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Posted on Apr 4th 2020 at 08:00:00 AM by (zophar53)
Posted under Doom Eternal, Doom, id Software, Bethesda

Four years ago, id Software resurrected the Doom franchise from development hell. Under the creative direction of Hugo Martin and Marty Stratton, Doom 2016 retained just enough of the original games' DNA to make it feel old-school, while at the same time bringing the series into the 21st century with intelligent upgrades, combat that rewarded you for playing aggressively, and a demonic fire-and-brimstone soundtrack that was perfect for the ridiculous and irreverent tone of the whole thing. It was my favorite game of that year, and in August of 2018, singlebanana, GrayGhost81, and I took to the RF Generation Playcast to heap praise upon it for the community playthrough that month.  At long last, the direct follow-up to 2016's game is here. Its predecessor set such a high bar that it's hard to see how this new title could improve things. So join me as I give my thoughts after the first half dozen hours.

There's a reason this piece is a first impressions article instead of a full-on review, but we'll get to that in a bit. It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who played Doom 2016 that Eternal starts things off pretty much the same way. You're dropped into a small combat space and are taught about glory kills and the chainsaw, which make up the backbone of the combat loop we know and love. Though the Doomslayer isn't given use of it until the second level, there is a new third element to this loop. At that point you get a cannon on your shoulder that looks not unlike that of the Predator alien, and it shoots a brief burst of fire. When you kill enemies that are on fire, they spew armor.

Destroy a revenant's rocket launchers to turn it into a melee enemy

Between the flame burst, your chainsaw, and the glory kills, you have methods for replenishing all your basic resources in the heat of battle, and believe me, you're going to need every one of them. It doesn't take long before you realize that Doom Eternal is a much more difficult game than its predecessor. In this game, all of the level's secrets and combat arenas are indicated on your map once you get close to them, and as new enemies are introduced, you're told they have very specific weaknesses. For example, revenants (the skeleton demons with dual rocket launchers on their shoulders) are much easier to deal with if you can shoot out both of their rocket launchers first. One of the new enemies, the arachnotron, has a laser turret over its head (brain?) that will deal massive damage to you from a distance. If you take out the turret first, its offensive capabilities are greatly reduced and it will try to get closer to you.

These are great revamps to the enemies that introduce a new layer of strategy. The problem is that unless you have the skill to target an enemy's weak point first, you have little chance of surviving. And when the combat arenas are just as fierce and fast-paced as the toughest fights in Doom 2016, it makes it extremely difficult to pull off.

Imagine trying to snipe that turret while imps, machine gun guys, and a revenant are all hot on your heels

The reason this is a first impressions piece instead of a review is because after more than half a dozen hours with Doom Eternal, I'm still only on the second level. Partially because the levels are larger than anything you'll find in the last game, but mostly because it's been incredibly frustrating trying to make progress with the way the game wants me to play.

One of the beautiful things about the last game is that as difficult as it could be, it gave you the freedom to approach the combat how you wanted. As long as you didn't try to hide and you kept pressing forward, you could take out the demons how you felt was best at the time. In this new game, it feels like the developers are actively forcing you to play how they think the game should be played, to the point where it feels less like combat chess and more like a combat puzzle. That's not how I want to play my first person shooters.

I've had to play nearly every combat encounter at least a handful of times, because I feel like if I don't have the flow of the enemies memorized and how they need to be handled, I have no chance of success. "Ok, in this arena I know it starts with an arachnotron and a revenant. Then, after I kill them, a hell knight spawns. After him, a cacodemon spawns. Next, another arachnotron." All the while, fodder enemies like machine gun guys and imps are chasing me down and pelting me with their own attacks. And you want the fodder enemies there, because even though they're more threats to deal with, they're also your primary source of replenishing health, armor, and ammo while you're dealing with the gauntlet of the larger demons.

Throwing a grenade down a cacodemon's gullet to instantly get it ready for a glory kill is actually one of the easier weaknesses to exploit

On the one hand, once you have the entire battle memorized and are able to execute every element of it, it feels great. You're forced to constantly switch weapons and weapon mods to suit the situation, and resources are intentionally more limited in Eternal than in Doom 2016, so whether you're low on health, armor, or ammo, you have to constantly be aware of ever-changing priorities in the thick of battle. On the other hand, getting to the point where I'm able to execute all of that has been an extremely painful process. After a battle in Doom 2016 I felt exhilarated and powerful, and when I died I never felt like it was because the game was asking too much of me. When I die in Eternal, I feel like the developers are forcing me down a gameplay path that requires a level of pinpoint accuracy and execution I'm not sure I can pull off. Even when I've fought an arena 10 times and finally killed that last demon in the area, I feel less exhilarated and more like I just came down from a bad high after someone's ground my face into the dirt with their boot. I feel paranoid, drained, like I haven't taken a breath in five minutes, and that there was an element of luck to the whole thing. In my opinion, that's not how a game should make a player feel.

