It’s been a long time since DOOM Eternal was released, or at least, it seems like it. Back in March when we finally got our hands on the game, the Coronavirus pandemic was gaining ground and many parts of the world were heading into lockdown. It almost seems like deja vu, that history repeats itself as the first DLC instalment, The Ancient Gods – Part One is released. Is there a mysterious connection? Don’t be daft.
In other news you probably haven’t missed, since DOOM Eternal’s release Microsoft has acquired Bethesda, and many blockbuster franchises along with it. As a result, the excellent DOOM Eternal, of which I gave 5/5 stars, has since been added to Game Pass. Alas, the first expansion has not but you can get a slight discount off the purchase price if you have subscribed to the games on demand service. So it’s not all bad.
When we left the Doom Slayer, he had been a busy boy, offing the Khan Maykr and the resurrected Icon of Sin. The earth was saved and peace seemed to settle at last. However, it didn’t take long for the demonic threat to re-emerge. Without the Khan Maykr the legions of Hell rushed to fill the power void left behind. True enough, as stated at the end of the main game, your battle truly is “eternal”.
The good news is that you start pretty much from where you left off. Your arsenal of weapons and abilities all carry over from the main campaign, with the exception of the Crucible (red glowing sword).
You’ll need them too, as from the word go you’ll be facing off against the full force of hell’s demonic legions. Not only this, but you’ll be doing so in plenty of cramped spaces, so you’ll need to be light-footed to survive.
It’s also my solemn duty to report that DOOM Eternal’s most frustrating enemy, the Marauder, returns. It doesn’t take long for you to bump into your old adversary either. And don’t go thinking that once you’ve defeated it that’s done with, because you’ll have to do it again, and again, and again. It’s a fresh reminder how irritating they are, especially when you’re locked in a room with one.
The Ancient Gods – Part One does have a couple of new tricks up its sleeve however, such as turrets. These have weak spots that will require your Heavy Cannon’s “precision bolt” to take down quickly and cleanly.
There’s also a few new enemies to deal with, the most challenging being the “Spirit”. These will possess demons, making them stronger. Much stronger in fact, and faster. So fast they’ll have no trouble keeping right on top of you whilst giving you a good pasting. When you kill the demon the Spirit is possessing, it will become exposed for a brief time, and you can take it out, but only with the Plasma Rifle’s “Microwave Beam”. You’ll not want to miss your chance either, otherwise you’ll have more super-powered demons to deal with. Think of it as a hardcore Luigi’s Mansion. On the occasions where you have Spirits and Archviles to deal with, you’ll just want to go and have a cry in a dark corner. I know I did.
Boss battles are back, and are just as tough as they always were. Thankfully the “Sentinel Armor” buff is still available if you die so many times in a row. Trust me, you will. However, the same battle then feels a bit too easy with the armour equipped. I really struggled to find a happy medium, and I was playing on “Hurt Me Plenty” (medium difficulty). Otherwise it will provide more than enough of a challenge for most players and I certainly felt no incentive whatsoever to dial up the difficulty.
This is perfectly demonstrated by the final boss encounter, which you may shudder to hear that there are five stages to. Surviving the pure chaos going on is near impossible, and it only gets more difficult with each part of the battle. After a few deaths, you’ll get the Sentinel Armor and suddenly feel invincible. As long as you balance your health, armour and ammo, you’ll have no problems at all in emerging victorious.
Overall the campaign in The Ancient Gods – Part One feels like much more of a grind than that of DOOM Eternal. Instead of red “demonic possession” hotspots where big battles occur, the enemy hordes are constant. Pretty much in every other room in fact. I’m not sure if this is on purpose as DLC campaigns are naturally shorter, therefore it stops players breezing through the game too quickly. In that sense it works, as after a couple of hours I needed a break from the relentless demon slaying (and getting brutally slaughtered).
You’ll not just be dealing with more frequent battles; in many ways enemies are made much tougher to take down. This can be thanks to new enemies, such as the Spirits and Empowered Demons (which have drawn more power after killing other players in their campaign) or simply just down to the combination of demons on the battlefield.
This expansion ups the ante, but that ends up detracting somewhat from the enjoyment of the game. It’s still the well-tuned, tactical run and gun DOOM gameplay you’re used to, but the shine is taken off a bit by the relentless, hardcore action. If you’ve got the patience to see it through to the end it’s worth it, but you may end up telling the game to f**k off a fair few times, as I did. I really dread what the neighbours must have been thinking.
On a more positive note The Ancient Gods: Part One feels like a pretty chunky DLC package. There are three levels which will take an average player around 2-3hrs each to complete (if you’re trying to grab all the collectibles too that is). There are a few twists and turns in the story too, which keeps things interesting and does somewhat spur you on. It sets things up nicely for Part Two, which should be out in the first half of next year.
The Ancient Gods: Part One on Xbox One changes nothing fundamental from DOOM Eternal, but instead dials up the demon slaying up to eleven. It’s worth battling through as there’s still fun to be had, but you’ll have to work a lot harder for it.