The end of the Doom Slayer saga is nigh. Wrapping up the story that began with 2016's phenomenal Doom reboot, id Software's final piece of DLC for Doom Eternal, The Ancient Gods Part 2, is going out with a bang, squelch, howl, or indeed any other noise a demon makes when it's ripped and teared apart by the meaty hands of our favourite silent space marine. And that space marine's final foe? The supreme leader of Hell itself: The Dark Lord.
"This is our version of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader going at it," teases game director Hugo Martin. "But it's not the end of the Doom universe. There are more stories to tell. And I think when you look at the world of Part 2 as you play through it, you can see where we could go, and things that we could do."
Martin's cryptic comments on the franchise's future sounds as though Doomguy may finally have met his match in Part 2 but, whatever happens to him by its end, you can be sure he's not going anywhere without putting up one hell of a fight first.
"The Dark Lord boss fight is really I'd say our best boss fight to date," continues Martin. "It feels more like a 1v1 PvP fight than it does PvE, to be honest. We did a lot of work to try to make that encounter feel like you're really fighting an adversary – someone equal to you. He has an ability to actually take health from the player, for instance, just as you can take health from him. So he gains resources from you like you've been doing to other demons for the entire game, which gives it this really good back and forth dynamic."
Beyond The Dark Lord, The Ancient Gods Part 2 also introduces five new demons to its unholy bestiary of enemies, further complicating Doom Eternal's chess board combat design. Martin says that Part 2 is similar in challenge level to that of Doom Eternal's first standalone DLC (a.k.a. really friggin' difficult), but a returning weapon from Doomguy's past will be key to conquering each new encounter.
"The Sentinel Hammer has a huge impact on gameplay in terms of how you acquire resources," he tells me. It's an instant kill on fodder, so it's great for just dealing with large groups of guys, especially when they crowd you. But the main thing it does is that it gives you ammo. Everything that gets hit by the hammer's area of effect blast will give you ammo, making it a new way to get resources back. And, as you know, resource management is definitely a key strategy in Eternal; it's part of the engagement loop."
That engagement loop is something which id Software has been refining, distilling, and perfecting to a tee over the course of the last five years, and The Ancient Gods Part 2 is – if anything – a farewell celebration for all the studio has achieved with the Doom franchise in that time. But getting here hasn't been easy. Executive producer Marty Stratton tells me that all of Part 2 and about "80%" of Part 1 was created by the studio in remote, work-from-home conditions, revealing that this shift "has completely changed the way we think about what we do."
"The team has adapted incredibly well," Stratton continues. "But it's really hard in certain areas. You take for granted things like office whiteboards; the ability to go in a room and just talk and get things on the boards and have that kind of living documentation surrounding you. We have had to juggle some priorities. We had talked before launch about things like Invasion and additional Battle Mode maps… We wanted to have more playable Battle Mode demons out by this point, and those are things that are still on the horizon for us, but we put our focus on getting The Ancient Gods DLCs done, because we knew players really wanted them."
Certainly, with completion rates on the Doom Eternal campaign at a healthy percentage, and recently revealed sales figures suggesting the sequel was a financial success, the Doom community is ever growing, and always hungry for more demons to slay. Id Software is more than in tune to the appetites of those players, too, taking their feedback into consideration not just for various post-launch updates throughout 2020, but in the very design of The Ancient Gods DLCs themselves.
Hell to play
If Doom Eternal was a sequel vindicated by the success of its rebooted predecessor, then The Ancient Gods Part 2 is a love letter to those who have stuck with id Software for the entire journey.
Like that of Part 1, it's more of Doom Eternal with the training wheels off, as your fully locked and stocked Doomguy lets rip in some of the toughest Doom encounters to date. With the tactical advantages promised by the Sentinel Hammer, and the Dark Lord ready to make you question your skillsets as a slayer, Part 2 is Doom's essential apotheosis.
"This DLC is truly some of the best stuff we've done in terms of gameplay and the scope and scale of the world," says Stratton. "When you see the last level in Part 2; this battle between the Sentinels and the Titans that's happening around you… it's like nothing we've ever done before."
So, are you up for one last rip and tear? Get ready to step back into the suit, as Doom Eternal: The Ancient God's Part 2 launches on later this week on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC, and Nintendo Switch.