This was the last game developed by Apogee before they switched to using the name '3D Realms' for their first person shooters with 1996's Duke Nukem 3D. In case you're wondering, the last title that 3D Realms finished creating themselves before letting the development team go in 2009 was apparently the original 1997 Shadow Warrior game. But in a strange case of serendipitous timing, the company was officially relaunched today by the new management, so chances are good that they'll be able to finish a third game under the name someday!
So Rise of the Triad is definitely old, but is it any good? I don't know, I've barely played it and can't remember, but I'll put it on for a bit and find out for you. One episode should be long enough to form an opinion I reckon... assuming that the game even has episodes. I know, I'll just keep shooting things until I hit a boss fight.
It's funny how the penalty for failure is apparently just a bit of torture rather than the painful death that every other first person shooter protagonist risks suffering. Somehow though I doubt anyone's really going to hold back when the shooting starts.
Designer Tom Hall was part of the team that made Doom, and it seems that he's brought a couple of his unused ideas over with him. Thi Barrett is straight from his original bible for Doom (external link) for instance, from back when it was going to have multiple protagonists, and Lorelei Ni is halfway to being Lorelei Chen as well. Not sure about the others, though Ian Paul Freeley sounds like he's from a Bart Simpson prank call.
I'll be picking Lorelei Ni, not that I'm sure it matters. If there's any difference to their stats, the game's keeping that info to itself.
Fortunately for me they've given each difficulty setting a more precise title down at the bottom left, so I can make sure I'm playing on normal mode, like I do with every game. Wait, 'Easy', 'Medium', 'Hard' and... 'Crezzy Man'? Huh?
The game is set on San Nicolas Island, which is actually a real island off the coast of California used during the present day by the US Navy for weapon testing. But one year in the future it'll be home instead to a deadly cult that will have taken over an ancient monastery with plans to systematically destroy Los Angeles!
The H.U.N.T. crew are a group of highly trained special forces operatives, so they understand that the most important part of working as a team is to keep as far away from the other team members as possible, as cooperation and planning are just what the enemy would expect. So my chosen hero is going to be marching into the heart of the cultist stronghold entirely alone; but they have at least dressed for the occasion:
I couldn't resist setting my system clock to 25th December to get my man Taradino to stick his seasonal Santa hat on. Oh hang on, I'm actually playing as Lorelei Ni standing over on his left; damn no hat for me then.
THE TRAGIC TALE OF LORELEI NI.
As was the tradition for first person shooters even back in 1995, I'm playing as a pair of floating hands with a goal of putting as many bullets as necessary into my opponents before they manage to perforate me. There's no regenerating health, I've got a Rainbow Islands-looking hit point meter instead, though my bullets on the other hand seem pretty much limitless. I don't even have to swap in fresh mags, which is good because I need to keep inflicting sustained hurt on these cultists to stun them and stop them from shooting me back.
Can't think about it too much though, as folks are trying to shoot me and I need to keep moving. I can't imagine how this would even be possible without a mouse, as it's taking all the strafing I've got to avoid being cut up by all these bullets coming my way. It is not a slow game.
The level designer has brought out the fireballs and spinning blade posts for this hallway, but to be honest I'm still more concerned about being shot by a fuzzy mess of grey pixels in the distance. In fact I'm even more concerned about being possibly shot by a fuzzy mess of grey pixels behind me that I've ran past without realising. The cultists may be brainless, but they've have got plenty of places to spring out from, and they know how to point a gun.
The game actually has lives, kicking you back to the start of the level with every failure, and I just threw them all away on the same fireball obstacle. Seems like a good opportunity to try a different character I reckon.
THE ADVENTURES OF TARADINO CASSATT.
Well I've made it past the fireballs, blade barriers and hordes of cultists (the timed body armour pick-up I found helped), and now I've finally found my way to the end of this hallway.
I got poor Lorelei Ni killed off three times in a row for this? A glowing hand in a jar? Though I've apparently triggered a touchplate as well, so maybe that's opened up a new path for me somewhere. Or, more likely, a secret alcove full of cultists eager to shoot me in the back.
Half-Life 2 actually.
Glowing hand power is definitely more effective at killing fools than the two Walther PPs I was stuck with before; no headshots in this one, so I really have to wear enemies down before they die.
I turned Christmas off by the way, in case you're wondering where his Santa hat's gone. Turns out that the regular level music is far more bearable. Reminds me a little of Doom actually.
LEVEL E1 A2.
on youtube while I complain about having to shoot folks through this fence.
It's not just that they're hard to see, so I can't even tell if I'm actually hitting anything while strafing left and right like a maniac, what's really bothering me is that I'm being shot in the back while I'm doing this! And if I turn around to shoot the other guys, then these gentlemen will then have a clear shot at my ass instead. I can't just drop back, lure them out, and shoot them from a more comfortable position, and running ahead is likely suicide.
I'm loving this gun though. Most enemies don't drop weapons, but one finally left behind this MP40 and suddenly enemies have begun to fall over in a timely fashion. Sure it sounds about as fearsome as a BB gun with a silencer, but like the pistols it's got infinite ammo and no need to ever hit a reload key.
Oh hang on, I've just stumbled across an unforeseen negative consequence to the weapon's immense area of effect: I've just blown myself up with my own explosion. Back to the start of the stage then... armed with just a pistol.
Why can't you just be like every other PC game, huh? Why you gotta be different?
