Supplice is the product of refinement. Initially beginning life as a Doom Mega WAD, it went the same route as Selaco and became its own fully-fledged game. While not nearly as dramatic as Selaco in regards to changes, Supplice is still the product of 14 years' worth of development time. Developed by Mechworx under a veritable who’s who of the Doom modding scene whose collective work includes The Guncaster, Russian Overkill, Return to Saturn X, Sigil and even Voidpoint’s Ion Fury. It was released into early access two weeks ago (the same day as last week’s entry Ravenswatch). And today I’m gonna talk about my time with the first episode of Supplice.
The setup for Supplice is that you are an unnamed terraforming worker in the exocolony Methuselah doing work to prepare the planet for colonization. In the process, the facility is attacked by an army of biomechanical alien creatures. Armed with only a drill and a navigation AI guiding your way, you proceed to fight off the invaders, reactivate Methuseluh’s defences and find out what the heck is happening. While the story outside of this can be safely ignored, I actually found myself engaging with it more often than not. The main way that it’s conveyed is through computer terminals where you interact with the main AI you talk to and see the social media posts of the other colonists and news updates in the colony and it’s a great piece of environmental storytelling. It’s got some big Marathon vibes and while I’ve never played more than half of the original Marathon, it’s the best comparison that I can make at this point in time.
When you aren’t going through the first episodes' computer terminals, you’re going to be exploring the first of the six episodes available in Early Access. There are five levels available, and a planned total of thirty when the final game ships. And if they're anything like this initial offering of levels, we’re in for a treat. So far, the design of the levels feels like it’s informed by a wealth of knowledge of Doom level design in ways that can only be achieved by literal decades of experience. The maps here are large and sprawling, but not to the point where you can get lost. Although I did because of my terrible sense of direction. Said terrible sense of direction aside, the levels are signposted excellently, with a map screen that’s easy to read and use in the event that you can’t tell head from toe.
All of this would not mean much if you didn’t have good weapons to shoot and good god almighty, does Supplice have some bangers in the gun department. You start off with a basic mining drill that serves as the game’s chainsaw equivalent which shoots out shockwaves for a ranged get-off-of-me tool. From there you get an assault rifle that serves as Supplice’s main workhorse. It’s got a decent fire rate, deals decent damage, has a three-shot burst for an alternate fire mode, and can be dual-wielded for double of what I just mentioned. It’s sick. There’s also a rotary shotgun that can fire all three barrels at once to chunk monsters, a flamethrower that spreads flammable gas clouds, a plasma rifle that also charges up shots, a chargeable napalm launcher, an auto shotgun called the Slugger that can be charged up and be a SPAS-12 on steroids. A Minigun that has no alternate fire because it's a minigun and doesn’t really need one, and the Fission Dynamo serves as Supplice’s equivalent of the BFG. All of these weapons feel great to use and all do a lot to add to the strategic depth of fighting your way through the invading alien monstrosities. And while the enemies in Episode 1 feel like riffs on Doom monsters so far, they’re at least interesting riffs on the monsters in Doom1, like the weird, flying mouth things that are essentially Lost Souls, but spawn from flesh pods that have to be destroyed to stop them from spawning, stuff like that.
Lastly, the aesthetics of Supplcie cannot be denied. Even though the game was developed in GZDoom, it looks phenomenal. It does the one thing that the Doom engine has traditionally struggled with, and that’s making the levels feel like actual lived-in places as opposed to abstract levels you shoot your way through. And lastly, there’s the music. Composed by James Paddock of Sigil and Prodeus fame, he weaves together a soundtrack that has less the heart-pumping metal riffs and power chords you’d expect from a game like this and something more akin to…light jazz? That’s the only way I can explain it so far. But I don’t mind it because it works so goddamn well. Never thought I’d enjoy blasting demons to Sax riffs, but here we are, I guess? Paddock’s work on both versions of the Sigil soundtrack and the midi renditions of Prodeus was awesome and his work on Supplice continues that.
As I said at the beginning, Supplice is the product of refinement. With an interesting story, expansive levels to explore and an awesome arsenal of weapons to blast away aliens with, Supplice is going into the “keeping an eye on it” pile for the time being. It’s good stuff.