Revenge is the order of the day. You are an elf, a heretic, and are shunned by the other races of the world. The elders of your people were killed in a war with the evil Serpent Riders. Now nothing will satisfy you except to carve out the tripes of the remaining Rider, D’Sparil. Luckily your people have left some magical devices lying about which might just help you in this quest.
So much for the plot. It suffices, if you like that sort of thing, and it can safely be ignored if you just want to get right down to the carnage.
Yet another Doom?
Heretic, like Hexen (reviewed last issue, 90%), is a spin-off from Doom. At first glance you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s just a fantasy version of that game. It shares the same pseudo 3D. texture-mapped game engine with sprite-based bad guys and objects, but there are improvements.
For a start, the greater variation in the graphics and the better use of palette add significantly to the game’s visual appeal. The monsters are more fun too. Being a fantasy world, the authors have really allowed their imaginations to roam wild, with such hideous creations as the Giger-esque Sabreclaw and the Ironlich, a really tough, disembodied skull which spits tornadoes at you. And while the gameplay is similar in concept to its predecessor, subtle changes have been made to increase playability.
The objective is the same, however. You must work your way sequentially through all the levels, solving puzzles, finding keys, discovering secret rooms and blasting anything that moves. It’s bigger though – there are six episodes, each with nine levels, and the level design is far more compelling.
There’s always plenty to do, and always plenty of monsters popping up, seemingly from nowhere, to blast. The game’s designers have made good use of elevation to create the illusion of a 3D world, even though it’s only 2D. This is where two of the additions to the Doom engine really come in handy: the ability to look up and down and to fly.
The biggest change to the gameplay is the use of objects in the game. In addition to the usual health boosts, ammunition and keys, there are other items which you can pick up, carry and use at a later date.
These all have distinct purposes. For example, the wings allow you to fly and the Tome of Power increases the effectiveness of your weapons. This really adds to the depth and diversity of the game, and also effectively doubles the number of weapons at your disposal.
The greater variation in the graphics and the better use of palette add significantly to the game's visual appeal.
Like the ports of other id games, Heretic for the Amiga exists in several versions and flavours. The one used for this review, by Sebastian Jedruszkiewicz and Jacek Cybularczyk, is the latest at the time of writing and comes in versions for 68k, WarpOS and PowerUp.
It’s an accomplished port, supporting AGA and RTG screenmodes, sound effects, music, mouse movement, etc, and it handles all of the original game’s features.
Since Heretic is similar to Doom technically, you may expect a similar performance. On an A1200 with an ‘060/66 it quite happily churns out 20 frames per second in AGA. This speed drops by 2fps when the sound and music are turned on but hey, it’s worth it. The sound effects are great and are a good warning sign for when some monster is trying to sneakily creep up on you.
The one flaw with Amiga Heretic, as with Hexen, is the keyboard mapping. It’s not just that three hands are required to play the game as that’s bad enough, but there are collisions between key uses. For example, the return key serves two functions: one is to jump and the other is to use the current object. This has the side-effect that whenever you want to jump, the current object is activated.
I suspect that this is a bug and the intention was to distinguish between the return key and the enter key, but it’s still annoying.
Hell’s Maw, here I come!
Once the initial excitement at the porting of Doom to the Amiga had passed, the realisation dawned among Amiga users that it was actually a rather dull game. Despite its roots, Heretic is different. The fiendish level design, prettier graphics and general gameplay improvements make it a far more fulfilling experience. It does lack some of the classier touches of Hexen, but in any other respect it’s Hexen’s equal.