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Video Game / Heretic

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Raven Software licensed the Doom engine from id Software to create Heretic, a medieval-fantasy-themed FPS released in 1994.

The Serpent Riders, three powerful evil beings, have enslaved the seven human kings and turned their subjects into their puppets. The Sidhe Elves, of which the player character Corvus is a member, remain unaffected by the Serpent Riders' magic powers and are declared Heretics, to be wiped off the face of the earth. The Sidhe respond by extinguishing magical candles that weaken the seven kings' armies but also the Sidhe themselves. The Serpent Riders opportunistically destroy the Sidhe elders and force the rest of them into hiding. That is, except Corvus, who won't take the near-extermination of his race lying down. He wants payback, so he sets out to find D'Sparil, the weakest Serpent Rider, and destroy him. D'Sparil's stronger big brothers, Korax and Eidolon, who left soon after all of them took over this world to conquer different worlds, will each eventually be faced by the heroes of those worlds in Hexen and Hexen II, respectively.


The gameplay differs from Doom seemingly only in setting (medieval fantasy vs. futuristic military/hell). The levels follow the same formula of "get yellow key to open door to green key which opens door to blue key which leads to exit." The original order-by-mail full game consists of three episodes of eight normal and one secret level, with two more added in a licensed retail version (Heretic: Shadow of the Serpent Riders) à la The Ultimate Doom.

The weapons seem to be medieval fantasy-themed edits of Doom's arsenal: An Elven Wand for the pistol, the Ethereal Crossbow for the shotgun, the Dragon Claw for the chaingun, the Phoenix Rod for the rocket launcher, the Hellstaff for the plasma rifle, and lightning-shooting Gauntlets of the Necromancer for the chainsaw. There is no direct equivalent to the BFG, and the player is instead offered the rapid-firing Firemace (which fires bouncing metal spheres, which, when using a Tome of Power, can kill most enemies in one shot).


One notable addition was the inventory system, which allowed the player to carry items to be used later at will. Among these are the health-pack Quartz Flask and Mystic Urn; hourglass-shaped Time Bomb of the Ancients; a simple Torch; the Tome of Power, which gives your weapons new and more powerful attacks for a limited time; and a magical egg, Morph Ovum, that turns any enemy it hits into a chicken.

Heretic also upgrades Doom's "2.5D" engine to nearly-3D: the game allows you to look up and down - and failing to do so when attacking an enemy above or below your level means your shot will miss, unlike in Doom where all interactions are really done in 2D. A powerup also enables the player to fly for a limited time. It's still not possible to create a room above another room, or objects like ledges or bridges that can be passed over and under.

Enemies included flying red gargoyles, golems, undead warriors, ophidians, disciples of D'Sparil, and were-dragons, each with melee and ranged attacks of varying power, and the melee-only Sabreclaws. Similar to Doom's use of Barons of Hell as bosses for one episode and then sub-bosses later on, the giant floating skull-like Iron Liches populate the later episodes. Standing in for the Cyberdemon are the Maulotaurs, giant minotaurs with fireball-slinging hammers.

The game spawned three sequels:

  • Hexen (1995) - The player plays as one of three character classes to confront the second Serpent Rider, Korax.
  • Hexen II (1997) - Uses the Quake engine, unlike the Doom engine of its predecessors. Four different character classes hunt down the third and final Serpent Rider, Eidolon.
  • Heretic II (1998) - Based on a modified Quake II engine. Unlike the previous games, uses a third-person view. The protagonist from the first game, Corvus, must stop a mysterious plague that has decimated his homeland.

The first Heretic (specifically, the Shadow of the Serpent Riders edition) is available on Steam and GOG for use with DOSBox or any of the various Doom engine source ports on the net. Heretic II has not seen a digital rerelease, as of yet.

Most of the original team of these games have since left Raven Software following Activision's acquisition of the company in 1997, and they went on to form Human Head Studios. In 2019, the team then joined ZeniMax Media (who owns id Software and the distribution rights to the original Heretic and both of the Hexen games) under the name Roundhouse Studios, thereby becoming a division of Xbox Game Studios when Microsoft acquired ZeniMax in 2021.

