Heretic

Moby ID: 21987

Description official description

The world has been attacked by the three Serpent Riders from the Abyss. Their mysterious power makes people obey and follow them like sheep. Only the ancient Sidhe elves are immune to the Riders' influence, which led to them being branded heretics. With most of their work done, the two elder Riders leave, leaving only D'Sparil, the youngest and weakest Rider, behind to oversee the oppression. He sends the armies of the Seven Kings against the Sidhe, who have no choice but to extinguish the Seven Candles, vanquishing the armies. The retribution is swift and hard, and most of the elves are destroyed. Now, one of the last remaining Sidhe must take the fight to D'Sparil himself, being the only hope his world has left.

Heretic is the first game in the Heretic / Hexen franchise. It uses the engine from id Software's DOOM and transplants that game's first person shooter gameplay into a fantasy setting.

Like DOOM, Heretic consists of three distinct episodes, playable in any order, the first being available as shareware. The hunt for D'Sparil begins in the City of the Damned, continues in the alternate dimension of the Hell's Maw and comes to an end in The Dome of D'Sparil. Every episode consists of nine levels, one of them a hidden one. The goal in each level is to find the exit, killing everything standing in one's way. Keys must be found and buttons pressed to advance. Enemies include gargoyles, golems, undead knights, sorcerers, ophidian beasts and more. Most enemies exist in several varieties: some have additional range attacks, others have ghost forms and are impervious to certain weapons.

The weapon arsenal is large and varied: the basic weapons are a wooden staff and the Elvenwand that shoots low-damage magic bullets. More powerful equipment must be found: the Ethereal Crossbow dispenses a spread of arrows doing high damage, but at a low firing rate. The Dragon's Claw and Hellstaff shoot with a higher frequency: the Claw hits enemies instantly, the Staff's energy bullets need to travel to them first. The Phoenix Rod fires explosive charges and must be handled with care. The Firemace unleashes steel metal projectiles that bounce across the room towards the enemy. A better melee weapon than the wooden staff are the Gauntlets of the Necromancer, which dispense deadly energy.

Heretic goes beyond DOOM in certain aspects. The engine has been enhanced with the ability to look up and down and the ability to fly, and wind currents pushing the player in (often unwanted) directions have been added. Also new is an inventory system. Many different power-ups can be collected and then be used at the correct time. These include health flasks, invisibility and invincibility upgrades, time bombs, and torches to light dark rooms. The Morph Ovum transforms enemies into chickens for easier dispatching, the Wings of Wrath allow one to fly, and the Tome of Power gives all weapons a substantial upgrade: projectiles become more powerful or split up upon impact; the Phoenix Rod becomes a flamethrower and the Gauntlets remove life force from an enemy and transfer it to the player.

Heretic includes the same multiplayer options as DOOM: both cooperative team play and competitive deathmatch are included.

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  • Louis Saekow Design

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 81% (based on 16 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.9 out of 5 (based on 62 ratings with 7 reviews)

Either an outstanding Doom mod or a really cheap stand-alone game

The Good
Heretic was no doubt the product of something thinking "hey, Doom has lots of fans, high fantasy has lots of fans, so why don't we..." The end product is something you can either buy because you're casually interested or dismiss it out of hand: fantasy-themed Doom. It has good production values and solid gameplay, but it's just too derivative in a market saturated with similar games to compel your attention either way.

Heretic's basic premise isn't exactly a recipe for disaster; quite the contrary. This was 1994, and fantasy themed games were pretty much the territory of RPGs, adventure games, and hack'n'slash Gauntlet clones. Being able to travel around medieval villages and castles in full 3D must have seemed like a pretty sweet deal at the time. After selecting an episode and difficulty level (you have choices like "Bringeth them oneth" and "Thou art a smite-meister") you're ready to play.

The interface, menu system, etc is exactly like Doom's, so Heretic's ambitions are obvious from the beginning. In much the same way, gameplay doesn't differ much from its predecessor. Still, there are a few small updates that make stale gameplay a bit more interesting.

Some enemies are invulnerable to certain types of weapons, meaning you have to swap weapons around a fair bit and can't just cruise through the entire game using one weapon almost exclusively. Since the game allows you to look up and down you can now accurately aim at enemies standing above or below you, rather than shooting blindly in horizontal alignment and hoping your shots hit. Heretic features ambient sounds (clanking chains and mad laughter in dungeons, bird chirps and flowing water in the countryside), which improves the atmosphere and helps it feel more like a cohesive world.

You also get "tomes of power" which when equipped dramatically improve your firepower. This isn't merely a "4x damage" boost, but drastically changes the way your weapons work. Your hellstaff will now fire target-seeking missiles, your gauntlets suck life out of an enemy and add it to your hitpoints, etc. This is a really cool idea for a powerup and one of the things I wish we saw more often in FPS games.

There's a slightly upgraded version of the Doom engine on display here. We get to see things like sliding sectors (useful for things like a flowing river), the ability to look up and down, transparency (when you use an invisibility potion your hand on the screen becomes see-through, nice touch), and most impressively the ability to fly. This is a really fun enhancement and means that if you're surrounded by hordes of enemies you can often wing your way to safety. The places where you can fly are tightly-controlled, so you can't abuse it at your leisure like you could the jetpack in Duke Nukem 3D. The game doesn't let you jump, but I guess you can't have everything.

