Doom Eternal: The Ancient Gods Part One Review — Hurt Me Plenty

Doom Eternal's first expansion, The Ancient Gods — Part One, stumbles in a few areas, but it's ultimately a damn good addition to the foundation laid earlier this year.

The Ancient Gods — Part One came out on October 20 for PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Google Stadia. It's the first story expansion for the criminally good Doom Eternal. I'm a pretty big fan of Doom Eternal and Doom 2016. I'm also a big fan of good campaigns getting good expansions.

The Ancient Gods picks up right after Doom Eternal. As expected, Doom Guy's job repelling the denizens of Hell isn't quite finished. There's still work to do. After defeating redacted at the end of Eternal (not spoiling that little tidbit just in case), everyone's favorite space marine is off to rip and tear the gods apart and restore the natural order of things.

On the way, a few thousand demon's and a handful of puzzles get in his way. You know, typical Doom stuff. 

One thing I like about The Ancient Gods is that if you're accessing the story DLC through Doom Eternal by way of the game's Season Pass, you don't have to do anything special to start it. It's available right in the main menu.

The other cool thing is that this expansion is available separately from the main game. It can be purchased standalone and played by itself, without having Doom Eternal installed at all. Though, considering how the storyline picks up right after Doom Eternal, it's best that you've played the base game to know what the hell is going on. 

Either way, the Season Pass is $29.99 and includes another future expansion, The Ancient Gods — Part Twowhile The Ancient Gods — Part One itself is $19.99. Regardless of which version you pick up, that's not too bad considering how robust this first expansion is. 

Doom Eternal: The Ancient Gods Part One Review — Hurt Me Plenty

The Ancient Gods — Part One feels even harder than the base game, and enemies seem to be even more aggressive than before.

Doom Eternal is already difficult, more so than Doom 2016 in my estimation. Of course, everyone's mileage will vary based on skill and other factors, but The Ancient Gods — Part One can be a veritable gauntlet of giblets. 

The first level throws everything at you all almost all at once: imps, Pinky Demons, Barons of Hell, an Arch-vile, and even a few Cyberdemons for good measure. And that's on the easiest difficulty, I'm Too Young to Die. It's a lot, but it's also welcome, considering you have all of your weapons and abilities from the base game ready from the start. 

There's not much to say about the expansion's combat since it's (unsurprisingly) exactly the same as Doom Eternal. You'll certainly need your wits about you to survive, and conserving ammo isn't an option. The Ancient Gods — Part One feels even harder than the base game, and enemies seem to be even more aggressive than before.

It's very easy to get overwhelmed — even on the first stage. I had forgotten a few of the controls (jumping back in for the first time since March), and my only option for success was to restart the first mission completely. 

The new enemy types will force you to rethink your battle plans, but while they do force new strategies upon you, they can be more frustrating than fun. This is especially true with the Blood Maykr and the Spirit.

The first is a riff on Eternal's Maykr Drone, but it is much more powerful and much more difficult to take down. It's only (seemingly) vulnerable in one state, but attacking it always leaves you wide open to its slowing attack, which can end in a quick reset. In the final boss encounter, this can be hair-rippingly annoying. 

The Spirit, on the other hand, possesses other demons, making them immensely powerful and almost unfairly resilient. Once you defeat the possessed demon, you must take the Spirit out with the plasma rifle before it enthralls another demon and starts the cycle over again. In theory, it's a nice addition, but in practice, it means you must divert all attention to the Spirit first, regardless of the other enemies on the screen. 

Things do get a little bit easier once you get back into the swing of things (or haven't left the swing at all), but the number of enemies remains hectic. Enemy waves are often filled with every demon in the book, and with the DLC's much tighter areas, it's easy to get overwhelmed in a heartbeat. 

There are only three levels in the DLC — UAC Atlantica, Blood Swamps, and The Holt — but they are very long.

