Doom: Evil Unleashed Review #3

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Doom: Evil Unleashed is a game that I’ve been following for several years now. Each time the author releases an update, I make a point to check out the changes made and the additions added to it. This will be my third review of D:EU, and because of that I will primarily be focusing on the changes, additions, and issues that arise while playing this release. If you’d like a detailed history of my thoughts regarding D:EU, then feel free to check out the first two reviews of it here.

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The latest version of D:EU has received some improved graphics, among other things. I really liked the new title screen and thought it was a huge improvement over its predecessor.  The author added some shadow effects to most maps, which also made a world of a difference. Various sprites have underwent some minor improvements, though many remain untouched from the previous installment.

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The menu UI and leveling system have received major upgrades. The main menu shows up on a handheld device, which is a nice touch. Heroes no longer receive automatic stat increases from a level up. Instead, you have complete control over the allocation of stat points. While neither the menu UI nor the stat allocation is anything groundbreaking, it does break the traditional mold of most OHRRPGCE games.

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The same type of system has been implemented for abilities as well. When you level up, you have a choice of multiple “skill trees” which will reward you with certain abilities depending on your choices. I really enjoyed being able to choose my own path when it came to character progression.

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I wish I could say that everything in this update is awesome, but unfortunately there are many problems present in D:EU. Some of these problems I believe could possibly be game-breaking. I will admit that I did not make it to “the end” of the demo, if there is actually a tangible end to it. For starters, I would have never been able to leave the first area of the game if it weren’t for the debugging keys. There is one door towards the end of that area that traps you in an inescapable wall if you enter it. Although I’m thankful for the debugging keys, I would have rather not used them to progress. I also was never able to find a way to legitimately bring the final door down to fully escape from the first area. I literally walked around for at least an hour trying to find a way to unlock the door but I could never find anything. It’s possible that I missed something along the way, but I have a feeling it could possibly be a bug.

While I enjoyed the skill tree and stat allocation, neither are very good at explaining your options. As I was building my characters, I was confused as to whether Strength increased melee only, or if it also affected firearms. There are also “light arms” and “heavy arms” stat choices, but which firearms fit into what category?

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The skill trees are even more confusing. There are 12 different trees to choose from, which is great if you know what each one offers. D:EU does not give you any sort of clue what the individual trees entail, which leads to a disappointing guessing game in the end. To make matters worse, there does not appear to be a way to “respec” if you screw up. That feature wouldn’t even be needed if there was at least a little explanation as to what each stat/skill category offered your characters.

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Probably the most disappointing part of the leveling system is the fact that it does not factor in multi-level encounters. After I defeated a boss, one party member gained one level while the other gained two. The only hero that I was able to grow with stat/skill points was the one that leveled once. This means that the hero that leveled twice did not receive any benefit from their level ups. I don’t think it is a matter of leveling twice in one battle, but rather having two heroes level in the same battle. Either way, it is an issue that I would definitely fix as soon as possible.

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D:EU still has that “adventure-style” feel to it. The maps are still large and offer plenty of variety.  It is obvious that the author put a lot of effort into making each area’s layout different, but that could  create a slight problem for some players. Because some areas are so big and so varied, you can get lost easily. Outside of the first few events, it is not very clear what you are supposed to do.  If you are a casual player, you may give up pretty early. However, those that are fond of old-school (point and click) adventure games may enjoy this kind of challenge.

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Outside of that, there are still numerous (albeit small) issues riddled throughout D:EU. In the intro, when the scientist leaves the card game, his body never really “exits” the map. There’s also a demon that can be seen outside of the walls at the same time that doesn’t appear to serve any special purpose. Several text boxes are cut short because of poor box positioning. There are a few pieces of equipment that appear to not give you any sort of stat bonuses, yet cost money to purchase at the shop. There are a couple of skill trees that throw a script error if you try to spend points in them, and there are even a couple of rifle ammo boxes that will give you unlimited ammo. While the combat seems to have improved some, there is still a serious issue with melee weapons being way more powerful than their ammo-using counterparts (at least later in the game, when you have access to the chainsaw).

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I think the changes to D:EU are great, though it’s hard to get a real feel for the game because of all of the issues present. I hope that the author continues working on this game, because I’d love to see it finished some day. I do hope that these issues are addressed before the next release though. Some may argue that D:EU is a beta version, and I can understand that. But calling something “beta” doesn’t excuse blatant oversight of issues that could have easily been remedied before release.

In all honesty, I would probably give this game my lowest rating if it weren’t for two factors. First, it is possible that I may have just been to stupid to move the game forward legitimately. If that’s the case and I’m just an idiot, then the game would deserve a slight better rating. Second, Doom was such a huge part of my life as a kid in the early 90s, and I like what the author is doing here. It just needs some more care to really be a great OHRRPGCE title.

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