AVAILABLE ON: PC (Steam)
The term “boomercore” is being thrown around a lot lately to describe this new trend of making new games that either mimic 90’s shooters or straight up use 90’s shooter game engines. With games like Dusk, Amid Evil, Overload and the upcoming Ion Fury to just mention a few, it’s clear that we’re in a pretty good period right now if you’re into old school shooters. And one of the less talked about ones is Hedon, a shooter that’s made entirely in the most classic of game engines; The Doom engine. Having played through the campaign in its entirety, I do still feel it deserves a review. So let’s talk about Hedon.
In Hedon you play as Zan, a female Orc warrior who wakes up in a cave system. After exploring a bit, you find out that an invasion has taken place and your entire village has been wiped out. It’s the classic Doom story though Hedon takes more of a fantasy take on it. Unlike Doom however, Hedon focuses a lot more on its story with several levels dedicated almost entirely to the story.
One thing I love is how the story is always told in first person, much like games like Half-Life. And also similarly to Unreal and System Shock, most of the story is told through in-game journals and diaries you come across. I can’t really discuss the story in too much detail without spoiling much. All I can say is that it’s really well done.
The universe and characters in the game feel unusually developed and deep compared to most Doom mods I’ve played, which really helps make the game stand on its own. There is a ton of lore in this game in the various journals you come across. And you really feel there is a lot more than you see going on, and that you’re often too late to witness what’s really going on. The game feeds you information at a perfect pace and often leaves you open to put the pieces together yourself.
Hedon is technically a mod for Doom. Specifically for GZDoom, a popular source port. But considering it uses no assets at all from the original game and even adds a lot of new content, I would consider it more being its own game using the Doom engine, in a similar vein to games like Heretic, Hexen and Strife.
Like in Doom you have a health meter indicated by Zan’s face getting progressively bloodier as you take damage. You also have armor that functions identically to the one in Doom. Though in Hedon they’re called armor crystals (probably to justify the fact that everyone’s clothing is rather skimpy).
That’s where most of the similarities end however. The weapon selection is probably the most interesting part of the game. For melee you have your fists which is essentially your desperation weapon and you pretty much never use them since you get an axe shortly into the game. You then pick up the Spike Gun, which functions as your basic assault rifle. It feels similar to the nail gun from Quake in that it fires spikes at your enemies. Its alt fire allows you to aim down the sights and fire short bursts at your enemies.
The Fragfire Gun is a combination shotgun and flamethrower that fires piping hot shells at your enemies or with the alt fire shoots out flames of death at them that can ignite an entire group in seconds. It’s a very powerful weapon and ammo for it is thankfully not in short supply.
The fourth weapon is the Crushbow, which fires explosive arrows at your enemies, similar to the dynamite launching crossbow from Redneck Rampage. The alt fire fires weaker but faster bolts that have a smaller explosion radius. It’s very useful against groups of enemies and larges ones as well as the damage is pretty substantial.
The fifth weapon, the Potion Launcher is also the most utility based one. Its first ammo type are Toxic Grenades which create clouds of toxic gas upon impact. These can also be ignited though to create massive explosions. So combining them with the Crushbow or using them against fire based enemies can prove to be quite effective. The second ammo type are Acid Grenades that cover their target in corrosive acid upon detonation. Extremely useful against hordes of enemies and even some tougher armored enemies. The alt fire makes your grenades bounce around, which can be tactically useful in some situations but I never used it.
The final weapon is the Crylance, which uses the power crystals you find scattered around in the game as its ammo source. It is easily the most powerful weapon in the game and can deal massive damage to most enemies. Its alt fire fires off a large projectile that explodes upon impact and sends out numerous smaller ones.
There are also some additional weapons that are only available on the Bearzerk difficulty, a special difficulty mode that removes access to the game’s usual weaponry and instead gives you a unique set of weapons to play with.
The Hatchet and Shield gives you a less powerful version of the Axe, but it does give you some defensive option with the shield, which can soak up damage for you. The Fire Hammer creates explosions when used against enemies and can also be thrown to be used as a makeshift grenade. The Force Pike can be used as a powerful spear and can also be used to pull enemies towards the player. The final weapon is the Great Axe which deals massive melee damage to enemies. Its alt fire allows you to spin around in a 360 degree circle with it, dealing damage to everything around you.
In addition to the weapons you also have some helpful items at your disposal. Unlike the original Doom where items would be used upon pickup, Hedon is more similar to games like Duke Nukem 3D in that your items are stored in your inventory and can be used at any point. All of the items are temporary buffs and none of them are reusable.
The Vial of Healing restores your health by 10 HP up to a maximum of 100. It’s very useful during combat when access to health potions are limited. The Fixer Goggles functions as the game’s aid in low light conditions and not only illuminates the area around you in a neat “night vision” mode but also highlights enemies. They are particularly useful against some of the late game enemies which are pure black and blend in very well with the darkness around them. My only criticism with these is that they have a limited supply. And given how much of the game is covered in darkness, I often found myself running out of juice when exploring or getting stuck in a level, which lead me to having to fumble through a lot of the darkness.
