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The Big Three Build Engine Games On GOG

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Blood: One Unit Whole Blood
Shadow Warrior was not the only big Build engine game to come out in 1997, as in the spring of that year Monolith Productions was also hard at work applying the finishing touches to their title Blood. Set in the year 1928, the game chronicles the struggles of an old-western gunslinger named Caleb as he rises from the grave in order to take revenge on an evil cult called The Cabal, as well as the dark god that he once served. Despite this epic backdrop Blood is still mostly a loving parody of the horror genre, and black humour abounds.

It is no overstatement to say that Blood is easily the best of the Big Three, with it being one of the most underrated shooters of the whole decade. Blood arguably built more on the legacy of Duke Nukem 3D than Shadow Warrior did, taking its gameplay to sophisticated new heights and offering its referential overtones with an even greater degree of refinement. Much of the credit for this has to go to Stephan Weyte, who plays Caleb with a malignant magnificence outclassed by none, laughing like a loon while slaying foes and singing old show tunes to himself when left alone.

Levels are large, detailed, and creative. The first episode alone has you board a moving train before winding up at an open air carnival with playable games and attractions. Certain later levels are even direct send ups to several classic horror films, allowing you to explore icy hedge mazes, haunted hotels, and malls infested with the undead. This same attention to detail is also applied to the game's enemies. Zombies need to be blown up or decapitated in order to be destroyed, while legions of robed Cultists hurl abuse at you in a translatable archaic tongue.

Caleb starts with only a Pitchfork but soon gets his hands on Flare Pistols, Sawed-Off Shotguns, Tommy Guns, Dynamite Bundles, Napalm Launchers, and more esoteric items such as Tesla Cannons, Life Leeches, and Voodo Dolls. These all have primary and secondary firing modes, and can be wielded akimbo when used with the associated power-up. Enemy variety also increases to include Gargoyles, Bloated Butchers, Spiders, Hell Hounds, Gill Beasts, and even disembodied Hell Hands that choke the player while taunting in a tinny little voice.

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But perhaps the greatest strength of Blood is simply how smooth it plays in spite of its difficulty. A strong force causes enemies to fly backwards screaming, while Caleb often seems to glide through the air as he leaps from platform to ledge. The game's vast and versatile arsenal allows the player to inflict an almost incalculable amount of damage on the opposition, featuring one of the nicest fire systems and array of practical explosive devices of any shooter to date. Caleb will not be the only one cackling with sadistic glee as you play through the game.

The GOG version comes with two expansions packs, one created by Monolith Productions and one released by Sunstorm Interactive, who were also behind Wanton Destruction. The Plasma Pak is much like the Atomic Edition in that it is built into the main game itself, but Cryptic Passage is a standalone executable which is actually rather poorly exposed. The GOG version does not ship with a nice menu like Shadow Warrior does, something which forced me to create my own custom launchers for the game. Cryptic Passage also includes objects that are not destructible.

Blood like Shadow Warrior primarily uses CD music for its background tracks, something which once again necessitated the need to mount a Cue sheet into DOSBox, bringing with it much of the same bugs such as an inoperable music volume slider. A more serious problem is that in Blood the CD music does not repeat as it should, another known bug in DOSBox. Patches exist upstream that fix both of these issues, so it is baffling that GOG has yet to include them with their own bundled DOSBox executable.

Unlike Shadow Warrior though Blood also features a full selection of properly looping MIDI music that can be activated by moving all of the Ogg Vorbis files out of the Blood "data" directory. These are actually quite good and hold some advantages over the CD music, but you will miss out on the ambient sound effects of the "Dark Carnival" CD track or the eerie choir chanting on "Pestis Cruento". The full soundtrack in MP3 format is included with the GOG version alongside a music video for the song "Love You To Death" by Type O Negative and a scan of the manuals.

The source code to Blood was never released by Monolith Productions, so there are no viable source ports.

Conclusion
In the end I must admit to being somewhat disappointed by the quality of these releases. While all of the Big Three are definitely still worth playing and the GOG versions do give you an easy way of accessing them already setup for modern hardware, the amount of niggling problems present in the wrappers are enough to give GOG a bad name simply because a lot of them would be so easy to fix. All of these issues have known workarounds or patches upstream that could easily be applied to the games, and yet GOG has failed to put in the required effort.

I would not mind, but GOG is a company that prides itself on the level of support that it offers, even going so far as to use it as an excuse not to support Linux back in day until popular demand forced them to do otherwise. So when I am faced with problems that affect gamers on all platforms I am far less inclined to be charitable in comparison to the efforts of a small Indie developer or someone just getting their start on Linux. In fact, in terms of platform support the fact that I was running the games on Linux proved to come nowhere close to being an issue.

Devolver Digital sells enhanced native versions of Duke Nukem 3D and Shadow Warrior on Steam that do not have these issues and offer a raft of new features to boot, and while there will always be purists who want to play the games in their original unadulterated forms or people such as myself that shun Steam out of concerns about DRM and Steamworks integration, the fact that GOG can not even be bothered to make their own versions of the games as competitive as they can possibly be does not speak highly of them.

But I should not be too dour. Duke Nukem 3D ran perfectly out of the box, and I really do appreciate the fact that I can now buy these old gems and have them count as a Linux sale. Most of the problems are minor, and the fact that I can now download them as digital copies is a significant blessing. Playing any of the Big Three will take you back to a time when levels were large and detailed, enemies were numerous and creative, and you were actually expected to play the game seriously even when the games were not being taken seriously themselves.

