There’s been lots of very good modern takes on classic shooters of late, but one of the most innovative shooters of the ’90s has been largely left alone: HEXEN.
Made by Raven Software back in 1995 on the original DOOM engine, HEXEN was sort of an in-universe sequel to Heretic, another ’90s shooter that was also made by Raven. (If the developer’s name rings a bell, it’s because Raven has been making mostly multiplayer shooters for decades, going back to Soldier of Fortune, Take no Prisoners, Jedi Outcast, Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force, Jedi Academy, the Wolfenstein reboot and Singularity before working on the Call of Duty series, which the studio continues to do to this day.)
HEXEN was wild because it was one of the first shooters on PC to really draw inspiration from Metroid and Castlevania, where most shooters were really all just trying to be the next DOOM or Quake. Following in the footsteps of Heretic, you could pick from three different character classes, but the main hook was solving puzzles by travelling through the hub worlds into separate maps, which would then unlock new areas and doors.
The DOOM engine didn’t really support hub levels, not until the HEXEN developers wrote it into the engine. It wasn’t a trend that really took off at the time, perhaps because Metroid Prime and Castlevania were still very much console-only games, and many shooters were PC exclusive things that were taking inspiration from elsewhere.
GRAVEN is a new game from 3D Realms that’s out in early access today, and in the vein of AMID EVIL, it’s going back to those HEXEN, Heretic roots. There’s more puzzle solving and dark fantasy elements in this than AMID EVIL, which was really more drawing on the action of the original Heretic than HEXEN‘s designs.
GRAVEN is more about the exploration and discovery, hence the HEXEN influence. So how does that inspiration hold up in 2021? You can find out below via the playback of our livestream below, which covers just over the first hour of gameplay.