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The nineties were truly a great time for the first-person shooter genre. Wolfenstein 3D kind of set the stage and after that, the genre snowballed into one of the most popular video game genre’s in history. Wolfenstein 3D was followed by Doom and the next thing you know, Doom II and Final Doom are out. Then the Build engine came along and brought with it Duke Nukem 3D, Shadow Warrior, and Blood. All of these games were amazing in their own right and if you were around at the time, you witnessed the birth of the first-person shooter genre firsthand. Developed by Indefatigable and published by New Blood Interactive, Amid Evil is a retro first-person shooter currently being developed for PC. It entered Early Access on Steam in March, 2018. Several games have attempted the whole retro shooter thing over the past several years and I think what makes Amid Evil a little unique compared to those is that, at first glance, it seems to resemble Heretic and Hexen, two classic shooters developed by Raven Software back in the nineties.
There is some kind of story going on here or at least a backstory and most of the information is presented to you in the codex, accessed from the main menu. There’s a little intro with text and some voice work when you start playing but outside of these things, there’s not much in the way of narrative. From what I’ve read and understand some kind of unknown evil force has spread corruption across the realms and lands. Nobody knows what this evil is or where it came from and anybody whose attempted to vanquish it has been defeated. That’s it. The only real voice acting is by the woman who narrates the intro sequence and the announcer during the Hordes of Evil mode. It’s not bad, it’s not amazing but it does get the job done.
As of right now, there’s two gameplay modes to choose from. The Amid Evil campaign and the Hordes of Evil mode. Hordes of Evil is just a survival mode. The campaign is the real meat of the game and you can also revisit the available worlds through the level select menu. When you start the campaign for the first time, you’re thrown into an area where you can choose from one of three difficulty modes – Easy, Medium, and Hard. After choosing, you end up in The Gateway which is like a hub world where you can access portals to different worlds. The worlds, themselves, consist of a series of levels, and end with a boss battle. When you first start playing, most of The Gateway is blocked off and you must complete specific worlds to be granted access to the other parts of The Gateway where you can access other portals. There’s only a few worlds you can visit right now. This game is kind of strange because after a while, I honestly forgot I was playing an early access title and I didn’t expect as much content as there is, I don’t know why. But I ended up getting really sucked into the gameplay and when I visited one of the non-working portals for the first time, I was very disappointed. And that’s a good thing because the gameplay right now is excellent and shows a lot of promise. I’m eager to play more.
You can run, jump, crouch, swim, and there is no fall damage. Like Heretic and Hexen, Amid Evil is a first-person shooter with fantasy elements. Instead of guns, the arsenal consists of numerous fantasy-type weapons. You start with the Axe which is your basic melee weapon. The Staff of the Azure Orb feels like a submachine gun or assault rifle and fires these little orbs that can home in on targets. The Whisper’s Edge is a sword that launches projectiles. The Voltride resembles a pitchfork and fires bursts of electricity. The Celestial Claw is kind of reminiscent of a grenade or rocket launcher except it launches planets. Yes, planets. The Star of Torment looks kind of like a mace but it fires these crystal projectiles that can stick enemies to walls. It’s pretty cool, actually. Finally, there’s the Aeturnum which is easily the most powerful weapon in the game. I don’t know what the hell this thing is but it unleashes this giant ball of energy that will project streams that strike nearby enemies. Scattered throughout the levels are different colored mana pickups that basically act as ammo for the weapons. All weapons minus the Axe require mana in order to be used.
Fallen enemies will drop souls that can be collected and after filling your soul bar, you’ll enter soul mode where you’re weapons will be powered up for a brief time. The tip of the Axe will spin rapidly, allowing you to drill through enemies. The Staff of the Azure Orb will fire large bursts of orbs at a rapid rate. The Whisper’s Edge’s projectiles will bounce off of walls. The Voltride will fire a continuous beam of electricity but shortly after I completed what was available in the campaign, an update released causing the Voltride’s electricity to chain attacks. The Celestial Claw apparently fires stars, from what I’m told, which cause a massive explosion upon impact. It’s very satisfying. The Star of Torment will rapidly fire large chunks of crystals that will home in on targets. And the Aeturnum unleashes some kind of void that sucks in all nearby enemies. Now there are power-ups you can acquire, one of them being the Legendary Soul which automatically fills your soul bar. Others include full health, full mana, flight which allows you to fly, invisibility, and even a torch which helps you to see in dark areas.
