Doom Eternal’s Battlemode is Actually Great
Recently you may have read that Doom Eternal deserves a better multiplayer mode. The argument made is that classic deathmatch is a staple of the first-person shooter genre and one that adds to the overall quality of the game. While I did spend a good chunk of my youth playing classic FPS deathmatch in games like Unreal Tournament and Quake III Arena, the mode is no longer popular enough to sustain a multiplayer community.
While it would be reasonable for Doom Eternal to include a generic deathmatch mode, modern gamers are seemingly not interested in playing them. I’ve followed and played numerous titles that attempt to capitalize on the potential nostalgia for games centered in this mode only for them to fall apart. Games like Reflex Arena and Toxikk attempted to reignite the Arena Shooter genre from the indie side but failed to maintain a following. Even the AAA industry created Quake Champions and a modern Unreal Tournament only to have them flounder despite being free to play.
Asymmetrical multiplayer, as rare as it has been, is one of my favorite experiences in multiplayer gaming. It’s also one of the most difficult to balance – especially when it has to consider the skill of a single player against several. Games like Evolve struggled with having an individual adapt to playing a role against a whole team with their only practice being to play against squads of various skills. Battlemode might have had the same problem with playing the Slayer, but conveniently everyone has the campaign to show them the most efficient ways to Rip and Tear.
This means the real burden is on the side that seemingly has the advantage in this 2 vs 1 experience. It allows newer players of the Demons to lean a bit on their teammate if they don’t know the best ways to engage in the competition. It fits together in the same way Left 4 Dead allowed you to play the survivors against AI and learn the mechanics, but the special infected had to learn as they played in multiplayer. Left 4 Dead 2 is still going strong eleven years later, so they must have done something right in this regard.
The best thing about Battlemode though is that it puts the three involved players in a tug of war with chaos as the rope. The role of Demons is to establish that chaos and build upon it. Few demon attacks do all that much damage and the Slayer can regenerate health and armor quickly if allowed. So only overwhelming him can ensure victory. The Slayer can use the tools you became familiar with during the campaign to practically wipe the slate clean and come out with more resources than when he went in. His disadvantage though is the requirement to kill both Demons within the span of their respawn.
Battlemode’s matches aren’t timed, but they’re rarely more than a few minutes per round because of the high level of concentration it takes to manage the chaos. Demon heals are few and far between, but they can summon demons indefinitely. Slayers can virtually always buff up and gain ammo, but a well-timed resource steal from the Demons can leave him running scared hoping for something to glory kill or chainsaw. This multiplayer mode has great potential for growth.
That is one aspect of Battlemode that will need to be addressed. Currently, it has as many playable Demons as you could expect, but the 2 vs 1 scale means it’s relegated to small maps that quickly become a bit too familiar. The scope of the experience could be expanded to include more players and perhaps even maps with goals beyond simply defeating one another. Invasion mode is planned for release down the line – which allows players to jump into the campaign of others as demons. This mirrors games like Dark Souls and Watch Dogs, but I assume Doom will be much more action-oriented.
Doom Eternal could have taken the easy route once again and made a simple Arena Shooter Deathmatch-driven game mode that people would enjoy for a bit. However, I think their experience with the previous game’s short multiplayer lifespan inspired something that could grow with its audience. Battlemode may not yet stand on its own, but its on a foundation that could potentially have it selling more copies down the road. Hell, it could even spin-off to something much bigger in the future if id Software puts in the time and effort to refine it. We’ll just have to wait and see!