[Classic Review] DOOM: The Roguelike: The DOOM Mod – DoomRL Arsenal

Developers: Yholl et al.
Genre: Classic FPS with RPG elements
Where do I get it: ZDoom forums

Remember DOOM? Of course you do. DOOM is one of the granddaddies of first-person shooters. You are a lone survivor, a marine trapped in the Union Aerospace Corporation’s base on Phobos during an invasion from Hell. You must blast, saw, and RIP AND TEAR your way through hordes of zombies and various demons… for some reason that’s unstated, but probably because “eh, it’s better than dying.”

DOOM was released in 1993 and was a revolutionary game. It was followed up the next year by DOOM II: Hell On Earth, and later Final DOOM, a compilation of DOOM, DOOM II, and two feature length — and quite difficult — map packs built around the DOOM mythos and engine (TNT Evilution and The Plutonia Experiment). DOOM modding has flourished since the WAD format was originally reverse engineered not long after the game’s release. Even today, 22 years since the game’s release, new DOOM levels and mods are being constructed, released, and enjoyed by many. And with a new DOOM on the horizon, we thought it would be prudent to talk about our favourite DOOM mod.

Long ago in the early days of Cordilon Gaming, we wrote about DOOM: The Roguelike, which is exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a roguelike game in the traditional sense of the term — designed to be played with a keyboard and terminal, with ASCII representations of the map and descending levels into the dungeon (though a tile mode is available) — built around DOOM, but with added mechanics such as weapon crafting and customization, classes, feats, and items and monsters galore. If you like roguelikes, you should give this one a try. It’s a blast. Literally, because it’s DOOM, and what kind of DOOM wouldn’t involve blowing shit up?

In 2013, some clever folks on the ZDoom forums led by lead developer and programmer Yholl released an early version of a mod for ZDoom called DoomRL Arsenal, with the goal of adding in the classes, monsters, and weapon crafting/customization system (called assemblies) from DOOM: The Roguelike into ZDoom. Development has continued steadily, and presently the mod not only implements all of DoomRL’s classes, monsters and assemblies, but adds several of its own, as well as two new difficulties called “Technophobia” and “Armageddon”, while simultaneously bumping the difficulty of the the game up across the board.


Installing and Configuring DoomRL Arsenal

There are three WADs you need to download and run to get a full DoomRL Arsenal game running: The base WAD, the HUD WAD, and the Monster Pack. While not strictly required, the Monster Pack is the bulk of the content in the mod and without it, DOOM becomes rather easy what with the addition of weapons such as the VBFG9000 and the Plasmatic Super Shotgun. With it, you might want to drop down one difficulty level from your usual DOOM experience if you’re playing solo; Nightmare Arch-Viles and Agony Elementals will have you running for ammo and cover like a madman.

You also need a very recent version of ZDoom. Earlier this month, ZDoom 2.8 was finally released after two and a half years of nightly builds. You’ll want to make sure you’re on 2.8.0 or newer, or a nightly build.

Once in-game, you will need to set up your configuration as you like it, as well as a few DoomRL Arsenal specific keybinds. Bind keys for drop, reload, inventory management, altfire, unequip, and HUD navigation. Keyboard DOOM purists, be warned: This is a mod designed with modern DOOM source ports in mind, mouselook and all.


Meet the Team: Classes

DoomRL Arsenal adds the three classes from DOOM: The Roguelike (Marine, Scout, and Technician) as well as two of its own (Renegade and Demolitionist). Each class has its own trait and passive effects which work well solo as well as with other classes, making cooperative multiplayer an exciting and well-balanced experience.

The Marine is the boy packin’ eighty pounds of heavenly joy. His starting weapon is the classic DOOM chaingun. His trait, Ammochain, allows him to only use one unit of ammo per four shots from fully-automatic weapons, and one shot per burst from burst-fire weapons. His passive ability increases the duration of powerups such as berserk packs and invulnerability spheres by 50%. The Marine is best paired with weapons like the chaingun and battle rifle in the early game, and will end up using such wonderful guns as the high power gatling gun and hyperblaster in the late game.

For those who like to be light on their feet, the Scout is your choice. The Scout starts with the classic DOOM pistol, which is made incredibly powerful by his trait, Sharpshooter. All pistols the scout uses do up to eight times their normal damage, based on their fire rate. Semi-automatic pistols have halved spread as well. His passive ability increases his running speed and jumping height by ten percent, and gives you the computer map at the start of each level.

A wizard of fixing broken things and breaking fixed things, the Technician disassembles non-common guns with his Scavenger trait and turns them into modpacks. His starting gear is a random basic assembly weapon and a random modpack. His passive abilities allow him to see all basic assemblies by default, carry eight modpacks at a time instead of four, and sees pillars of light on items on the ground showing item rarities.

The Arsenal-exclusive Renegade has respect for his shotguns. He starts with a standard shotgun. His trait, Shellshock, delivers unto his enemies an extra serving of pain in the form of 50% more pellets from shotguns and shotgun-like weapons. The Renegade’s passives allow him to switch weapons instantly (effectively with no weapon switching animation) and gives a 50% boost to all armour protection up to a maximum of 80%. This is my personal favourite class.

Also exclusive to the Arsenal is the Demolitionist. The Demolitionist’s Fireangel trait makes him immune to splash damage. He also uses half ammo on all non-shell-based weapons. If you like your rocket launchers, missile launchers, grenade launchers, demolition shotguns, and other weapons firing gib-tastic high explosives, you will want to play this class. The Demolitionist starts with a rocket launcher and eleven rockets. Make them count.


