Almost a year after the other platforms, The Ancient Gods is finally on the Nintendo Switch. I adored the main game when I played it originally, but can id Software keep the good times rolling with the DLC?

This is going to be a review in two parts, covering the first and second DLC individually and assessing the positives and negatives of each. So let’s jump right back into Hell!

The Ancient Gods Part 1
Continuing on from the main game, the story follows the exploits of Mr Doom Slayer after stopping the Icon of Sin from wrecking Earth. Unfortunately, the death of the Khan Makyr has allowed the demons to get a foothold in other dimensions and regain their power. To stop them from resuming their invasion of Earth, the Slayer must liberate the Seraphim from his containment pod on the UAC Atlantic and seek his help in putting an end to the demon horde. There’s a hell of a lot more lore and mythology crammed into this three level long campaign (mostly through codex entries) and it really helps to build the DOOM universe into something believable and intriguing. Of course, you can ignore all that and just shoot things until they die.

If my mention of three levels came as a disappointment, I’d like to put you at ease. There may only a few levels, but each one can take a couple of hours to beat on your first try: they are overwhelmingly huge. The first level in particular, the UAC Atlantic, has three quite distinct phases to ensure you don’t get bored of wandering around the same environment. The other two may not have as much visual variety as the first level, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot going on. The Blood Swamps level contains many different trials that will test you to your limit, and may be one of the best levels in Eternal as a whole – it’s unfortunate that it also contains some annoyances too, such as exploding pustules and a fight in fog so dense that you can’t see much of anything.

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Speaking of challenge, the game is hard. As someone working through the Nightmare difficulty in the main campaign, The Ancient Gods is something else entirely. The first level has you pitted against Arch Viles and multiple Marauders at once; but that is child’s play compared to what comes after. The second level introduces the new main gimmick: possession. The dead spirits of Summoners (remember those from DOOM 2016?) take control of enemies, making them much stronger and far more aggressive than before. Once the enemy is defeated, the spirit will seek a new host unless you zap wit with the Microwave Beam. It’s a fun challenge, but these enemies become super tough. Oh, and the first time you encounter these is with a goddamn Baron of Hell (later updated to a Hell Knight as of patch 1.8). Good luck. Just when you think you’ve seen the limits of what the game can throw at you, the final level’s Slayer Gate is the stuff of nightmares. Every phase of the fight is brutal, and the intensity only gets crazier as time goes by. The DLC is clearly designed with veterans of the main game in mind; which is great, but it may also prove to be a little too much for those who aren’t up to the challenge.

The Ancient Gods Part 1 does introduce some new enemy types in addition to the aforementioned spirits, but they are a little bit of a mixed bag. The Blood Swaps contains a larger version of an enemy from the main game, and it is gloriously fantastic. However, other enemy types aren’t quite as welcome. The Blood Makyrs – red versions of the Makyr Drones – are largely reminiscent of their weaker counterpart with a couple of notable differences: they have an annoying stun attack that can cripple you in battle… and they’re also completely invulnerable apart from when they do one particular attack. They’re like the Marauder, except there’s nothing much you can do until they drop their shields and you can hardly avoid them. The best solution seems to be to get close to bait an attack, and then get rid of them quickly. They’re definitely an irritance, and I can’t say I enjoyed fighting them very much.

Speaking of mechanics, The Ancient Gods is pretty much the same as the base game. As before, combat focuses on juggling different weapons to exploit demon weaknesses and to manage your resources. You start the extra content through a separate option in the main menu, but since you start with all of your upgrades and weaponry, it feels very much like an extension to the main campaign. There aren’t any new weapons on offer in The Ancient Gods Part 1, but there are additional runes to acquire to help make you stronger. None of them are fantastic, but they’re still a nice addition. One change from the main game is that the combat challenges will reward you with cosmetic skins; nothing special, but a logical change given that your weapons are already fully upgraded.

The Ancient Gods Part 1 takes everything that makes the original game great and builds on it some more, with three great levels that test your skills to your limits. It may be a substantial jump in difficulty compared to the main game, but it’s still six hours of frenetic fun action.

