Doom Eternal The Ancient Gods Part 1, feels like the classic old school expansions we would get from every other successful FPS a decade and some change ago. It builds on the core features from Eternal while upping the challenge and combat intensity to ungodly levels. Since the expansion is a standalone release, you could jump right in without playing Eternal, but that's not something I would recommend to experienced FPS players, let alone someone making their first dip into modern Doom games.
The Ancient Gods picks up right at the end of Doom Eternal, and wastes no time familiarizing you with the game's mechanics. Instead, it dumps you right back in the action from the get go. From the very start you'll be bombarded with heavy hitters from Eternal's end game, and it only gets harder from there. You start with a fully upgraded Doom Slayer minus the Crucible, and the game assumes you have already mastered the combat loop of Eternal.
The expansion brings three new meaty levels, the UAC research platform out in the middle of the sea, the Blood Swamp in Hell, and Holt located within the remnants of destroyed Urdak. They are stunning, with each visually distinct from each other while the level design is on par with Eternal's best, offering great combat arenas with platforming sections strewn about breaking up the pace.
Most of the story in The Ancient Gods, like in Eternal, is hidden away in codex entries. The lore delivered in the expansion fills some holes left by the previous game, while delivering a solid setup for Part two. It's nothing groundbreaking, but it provides enough intrigue to keep you interested.
You won't find any new weapons in The Ancient Gods, the only new addition to the Slayer are three new Support Runes that can be unlocked by completing Slayer Gates. Break Blast creates an explosion and damages nearby enemies when you destroy weak points. Desperate Punch, doubles your Blood Punch damage when you're under 75% health, and lastly Take Back, a rune that allows you to regain the lost extra life if you manage to kill the demon that killed you within a short time frame.
Most of the new additions come in the form of special enemies. If you are one of the people who hated the Marauder in Eternal, lets just say that you'll have a bad time in The Ancient Gods. In addition to the whole roster of Eternal's end game enemies that the game bombards you with from the very start, you'll encounter a ton of Marauders throughout the campaign. Some highlight encounters include two Marauders at the same time, and a buffed one that you have to finish off before you can destroy the buff totem. It's nail biting stuff on the higher difficulties, but even that pales when id introduces The Spirit, a new brute of an enemy that'll make you wish for more Marauders.
The Spirit possesses nearby enemies, buffs their health and speed, and provides the possessed demon with immunities to weak point damage and faltering. That's all fine and dandy when the Spirit possesses fodder enemies, but when its host is a heavy demon like the Baron, Mancubus, or Arachnotron things get exponentially more challenging. The possessed Baron is probably the hardest enemy to face, when buffed by the Spirit the Baron is relentless. He's constantly on your back, deals massive damage, and can shrug off not one but two BFG shots to the face. When you add a ton of other enemies to the mix as id gleefully does, the encounters reach the intensity level beyond anything Eternal managed to offer.
To kill the Spirit, first you need to kill the host forcing the Spirit out, then you have a precious few seconds to trap it with Plasma gun's Microwave Beam mod before it manages to possess another demon in the vicinity. This drastically limits your mobility, which is pretty much a death sentence in Doom combat arenas. To successfully get rid of it you'll have to take some risks, or deal with every other enemy while the possessed one constantly harases you.
Then there's The Blood Angel, an enemy that's suprisingly easy to kill, but can be a huge problem if left alive during encounters. Its ranged attack, while slow moving, deals massive damage and slows you down to a crawl. You cannot damage it while its shields are up, so you have to wait for moments when The Blood Angel drops them during certain attacks. That short moment gives you a chance to headshot the Spirit killing it instantly.
Another new addition are the Hellified Turrets, a fixed position enemy that's easy to dispatch but can be a nuisance if you don't get rid of it fast. They constantly harras you by chipping away at your health from afar. The tentacles are also back and like to pop out when you least expect them keeping you on edge during some encounters.
Lastly, the expansion features a brand new soundtrack composed by Andrew Hulshult, and id Software engineer David Levybest. While not reaching the hights of Mick Gordon's work on Doom 2016, and Eternal, the soundtrack in The Ancient Gods is fine addition and gives confidence that Doom music is in good hands going forward.
Overall, The Ancient Gods shows how much confidence id Software has in their design. They doubled down on all divisive features from Eternal. You don't like Marauders? Here, have two at the same time. You hate tentacles, have a giant one... The Ancient Gods is made for fans of Eternal first, every combat encounter is designed to challenge experienced players in a new and borderline cruel ways, bringing the intensity in the expansion way up. And that's the gist of it all, if you liked Eternal you'll love The Ancient Gods, if you don't like platforming or special enemies like the Marauder in your Doom game then The Ancient Gods won't change your mind.The articles content, opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed in SAPPHIRE NATION are the authors’ own and do not necessarily represent official policy or position of SAPPHIRE Technology.