The mid to late 1990s saw an explosion of first-person shoot ‘em ups very similar to that of Doom and Wolfenstein. Heretic, even though essentially a Doom clone, very much held its own and still holds a very loyal fanbase to this day.
Although visually similar to Doom and the like, Heretic very quickly becomes its own game, featuring a unique roster of demons and monsters as well as a plethora of maze-like maps designed to entertain the explorer in you rather than a rifleman.
Visually, Heretic looks great. The Doom engine which the game is based on has been tweaked and fine-tuned to a professional level, the 3D graphics are excellent and do a fine job of making an atmosphere.
The game’s sound is not great by modern day stands but it does the job, and provides an appropriate atmospheric effect where it’s needed. The soft background music draws you into the game, but there is an aural overload during monster attacks. The sounds of the hero grunting in pain combined with the sounds of the weapon firing can be distracting and annoying. Still, this is not a big drawback.
The game’s storyline follows a mythical theme. Three brothers, known as the Serpent Riders, have used their immense magical powers to turn the seven kings of Parthoris into mindless puppets. The kings, in turn, led their subjects in doing the Serpent Riders’ bidding. However, the Sidhe elves are immune to the Serpent Riders’ spells and had no allegiance to any of the seven kings; the Serpent Riders thus declared the Sidhe as heretics and launched a campaign of genocide against them. In comes the player, you must battle your way through hordes upon hordes of nasty baddies, to save the seven kings of Parthoris and maintain justice and peace.
Heretic is definitely the kind of game that you can spend many hours playing without realizing it. The enjoyment level is really high when you are doing well and drops slightly when you get lost in a maze of caverns. Heretic challenges your brain to figure out each level, it can feel a bit full on at times but ultimately it proves to be rewarding.
The game’s replay value is excellent, there are so many hidden passages to explore, and because few players will achieve success in one or two game sessions.
Heretic has a perfect combination of both intensity and inaction, one second you’ll be pitting your wits against a horde of red, flying ichy-things, then the next minute you’ll be wandering aimlessly through a maze looking for a sacred artefact.
So all in all, Heretic is definitely worth a play if you have a RiscPC, A7000 or a copy of Virtual Acorn at hand, unfortunately newer RISC OS computers are not compatible. You can purchase Heretic along with the equally action-packed Hexen from R-Comp, currently priced at 32.50ukp. Both a CD-Rom and floppy drive is required for installation.
UPDATE! Free ports of both Heretic and Hexen are nearing release and will be uploaded to riscos.info upon completion. You will require commercial copies of the games’ data files in order to play the free ports. The datafiles can be bought through a number of legal online game distribution stores. These versions are also compatible with newer hardware systems and RISC OS 5.