It is true: I have never played Doom. This is why jefequeso contributed a guest post about it. As a game of great historical significance, I really should play it at some point. Maybe one day I will find the time to try it out. But in the meantime, I’ve been playing the next best thing: the Doom roguelike.
Yes, you read that right.
It makes a lot more sense than you’d think. DoomRL manages to feel like a run-and-gun action game even while being a turn-based, top-down roguelike. The focus on ranged combat is interesting and uncommon for roguelikes, but actually works quite well due to a level generator that is geared towards open environments. Mechanically, the system for firing weapons is much better than the implementation of ranged attacks in most roguelikes. Many older roguelikes limit ranged attacks and spells to one of the eight cardinal directions, meaning that creatures who position themselves carefully are completely safe. Other roguelikes allow “free” targeting but this is often clunky, requiring several keypresses for a single shot. DoomRL makes shooting simple: press f to fire, and the game will automatically target the nearest enemy and show you the path your shot will take. You can then easily cycle through available targets, and when you’re aiming at the one you want, just hit f again to shoot.
This means the game feels very fast-paced and true to its source material. The monsters are taken from Doom and Doom II, as are the music and sound effects (like the original games, you can hear what types of monsters are nearby before you can see them). Weapons are also taken from the original games, and are reproduced faithfully; the shotgun does indeed fire in a spread and can damage multiple enemies at once, for example. There are also various types of explosive barrels littering the levels which can be detonated to damage nearby enemies. The explosions can also destroy nearby items and sometimes even walls, however, so care should be taken. The ASCII graphics are simple, but convey the necessary information well. There are even ASCII art depictions of each enemy accompanying their descriptions when you examine them.
DoomRL is fairly simple as roguelikes go, but it’s still more complex than its source material. There are three character classes to choose from at the start, each of which has specific advantages. For example, the Marine has more health and his powerups will last longer, but the Scout inherently knows the location of the stairs on any level. There is an experience and leveling system as well, which lets the player choose from a list of traits, which offer bonuses like increased reloading speed or improved accuracy. Certain trait combinations unlock more specialized ones later on as well. For example, after building up my fast-reload trait, I was able to acquire a special trait that let me reload my shotgun while moving. This meant I could fire, and then dodge sideways to avoid enemy shots while I reloaded. DoomRL also features many special themed levels, like an arena which offers increasing rewards for surviving successive waves of enemies.
Overall, DoomRL is an interesting example of how a more action-oriented roguelike design can work. While it won’t be as fulfilling as the most complex roguelikes, it does offer a surprising amount of depth for what it is, and can offer a nice respite from more strategic roguelikes. I recommend checking it out as a great example of non-traditional roguelike design.