Doom Eternal and the Slayer Saga that began with Doom 2016 is done with The Ancient Gods, Part 2, a bit of a bummer story finale propped up by shooting as exciting and complex as ever. Part 2 goes all in on the high fantasy, transplanting all that Satanic charm with proper nouns no one has ever spoken aloud, but manages to squeeze some fun final ideas out of Eternal's hyperspeed arena FPS design.
On its own, The Ancient Gods Part 2 feels a tad limp, but taken in with the whole of Doom Eternal and The Ancient Gods Part 1, we're looking at one of the finest arena shooters ever made. It just could've been so much more.
As the Doom Slayer, we've already done a bunch of stuff that I skipped over in the codices because they're boring and filled with more proper nouns than I'm used to seeing in a game about popping out a Cacodemon's eye with a cartoonish blorp 100 times an hour, but here's the gist: we're going to kill the Dark Lord and seal off Hell forever. It doesn't bode well for a sequel, but if someone says, James, get in the car, we're going to kill the Dark Lord and seal off Hell forever, I'm getting in the car. Oops, no pants.
What that means in the wireframe of Doom Eternal is three more levels, still massive but a bit smaller than Part 1's arena marathons. Part 2 focuses on arenas largely built around some new demons, super shotgun grapple points, and the sentinel hammer, a tool that stuns enemies, kills smaller ones, and showers you with resources.
Use the hammer on a group of demons and it outright kills the fodder while stunning the bigger ones. If they're on fire, the hammer will produce more shield drops. If they're frozen, the hammer will produce more health drops. A nice slam also squeezes out a bunch of ammo, which means a well-timed smash can take you from no resources to completely topped off. It creates some interesting tension too, with the implicit invitation to hold off on clearing the field to kite everyone together for a quick flame, ice bomb, and hammer combo.
Simply put, the hammer is a rad oh-shit button that makes Part 2 a much easier expansion than Part 1, if used tactfully. You'll still get the occasional fuck-you room, locked into a tiny space with nothing but empowered, invisible Pinkies and explosive barrels, or the occasional building-sized tentacle to distract you from the swarm, but Part 2 has fewer endless gauntlets and, some will be happy to hear, fewer Marauders overall.
The hammer extends the stun on Marauders and obviates those fuck-you rooms anyway, assuming it's charged. I'm cool with Eternal kicking back for a bit, though. Part 1 rattled my nerves, and I love it when games let up on you for a breather before the final test.
Ancient Gods Part 2 is an opportunity to show off everything you've learned rather than push them too much further. It's no cakewalk, but if you've made it this far, muscle memory is going to be a big help. I handled a double Marauder fight surrounded by Screechers (new fodder enemies that buff everyone else in the arena when they die) with ease.
I knew exactly where to stand to bait the green flash attack, how to get them into a staggered rhythm, and how to quickly swap between weapons for maximum damage. They each went down in two stun cycles. I expected waves upon waves of enemies afterwards, but once the Marauders were done, a Baron of Hell spawned and that was it. A nice, focused arena fight with some new difficulty modifiers in the Screechers, wrapped in a few minutes. Lovely.
My favorite addition might be the meathook grapple points. Some arenas are dotted with nodes the super shotgun can grapple onto. As a general rule, being in the air is safer than not in Doom Eternal, so the more you can get done in the air, the better. To that end, grapple points act like freeform jump pads that let you alter direction and momentum.
Grapple points can give you much more airtime than jump pads too, which teased out a lot of aerial quick swap combos and skillshots outta of me, beaming Blood Makyrs with scoped shots and peppering Cyberdemons with rockets from across the map before swapping back to the super shotgun for another big swing back up. It's been a long time since a PC game demanded I know where the 5 key is at all times and gave me a little treat every time I used it well.
A demon I'd initially pinned as a big damage sponge, the Armored Baron, is one of my favorites to fight now. You can't hurt him until you chip off that candy shell with a plasma rifle, and even once he's open to damage the armor will regenerate over time. It feels a little frustrating, emptying the plasma on the oaf, but he'll often stop to charge up his big morningstar.
A quick swap to the heavy cannon for a scoped shot will pop it instantly and destroy his armor. A hammer slam extends the stun, at which point I'll do a super shotgun meathook shot to set him on fire, quick swap to the ballista to get off a shot, then wrap with the chaingun in turret mode for maximum DPS. Guy's down in one stun cycle. Easy-peasy. I almost feel like I'm playing Devil May Cry, bouncing around on the number row like a damn ninja.