SPOILERS AWAIT AFTER THE NEXT SCREENSHOT. SKIP BEYOND THAT TO THE FOLLOWING SCREENSHOT TO AVOID THEM. 

 

WE’RE DOOMED!

The Ancient Gods may not have many levels, but they’re long and memorable. 

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Tasked  with locating the Seraphim, the Slayer fights across the oceanic facility. Expect some brief underwater segments, as well as some gorgeous water effects.

THE BLOOD SWAMPSReview: Doom Eternal: The Ancient Gods - Part One – Destructoid

Finished with the tutorial level? Good. Now get ready for the pain. The Slayer needs to undergo various trials to prove his worth, but the swamps are home to a lot of nastiness. When it’s all over, prepare to find a rather … unusual boss.

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With the trials over, its finally time to get the job done. Expect ruthless battles, a brutally tough Slayer Gate, and an intense final boss. 

 

 

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The Ancient Gods Part 2
With the Dark Lord summoned, our hero is told to go to Hell’s capital city of Immora in order to face him in glorious combat. To get there, he will need to travel through the Gate of Divum, which requires the use of a power source that can be found on Argent D’Nur. If it sounds very lore heavy, that’s because it is; however, the game does a far better job of progressing through the story without needing to trawl through the collectible lore fragments to put it into context. Your journey to face the Dark Lord is well told and pretty clear from start to finish, even if it has quite an obvious conclusion. The ending works, but it also comes across as being the easy way out.

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Much like the previous DLC, you have three huge levels that make up the bulk of your experience, with an extra fourth level purely for the final boss. Unlike the first part, however, there’s much less variety present here. The first two levels are both essentially foresty Earth levels, reminiscent of Exultia and Taras Nabad from the main game, at least in their general aesthetic. They are both beautiful and have sections that help set them apart, especially later on in the stage, but I’d be probably be hard pushed to identify them from a random screenshot. These two levels have a strong focus on the newly implemented Meathook Grapple Points, which add an extra layer to the platforming. They’re a very welcome addition as they also help teach newcomers how to use the Meathook well for general traversal, although it’s a shame that it has taken them this long to include them. As someone who enjoys the platforming in Eternal, I found these sections to be a blast – even if the ridiculous number of invisible walls become even more apparent when trying to use them to get through areas faster. Naughty Hugo! Let speedrunners run! Anyway, the final level sets itself apart from the other by being set in the capital of hell. It’s the final and ultimate conflict, and it feels as epic as it should – even if it isn’t quite as difficult as you’d expect it to be.

Ah yes, the difficulty. One of the issues some had with the first expansion was with the difficulty. Some, including myself, loved the challenge but it also put off many who found it just too tough. The biggest problem, of course, was that if they continued in this way then TAG2 would be so hard that only the very best would be able to beat it… on normal. Clearly they had to cap it off somewhere. Taking note of this, the developers have scale things back quite a bit. It starts off quite tough as you enter The World Spear, but then the difficulty kinda tapers off. There are still challenges to be had, for sure, particularly with some of the many surprise encounters that catch you off guard, but there’s nothing even close to the difficulty of the Holt Slayer Gate here. In fact, Slayer Gates are no more – replaced by the Gore Nests from Doom 2016 (yes, really). The difference here is that the Gore Nest can be triggered a second time afterwards for another, more difficult, encounter. These are completely optional for the hardcore who want a challenge, and the cosmetic rewards are a nice bonus too. It’s a shame the final Gore Nest is a cakewalk, much like the rest of the level, but they’re still a welcome addition and those who don’t want the extra stress can just beat each one once for the hammer upgrade.

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WE’RE DOOMED AGAIN

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The Gate of Divum doesn’t seem to use a traditional power supply, so time to make a detour in order to pick up some batteries to get the slipgate going!

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With your Duracell Batteries and Sentinel Hammer in hand, it’s time to head to the Gate of Divum so you can make your way to Immora.

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The final battle is about to commence. Who will be victorious? 

