Rise of the Triad: Ludicrous Edition is a full remake of the genre-defining shooter from Apogee Software. Originally released in December 1994 as shareware, the full version of Rise of the Triad: Dark War released in February 1995. There is a 2013 reboot of the game by Interceptor Entertainment on Steam that I didn’t play. However, this review focuses on Rise of the Triad: Ludicrous Edition which is developed by Nightdive Studios and published by New Blood Interactive and Apogee Software and launches on PC on July 31, 2023. Console editions have been delayed to later in the year.
Just seeing and hearing the Apogee Software logo brings back so much nostalgia of gaming in the 90’s. Powered by Nightdive Studios’ proprietary KEX engine, Rise of the Triad: Ludicrous Edition is built with the original source code. It has been an awesome look back in time with nostalgia hits coming from all angles, and I felt like a teenager again running and gunning my way through hallways wasting bad guys and looking for secret passageways. New players coming into this game fresh will likely not gel with how the game looks and feels. You had to be there at the beginning to truly appreciated how the FPS genre began and how it has evolved since the 90’s.
The 90’s was an explosion of the senses for me gaming on PC as a teenager. I never played games on consoles other than the Nintendo Gameboy, so when Dad bought home a new PC, I got to experience Secret of Monkey Island, Dangerous Dave, Commander Keen, Frogger, Wolfenstein 3D, Jill of the Jungle, Dune II, and so many amazing games for the first time in their original glory with no prior knowledge of the genres. Everything was new to me, and it was fun learning how to play each type of game. This is where big boxes PC games were amazing because they had comprehensive game manuals to read through which showed you the keyboard shortcuts and explained a bit more about each game.
Before Duke Nukem, before Quake, before Half-Life, before Unreal Tournament, and even before Doom, my first FPS experiences were in Wolfenstein 3D in 1992 which was developed by id Software and Apogee was the publisher. And guess what, we didn’t use the mouse to aim back then. We moved the character with the arrow keys (WASD wasn’t even a thing back then!), sprinted with shift, strafed with alt, and fired our weapons with ctrl. Insane right? This was because the levels were designed with 90-degree walls, so there was no reason to look up or down. We just ran through hallways shooting anything that moved, picking up power ups and madly pressing E on walls as there were so many secrets for us to find.
As things turned out, Rise of the Triad was originally designed to be Wolfenstein 3D II until Apogee licensed it as its own standalone game. Now 29-years later, Rise of the Triad: Ludicrous Edition combines all officially released content as well as never before seen new episodes to play through. They’ve even thrown in Return of the Triad, which is a Doom mod from 2011, though I had some issues loading it in the review period. Once in-game, the single player campaigns are The Hunt Begins which is the original shareware version levels, then Dark War with 4 episodes and 33 levels, and finally there is Extreme ROTT that originally released as a retail add-on level pack in 1995. This featured maps that were much harder due to the teams evolving skill sets and genre learnings.
In addition, and new with this Ludicrous Edition is a set of brand-new levels called The Hunt Continues. It was exciting jumping into these in particular for the first time. If you have played ROTT to death over the years, this will be a welcome addition. There is also a custom campaign option for players to design their own levels and share them through the Steam Workshop which is great for those involved in the modding scene.
Starting a new campaign allows you to select from one of five members of the HUNT (High-risk United Nations Task-force), which was a step ahead of Doom and Wolfenstein that had you just playing the one main character. The five characters are Taradino Cassatt, Thi Barrett, Lorelei Ni, Doug Wendt, and Ian Paul Freeley, with each having different hit points, speed, and accuracy. I played as Taradino, Thi and Taradino and didn’t really feel too much of a difference between them.
Gameplay is very much like Wolfenstein 3D with the 90-degree angle walls, but this time we have increased FOV and there is a sky and some verticality in Rise of the Triad. We can look around with the mouse and shoot enemies that are above us, but we cannot jump. There are jump pads and platforms that will raise you up as well as steps to climb in places that will lead to powerups, new weapons and access new areas. There are also plenty of puzzles to find, whether that’s behind hidden wall panels, or touchpads and switches that will reveal new areas.
There are 13 weapons in the game and players can carry a total of four weapons at once. You start with a pistol that has infinite ammunition. Soon after playing you will pick up a second pistol for some dual pistol action, and firing the weapon will fire each gun in succession, as opposed to today’s games that allow each gun to be fire independently with left or right mouse button. There’s an MP40 sub machine gun with infinite ammo and a number of high-powered guns like the bazooka, heat-seaker and others.
There is no minimap so you are relied upon to remember where you have been. Destructible objects such as ornaments or plants may block secret doors. If light poles and firepots are shot, the area dims which is a great effect for its time. Some levels have doors that require silver or gold keys to access, so remembering where they were when you see them becomes ‘key’.
There is a small variety of enemy units and most can be despatched quickly with your pistol or MP40, while others will be tough bullet-sponges or will require a blast or two from a bazooka or rocket fire. Some levels seemed to go on forever, but when you eventually unlock the necessary areas to gain access to the keys, they weren’t that big after all. Though once you have taken out all enemies and know the direct path to the last locked room/exit, movement is fast enough to cover distances much quicker.
Overall, Rise of the Triad: Ludicrous Edition is the perfect nostalgia package if you’ve played in the 90’s FPS era, though won’t be everyone’s cup of gibs. If you have never played the game or many 90’s FPS games, this will definitely feel dated compared to similar games on the market today. It was an amazing package that I could play this classic FPS with modern resolutions, and the game runs super smooth. This is a great way to see how the genre began and contains a heap of content across single and multiplayer to keep you entertained for a while.