This Game Is An Example of the Following Tropes:

  • Adjustable Censorship: Heretic II contains four violence settings in the More Options menu:
    • "No Blood" turns enemy gibs into debris, excises blood particles and decals (with the former being turned into sparks of light and dust), and removes the ability to dismember enemies. Should Corvus be gibbed, the game will immediately bring up the Load Game menu with no input from the player to cover up the gibs.
    • "No Gibbing" operates much the same as "No Blood", except blood has been enabled.
    • "Normal" has full gibs and blood.
    • "Ultraviolence", the default setting, turns the gore up to eleven.
  • all lowercase letters: everywhere, where possible, in the first game; this was continued in hexen. the typeface is clearly based on gaelic script (insular and uncial, with some influence from humanist minuscule).
  • All There in the Manual:
    • The backstory to the original Heretic, mentioned above, is only revealed in the game's manual.
    • The manual of Heretic II contains more information about the races, weapons, and spells seen in the game and expands upon the Heretic games' world with more new details. For instance, the City of the Damned in the first Heretic's opening chapter is really named Silverspring (it's also Corvus' hometown); it only got the former name because D'Sparil took over. It also touches upon Corvus' adventures in the Outer Worlds, including the time his Tome of Power, named Teejalla, revealed her sentience and story to him and taught him to use lost Seraph magic (i.e. the spells you collect in-game) throughout the span of his exile, as she and her sisters were Seraphs that had their life forces infused within each of the seven Tomes to carry on the race's knowledge after they left the world.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: Unlike Doom, none of the monsters in the original Heretic are capable of Hitscan attacks, meaning that none of them can snipe you from long distances for instant, unavoidable damage. That said, hitscan attacks still exist in the game; with two of the player weapons utilizing such, so they are still a hazard in deathmatches.
  • Artifact Title: An in-universe example in the three Serpent Riders. When you fight D'Sparil he is indeed riding around on a giant fire-breathing Chaos Serpent. The other two, much later, do not ride serpents and would not even be physically able to do so.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • The powered-up Fire Mace deals exactly 10,000 damage (18-144 on bosses) and can therefore kill a non-boss monster with one sphere. However, the spheres move and bounce around very slowly, will disappear if they strike a wall (terrible in tight halls), do not bounce on liquid, flying enemies are difficult unless you fire point-blank, and ghosts are completely immune to the weapon. The weapon also follows the player's inertia complicating aiming and against multiple enemies, you can't really chose who the super orbs home in on. You can use the machine gun on swarms of weaker enemies to get the most out of its regular mode, or send some power spheres out to for tracking D'Sparil after he teleports while another niche use is against Iron Liches as they are extremely slow and easy targets for the still-powerful super orbs. In short, their unpowered mode overlaps with Herd-Hitting Attack abilities that also work on ghosts like the powered-up Hellstaff or Dragon Claw, and even when powered-up it remains situational.
    • The powered-up staff, in Heretic 1, gains a lightning aura at the tip, and works similar to Doom's berserk punch. However, the range is still pitiful, the weapon still can not affect ghosts, and the attack is less than half as strong as Doom's berserk punch (it will kill a basic golem in one hit if you're lucky). Unlike Doom's berserk, there is also an opportunity cost as you're using this weapon instead of a more powerful short-range option with your Tome of Power such as the crossbow (plenty of ammo available in the five episodes), or the longer-range Gauntlets of the Necromancer (which also heals you while zapping foes). It is decent against Sabreclaws since it pushes them away so they can't melee you, but you'll likely have a more practical weapon out and may as well use that, unless you're desperately out of ammo.
  • Bag of Holding: The namesake appears as an item which allows you to hold extra ammo, and gives a little bit of ammo for (almost) every weapon.
  • Bag of Spilling:
    • Aside from the "lose all your weapons between episodes" shtick that was pretty common back in the day, the first Heretic also let you only carry one of each inventory item to the next level, except for the Wings of Wrath which you just plain lost (to avoid Sequence Breaking). On the other hand, this means you're encouraged to use your items as you get them, thereby averting Too Awesome to Use.
