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Apogee’s Rise of the Triad is a perfect example of ambition limited by technology. By the time Rise of the Triad launched in 1995, the Wolf 3D engine it uses had been made obsolete by Doom a year prior and the even more superior Build Engine was on the horizon.  It took Tom Hall and crew a great load of work to transform what was originally intended to be a sequel to Wolfenstein to of the wackiest FPS of the ’90s. While it was not as successful as its peers, Rise of the Triad, or ROTT as it’s affectionately known, soon gathered a modest cult following. It’s this fandom and love that made Rise of the Triad: Ludicrous Edition happen. A combined effort from Nightdive, Apogee and New Blood, Ludicrous Edition plans to be the ultimate ROTT experience bar none. 

Rise of the triad

Seeing What Sticks

Rise of the Triad is truly a shining example of how far creativity and passion can carry you even under severe limitations. It’s a popular opinion that as a First-Person Shooter, ROTT didn’t age all that well, especially compared to its brethren like Doom, Duke Nukem 3D and Dark Forces. Heck, ROTT was dated even at the time of its release. A severely outdated Wolf 3D engine with limited capabilities such as all walls being the same height and 90 degree, repetitive maze-like level design, at-times tedious/punishing gameplay and lackluster visuals, etc. made sure that ROTT would never reach the same level of popularity as its peers.

Even with all these faults, ROTT manages to be one of the unique and wacky games of the decade thanks to the creative superpowers who worked on the game. Apogee’s “throw everything at the 90 degree walls and see what sticks” approach to game design makes the game a remarkable experiment. There are so many of these wacky design choices and experiments thrown around that one can’t help but wonder what the developer meetings would have looked like. From the over the top story about a super villain cult, explosive weaponry, wacky power ups, trap filled levels and more make the game a crazy rollercoaster of ideas and ambition.

Rise of the triad

What ROTT lacks in technology, it makes up with ambitious ideas dialed all the way up to 11. Many of the features now standard in FPS were introduced in ROTT such as multiple playable characters with varied stats, rocket jumping, dual wielding pistols, over the top power-ups Capture the Flag mode, traps, platforming, etc. The game uses various techniques in order to overcome its technical limitations, such as the presence of jump pads for verticality and platforming. Heck, I don’t think there exists any game which lets you become both a God and a dog to wreak havoc on cultists.

The game also has a shitload of attention to detail like enemies playing dead, begging for mercy, the ability to heat up food in order to gain more health and lots of Easter eggs. Then there’s the outstanding music that proudly stands the test of time. ROTT is a work of pure passion and unbridled creativity. It doesn’t work all the time but when it does, there’s nothing quite like it.

Return of the Triad

While ROTT may come across as a mixed bag depending on who you ask, there’s no second opinion to the fact that Rise of the Triad: Ludicrous Edition is an excellent remaster. Hell, I’d even go on to say that this is the single best remaster of a retro game ever. Nightdive and New Blood has done a fantastic job in faithfully recreating the game in the KEX Engine while adding all sorts of modern bells and whistles as well as restoring cut content.

For starters, the game includes all the shareware and retail levels, expansion packs, plus a whole new original episode (which is neat, btw) by acclaimed modern boomer shooter devs. A shitload of cut content including audio and character sprites has been restored. The super-fun multiplayer has been fully restored. An easy-to-use level editor has been added. Then there are the plethora of modern coatings and QoL additions such as higher resolutions, uncapped frame rates, multiple new HUD options, additional visual effects, full controller support, crosshair customization and more.

Rise of the Triad

Finally, there’s the option to toggle between the original audio by Lee Jackson and the one Andrew Hulshult made for the 2013 remake of the same name. If you know your boomer shooter history, then you know how much of a banger the soundtrack of ROTT is. Nightdive, New Blood and Apogee deserve all the praise they can get for their outstanding work.

Rise of the triad

Real Talk

Rise of the Triad: Ludicrous Edition is hands down one of the best remasters ever made that will no doubt please all fans yearning for a sourceport. It’s one of the rare cases when the recreation outshines the original product. Rise of the Triad may be a divisive game, but there’s nothing divisive about Ludicrous Edition. Nightdive has once again upped the standards for remasters. If you’re a fan of the original, Ludicrous Edition is a must-buy at full price. If you’re wanting to try the game for the first time, try out the demo and see if it’s for you. They hardly make games like these anymore.


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