Heretic for DOS

Today I was going to write about some new hardware I acquired, but unfortunately me and my family are sick. So I’ve spent a good part of my weekend caring for my kids and partner. So I took some time to investigate a game based on the engine of one of my favourite DOS games, Doom.



Heretic was made by Raven software in conjunction with iD software and released in late 1994. Having licensed out the Wolfenstein 3D engine it was only natural that iD would continue to do this for all the engines they have made since. Doom was still the best 3D engine around until the later Build engine and Quake became popular. I’ve never played Heretic before, today I managed to play most of the way through the shareware episode, I didn’t have time to complete any more.



Being based on Doom, Heretic has very similar technical specifications and thus runs on similar hardware. Although some minor features were added to the graphics renderer such as particle effects for splashing in water. The main differences are in the artwork, level and sound design.

The artwork for the sprites and levels is pretty good for each individual item, but as a whole they don’t have the same cohesiveness and presence that the Doom artwork does. I also noticed that it either looks too dark or with the gamma increased a bit washed out. I guess it is just personal preference, but I just like the artwork of Doom more.



The sound design suffered a similar fate, all the individual sounds are fine in and of themselves, but the way they are used and combined with the artwork it just doesn’t feel right. Again just a personal preference, but Doom has much better sound which successfully creates a feeling that is hard to describe. The best I can think of is a sense or urgency and being scary/evil at the same time.

Wand Fodder

Wand Fodder

I didn’t get to use all the guns in Heretic as I was playing the shareware version, but the ones I did use were clearly just modified versions of those found in Doom. Firstly you have a staff as a melee weapon which is basically just a sprite swap from the fists and some gauntlets which operate the same as the chainsaw electrifying any enemies that get in your way. The Elven Wand is the weakest ranged weapon and basically equivalent to the pistol. The only major difference is that ammo storage is much smaller (half in fact) making it easy to use all your ammo quickly.

Crossbow or Shotgun?

Crossbow or Shotgun?

The Ethereal Crossbow is the equivalent of the Doom Shotgun, the main difference being that the crossbow shots projectiles rather than instantly hitting its target. It also has a narrower field of fire and fewer projectiles per shot which can make it even harder to hit a moving target.

Chain Claw I mean Dragon gun.

Chain Claw I mean Dragon gun.

The Dragons Claw is the equivalent of the Doom Chaingun. It has a very similar fire rate and has its own separate ammunition supply unlike the chaingun. It doesn’t seem to have the ‘cha cha’ effect on enemies however, but is still quite good for knocking out a crowd of enemies. The Ethereal Crossbow is probably the easiest one to use on a regular basis, but the other weapons are just as good in a pinch under most circumstances.

A powerful read

A powerful read

Again as it was the shareware version I played I didn’t get to see all the enemies, although what I did see wasn’t as varied as those in Doom. The first bad guy you see is a small red demon creature (Gargoyle) that can only perform melee attacks. It is refreshingly different from most of the Doom monsters in that its small size and ability to fly mean it can access more of a level and may seem to come from no-where. The other main enemy is a Golem which basically looks like a man made of mud wrapped in bandages like a mummy. The Golem is fairly slow and again only has a melee attack, individually they aren’t dangerous but in groups can be a problem. Both these enemies also have a variant which can shoot a projectile attack with little change otherwise. There are only a few other creatures in game.

Power Wand

Power Wand

You might think from my description that Heretic is a bad game, but that’s far from the truth. It is just so similar to Doom that I can’t help but compare the the two, and because Doom sets such a high standard Heretic comes out looking a bit mediocre. Heretic has many great features in common with Doom and a few of its own, but it does too little to differentiate itself and become its own game.

Now back to resting and looking after little ones.


2 Responses to “Heretic for DOS”

  1. July 15, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    As a kid I remember seeing this game on the shelf at Walmart (back when they actually dedicated an entire aisle in the electronics section, both sides to PC games not just the tiny quarter aisle space that you have to hunt for now) and I really wanted it. I was and I guess still am into the D&D and fantasy scene so what looked like a first person fantasy setting really attracted me to it. I actually was a late comer to the IBM PC scene and only had a C64 and Amiga 500 through all of the early and mid 90’s so I couldn’t get it. actually…I still don’t own this game.

    • July 15, 2014 at 6:51 pm

      Thanks for the comment Justin.

      It’s a shame they didn’t include any RPG like elements as that would have made the game stand out from Doom somewhat. It probably could have also used some larger levels and quests. I’m not really into D&D and fantasy as much as others, but I do like a few good games such as Diablo I and II that are made in that style.

      I didn’t get to see many retail games until I moved away from home (a small country town) which wasn’t until 1999, way after DOS games were mainstream.


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