Heretic: Shadow of the Serpent Riders is a fantasy First Person Shooter by Raven Software that came out in 1994 and uses Doom engine. Yes, it's Doom-like shooter set in fantasy. Awesome mix. Plus inventory.
Shadow of the Serpent Riders is a special patched release of a game that brings it to 1.3 version, thus adding two more additional episodes. No new game content like weapon or monsters or textures, just new levels. Think of Ultimate Doom.
Now, let's tip apart the way that game was handled on Steam. Well. At least they brought the most full version of the game here. And it uses DosBox, which is usually a good thing until you find out how badly id Software configures them for Steam.
The game will lag at full screen, so you want to go to game directory and edit heretic's conf file to make it use "opengl" for "output" setting.
Game's option like music device and controls is once again isn't easily accessed. On good side, they didn't remove Setup.exe this time around, unlike Doom games on Steam. So you have to open game directory, drag setup.exe onto dosbox.exe and then configure it as you want.
Storyline of a game is quite simple. Well, it has a lot of written in manual, but main idea and amount of plot in game is minimal.
Your hero is elven hero, who's name is Corvus. Elven race, guardians of the Pathoris world and keepers of Tome of Powers, were proclaimed as heretics, when Dragon Riders came to conquer this world. With two Dragon Riders leaving for the other worlds, the remaining Dragon Rider, D'Sparil, unleashes horde of monsters through portal after Elves manage to wipe out all of the human armies of the world. Most of the elves were killed, monsters took Tome of Powers for themselves and you are one of the lone survivors. Your journey will begin at the City of the Damned.
Somebody will get murdered in the end.
The additional episodes 4 and 5 have excuse plot of "portal didn't lead you to home, so enjoy the world destroyed by Dragon Riders and the home of D'Sparil".
Presentation-wise the game is quite awesome looking and sounding for it's time. Yes, Doom engine. But art-style-wise, Heretic presents the world that is dark fantasy yet very colorful, with great contrast. Setting is awesome, you get to wield a magical crossbow that is equalient to shotgun. While Episode 2 is a least interesting looking one, taking place in brown caves with lava, until it gets less dull with inclusion of ice in later level, Episode 3 brings an original setting of a underwater shrine and buildings. Even water in this game has that artsy look to it.
Music is great too. With medivel feel, it's not afraid to use modern instruments. Well, instruments of MIDI and Soundblaster. Most of them are melodic and catchy. Cathedral track will send chill down your spine for sure.
Gameplay itself is, surprise, Doom-like. You search and explore mazes at the running speed, finding keys and opening lcoked doors, pressing switches and discovering secret areas, shooting down monsters or rather rushing past them.
You will shoot down red flying gargolues, mummies, armor knights that throw axes at you, and dark wizards of D'Sparil, who will turn your blood cold with their backward speach that sounds like silly phrases. You will also deal with respawning "explosive barrel"-like things, will push yourself against streams of water and wind and will encounter bosses. Which are your standard FPS bosses. Being tough enemies that you will start encountering more often in later episodes. So not too amazing.
Though, unlike most FPS, it does do something good: There are no enemies who use hitscan against you. What it means is that any damage in the game can be avoided, giving it more arcade-like quality. If forget that it still makes you run over damaging acid like Doom does.
There are seven weapons of magical nature. Shotgun-like crossbow, Rocket Launcher-like Pheonix Rod, Plasma-gun-like Hellstaff. With most of them shooting projectiles, they feel slightly too similiar to each other in use. But thankfully, game introduces Tome of Power.
Tome of Power is a item power-up that you will find through levels. By using it through inventory you will power-up your weapons for a limited time. It doesn't just make them stronger, it also gives additional properity for them, making them even more amazing. For example, mace, the final weapon, stops sucking hard. Hellstaff will make a hot magic rain appear over where the projectile collided. Gaunlets, the game's chainsaw, will start to heal you as well.
Inventory is another addition to gameplay. You will get to collect various helpful items that you can use it anytime. It could be Hourglass who work as timed bomb and aren't much of use, or healing potion, or invincibility ring, or, as said, Tome of Power. Not related to inventory, you also will sometime find armor, but it's quite a rare thing.
There is one important thing to be said about inventory: When you move to the next level, you will retain only one quanity of each item. You will also lose item that allows you to fly around. I am pretty sure that it may sound like a bad thing for some players. But I think it was a good idea. Most of us are used to stockpile tons of items so we could rush bosses down. With system like that, you should feel free to actually have fun using additional items during normal gameplay, you will lose them for no good otherwise.
Last thing I should note is difficulty of additional episodes. Yes, episode 4 and 5 are harder. They are also more of same. And yes, the final level has eight Maloutaurs. But first levels of each of those two episodes deserve a special mention, as they will require you to think fast, use items effectively, avoid enemies you don't want to fight with in order to survive. It was really fresh challenge, at least on Normal difficulty. Got simpler after that though, as you gain more items in process.
But with all the positive things I said, I have to be honest, it didn't become favourite FPS. It's hard to explain why. But you see, the game just doesn't "click" like Doom does. It just doesn't. I am not sure what it lacks. There is something in game feel that it doesn't have. Perhaps there should have been more common enemies that die bloodily. Or maybe it's the projectiles nature of weapons not being comparable to shotgun and rocket launcher. But yes, it lacks something, hard to say.
Heretic is an awesome FPS and yes, it's a Doom clone. But it's an awesome Doom-clone, perhaps bettering Doom itself for some people.