Prodeus Early-Access Preview: That Old Familiar Feeling

When it comes to retro-inspired first-person shooters, I’m something of an aficionado. Having loved them as a kid, my interest in the genre waned during the seventh console generation as the market became dominated with Call of Duty copycats and overly realistic games. With the boom of the indie market in the early 2010s, things started to change for the better.

To cut down on recapping the past, I’ll simply say that finding FPS titles in a wide variety of styles and niches is much easier nowadays. There are a ton of games to thank for that, but let’s just say I’m in heaven. That’s what brings us to Prodeus, the subject of today’s preview.

This is another retro-inspired FPS that draws direct parallels to id Software’s 1993 classic Doom. As a matter of fact, this year’s Realms Deep Livestream even called Prodeus “Modern Doom.” The game isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel when it comes to level design tropes, enemy designs, or even its arsenal. Is it hampered by sticking too closely to the past? Let’s find out.

It’s too early to give any kind of final verdict as Prodeus is only launching into early-access this year. The campaign levels that are included only amount to around three-ish hours, which is actually longer than most retro FPS games (once you master them). They mostly share the same sci-fi military base theme, though the verticality of these maps is far beyond what Doom was capable of in the early ’90s.

The graphical presentation is specifically being made to evoke a feeling of nostalgia in players. With the flick of a toggle in the menu, you can force Prodeus to render all polygonal characters as 2D sprites, which looks glorious. In their default 3D view, the game kind of has a clashing of styles with its more pixelated platforms sticking out against the crisp 3D enemies and guns. It’s your choice, though, so Prodeus gets points for preferences.

The weapon selection, as well, mostly feels like preference in its early levels. There are a few enemies that are more susceptible to the shotgun or minigun, but you can mostly pick whatever gun has the most ammo and do fine. I can’t even say that harder difficulties would force better weapon utilization as I played the entirety of this early-access campaign on “Ultra-Hard.”

The enemies, themselves, mostly follow the Doom blueprint. There are stand-ins for imps, zombie soldiers, shotgun guys, pinky demons, etc. The game does get a little more creative with these weird glowing flying monsters and these super cool looking blue astral foes, but veterans of the genre will be able to figure things out in short order. If you haven’t played every classic FPS under the sun, Prodeus at least has distinctive animations, sound effects, and enemy patterns that favor prioritizing targets over simply blasting at the closest thing in sight. It feels tactical, much like retro shooters should.

Then there’s the overworld map, which feels inspired by Super Mario Bros. 3, of all things. You’ll be progressing in a mostly linear fashion to collect runes in each level, but some alternate pathways let you embark on challenge maps or collect runes from more “challenging” levels. Again, it’s far too early to tell how integral this will be to the experience, but it seems like repeat playthroughs can be finished faster if you know where to go and which levels to tackle.

When it comes to weapon feel and movement, Prodeus is incredible. The theming and enemies might be lifted straight from Doom’s playbook, but the speed feels more in line with Quake. This is a very fast game once you put autorun on. You’ll be zipping around levels at a million miles an hour and it makes getting in and out of crowds of enemies very satisfying.

The weapons, too, have excellent sound design that really sells their impact. In the recent closed beta that developer Bounding Box Software held on Steam, I actually wasn’t too impressed with everything. The game felt a little slow and the sound design hadn’t sold me. Things are much better for this early-access version, which feels a step removed from a final release.

That isn’t even bringing up the level editor, which is included for everyone for free. With tools similar to Doom 2016’s snapmap feature, players can create new levels for others to enjoy and pass around to their friends. Obviously, recreations of classic Doom levels already exist on Prodeus’ servers, but the sky’s the limit here. It’s an incredible thing to include right off the bat as it will make up for the lack of content in the early-access release.

I still have some more levels to play through before I can give a full recommendation, but the early goings of Prodeus are painting an excellent picture. If only it was actually releasing this year, it might have ended up being my personal “Game of the Year.” It really is that good.

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Peter is an aspiring writer with a passion for gaming and fitness. If you can’t find him in front of a game, you’ll most likely find him pumping iron.

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