Review: “Return Of The Triad” ( Standalone WAD/TC For “Doom II”/”Final Doom”)

2015 Artwork Return Of The Triad WAD review sketch

Although I played “Rise Of The Triad” a couple of times when I was a kid, it was one of those glorious 1990s sprite-based FPS games that I unfortunately never really played properly.

At one point in my late teens or early twenties, I bought a budget CD copy of “Rise Of The Triad” – only to find that it was too old to run on my computer (this was, unfortunately, before I really understood what source ports were).

The day before I wrote this review, I went searching for my old copy of ROTT – only to remember that I’d given it away to a charity shop during a clearout quite a while ago. So, I’ll probably have to re-buy this game on GoG soon. In fact, expect a review of the original game sometime within the next week.

Anyway, whilst I was forlornly looking at a page of source ports for ROTT, I spotted a link to an interesting project called “Return Of The Triad“.

“Return Of The Triad” is a standalone game in the style of “Rise Of The Triad” that relies on the ever-versatile open source goodness of the “Doom” engine. Although the game launches from a standalone executable, it requires a copy of the “ZDoom” source port to run.

The game’s data file is also compatible with “GZDoom” and I eventually ended up using this after my anti-virus program flashed an ominous-looking warning on the screen when I tried to use the standalone executable for the second time.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Return Of The Triad”:

Oooh, it's even got a RSAC advisory. Does anyone remember those?

Oooh, it’s even got a RSAC advisory. Does anyone remember those?

“Return Of The Triad” contains nine new levels, which are split into two episodes (at the time of writing this review, I’m on the eighth level). The first episode is a short two-level episode that originally served as a demo for the project and the second episode contains seven (slightly more difficult) levels.

One of the first things I will say about “Return Of The Triad” is that it is surprisingly close to what I can remember of the original game.

You can choose between five different characters (although all of the taunts seem to be the same, regardless of which character you choose) and the game seems to contain many of the graphics, weapons, enemies, sounds, features and items from the original game.

The only major gameplay differences I noticed were that you can carry more weapons and that, when you collect 100 ankhs, the game gives you a “God Mode” power-up instead of an extra life:

So, yes, there's actually a GOOD reason for collecting those random ankh things.

So, yes, there’s actually a GOOD reason for collecting those random ankh things.

If you launch the game from the standalone executable, then it takes a rather traditionalist “Doom”-style approach to the game’s controls. In other words, jumping (apart from jump pads) and vertical aiming are disabled by default. However, since it relies on “ZDoom”, these things can easily be enabled if you want to use them.

As for the new levels, they’re really well-designed. Like with the original game, each one of the new levels that I’ve played is giant, sprawling and maze-like. Plus, like all good 1990s FPS games, you’ll spend quite a while searching for keys and switches too. So, using the Doom engine’s map feature is an absolute necessity.

If you launch the game from it’s standalone executable, you’ll even get a custom map screen – but, although this looks really cool, it isn’t quite as useful as the simpler default “GZDoom” map screen.

 It looks fancy, but the gloomy textures can be kind of a distraction when you're searching for a specific door...

It looks fancy, but the gloomy textures can be kind of a distraction when you’re searching for a specific door…

The levels themselves contain a surprisingly wide variety of environments, which prevent the game from becoming visually monotonous and help to keep it fun:

Like this really cool misty temple...

Like this really cool misty temple…

... or this gloomy industrial area.

… or this gloomy industrial area.

As for the gameplay, even on medium difficulty, “Return of The Triad” is surprisingly challenging.

Although you are given an infinite ammo pistol at the start of the game, this isn’t the kind of borderline-cheating thing that you would find in modern games. This is mainly because the game has a habit of confronting you with large groups of enemies that have an almost Ned Kelly-like level of bullet resistance.

Even when you find another pistol,  tougher enemies like these monks still require more than 20 pistol shots. "Ordinary" enemies tend to require about 8-12 pistol shots.... and you very rarely encounter just ONE of them at a time...

Even when you find another pistol, tougher enemies like these monks still require more than 20 pistol shots. “Ordinary” enemies tend to require about 8-12 pistol shots…. and you very rarely encounter just ONE of them at a time…

Although you can also find an infinite ammo machine gun in the first episode, this seems to be curiously absent in what I’ve played of the second episode – which makes this episode about ten times more challenging than the first episode.

It might be that I just missed it when I was playing (since some of the screenshots on the “Return Of The Triad” site show the main character using the machine gun in the second episode), but if it’s in there, then it’s certainly well-hidden.

Of course, “Rise Of The Triad” is most famous for it’s gloriously demented array of explosive weapons and they’re all here in “Return Of The Triad”. However, because this game is running on the “Doom” engine, you can now carry several explosive weapons at a time. And, you’ll need them.

And, yes, the screen will still be filled with "ludicrous gibs" when you do something like this in "Return Of The Triad".

And, yes, the screen will still be filled with “ludicrous gibs” when you do something like this in “Return Of The Triad”.

All in all, I really enjoyed what I’ve played of “Return Of The Triad”. It’s enjoyably challenging mindless fun, and the developers of this WAD have created a great addition to this classic game using the “Doom” engine.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get a solid five.

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