    • Heretic II's manual, meanwhile, explains that all of Corvus's weapons he had in the first game were "rendered inert and useless" after he was banished to the Outer Worlds, aside from his staff and Tome of Power. By the time you actually take control of the guy, the only methods of attack he has are the Fireball spell the Tome taught him to use and the aforementioned staff, now with a blade attached.
  • Baleful Polymorph: The Morph Ovum, Porkalator and Seal of the Ovinomancer items in the first three games of the series. In the multiplayer for Heretic II, the Morph Ovum can be used on players. Using the Tome of Power after you've been turned into a chicken will turn you into a giant chicken. This doesn't work in the first game, where the tome just turns you back to normal.
  • Beat the Curse Out of Him: In Heretic II, Corvus must defeat the High Priestess in combat in order to rid her of her madness and put her in a cooperative state.
  • Big Bad: D'Sparil, the first of the Serpent Riders.
  • Blow You Away: The Iron Lich's windstorm attack.
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • The Elven Wand that you start with has its own exclusive ammo (unlike Doom's pistol / chaingun), so it can be use to finish off weakened enemies in order to save ammo for your more powerful weapons. Power it up with a Tome Of Power, and it can be used like an automatic shotgun, with best results at close range thanks to all of the shots landing and causing a Cycle of Hurting for most monsters. Because it is a totally magical weapon, the wand is 100% effective against ghosts.
    • The Ethereal Crossbow is gained almost immediately upon starting an episode, and acts as Heretic's Shotgun / Super Shotgun. With plentiful ammo and Tomes of Power being common enough, this weapon can be your close-range workhorse for the entire game. The weapon is also very ammo efficient, making hard to run out.
  • Broad Strokes: The opening cutscene of Heretic II is this to the Final Boss fight of the first game. However, it remains very true to the actual fight; it takes place in D'Sparil's dome world, his serpent dies first, all of D'Sparil's abilities (teleporting and his almost One-Hit Kill lightning attack) are present, and Corvus is clearly using the Firemace and Phoenix Rod against him (he also uses the Hellstaff, but he wields that weapon in both games). The only differences are that Corvus is Suddenly Voiced while D'Sparil is speaking clear English, and he dies after being shot once with the Phoenix Rod as opposed to the 25+ shots he takes in the game.
  • Brutal Bonus Level:
    • E1M9: The Graveyard stands out due to a significant population of Undead Warrior Ghosts (their red throwing axes are very damaging). Each locked room you enter has you battling through stiff resistance such as plenty Nitro Golems whose fireballs have a homing effect and moderate damage.
    • E4M9: Mausoleum is another rough ride, with a confusing layout and plenty of traps to catch you off guard. To elaborate, many of the rooms are accessed by teleportation, and can leave you surrounded and under fire from multiple directions.
  • Bullfight Boss: One of the bosses in Heretic II is the Trial Beast, and its primary attack involves it roaring before charging at you in order to trample you underfoot, but you can run out of the way and cause it to slam into a wall, stunning it briefly (this can also be achieved with a powered-up Phoenix Bow shot). One way this fight varies from the norm for this trope is that it can be damaged at any time by your weapons, not just during the stun period, but this is a fairly lengthy process of killing the Beast, and it chews through your ammo. Fortunately, there's an easier and quicker way: lure it into smashing both of the pillars holding up a bridge overlooking the Trial Pit you fight it in, causing the bridge to fall on it for an instant kill. Just be careful not to get run over while you're doing this.
  • Call-Back: To one of the earliest iD Software games, a 2D top-down maze called The Catacomb. Level 12 of The Catacomb was called "Tomb of Desparil".
  • Cherry Tapping: Heretic II lets you use Morph Ovum against other players in multiplayer, but a good player can still get in your face and peck you apart even then. Helped by the chicken form being small and hard to hit.
  • Classic Cheat Code: As a twist, IDDQD and IDKFA, the iconic Doom cheat codes, instead (respectively) kill you and rob you of all your weapons except a staff.
    • Trying to cheat, eh? NOW YOU DIE!
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: An unusual example in the keys. The yellow key is the first you collect, followed by the green, and the blue one afterwards to get to the end of the level, in all levels without a single exception. By this point, it's such a firmly-rooted tradition that you'd be hard-pressed to find a custom map on any fan-made WAD that has the keys in a different order.
