Dread Templar is like getting into a time machine. There is nothing new in modern shooters copying their ancestors from the 90s, but Dread Templar seems to have been released in that golden age, and only the way your enemies turn into blood-soaked body parts hints at modern technologies working under the hood.
This is a love letter to the shooters of the 90s, and it was developed by someone 12 years old, right after you first played Doom (or Hexen). All weapons are what a child in the 90s would consider cool: double katanas, an ultrasound with a silencer in the side, a super shotgun, a cool bow, a rocket launcher smeared with fire. Enemies are made of the same fabric, flying eyeballs that spit acid, giant spiders that spit acid, other enemies that may or may not spit acid.
Weapons are a big part of the reason for success. “Uzi” with a silencer and a superdrobovik is insanely fun, which is to be expected from a game in which everyone is firing at people and dropping shells. However, the Black Bow is surprisingly funny, and having to pull the bow and shoot on time for maximum damage adds a pleasant thrill to the fight. In addition, there is a trap launcher, a trap launched from your glove that electrifies and stuns enemies, giving you a little time to change position. I also found a bizarre love for double katanas, your primary melee weapon, which had an alternate fire mode that glues them together and lets you throw them like a spear. Hit an enemy with this, and most likely, he will immediately turn into pieces, but lining up a shot and hitting several enemies at the same time causes euphoria.
You will also prowl through narrow arenas designed to throw you and your enemies into hand—to—hand deadly battles and seek out secrets – as a reward for the text “you found a secret” appearing on the screen – to get updates.
These improvements, along with the bullet time feature, Dread Templar, pretty much seem redundant, and the game was better when I ignored them. Upgrades require you to find both a rune and a resource to unlock a slot where an ability can be placed. This can increase the amount of ammo you can carry with you for a certain weapon, reduce cooldown, or increase damage or rate of fire. These are silver runes— they are all quite mundane. Golden runes can allow you to, say, turn a shotgun into a sniper rifle. However, getting access to these golden runes — which require a special, more expensive gold slot — is so much work that many may not even bother.
The pace of the fight remains pretty decent throughout. From time to time, during melee shootouts, I’ve caught myself wishing that some enemies would die a little faster, since I’m in a place where everything is dead except for one big, ineffective monster, and I’m just pumping it round after round, basically no risk to myself.. In the arenas, it just hinders the pace, whereas in the corridors it can lead to some deaths that seem unfair.
However, some players may be disappointed by the lack of combat feedback from the player. Apart from the groaning of the main character, there is very little to indicate that you were hit, which means that death can sometimes seem to come out of nowhere, although in fact you were fiddling with a handful of life points for several minutes.
This is a forgivable problem, and it did not prevent me from having fun at all, while the Dread Templar soundtrack made me go straight to the sound parameters. During the first hour, the soundtrack became very annoying, and I found myself turning down the volume. The music seems repetitive, but it’s also pretty generic. However, these are minor blemishes on a fairly polished shooter, and Dread Templar has a lot to offer.
Dread Templar is released on PC on January 26.