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Rise of the Triad  (PC) artwork

Rise of the Triad (PC) review

"To Gib or Not To Gib—That Is Not the Question"

If DOOM (2016) and Shadow Warrior (2013) could be comparable to the success of Shovel Knight by how they deviated from the guidelines of the old-school FPSs, choosing instead to resonate the nostalgic memories into a new game, then Rise of the Triad (2013) is a case of where it adheres entirely to the classic formula with graphical differences. Some might argue that this is to the detriment as the original Rise of the Triad wasn’t without its own share of issues the reboot inherits.

As someone who enjoys the shattered expectations that ROTT brings to old-school FPSs, it has always baffled me how this game never got wide acceptance in spite of its flaws. If people can accept what kind of old-school FPS experience it wants to be, and not what people assume from these games, there is a great experience to be had that keeps true to what people love about these old-school FPS. It’s not a perfect game nor is the foundation it is built upon without its issues; however, most complaints about the gameplay come across as misunderstanding the niche appeal of ROTT and how it manages to stand itself out from the other FPSs of the past as well as the present.

Conventions Were Made to Be Token-In-Up

As a game that was originally meant to be a sequel to Wolfenstein 3D, Rise of the Triad took the concept into a bizarre creation of an arcady FPS collect-a-thon meant for speed-running rather than the slow, methodical resource management and stealth of Wolfenstein. This is largely showcased through the changes made to the enemy line-up of standard Triad soldiers, Dalek machines and sorcerers; the line-up of playable characters with different stat-changes between endurance and speed; the strangeness of its weapon-system and the ammo systems along; and the game’s emphasis on platforming challenges and evading traps instead of labyrinthine environments.

Rise of the Triad  (PC) image

The first major change to old-school FPSs is the limitations on how many weapons players can carry throughout the levels. Weapons are categorized into three main categories: Bullet weapons with infinite ammo (pistols and MP40), Heavy Weapons (rocket launchers, flame weapons and the new Doomstick shotgun) with limited ammo, and Magic Weapons (the famous Excalibat and a magic staff) with limited ammo as well. Each category holds one weapon type besides the bullet category can hold one weapon and there is a plentiful amount of heavy and magic weapons to encourage liberal usage, which perhaps makes ROTT the most explosive-focused old-school FPS for rocket-jumping as well as using their limited ammo to warm up health items for greater effect.

On top of the absurdity of its new weapon system, ROTT incorporates power-ups that can be to the player’s benefit like the God Mode and the Dog Mode (God mode as a Dog) for massive destruction with invulnerability or they can be to the player’s detriments like the bouncing power-up that has the player in constant motion or the shroom power-up to give players migraines. Whereas the weapon system encourages decision making on repeated runs such as using a normal rocket for extra health bonuses or using the Drunk Missile Launcher for crowd-control ambushes, the power-ups could have used more tweaking to make them less obnoxious, even if they are negative effects. Instead of modernizing these quirks with limited value to the gameplay they feel oddly conventional in a game that strictly goes against conventions of FPS.

This is perhaps the source of many issues players have with ROTT as it quickly abandons the focus on combat and more so on the platforming obstacles/traps, and the difficulty scales to tests the player’s knowledge of their available arsenal as the options become less numerous as the enemies and bosses become more rigorous to endure. In a game of constant carnage, ludicrous gibs and explosions, there is a certain methodology to its design that encourages smart playing in a stupid situation.

Rise of the Triad  (PC) image

To Gib or Not To Gib--That Is Not the Question

While combat is a main component of ROTT (2013), there is a larger focus on mastering the levels for 100% completion in the quickest amount of time with the highest combos to rank at the top of the leaderboards. Similar to the emphasis on speedrunning in Mighty No. 9 for a Mega Man game, ROTT (2013) feels uniquely designed around the core idea of gibing enemies and grabbing collectables simply for the thrill of competition with other players, which is something I’m normally not interested in. This design plays more to the arcadiness of the original that had extra lives and a score-system to encourage players to replay levels beyond their complexity itself. However, the biggest problem with this design is rather the emphasis on platforming that will divide players into two types of players.

If there is any truth to this world there are two types of gamers: Those who hate first-person platforming and those who put up with first-person platforming, and that is ultimately the deciding factor as to whether or not you will enjoy Rise of the Triad. While combat remains a priority with new enemy obstacles and more open-area arenas, the emphasis of platforming up higher obstacles in trap-rooms will wear down players who do not expect their abundance.

Before the update that added quick-saving when not on movable platforms at the cost of their total score, there were some areas that could become aggravating to players who find the obstacle courses too demanding after falling from up high as well as sudden death-traps. As a result of the update, the game is more accepting of players who may enjoy the arcadiness of its design yet may not enjoy when they have to spend another five minutes to reach the exit. Even with this option available, ROTT could have toned down their abundance in certain levels as it comes at the cost of its pacing as it sticks too closely to the original’s emphasis within the 2.5D design.

Rise of the Triad  (PC) image

This is perhaps the blindness for the original that has alienated fans from the reboot without considering how to modernize the ideas rather than simply copying them. In the original ROTT, somewhat more favorable of the two, as much as the platforming was a pain to do without being able to look down the obstacles accommodated the player’s inability to jump by placing jump-pads and coins at a certain distance to inform the player how fast they needed to be. ROTT (2013), however, allows the player to jump as well as being able to manipulate these jump pads that can always feel unpredictable if the player will make the jump or fall just short. This is also true for death-traps over various movable platforms, areas that require the player to fly or maintain momentum that feel more based on the 2.5D design rather than redesigning it within a new dimension.

Catering Solely to One Audience is Doomed to be Constrained By It

As much as I have said negatively about the title, there are various elements that work wonderfully. The levels themselves often feel well-crafted with a mixture of action and platforming, remain visually and mechanically appealing. Multiple difficulty modes for each team member strikes a nice balance for challenge compared to other old-school FPSs, and the added touches for each one and the menus for retro-music and silly exit screens keeps the charm of the original. Out of all the aspects I enjoy the most, bosses in ROTT are some of the most enjoyable fights in an FPS because of their multiple phases as well as how supplies within the arenas are designed around them, and it can be made easier with smart conservation of an extra Scorcher to make them into bigger chumps.

It’s unfortunate then that all these positives are overshadowed by its persistent problems of the original that makes ROTT (2013) something only classic Rise of the Triad weirdos like myself able to see through all the bloody screens and eyeballs littered in the aftermath.


Brian's avatar
Community review by Brian (August 18, 2017)

Current interests: Strategy/Turn-Based Games, CRPGs, Immersive Sims, Survival Solo Games, etc.

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