Rise of the Triad Review

Played on Windows

When I was young, I got Rise of the Triad, and I remember thinking, “This was something special.” There was something about the original game that was exceptional. Playing Rise of the Triad’s remake reminds me of some of that. Sadly, much of the brilliance of the original are relics from another time and place. They are features that were attempted for the first time and were somewhat successful. Yet time has moved on and games have as well.

The good news is Rise of the Triad’s remake does everything right. While the original game has brilliance for the time, some of it’s best pieces wouldn’t work and the modern game has updated it, while remaining true to what made Rise of the Triad great.

The biggest thing that has been changed is the graphics, and I have to say, they did an exceptional job making this game look good. There’s something about this game that makes me nostalgic. There’s still the stale blocky level design that was from the engine/tools of the original game looks, but the game looks far better. I think they step away from the original editor in caverns but most indoor locations are rectangular and straight corridors. This might not seem interesting but it’s a return to how the original game was made and I appreciate it, as it feels correct.

However, there are other pieces of the original design that didn’t return. The ability to have multiple levels isn’t abused here but is made a lot better. In the original, they used these ugly gray girders. They worked but they were hideous. Now there are balconies and overhangs available all over the place. In the original game, they also used these floating platforms which were round discs with a flame underneath it. These make a return in the remake but they aren’t used to the excessive levels of the originals. The fact is the graphics on Rise of the Triad is much more 2013 than 1995, yet the level design has heavy influences from the limitations of 1995. This tradeoff is a good compromise in my book.

The enemies in the original game, on the other hand, were digitized employees of Apogee, and that looked really amazing at the time. It might have been one of the best features of that game. Looking back at it now though, it is a bit cringe-worthy. The enemies pop a bit more than they should from the screen, but the 1995 gamers were impressed by the tech. This is the same technology that was used three years previous to do Mortal Kombat, yet done in a way where multiple people could be on screen at once, instead of just two combatants.

That doesn’t really work in the modern era, at least modern digitized appearances can look ridiculously good and mesh with the game. I don’t think they used digitized appearances for the remake, but they could have. The enemies though look more generic. While they don’t have the same “pop” but that’s also probably a sign they’re doing it a bit better. The pop of the original game was more how much they stood out and enemies probably shouldn’t be standing out like that.

Those are the big changes and decisions in this remake, and honestly, I feel like they did a great job at retaining the mentality of the original but updating everything else to make it a game that can stand in 2013.

The game itself is interesting. The game starts with the player choosing a playable character (which is from the original) and then watching a short cartoon opening (that’s brand new to this version). This sets up the story a bit, but mostly is a cheesy action sequence that works.

From there you’re dropped into the first of levels. There’s a short “mission briefing” before the level starts but for the most part, it’s “go to the exit” with a side of “murder anything trying to murder you”. They try to tie it to a story but the point of the game is to get to the end. This is the same as Wolfenstein, Doom, and the rest. There’s not a novel twist, and honestly, that’s the original too.

This game is built on the same mentality as those games. You run through the level, murder what you can, dodge what you can, and grab health after failing to do both. In this game, the health is done as food, which if hit with a fire effect (usually an explosive) will double the effectiveness. It’s a cool mechanic and lets you trade ammo for better healing, a trade you likely will make. This isn’t a game like Call of Duty, where you take cover, but a game like the modern doom where you run at enemies and circle around them. I like that style, and I’m glad to have another game that supports the run and gun style.

An interesting piece is that Rise of the Triad is not about killing Nazis. Even though you’re fighting guys with red armbands, Hugo Boss uniforms, and they use MP40s, it’s not Nazis. Apparently, the game mentions it was originally a sequel to Wolfenstein. I’ve done the bare minimal research on this and found out that John Carmack told them not to. And yet it’s really clear what they’re going for in the game, and it works. I just find it an interesting piece of history.


Totally not a Nazi.

Rise of the Triad is built with a score attack feel that I don’t know if the original really pushed. Kill combos and collectible now have more of a point if one wants to rise up on the leaderboard. It’s a nice addition that’s not necessary but it does give a point to exploring the whole level. It was cool to see how I ranked against other players.. A shame they don’t have a friend’s leaderboard after a level, which seems like an odd exclusion.

The other thing that’s a bit unique in the game is unlike Doom or Wolfenstein where your character could hold every weapon at once, there are only five weapon slots. You are able to get a pistol that you can dual wield when you get a second and an MP40. From there they have two weapon slots, a missile weapon and a special weapon. The “missile weapon” slot is for a weapon such as a rocket launcher, the split missiles, or the heat-seeking missiles. Then there’s the special weapon, which includes a magical staff and the “excalibat” which I believe only appears twice in the game.

These extra slots are there because the game is designed for you to pick up these weapons quickly, use them and switch to the next weapon you find using that quickly as well. I like this design because it pushes you to avoid hoarding your best weapons, and it works. I normally save my rockets until the big boss comes, but here the point of the game is to use those violent weapons.

In fact, the game rewards the explosive weapons every so often by giving you “Ludicrous gibs” where body parts cover your gun and screen for a second. It’s so over the top, and yet it has a strong connection to the original. The original took the violence of Doom and really amped it up. This game returns to that level of blood and similar to the original game, the gore here feels more silly than disturbing. There is also an option to turn the gore off, but honestly, if it’s a problem, it’s probably worth it to skip Rise of the Triad, as turning off the gore misses some of the point of playing this game. The ludicrous destruction and mayhem are why you play Rise of the Triad. The gameplay is good but turning the gore off in Doom wouldn’t make sense, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense here either. Yet it is another feature from the original that appears, even if it doesn’t need to.