Weapons, Armour, and Assemblies

The most radical change to DOOM that the Arsenal makes is to combat. You can carry up to six weapons at a time, plus unarmed attacks, and each weapon has an ammo pool that it may share with other weapons and a magazine that must be reloaded. Some weapons are single shot, while others are magazine-fed and are reloaded either shot by shot or a whole magazine at once.

Modpacks are found randomly throughout levels (technically, spawned randomly in place of other world item spawns). Any class can attach a modpack to a weapon. Certain combinations of modpacks on weapons are called assemblies, and assembling these combinations prompts you to press your fire button to turn the weapon into that assembly weapon. For example, one power mod and one bulk mod on any non-shotgun weapon with a magazine capacity greater than five rounds creates a high power assembly version of that weapon. There are three classes of assemblies: Basic assemblies take two mods to construct, advanced assemblies take three, and master assemblies require four. Picking up computer data around levels will add to your assembly list. Or you can just look at the DoomRL wiki for the assemblies that have been ported over from the roguelike. I highly recommend the plasmatic super shotgun if you can find the mods for it.

There are four standard and three exotic weapon modpacks, and each behave differently on different weapon types. The standard modpacks are agility (green, increases accuracy), bulk (blue, increases capacity and pellet count), power (red, increases damage), and technical (yellow, increases reload speed). The exotic modpacks are sniper (purple, greatly increases accuracy), firestorm (orange, increases fire rate and AOE radius), and nano (white, manufactures ammo out of thin air). There are also two modpacks for armour, one which changes the colour of standard armours, and an onyx mod pack which makes your currently-worn armour indestructible.

Armour is changed in DoomRL Arsenal significantly. Armour is equipped, and gives a fixed protection against damage as well as various resistances to different attack types. Armour boost pickups restore 25% of an armour’s durability. Removing armour that is undamaged drops it, while removing damaged armour destroys it. Certain exotic armours are indestructible, and can be unequipped freely and never need repair pickups.

Boots are now separate pieces of equipment that are indestructible and provide various boosts such as increased movement speed or damage protection. You can carry spare sets of boots and armour in your inventory for when the situation requires them. Some combinations of armour and boots give set bonuses.

Things That Go SKREEEEEE in the Night: Monster Pack

DoomRL Arsenal itself just adds weapons, mods, assemblies, the new armour and combat code, spawning code, classes, and the HUD. The bulk of the challenge added by the mod is in the Monster Pack.

The Monster Pack is the third WAD you need to download to fully experience DoomRL Arsenal and it contains over 75 new monsters, many of which are ported over from DOOM: The Roguelike. There are Nightmare versions of almost every monster in the base game, as well as cybernetic and Armageddon versions of many enemies. The behaviours of vanilla monsters are also modified; Revenants change their mode of attack when they run low on health, for example. Pictured above is the Nightmare Mastermind.

Keep in mind, though, that these new monsters are all very difficult. Even if you play DOOM on Nightmare difficulty, you may want to consider trying Ultra-Violence first. These baddies are insane enough without them respawning, and you’re likely to run out of ammo as it is.

There’s also a Nightmare Icon of Sin. I’m not sure what the difference is, but if you’re accustomed to ZDoom DECORATE scripting, you can crack open the DoomRL Arsenal WADs in SLADE or your favourite WAD editor and find out. See if you can find the jokes in the comments while you’re at it.


Works on My Machine! WAD Compatibility

DoomRL Arsenal is a pretty major overhaul to DOOM and requires a very recent version of ZDoom specifically to work. It will not work in a Boom or Skulltag based source port. It might work in a recent GZDoom, but I can’t confirm if it will or not. Jake and I play it with a nightly build from a few months ago and ought to update to 2.8.0 just for the possible bug fixes.

The mod works with vanilla DOOM, DOOM II, TNT, and Plutonia. Jake and I have played through all the levels of these IWADs with no problems except a bug in MAP28 of DOOM II (The Spirit World) where I spawned outside the map in multiplayer co-op. We have also had success with most of the level PWADs and megawads we’ve tried, except Ultimate Simplicity, which changes so much on its own that it is unfortunately incompatible with DoomRL Arsenal. As an aside, we’ll probably do a post or some videos or something on that megawad as well. It’s pretty good from what I’ve heard and the few minutes of it we went through before compatibility issues with the Arsenal rendered it unplayable were quite enjoyable.

Most ZDoom-based level WADs seem to work fine. A number of pre-ZDoom ones work as well, though if there are ZDoom port versions of them, you should be using those. We’ve played the Community Chest series of megawads and, though some levels are frustrating as hell (looking at yours, Gene Bird, whoever you are), they’ve worked fine. Megawads that add new weapons, enemies, and major gameplay mechanics most likely will not work with DoomRL Arsenal.

If you play through a level pack or megawad with DoomRL Arsenal, please post a comment! We are always looking for some good old fashioned demon-slaying fun to have with this mod.

Oh, and of course, you need an IWAD. It would be very illegal for us to provide you with those as they’re retail products from id Software. If you’ve lost your DOOM II floppies or Final DOOM CD, you can grab DOOM II + Final DOOM on GOG or Doom Classic Complete on Steam and use the IWADs from that. Now go get your friends and your arsenal and blast some demons back to Hell where they belong!

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