Party like it’s 1996 in viking-themed Doom 1 mod Rekkr

Rekkr

When it comes to mods for old games, I love seeing just how far their structure can be pushed with modern engines, but there’s still some wisdom in the old ways. Viking-themed Doom mod Rekkr takes it all the way to the old school and back again, uphill both ways in freezing snow.

Built to authentic retro specs (making it compatible with even the original DOS version, should you so wish), there’s no vertical aim, crouching or jumping here, just 25+ levels of weird techno-magical viking violence, with new enemies, weapons and art.

Playing Rekkr is a strange and nostalgic experience – heck, even the mod’s website feels like it’s from an era quickly fading from the internet’s memory. While I’ve been running it through the GZDoom engine for slightly nicer graphics, widescreen and higher framerates, this should be playable on a 486 – maybe less, if you don’t mind a postage-stamp sized game window. It looks, sounds and plays like a long-lost Doom derivative; maybe some strange, unlicensed spinoff. A pitch that never quite made it, like Hacx, but actually finished and playable start to finish.

Rekkr is a clear labour of love, and a real effort has been made to capture that grungy, rough ’90s feel, even if there is a new and slightly weird pseudo-Nordic Steampunk-ish spin on it all. It’s primarily the work of modder Revae, but with guest maps from a bunch of the best and brightest in the scene. It’s even fully playable in multiplayer, and many maps have special arena zones dedicated to deathmatch, which is a step up over the original game.

To play Rekkr, you’ll need the mod itself here, the original Doom (available on Steam and GOG) and while you could play it entirely old-school on a retro PC or emulated via DOSbox, I’d recommend just going with the GZDoom engine for ease and readability. 320 x 200 VGA graphics are a little rough on the old eyeballs these days.

22 Comments

  1. Spacewalk says:

    Personally I’ve found that Doom Retro is a more fitting choice of engine than GZDoom though having to use the console to configure everything might be a rainbow bridge too far for the younglings. But I’m calling bullshit on this being a mod it’s clearly an unreleased game from 1996 that someone found on a bunch of dusty floppies they found in a warehouse.

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      A lot of the issues people cite with GZDoom are because it stupidly uses filtered textures by default, which is always the first setting most players change.

      It scales all the way down to authentically chunky 320 x 200 with weirdly banded lighting just the way it was on DOS, and that kind of flexibility is great because I don’t want to juggle engines.

      • Spacewalk says:

        Yeah, you gotta go through the whole set texture filtering to nearest, sector lighting to software to get that sharp change in lighting levels and then mess around with the gamma and contrast until it doesn’t look so washed out dance before it looks anything like it should. Then go into sound settings and turn on OPL emulation, that’s a little detail that people overlook.

        REKKR also has a nice ENDOOM screen so you better enable that too.

  2. Syrion says:

    I like Doom mods, but I’m disappointed that there are relatively few true “total conversions”. Most mods only change weapons or mechanics. So, it’s always great to see a fully featured mod including new enemies and maps tailored to its mechanics.

    I’m looking forward to playing this with Chocolate Doom, the only source port I’ve tried that accurately replicates DOS Doom, especially including the dark, saturated lighting, making it much more atmospheric than I could get it with GZDoom.

    • DefinitelyNotHans says:

      …replicates DOS Doom? Why would you not just play DOS Doom then?

      • wcq says:

        It’s inconvenient. Some people just want the accurate look and feel, not the hassle.

      • Syrion says:

        Because newer Windows iterations don’t support it natively. As it is the only alternative is DOSBox, which I’ve tried in this case and found that it struggles to play Doom smoothly and at the correct speed. Chocolate Doom does just that, with full compatibility to newer OSs.

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      You can change lighting mode in Gzdoom to match DOS a lot more accurately. There’s even a tonemapping option to replicate the pallette without losing out on perks like wide-screen and higher frame rates

      Most of people’s reasons for not using the engine can be changed in the menus.

      It’s an engine now used by a dozen or so games so it needs to be flexible

      • wcq says:

        Maybe more people don’t know this because GZDoom’s options menu is a bloated fractal nightmare.

        I also usually use GZDoom, like most people today, but I also see the appeal of a simpler alternative that just gives you classic Doom with no faff.

      • Syrion says:

        Thanks for the input. The last time I used GZDoom for a “vanilla” experience I couldn’t do it, even using the software renderer, and actually had to revert to ZDoom for an authentic experience with some mods added. That was probably 1-2 years ago. But, you’re right, at least now I was able to get it to look much more authentic compared to the DOS release. Even if it’s really easy to get somewhat lost in the extensive menus, as wcq said.

