What do you get when you cross Doom with Dungeons and Dragons?
Heretic is a Doom clone in which you play as the henchest elf in the realm. And when I say Doom clone, I’m not being flippant – it’s literally built on Doom’s engine. Nor is it a reflection on the game’s quality, because Heretic is as unique an FPS as one could’ve hoped for in 1994.
Mainly because there are no guns. Instead, you’re thrown in with a magic wand and a stick, with an arsenal of medieval fantasy gear out there to find. In terms of weapons, a lot of the early ones definitely evoke those from Doom, but are distinct enough so they don’t just end up being copies. The ethereal crossbow is one of the most satisfying weapons I’ve used in an FPS, and the dragon claw is a lot of fun, despite being kinda chunky on-screen.
And, as always, the stick has the weediest attack animation despite being the default melee weapon. What is it with FPS characters having almost no hand-to-hand combat ability? Was Master Chief the first with a decent melee attack?
There are a good variety of enemies as well. Not that I saw very many – admittedly, I only played the first three levels – but the enemies I came across were fair and balanced, and there weren’t too many different types. It wasn’t overwhelming. However, I did find there was a slight over-reliance on monster closets. Not only that, but there are gargoyles literally everywhere.
Heretic makes a number of improvements to Doom’s engine. The most obvious thing is that you now have an inventory, and certain items can be held onto for later use, which is an excellent feature. In fact, find a modern FPS that doesn’t borrow this idea in some capacity. This one little change, I think, brought about the genesis of the looter shooter.
Know what else? You now have the uncanny ability to look…up.
My main complaint at this early stage in the game is that the textures are all a little samey. There’s a lot of grey and brown. Once again, to draw comparisons to Doom, that game had a lot of blue and green around the place. Heretic uses a much more natural palette, but in doing so it loses a lot of that personality. Perhaps it improves later on in the game, as there are five whole episodes to play through in this CD-ROM release.
Otherwise, it feels super fluid to play, as one would expect from a Doom engine game. It’s just satisfying to barrage bad guys with beefy blasters until they billow into a blur of blood and body bits.
Verdict: oh, oh, oh, it’s magic, yaknow.