rise of the triad ludicrous edition

Review: Rise of the Triad: Ludicrous Edition

Rise of the Triad is a bit of a tough sell in today’s market. It was built on the same engine as Wolfenstein 3D, starting its life as a sequel to that. As such, it has many of the same strict drawbacks of that engine. Most notably, walls have to be at 90-degree angles, and the floors can’t change height.

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I’m personally more of a Blake Stone girl, myself.

However, despite the way its development started and the shortcomings of its engine, the powerful collection of developers who crafted it has ensured that Rise of the Triad still carried with it a unique personality. It was never ported to console, but with Rise of the Triad: Ludicrous Edition, Nightdive Studios and New Blood are looking to fix that with one big celebration.

Later. The console ports were delayed, but I’ve been playing the PC version.

Rise of the Triad Ludicrous Edition Dog Mode
Screenshot by Destructoid

Rise of the Triad: Ludicrous Edition (PC [Reviewed], PS4, Xbox One, Switch)
Developer: Nightdive Studios, Apogee Software
Publisher: Apogee Software, New Blood Interactive
Released: July 31, 2023 (PC), TBA (Console)
MSRP: $19.99

Rise of the Triad tells the stories of an elite group of special operatives as they infiltrate an island monastery currently resided by a group of cultists who are definitely not Nazis. Okay, they’re definitely Nazis, but since this is not Wolfenstein 3D 2, they’re a cult now.

That’s basically all you need to know. Actually, you’d probably be fine not knowing that, but there’s a cutscene that lays it all out anyway. The important thing is the Monastery is a sprawling maze full of traps and Nazis. You have a hand with fingers that can wrap around a gun, and that’s what you point at the Nazis.

I mentioned that Rise of the Triad has all the trappings of Wolfenstein 3D with its level floor and 90-degree corners, but the developers went pretty far out of their way to get around it. There is a degree of verticality through the use of walls and floating discs. There’s also a bizarre number of power-ups, including a couple that allow you to fly. Meanwhile, there are traps everywhere, like spikes and fire-spewing cannons. It’s a lot. It gives Rise of the Triad this really abstract quality to it. It’s rather bizarre.

Unfortunately, there’s a limited number of weapons. There are pistols and an MP40, and then you can also carry a limited-use rocket launcher. The rocket launchers come in a few different flavors, from plain ol’ bazooka to a big wall of fire that engulfs wide areas. They have finite ammo, but a good Rise of the Triad level will have you tripping over them every few steps. It’s a game that really wants you to blow up Nazis.

Henceforth known as ‘ROTTLE’

A lot of work went into making Rise of the Triad: Ludicrous Edition the definitive version of the game. While its transition to Nightdive’s proprietary KEX Engine doesn’t really come with much in the way of new visual changes aside from lighting and a few other flourishes that you can turn off, they made sure to pack in as much content as possible. Then they just continued to pack more things in.

Beyond just the 33 levels of Rise of the Triad: Dark War, you also have access to The Hunt Begins, the 8-level shareware episode. There are also another 33 levels in Extreme ROTT, which is a more difficult expansion. They’ve packed in Return of the Triad, an excellent fan-made Doom mod. That’s added separately, still running in the GZDoom engine. Finally, there’s The HUNT Continues, which is an all-new set of 21 missions created by various developers. To give you an example of what you’re in for, the first mission in that campaign is by David Szymanski, the creator of Dusk.

This is made possible by a really simple level editor that is available for use. So, beyond just the dizzying amount of included content, you can make your own campaigns or share with others via Steam workshop. I think the only thing missing is the 2013 Rise of the Triad remake, but I feel that it doesn’t quite fit into this package.

Finally, a lot of cut content was re-added to the game. This includes the different visuals for Nazi types, so the female guards have been re-implemented.

Rise of the Triad Ludicrous Edition God Mode
Screenshot by Destructoid

God Mode

If you’re already a fan of Rise of the Triad, then you basically just need to know that this is a faithful port that features a decent amount of bells and whistles. If you haven’t played it before, then there’s more to consider.

Rise of the Traid isn’t Doom. It hasn’t aged as well. This is largely down to the limited level design. Each map has a different feel and demonstrates its creator’s design eccentricities, but they all look the same. This limited aesthetic has an impact on the gameplay, as even while the power-ups and weapons can be over-the-top, the drab backdrop sucks out some of the excitement. It’s a lot of people painting with a very limited palette.

That said, the limitations I just outlined do help highlight how much fun the developers had with this game. There are things like getting baked out of your mind on mushrooms or turning into a massively overpowered little pooch that makes the experience extremely memorable. For that matter, there’s a variety of cheats that can make things more ridiculous.

Dual pistols
Screenshot by Destructoid

Dog Mode

I’m definitely not saying that Rise of the Triad is a bad game. It’s very enjoyable, it’s just harder to recommend to modern eyes. It’s fast and carries a lot of small details that make it unforgettable, but at the same time, its levels are rather suffocating. It has definitely aged a lot better than Wolfenstein 3D, but not nearly as well as Doom.

It bears repeating that if you are already a fan, Rise of the Triad: Ludicrous Edition is a fantastic way to play it again. It’s not too much different than the old DOS version but includes cut features and all the content you could want. The new episode is a quality continuation that feels right at home with the rest of the game while still providing something new. It’s a great package all around.

Now, can I have a Blake Stone remaster?

Impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.

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Zoey Handley
Staff Writer - Zoey is a gaming gadabout. She got her start blogging with the community in 2018 and hit the front page soon after. Normally found exploring indie experiments and retro libraries, she does her best to remain chronically uncool.