Since DOOM Eternal launched, it has quickly becoming one of the highest regarded FPS games of all time. With its first story DLC, The Ancient Gods 1, ideally expanding on the initial game’s story and gameplay mechanics, how does its follow-up compare, and does it deliver a satisfying finale?
Developed by id Software & published by Bethesda Softworks; DOOM Eternal: The Ancient Gods 2 is the second story DLC to the award-winning FPS game. The DLC was released on the PC via Steam, Xbox Series X|S (BC), Xbox One, PlayStation 5 (BC), and PlayStation 4 on March 18th, 2021.
For this review, DOOM Eternal: The Ancient Gods 2 was played on the Xbox Series X with an Xbox Elite Series 2 Controller. As such, my experience may be different than those playing on PC or older console generations with standard controllers.
While this review will primarily focus on The Ancient Gods 2 as a DLC, there will be general references to the base game and The Ancient Gods 1, including relevant plot points, gameplay mechanics, and the overall performance. This review WILL contain some *SPOILERS*, including significant plot points and detailed gameplay mechanics, but will NOT include the ending cutscene/reveal.
The Final Story
The Ancient Gods 2 is the end of The Doom Slayer’s character arc that started in DOOM (2016) and, by extension, the original 1993 classic. Unfortunately, many may not give the story the proper attention it deserves. Still, those willing to pay attention are in for a genuinely epic treat—especially those who read through the Codex entries.
It begins where The Ancient Gods 1 left off; as Davoth, The Dark Lord, has returned to his physical form. The Doom Slayer attempts the ultimate spawn kill as he shoots his super-shotgun into the chest as Davoth. With no effect taken, Davoth retreats through a portal to Immora, the last bastion of the Dark Realm.
From here, The Doom Slayer is on a quest to lay siege upon Immora, and to challenge Davoth to ritual combat. If The Slayer wins, all demons outside of hell shall perish, but if Davoth wins, he and Hell’s armies shall rule all. Now the multi-dimensional universe hangs in the balance between good and evil.
This is the first time in the franchise’s history that we get a take on the leader of Hell face to face, something some DOOM fans have likely been waiting for since the end of DOOM II: Hell on Earth in 1994. The satisfying build-up of tension until the final confrontation results in a massive payoff by the credits roll!
A Proper Conclusion (Spoilers)
The first half of the DLC has The Slayer working his way through locations set on Argent D’Nur and Earth; as he calls for reinforcements, he finds a unique power crystal and ultimately the portal to Immora itself. While it’s more surface-level storytelling akin to traditional DOOM, it indeed awards those who read codex entries and any external lore.
The aesthetic and events that take place on Argent D’Nur share comparisons to high-fantasy epics such as The Lord of The Rings, providing a stark & refreshing contrast to standard DOOM. Meanwhile, the overgrown abandoned city on Earth has a lot of visual storytelling, with flooded streets, broken-down mechs, and even symbols of The Slayer with “Rip and Tear” painted on walls.
However, the last two levels go full-on fantasy epic! The Doom Slayer faces down the crimson, castle-like walls of Imorra; as Davoth summons overwhelming odds to defend his hellish home. In a moment pulled right out of Avengers Endgame, a portal opens near The Slayer as a redeemed Commander Valen himself steps out to assist The Slayer. He followed by an army of Sentinal Warriors, Dragons, and giant mechs as they clash with the demons in all-out war!
Once The Doom Slayer breaks through Immoras walls, he chases The Dark Lord down to commence ritual combat. The final confrontation between The Doom Slayer & The Dark Lord is as memorable as it is intense. While I won’t spoil the outcome, The Slayer’s Arc ending is one of the most satisfying conclusions to a character I’ve seen in recent memory.
Characters Service (Spoilers)
DOOM Eternal‘s primary campaign revealed that The Doom Slayer is the same Doomguy from the original DOOM games. Unsurprisingly, The Ancient Gods 1 revealed his ultimate goal was to resurrect The Dark Lord and destroy him. Not just to save the universe, but as revenge for the death of his pet rabbit, wife, and child, as revealed by game director Hugo Martin.
