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Rise of the Triad: Dark War Review:  Room for another Old School FPS?

If you have never heard of Rise of the Triad: Dark War before, don’t feel bad, you are probably not alone.  Though packed with features that many similar games of the time were missing, Rise of the Triad was overshadowed by a couple classic FPS juggernauts that hit the stores first… namely  DOOM Classic and Wolfenstein 3D.  Maybe you’ve heard of them.

Originally developed and released by Apogee Software in 1995, RotT has been ported to numerous platforms during its 15 year history, and as of February 12th it has found a new home in the Appstore.

Rise of the Triad is a first-person shooter and was one of the first of its genre that allowed players to choose from different playable characters, each having a unique set of attributes.  Though originally slated to be a sequel to Wolfenstein 3D, the game ended up taking its own path with a unique storyline and characters but does leverage a modified Wolf 3D engine.

The story is pretty standard affair for FPS’s of the time.  You choose to play as one of 5 playable characters from a Special Ops team known as HUNT (High risk United Nations Task force) whose mission is to investigate suspicious cult activity in an ancient temple, located near Los Angeles, CA.  The team learns that the cult is planning to wipe out LA and it is up to HUNT to shoot, snipe, and blow up anything in their way to stop the deadly cult and save the denizens of the City of Angels.

If you’ve ever played DOOM, Wolf 3D, Duke Nukem 3D or other similar first-person shooters from the early to mid 90’s, you should feel right at home with RotT.  If you have not, then the simplest way to describe gameplay is:  shoot anything that moves!  Along your journey you will face numerous enemies that must be dispatched and also a few bosses to deal with while you’re at it.  There are no environmental puzzles that will leave you scratching your head, but you do need to find keys to unlock doors to progress through the levels.  Overall it is a fairly linear progression although many levels do contain multiple paths and exits for you to take.

Likes:

Controls: Where so many games fall short, especially first-person shooters, RotT thankfully gets it right.  There are 4 preset control options and they all work well.  The default option is similar to what you would see in Modern Combat: Sandstorm or NOVA — a right thumbstick to move, swipe anywhere to look, and a button to fire.  It works smoothly and you can adjust sensitivity and tilt calibration (tilt can be used in other control options), although one thing I would like to see is the ability to move the firing button.  It is just a tad bit too high for me and can lead to accidental firing occasionally as you are swiping to look.  Overall the controls are well done and allow you to focus on playing the game without fumbling about.

Music and Sound Effects: The sound effects are very nice and definitely plentiful.  There is an effect for almost every action in the game from clicking various menu items to hearing a thud when you run into a wall.  Each weapon has individual sound effects and there is no lag.  The music may not be anything to write home about but if you grew up playing games of this era there is a definite sense of nostalgia listening to the music.

Performance: Being that this is a port of a 15 year old game there really should not be much reason for the game to not perform well.  Rise of the Triad delivers the goods performance-wise and runs silky smooth on my iPhone 3GS.  Framerate is very solid even when you’re knee-deep in a shootout with multiple bad guys, bullets-a-flying.

Gameplay: This is where the game shines.  The music and story, while solid, are not going to win any awards but that’s not why most people play games like this… it’s all about the action! RotT takes the classic FPS formula and gives you a fresh new setting to shoot anything that moves plus a few new tricks.  There are jump pads that will send you flying and certain areas of environments are destructible, like breakable glass, which is always cool.  Similar to DOOM and Wolfenstein 3D you don’t have to worry about crouching or jumping; you move, look (you can look up and down), and shoot.  It’s pure, mindless, action-packed shooting bliss!

Dislikes:

User Interface: The UI and menus are very clunky.  Starting a new game you have the option to choose your character but when you click on a character to see their stats, the character is actually selected.  You have to click on each character and then go back, to see each of their descriptions.

The menu items are very touchy and you have to press at just the right area to select the option you want.  Very often you find yourself missing entirely or selecting the wrong menu item and having to go back or cycle through options.  Overall the UI could use some cleaning up.

Visual Presentation:

The good: dynamic lighting, panoramic skies, blood/gore control.

The not so good: this may be a matter of personal preference but I feel the visuals and graphics should have been touched up a bit for this port.  I love retro games as much as anyone else but on a small iPhone screen the current graphics are a strain on the eyes.   Sprites are blurry, especially up close, and the frequent use of earth-tones tends to make everything blend together after extended play.  This can cause enemies to be difficult to spot, so you have to look for movement or listen for enemies if you want to get the jump on them in certain areas.  It’s almost like being a dinosaur or some other predator with poor eyesight but other senses heightened.

Game Modes: This is not a personal dislike on my part but I thought it should be mentioned for people considering this game.  This is a port of an old game and it stays true to its roots, meaning there is one gameplay mode which is the regular story/campaign.  Those who are looking for any kind of survival mode, multiplayer, or social network integration will have to look at other options.  In a game like this, I don’t think those extras are needed but again, thought it was worth mentioning.

As I’ve been playing Rise of the Triad over the past few days I can’t help but think that history is repeating itself.  RotT arrives to a very competitive Appstore loaded with shooting games to choose from, and ironically it again finds itself just a bit late to the party behind DOOM Classic and Wolf 3D.  Similar to how the game was overshadowed by these behemoths on PC, Rise of the Triad is once again overshadowed by DOOM and Wolf 3D on the Appstore.  It’s a solid game and very fun to play but it just falls short of the two classics.  People looking for newer FPS’s will likely not be interested in this and people looking for older/retro FPS’s will likely be looking at the two blockbusters.  If you liked this game on the PC and want to have it with you anywhere then Rise of the Triad is a no-brainer.  If you never played the game before, are looking for a classic FPS, and already have DOOM and Wolf 3D then you will have a lot of fun with this as well.

Rise of the Triad: Dark War is published by Mobila Interactive, LLC, and costs $4.99. Reviewed on an iPhone 3GS.




  1. WilhelmR on Thursday 18, 2010

    There’s always room for old school fps, specially awesome game like this one. I still have the original over here :P

    I always liked more ROTT than DOOM, found it more enjoyable with all the hidden spots and platform levels :)

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