Nearly five months since the release of Doom Eternal’s first DLC, The Ancient Gods Part One, and Part Two is finally upon us. Taking what was already one of the most difficult expansions in recent history and raising white-knuckle action to the next level, Eternal has once again come out swinging. Aside from acting as a fantastic bow to tie up the story from the Doom 2016 arc, the direction of Eternal also demonstrates an incredibly important but often under-explored aspect of gaming. This is the idea of pushing a game’s tools to their absolute limits.
Expanding on a Winning Formula
The idea of expanding on a popular formula isn’t a new one in the interactive entertainment space. In online casino gaming, for example, websites like VegasSlotsOnline demonstrate this idea perfectly. While the base systems for these websites and games require only the simplest interpretations, modern casinos take these concepts as far as possible. With bonuses like deposit matches to get players active, and an enormous selection of games with special features, the core tenant of this industry is to push development as far as possible. Naturally, reviews remain an important tool for players to find the best slot like they do with videogames.
It would make sense that this same concept would apply back to video games, but this rarely proves true. In video games, a title far more often introduces a range of tools for the player to work with, then ultimately leaves their potential underdeveloped. The reason for this is usually quite simple, in that pushing the use of and coordination of tools to their limits is often overwhelming to the player. The days of pushing players to the edge of their ability are now long past us, with few titles taking this route. As it just so happens, Doom Eternal is one of these games and is also considered one of the more difficult titles of the last few years.
— DOOM (@DOOM) March 10, 2020
New Tools, New Enemies, New Setups
The base Doom Eternal brought myriad changes from Doom 2016, which was itself fairly close to a modernisation of the classic 1994 Doom formula. The first Dooms were about moving fast and cutting down hordes of demons, and while Doom 3 was interesting in its own right, it took a very different direction. In the end, Doom 2016 would only set the stage, where Eternal would raise everything to the next level.
Eternal was faster, it was more frantic, it had more enemy variety, and more enemies attacking you at once. It also included new tools like the freeze grenade and flamethrower, and fundamentally changed the operation of the chainsaw. Where 2016 was a proof of concept, Eternal was an evolution of the concept, essentially fusing resource management and planning flawlessly into an intense FPS environment.
From this starting point, the first Doom Eternal DLC began. Eternal had already shown the players what could be done, after which The Ancient Gods appeared and demanded the players demonstrate mastery. So intense was the DLC experience that many players had to drop difficulty a level or two, just to make it through to the end.
The Ancient Gods Part Two builds on this idea, where to succeed at the higher difficulties requires a mastery of the game’s many active systems. With new enemies like the stone imp, armoured baron, and the dreaded return of the chaingunner, the latest DLC places even more on the chessboards that makes up the Eternal battlefield. While we don’t want to spoil anything, any players who thought themselves ready should perhaps run a couple of practice laps before jumping into this one.
The result of all this effort on developer ID's behalf is a game that expects far more than most games do. It's not just about challenge maps pushing players to difficult encounters, the DLC is entirely built around the limits of what even dedicated gamers can accomplish. Its potential explored to a calibre that most games will never approach, with the final outcome being one of the most satisfying experiences in gaming yet. At least, if you already dig what Eternal was going for.
The Eternal Conundrum
As far as Doom Eternal has come, there is some question as to what comes next. Even with the two DLC’s each exploring new additions to the game, the underlying systems are a year old at this point. The skill has been demanded, the demands have been met, and in this, Doom might have taken its current systems as far as they could go.
In building on Doom 2016’s gameplay, Eternal’s requirement of so much technical ability could well have approached a sort of dead-end. Simply put, it’s not possible to do to Eternal what Eternal did to 2016. The barrier of complexity to overcomplexity has been pushed against, where the addition of many new aspects will only overwhelm.
So, where could ID take Doom next? That’s a question we’ve found ourselves wondering over the last DLC, and we’re sure it’s a question that weighs heavily on the developer’s minds. If you’re already the best, and you’re already so far ahead of the pack, do you wait for others to catch up, or do you try something new? There are no easy answers, though there is one unavoidable conclusion to be born: if you’re an Eternal fan like we are, you can’t wait to see what comes next.