Mix that muscle memory in with an endless stream of demons in a big arena fight and Doom Eternal continues to sing, a miraculous piece of FPS design that moves lightning fast and somehow teases out superhuman reflexes from dopes like me. Every demon has its Best Practice method of elimination, a tiny dance of the number row in combination with mod-switching to essentially unlock (pulp) it, and Part 2's simple additions are purely additive, pulling a little more movement and action and awareness out of me with every fight.
The Riot Soldier's shield is invincible, so tapping 4 and detonating some rockets just behind them is a simple solution. Cursed Prowlers tag you with a vision and movement debuff until you tag them back with a Blood Punch, turning the arena into an impromptu game of tag. I love these wildcard enemies, like the Marauder and Armored Baron, that demand your attention and speed things up until they're taken care of. Two expansions and 30-plus demon types in and the result is wild: There hasn't been a single level in all of Doom Eternal that hasn't left me in awe of myself. Videogames shouldn't be capable of that, it's not fair and I'm really not very impressive.
They're not all winners though. Stone Imps feel like id Software truly running out of ideas for Doom Eternal. They're hardy enemies that soak up bullets from every weapon without flinching, and they can whir up like Sonic the Hedgehog to bat you around the room. Hammers take care of them right away, but the fastest ticket otherwise is the full auto shotgun alt-fire, which chews through shells in seconds. Meanwhile, Stoneys are rolling around and bashing you into corners and blurring your vision.
I understand what they're intended to do. You're meant to stay airborne with the meathook and stay alert to the sound of their charge, but an enemy that doesn't react to gunfire feels bad to fight on a fundamental level. They are stubbornness, incarnate. Doom Eternal's take on a mosquito. And wouldn't you know it, right before the final boss you fight about two dozen of them in a flat arena. It sucks. One of Doom's worst fights before one of Doom's best. It was definitely time to call it a day.
But damn, that final level is a looker. It opens up on Immora, a desiccated landscape cut through by the Dark Lord's spiky red fortress. He readies his army of demons, and they charge, hundreds of little minions marching across the horizon, swarms of Cacodemons in the sky, a massive Icon of Sin blotting out the light, which is already very blot upon by all the dust and bummer vibes making up Immora. It's the first level in a while that feels like it's taking place in the midst of a great conflict, not just before or after or in the margins of one.
Immora stands in stark contrast to the boring environments that precede it. While they were a novelty at first, Part 2 is made up of yet more empty Sentinel ruins and the very similar looking ruins of Earth, already a bit ruined the first time around in the main campaign, and so very much more ruined in The Ancient Gods Part 2. It's mostly grey, dark green, and soft, icy blues. For as full of life as the combat still feels, I'm rarely inspired to throw up the bullhorns looking at Part 2's postcard vistas. They're nice, but don't really match the mood I'm looking for in a game about a demigod marching through time and space to shoot the ass off everything.
For all the theater of the final level and id's best boss fight yet (let's hope you like the Marauder by now!), Doom wraps things up too abruptly and quietly. Doom 2016 began with the Doom Slayer caving in some skulls and punching a computer in its computer face. Doom Eternal: The Ancient Gods Part 2 ends with some hooded figures standing in a circle and an off-screen voice moaning on about The Lore. Doom's middle finger slowly curls back into the fist, quivering. I wanted to see it standing up taller, prouder, and more blood soaked than ever. Bummer.
There's no doubt: The Ancient Gods Part 2 is some great shooting. It's just giving up on the rule of cool taking itself this seriously. I thought it was pretty funny in the main campaign, but now it truly feels like Doom is trying to establish a beloved fantasy universe, Microsoft's dark fantasy opposite to Halo. Please, no.
Fantasy diversions aside, pile up the DLC on top of the rest and Doom Eternal easily becomes one of the best shooters ever. It may not stoke the fear of sin inside you anymore, and it may not induce hell yeahs at every wicked skyline, but Doom Eternal and its expansions make up an easy 30 hours of great shooting, minimum, that thoroughly encouraged me to pull off feats of reflex, spatial awareness, and tactical play I never thought I'd be capable of. Doom Eternal is officially an all-timer, I just won't be wearing the t-shirts to the metal shows anymore.