Need to know
What is it? An FPS inspired by Raven Software classics Hexen and Heretic.
Expect to pay: $20/£15.49
Publisher: New Blood Interactive
Reviewed on: Windows 10, Core i7-6700K, 16GB RAM, GeForce GTX 980
Amid Evil’s worst weapon is a staff that shoots blue homing blobs—pathetic water balloons that splash against low-poly demons, many of whom look like what you’d get if you coated a bunch of triangles with super glue and threw them in a dryer. It’s worth using during the most annoying encounters, when a projectile-lobbing enemy is perched high above and is hard to hit with anything else. I don’t like it or the moments when I resort to it, but I can also use the entire earth as a grenade, which more than evens things out. Amid Evil is good.
It’s a throwback FPS like Dusk, but rather than hitscan pistol headshots, Amid Evil recalls Heretic and Hexen’s magical weapons. The staff sucks, but there’s also a magic sword, a grenade launcher that shrinks and fires random planets (like the earth), a spike-firing morningstar, a lightning trident, plus your default axe and a geometrically-unreasonable purple thing that clears rooms like Doom’s BFG.
Most of the weapons are fun, but the Star of Torment, which pins enemies to walls like FEAR’s stake gun, or can be used to homer them out of the level entirely like they’ve been slapped by a god, is Amid Evil’s pièce de résistance—I can never tire of it.
Part of Amid Evil’s appeal is that it ignores certain annoying, speed-hindering FPS conventions scaffolded onto shooters since the ’90s. There’s no fall damage. You can breathe underwater. Elevators won’t crush you if they catch your shoulder on the way down. They’ll just clip through you as they should. Accidental deaths have their place in games, especially when they’re comedic, but here they’d only get in the way of the fun and the speed. They aren’t missed.
Amid Evil falls prey to other genre foibles, though. Getting out of water is a pain in the ass, because you have to convince the game that you’re a dolphin and deserve to majestically leap over the lip of the pool when what it really wants is for you to ineffectually bob side-to-side.
And then there’s the platforming, and you probably already know the type: Here’s a game about running very fast all the time because there’s a mob of demons chasing you, so how about you climb spiraling, ultra-narrow balance beams and leap between platforms that disappear on a timer?
If you thrive on precarious ledges, you should definitely play Amid Evil—it’ll make for impressive speed runs—but I took to quicksaving constantly so that if I tripped up and stumbled down three-quarters of a level I could reload and try again without having to climb all the way back up. I love that there’s no fall damage, but sometimes it’s a curse.
Also slowing things down are the gods’ button-centric architectural designs. You’re the latest mortal champion taking a stab at cleaning up their evil-infested lands, and except for the boss stages, every level is a button hunt. Body-check one of the big blue switches, and something about the level changes: an elevator activates, a door opens, the water level rises. And then you go find the next button to walk face-first into until you eventually find a key to open up the next big area, just like in the classics.
That’s not really why I liked the classics. I love Amid Evil’s big open levels—the way some of them fit together, especially the one made of moving gears, boggles me—and they’re full of secret areas to discover. But kicking around demon guts as I retrace my steps to try to figure out which damn pathway the last button opened up isn’t as fun as pinning demons to walls with the Star of Torment, which is very fun.
Most of my ‘buts’ about Amid Evil go in the other direction. Some of the levels are tedious, sure, but I always wanted to see what strange machines and inadvisable architecture lay around the next corner. Anti-aliasing is off by default (I turned it on for these screenshots), and I might prefer it that way—the glittering jaggies give Amid Evil the look of a rare foil baseball card, and it’s more endearing than garish. It’s beautiful all smoothed out, too. The opening scene, overlooking a church at the bottom of a cavern, drew me in like a siren.
And some of the enemies are boring, but one time I fought two giant space serpents while suspended in a glob of water floating in the astral plane. Some of the demon spawn are just green triangles that rush at you, but in one part there are giant laser monsters that come across like Angels from Neon Genesis Evangelion.
When I’m just tearing through evil knights and stone giants and weird heads with flamethrower mouths, and I’m more kite than man, Amid Evil shines like the best of Quake and Serious Sam. My second-favorite weapon, the sword Whisper’s Edge, slings waves of green energy that can clip multiple enemies. I could spend all day circle strafing around courtyards, slicing the heads off of the chain of grunts following me and flinging the occasional wave at the flying artillery above.
My favorite thing about Amid Evil is that while its Hard Mode is challenging, just about every bad situation is salvageable—it feels nearly ideal to me, as difficulty modes go. I’ve mentioned quicksaving, which is one useful tool, and secret areas with big heath boosts are also helpful. There’s also the part where you can go super saiyan.
Slain enemies drop souls, and if you fill a meter with them, you can activate Soul Mode, which turns all of your weapons into fire hoses of death. The Star of Torment fires clumps of homing crystals that one-hit just about anything and explode outward on contact to clean up nearby grunts. Whisper’s Edge fires bigger waves that always pierce enemies and bounce off walls. The BFG-like Aeturnum, which often saved my ass in normal mode when I needed to vaporize a room without a real fight, fires black holes.
Soul Mode is not nerfed at all against bosses. I took the first of them down with a soul’d up Star of Torment like he was nothing. Though the final boss was tougher, it only took me a couple tries, and the first was just to figure out the concept. Would I have felt more satisfaction had it been harder? I don’t know, but I didn’t feel unsatisfied. I kind of wanted to go kill the gods I was doing all this dirty work for afterward. How were they gonna stop me?
My only complaint is that I didn’t need Soul Mode enough. I’d hold onto a full meter for ages, thinking I’d surely encounter an untenable situation where I’d release it and mop up Hell’s minions like a spill on aisle 666. But in some levels I never even thought about using it, and when I did I’d obliterate what was in front of me so quickly that I’d desperately sprint around looking for more stone giants or creepers or flame spirits to devour and find none. That’s helped a little by playing the hardest difficulty, Evil Mode. It’s semi-hidden, but I’m sure the brave will find it.
There are quiet moments in Amid Evil, too, and not just when I get lost looking for a button. As I took a breather from the carnage in one of the final levels, a faint, bumbling trumpet unexpectedly cut through the ominous vocal ‘ahhs’ and synthy moans, as if one of the orchestra members was bleeding out in the astral plane somewhere outside the level. I was moved by a game about slaughtering low-poly demons, it’s true.
The pithy signs around the levels aren’t especially original as far as godly decrees go (and are hard to read because the font for everything in Amid Evil is awful), but they do evoke a curious universe that could live in the pages of old fantasy quarterlies. Despite barely telling a story, Amid Evil made me wonder if the gods might be the real assholes—they were the ones who put buttons everywhere, after all—and when it was over I lingered for a long time before letting it end. I want more.