Date: May 2, 2020
I’m a massive fan of the Doom series and have literally been playing it since my dad got it on his 386 when I was five years old. I not only loved the gameplay, which I didn’t really get good at until I was much older, but I loved the premise. For so many years, games, movies and stories offered what developers and publishers deemed “palatable” to most audiences. The idea of mixing sci fi action with fantastical, or even simply the supernatural, was far too outlandish, or strange to be considered anything but childish.
Doom didn’t care if anyone thought it was childish though, because it was far too busy saving humanity from the forces of darkness. To say nothing of completely upending and revolutionizing the gaming industry. Doom not only changed the way games were made, it also changed how they were written and what they could be written about.
Yes, yes, I know, Doom is critical to FPS gaming period and without it, things like Halo and Call of Duty likely wouldn’t exist, I also know that the developers of Doom largely wanted the story to play back seat to the action, but maybe that’s exactly why and how the game made such inroads for story as well. The story wasn’t as important as the rest of the game, so it was allowed to be whatever John Romero and Tom Hall wanted it to be.
Because Doom was so popular and the story revolved around fantastical elements, it allowed for other FPS shooters with stranger and more fantasy oriented titles, like Heretic, its sequel Hexen, Blood and even later titles like Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth to be created and received positively.
It also cut both ways as well, because Bethesda started to experiment more with first person perspective after Doom, which heavily influenced the development of Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall. In another way, it allowed for more typically action themed games, while keeping the first person perspective, to branch out with RPG elements, as was the case with Deus Ex.
All of this is to say, I really appreciated the story (such as it was) of Doom. I appreciated even more that in the 2016 reboot, the story elements were delivered in such a way as to seem almost non-existent. Whenever avid action fans would tout the game’s abandonment of story to take a backseat to the action, I would quickly point out plot points like, the Doomslayer being familiar with human technology, even though he was found in a sarcophagus more than a millennia old, or that he saved a backup of Vega’s personality before it was deleted forever. These little nuggets of story were, from my perspective, were an awesome way to get to story across to those who wanted to pay attention, while not forcing those who didn’t to sit through a long cutscene.
BEWARE: Spoilers ahead.
That’s why a large part of Doom Eternal’s story is a touch frustrating for me. From my perspective, they kind of worked that perfect formula they had with Doom 2016 sort of backwards. The story was definitely there, but it was so convoluted and complicated that I found myself frustrated by the end, and wanting more in the very worst sort of way. I wasn’t tantalized by clues as to who the Doomslayer really was, I was just told who he was…but also I wasn’t. The game eludes to the idea that he’s the same character from the original Doom games, but doesn’t at all explain how that could be. He just is.
Plus, the narrative was just in your face. Sure, you could skip the cutscenes, but there were so many of them, that you might get confused as to where to GO if you did. There was an entire level full of nothing but exposition and flashbacks, which I actually loved. The flashback that show’s the Doomslayer as the Doom Marine was a great bit of fan love and I appreciated the hell out of it, but I know without even asking anyone that a lot of Doom players must have HATED having to slog through that whole level without getting to shoot much of anything, but a boss.
The other story aspect that REALLY bothered me was the sort of anti-climactic ending. The second to last level had SO many plot points that fundamentally changed how the lore from Doom 2016 was interpreted – like Father referring to the Doomslayer as The Seraphim. None of these points are expanded upon and the end of the game just shows the Doom Slayer having defeated the Icon of Sin, just like in Doom 2, with voice over from the King from earlier in the game saying that your fight is Eternal. I get that there’s got to be SOME unanswered questions, but the ending just left me confused and felt deliberately vague. Then again, maybe that was the point?
Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed – well…enjoyed is a strong word. I got great satisfaction out of making it through all of the difficult combat encounters. As is the case with just about ANY version of Doom, I found myself needing a break after a couple of hours, just so I could calm down a bit. The gameplay was 100% spot on and the addition of first person platforming worked even better than in Doom 2016. The combat in particular was just visceral and the constant need to alter tactics and stay on the move kept you from getting complacent.
Another cool thing that happens to be in every other version of Doom, happened in Doom Eternal as well is that I use the single barreled shotgun almost exclusively. In the original games, it was because it did so much damage to what Doom: Eternal calls fodder, which was almost all of the enemies you encounter and had a fast shot turn around. In Doom: Eternal it was the same, but also because of the grenade launcher mod attachment, which is THE most tactical weapon in the game. It uses regular shotgun ammo, but fires a sticky grenade. I THINK this was in Doom 2016 too, but it was still a welcome addition.
Quick Tip! When fighting the Marauders (Dudes with big Argent Axes and Double Barreled “Super” Shotguns) the game suggests heavily for you to use the “Super” Shotgun on them and time your shots for when their eyes flash. This works, but what works WAY better is to fire shotgun grenades at their feet, especially while they have their shield up. Just fire the grenades right behind them and keep moving away as you do. It’ll take WAY less time than trying to work out their pattern (they don’t have one, cause they CHEAT!).
The level design and art are also just amazing. So many of the locations you visit are visually stunning and I was surprised to not be bogged down in cold, but ravaged industrial space facilities and gothic, demon haunted hellscapes. A number of the locations, particularly one of the later levels, Taras Nabad was a jaunt through the ruins of an ancient, fantastical alien city. There’s that unconventional story telling I was talking about earlier. The levels themselves, setting aside, were also simply fun to explore, and the platforming and exploration elements fit seamlessly into the remembered gameplay from Doom 2016.
Speaking of level design, I’ve GOT to talk about the Fortress of Doom. So somewhere between Samuel Hayden sticking you inside a…time portal? – in the last game, and the current demonic invasion of Earth, we got ourselves a pretty bitchin’ pad. The Doomslayer’s Doomcave was honestly where a huge chunk of my time was spent in game. Not only is it a really beautiful castle-like structure to explore, it’s also where you can unlock and show off all of the many collectibles you pick up. Ol’ Doomguy’s got posters, vinyl records, Praetor suits and even his collection of action figures all displayed meticulously throughout his orbital satellite lair. There’s even a Doom Room where he keeps all of his most personal items – including the cage wherein was once kept the dearly departed pet rabbit Daisy and the sacred helm of his ancestor, Commander Keen, Slayer of the Vorticons.
SPOILER HINT: Daisy LIVES! You can find her as a number of Easter Eggs throughout the game. I have decided that this means she is, somehow, even more fearsome and powerful than the Doomslayer, as she carries no weapons and wears no armor, yet the forces of hell seem unwilling to engage her.
In the end, I have to say that, of course, Doom: Eternal was an amazing game that I only wanted more of, and probably one of the best FPS shooters to date, because of course it is. I just wish that I actually had any kind of grasp of what was going on, but then maybe I’m not meant to. Maybe we all, like the Doomslayer, are only meant to Rip and Tear.