His motivations in The Ancient Gods 2 are clear, and he shows pure determination to complete that goal. His facial expressions and body movement tell the player everything they need to know about The Slayer, regardless if they’ve read the lore or played previous games or have read any Codex entries.
The Dark Lord could’ve easily been a forced, surface-level final boss. Instead, the narrative team took the time to write a character with a deep history, one that has massive implications on all of DOOM‘s story thus far. A major reveal about his nature throws a wrench into what we thought we knew, creating a more profound, sympathetic character in the process.
Furthermore, the Codex entries work to further flesh out characters, historical events, and the legend of The Slayer. While it’s not required to understand & appreciate the story of DOOM, it further fleshes out characters such as Davoth and even Commander Valen. The narrative team indeed came through and hit a home run with these characters!
High Fantasy & Pop Culture References
Everybody knows that, in the end, the story of a DOOM game comes second to gameplay, except for maybe modern id Software themselves. The developers had struck gold with DOOM (2016) as it forged an unholy union of story and gameplay, and thankfully that union is still found here at the end of it all.
The first level includes a great nod to The Lord of the Rings with a scene where The Slayer uses a torch to light a beacon to call for aid! Even better, an incredible moment where he mounts a Dragon to take him to his destination, and it doesn’t get more fantasy than dragons!
Commander Valen joins The Slayer with his Sentinel army in an epic moment, who come through large portals similar to Avengers Endgame. Together, they raid the dark-fantasy-inspired castle-like area of Hell: Immora. The story team seems to have had a ton of fun crafting the story and epic set pieces, and the passion shows, as these moments are so exciting and epic!
The Ancient Gods 2′s embraces its over-the-top violence and blends it with epic high-fantasy elements, creating a unique atmosphere the makes this DLC stand out from other DOOM games. With references and a high-fantasy backdrop, the narrative team can craft a truly epic conclusion to this story arc!
New Core Gameplay Mechanics
The Ancient Gods 2 introduces new mechanics that build off what the previous entries have established, improving an already perfected gameplay loop. As such, the combat, platforming, and unique abilities allow the DLC to tune DOOM Eternal‘s gameplay into the best version of itself!
The most significant new gameplay mechanic is a new Sentinel Hammer called “Hellbreaker”; which takes the place of the Crucible from DOOM Eternal‘s primary campaign. Rather than a single-use instakill, the Hellbreaker is slammed into the ground to temporarily stun large enemies, kill small ones, and be chained with the ice-bomb or flame belch to gain health armour from enemies upon impact.
Using the hammer creates a brief opportunity to focus fire on a specific enemy while moving to a strategically better location. You can find Hellbreaker ammo pickups around the level; however, performing two glory kills or precision shots will also refill the hammer. Hellbreaker should be used often and intelligently against the forces of Hell!
The Super-Shotgun’s meathook acts as the newest platforming mechanic, hooked on floating green orbs! It’s a great combat mechanic that can get you out of tight spaces and into the air. These new gameplay mechanics can make a huge difference and high replayability when used correctly and intelligently.
New Enemy Types & Mechanics
New demons continue to encourage players to switch between weapons and mods to handle, as new mechanics keep platforming and combat feeling fresh. Additions such as the Stone Imp and Riot Shielder encourage players to switch between combat shotgun and rocket launcher mods.
Meanwhile, the Cursed Prowler will send you into a poised state that siphons your health if it hits you; and can only be killed by a blood punch. These little green pests will quickly become a high-priority target when they spawn. The purple glowing Screecher Zombie is quite the opposite and should die last; otherwise, it’ll trigger a major buff on all enemies for a short time upon death.
The Armored Baron is the most significant addition to the demonic sandbox and is naturally the most challenging. Their thick armour only takes damage from the Plasma Rifle but can also be broken by a precision bolt, when the enemy’s eyes briefly glow green during an attack. They’re tough, but they’re not invincible.
When all of these new enemies are added into a combat arena together with pre-existing demons, things get pretty hectic quickly. They all offer new challenges and pacing to the game while also improving weapon variety, aiming skill, and the player’s enemy management. They all fit perfectly into the roster of demons!
