“The Ancient Gods” is a promising start to “Doom’s” new saga

Earlier this year, “Doom Eternal” collectively blew the minds of all the gamers that were not too busy playing “Animal Crossing” that week. As a sequel to “Doom,” (2016) I thought it improved in every significant aspect. 

The gameplay mechanics were perfectly refined, the story went in exciting new directions and the Doom Slayer’s more in-depth characterization was a refreshing evolution for the franchise. On its own, I would go so far as to say the base game was one of the greatest first-person shooters I have ever played, masterfully balancing smart level design with the player’s desire to just mindlessly murder demons. 

Overall, “Doom Eternal” made its mark and left fans wanting more. But it also knew it would be a tough act to follow.

 Now, “Doom Eternal” has just released its first major DLC (downloadable content) expansion known as “The Ancient GodsPart One.” Taking place after the events of “Doom Eternal,” “Part One” continues to follow The Slayer on his never-ending quest against the forces of Hell. This time, The Slayer embarks on a journey to find The Seraphim, a mysterious figure from his past that can help him stop demons from conquering other realms. From there, players punch, slice and blast their way through a five to six-hour campaign of epic proportions, learning more about the lore behind both The Slayer and the world of “Doom.” 

In terms of gameplay, “Part One” carries over all of “Eternal”’s best features. Due to its rhythm-like flow of combat, “Doom”‘s gameplay is best described as a symphony of chaos. “The Ancient Gods” continues that trend, but amps it up to eleven. While some fans prefer sticking to one or two particular weapons all the way through, as you could do in “Doom” (2016), “The Ancient Gods” takes the same approach as “Eternal” regarding weapons. 

Much like “Eternal,” this DLC emphasizes resource management between your health, ammo and armor as you frantically move around the battlefield. Ammo is far more scarce, and certain enemies are weakest against a particular weapon, so the player must frequently switch between weapons while making sure not a single bullet is wasted.

 One could argue that this gets in the way of your desire to just kill demons, but it intends to force players into thinking more strategically. Although playing by a particular set of rules is not everyone’s cup of tea, I found it to be an exciting challenge in this insanely difficult game.

Besides new level environments, one of the most significant differences between this DLC and the main game is the difficulty. Although “Eternal” was by no means easy, its difficulty increased gradually. In “The Ancient Gods,” however, there is no adjustment period. All upgrades, weapons and runes are unlocked right away, instantly giving the player a tremendous level of power that they would only experience near the very end of “Eternal.” 

However, this also means that every enemy type is immediately thrown at you, like two Marauders at the same time. This makes the game’s first level just as intense as the final few in “Eternal.” For this reason alone, this standalone DLC should be saved until after you beat the main campaign.

If there is one aspect where this DLC falters, it is the music. Composer Mick Gordon created two legendary soundtracks with “Doom” (2016) and “Doom Eternal,” offering a world-defining mix of djent and heavy metal. Unfortunately, Gordon and id Software are no longer on friendly terms, so inevitably, any post “Doom Eternal” content would have to make do without him (pardon my salt and tears). Instead, Andrew Hulshult has stepped in.

 While his score is by no means terrible, none of it is as catchy or memorable as Gordon’s. Gordon comparisons aside, however, there is potential here. More DLCs are on the horizon, and with them comes opportunity. If Hulshult can learn from the fan feedback and find his own voice, maybe “Doom”’s music, much like the games, is on its way to another refreshing evolution. If not, fans could always mute the game’s music and play Gordon’s scores over it through Youtube, but that will hopefully be unnecessary.

 In many ways, “The Ancient Gods–Part One” represents a turning point for the “Doom” franchise. While some may not like the new composer or the continued emphasis on Eternal’s revised gameplay loop, they at least stay true to “Doom”’s continued desire to evolve. It may not grab everybody right away, but it is essential to remember that this is still only part one in a brand new saga. There is plenty to learn from here, and I cannot wait to see where it goes next.