As I mentioned during my thoughts on the DOOM reboot’s reveal at E3, I’ve been a huge fan of the series for most of my life, thanks in no small part to the plethora of amazing maps and modifications the community have been creating for over 20 years. New and interesting tweaks to the game that helped popularise the FPS are still coming out almost every day.
Hearing that DOOM Snapmap will be the only form of official mod support the new DOOM will be getting proved even more disheartening in light of that. Whilst I totally understand that we’re talking about id Tech 6 here, huge new technology that most people, myself included, probably wouldn’t be able to do anything with even if they were given the tools, I found myself cynically musing that DOOM 4’s community will probably end up dropping off the map a few years down the line whilst the original’s keeps trundling along. I’m sure the Snapmap community will prove me wrong, but other classic FPSes aside I doubt we’ll ever see a game tout anything close to a 20-year history of modding again. One of the Elder Scrolls games, maybe.
With that in mind, I thought this would be a great time to take a look at what people can do with a 22 year old game given the opportunity and the foundation to do so.
A great example of that is Kyle873’s Doom RPG mod, which adds a number of RPG mechanics into DOOM’s gameplay, complete with character building, enemy statistics and levels, a whole bunch of new demons to destroy (if you get the Doom Roguelike Arsenal addon with it) and so much more. I sat down, plonked on the latest build of GZDoom, ran the rather handy Doom RPG launcher and stormed once more unto the breach.
Doom RPG presents you with four different character classes, each with different starting stats and a pair of traits that distinguish them from one another. The Marine, the closest in gameplay style to normal DOOM, spends only one “bullet” for every four shots with automatic weapons and has powerups last 50% longer; The Scout runs faster than the other classes and deals 8 times as much damage with pistols; The Technician can fashion modpacks (which improve the stats of your weapons) out of some other weapons and can carry more modpacks than normal and finally the Renegade switches weapons instantly, gets 1.5 times armour protection and gets 20% extra “pellets” with weapons such as shotguns. None of the classes modify DOOM’s core gameplay to any huge extent, but they still feel noticeably different if you’ve been playing the series for ages and bring a slight yet welcome change to the gameplay, making experimentation worthwhile.
I thought I’d keep things simple, so I picked a Marine and jumped into The Shores of Hell, the second episode of the The Ultimate DOOM. After shooting up the first few zombiemen just around the corner, one of them dropped a Battle Rifle, one of the many well-realised new weapons unique to Doom RPG. Armed with a better weapon, I took a teleporter and stormed into an open room with a small channel of blood flowing through the centre. There’s a whole bunch of Imps and Shotgun Sergeants in this room, but thankfully the battle rifle was great for making short work of them. The Marine’s trait of only spending ammo on every fourth shot really comes in handy – I was able to hold down the fire button for nearly six seconds without needing to reload, and it was amazing. As I blasted away the last few pixels of a Cyber-Imp’s health bar and got a fair bit of XP through a large combo, I levelled up. It was time to get some stats.
Every time you level up in DOOM RPG you receive “Modules” that go towards building up your statistics, of which there are eight – Strength, Defence, Vitality, Energy, Regen, Capacity, Agility and Luck. They’re mostly self explanatory – Strength concerns how much damage you do, Regen controls how quickly your health and energy (which I’ll go into later) regenerate, Capacity controls how much ammo you can hold, Luck governs your item drop rates and so on.
I quickly resolved to build my Marine into an absolute monster – as soon as I’d gotten enough Modules to warrant a big stat upgrade I went ahead and raised my Strength from 0 to 10 and my defence from 0 to 5, giving me 10% bonus damage and 4.6% bonus damage reduction. This was going to be fun.
Blasting my way through more demons – Pinky and otherwise – lead me to the second level, Containment Area. By pure chance I was introduced to another of the mod’s RPG mechanics here, the random events system. Whenever you enter a new level with Doom RPG installed, there’s a chance that one of a few possible random events might occur. These range from enemies having a particular “aura” around them that greatly increases one of their stats, meaning you have to be ready for a particularly strong or tanky enemy to show up at a moment’s notice to, I kid you not, a Tactical Nuke, fresh out of Modern Warfare 2, which gives you a set time limit to finish a level before it explodes, destroying everything in the level including you. Also, the event assigned to the level doesn’t change if you die and restart.
