A unique and well-conceived addition to the Rogue-like Genre that should appeal to most Doom fans.
Doom RL is a quirky splicing of two completely different games -- one is a twitch-heavy sci-fi shooter, the other is a turn based dungeon crawl that uses text characters for graphics. While it wouldn't seem that these two games could be combined with any sort of success, Kornel Kisielewicz has done just that, and the result is an easy-to-play RPG-lite dungeon crawler with just enough of the flavor of Doom in it to warrant the name.
It seems odd to talk about the graphics in a text-based game, but a lot of what brings out the feeling of doom in this game is the creative use of visuals. Bullets, rockets, and plasma energy fly from their respective weapons, represented by slashes or glowing asterisks. Explosions from barrels or rockets are also animated rather impressively. Shooting enemies will result in various bits of blood and gore (represented by a number of different characters) to paint the floor and walls. This has no effect on actual gameplay, but serves to add to the flavour of the game.
My favorite aspect of this game is the sound. Many samples from the original DOOM computer game have been used for sound effects and music, and really help to set this Rogue-like apart from many others out there. Zombies scream when you shoot them, Cacodemons hiss when they spot you, and explosions rock your speakers whenever a stray bullet grazes one of those toxic barrels. Many of the musical themes from DOOM are also present in DOOM RL, and they cycle as you progress through the many levels of the game.
As is the standard for a Rogue-like, all the levels in Doom are randomly generated, meaning that no two levels are ever going to be the same. This helps to keep the tension up, as you scramble to find armor, healthpacks, and better weapons.
My biggest complaint against DOOM RL is how punishingly difficult it can be, even on the easiest difficulty setting. This wouldn't be so bad if the difficulty weren't so heavily based on the random elements of the game. Oftentimes, you'll get bushwhacked on level 2 by a horde of demon spawn that just so happened to get generated near the entrance to the level. Other times, you'll sail smoothly to level 10 or 12, and then run into a hairy situation that seems impossible to survive, regardless of how well you're equipped. The reality that a large part of your survival is dependant on how lucky you get with the randomly generated levels takes a bit of the fun out of playing the game. However, considering that a large number of rogue-likes suffer from the same problem, it's probable that the majority of people who play this game will go in fully prepared to get luck-fragged more than a few times.
Being a product with the DOOM logo on it, DOOM-RL is certain to attract at least a few gamers who are in it for the adrenaline-happy gameplay. Those folks are going to be bitterly disappointed by what DOOM-RL has to offer. Like most Rogue-likes, this game is turn-based, and best played with a lot of forethought and tactical consideration. At times, it's almost like playing chess with little mini Doom Marines and monsters instead of conventional pieces. Anyone downloading this game with the hopes of alleviating the itch in their trigger finger should just go back to playing DOOM...
There's a few lite-RPG elements offered, including a level progression system that gives your marine access to a number of passive abilities, such as faster reloading or more health. While it's a nice add-on, the abilities are too transparent to really notice in the gameplay, and the level-ups too few and far between (on my deepest run to level 15, my marine had only reached the 4th level of experience) to really make a serious impact on your character's survival.
The Bottom Line
DOOM fans will likely appreciate the recreation of one of their favorite games, but only those who are truly passionate about dungeon crawlers or rogue-likes will stick around long enough to finish DOOM Rogue Like.