Late To The Party: Rise of the Triad


I’ve actually been playing the original Rise of the Triad on and off for weeks but never really got around to writing about it until now. Of all the old school first person shooters I’ve tried on this journey through the genre, this has got to be the goofiest.

Apogee Software in 1994 seemingly tried to pretty much make a spiritual sequel to Wolfenstein 3D, one more directly following and developing that game’s components rather than evolving from them like the original DOOM did. That shows in Triad’s weapons, enemies, level design, and especially its downright odd imagery and sense of humor.

Almost all these old shooters have you killing monsters and demons — nothing that attempts to be grounded in the real world. Wolfenstein’s Nazis are an exception to this. Triad expands upon them with Nazi-looking enemies that are not only human, but use photos of live actors for sprites. Combine that with slapstick sound effects and levels that don’t even attempt to look sensible, and you have what, if it came out today, would probably be considered some kind of parody shooter.

From the first level you see levitating and shifting platforms everywhere to try to bring elevation to these rudimentary shooters in a way different from how DOOM simply used stairs and elevators. The levels in Triad actually center on traps as much as they do enemy encounters: spikes, springs, flame pipes, spinning blades, holes that just trip you — in general the kind of things you’d have seen in a Sonic the Hedgehog game in the 90’s.

If the level design and characters don’t confirm Triad’s insanity, the power ups certainly do. You can tell Apogee just didn’t give a crap when designing and setting them up. Power ups like “god mode” or flight make sense sure, but what about the one that turns you into a dog? Or the shroom power up that just distorts the graphics,  or the “elasto” one that just makes you bounce everywhere to seemingly no benefit?

The only part of Triad that seems quaint and even simple compared to the rest of the game is the weapon selection. The normal weapon selection really just includes pistols, a sub machine gun, and a few different types of rocket launcher. You mostly just either stand there and shoot enemies until dead, or occasionally blow up groups of them. There’s almost no complex dance with each enemy like there might be in DOOM. I see this is just another extension of Wolfenstein, which had a similar loadout, plus a chain gun.

Pretty much all the non-simulation FPSs that came out around this time incorporated a level of slapstick comedy and silliness. It was before most video games really thought about being realistic or cinematic, but Triad is completely off the deep end. Maybe not having been there are the time is affecting my view of this game. Is that just how Apogee rolled? Is this an intentional Wolfenstein 3D parody?


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