Heretic was released in 1994 and put together by Raven Software, who would go on to rule the roost in the “dark-fantasy-first-person-shooter” niche. It was made using a modified version of the doom engine. Heretic feels a lot like Doom, and many of the weapons seem like medieval counterparts of Doom’s arsenal. But there is also enough here to really make it a game of its own. Jumping and crouching are two things that Heretic does but Doom doesn’t, and they add another aspect to game play. Probably the biggest change is the inventory system, which was ground breaking in its time. Doom also had items, but they took affect as soon as they were collected. In Heretic they get put into your inventory, and you are free to use them whenever you please.
I have always been a huge fan of Doom, and its sequel Doom 2, and even the prototype for the entire FPS genre, Wolfenstein 3D. The only old school shooters I like more than them were Raven Software’s offerings, particularly Hexen and Heretic 2. Despite that, I have only actually gotten around to playing the original Heretic thanks to stumbling upon the source-port, ZDoom. While the name may suggests otherwise, Zdoom is a source port for not only the first two Doom games, but Heretic and Hexen as well, as they all use a similar game engine. The source-port itself is free, but you are going to have to find the WAD files as they are not included.
Heretic puts you in the shoes of a sole adventurer who must save the world! Yes, early first person shooters were not known for their epic story lines, and Heretic’s story is suspiciously close to Doom’s, but when it’s all said and done, we don’t play these games for the story. We play them for the action packed ass-kicking good time we know they are going to give us. Heretic plays superbly, especially through a source-port. Movement is smooth, the controls are responsive, collision detection (taking damage) is balanced and difficulty level makes the game both fun and challenging.
The graphics are adequate. They are pixelated to all hell, but you have to remember that this game came out 20 years ago. It’s older than most kids graduating high school this year. While they are not realistic or especially frightening, they are at least convincing. Playing this game makes me feel like I have stepped into and old Sword and Sorcery novel. I guess what I’m trying to say is he graphics have character, which is more than I can say for most modern shooters.
Now, if you’re like me and for some reason ever played the original Heretic, get all over that shit like white on rice. It provides a classic retro-gaming session because it is a classic retro game. I imagine most people out there have actually played this game, at least once. But for those of you who haven’t, I highly recommend Heretic. I often play old games I missed the first time around only to be happy I missed it the first time around, but with Heretic I was kicking myself for not playing it earlier.