When the first installment of Doom Eternal’s post-campaign expansion released last October, it had the unenviable task of following up one of the most polished, well-paced, action-packed first-person shooters in recent memory. The Ancient Gods Part One, however, exceeded all expectations by increasing combat difficulty, forcing players to adapt to new gameplay styles, and ending on a mind-blowing cliffhanger.
Now, id Software and Bethesda Softworks have released The Ancient Gods Part Two, a final installment with the even more unenviable task of serving as the grand finale not only to Doom Eternal, but to the entire saga — ultimately wrapping up the Doom Slayer’s story, which began in the 2016 series reboot Doom.
Though Ancient Gods Part Two, comprising three levels and a final boss fight, remains an adrenaline-fueled descent into chaos like the base game and first expansion, the pieces of its gameplay puzzle don’t quite fall as perfectly into place as before.
Like Ancient Gods Part One, Ancient Gods Part Two picks up right where its predecessor left off — curiously, however, it immediately dissipates the tension built up over the course of the previous installment. At the end of Ancient Gods Part One, the Doom Slayer came face-to-face with the Dark Lord, a demonic version of himself. Though the confrontation between players and their evil alter ego seemed imminent, Ancient Gods Part Two artificially delays this battle until the very last stage of the new downloadable content.
Not a big deal — story is the least important part of the Doom Eternal experience, and this unnecessary postponement is mostly justified by the fact that players now get three more epic battlefields full of demons to terrorize.
New to this expansion is the Screechers, demons that, upon taking damage, explode, sending a wave of powerful energy across the battlefield that increases the health and speed of any other demons caught in the blast. This new enemy variant forces players not to bulldoze every single demon they encounter. Instead, players must tiptoe around Screechers without damaging them, targeting the other demons exclusively.
Some of the other new demonic entities, however, feel less original. There are Stone Imps (more powerful versions of the base game’s Imps), Cursed Prowlers (the base game’s Prowlers, but with toxic damage), Riot Soldiers (alternate versions of the base game’s shielded Soldiers, now with unbreakable shields). While these new elements don’t ruin the flow of combat, they often don’t do nearly enough to justify their inclusion.
The Doom franchise reached its pinnacle with Eternal. Ancient Gods Part One pushed the limit and miraculously managed to squeeze out something just as enjoyable. With Ancient Gods Part Two, however, the game reaches a point of diminishing returns.
Now, the complexity becomes unnecessarily overwhelming — there are often an abundance of ways to achieve the same result — and the once-balanced combat begins to teeter. With Ancient Gods Part Two, it frequently feels like players have too many options. Even as the expansion’s new weapon, the Sentinel Hammer, makes grenades more useful, it also makes the now-iconic chainsaw, introduced in Doom 2016 as the way for players to restock ammo, redundant.
Once again, movement is the key to survival, and Ancient Gods Part Two introduces new platforming elements such as grapple hook leverage points, in addition to the gravity pads and monkey bars of the base game. This is welcome, as the downloadable content also increases the frequency of encounters with speed-buffed demons so that even the slightest stagnation costs a life — players must constantly think on their feet to avoid being caught in a trap.
However, an overreliance on health-buffed enemies somewhat hampers Ancient Gods Part Two’s pacing. Since the Sentinel Hammer makes ammo abundant, health-buffed enemies don’t pose a strikingly unique challenge and instead become bullet sponges that artificially elongate combat encounters.
Given the unbridled upward trajectory of the Doom series, it’s no surprise that The Ancient Gods Part Two slightly buckles under pressure. In order to outdo its predecessors, this expansion would have to pull something spectacular out of its bag of tricks. While it doesn’t, what remains is a satisfactory, if not particularly game-changing conclusion to the savage legend of the Doom Slayer.
This review is based on the PC version of Doom Eternal: The Ancient Gods – Part Two.
Neil Haeems is a deputy arts & entertainment editor. Contact him at [email protected].