Rise of the Triad (2013) ReviewGuest_Jim_* - August 8, 2013
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Now to what really counts and what made Rise of the Triad stick in my memory for so many years; the gameplay. Well, I already admitted it was the weapons, but I will get to those in a bit.
This release of Rise of the Triad is not what I would consider a reboot. It is more a remaking or remastering, as level design comes straight from the original game. However the two games do offer different experiences, which I will get to later.
The game is mostly a linear experience, with you progressing from room to room, killing every enemy you can find, but occasionally you do need to backtrack. For example, one level requires you complete four challenges before advancing, and others just require you deviate from a linear path to collect keys.
Levels typically have multiple secrets that hide coins, weapons, food, armor, and other power ups. Coins are just for points, food restores health, and armor is either for stopping bullets or fire. You can have both armor types equipped at the same time, and they are both shown with your healthbar. In a departure from the original game, armor is not on a timer but instead acts as a shield, absorbing so much damage before disappearing. There is currently a glitch with the armor and restarting at a checkpoint that the developers are aware of, though it may not be fixed for weeks. (If you had armor on when you got a checkpoint and then restart at that checkpoint, the armor appears with your healthbar, but does not actually stop any damage.) Other power ups, such God Mode and Dog Mode, are on timers.
In most other FPSs, God Mode just refers to being invincible and possibly having unlimited ammo, and is almost always a cheat. In Rise of the Triad though, it is not a cheat and makes you an actual god as you throw pulses of power from your hand to vanquish your enemies. As impressive as that may sound, my personal favorite weapon is the Flamewall. Firing it launches a burning projectile through the air, but when it hits the ground it explodes into a wall of fire that sweeps forward, burning every enemy it touches. When an enemy burns to death, its flesh burns away, leaving a skeleton to fall to the ground to the sound of a xylophone. This is straight out of the original game, but unlike the original, you may not be able to see the skeleton hang in the air before falling, as the graphics are too intense now.
Other weapons include the fire bomb, which explodes into multiple bombs in an X pattern, exploding a large area of enemies; drunk missile, which is like a Gatling-gun of rockets; split-missile, which fires one missile that will split into two; enemy seeking missiles; and of course a basic rocket launcher. Those are just some of the missile-class of weapons, but there are also bullet and mystical weapons as well.
Bullet weapons include a pistol, which can be single or dual-wielded, and the MP40 submachine gun. Technically this constitutes three guns, as you can switch between single and dual-wielding the pistols, and all three have unlimited ammo. Yes, you have unlimited bullets to mow down your enemies, and from my experience you do not even have to reload (though the animation for reloading the dual pistols is pretty cool).
An interesting mechanic I cannot say I recall from any other game is the ability for enemies to dash to you and steal a weapon. As I said, this is interesting, but in one way, unwelcome. The enemies are able to perform this dash from across the room, and immediately dash back to where they were. That just does not seem very realistic or balance when it is over a large distance. Another annoyance with this mechanic is that you will switch to a different weapon after this happens, even if the weapon you have out is not the weapon that was stolen. When you kill the enemy that took your weapon, they do drop it, so you get it back.
Likely as a remnant from the original game, there are no critical hits in Rise of the Triad. Body shots and head shots do the same amount of damage, so fire away.
Now the time has come for the review to go negative, because there are multiple negative aspects of this game. Some are best described as bugs, while others are design choices, and some exist somewhere between.
First negative that I have to mention is the mouse smoothing. I noticed immediately a difficulty aiming at distant enemies as the crosshairs would jump farther than I wanted to. Fortunately this can be easily fixed by finding the ROTTInput.ini file and switching 'bEnableMouseSmoothing' to false. As a consequence of this fix, the config file will be reset if you verify cache files or install a patch. This option really should be available within the game, but is not. Hopefully it will be added in the future.
Another design choice is actually, on its own, not a true negative, but the execution is so poor I must consider it as such. The original game allowed you to save anytime you wanted to, but this version uses a checkpoint system. As I said, on their own checkpoint systems are not a bad thing but when the checkpoints are too few, they are most certainly a negative. I have encountered multiple levels now with minutes of effort separating checkpoints, with multiple points during that time that would be ideal for checkpoints. For example, in one level you are required to platform over a pit of lava, so one miss and you die. I encountered this area after going through two distinct trap rooms, and a large prison-like room, each of which have their own ways of arbitrarily killing you, and you have to go back through all of it if you miss one jump at the lava pit.