 

 

Ah yes, the hammer. Much like how Spirits were the centre piece of the first DLC, this one is clearly all about the Sentinel Hammer. Gifted to you by an old friend in the first level, this hammer replaces the Crucible in your inventory but demands more use. This super weapon will daze any enemies within its blast radius (whilst dealing a bit of damage) and provides you with refills for ammo, health, and armor – the latter two depending on if you use it on frozen or burning enemies. If an enemy is already dazed, the hammer will extend the duration – meaning you can one cycle a Marauder without the use of any fancy tricks! Refilling the hammer can be done by hitting an enemy’s weak spot or by glory killing enemies; as you’ll be doing these things continually, expect your hammer to be available pretty much at all times. It’s a very overpowered weapon that only gets more useful as you gain more upgrades from the Gore Nests – by the end of the game, you won’t even need to use the chainsaw to restock your ammo. It’s that good.

The hammer will also come in handy with a couple of the new enemy types too, which as before prove to be a little hit and miss. The most notable of the new enemies is the Armored Baron, which is like a normal Baron except with a rather nifty set of Blue Armor that you’ll need to destroy in order to deal damage. Think of it like the Cyber Mancubus but with one key difference: the armor regenerates. To help balance this, you’re able to destroy it instantly by hitting the Baron’s mace when it flashes green (for videogame reasons, presumably). He’s a fun addition, although you only ever see one at a time, disappointingly. It would have been nice to see a possessed version, or even a group of them together – but alas it is was not to be.

Other enemy types are essentially recoloured versions of existing enemies. The Stone Imp spindashes towards you like Sonic the Hedgehog, and can only be damaged by the hammer or from the full auto shotgun (this isn’t how you balance Full Auto, guys…), Screechers are purple versions of the zombie that buff nearby enemies upon taking damage. They’re neat but their underwhelming design makes them slightly disappointing as a new enemy. There are more enemy types that I will leave you to discover, but they range from being forgettable to underused. None are as annoying as the Blood Makyrs though, so there’s that (and no, Cursed Prowlers aren’t that bad – there are only four of them in the whole DLC!). It’s a shame that the enemies that were introduced in part one are surprisingly rare in the second part, only showing up from time to time. Even the spirits only pop up now and then; enough to make you remember they exist, but not enough to be noteworthy additions to any of the fights.

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The Ancient Gods part 2 also brings about some additional changes too, which are available to everyone regardless of whether or not the DLC was purchased. First of all, there are some gameplay tweaks, notably the racecar hud and the daze effect. The former will display the status of your equipment around your reticle: neat in idea, but is rather distracting (and thankfully optional) in practice. The latter change is an effect that appears with dazed enemies: now they gain a cartoonish swirl above their ahead and an arcade-like sound effect to go along with it. This one is not optional, and I can see it upsetting a lot of people, but it’s fine for the most part. Another controversial change is with the main menu music, which has been replaced by a new track. It’s disappointing that it’s not an optional change as I know many people like the original version, but I dig the new version too.

The biggest free change that the TAG2 update provided was the addition of the Super Gore Nest Master Level, which is the first new Master Level since the game’s release. Unlike the initial two levels, this one adds in challenges in order to unlock a new cosmetic reward; earning it requires you to beat it on all difficulties, extra life mode, and classic mode. Classic mode is a new addition that makes you start with a shotgun and you have to find more weapons and mods scattered throughout the level as you progress. It’s a fun addition, but increases the difficulty of an already brutally hard level by a thousandfold. Forget about Cultist Base and Arc Complex, this one makes them look like child’s play. Expect to be fighting tough enemies in cramped spaces, multiple Archviles, foggy areas (yes, fog in SGN), and more. I took this on in classic mode and I found it harder than any other level in both the game and DLC by a wide margin. I take off my hat to anybody who is able to beat classic mode on Ultra Nightmare. The whole level is a huge step up in difficulty and is a perfect addition for Eternal veterans. I look forward to seeing more Master Levels in future updates.

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All in all, The Ancient Gods is an excellent expansion that brings the modern reboot to a close… for the time being. Panic Button has done an excellent job in porting this over, and it truly is amazing at some of the stuff that they have been able to pull off while retaining 30FPS. Whilst there are some niggles with both parts, overall this is more DOOM Eternal: which in itself makes it a must buy for people who want to Rip and Tear and Poop using their Switch.