Sequel to the cult classic IdTech Engine dark fantasy FPS Heretic, which despite continuing - and improving upon - a great concept, remains woefully obscure in modernity.
One can easily take a look at any of the official artwork or promotional material for any of the games in the Hexen/Heretic series and put together an image in your mind of the archtypical target audience for these sorts of games back in the day. I like to imagine it was the slightly portly, bushy-bearded, single early-thirtysomething men who gather in the backrooms of headshops the world over to discuss Windows 3.1 distros, thrashmetal bands, and neo-Celtic druidism.
As exceedingly comfy as such an existence might seem to you or I, this somewhat niche appeal might be why Hexen has been mostly relegated to the little more than a footnote in PC history even as its contemporaries - like Wolfenstein, Doom, or to a lesser extent, Duke Nukem - remain in the public gaming discourse several generations later.
Anyone reading Steam Review in its original intended context on a digital store page is almost certainly going to know, at least tangentially, what Hexen is - but just in case you don’t - it’s the immediate successor to another IdTech (Doom Engine) game by developers Raven Software, Heretic, in which you control a dark magic warrior on a quest through an ruined world filled with incredibly dense lore, which, twenty-five years later, is still absolutely phenomenal.
The gameplay is essentially exactly the same as in its predecessor and every other Doomclone, although given a myriad of quality-of-life improvements and largely expanded in scope from the previous game.
The most notable addition is how radically different the campaign feels on separate playthroughs thanks to the inclusion of divergent character classes. There’s a frail glass-cannon magic missile shooting wizard, beefy hulking melee barbarian, and an inbetweeny and adaptable cleric - each has their own unique weapon set and handles very distinctly even when traversing the same level environments and encountering the same enemies due to the vastly different attack patterns and situational advantages.
This sort of developmental approach to fun and highly replayable levels, coupled with the fantastic atmosphere and beautifully gothic environment design meant that Hexen was able to compete commercially at the time with more technically advanced games such as the Build Engine classics Duke Nukem 3D and the similarly macabre Blood. Yet for whatever reason, the Hexen/Heretic doesn’t have even the slightest bit of modern continuation, be it in the form of rerelease, remake, or belated sequel to 1998’s Hexen 2.
If you’ve got even the slightest interest in these Doomclone retro shooters and haven’t tried Hexen yet, give it a go, and maybe try to get the word out to people that there’s a great series out there that’s been left in the mausoleum dust.