I don't know, maybe it's me. People are out there loving (and finishing) this game. I'm playing on console, so maybe I'd have better luck with the accuracy of a mouse and keyboard at my fingertips. I'm also playing on the standard difficulty. It's possible that if I bumped it down to easy mode I'd have more success. I'm not particularly great at first person shooters; I can barely finish the campaigns of games like Call of Duty anymore. But as someone who completed both Doom 2016 and Bloodborne I have enough faith in my skills that I've been having trouble comprehending my struggles with Eternal. At this point, Doom 2016 feels like a training level for Doom Eternal. I feel like I could go back to the last game and dominate like I never have before.

I also don't want to give the impression that I hate this game. The heavy metal soundtrack is once again composed by Mick Gordon, and he's done just as wonderful a job as he did last time in providing a soundscape that makes me want to jump in the fray, ripping and tearing my way through every last demon unfortunate enough to cross my eyeline. The menus and upgrades have gotten significant overhauls. The menus this time are more angular and colored, giving things kind of a video game-y top coat. They look cool, but it almost gives the impression that the Doomslayer himself is in a VR simulation of his own adventures. In addition to the weapon and stat upgrades, id has added an ongoing progression level to your profile. Like many other online shooters, digging into these systems will reveal weekly and monthly events, goals, and skins that can be used to add replay value. It's not a new idea anymore, but it's a nice addition to this franchise. I just wish I was good enough at the game to take advantage of it all.

Leveling up through a season or weekly challenge gets you icons, avatars, and skins

And that's kind of where I've landed at this point. I want so, so bad to love Doom Eternal, but it seems to want to beat that love out of me. It almost feels like an abusive partner. I love it, and it loves me. It really does. The problem is me; I'm just not good enough. If I try hard enough and get good enough to play exactly the way it wants me to play, then it'll be great, you'll see. I'll be bruised and broken, but I'll know I've earned my success.

I have some credit burning a hole in my Steam wallet. If I play with mouse and keyboard and bust myself down to easy mode, maybe I'll find a way to love this game. But as it stands now, playing on the default difficulty on console, almost every battle is a potential rage quit, and part of me really does hate this game. Heck, I'd love to be able to talk about the story elements of the game, in non-spoilery ways, of course. I've heard it takes itself too seriously for its own good, but I still want to see it and know for myself. But since I'm still on the second level, I wouldn't know.

What are your experiences with Doom Eternal so far, those of you who've played it? Have you been having as frustrating a time as I have, or should I just stop complaining and try sucking less? If you haven't played it yet, what have you heard, and what is your interest level? I'd love to hear other perspectives, so let me know in the comments.

Leveling up two different resources in a pair gives you a bonus perk

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I'm currently playing Doom Eternal on the default difficulty setting, and while I will agree that it is more difficult than Doom 2016 overall, I wouldn't say that I've been having a hard time with it. I think I'm about halfway through the game and have only died maybe a handful of times. Although I'm not putting the same kind of thought and memorization into the battles as you are, I kind of just have a pattern of using more powerful weapons and their mods on tougher enemies and being opportunistic with the subweapons (instantly taking out a tough enemy with the chainsaw, using grenades on groups, utilizing Blood Punch then quickly replenishing it through Glory Kills, etc.).

That being said, while I am enjoying the game quite a bit, for me personally it's not even coming close to Doom 2016. Part of that game's brilliance was in its simplicity, and I feel like Eternal added so many elements and mechanics that it crossed the line of being a bit too complicated for its own good. I also find many of the new enemy types to be annoying, and I feel like the levels are a bit too large and sprawling for my liking and would have preferred more linear corridors.

I know you were a huge fan of Doom 2016, so I'm sure not having a great time with Eternal is beyond disappointing. I hope it turns around for you and you can find a groove with this game that works for you.
@Disposed Hero: I'm glad to hear you're having a better go at it than I am. It is disappointing to have such an initial turnaround on Eternal. I haven't given up on it, but I think it will require more of a ramp-up and more practice on my end to meet the game on its own terms. Since I finished the last game on default difficulty on PC, it may have been overzealous for me to start on default on a console for this game, given the more pecise nature of the combat.

It's worth noting that I did start a new game on easy difficulty last night, and was having a lot better time with it. From this point forward I shall be referring to Doom Eternal's "I'm Too Young to Die" difficulty as "Doom 2016" difficulty. After some practice on easy mode and trying with a mouse and keyboard, maybe I can move up the difficulty level in time. Thanks for the encouragement!

I agree that Eternal seems to suffer from a typical sequel amount of feature/system bloat. It's not overwhelming for me at this point, but it's a lot more to keep track of. I also agree that Doom 2016 was great in its simplicity. I felt it found a near perfect amount of depth and approachability.

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