Some of you may be thinking that it is just some platforming over lava, so what is the big deal. The big deal is that the platforming involves jump pads, which are, for me at least, exceedingly frustrating. In an earlier level I had to bounce from one jump pad to another, but because of how inertia works while in the air, this was far more difficult than it had to be. Also because of the limited vertical field of view, you basically have to choose between looking at where you are going to land to make sure you land, or looking at where you are going to next, which is necessary to successfully advance. There are numerous ways this could have been done better, such as restricting a player's speed so they cannot over shoot the platforms, or having the jump pads already push you in the correct direction so you do not end up bouncing in the other direction. None of these were employed, and coupled with the checkpoint system, it becomes very frustrating.
In fact, having realized that this one room invalidates any game time value I could give you, and that it is the only thing preventing me from advancing, I rage-cheated and enabled flight to get past it. (Actually, I had beaten the room's challenge at this point, but while leaving you have to take a floating platform from one area to another. When it arrived at the other area, I walked out to it, just as I had walked onto the platform to begin with, and ended up falling between the ledge and the platform, and could not jump up to the platform. Ultimately I ended up dying and having to do the entire challenge again.) However cheating does not work that way in Rise of the Triad. Naturally it prevents you from getting any score, but it also prevented me from advancing to the next level, so anyone in my situation or a similar one, with one challenge kicking you repeatedly, you have no choice but to keep trying or rage-quit and try again after you calm down. My response was the latter.
Another reason I cannot give you a game time is that I have not beaten the game yet, because I would rather not spend more time than most levels take getting past another jump pad area, and having to run through multiple rooms of enemies and traps for another attempt each time I fail.
Few more issues to mention, but these are not particularly important, just worth mentioning.
Physics in the game is very inconsistent. I mentioned earlier that barrels and boxes could be splintered with gun fire. They cannot, however, be pushed out of the way. Running into a destructible barrel will stop you immediately, but shooting it successfully moves it out of the way or destroys it. If it is against a wall though, and you shoot it towards the wall, it will actually clip into and through the wall. This is true of other physics objects as well, such as some boxes. While every barrel I have encountered can be destroyed, not every box and wood pallet can be destroyed. I honestly have no idea why this would be the case; why identical models would have different physics settings.
The enemy AI can be somewhat stupid, as enemies will stand there, being shot sometimes, and in one instance actually kept trying to run through a door, but got pushed back as the door closed. Made it a little easy to kill them, but was just awkward to watch. Also, one enemy type will leap around to avoid being shot. One time it actually leapt through a wall of bars, which the player cannot pass through, but luckily can shoot through.
After an enemy dies, its body will lay on the level for a while. Eventually the body will disappear in what must be a gore-y explosion. I am not actually sure because I have not seen it, but I have heard it. Gushy explosions coming from behind me are disconcerting to hear when I know enemies will simply appear in rooms I have cleared that have no entries. (Those enemies do not appear arbitrarily, but are spawned by a trigger, such as hitting a switch.) It is worse than hearing something go bump in the night because you know something is out to get you.
The multiplayer is a far better experience, however! The server selection screen shows you what servers are available, the total slots for a server and how many are filled, as well as the distance to the server so you can estimate ping. The distances are also color coded to better highlight the differences. When you select a server you can choose to join it, which takes you to a character selection screen, or you can spectate the match. Truly I have only noticed two things about multiplayer that are at all annoying. The first is that the high run speed of the players makes it very hard to see if there is lag, at least on smaller maps. Everyone is already bouncing around the map, making it hard to follow people's movements. The other annoyance is that the roster of playable characters come from H.U.N.T. and the Triad, which are colored blue and red respectively. Makes it a little confusing during a team match if someone wearing red is actually on the red team. Fortunately they do have a highlight added to their model to identify their team, and the color of their name is different, so you can figure it out without shooting them. As I said, these are annoyances, and not necessarily issues.
The multiplayer gameplay, especially the Capture-the-Flag match I played, was definitely fun. (Fun fact, which the game shares at loading screens, the original Rise of the Triad was the first game to feature Capture-the-Flag.) The individual death matches I played were also fun, but were on the smaller map, making it hard to follow where people were as we ran around, making the experience somewhat chaotic. Was still really fun to grab the flamewall though, and roast multiple people at a time.
Overall, the single-player experience is okay, but needs quite a bit of refinement. Making mouse smoothing an in-game option and adding a quick-save feature would be two meaningful steps toward that refinement. The multiplayer experience is much better, and hopefully will thrive until the map editor update comes and people can start adding their own arenas.