Get your Doom fix with T19 Games retro FPS now that Dread Templar has left Early Access.
When you think of fast-paced retro FPS games set to a thumping heavy metal soundtrack, it's usually Doom or Wolfenstein that finds itself at the centre of your mind. The id Software developed series inspired an entire sub-genre of video games, and since then we've had all manner of clones, as well as a collection of fancy reboots from the creating studio itself. But the reason I bring this up is because I've been delving back into Dread Templar over the last few days, as the game is gearing up to officially launch and leave Early Access behind. With this in mind, the clearly Doom-inspired title is soon to be bolstered with a batch of new levels, weapons, enemies, and more, and I've seen it all in action.
While there is a story at the centre of this game, all that you really need to know is that Dread Templar asks the player to shoot and blast through hordes of nasty demons all to reach the end of a level. Unlike Doom and Doom Eternal, this title is trading fancy hi-res graphics for pixelated 3D elements, to make it better resemble a 90s-era product, and if it wasn't for the fact that you can get the game running absurdly smoothly with the right hardware, you probably would think that developer T19 Games just ripped this off a dusty game cartridge that has been sitting in a box in someone's garage for the last 30 years.
The gameplay itself is incredibly straightforward. All you need to do is manage your ammo and hit your shots with the first-person aiming suite, all while avoiding damage from attacking monsters. There are collectibles and secrets to add to this, as well as doors that you'll need to unlock by finding the correct key, but for the most part, this game is all about blasting hellspawn into thousands of tiny pieces.
In this vein, it nails the concept. This is a truly satisfying and fast shooter that can challenge and entertain anyone who loves this kind of video game. It also has a pleasant selection of weapons to find and use, as well as a broad array of enemies to understand and overcome, which all combine for a real thrill ride. And the best part is that it doesn't just throw all these things at you at once. No, you will have to acquire new weapons and face new foes in fresh biomes all as the storyline advances, albeit considering the fact that you can get a jumpstart on some of these areas by exploring the secretive (but admittedly dull named) Side Areas found in levels for a chance to get a weapon archetype early.
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As this is a retro 3D game, the visuals can be a bit drab and monotone across the board, especially as this is a game involving demons and hellspawn mostly - Doom, for example, has had a long-lasting love/hate relationship with the colour red. So while the graphical offering is never really something that captures your attention, the performance that lower-res visuals allows for, absolutely is.
I have tried Dread Templar on both an Intel i9-11900KF, RTX 3090, 64GB of RAM-powered desktop, and also on an MSI Pulse GL76, and both devices can get this game running to such high-frame rates that the connected displays simply have no chance of catching up - often over 700 frames per second. This means that Dread Templar should play absurdly smoothly regardless of the components inside your computer, which is a massive boon for a title that prides itself on the pacing of its combat engagements.
But just because the performance is fantastic doesn't mean there aren't a few cracks in the game's armour. Dread Templar supports controller play, yet some of the menus are clearly not built for controller input. Some of the levels are so drably coloured that it can be difficult to tell where you are supposed to go. And the narrative is so loosely incorporated that it's mainly conveyed through still images with voice overed dialogue at the end of each of the five chapters. But then again, you come to Dread Templar to gun down monsters, and in this vein alone it excels.
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And that's the key thing to take away: Dread Templar is an outrageously fun retro FPS. It's straightforward, simple, thrilling, action-packed, and exciting, and is the perfect sort of game for anyone who is solely looking for an old-school Doom-like title - fitted with a blood-pumping metal soundtrack - to delve into.
7 / 10
FPS mechanics are tight. Great enemy variety. Outrageous weapons. Awesome soundtrack.
Narrative may as well not be a factor at all. Controller input is clunky. Colour palette is incredibly monotone.