The Final Boss Fight (Spoilers)
The DOOM franchise has had more than its fair share of fantastic bosses, and I believe we may have gotten the best yet. Davoth, The Dark Lord, is the ultimate equal to The Doom Slayer in more ways than one; and the final boss battle proves that in spades.
Davoth is a boss to be respected as he requires peak performance and attention to defeat. He’s moving across the map fast, consistently shooting his plasma turret and large grenades from a distance. If he does damage with his sword or shield, he’ll regain health; and will also summon astral projections of hellhounds for Hellbreaker ammo and high-level demons in later phases.
The Dark Lord is a perfectly balanced boss battle that has remained challenging even after the 6th playthrough. It feels like the ultimate 1v1 and is as fair as he is a riot to combat! His health regeneration is frustrating, but only because I made a mistake, and he rightfully punished me for it, as should be expected from the ultimate final boss.
Everything about this boss battle feels climatic, fair, familiar, challenging, and epic by every stretch of the imagination. It’s is peak game design and is something we genuinely need more of in FPS games. I cannot stress how great Davoth is as the final boss in both gameplay and story contexts. Bravo id Software, bravo.
Perfectly Balanced, As All Games Should Be
Unlike many shooter games that create the illusion of difficulty by holding your hand and walking through encounters, The Ancient Gods 2 does a phenomenal job challenging the player in fun, engaging ways.
While it’s not quite as over the top as The Ancient Gods 1, it offers formidable challenges that killed me often. While some may criticise this, I believe it finds an excellent balance for both pro-players and casual fans. I found the game challenging, but I think this opens the door for more fans to enjoy.
I died violently and often throughout, but at no point did I ever feel the game was unfair nor unbalanced. Every death of mine was due to a mistake that I made, and from it, I learned valuable lessons each time. Getting annihilated in a game has never felt more enjoyable, refreshing, and genuinely exciting!
Perhaps that’s my favourite aspect of the new DOOM games; the constant challenge allows you to learn and adapt to different playstyles on the fly. For every death, I learned something new; every success resulted from learning and overcoming challenges. Because of this, The Ancient Gods 2 is the most fun I’ve had with DOOM Eternal, which is saying A LOT!
Graphics & Performance
DOOM Eternal is not yet fully optimised for the Xbox Series X (at the time of writing), but id Software has confirmed that a next-gen update will eventually come. Even though the game is technically running through backward compatibility, the graphics and performance are already noticeably better on the next-gen hardware.
Being able to play the DLC on both my Xbox One X & Xbox Series X, the XSX provides a sharper image with more dynamic colours and consistently high 60FPS. Additionally, the XSX loads in under 10 seconds; and less than five re-loading after death.
DOOM Eternal has always looked phenomenal from both a graphical and artstyle standpoint, and this DLC only reinforces it. From the bright colours of The World Spear, the overgrown & flooded city of Reclaimed Earth, and the dark crimson fortress of Immora, The Ancient Gods 2 looks as beautiful as dark and unique.
The skyboxes now have exciting events happening, from dragons peacefully flying in the background to a literal warzone. There’s so much going on at all times, and it all looks jaw-dropping! Mix that with uncompromised performance, and DOOM Eternal: The Ancient Gods 2 is a perfectly put-together game.
Audio Design & Metal Music
Incredible detail can be found in every ounce of The Ancient Gods 2‘s audio, and it’s some of the best the games industry has to offer. Every sound effect has a particular purpose used to define enemies, attacks, and even movement. Players familiar with the general sounds can use them to their advantage in hectic situations.
Heavy weapons sounds, meaty demonic howls, and excellent voice acting make for an immersive FPS experience. The sounds have an outstanding balance, so the audio will adjust according to what is going on, making every sounds stand out when they need to. Piotr Michael delivers a chilling yet beastly performance as The Dark Lord and deserves special recognition here.
The brilliant audio design isn’t just for immersion, but also to provide players with important information. Enemies such as The Maurader, Armored Baron & Dark Lord will make a specific “ding” sound when they can be damaged. A thicker “ping” sound follows when a precision shot successfully lands on a weak spot, which is very satisfying.
Additionally, most demons will make a specific roar or cry as they spawn, alerting the player to what demons are on the field. Many attacks and projectiles will make particular sounds and inform the player of any incoming threats. DOOM has always shined in these regards, and The Ancient Gods 2 continues to deliver.
