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Heretic, Doom with spells!

Heretic was, as far as I know, Raven's fourth game; Black Crypt and Shadowcaster and CyClones being the previous three. I've played the first two, on the Amiga and PC respectively. They were solid games, Shadowcaster in particular being one of the first first-person games out. Heretic is a Doom-based game, and was released shortly after Doom's release.

Like Doom, it was released with the first episode as a free download which encouraged you to buy the whole game. Whereas Doom was all science-fiction Alien-type shoot-em-up, Heretic entered the fantasy world with a bang. No BFG's or shotguns here. You play Corvus, an exiled member of the Sidhe, out to right wrongs committed by D'Sparil, one of the Serpent Riders. What this means in reality, is you get to blow away hordes of pixellated minions with a variety of weapons and power-ups.


They range from the simple staff, right up to the devastating Mace. You also had several picked up items to enhance your combat abilities, apart from health and weapon ammo. This game enhanced the Doom engine, by introducing an inventory of pick-up items and the ability to look up and down. The items to be picked up included the Tome of Power, which augmented your weapon in a major way.

Even the plain old staff became an annihilation machine when powered up. You had the Timebomb of the Ancients, which exploded like a grenade, the Morph Ovum which changed enemies into chickens (and other players in multiplayer). There is a flight ring, an invulnerability ring, a bag of holding which increases your holding capacity, an invisibility power-up and a torch.

The game progresses the same way Doom does, in fact it uses Doom's level-numbering schema, the E1M1 format. Like Doom, at the end of every episode is a Boss Monster, and at the very end of Heretic is D'Sparil himself; a hooded wizard riding a serpent. You can save the game at any time and load it the same way. I like games like that, that don't have ridiculous save game systems, and one hot-key does the job.

You'll need to save the game often, especially if you play Heretic at either of its two highest difficulty settings. You have five to choose from and the middle one is the recommended setting. The action comes thick and fast. This is a first-person shooter after all, not a CRPG, and it's a blast to play. Like Doom, the game supports multiplay. I played this game all the way through in co-op mode with a friend over a modem, and I can say, it's a great experience. There's little lag and the gameplay is superb.

A screenshot from Heretic

The music and effects are excellent, water splashes, monster cries and roars, wind, etc. The music is mood-piece stuff, medieval locked-in-a-dungeon themed.

This game is the first in what could be called the Fantasy Four from Raven. A direct sequel to this game was released in 1998 and used a nifty over-the-shoulder perspective. This is Heretic 2, a game I'll review itself at some stage. Following Heretic was Hexen and Hexen 2, which were set in the same fantasy world, but you didn't play the same Corvus elf.

Heretic didn't sell as well as Doom (few things did admittedly); mainly as the cheap blammo thrills weren't there like they were in Doom. I.e, you used magical weapons such as Claw Orbs and Hellstaves to nuke monsters with, not identifiable weapons like shotguns and chain guns. Plus, it's a derivative game, being based on Doom technology. There's something more appealing to the gamer in blowing away a mutant than a gargoyle or a knight.

Until Soldier of Fortune, Raven had problems selling a lot of their games in large volumes. Which was a shame, as they haven't made a bad one yet. Raven has released the source to Heretic, so its yours to do what you want with. It's old (1993) and will look like garbage to a newer PC gamer accustomed to hardware acceleration, but the gameplay rocks and the fun factor is high.

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