The Time Shard is an artifact that allows you to freeze time around you. It’s useful for escaping out of bad situations but I found it most of the time to be pretty useless. It doesn’t really offer that much tactical advantage I found, but some players might find it more useful. The Potion of Stoneskin is probably the one I found the most useful. It gives the player massively increased damage resistance and also removes the pain flashes from the screen when taking damage.
The Elemental Ring provides you with massively increased protection against elemental and magic damage. It’s very useful in combination with the Potion of Stoneskin for providing damage protection. The Potion of Might increases your Axe and Fists damage 4 times (basically a melee equivalent of Quad Damage) but ranged damage is reduced by 50%. This makes the Potion very useful for when you want to do insane melee damage. Combined with the protection potions, it turns you into an Orc sized grinder.
The Amulet of Shadows is your invisibility power. Although it doesn’t technically turn you invisible, only makes you much harder to see. It also makes you much faster, making it handy for crossing large gaps. The Potion of Haste, unlike what its name suggests, doesn’t actually make you run faster. But it does increase your firing rate as well as your reload speed temporarily, making it very useful during combat. In combination with weapons like the Crylance it’s a really useful buff.
The Choker of the Beast are items that not only makes your enemies run away in fear (unless they are immune to the fear effect) but also reflects any damage they dish out. The Sentry Gun are helpful allies that you can carry around and place anywhere in the world where they will dutifully attack any hostile in their near vicinity. They do unfortunately have a limited range however.
The Scroll of Wizard’s eye is a useful item which functions like the automap in Doom, filling out the entire map for you, including secret areas. Easter egg areas are however not filled out by this item. The item also charts monsters, items and projectiles. There’s also the Bag of Holding which is only obtainable in a single level and gives the player a permanent inventory upgrade, similar to the backpack from Doom. I never picked this up in my game and I did fine but it is a useful item still.
Most of the gameplay feels similar to Doom where you’ll mostly be searching for keys to unlock locked doors and progress through the game. Although Hedon will sometimes mix things up by tasking you with finding certain spells or completing puzzles in order to progress through the game. All items in your inventory can be examined by pressing the Enter key with the item selected. This can give important clues for Quest items which can only be used in specific circumstances, such as in the first level where you need a pickaxe to get through a crack in a wall.
Combat is a lot more tactical than Doom however with a bigger reliance on elemental damage as well as various weapons and items working together. Finding the right weapons and items to use in the right situations can be key to survival. I also found the general difficulty to be really high as enemies can deal a lot of damage to you. Particularly some of the stronger ones.
But with the items and weapons at your disposal there is also a lot of possibility for yourself to not only deal a lot of damage but also become almost invincible so the game feels very fair and rewards skill and quick tactical thinking over mindless shooting. It is very easy to play Hedon like you’d play Doom but it isn’t as fun or rewarding. It’s easier to approach it like a FPS hack’n’slash rather and use the buffs at your disposal as the game really is built around them.
What I like the most about the game is the varying pace. Some levels are more focused on exploration and building atmosphere. And I found the pacing to be perfect in that regard. In one level you’re going from battle to battle while in the next you’re simply exploring an ominous facility and avoiding organic trip mines. The use of black slime and tentacles really gives the game a very Lovecraftian vibe, even more so than Quake. And you truly feel like you’re up against a realm that’s beyond understanding.
GRAPHICS & SOUND
Graphically, Hedon looks amazing for a Doom engine game. It looks unmistakably retro, but with some very nice lighting effects and the sprite artwork is undeniably well done. Of course it feels a little male oriented with the amount of scantily clad women in the game. In particular the boss feels like she’s straight up wearing dominatrix gear. But it never really bothered me that much. I mean it is a fantasy game and if I had a body like Zan’s and a crystal that gave me armor without needing any physical armor, you’d bet I would show some skin.
The sound is really good though, with a lot of satisfying crunch to the sound effects and with some excellent music. A lot of it is composed by Alexander Brandon who might sound familiar to those who grew up with games like Jazz Jackrabbit, Unreal and Deus Ex. He really brings his own sound to a lot of the music in the game and it’s really good stuff. The soundtrack is also really diverse, ranging from creepy ambience to melodic breakbeat tunes and even some heavy metal. I really hope a soundtrack album is or will be available at some point. Cause it’s one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard in a while.
All in all, Hedon is an amazing retro FPS that I highly recommend if you’re a fan of old school shooters. Its difficulty might turn some people off and its confusing level design can sometimes be a bit of a chore to get through, but this is a really rich experience that feels highly rewarding to those who are willing to get good at it. You can grab it now on Steam for about $10.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10