Prodeus Early Access Review: More Like DOOM Than Even DOOM
Developed by Bounding Box Software
Published by Humble Games
Available on PC
After several years in production, Prodeus has finally entered Steam early access. Created by Mike Voeller and Jason Mojica, Prodeus is the collision of classic FPS gameplay with modern game design; the perfect synthesis of DOOM 2 and DOOM 2016. As many have stated, this game might very well be the true DOOM 3.
The story for Prodeus is who gives a shit. I don’t even know if there is one. Something about dimensions or whatever is briefly talked about in the beginning, but very obviously it is just the slightest justification to recreate a classic FPS in their own image. You are a soldier on a futuristic base on a Mars-like planet fighting demons from another dimension. Come on now.
The visuals and atmosphere of Prodeus are unbelievable. It still has the same 2.5D graphical feel of classic DOOM games, but with pixel art that might very well surpass Metal Slug and Fire Emblem. Taking the 2.5D graphics of the id Tech 1 engine to the absolute limit (not actually on id Tech 1, but clearly it’s meant to feel like it is), Prodeus is perhaps, visually, the zenith of retro DOOM style games, or at least, just up to the limit before it becomes another game entirely.
As for style, very much like DOOM as well. You’re seeing the trend here, right? Prodeus is set on a red planet with lots of industrial stuff that has been overtaken by demons. It captures the atmosphere of DOOM games perfectly. So much so that it might be a downside. The areas all are limited to the same color palette, and even the enemies are all very visually similar to DOOM creatures. There is, as I’ve stated, no reason to reinvent the wheel. But it would have been nice to see some more variety and creativity in the enemy designs.
Thankfully, the enemies don’t stay enemies for long. Prodeus takes much of its inspiration from the Brutal DOOM mod, with over-the-top levels of carnage and gore. Enemies explode into geysers of viscera and blood in a way that will never not be satisfying. Just about every part of the kill—from the flash of a bullet leaving the gun all the way to the splat of it leaving a monster skull—looks incredible.
The gameplay for Prodeus is where it’s at. And as you can guess, it’s also like classic DOOM. Why reinvent the wheel etc. Fast paced FPS action where health doesn’t regenerate and outrunning bullets is preferable to taking cover. A fantastic time-tested formula. Unfortunately, this also comes with the caveats that DOOM gameplay has. There are no weapon or character upgrades, and no collectables to be found in the game. As a result, most secrets you find boil down to an extra healthpack or some ammo. The gameplay loop is shooting demons, no more, no less.
The guns in Prodeus are also designed with id Software style elegance. Extremely chucky animations and reloads and sounds that hit all the right places in your gamer brain. While they aren’t all in the game yet, it looks like there will be 18 weapons total (well, 17 and unarmed), many which will have an alternate fire mode. Plenty of variety here. However, there are six different types of ammo, which guns share, making some of them redundant. Why use dual SMGs with short magazines when you could use a minigun that never needs to be reloaded? Still, hardly an issue, since more options is always preferable to less, and the game is still in development.
The level design in Prodeus is top notch. Grand areas that range from complex but not confusing corridors to wide open arenas of which you fight off waves of foes. Prodeus has some fantastic places for you to explore, even if most are the usual red Mars color (even redder after you finish covering the walls with demons). The main objective is to find some kind of glowing object of which I don’t really know what they do. But obviously the true objective is to hop around and shoot.
I didn’t even attempt to try making my own levels in the intricate custom map creator. I don’t have the mental capacity to visualize anything beyond a straight tube full of demons. But rest assured that the Prodeus community is hard at work making ever more challenging and interesting maps for you to download. Not only can you create single levels, but there are also people who have uploaded entire campaigns. And would it surprise you to know that the first map you see on the Prodeus page is E1M1.
Prodeus is a love letter to FPS games of old. So accurately it is that on occasion it is the game’s undoing. But the minor limitations of classic shooters are far outweighed by both the sleek and simple gameplay as well as a number of modern techniques. There is no doubt in my mind that if you like classic DOOM and the idea of monsters turning into strawberry jam, Prodeus is for you.