The Marauder is a dangerous tipping point for a lot of Doom Eternal players. It’s the first enemy in the series that demands you fight on its own terms, rather than rely on the usual run-and-gun strategy that defined the last couple decades of Doom. It’s jarring, easing up on the trigger to carefully dance around the demonic warrior, waiting for the green flash just before the axe comes down to get in a perfectly timed counter shot.
And even then, you’re only afforded a few seconds to deal damage before the shield comes back up and the dance begins again. Toss the Marauder in an arena with Doom Eternal’s other demons, and suddenly the player has to invert tactics at a moment’s notice: aggressive and efficient with the usual fodder, while restrained and reactive with the Marauder.
Vice called the Marauder “Doom Eternal’s biggest indulgence and greatest failing.” YouTuber SkillUp called the Marauder “… the only objectively terrible thing in the entire Doom franchise at this point.” Even we PC Gamer editors are split on the guy (I’m pro axe-guy). It’s no surprise some players don’t like the change of pace, but Doom Eternal director Hugo Martin stands by the Marauder, telling PC Gamer, “It is actually crystallizing everything about the game”.
In defense of the Marauder
The most basic principle the Marauder is meant to teach players, according to Martin, is weapon swapping. Martin says the Marauder falters for a specific amount of time to allow for at least one shot with most weapons, but just long enough for two shots if the player swaps to something else. Quicksilver number row players can get in three shots, and especially skilled players can combo weapons to take the Marauder out within a single stun phase.
Most players will never trivialize the Marauder though, and that sustained presence of danger was also by design. “The idea was that there would be one [enemy] that would command your respect, and then what that would do for the other [enemies] that when he is out on the floor,” says Martin. Despite those broad shoulders and that hot red gaze, Martin says the Marauder is mostly there to help. “All he does is steer you into the fun zone.”
What is the fun zone? “It’s prioritizing enemy targets,” says Martin. Doom Eternal is about clearing an arena as efficiently as possible and Martin says the Marauder essentially forces that process into overdrive. “Everything I was doing before he arrived, now I have to do it very quickly, because I need to fight him and clear the field of everyone else.”
The Marauder’s prescriptive weakness, countering its attacks to do damage during a stun, feeds into a greater common criticism of Doom Eternal. Some players feel Eternal restricts expressive play by forcing the player to closely manage resources refilled through specific means: Glory kills and blood punches for health, the chainsaw for ammo, the flame belch for armor. If there’s a specific or most efficient way to solve most of Eternal’s problems, then does that mean it’s a less expressive or fun game? “It’s not true,” says Martin.
“To say that it is overly prescriptive is not accurate, because all of these things are skillshot opportunities,” says Martin. “I don’t always take out cacodemons with sticky bombs. Sometimes I take them out with grenades, and sometimes I just ballista-shotgun them into the ground. They die with a quickswap. The arbalest mod takes them out in one shot. You could throw a grenade in their mouth, you could obviously do the sticky bomb one. You could chaingun them, you could freeze them, you could lock-on rocket them. I mean, there’s so many different ways. Actually, it’s a game of pure creativity.”
The Marauder, says Martin, is the keystone in this philosophy. In an arena it forces players to make cacodemon disintegration decisions faster, but it also represents the player’s first major hurdle and departure from the more classic Doom strategy of constant movement and aggression. “The game asks you to think, it asks you to solve this, figure it out. And then when you solve it now you’re God,” Martin says of the Marauder. “You walk out of there, like, okay, who wants some of this?”
Martin has plenty of humility about what could’ve been done better, though. Telegraphing when the Marauder is vulnerable and for how long wasn’t even clear to FPS expert and Twitch personality Shroud, who Martin watched fight the Marauder for the first time. “I remember sitting there watching Shroud do it, and he’d shoot him once.”
If one of the best FPS players ever doesn’t know or isn’t encouraged to get more shots in, then something was clearly amiss. It’s a big reason Martin updated the Marauder’s dazed animation to more clearly signal vulnerability to the player. “It was too subtle to have people just notice that in his animation that he’s wobbling. It’s just like, dude, people are running for their lives, you know?”
The dissenting voices and imperfect telegraphs aren’t holding players back though. According to Martin, despite the notorious difficulty, Doom Eternal’s completion rate percentages are “much higher” than they were for Doom 2016. Whatever id Software’s doing, and whatever you think about it, it’s apparently working.
It’s also why no one should expect Doom to play it safe ever again. Even though Doom Eternal and the Slayer Saga that started with Doom 2016 is wrapping with The Ancient Gods, Part 2, Martin expects we’ll see similarly bold enemy designs in Doom’s future, whatever that looks like. “I’m excited to see where we could go with the character in the future, or a character like that character.”