Last year’s Doom Eternal was one of the best games of the year, an absolutely excellent update to one of gaming’s most enduring franchises, that helped further establish a unique modern niche where the series can sit among the crowded FPS genre. Doom Eternal: The Ancient Gods DLC has been released in two parts – Part 1 came out in October last year, while Part 2 has only just arrived. Together, they form a more definitive ending for Doom Eternal, one that could be argued could have been included from the outset.
The Ancient Gods picks up immediately after the Doom Slayer (Doomguy to his friends) has defeated the Icon of Sin from the end of Doom Eternal, more or less ending the invasion of Earth from Hell. However, as his quest to defeat the demon forces is never over, he turns his attention to the deities of the Doom universe, with specifically the Dark Lord of Hell in his sights, on a mission to force him to manifest physically so he can be killed permanently, along with every demon outside of Hell.
There is quite a significant expansion of the Doom Eternal lore here, including some confirmations on aspects hinted at in the main campaign, as well as some pretty cool evolutions of the story that flesh out the world even more, and an antagonist whose nature honestly makes more sense than it maybe should. It also provides what appears to be a fairly final close to the story arc which has run from the 2016 Doom reboot until now, leaving the future wide open full of possibilities. It feels like the real ending to Doom Eternal, which makes it kind of disappointing it was locked behind a paywall as DLC.
The two parts of The Ancient Gods span six new levels, which re-visit Earth, Urdak, Argent D’Nur and Hell, although aside from an interesting bog in Part 1, all the best stuff is reserved for the second half. There are some pretty cool new visuals to take in, from a giant crystalline spear piercing a planet, to a dead half-submerged carcass of a demon, to an epic finale that takes quite a few cues from Avengers Endgame. Even better, it all runs at the same buttery smooth 60fps that Doom Eternal did as well on Xbox One X/Series X.
The challenge level of The Ancient Gods has been dialled way up, especially in the first part, with many gruelling encounters throwing multiple high-class enemies at you simultaneously, like the Doom Hunter and Marauder. Add in new enemies that require pinpoint accuracy, including Blood Makyrs who must be headshot while charging special attacks, and new turrets with floating eyeballs, and there’s an overwhelming amount thrown at you pretty constantly – so much so that you might have to drop the difficulty down a level before you attempt it again (there’s no shame in that). Ghostbusting feels better – new enemies called Spirits will sometimes possess standard foes, buffing them and requiring you to first beat them, then exorcise the spirit with the Plasma Rifle’s microwave beam, much like a proton accelerator from a certain other franchise. While the gameplay remains fast and furious and fun, repetition sets in early even with the increased challenge, leading to a disappointing extension of Eternal‘s campaign that only just manages to sustain your interest.
Part Two fares a little better, as it adds a new weapon to the Slayer’s arsenal – the Sentinel Hammer. This acts more like an additional tool than another weapon, in a similar manner to the chainsaw and the flame belch. Fed using power-ups or glory-killed enemies, the Sentinel Hammer has the power to clear rooms of less powerful enemies to prevent you from getting swarmed, as well as give massive bonuses to the armour, ammo and health you can juice out of bad guys. However, its real use comes in handy with Marauders and the Armored Baron, who have limited vulnerable windows which can be extended thanks to the Hammer’s dazing effects. It’s a little awkward to whip out, mapped to the d-Pad, but once you get used to it, it becomes an essential part of tackling the heavier demonic forces, even if it can’t be carried over into the previous campaign.
Other new enemies include Stone Imps, who basically require you to take advantage of the Combat Shotgun’s Full-Auto mod, and more annoyingly the Screecher Zombies and Cursed Prowlers. Screecher Zombies burst apart like tissue paper, but if killed in the vicinity of other enemies (which they’ll always be around) they’ll grant significant buffs to everyone in the area, so need to be kept till last. Cursed Prowlers make a beeline directly for you, and if they touch the Slayer they’ll immediately impart a curse which drains your health steadily, while making the Prowler immune to any attacks you dish out other than a Blood Punch. Meant to add strategy, your mileage may vary with these two additions, who are responsible for most of the Extra Lives I’ve ever lost in the entire campaign.
Unfortunately, the most disappointing aspect of Part Two is the final boss fight. Billed by developers as their “best boss fight yet”, and meant to replicate the experience of fighting someone else on the same power level and footing as you, it’s far too drawn out and familiar. Without spoiling too much – you’re basically fighting an oversized version of the Marauder foe, an enemy that already becomes a little overused throughout the Ancient Gods DLC, which is a large enemy that can block your every attack unless you take advantage of short counter windows to daze him. Imagine that, but he has the ability to summon holograms of the biggest Doom demons, and it goes for five phases. And for every hit he lands on you – he gets a significant amount of health back. While it’s easy for you to heal, given the tools at the Slayers disposal to juice simple enemies for power-ups, the fight becomes a needlessly long slog that goes back-and-forth way too long, as if the boss lands even a couple of hits on you, you can lose maybe your last 10-15 minutes of progress – especially if you haven’t been able to bait him for ages into any attacks you can counter. While the build-up and resolution to the fight are awesome, the fight itself is a sour note to end on.
Nevertheless, together The Ancient Gods Part One and Part Two form a whole that serves as a much more satisfying resolution to the Slayer’s arc in Doom and Doom Eternal. You get to see some nice sights, meet some nice people and get your life wrecked by wave upon wave of unforgiving enemies, that will make you wish you’d maybe played a little more Doom Eternal since launch so your skills weren’t so rusty. The Sentinel Hammer is cool, and some of the new enemies are fun, but others serve only to be far more annoying than necessary. Doom Eternal is such a strong foundation that it’s difficult to build a game off it that’s not fun, and The Ancient Gods is frequently both exceptionally challenging and exceptionally groovy to conquer. It just doesn’t always play to Doom‘s strengths, and as a result feels like more of a mixed bag than either Doom or Doom Eternal before it.
-The Sentinel Hammer adds some interesting value for its use in extending daze times and combos -Some really cool visuals await in new locations across all the various Doom worlds -Provides a more definitive ending to Doom Eternal
-Not every new enemy type feels like it adds to the experience -Part One at times just feels like a gauntlet of powerful enemies, thrown at you in repetition -The final boss fight is everything you hate about Marauders, times 100