Whilst on some of the more confusing levels found in the DOOM games this could prove to be a very frustrating mechanic, some of the events create a great “Oh, crap!” moment that adds an element of fresh unpredictability to the levels. I took my Marine through the rest of the level, before departing to try the other classes.
In the end, I found myself torn between the Scout and the Renegade. The Scout’s speed and pistol damage output definitely changes your approach the game – it’s great speedrunning the levels you know already and it’s quite odd to be really glad that you’ve found a pistol instead of something bigger. The Renegade, on the other hand, is great for being a bit more devil-may-care – rushing into big crowds of demons and blasting them away with your greater shotgun spread is really satisfying, especially with some of the beefier shotguns available with the Doom Roguelike Arsenal.
For those looking for something really different from DOOM’s regular gameplay there’s the EP and Skills system. Modules can also buy you active Skills that you can equip onto a skill wheel and deploy whenever you see fit, costing you Energy Points (EP) every time you do so. The skills range from fairly ordinary heals and armour repairs to projecting psychic waves that push enemies back to summoning Cyberdemons at will. With such potential power in mind, EP seems intentionally difficult to regenerate – there’s very few items that restore it and no matter how many points you put into your Regen stat it’ll take a long time to regenerate your EP from nothing, especially at higher levels. This stops you from becoming a completely broken demigod. Whilst I often pass it up in favour of building my stats, the skills system can be a great deal of fun for characters who build around it – I’d love to see what would happen if a pair of Summoners teamed up to take on the entirety of DOOM II.
Talking about EP and Regen brings me to a slightly less palatable part of Doom RPG’s mechanics. Should you step onto the green sludge, or any other pain-causing floor found throughout the halls and winding corridors of the UAC bases, you’ll build up “toxicity” in addition to taking damage. Build up enough toxicity and you’ll stop regenerating your health and energy, which as you might imagine is a huge inconvenience for certain character builds. Plus, like Tokyo Jungle before it, the toxicity in this game takes a rather long time to degrade, with items that remove it being fairly rare. Avoid those acid pits, people!
Doom RPG also revamps the game’s armour system. Throughout the world, you can still find the classic green and blue armours, but you can also find a multitude of other ones, from ballistic vests to what I’m pretty sure is meant to be the nanosuit armour from Crysis. Some armour sets actually have their own properties, such as the fireproof armours that reduce the damage from Imps’ fireballs. You can also find equippable boots scattered where armour normally lies that have their own properties as well. Following on from this, there’s a bunch of UAC loot crates scattered about the levels, which when interacted with allow you to browse their contents – Doom RPG’s treasure chests. These can contain anything from medikits to new weapons and armour, so they’re definitely worth keeping an eye out for.
The best part about all this is that I’ve barely scratched the surface of what this mod features – there’s assembling weapons, earning credits from the UAC as you level up to spend in the game’s shop, crafting items through systems a bit too complex for me to wrap my head around, a bunch of new enemies including great new bosses that either adjust or replace the Cyberdemon and Spider Mastermind, a wide range of configurable options (randomised stats, hardcore modes, XP curve/multiplier adjustments, etcetera) and much more.
Put simply, Kyle873’s Doom RPG mod and its DOOM Roguelike Arsenal add-on gives the gameplay of the classic 90s FPS a huge expansion in content whilst adding a multitude of fresh gameplay elements at the same time. If you’re into the character-building parts of RPGs in any way or just want a different FPSRPG experience that isn’t Borderlands, the Doom RPG mod is definitely worth your time. Colour me very excited indeed to see how future versions of the mod turn out.
DOOM, DOOM II: Hell on Earth and Final DOOM are available from numerous online outlets, including Steam.
Doom RPG, as well as the DOOM Roguelike Arsenal add-on, is available from this ZDoom forum post.
The Doom RPG Wiki, with information about the game’s systems, can be found here.