But by far the biggest gameplay improvement in Heretic is the inclusion of an inventory. In Doom, when you picked up a powerup it would instantly get used and last for a short amount of time before expiring. This is an anachronism in PC gaming that should have been left at the arcades. In Heretic you have an actual inventory system where you can pick up items and activate them at your leisure. While the controls for this aren't as user-friendly as they could be (you must use [ and ] to cycle through the inventory, enter to equip it to the current slot, and keypad enter to actually use it) the inventory system completely changes gameplay and turns the game into a much smarter and more complex experience (do I use my invulnerability ring now, or save it for later?) Don't expect there to be inventory grids or combos or anything like that, Heretic just isn't that type of game.

The Bad
That's it!

Seriously, other than the few enhancements I mentioned above the game is nothing more than Doom in medieval dress. In a market filled with Doom clones and assorted knockoffs (at least some of which didn't suck completely) you could argue that the entire game was redundant from the get-go. It's the sort of thing you'd expect a team of semi-professional modders to create and upload on a BBS for a modest $15 registration fee, let alone put in a box and sell for $60. It has sufficient production values to consider itself a big commercial release, but underneath the glitz it's just another mediocre Doom clone: pointless then and even more so now.

Gameplay is not merely similar to Doom's but is almost completely identical. Go find keys! And flip switches! And navigate endless mazes when the designers run out ideas! Level design is decent, but never approaches the genius of the original Doom or even of Rise of the Triad. Doom and Rise of the Triad have actual levels with recognisable themes and motifs. What does Heretic have? A bunch of random keyhunts in mazes, that's what.

I take major beef with the weapons in Heretic. To state things plainly, they're complete ripoffs. You have a quarterstaff (exactly like Doom's fists), lighting-zapping gauntlets (exactly like Doom's chainsaw, including how it "locks on" to a target and jerks the screen around), an ethereal crossbow (a fantasy-themed shotgun), "The Dragon Claw" (a retarded excuse for a chaingun), etc. Other than the Firemace, there's not a single weapon here that isn't lifted straight out of Doom. When you create a clone of an existing game the whole point is to give the player some new stuff to mess around with, in the hopes that he doesn't realise he's playing a clone. The "powered up" versions of each weapons are neat, but tomes of power are hard to come by and you'll seldom get the chance to see them. Also, why is it that all the weapons are magical? Would it have killed them to include some REAL medieval weapons, like swords and longbows and stuff?

Heretic's monsters are a generic assortment of zombies, undead knights, gargoyles, etc. Also they have WAY too much HP in comparison with your weapon damage, with the result that you have to battle proverbial meat shields that can kill you in 2-3 hits but can take dozens of shots themselves before they go down. Killing groups of enemies is a real pain, not so much because it's difficult but because you simply waste too much ammo.

On a minor quibbling note: the inventory system is cool but also unbalances gameplay. All the bosses suddenly become complete pushovers since you can hoard up your invulnerability powerups during the previous levels (the game lets you carry them on) and cruise through all the boss fights without taking a scratch.

The Bottom Line
Heretic has solid gameplay and good production values...but what's the use? It's like they took Doom, slapped new graphics on everything, tweaked a few things, and re-sold it as an entirely new game. Now don't get me wrong, there are people out there who would enjoy the hell out of a game like Heretic. However, the fact remains that there's nothing here you haven't seen in Doom. If all games were as ambitious as Heretic we might still be playing Pong.

My advice? Get one of the later iterations of the Heretic series like Heretic 2 or Hexen, games that actually do something with the FPS formula. Regard Heretic itself as merely another clone of one of the most cloned-to-death games in existence.

DOS · by Maw (832) · 2007

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.

DOS · by Optimus (75) · 2011

Fantasy Doom? What more could a fantasy/action devotee ask for?

The Good
Its Doom in a fantasy universe!! This is the first of the so-called "Doom Clones" I've played that I thought came very close to mimmicking Doom's feel when it comes to running around slaughtering hordes of monsters. I guess that given the engine this shouldn't be surprising. I thought the inventory and the ability to look up and down and to fly added a LOT to the genre. Some of the powerups like the Morph Ovum (a.k.a. the Chikennator) were very inventive. The Tome of Power, being much more than a simple damage amplifier, effectively DOUBLES the number of weapons!

The level design was also a step up from most FPS's of the time. Where other games would send you into military base after military base after prison after millitary base, Heretic had castles, cathedrals, towns, and caves. The music is pretty good, by MIDI standards, and provides the perfect mood for the game.

I personally really liked the graphics. I think the complaints some people have in this area stem from the fact that the Doom engine wasn't made specifically for large open spaces, and Heretic has a lot more of these the Doom.

The Bad
This was before mouse-look, so in order too look up and down you had to use the keyboard. The un-powered weapons bear an uncanny resemblence, in use if not in look, to Doom's arsenal. Eventually the game becomes repetitive, especially by the fourth and fifth episode where no new monsters, weapons, or items are introduced.

The Bottom Line
If you like Doom, you'll like Heretic. If you like Doom and are a fantasy buff, you owe it to yourself to get this game.

DOS · by Kalirion (565) · 2024

[ View all 7 player reviews ]

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Macintosh RaVeN RaVeN (32) Dec 15, 2010

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Awards

  • Computer Gaming World
    • November 1996 (15th anniversary issue) – #3 Best Way To Die In Computer Gaming (being turned into a chicken)

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  • MobyGames ID: 21987
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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by John Romero.

Additional contributors: Jeanne, Patrick Bregger.

Game added April 9, 2006. Last modified May 18, 2024.