the original Doom weapons in the game. This proved to be a much more fun experience and some weapons really did the proper amount of damage that the original weapons never managed to provide.

One final note, the tome of power item upgrades the weapons in such a way that makes them powerful enough or gives some alternative interesting attacks. However, its effect will last for a limited time and there are not enough instances of this item around to let you play like this for the most duration of the game.

Speaking too much about the weapons, I forgot to write about some little things you might encounter that could make you getting annoyed and stop playing. A lot of times you have to wander around trying to figure out what to do next. There are a lot of riddles where you have to find a switch that opens another wall which reveals another switch and so on. Also, at some levels to proceed you have to find some secret walls. In the original Doom this was forbidden as a level design strategy. Secrets should only be used for additional weapons and bonus. But in Heretic, sometimes you can't progress if you don't push a random secret wall. In some levels I really had to read a walkthrough in order to proceed. This is another important point that will make the game a less desirable experience. Though, not so much if you are an experienced player. The real culprit here is the weapons.

The Bottom Line

If you wonder how Doom would look like with medieval settings then go for it (or try Hexen which is much better in my opinion). However, prepared to get bored by uninspired and underpowered weapons. This is a game I have just finished for historical reasons but wouldn't be willing to play for a second time again.