General game information
Game name: Amid Evil
Release date: TBA
Store page: Steam
Genre: First person shooter
Publisher: New Blood Interactive
Remember when all the big publishers were chasing after the success of Call of Duty, mindlessly greenlighting scripted modern military shooters? Even DOOM was at risk of becoming Call of Doom back then, until the talented team at id Software decided they had enough and rebooted the entire thing, discarding years of work in favor of a new approach that stayed true to the originals’ legacy.
Shooters have come a long way since these dark times, with a number of excellent new releases rightfully taking their place in the FPS pantheon alongside classics such as Doom 1/2 and Duke Nukem 3D. For every Call of Duty copycat, we have a DUSK, or a High Hell nowadays. Of course this doesn’t mean that ALL new shooters are as excellent as those two I’ve mentioned, but the title that we’ll be previewing today already shows enough promise to bewitch me into naming it alongside David Szymanski and Terri Vellmann’s work.
Developed by newcomers Indefatigable and published by our old friends New Blood Interactive, Amid Evil promises to revive the glory of Hexen/Heretic with a side of the good things present in Witchaven and a sizable helping of Unreal Engine 4 goodness. As expected from a good retro-inspired shooter, Indefatigable‘s debut release features open levels, aggressive enemies, no regenerating health, and all sorts of simple puzzles that are used to hide keycards required to progress past important doors.
Though we’ll start the game armed with a melee weapon, and the mechanics for that murder tool are strong, Amid Evil is primarily a shooter, only one which swaps guns for magic wands and other fantasy-based means of disposing of our enemies. Circle strafing around enemies will be the key to success, and the player’s speed is as fast as one would expect from a Hexen revival. Our foes also carry a mixture of melee and ranged weaponry, and will try to cooperate in order to take us down, with the close quarters cannon fodder rushing our position while their ranged buddies pepper us with projectiles from a distance. Most of the enemies are very samey-looking, sadly, though I expect that this will be changed in the final version of the game.
Our own arsenal is quite varied, and a mechanic that evokes the Tome of Power from Heretic adds even more interesting ways to kill our would be slayers as we collect the souls of the dead. For instance, once we’ve filled up the soul meter, the starting axe becomes something that resembles the Painkiller from People Can Fly‘s series of the same name, and the pistol-like starting wand transforms itself into a weapon similar to Doom‘s Plasma rifle, to name a few interesting upgrades. Those power-ups are limited, of course, but there are enough enemies to keep our soul bank filled to the brim, if we time their deaths well enough. Every common FPS weapon archetype is represented here, with the starting wand acting as a pistol, a sword-looking spell launcher replacing the shotgun, a trident masquerading as a rifle, and my favorite, a staff that launches big balls of fire (that looked like planets upon closer inspection), taking center stage as the replacement for the always useful rocket launcher. Thankfully, all our weapons have a nice “punch” to them, and our foes will bite the dust gracefully, disappearing in bloody mists, or getting dismembered by our axe.
As I said previously, Amid Evil‘s level design was obviously inspired by classic shooters, so we’ll spend a lot of time traversing open areas full of enemies hungry for our blood while we search for puzzles to solve in order to obtain the ever important colored keys that will open up our path forward. The team at Indefatigable is using Unreal Engine 4 to power their debut release, so there are no fake 3D levels here, meaning that we’ll have to deal with enemies that will take the fight to us from all angles. Players who like to investigate every corner will be rewarded with a plethora of secrets, ranging from health upgrades to hidden weapons that were supposed to be found later (and of course, the sweet feeling of relief once we get to the end of the level and the stats screen proudly states that we’ve achieved 100% completion). The keycard puzzles are the same we’ve been solving since the dawn of time (go here, shoot this, stand on that, jump there, etc.) but they come up naturally, and don’t feel forced, something that would have been the mark of a retro-inspired shooter that didn’t really “get it”.
Tech-wise, Amid Evil is in an interesting position, as it’s obviously gunning for a Hexen 2/Quake look, but the developers also chose to add a number of modern graphical features such as reflective surfaces and bloom lighting. The end result often looks stunning, and I’m a big fan of the way light sources act upon the environment, a luxury we didn’t have back in the 90s. Enemy variety is currently lacking (at least from a graphical point of view). The sound effects aren’t anything to write home about at the moment, but the soundtrack will be another Andrew Hulshult masterpiece if the tracks featured in the demo I played are any indication of the final product.
Overall, looks like New Blood Interactive has picked up yet another winner, and at this rate, the rebellious publisher will end up kickstarting a retro FPS revival the likes of which I never thought I’d live to see. Amid Evil‘s fast paced combat and sprawling levels should catch the attention of shooter fans who have been patiently waiting for a Heretic/Hexen revival. Hopefully the end result will equal or even surpass Raven Software‘s forgotten classics.