|Pardon the dust!
This page includes some jargon that hasn't been added to the site's glossary yet. I'll be around to fix this later, but sorry for the inconvenience in the meantime.
Review: Heretic: Shadow of the Serpent Riders
At a Glance
|ESRB Rating:||NR - Not Rated|
|My Rating:||Adults - 18+|
|Genre:||First Person Shooter|
|Review Published On:||June 23rd, 2021|
|Played on:||Thaddeus & Giles|
How you save depends on what sourceport you're using. Some allow you to save at the beginning of a level, while others let you save at any time.
Despite the name, there aren't many references to evil magic. The main issue is the large amount of blood and gore depicted during the violent gameplay.
In fact, Heretic is built around an upgraded version of Doom II's engine, creating a hybrid of First Person Shooter and RPG gameplay. Some of the new features would become standard fare in FPS games, like the ability to aim along the Y-axis, fly, and swim. However, Heretic's implementation of these features wasn't perfect, as they came with limitations. The most obvious limitation is that nobody in this game uses a hitscan weapon; everything is either a melee weapon or a weapon that fires slow moving projectiles. These projectiles move slow enough that both the player and their enemies can dodge the attack by simply moving out of the way.
On a different note, the inventory system made for some notable of improvements to the typical FPS gameplay. In most FPS games, powerups are usually only be found near the places where they might be needed. This often leads developers to create stereotypical "pre boss" areas, which are small rooms containing only health and ammo pickups that appear right before a major boss fight. These rooms have become a running joke in the gaming community, as they make it painfully clear what the player is going to be doing next. In contrast, by allowing the player to carry powerups in an inventory, Heretic's levels can avoid this issue and hide trinkets all over the level. This not only allow the levels to be more organically designed, it also makes exploring more fun and rewarding.
But, the inventory could break the game. If a player stockpiled enough items, they'd eventually reach a point where they weren't facing any real risks. So, the developers fixed this problem by having the player lose most of their collected items between levels. No matter how many things you've collected in a level, you'll only be able to keep one of each item when you move on. The practical way to deal with this is to heal yourself completely before exiting the level. Otherwise, those health potions are gone forever.
Aside from the inventory, the main roleplaying aspect of Heretic comes from its high fantasy setting. Instead of fighting soldiers or aliens using guns and flamethrowers, the player uses magical crossbows and enchanted staffs to fight against a magical threat. This is also the source of the game's name. You see, an evil group of sorcerers known as the Serpent Riders have used magic or force to "convert" most of the world into worshiping them. This cult, known as the Order of the Sign, has now been instructed to kill every heretic (ie, anyone who refuses to bow before them). Since the elves refused to submit, all of them, including your character, have been labeled heretics and are being hunted down. Your character objects to this, and embarked on a quest to stop the Serpent Riders and save the world from their influence.
Ultimately, Heretic is a great old school FPS. If you're like me and enjoy playing through Doom once in a while, you'll enjoy this new twist on the same general concept. Just be aware that Heretic goes a bit farther with the gore than Doom; much like how Doom's chaingunner always dies in a pile of gore, the enemies in Heretic always die graphically.
Points of Interest
Ambushes are also commonplace in this game, as are areas where monsters can attack you from behind walls. You'll need to be wary of the latter, as the levels are often designed so that these hidden enemies are protected from your attacks. There's usually a hidden hallway or other way to reach these hidden enemies, so you might want to look for it.
Fortunately, the developers were nice enough to include an item that reveals the entire map, secret areas included. If you can just find that, you'll be able to work out any obstacle the game throws at you.
A similar bit of silliness happens if you try using cheat codes from Doom -- a few of them do work, just in the exact opposite way. For example, attempting to use cheats to give yourself every weapon results in the game printing a sarcastic message and taking away all of your ammo.
Concerns and Issues
You'll also need to deal with Disciples of D'Sparil, religious zealots who use their magic to subdue heretics like yourself. These cultists are depicted as floating robed figures, much like your stereotypical cultists from a movie.
Someone might make an argument about the symbol used by the Order of the Sign being demonic, but I feel like that's a bit of a stretch. It's supposed to be an inverted trident; there's a bar across the handle that sort of makes it look like a cross resting on a sideways letter E, but even if you take it that way, it's not a real occult symbol of any sort.
But, dying monsters aren't the only time you'll encounter something graphic. Many levels are decorated with hanged disciples, implying that even members of the Order of the Sign aren't safe from being labeled as heretics and executed. Skulls hanging from the ceiling are also a popular decoration.