The demo for this upcoming horror-RPG-FPS built in the Doom engine might already be the most terrifying thing I play all year, and I can't wait for more

I knew I was in for a stomach-churning time with Divine Frequency's demo after I finally acquired my first weapon. I came up to a fenced hallway in the game's vast industrial underbelly and spied an ominous figure looming way down the hall. The light above it cut out, I turned around, and there it was: a horrible faceless mannequin an eyelash's length away.

I panicked, started blasting, and swore so loud my girlfriend heard down the hall. Sike! The mannequin is actually completely harmless, and I just wasted precious ammo and weapon durability on a prank. Divine Frequency punked me.

This horror-FPS-RPG launched its first Steam demo during 2023's Realms Deep event, a former mod project now getting reworked into a full game. It's built on GZDoom, the ubiquitous source port of id Software's classic, and it's one of those Doom-based games that makes you say "wait, you can do this in the Doom engine?"

It's looking like a game with some capital-L Lore, casting you as some kind of agent plumbing the depths of a vast and terrible nightmare realm. There were peeks at some distinctly SCP-flavored background text here and there giving that delicious contrast of banal agency-speak trying to wrangle the unknowable horrors around you. It never felt like I was getting beat over the head with all that Lore, but instead it gave me the great feeling of witnessing the tip of a storytelling iceberg.

The shooting and exploration reminds me most of System Shock 2, of all things. You creep along these utterly vile, rusted underhalls ready for freakish creatures to jump out at you from any corner⁠—these things always seem to be positioned right in your blind spot on entering a room. They go down with just one or two hits from the satisfyingly beefy basic pistol, but you're also pretty fragile and these things move fast. I particularly hated (read: loved) this one enemy type that both looks and moves like a house centipede⁠—awful, awful little guys just rushing around faster than it feels like anything should.

Ammo is scarce, and Divine Frequency also cribs System Shock 2's weapon degradation system, one of only a few durability mechanics I've ever enjoyed in a game. An exceedingly rare repair consumable always feels like a godsend whenever you find one, and while I always felt the pressure of my resource constraints, I was never on the verge of the demo being unfinishable.

The demo level takes you through this dreamlike labyrinth where areas transform behind you or even in front of your very eyes, a surreal tech trick I absolutely loved in last year's Alan Wake 2 and fellow Doom project myhouse.wad⁠. In our era of unprecedented graphical and computing power, I would like to see more impossible mindscapes in my videogames. The supernatural weirdness also leads to some notable setpieces that are utterly horrific despite involving no combat whatsoever, my mannequin freakout early on being one such example.

The demo also features two surprisingly excellent boss fights, distinct from both each other and the rest of the gameplay loop. One is a puzzle fight reminiscent of the Grymforge encounter in Baldur's Gate 3, while the other is a straight-up Soulsborne duel focused on timed dodges and a counter mechanic that, while unused in the rest of the demo, was instantly intuitive and fun to learn. The potential for a full game that's so generous with its different gameplay styles, always surprising me with unique vistas, puzzles, and encounters, has me extremely excited for the complete package.

Divine Frequency whips, and there's very little else like it, somehow managing to combine a helpless, overpowering sort of horror with genuinely excellent shooting. I loved 2022's Scorn to bits, but that's a game where the shooting is something you struggle against. Divine Frequency, meanwhile, captures a similar sense of being made less than human in the belly of some great and terrible machine, while also giving you a kickass magnum that blows things into little chunks⁠—the two shouldn't work well together, but they just do.

Divine Frequency currently has no set release date, but you can try the demo for yourself and wishlist it on Steam.

Associate Editor

Ted has been thinking about PC games and bothering anyone who would listen with his thoughts on them ever since he booted up his sister's copy of Neverwinter Nights on the family computer. He is obsessed with all things CRPG and CRPG-adjacent, but has also covered esports, modding, and rare game collecting. When he's not playing or writing about games, you can find Ted lifting weights on his back porch.