Rise of the Triad hasn’t aged well but you should still play it

I hadn’t anticipated how boring Rise of the Triad would be in 2023. I loved it in the 90s, and not just because I was a kid of low standards. Guess there were adults in the 90s who liked it too. But in 2023? Well, there’s a lot of things I admire about it, but playing it the way it’s designed to be played – without cheat codes I guess – is novelty that fades after, oh, 10 minutes approximately.

But it is okay. This new Ludicrous edition is essentially a preservation effort on the part of Nightdive Studios, and as badly as it has aged, Rise of the Triad is worth preserving. Its first shareware installment was released in December 1994, almost exactly one year after Doom’s shareware debut. It sits at a strange threshold in the history of first-person shooter design, because while its texture work and enemy design may contain flame for Doom, it’s otherwise heavily limited by the 3D engine. Modified Wolfenstein that makes it work.

Ascension of the Triad

(Image credit: Nightdive Studios)

This means that each level has a fixed wall elevation and a single floor and ceiling texture. The cards are made from squares drawn on a grid, so there are no diagonal lines. The level design differs from Wolfenstein and its ilk in that although the elevation of all walls on a given level is fixed, the engine at least allows for different elevations per level. So while one level might have towering walls with a gorgeous exterior skybox, the next might have the cloistered, cavernous vibe of a Wolfenstein level. However, one cannot lead to the other seamlessly.

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