These are all lessons that could be learned by the shooter developers of today, especially now that the Indie game revolution has given us conditions very similar to the Shareware era that produced these early titles. We could once again have sprawling locales filled with interactive and destructible objects, inventive weaponry that still manages to balance out, and game worlds and characters that provide context to the violence through unreality and parody rather than seemingly condoning war crimes.

But I should really pull myself off my soap box here. The games are good. Buy them.
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13 comments
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Cyba.Cowboy 23 June 2015 at 8:47 pm UTC
I don't get it - at least two of these games (Duke Nukem 3D and Shadow Warrior) and possibly the third (Blood - but I'm unfamiliar with the title) have been available on GOG.com (and via other stores) for ages... Am I missing something?
Hamish 23 June 2015 at 8:50 pm UTC
CybaCowboyI don't get it - at least two of these games (Duke Nukem 3D and Shadow Warrior) and possibly the third (Blood - but I'm unfamiliar with the title) have been available on GOG.com (and via other stores) for ages... Am I missing something?
Shadow Warrior and Blood only received their Linux releases on GOG over the past few months, but even if they had been around forever, I fail to see why that would preclude me from reviewing them.
Stoney_Fish 23 June 2015 at 9:43 pm UTC
Hi all

I'm having a problem with GOG Duke Nukem 3D.
The game starts correctly , the initialize screen is ok. From the initial splash screen the display is cropped showing only the top left 2/3 of the screen.
[img=138x104]http://i59.tinypic.com/2pyuaup.jpg[/img]

Other GOG dosbox games work correctly eg Duke Nukem 1+ 2 and Blood.
The Steam version of Duke Nukem 3D classic also shows the same 2/3 for a second and them corrects to full screen..

I did a screenshot using gnome-screenshot and after taking the shot the display corrected it self. So this is one workaround. The issue returns the next time is start the game.
Tried F5 but did not help me.
I opened a GOG support ticket for this on the 7th June but have not had a reply back yet.
Any advice is welcome , is it something I should tweak in dosbox?

Thanks

[Ubuntu 15.04 nvidia 346.59 gtx770 The display is an old LG Flatron L1750SQ 1280x1024 ]
Hamish 23 June 2015 at 9:47 pm UTC
If taking a screenshot fixes things for you can also just press "Alt-Enter" to go into a windowed mode and then repeat to go back again. But that would of course just be another workaround.

You could also try changing the Duke Nukem 3D screen settings, although that would probably just replicate the same behaviour as pressing "F5". Regardless, you can access these settings by providing the following parameter to the GOG start script:
./start.sh -sset
Stoney_Fish 23 June 2015 at 9:52 pm UTC
Thanks Hamish

Alt-Enter works for me.

Hail to the king.
crt0mega 24 June 2015 at 5:29 am UTC
Great review, Hamish! Blood is also my favourite of "The Big Three". You should take a look at M210 Projects, his "BloodCM" works fine with eDuke32. Unfortunately his work has yet to be finished, Episode 3 is at 66% :/
Hamish 24 June 2015 at 6:30 am UTC
crt0megaYou should take a look at M210 Projects, his "BloodCM" works fine with eDuke32. Unfortunately his work has yet to be finished, Episode 3 is at 66% :/
I am actually the co-founder/head moderator of the Blood Wiki so of course I have heard of BloodCM and what they have been able to accomplish is indeed incredible, although as long as the project continues to freely distribute copyrighted assets there will always be a question of legality surrounding it.

The other big hope for getting around the lack of source code access is the XL Engine which is hoping to add Blood support once the guy behind it is done reverse engineering the Jedi Engine behind Dark Forces and Outlaws. I have no idea how much progress he is making at the moment though.
Cyba.Cowboy 24 June 2015 at 7:28 am UTC
HamishShadow Warrior and Blood only received their Linux releases on GOG over the past few months, but even if they had been around forever, I fail to see why that would preclude me from reviewing them.

Ah okay, I have Shadow Warrior, but the Steam version I bought last year... Besides, I wasn't suggesting you don't review them - it's never too late for a review - just failing to understand the significance of the post.

But the way, it's interesting to note that GOG.com have two versions of Shadow Warrior - the "classic" (original) version and a seemingly graphically polished "2013" version (the "classic" version is not available for Linux-based operating systems in Steam - not too sure how this differs from the "redux" version I have in Steam)!
tuubi 24 June 2015 at 8:30 am UTC
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CybaCowboyBut the way, it's interesting to note that GOG.com have two versions of Shadow Warrior - the "classic" (original) version and a seemingly graphically polished "2013" version (the "classic" version is not available for Linux-based operating systems in Steam - not too sure how this differs from the "redux" version I have in Steam)!
The 2013 remake isn't really the same game as the original. There's been so much talk of the remake (and it's upcoming sequel) on GOL that you should already know this.

In his review Hamish already mentions the Steam-exclusive Redux, which indeed seems to be a polished native version of the original.
Hamish 24 June 2015 at 4:40 pm UTC
CybaCowboyAh okay, I have Shadow Warrior, but the Steam version I bought last year... Besides, I wasn't suggesting you don't review them - it's never too late for a review - just failing to understand the significance of the post.
Fair enough.

CybaCowboyBut the way, it's interesting to note that GOG.com have two versions of Shadow Warrior - the "classic" (original) version and a seemingly graphically polished "2013" version (the "classic" version is not available for Linux-based operating systems in Steam - not too sure how this differs from the "redux" version I have in Steam)!
As I understand it the "Classic" version of Shadow Warrior on Steam is basically just a free giveaway from Devolver Digital to promote the Classic Redux version.

Incidentally, this is guy probably summed up the game better than I did:
LaikaI'm offensive and I find this game Asian.
http://steamcommunity.com/profiles/76561198053671250/recommended/225160/
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