I have played this before, way back in the distant past, but it wasn't for very long. All I remember about the game is that I was armed with a yellow wand and it wasn't a particularly awe-inspiring weapon.
For people like us who are living in the future with our future PCs it's a sensible idea to play Heretic using a source port like ZDoom or Doomsday (I'm not sure which is recommended these days), but I'll be playing it raw and unfiltered in all its low resolution DOS glory. Because that is the manner in which I tend to roll.
Raven Software have been associated with id almost from the start, but Heretic wasn't actually the beginning of their collaboration. Raven's first FPS, Shadowcaster, was built the year earlier using an engine designed by John Carmack based on the Wolfenstein engine. So I guess that makes those engines id Tech 0 and id Tech -1 then.
Doom's first level eases new players into the game by giving them a safe place to get used to the controls, before they open the exit door and bravely face the two crap zombies waiting in the next room. Heretic on the other hand empties a whole box of a monsters over your head immediately and expects you to deal with it. With your crappy wand.
The fight against the gargoyles was easy enough in the end, thanks to the floating health vials and ammo crystals everywhere, but the door turned out to be locked so I'll have to go exploring out here first. Not that there's much 'out here' to explore.
Anyway, now I've got this I can go back to the start and see what's behind door #1.
It looks like he was guarding a pair of gauntlets, so I'll go over there and swipe them next. Poor guy, he spent his life in this game trapped inside a wall guarding a set of gloves he was forbidden to ever wear. He must have been tempted to try them on, just once, but he remained resolute and steadfast. And now he's dead and I've got got my grubby elven hands all up in his magic gloves. Sad ending.
They're called the 'Gauntlets of the Necromancer' by the way, and they do this:
Sorry, I couldn't remember what the Emperor says at the end of Return of the Jedi, so you're stuck with a Revenge of the Sith quote instead. I'm liking these gauntlets though; they cut up enemies at close range like the chainsaw from Doom, and they do it with enough force to shake the camera... just like the chainsaw from Doom. Yeah, for all intents and purposes, this is basically the chainsaw; it even sounds somewhere between 'similar' and 'the same'.
I'm more bothered by all those right angles in that magical hand lightning though. This necromancer must have been using some weird-ass sorcery when he made these.
Well, where I should be going after I've grabbed this crossbow I mean:
Shit, that enemy just released his ghost to kill me! Oh hang on, the unfortunate soul is just on his way to an afterlife of some sort. Fare thee well spectre, may you find yourself in an place free of sociopathic elves and magic crossbows. If this was Shadow Warrior that ghost would've been teleporting all over the place, causing me immense misery, so I'm considering myself lucky here.
Whatever, the important thing here is that the game has a map to show my progress through each episode (just like Doom) and it's nice to see it.
E1M2: THE DUNGEONS.
Oh, it was the giant one wearing armour and carrying an enchanted flaming axe. Should've seen that coming really. Though a few pew pews from my wand was enough to finish the wounded warrior off before he could throw any axes my way.
Actually I admit I was surprised that time. More because of the enemies sneaking up behind me when I tried to back away than the ones in front though. I'm fine if I've got some room to manoeuvre, but when I'm boxed in like this I start taking damage scary fast.
E1M3: THE GATEHOUSE.
Games tend to work better in my experience when the player knows basically what to expect from an enemy they've encountered before, especially when that game's already spent the last two levels assuring the player they're all the same within a type.
Just to be clear, I'm not talking about boss fights here; I'm talking about the foot soldiers, the hordes of identical clones. Obviously when a Robotnik, Bowser or Kefka makes their second appearance they're going to be showing off some new tricks.
Duke Nukem 3D-style inventory.
And that goes for the ones creeping up behind me as well, I know you're there.
Whoa, that was fast. A couple of gargoyles darted behind me and my 73 health was gone in two seconds. That's the first time so far that I've had to load a quick save. Still, I know exactly what to do next time: stop missing with my shots.
E1M4: THE GUARD TOWER.
Plus I've also found myself a yellow key, hovering in the middle of a huge open room surrounded by a moat. You know, I might actually be able to get away with picking this thing up without the walls opening and enemies pouring out.
(Though Heretic is built on an upgraded Doom engine that allows for looking up and down, so I suppose I could actually fire off my last 3 plasma shots into the ceiling if I really felt the need... wouldn't do anything though.)
Wait, is that tiny green square another door? Holy shit, the map actually does have the doors marked in different colours! I am honestly surprised, that's awesome.
There you go Heretic, have a star. You just earned it.
E1M5 - THE CITADEL.
Oh here's something I can mention: this crossbow is actually a three way shot weapon. Enemies up close get the full three bolts, but they spread out as they get further away, a lot like a video game shotgun in fact. A lot like Doom's shotgun to be more precise.
That's the trouble with the game really: the weapons I've found are all very close to being reskinned Doom guns, except with less satisfying visuals and sound effects. It seems to me that if you're going to add magical weapons they should be a little bit... magical, a bit imaginative. I mean if you really want to put a Beretta in your fantasy world, then I'm cool with that, but wands that fire bullets are the worst of both worlds.
(Especially when it takes forever to kill anything with it).