More DOOM Metal
Andrew Hulshult & David Levy have returned to compose the music for The Ancient Gods 2, and they’ve proved themselves as worthy successors to Mick Gordon. David Levy has more of a rough electronic style where Andrew Hulshult uses more heavy guitar riffs, both composing music for different levels.
As you boot the game, it now opens up to David Levy‘s new menu music, which sounds more aggressive and on edge than the original. His “At Doom’s Gate” inspired a new theme that mixes a unique harsh electronic sound with heavy guitar riffs. He also does a fantastic job with the Immora level’s music, creating an epic scaled song utilising Gordon‘s metal choir!
Andrew Hulshult composed The Dark Lord’s boss music, which features heavy guitar riffs, demonic chanting, and even mixing elements of “At Doom’s Gate”, “BFG Division”, and “Phobos Base”. Additionally, he composed the main music for The Worlds Spear and Reclaimed Earth, which utilise heavy drums and deep, slower guitar riffs.
Both respective artists complement each other’s styles as they create different moods and intensities for the soundtrack. Andrew Hulshult & David Levy deliver a legendary DOOM soundtrack, and their hard work and creativity pay off! If we could get an official release of the respective DOOM Eternal & The Ancient Gods soundtracks…
Summary – A Perfect DLC
I haven’t been this thrilled playing a new game since DOOM Eternal: The Ancient Gods 1 and the base game before that. This is a DOOM DLC firing on all cylinders throughout its entirety, introducing new gameplay elements and playstyle options until the credits roll!
The Ancient Gods 2 brings an over-the-top, satisfying conclusion to The Slayer’s arc. Id Software‘s narrative team has crafted a story that can be enjoyed on the surface level while have paying off many details from the Codex Entries!
From its high-fantasy-inspired level-design elements to Andrew Hulshult & David Levy‘s masterfully composed soundtrack, The Ancient Gods 2 stands out as one of the unique entries in the 28-year-old franchise. The Ancient Gods 2 has elevated DOOM Eternal to ridiculous new heights, ascending it to become my favourite game of all time!
Widely regarded as one of the greatest FPS games of all time, The Ancient Gods 2 reinforces the high praise DOOM Eternal often receives. With perfectly balanced & challenging gameplay, superb level design, incredible music, and a proper conclusion to The Doom Slayer’s Arc, DOOM Eternal The Ancient Gods 2 earns a perfect 100% score!
My Tribute to DOOM
Given the opportunity to review DOOM (2016) & DOOM Eternal, they both would earn a 100% score as well. The new DOOM games returned the FPS genre to its former glory while evolving it into something more significant. These games have changed my life and my perspective on gaming in general, and I’d be on a very different career path without these games.
DOOM (2016), DOOM Eternal, and The Ancient Gods 1 & 2 DLC’s are the best AAA FPS games you can buy right now. To celebrate, I purchased the DOOM Eternal Collecter’s Edition while writing this review, despite owning the Deluxe Edition. Both show my appreciation and support to both id Software and DOOM itself.
The main feature is The Slayer’s helmet, which fits perfectly and is super high quality with LED lights! The exclusive Mondo steel book is gorgeous and comes with the base game, DLC, and Deluxe Edition bonuses. The mixtape contains a code with the DOOM 2016 & DOOM Eternal soundtracks, and the lore book/lithograph is fantastic for lore & story fans like me!
As mentioned previously, these modern DOOM games have genuinely changed my life and outlook on gaming in general. For me, this was an ideal way to celebrate such an incredible franchise after The Ancient Gods 2 perfect conclusion.
The DOOM Pixel
Bethesda did not provide any review codes for authenticity purposes. I purchased DOOM Eternal: The Ancient Gods Part 2 via the DOOM Eternal: Deluxe Edition.
DOOM Eternal: The Ancient Gods Part 2 released on March 18th, 2021, on PC via Steam Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4 for $19.99. It is also available with the DOOM Eternal Year One pass, including The Ancient Gods Part 1, for $29.99. It’s also in the DOOM Eternal Deluxe Edition for $89.99 and the Collector’s Edition for $199.
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