Review – Rise of the Triad (2013)

Rise of the Triad had a rebirth and it took enthusiasts and players in general by storm, the 2013 reboot is a project that brought a virtual studio together. The result is a comprehensive game playing homage to what made it a cult favorite all those years ago. From replicated enemy behaviors, lesser focus on hit boxes vs total enemy HP and genuine boss battles that weren’t just a series of “aim for highlighted weak points”, for once the game changed and it brought everyone back a step.

In many respects Rise of the Triad is a step back to old models with free updates, full mod support and retro game play that defies the expectations of today’s audience. Rise of the Triad is unapologetic, in presentation, in humor and in difficulty. There isn’t a shred of mercy for those who attempt to battle ludicrous settings in the game, health becomes fragile, enemies become real threats and it forces survival instinct for as long as one can stick it out. There is mercy of course but it’s still a sense of defeat that one can’t just take it to the limit and win.

Graphic details bring gibs to paint the screen with eyeballs, blood spatter and fields of obstacles and enemies in great detail. If there was a form of ballet for ultra-violence, Rise of the Triad would be a master of it in the space. There’s no shortage of blood and parts flying across the screen or suspended from the walls or ceilings. The experience has experienced shortcoming in the early play sessions after launch, weapon switching can stutter leaving players with weapons that won’t fire or just aren’t visible. Physics are also suspect to this, swinging blades come to mind as something where yes it makes sense to get throw 50 feet back, having it squish and then push you through into safety though is odd. I get collisions when put to the extreme can produce results like this but it’s still odd if you botch a passage and just wind up either safe or passed through for the next death. This also repeats at times with crushing obstacles, having a roof come down that you clip through and are left to reboot the game or just stand there in place. The team has pushed hard to adjust to errors found by the community but some of these are rough first impressions.

If these break the game for a player or not is a toss, part of Rise of the Triad is a wacky foundation that defies normal logic to gaming. Yes the physics are mad at times, does it break the game? Sometimes, although it is frustrating if players are in the 11th hour trying to beat the game, it’s a situation based frustration and the moment itself. Ultimately it’s a game that doesn’t attempt to cater itself to the player but instead works to keep the traits of the original that made it stand out in the period and today makes it stand out yet again.  Yes it is hard to get a jumping pattern on a series of stones correct, is it a deal breaker? No. Instead of holding W down trying to push through the keyboard, tapping and short quick gestures work so much better, not only does it teach control it improves the player. One thing I noticed about Rise of the Triad is that for those who have slowly grown out of practice it’s a huge refresher course on being precise while still being fast and it’s the closest we have to a genuine run and gun shooter.

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For those on the fence about a game locked back in the old times,  why not embrace the challenge of difference. In the early FPS days, the difference between Unreal, Quake, Doom, ROTT and CS are what made things a division and created specialists. It’s a welcome shift to see something genuine and not trying to make up for what it is to the gaming population. The only thing I wish is this team being a bit more attentive to control as the mouse input itself felt completely unnatural from the beginning, at stock settings my G9 felt like a mess trying to handle that game. After some community tweaks I can say the quick response has returned to my game as long as no ini changes happen in updates.

Rise of the Triad has a large mix of graphical goodness, challenges and experiences to offer. It also has its bugs and frustrations like the ever-changing online server availability, this might be a host issue with the main node or just having to rely on private IP’s a lot more than one might have done before but it’s frustrating to want to jump into a game to see that only a handful of servers far off are available at times. In an ideal world during the review phase it’s always a case of announced MP times for play but when it hits the wild those arranged situations drop heavily and it’s up to the ecosystem to either sustain that activity or die. Sadly many evenings are left with “refreshing” screens on the MP side while I skip out and try to complete the SP levels.

Interceptor has come a long way with essentially nothing, they had to take on a challenge that often reserves itself to modder circles where a virtual team develops and collaborates to get a product made over years. Given that and the limited access to testing and QA they’ve certainly done well for themselves, hopefully in the future they’ll be able to enlist more voices from the community to help them shape those titles to have an even tighter release. Rise of the Triad is by no means rough but it’s certainly in a turbulent time where people are struggling to recognize that differences and challenges are beneficial and giving the least amount of room to complain helps out.

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I hope the team is able to overcome the issues like the collision reporting as restarting a game from a checkpoint is frustrating especially if you’re not getting it right. Rise of the Triad is a genuinely fun game to experience but it does rely on a passionate community to keep it going strong. Player’s shouldn’t shy away from what essentially makes it so diverse and competitive, if you’re not good at a game, get better, don’t use excuses. ROTT doesn’t use any and it just tries to step up to the challenge as we’ve seen in their social campaigns.

Would I recommend the game solely upon its single player experience? Yes, it’s challenging and hilarious and some things they tucked away in there are genuinely priceless. The art and styling and character modeling are diverse with textures that don’t leave you cringing wondering if someone just forgot to remove a low-res placeholder. While there is repetition within the style it’s not frequent enough to act as a core distraction of the game experience, if one gets distracted, they’re not really doing it right (play a harder difficulty).

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Overall I commend the team on the effort and the product, their situation being challenging and ambitious. They doubled down and pushed to produce a product that users can enjoy and while it might have bugs or glitches, many are working hard to help report those and even troubleshoot them so everyone can enjoy a better experience. The biggest issue that I can find for a game like this is, online… I just need to see more servers online within a decent distance to actually know there’s a future beyond the next few months.

The good:

  • Unreal Engine 3 scales like crazy, this should run on most systems around
  • Single player maps are challenging and unforgiving
  • Details and design are tasteful and complex, don’t expect to get handed directions on a silver platter
  • Mechanics follow the original ROTT although it uses mouselook now (yaaay)
  • Pricing is extremely low at $15

The not so good:

  • Physics behave in a world of their own, collisions often result in glitching, not so awesome
  • Guns can appear properly or not at all (this has improved)
  • Online community is really sparse / dead at writing
  • Control settings at default are troubling, community tweaks fix this but mouse smoothing and general response need to come as an option