Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Review: Rise of the Triad: Dark War (1994)

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Rise_of_the_Triad_coverConsole: PC/DOS, Mac
Released: 1994
Developer: Apogee
Publisher: Apogee
Digital Release? Yes – PC/Mac (Steam/, iOS
Price: $3-$5, depending on digital distributor

Please Note: This review is based on the original 1994 PC game, for the 2013 updated version, our review can be found here.

In 1994 the first-person shooter was rampant. Like today, you just couldn’t look over a rack of games without a large number of the genre present, although at this time they were simply known as “Doom clones“. Ironically, one of the craziest of these titles, Rise of the Triad (ROTT), was played by almost no one unless you were like me and relied heavily on free shareware titles. People keep thinking they’ve played it, but once I start describing it quickly discover it’s a different game. It’s basically a Wolfenstein 3D-like title, which makes sense because it started life as the sequel, and focuses on graphic violence, crazy traps and platforming, and plenty of different explosive weapons. You play as one of five members of spec ops group H.U.N.T. (High-risk United Nations Task-force), each has a value of 1-5 in either strength and speed that balances to the same total amount for each. It’s not as diverse as it sounds in terms of character class, but it allows mild adaptation to your play style. In the game H.U.N.T finds itself trapped on an island after a rescue boat gets destroyed and your goal is simple: kill.


The similarities to Wolfenstein 3D are striking, developer Apogee was also the publisher for id’s early titles (including Wolfenstein 3D) and had begun to get into development as well. As a result ROTT comes off as more of a total conversion mod that places you in a futuristic death-trap facility rather than an ancient Nazi castle. Graphically the game has received an appropriate facelift, looking much more realistic than 1993’s Doom by comparison. It’s also just plain crazy. Like creative freedom crazy with over-the-top violent deaths including the random “ludicrous gibs!” effect where the enemy explodes into giblets of human matter. There’s also a God Mode power-up that temporarily turns you into an invincible version of the almighty, smiting enemies in your way and yawning at the apparent boredom of being perfect (possibly even digging on players that relied on God Mode in other games as a way to complete them). Side objectives like boss battles and coin collecting switch it up, but not enough to be notable.


This all sounds good and well but these days the game is clunky as hell, controlling like you’ve been drugged and forced to tap the keyboard with boxing gloves on. It’s also tough as hell and unforgiving – you can easily die at the hands of one properly placed enemy or random instant death trap and have to start the whole level over. Consequently you pace slowly through the game, quick saving and reloading at will, which was not compelling or much fun. Multiplayer, if you can find a game, is a clumsy frag fest that makes Doom look like a modern shooter. Also this title has odd resolution in DosBox, which is required to play on modern PCs. Sadly it’s a great example of the period but a bit too dated to enjoy without nostalgia.


Score: 2 out of 5
See our review policy for the definition of each review score.

Please see our supplemental article for historical data on why Rise of the Triad is significant to gaming history and today’s development.

Written by Fred Rojas

August 2, 2013 at 11:00 am

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