I could pull out the torch and light up the room... not really going to help much here. A ring of invulnerability is always handy, but I'd like to hold onto them until I need them. A tome of power temporarily boosts my firepower and gives my weapons new effects, so that's a good candidate. The quartz flasks are medikits, so I'll likely need them soon either way. The hour glass... I have no idea about.
Fuck it, I'll go with the egg.
These two are the last enemies before the level exit, so I'm done here now. Shame I'm going to lose all but one of each of those other items when I appear on the next stage due to the exit switch toll. No item hoarding allowed.
E1M6 - THE CATHEDRAL.
Having them on fire is also a plus because it means I have a chance of seeing them at all in this pitch black darkness. I think this would be a good time to use that torch I've been dragging along with me all this time.
The shadow on the right seems like an obvious clue, but it won't open when I press space on it, and no amount of exploding barrels are going to blow a hole in that wall. For one thing the barrels don't even explode in this game.
That door with Loincloth Guy on it is how I got here from the pitch black room, the block in the middle is too high to get onto, and there's an alcove off-screen to my left but it's halfway up the wall. Though the block also appears to have some ammo sitting on it and that's the video game code for 'trust me, you can get up here'.
I love that the games are full of secrets activated by doing weird crap and searching the map for fake walls, but I don't think it should ever become necessary. Not unless the game is built that way from the start. For one thing, secrets are more fun to find when you're not expected to find them!
Okay the map shows that the alcove at the bottom does lead somewhere, the shadowy area at the top is definitely something I can get through at some point, and... that it hasn't finished automapping the bottom right corner of the room yet. Either that or...
I tried running off the ledge and onto the block (there's no jump key), but I fell just a tiny bit short. It seemed hopeless, but I made the leap eventually by doing the exact same thing over and over again until it worked, and collected my sparkly blue thing from the top as my reward. Then I remembered that I do have a run key and that probably would've helped a lot just then. Stepping on the block also triggered a switch that opened up the shadowy area for me to escape through.
That's basically a Doom 2 secret right there. Using this trick can earn you a rocket launcher on the first level of that game, but in this it's apparently a necessary technique just to finish one of these early maps. That just ain't right.
Anyway I made it out of the room at last, ran down the newly revealed corridor, and then I was stuck again.
Well at least I found an egg.
E1M8 - HELL'S MAW.
The big puzzle here isn't 'how am I going to kill them all?' it's 'how am I going to get up there afterwards?' Though killing them all does seem like it could be a problem, considering how accurate my guns aren't at a distance.
Oh whatever, I'll just jump into the lava and run for one of the safe platforms down there. They've all got quartz flasks on so if I can dart between them I'll end up with plenty of health kits to heal the smouldering stumps that were my feet. Then I can work on the problem of getting back out again.
ONE HIDDEN STAIRCASE AND A TELEPORTER LATER.
Mostly I don't like the way that they grow back almost instantly and block my path. No one wants to be stuck squashed up between a room full of exploding balls, especially while they're being shot at by enemies.
This seems to be a connecting hallway leading to the other half of the volcano crater, so once I rush through here I expect I'll end up in a situation like I was in at the start. I guess I might as well use up my ring of invulnerability and jump right onto the lava on the other side.
I couldn't get a good screenshot of it, but they're attacking me with little whirlwinds that knock me flying. I'm attacking them with magic crossbow darts though (plus I'm invulnerable), so I wouldn't bet against me right now.
Wow, they went down surprisingly fast in the end. I was worried that this would drag on forever. Alright then, I should probably stroll on back to solid ground before my lava immunity finishes flickering off.
I didn't quite expect that there'd be another room even after the cheerful skulls, filled with enemies and lava. Thank fuck for quick saves really. I just wish it'd occurred to me to save after going through the hallway of balls and taking down the skulls.
Anyway that is the end of episode one, so I am done here.
I knew that Heretic was built with the Doom engine but somehow I still wasn't prepared for just how much of a Doom clone the game really is. I wouldn't say it's Doom with wands though, because you don't get a wand, you get a pistol that looks like a wand.
This is a game about fighting off an inter-dimensional demon invasion alone through abstract mazes, armed with a pistol, a shotgun, a chainsaw and a plasma gun etc. with the only story coming in the form of a few paragraphs after each chapter. Somehow I assumed this was going to be more of a Shadow Warrior or Blood to Doom's Duke Nukem 3D, with its own distinct feel and challenges, when really it's more like a (five episode) fantasy world expansion pack with new enemies and items.
Honestly though, I think I liked this more than either Shadow Warrior or Blood, as the game gave me far more of a fair chance to react to enemies and dodge their attacks. Falling ceiling aside, I felt like when I took damage it was always my own fault. Like Doom it's about staying mobile and as long as you give yourself room to move around you can get away with a lot. The gameplay is solid, it definitely looks the part and the music... well okay I muted it halfway through to listen to a Retronauts podcast instead, but it was alright.
I wouldn't put Heretic on the same level as Doom though, but that's mainly because I'm incredibly biased. Right now Doom is sitting upon a pedestal of pure nostalgia for me and more of the same just feels like less somehow. Not that I don't want to turn it back on again and jump straight into episode two.
Doom Doom Doom Doom. Doom Doom Doom... Doom.
Doom Doom, Doom. (Doom).