        By the way, even with the looks similar, Chocolate Doom still “feels” very different from GZDoom. Mostly more clunky, I guess, but even just for a nostalgic experience I think it’s worth giving it a try. I guess the extremely low resolution of 320×200 also helped in making it a lot scarier. Worth a try, if you can stomach pixels that big!

        • Dominic Tarason says:

          Probably the biggest difference is the framerate. The original Doom is capped at a bizarre 35fps, which gives it a very unique feel, given that everything else is either 30 or 60.

          Persoanally, I’m happy to be rid of that and the resolution limit. Keep the unfiltered textures (old pixel-art just looks smudged with bilinear filtering anyway), but I like everything nice and sharp these days.

          • Syrion says:

            I didn’t know about the 35fps, interesting!
            With Rekkr I guess I’ll also go with GZDoom. But, having played through Doom 1 & 2 for the first time about 2 years ago, it felt really good playing it like it was ’93/’94 again :)

    • bloodnok says:

      prboom-plus will easily do “Doom, but with more pixels”, too; it’s my preferred source port.

  3. wcq says:

    This is great; I’ve been looking for some more retro FPS material to play recently.

    I was playing the recently-released Doom TC Golden Souls 2, but I’ve just been getting gradually more and more pissed off at it and at this point I just don’t want to play it any more. It starts off charming, but then descends into the kind of instadeath precision platforming hell that I can’t deal with without constant savescumming.

    • fuzzyfuzzyfungus says:

      I fully admit that it’s a matter of taste; but the limitations of classic FPS engines, where you can’t see your feet, only have limbs when they are needed for weapon handling, move in ways that are simultaneously inhumanly graceful(land a drop of a couple of stories, the immediately start circle strafing like inertia is someone else’s problem? Change from running forward to running backward(often at the same speed or only a very minor penalty)? That’s brutally good footwork) and slightly floaty and unhinged from the terrain; and often have somewhat quirky relationships with the edges of platforms and such just seem like a really bad fit for platforming.

      The classic side-scrolling platformers aren’t remotely a simulation of reality; but they give you the information you need to work with for platforming purposes. Their 3d 3rd person successors often struggled to capture the same platfoming tightness; and 1st person attempts that don’t even have a lineage in a platforming franchise often don’t get the same level of attention to attempting to make it work at a physics, camera; and control level.

      There are some successful fusions of first person(at least sometimes/optionally shooter) and platform elements; but it’s notable that the successes usually have to introduce things like ‘your arms’, parkour mechanics; and similar(sometimes also things like rocket jumping, grappling hooks, teleportation).

      Something like Dishonored isn’t quite ‘platformer’ in that it lacks the convention of lots of moving environment and situations where success or death are defined by movement timing precision; but it’s a good example of a first person game where a lot of love went into having your avatar move through the world like he’s a guy with limbs rather than a viewport with a gun.

      Explicitly parkour things like Mirror’s Edge also aren’t just ‘take super Mario 64 and move the camera into his skull, they have their own things going on; but again a lot of those things involve deviations from or augmentations of basic FPS movement to make it work.

      Old school Doom-style movement has its own charms; but they don’t shine in platforming.

      I have no idea how you would manage it, Proprioception is not something you can readily convey visually, you have to feel it; but I’d love to see someone nail the challenges of position manipulation in the context of having to balance speed vs. dangerously uncontrolled inertia, finite limb speed, etc. that you encounter in something like fencing(where staying in the right position relative to the opponent is often trickier than the actual bladework). It’s so much more than having a parry mechanic and a stagger mechanic and a power attack mechanic.
      Though, as noted, no idea how you could do it; so I understand why such abstractions are used, and they are a substantial improvement over bare bones ‘press attack, see -HP notice appear above target’.

  4. Arithon says:

    1996? It says 1993 on my disk.

  5. fuzzyfuzzyfungus says:

    On the plus side, the UAC apparently didn’t open a portal to hell in this continuity.

    On the minus side, this is the continuity where “but Mars had almost no magnetosphere!” is less of a habitability concern than “Yggdrasil’s roots find no purchase in the arid dust and perchlorates.”

  6. Ross Angus says:

    I’ve viewed source on that Mod’s website and I can confirm that is some vintage 1996 HTML. I mean that in the nicest way possible.

  7. NuclearSword says:

    I hate that we live in a world where there are umpteen terri-bland Battle Royales coming out all the time that don’t deserve to exist, but not a SINGLE big-budget game in the “weird techno-magical viking violence” genre is coming up.

    :'(

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