I’ve played Heretic and Hexen numerous times over the years and I’ve never beaten either and there’s a very good reason for that. As you may or may not know, many early first-person shooters contained maze-like levels. That was like the standard. Well Heretic and Hexen, and most certainly Hexen II, took that concept to the extreme. They go overboard in my opinion. I stated earlier that Amid Evil kind of resembles Hexen and Heretic on the surface, but after playing it, I think it feels more like Doom. That’s because the developers here didn’t go crazy with the level design. The levels are intricate, yes, but they’re not frustrating to navigate. If you get lost, you don’t have to backtrack a long way to activate something that activates something else that activates what you need to unlock the door blocking where you need to go. No, if I got stuck, it was because I missed a button or something nearby. The worlds vary in theme, come complete with their own unique enemies, and the actual architecture seen in the levels is impressive. I just love the design of the structures and buildings and would often stop to look around and admire the architecture. There is text on the ground and walls in some areas that provide hints but I basically figured out where to go on my own. Still, these are nice. You’ll be riding platforms, riding elevators, pressing and shooting buttons, and, of course, acquiring keys which grant you access to new areas because you can’t be a retro shooter without key hunting. The levels are filled with secret areas which usually provide you with goodies so exploring is definitely in your best interest.
I don’t know what most of the enemies are actually supposed to be but many of them run straight for you and try to melee you to death. There’s these big knight-looking dudes with giant swords that fire projectiles, some enemies can fly, some stick to surfaces and fire projectiles, there’s some weird looking enemies, even what I’m going to call stone or rock Golems. Now the difficulty mode does determine the amount of enemies in the levels. Easy has the least amount and Hard has the most. You will need to always be moving, you’ll definitely want to circle strafe, and always be aware of your surroundings. You’re usually always up against numerous enemies at once and the game becomes more challenging as you progress. When you take damage you lose health and to restore health, you can acquire the health orbs scattered throughout the environments. Each world ends with a boss battle and the bosses are large, have their own attack patterns, and you need to shoot them until they die. These boss levels in particular usually consist of large arenas where you’ll battle the bosses and have plenty of room to maneuver but usually not a lot of cover so learning their attacks is crucial.
As soon as I finished what was available in the campaign, I jumped right into the Hordes of Evil mode. This is a survival mode where you need to fend off waves of enemies for as long as you can. Unfortunately, there only seems to be one map available. You can’t choose the map, difficulty, or configure any sort of options. You’re just immediately thrown into the map and off you go. This is one aspect of the game I hope is expanded upon as time goes on and I don’t think that’s unreasonable. Obviously, I’d like to see more maps, maybe even some modifiers of some kind. Anything that gives the mode more replay value.
Amid Evil is a very interesting looking game. I didn’t look at the pre-release screen shots too closely and didn’t realize it’s got this whole pixel effect thing going on. If you look closely, everything is kind of pixelized but at a distance, it’s kind of hard to notice. Regardless, I do like the visual style and appreciate the amount of color. The lighting is also pretty good, however, I do wish some areas were brightened up just a tad. I know the torch is meant to light up dark areas but I don’t think a slight brightness increase would negate that. I do enjoy some of the visual effects like when your weapons dismember enemies, seeing blood from impaled enemies drip down walls, and watching enemies jirate when they’re electrocuted. The sound effects in Amid Evil are pretty good. All of the weapons have a fantasy sound to them, you might even say they sound magical. I expected as much and overall they do sound satisfying. When talking about the music, I can’t say any songs got stuck in my head but the soundtrack does have this dramatic quality that compliments the gameplay nicely. As for the technical aspects, the game ran smooth with no hiccups in terms of performance but I did notice some glitches. I saw some weapons from fallen enemies stuck in mid-air and at one point I saw an enemy coming for me that wasn’t animated.
I had a blast with the game and for some reason, I expected less content than what’s actually on offer here. I was pleasantly surprised. I do wish there was more content of course and I am looking forward to more updates and the final release. I do kind of wish there was more weapons. The current arsenal is great but do I think there’s more potential there. I don’t know if the developers plan to only add new worlds but I would not object to additional campaigns, game modes, and even mod support. I assume that they’re planning to add in a multiplayer component and I think the Hordes of Evil mode has potential but obviously needs to be expanded upon. It’s very skeletal in its current state. I understand the game is unfinished but I’m happy to say I’m already impressed.
So far, Amid Evil is a solid title with gameplay that delivers on fun and excitement. It contains all of the elements that make up a nineties shooter and contains no unwanted mechanics or gimmicks as far as I’m concerned. It’s shoot to kill and you do it with style thanks to its fantasy elements which are actually kind of refreshing. But on top of that, you’ll navigate through some truly beautifully designed environments. Amid Evil is still in early access so it’s unfinished but what’s here is already very exciting and I can’t wait to see the final build.