The original Doom may be approaching its 30th anniversary, but that hasn’t stopped dedicated modders from pushing the engine well beyond its limits over the years. While a lot of these releases have been free as downloadable expansions, others have been turned into commercial products using a free license for the GZDoom Source Port. That is the case with Vomitoreum, a rather ambitious total conversion for Doom that would have been utterly impossible to run back in 1994.
Created by indie developer Scumhead (who previously worked on Doom total conversions Shrine, Shrine 2, and Lycanthorn), Vomitoreum takes inspiration from a number of different games and genres to create a rather unique mixture of styles that is kind of hard to pin down. Part Metroidvania, part Souls-like, part FPS, you’re bound to stop caring once you get digging into the dark, foreboding world that Vomitoreum thrusts you into.
The general plot of Vomitoreum casts you in the role of the Nephilem, a vessel born from cosmic ash and the churning of souls trapped within graves. Created by powerful beings to combat hellish forces, you’re set on a journey across an Eldritch land to discover a way to make the fog recede so that the citizens can live normal lives again. To accomplish this task, you’ll need to confront staggering bosses, traverse perilous expanses, and seek new weaponry to dispatch your foes easier.
While not exactly an original setup, the way that Vomitoreum utilizes GZDoom’s engine is ridiculously impressive. Just recently, I was wondering if anyone had created single map Doom levels and Vomitoreum is exactly that. Without a single loading screen (apart from booting the game up), you’ll be set into this dangerous world and given free rein to explore to your heart’s content.
The basic gameplay in Vomitoreum is that of classic Doom. Everything is played through a first-person perspective and you’ll be shooting foes with a selection of roughly six different firearms. While conventional in application, the visual design of these guns is anything but average. The same goes for the art style, which has a cartoonish aesthetic but is incredibly dark and twisted.
You’ll start with basically nothing and be given a quest to explore the nearby area to figure out a way forward. Likely not knowing which way is correct, you’ll open a nearby door and encounter your first enemy. Easily dispatched with your pistol (that is more like a nail gun), you’ll then find that a few different paths are blocked off. Just how do you get through there, though?
Capturing the very essence of Metroid, Vomitoreum does its best to make different areas distinct so that collecting new power-ups triggers a spark in your mind. You’ll grab, for instance, the double jump ability and remember when you saw a pick-up situated across a vast chasm. This spark happens within the first 10 minutes as you’ll encounter a blacksmith that bequeaths an iron gauntlet to you. Its use is for smashing chunky blocks, something you saw just outside his room.
Getting to the blacksmith will force you into your first boss encounter, which is where the Dark Souls inspiration can be felt. Set in a somewhat closed-off arena against a massive beast, the bosses display giant health bars and will put your circle-strafing skills to the test. Failure is obviously not nearly as punishing as FromSoftware’s titles, especially since you can quicksave at will, but there is a similar atmosphere to those games that are undeniable in Vomitoreum’s execution.
Sadly, the bosses are probably the overall weakest aspect of this game. Basic enemies will likely not pose much of a threat, but their sheer numbers and positioning will demand you deal with them in a specific order to pass through each area. It feeds into the essence of Doom in that there is a hierarchy for which foes are deadlier than others. The bosses just use a few basic attacks and don’t seem to care that you’re running in a circle around them. There are no intricate patterns or devastating blows you’ll need to learn: just hold A or D while turning the mouse and you’ll win.
That said, combat is not what makes Vomitoreum so enjoyable. It certainly is functional and can even be quite fun when outnumbered, but the real gist of this game is exploration. Figuring out where to find power-ups, how to progress through different areas, and where you need to go next is what makes Vomitoreum tick.
What also helps is that the general size of Vomitoreum’s map isn’t that ridiculously big, even if it would count as massive in the constraints of Doom. When you find a new ability, it’s generally not that long of a walk to where you’ll need to utilize it. The only time I got stumped was at the very end since I had been playing for nearly three hours straight. It was late at night and I simply forgot where one of the areas was, so I went in circles for a bit.
I guess it would be nice to have the names of areas get displayed each time you enter them (certain abilities are required in certain areas, but the map doesn’t designate their names at all), but even trial and error will see you eventually figuring out how to progress.
I would have liked to see more enemy variety by the end. Even some extra guns would have been nice as it feels like you spend far too long using the default pistol before the rest of the game throws weapons at you rapid-fire. The hidden weapons also have no real use and aren’t much better than what you acquire through regular progression, so that is a little disappointing for secret hunters.
Overall, though, I look back at my time with Vomitoreum and am pleased. Some early issues with its launch stopped me from posting a review immediately, but I definitely feel it is worth the $10 asking price. For pushing the GDZoom Source Port in a way I never thought feasible, Vomitoreum is certainly worth a look for those that want something new from Doom.
It absolutely will not be everyone’s cup of tea and you can complete the main game in two and a half hours, but don’t let that short length stop you. There isn’t a second of wasted space in Vomitoreum. With all of the potential here, it would be a crime to see things stop at just a single game.
TechRaptor reviewed Vomitoreum on Steam using a copy provided by the publisher.
- Impressive Level Scale
- Grotesque Art Style
- Large, Interconnected Map
- Boss Fights are Disappointing
- Enemy Variety is Somewhat Lacking