Each mission can take upwards of two hours to complete depending on skill and difficulty level, so there's a lot of playtime here, considering the base game takes roughly 13 hours to complete without looking for collectibles and such. 

If, however, you'd like to extend your playtime even further, this expansion also includes collectible Codex Pages, secret areas, secret encounters, and Slayer Gates to uncover and complete. There aren't any Modbots, Sentinel Crystals, or Praetor Points, though, nor are there any Mastery Tokens, Empyrean Keys, Toys, Albums, or Cheat Codes. 

There also aren't any new weapons, which is a bit of a bummer. That being said, the base catalog of guns is still so powerful and fun to play with that it hardly matters from moment to moment once all is said and done. 

On top of that, three new support runes — Desperate Punch,  Take Back, and Break Blast — do make for some interesting wrinkles in how the expansion is played, but they aren't game-changers by any means. I made my way all the way through the expansion's story content without unlocking any of them, so it's a bit unfortunate they don't have a bigger impact. 

There are sharks in Doom now...

The big standout in this DLC is the level design. While some areas can get overly cramped, leading to some frustrating and truly chaotic encounters, id has done a great job making each area distinct and memorable. UAC Atlantica is an instantly iconic Doom level, deftly expanding the series' environmental lore and showing us a type of locale never before seen in the shooter's history.

There are sharks in Doom now, and swimming plays a big role in the level. Both work exquisitely, and neither are additions that I would have said would work in Doom before this DLC. 

Blood Swamps and The Hoth, the expansion's other two levels, are more akin to what fans have come to expect with Doom, echoing aesthetical themes of Doom Eternal. But each has unique qualities that, again, make them instantly recognizable from the giblet-filled Hell areas we've grown used to. Some areas are even haunting, full of foreboding mist and expert use of light. 

Blood Swamps exudes a creepiness not felt in the base game, moving Doom somewhat into horror territory, where The Hoth puts Doom Guy in a forest full of demons and floating mushrooms that shouldn't work but does in spades. 

All of these levels also include sets of platforming puzzles to decipher. None are overly difficult, but much like those found in the base game, they can be needlessly annoying at times. The primary issue is that many are timed and unclear, sending you to your death a few too many times. 

Doom Eternal: The Ancient Gods Part One Review — The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Wonderfully realized and instantly memorable levels 
  • Compelling continuation of the Doom Eternal storyline
  • Same frenetic Doom combat
  • New demons to slaughter
  • Sharks and swimming!?!

Cons

  • New demons to slaughter
  • Some unbalanced enemy encounters
  • Unclear and sometimes frustrating platforming
  • New Runes don't impact gameplay that much
  • Lack of meaningful progression

The Ancient Gods — Part One is a very good expansion.

For Doom fans, it's hard to do a whole lot better than this. There are some vexing sections, the new enemies can be a double-edged sword, and there's very little sense of progression — you're not getting new perks or upgrades that take your power to the next level. 

But these issues are relatively easy to overlook in the grand scheme of things. The base game isn't without its difficulty spikes, and platforming is hit or miss there as well. Whereas Marauders are the bugbear of Eternal, the new enemies fill a similar role in being cumbersome until you learn their idiosyncrasies. 

And sure, it's disappointing there isn't a greater sense of progression, but in some ways, it makes sense considering you're taking on the gods. Even Doom Guy should theoretically be (a bit) less powerful than these celestial beings. 

All said, if you've slept on The Ancient Gods so far and enjoyed Doom Eternal, do yourself a favor and pick it up. It's a ripping good time despite its blemishes. 

[Note: Bethesda provided the copy of The Ancient Gods — Part One used for this review.]

Our Rating
8
Doom Eternal's first expansion, The Ancient Gods — Part One, stumbles in a few areas, but it's ultimately a damn good addition to the foundation laid earlier this year.
Reviewed On: Playstation 4

Editor in Chief

Published Nov. 12th 2020

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