Rise Of The Triad
August 15th, 2012 TheDeviot
(Originally posted on Blistered Thumbs forums, then Retro Retreat)
Released as I was escaping High school through graduation, Rise Of The Triad (Or ROTT as it would be referenced for short) was one of the coolest under the radar releases of all time.
PROS: Wildly inventive weapons, cool environments, fast multiplayer, awesome chiptunes.
CONS: Dated engine, came out a little too late, buggy at times.
WTF?: The disembodied head of Apogee bigwig Scott Miller
Rise Of The Triad was one of the last First Person Shooters to be released before fully polygonal 3D engines would take shape. It ran on a heavily tweaked, and modified Wolfenstein 3D engine. In fact it’s legend is that it was born out of a rejected Wolfenstein 3D sequel. The engine tweaks allowed for things not seen until Duke Nukem 3D, and Shadow Warrior would come into being. Even years later, Quake III Arena would borrow one of it’s greatest elements.
The additions allowed ROTT to have shattering glass, destructible sprites, skyboxes, and sector tag switches allowing for new ways for the push wall concept to work. Back when Wolf 3D was king of the shooters, players would jam on the spacebar across entire segments of wall hoping to find new areas, secret ammo, secret jewels, or secret exits. ROTT continued this trend, but with sector tagging, players needed to shoot a certain object, step on a certain tile, or reach another benchmark to make certain walls move.
ROTT continued the tradition of keycards too, as it forced exploration of the stages to find the keys to get to other inaccessible areas. It also featured secret levels much like Wolfenstein 3D had. On the subject of levels ROTT featured 32 levels. Some of which can take over an hour for the average player to get through. The game had a handy overhead feature similar to DOOM where pressing TAB would show where the player was standing, and he or she could plot their course. Players also had the option of choosing through four characters, each with their own minor tweaks to health, speed, recovery, and so on.
The game also featured some really over the top, and fun powerups. Some of them necessary to be able to progress further. One of them was a pair of wings. Running over these allowed players to temporarily use the look up, and look down keys to float over obstacles in the map. (More on those in a minute). Other power ups included the bouncing ball mode, (Which forced players to ricochet off of walls), and ‘shrooms mode, (Which made players movement go awry, while echoing any sounds in the environment.). This mode did however highlight any threats or movable objects in the field by making them flash all sorts of colors. There was also a GOD powerup. This was the game’s wisecrack at other games’ invincibility cheat codes of the time. Not only did this power up cause one to be invulnerable to almost any threat in the game until it wore off, it also added a lot of humor.
Your guns were replaced with a giant hand, while an ominous voice yawned loudly into a microphone, and subsequently through your speakers. Running into a room full of enemies, players could press fire, and the hand would cast an electrical orb that would mow through all of them, and vaporize them in the process. Finally, there was DOG mode (A play on GOD as it’s the spelling of DOG backwards). This mode turned players into a small dog, who could bite people to death, and increased movement speed.
ROTT featured a fun arsenal that mimicked the endlessly grand weapons of other games, but also implemented the idea of only carrying so much at once. The first player slot featured the standard pistol implemented in every shooter of the genres earliest days. Players could pick up a second one to dual wield, and they could find the MP40 upon killing the right guard or through exploring secret areas. These ballistic weapons had limitless ammo. This meant you would never have to worry about running off to find more bullets when outnumbered. But the real meat, and potatoes of the game were the rocket launchers. Players could only hold one of these at a time, but there were a lot of fun ones. There was the classic launcher seen in countless games, but from there it expanded to heat seeking rockets, to the drunk rockets that fired them in a haphazard fashion. Probably the most amazing of these was the flamewall. Firing one of these created an unavoidable wall of fire that turned any unfortunate enough to be in it’s path into a skeleton which would fall apart into dust shortly thereafter.
In addition to that gory scenario, many launchers caused enemies to gib (From the word giblets). Gibbing left piles of gory guts strewn throughout the field. Not too many games outside of Quake kept that feature going, but it was very popular in the 90′s, and something ROTT did really well. Late in the game some mystical weapons showed up including the hilarious excalibat (An enchanted Louisville Slugger baseball bat), and a wand that fired GOD bolts.
Enemies not only included hordes of Nazi soldiers, crazed cult members, and cult clergy but stage hazards as well. Whereas DOOM would feature acid pits, and lava floors, ROTT included fire walls that moved, spikes coming up from floors, and down from ceilings. It featured flamethrowers protruding from floors. There were fire cannons on walls. There were moving columns of blades. ROTT also had floating discs players could use to get to inaccessible areas, or bounce pads to nab floating coins. Collecting enough of these would net extra lives. It also brought along the ability to fall out of a map and die, as some parts of some levels had ledges that ended near areas without walls.
Texture work, and features aside, one of the greatest things about ROTT has to be the music. Most of the chiptunes in Rise Of The Triad are catchy, capturing the action movie feel of the game. The best of these is easily Going Down The Fast Way.
ROTT also added a pretty comprehensive multiplayer package into the mix. Called Comm-Bat (A play on the fact most games of the time had over the phone multiplayer) ROTT supported the typical deathmatch. But it also had a tag mode, where the tagged player was “It”. A coin collection mode, and even supported a Capture The Flag mode. Players could go in using any of the four main characters, and between the supplied maps, and community maps made by countless fans ROTT was a multiplayer winner. It never reached the numbers of DOOM or Duke 3D or Quake but it did have a small dedicated following.
“So if Rise Of The Triad is the awesome game you’ve been gushing over, why have I never heard of it?” you may be asking yourself. There are several reasons. The first reason is if you’re under the age of 25 you likely wouldn’t have been around during it’s heyday. Rise Of The Triad came out in 1995. But to be fair even older folks didn’t catch on, and again it has to do almost entirely with it’s time of release. DOOM, which had a fresher, more advanced engine had been out for three years. DOOM was also being shopped around for console porting, and it’s sequel was about to hit stores if it hadn’t already. On top of that, Duke Nukem 3D was going to follow in just under a year. Compounding that was that iD had licensed out the DOOM engine. A lot of other great games built on it were coming out. ROTT was simply lost in the shuffle. Even if it hadn’t been, DOOM was rereleased several times over since it launched way back when.
ROTT isn’t a perfect game, and it certainly hasn’t aged as well as other shooters of the 90′s. While map design is pretty extensive, and well made some levels do begin to drag somewhat. People who are new to this antiquated style of 2.5D first person shooter may find themselves tiresome after being used to games made during this, and last decade. Because everything was on a tile based layout, pushing on walls to find hidden keys, shortcuts, and exits may grate for some players.
But don’t let that turn you off from wanting to play it. The fact that ROTT did so much with a dated engine, and managed to be better than some of the Doom clones coming out back then is a testament to just how great it truly was. In fact, there are too few modern first person shooters that still implore players to search out every nook, and cranny of a stage for secrets, items, shortcuts, or even Easter eggs. It’s almost strange how in an age of graphically advanced game engines, and increasing photorealism Rise Of The Triad for all of it’s faults can still manage to feel fresh to anyone tired of today’s hall, and cutscene design.
For anyone curious about the beginnings of a modern genre, looking for goofy fun, or preparing for the recently announced reboot, ROTT is worth a look.
Final Score: 7.5 out of 10 (Try it out!)