Though I have learned that the game lets me save anywhere at any time, just like every other DOS first person shooter. It seems obvious (especially as there's a bloody menu option for it), but the lives counter threw me off. Seems that there's no real reason to ever let myself lose a life and restart the level armed with a pistol, unless I want the extra challenge.
Also it's a small touch, but I like how the doors in this have interlocking bits sticking out top and bottom, they're not just smooth and boring. They're also about half a micrometer thick, but it's not like I ever get to see them side on, so whatever.
LEVEL E1 A3: BURNED AND AMAZED.
Worst thing that'll happen if I go overboard with the gunfire is that I'll shoot a few of those spinny silver ankhs into pieces, but I haven't been going out my way to collect them anyway. If this was a Mario game or something, the collectables would mostly be found along the path I'd want to be travelling anyway, but this game loves to make me screw around going back and forth on jump pads if I want to grab them all, and it's slowing me down.
SOME FRUSTRATION LATER.
The game is built on a heavily modified version of the Wolfenstein 3-D engine, and shares a lot of the limitations. That's why all the walls are the same height and there's no steps or slopes. The floating discs everywhere are actually a cunning technique used to bypass these restrictions and add a third dimension to the game using sprites.
You know, if I'm going to keep throwing out all these names and dates out I might as well put a little effort in and draw up a timeline so you can see how the games of the time all fit together:
Doom II's level visually, but with Duke 3D and Quake still a year away it probably didn't appear all that dated at the time either.
LEVEL E1 A4.
And look at this asshole playing dead! That ain't right man.
Oh this gives me a good excuse to talk about that bowl of red porridge over on the left. Those things are my medikits in this game, and they're terrible at it, only giving me back around two hitpoint bars. The smaller monk meal bowls are even worse, healing me by a single bar! You can heat them up to increase their life-restoring potential by heating them up with a rocket launcher blast, but this really doesn't seem like the kind of game you want to risk blowing yourself up in.
I'm going to have to take a chance on the magic mushroom. I don't know what it does, it could turn me big like Super Mario or it just make me think I'm Super Mario, but right now it can't really make anything worse.
And then I got shot. But on my next attempt I found another Dogmode power up near the end of the level and managed to keep hold of it all the way to the exit gate this time, mauling everyone in my path; this tune was my reward: youtube link.
I feel like a winner.
LEVEL E1 A5.
I do have to give the game credit though for making the enemies pretty visible for the rest of the time. I gave the remake a brief try, and man it was a real effort to spot anyone against the background; which is a bit awkward in a game where I'm meant to be running around, not hiding in a corner trying to figure out where the bullets are coming from. The 1995 original definitely wins this round.
I'd bounce out and double check the rest of the level again, but I've already done enough laps of this place looking for exits and secrets. I really do not get what I'm expected to... oh fuck, there's a bounce pad isn't there? I could launch myself airborne and then steer myself to land inside the central area where there's a second bounce pad. Now I know how to get all the ankh tokens hidden in the inaccessible side areas all around the room too!
What kind of deranged sociopath creates a room containing two bonus areas that I have to bounce across to reach, and then punishes me with an inescapable trap if I try the same trick to grab the key I need?
SOON, BACK OUT IN THE REST OF THESE MAZE-LIKE CORRIDORS.
Alright I think I've gotten past the worst of this level now. I'm collecting keys at a good rate and building up momentum now. I think I even remember where I saw the door to go with this key.
LEVEL E1 A7.
Along with my pistols and MP40, I can only carry one extra bonus weapon in this at a time. I ain't ever going to have a reason to use those piece of crap pistols again though, so even with a full set of weapons my choices are always limited to either machine gunning dudes down or blowing them up.
Though with all these weapons, armour power ups and bowls of porridge lying around I don't really see how I can lose this fight. My strategy so far is to half-heartedly side step out of the way when I see a rocket coming, while unloading every heat-seeker missile I've got in his direction.
LEVEL E2 A1.
Nope that definitely just blew up in my face, kicking me back to the load screen. But I've completed an episode, fought a boss, and seen all I really wanted to see of the game, so I was just looking for an excuse to quit to be honest. This works for me!
Rise of the Triad and I didn't really get along at first. It seemed unfairly difficult even on the lower difficulties and I didn't find it all that satisfying to slowly chip away at clones with my rubbish handguns while my health steadily trickled away due to enemies I couldn't even see. But then I got hold of that MP40 and it all suddenly started to click with me; I finally was able to deal out damage in a timely manner and get some momentum going. Learning that I could save the game helped too, but I found I didn't really need to all that often once I got the hang of sharing my infinite ammo around to keep groups stunned rather than trying to make each bullet count.
It's funny that a lot of the level design was done by the guy who left id because he wanted to make Doom more story-based and realistic, as this is one of the most arcadey first person shooters I've ever played. It even has a high score table and you can collect 100 tokens to get an extra life. And how come an ancient monastery off the coast of California inhabited by Triad cultists ended up being filled with ankhs anyway?
It's like a weird cousin of Doom actually, with the same kind of frantic run and gun gameplay, but it's different enough to feel like a separate game in its own right. It definitely stands further apart than something like Heretic, which really could be labelled a Doom clone. I wouldn't say that I like it as much as those two, but right now I think we're getting on just fine.
Might as well give it a shiny star of adequate quality then I suppose.