When I reviewed Doom Eternal earlier this year, I praised the game for striking a balance between old and new, which is something I still think is true for the base game. However, upon talking to a few people who have played the game, It was made clear, that for some, Doom Eternal’s campaign felt a little loose and not as focused as Doom 2016.
id software must have been listening to fan feedback, as part one of the Ancient Gods DLC for Doom Eternal seemingly fixes the pacing issues found in the main campaign, crafting a game that feels tighter and truer to the source material.
Right from the get-go, Ancient Gods first of three levels opens on the UAC Atlantica. The massive seafaring post tasks the player in finding three keys in classic Doom fashion, in order to find the whereabouts of the Seraphim, the key in closing the rift between Hell and Urdak (Heaven) after the events that transpired during the ending of the base game.
As the DLC takes place after the events of Doom Eternal’s campaign, the difficulty curb seemingly picks up right where it initially ended. Ancient Gods doesn’t waste time with world-building or explaining the mechanics of the game, instead, throwing the player as the Doom Slayer straight back into the fray. Enemies include most of the end-game level fair found in the later levels of the base campaign, including multiple encounters with the Tyrant/Cyberdemon which is a challenge in its own right, compounded without the aid of the Crucible sword.
The biggest complaint I heard in regards to Doom Eternal’s campaign was the overabundance of platforming and water-based sections, that disrupted the flow of killing demons. In Ancient Gods, both platforming and water-based areas make a comeback, but this time they feel a lot more well dispersed and tight, particularly due to the insane amount of enemy encounters present in the three levels. The little platforming and underwater exploration that is present, feel welcome and integral to the flow of each level, rather than distracting or not fun.
The big elephant in the room, or rather, the tall demon with the pointy horns and battle-axe, the Marauders, also make a comeback, and are now even tougher thanks to totem boosts and multiple encounters of that specific enemy type, within the same small area. Making matters even more formidable, enemies can now be supercharged thanks to a new possession mechanic.
Possession is indicated via blue-glowing enemies whom not only dole out more damage and take longer to kill but upon death, release the demon possession, which then needs to be dealt with using the microwave beam mod of the plasma rifle. This mechanic not only gives the often-underutilized mod a second life but amps up the challenge considerably, as possessed demons’ are by far the toughest variant of the enemies found within Ancient Gods.
Three levels may seem somewhat thin, but like the main campaign, id has made these DLC levels large enough where just playing through them will take time, (especially on some of the harder modes). The inclusion of collectables, secret encounters and the like, also help place the Ancient God levels on par with the base games’ offerings.
Visually, Ancient Gods looks the part, mixing familiar venues with new locations reminiscent of classic Doom, in particular, the Blood Swamp, the second stage within Ancient Gods, reminded me of the Hell Keep/Inferno levels found in the original 1993 Doom.
Overall, Doom Eternal’s first piece of substantial singleplayer oriented DLC feels like it is off to a good start, offering a real challenge for fans of the original while feeling like a natural continuation of the base game. In essence, Ancient Gods Part One feels essential to the Doom Eternal experience, rather than something that feels tacked on or unnecessary, while simultaneously setting up some fun narrative beats for part Two of the DLC.