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Heretic Reviewed by Joe DeRouen

I wanted to dislike the game. I really did. It just isn't the sort of entertainment I normally enjoy. I'm more the Return to Zork or Myst type, and I rarely play shoot-em'-up graphic violence types of games. After about fifteen minutes of playing ID Software's new shareware release Heretic, however, I was hooked.

Heretic is a sequel of sorts to Doom and Doom II (also from ID) in terms of the 3D game engine and style of execution, however the setting is in another world entirely. In Doom, your avatar is a marine bent on ridding Hell of all it's demons and devils. In Heretic, you play the role of a vengeful Sidhe (pronounced "She") out to right the wrongs laid upon his race by the evil Order of the Triad. The Sidhe, offers the manual, are a race of ancient elves adept in arcane sorcery and keepers of the tomes of power. You must find your way through ruins filled with gargoyles, golems, undead warriors, and several other gruesome fiends bent on forever ending your quest. Several powerful Sidhe weapons and equipment, such as the powerful Dragon's Claw and the healing quartz flask, lie hidden in the ruins. It's up to you to find them - as well as the keys that unlock the doors to deeper levels - before the monsters find you. Your ultimate goal is to gain revenge for your race and maybe even kill D'Sparil, one of the members of the Order of the Triad, in the process.

Sound convoluted? It is. The plot is summed up in about six paragraphs in the manual and is even less clear than the synopsis I just attempted. Get past the absence of a plot, however, and you'll find yourself having fun and enjoying Heretic for what it is: an excellent arcade game complete with stunning in-your-face graphics, a hauntingly brooding sound track, and spine-tingling special effects that help to make this illusion of reality complete.

The fluid movement and quick reaction time of your player (not to mention that of his enemies!) provides the final touch of realism. Movement is controlled by either keyboard, mouse, or joystick. You can turn and maneuver in any direction, even staring at the ceilings or the floors. I've played Heretic for hours, always with a critical eye, and have yet to find a glitch in graphics or movement continuity.

If you have access to a LAN, modem, the Internet, or the new DWANGO network, you can play in multi-player mode. You can team up with a friend or two to combat the forces of evil or pit forces against each other in Deathmatch mode. Up to four people can play Heretic via multi-player mode, and instructions on setting up such a game are explained clearly in a text file called README.TXT included with the game.

A lot of people are going to view Heretic as Doom in a fantasy world. Up to a point, that's true. You shoot monsters using a variety of weapons, as you do in Doom. You search for treasures. You look for entrances to other levels of your confines. You can play multi-player. Doom has all that as well. But Heretic does it all better. ID managed to top themselves and in doing so set a new standard to be beat.

The game, however, is not without it's flaws. Installation from the CD ROM (or four 3.5" floppies) requires a whopping 20 Meg of free hard drive space. When installed, though, the game only takes up 12 Meg. I had to delete several programs and files to make room for the game. If the decompression program had been different, it wouldn't have had to require more space than it actually needed. That's going to be a problem for some people and something that probably could have been prevented with a little foresight and work.

Also, the very selling point about Heretic - it's realism - gives me a headache. Literally. You can get so lost in the game that you become dizzy simply following your character's descent through twisting passages and winding hallways. Finally looking up, you'll be stunned to realize that you've spent the last three hours staring at the screen pressing your keys or turning the joysticks. Just remember to take a break now and then and come back to the real world for a bit.

All in all, though, Heretic is well worth the registration price of forty dollars. Thus far, I've enjoyed nearly ten hours of heart-pounding game excitement and I'm just barely past the third level of Episode One. A good gamer can look forward to literally dozens of hours of monster chasing and treasure hunting fun.

Heretic requires a minimum IBM compatible 486/33 with 4 megs of RAM as well as a 100% Sound Blaster compatible sound card.

Heretic is available from ID Software. You can download the shareware version on your better BBS's around the country. The shareware version includes only the first of three episodes and, while certainly playable, is more of a sampler than a main dish. To purchase the registered version ($40.00) call 1(800)ID-GAMES. Specify CD or 3.5" when ordering.