I also got this because it was $25 cheap including both DLCs.
I’m having a religious revelation.
Because of that. I went back and downloaded Doom 2016 as well. It sucks. So I was sort of right. I had no real interest in the previous Doom, but this one is a whole different world and sets a precedent for the future. It’s game design bliss. I could write a wall of text.
The summary is: this is the next evolutionary step of that Dark Souls design concept. The problem with DS, starting right with Demon’s Souls, is that the difficulty pushes most players to cheese the game. Whether it is by farming souls to level, or by exploiting the bad pathing, monsters constantly falling off cliffs and dying, or other things. It was obvious with DemS because if a boss is hard and requires you repeating a fight, over and over and over, you’d eventually trigger one of the many glitches, and so transform the challenging fight into an easy one. If you repeated that battle 15-20 times, you suck it up and exploit it when the occasion comes.
DemS itself, and it’s obvious even in the remake, was designed around its technical shortcomings. To create unexpected behaviors based on some arcade abstractions. Take for example the third world, I think, with the tumbling warriors on that tiny cliff. There’s a little step that gets them stuck and unable to reach you. It looks very silly, and it’s very deliberate anyway. But sometime they manage to surpass the obstacle anyway and they hit you when you thought you were safe. That’s pretty much the game. Even the more recent installments still work the same. They are more consistent overall, but they still leave big margins for cheesing the fights. That’s their choice of variable difficulty and it’s been a tradition coming right from Final Fantasy (no difficulty selection, but you can farm, and farming lets you push down the challenge).
In Doom Eternal there’s no way of cheesing (that I could see). You either get good or you die. There’s the difficulty selection, though. And I expect most players to play at the wrong difficulty for themselves.
And here’s the revelation: forget that ancient relic that is Doom 2016. Doom Eternal is so old that is new again.
Doom Eternal works like an arcade cabinet.
This is where the controversy lands. Go play Spelunky 2 for the first time. You’ll die 10 times before finishing the first screen unless you’re a veteran of the game. And yet no one dying 10 times in the first screen of that game would really complain. Because that’s the game. But Doom Eternal comes with this enormous baggage of FPS traditions, and linear games, that want you to move forward. It’s the same story of the original Doom: no one played it “right.” Original Doom was slow and sluggish. You used arrow keys and ALT to strafe. There was no “always run”. You peeked past a corner and shoot the monster because it couldn’t see you, then quickly retreat and save the game. And no one really had the hardware to make it practical for the true run & gun. That came much later, when you saw how the online completely changed the playstyle and it was like a totally new game. But I’m pretty sure even those guys at ID “found out” the real Doom, rather than built it. They found a game into their game.
So the ingrained cultural perception of FPS wants you to make progress. You can be faster or slower, depending on your skill and experience, but it’s still about that progress. Get to the end, play some other game then.
But Doom Eternal is a cabinet arcade. You play it for the fun. Not for the progress. It’s like me at the time of the Commodore 64. If I felt like playing Ghost 'n Goblins I’d load it up, play for an hour or two. A few days later I’d repeat the process. Maybe, playing over and over, would make me better, or lucky, and see a new part of the level, but that was not the point. I was just playing a game that I felt like playing. There wasn’t any notion of progress, and, because of it, any notion of the game becoming obsolete either.
The whole point is that dying over and over in Doom Eternal is the game. It’s not the signal the game sends you to make you lower the difficulty. It’s the signal that the game works as intended. The difficulty is the CONTENT. It means the game is meaty enough to not be expendable and forgettable in a few hours, to make you move on.
That’s why I decided to try Doom 2016, for the first time, and in parallel with Doom Eternal. I have no biases because I’m playing both for the first time, at the same time. And I can tell you, playing both at Nightmare, that at least at the beginning Doom 2016 is way harder (and less fun). To begin with, reloading the level takes way longer, and I had to repeat the very first room 20 times or so. This was me coming right after Doom Eternal. Doom 2016 starts with no chainsaw and no double jump. It has no momentum, and no actual control. Even climbing a ledge is much slower. One hit from the enemies can kill you. It’s a whole different affair from Doom Eternal. In that game you have stuff, it gives, right from the start, options. That means that every time I died and retried, I had new ideas. I tried different strategies, different moves. I always died in different ways, and I was almost always in control. Every time I died I knew why, and I knew what I could do about it.
Why should I worry that I died 20-30 times? This is the game. I’m getting used to the controls, to the movement, finding the flow, understanding patterns. The raw “feel” I get from the game is empowering, and the opposite coming from Doom 2016, where I was forced to play defensively and retreat. I learned from Eternal that if there’s a group of monsters I jump RIGHT IN. Doom 2016 punished me for doing the same. In Doom Eternal the game is a playground, and monsters the toys that make funny faces at you to keep you entertained.
Now think about the rest. If Eternal had those “exploratory” sections, where you find how an intricate level loops around and connects, find new tunnels going to secrets… That stuff begins and ends in a single playthrough. The fun of a secret area lasts one time.
Doom Eternal is meant to be replayed, like a classic arcade cabinet. You play it, it’s a TOY. It doesn’t go anywhere. There’s no linear “progress” to it, just a progression of complexity and challenges. The exploratory sections have no place in this game because there’s nothing replayable about them. It’s a piece that belongs to a different game.
As with the original Doom, they found a game in their game. And Eternal is a clear vision after they stumbled on its potential while building the 2016 version.
This is a game “eternally” replayable because it has a sleek design and is eternally replayable same as Bubble Bobble is. You just have to accept that the feel and purpose of linear progression doesn’t belong here, even if this game comes in a shape ingrained in a different game-style.
I’ve read people comparing the difference between Doom and Doom 2 with Doom 2016 and Eternal, but it couldn’t be more wrong. Doom 2016 and Eternal look almost the same, but it’s incredible how they don’t play like anything alike. I’ve never seen such a complete, radical shift in the gameplay feel between a title and its sequel. (an even if I saw many videos about both, I had no real notion of how massive was this difference)
In general I also prefer a grittier, serious and less arcade experience. But this game has a different personality. I guess the next step, to go even further, is to ditch the classic single player campaign and just use a structure like The Binding of Isaac. Just accept it for what it is, it’s an arcade.
From a pure game design point of view Eternal is one of the most important games to come out in the last twenty years. And probably one of those that execute in practice that design more closely to its goal.
To better explain, the disconnection between Doom 2016 and Eternal is of the same nature of the disconnection you feel between Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Hyrule Warriors. They aren’t in the same genre.