Ludicrous!

The weapon system does work though. The pistols feel a bit weak, the MP40 is a good back up to the missile weapons, but the feeling that I can use rockets without worrying about wasting them allows me to use them as I need.

There is also power-ups (or power-downs), this ranges from shrooms (which makes the visuals go weird for a bit), a bouncing mode that makes you bounce off the walls (usually just to annoy the player), God mode (you get the hand of God and throw lightning at your enemies), Dog mode (because dog is god reverse), and flight mode. All of these work but outside of God Mode, they tend to be a bit of a gimmick more than pieces of the game. In fact, I rarely found any of them. Whether they are all hidden in secret areas or just aren’t a major part of the game, I’m not sure, but I do remember God Mode in the original game, and it was one of my favorite parts.

There is a clever feature, though. Sometimes an enemy will shout and charge your player, grabbing your weapon. I’ve never seen this in a game in an unscripted event, and it’s a great feature. The downside is I saw two times when an enemy stole my gun, the enemy died and didn’t drop the stolen weapon. I don’t know why, but when my weapons disappears that’s a huge negative as it feels like a glitch. However, I loved the idea that letting an enemy get close to you means they might steal your gun.

There are also a few features that are somewhat unique to this franchise besides the enemies grabbing your guns. Enemies will actually surrender, or feign death. The prior is a cool feature, however, if an enemy surrenders, they’ll say “Don’t shoot me.” After a few seconds, they fall over “dead” then they’ll eventually get up and shoot you again. The game teaches you to shoot surrendering enemies. Not the best lesson, I wish the feature had a chance of just letting them be incapacitated. Even a way to detain them would work and give a chance for more points.

There are also enemies that will feign death. I didn’t see many do this after the first few levels but it’s excellent when it happens. After a few seconds, they will also jump up and start shooting you again, and it teaches you to ensure that enemies are dead, If you point your crosshairs at a feigning death enemy they still turn red so it’s easy to detect this if you’re paying attention.

The one feature I wish was fleshed out more is the character selection. You get unique voices, which is cool, and there are stats that they offer such as endurance and speed. However, in practice, this is really “What type of voice do I want to hear.” Sadly the game doesn’t let you sample the voices, and the game is long enough you won’t want to play through the whole thing a second time. I choose Thi and while she repeats voice lines when shot often, I somehow didn’t get sick of them. There just didn’t feel like a great uniqueness or a special weapon they each used. A shame because the concept is something I would have liked to explore. Maybe even an option to change between levels to use a different character to tackle something different.

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I played three of the four chapters (16 total levels out of 20) on Normal difficulty. I had to cheat on one level that had a jumping puzzle that I just hated (chapter 2 level 2), which proves that First Person Shooters probably shouldn’t have jumping puzzles. I stand by using that cheat code, I really disliked that level. Still, I enjoyed those first three chapters. Then I reached the fourth chapter. Normal became the biggest chore ever. I knocked my difficulty down to easy to finish the game.

The fourth chapter has magical enemies that are very annoying. The bigger problem to me is the tone of the game shifts to support them, and honestly, the fourth chapter feels like it belongs in Hexen or Heretic more than Rise of the Triad. It’s not the worst change, it just feels like it’s out of left field. It’s great that the developer didn’t give the player a fourth chapter that felt the same as the last three, but this feels like they just gave the player something from a different game. The level design, food, and even two new weapons appear out of nowhere. It’s the only tonal shift in the entire game.


Now compare these two images.

They just don’t match.

The other thing I have mixed feeling on are the bosses, the fifth stage of any chapter is a boss fight, and that means you walk into an arena and just fight for your life. The first two bosses are just huge pains to deal with, but they feel like you can challenge them. The third boss though glitches entirely too easy, and makes that fight relatively easy, especially if you save your best weapon for the end of the battle (When it gains a one hit kill).

The fourth and final boss can get bent. It’s a fight that is entirely too hard, too powerful, and if you kite the boss around extremely repetitive. Apparently in the past, health packs respawned in the room, but maybe that got patched out. If the health respawned maybe it would have been a better fight but in the end, I had to glitch that fight as well, and that’s a shame. But overall the boss fights were interesting, if not perfect.

So how is Rise of the Triad 2013? Well, I enjoyed it a lot. It reminded me of the game I long forgot. So for me, there’s a nostalgic aspect to it. At the same time, it’s not an expensive game and I played for over 11 hours. I didn’t get all the secret levels, nor did I beat the game on Normal, and there are more challenges to be had if you go to Hard or Ludicrous. It looks good, plays differently than most games. I recommend it. It’s not going to revolutionize the market, but it’s a fun old school shooter, with the correct changes to bring it to the modern era. For that it is well worth the money.

3/5

Final thought: If you liked Serious Sam or Doom, you should give this game a shot. It’s a remake that improves the original though still has archaic difficulty spikes and jumping puzzles.

Stats: 15.7 hours played, 46/80 achievements

I bought this game for myself in the Fanatical starter bundle.  I didn’t buy the bundle specifically for this game.