  • Contractual Boss Immunity: Not surprisingly, One-Hit Kill abilites will not work on bosses. The Morph Ovum does nothing, while the powered up Fire Mace does 18-144 damage in lieu of 10,000 damage. The Hell Staff's crimson rain effect does 1-8 damage per droplet instead of 5-40 against Maulotaurs and D'Spairl to balance it against their large hit-boxes. The rain is very effective against Iron Liches, however, as they are very slow and receive full damage from each rain drop.
    • D'Sparil, in particular, responds to being hit by the most powerful attacks, such as the powered up Hell Staff and Phoenix Rod and the Firemace, by teleporting immediately, preventing you from reliably spamming those attacks.
  • Convection Schmonvection: Besides the usual case of lava not hurting you unless you walk on it, there's the Ice Grotto in episode 2: Hell's Maw, which features ice pathways atop seas of lava. Hell follows its own rules of physics, it seems.
  • Covers Always Lie: Sure, you can use magic wands to kill off your enemies here, but you will see neither the glowing-blue crystal wand nor the skeletons past the title screen. And the game's packaging, too. However, a more elaborate Sapphire Wand appears in Hexen as the Mage's starting weapon.
  • Crossbows Are Just Better: With plentiful arrows and a devastating mode with the Tome of Power, the Ethereal Crossbow is excellent for firing a burst of damage at a target before strafing into cover and repeating the process until dead. A shotgun and super shotgun in disguise.
  • Damage-Sponge Boss: Maulotaurs are fairly easy to avoid if you have enough space to move around in. However, they have an absolutely obscene amount of health, and you can deplete much of your ammo reserves just taking down one of them if you don't use a Tome of Power. Worse yet, attacking them while they're charging/goring at you is pointless, as they shrug off all damage during this action, making fighting them on the highest difficulty a bit of a coin flip to whether you'll actually deal them any damage or not.
    • D'Sparil himself even more so. He's a two phase fight with a grand total of 5,500 health. To make matters worse, once he's dismounted he makes liberal use of Teleport Spam.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: In Doom, the Rocket Launcher is placed in slot 5 while the Plasma Rifle is placed in slot 6. However, Heretic places the Phoenix Rod (its equivalent to the Rocket Launcher) in slot 6, while the Hellstaff (its equivalent to the Plasma Rifle) is placed in slot 5. Just try to not get them mixed up after playing Doom, especially since the Phoenix Rod can still cause Splash Damage to yourself.
  • Death Course: In the fittingly-named Heretic II level "The Gauntlet", Corvus must survive a number of dangerous obstacles. Bear traps, lava pits, crushing platforms, and the typical onslaught of enemies are all regular occurrences here, and even after he gets through all that, he's still not done; the following level, "The Trial Pit", has him do battle with the massive Trial Beast. This whole ordeal is so Corvus can gain access to the female T'Chekrik hive and meet with the High Priestess to ask for a cure to the plague.
  • Degraded Boss: Iron Liches and Maulotaurs are met in regular gameplay after their boss introduction. So after Episode 3 (Where you fought D'Sparil), bosses are large groups of them. Most pronounced with Iron Liches because you gain firepower in Episode 2+ to make short work of them. The Hell Staff (especially when powered up), and the Phoenix Rod (Rocket Launcher) stand out.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: Similar to Doom, the ring of invulnerablity makes everything sepia toned (presumably because they thought that seemed more old fashioned than black and white.)
  • Descending Ceiling: A frequent trap. Like Doom, instead of being caught in a room with a descending ceiling, there's crushing traps lining certain walls or rooms.
  • Difficulty Spike:
    • Episode 1 isn't much to write home about difficulty wise, until you get to the Citadel, which throws hordes of enemies at you from every direction (with lots and lots of Gargoyles sneaking up on you.)
    • Episode 3 ramps things up, with at least one Iron Lich per level on the higher difficulty settings. E3M1 is widely considered the most difficult level of the base game, simply because the only new weapons you'll get in that level are the Gauntlets of the Necromancer and the Dragon Claw (there's also a Hellstaff, but it's in a secret at the very end of the level), and ammo pickups are very limited. This is on top of there being at least one Iron Lich in the stage, and two on any difficulty other than easy.
    • The two episodes added in Shadow of the Serpent Riders really crank up the difficulty. E4M1 alone has a Maulotaur and a whole posse of Iron Liches, and not a lot of weapons or ammo to go around. Later levels have at least two Maulotaurs and five Iron Liches, sometimes all nearby each other.
  • Dual Boss: On the easier skill, the Iron Liches and Maulotaurs are the bosses of the first two episodes. If you increase the difficulty, they appear in a pair or triplet.
    • In the expansion Shadow of the Serpent Riders, the episode's final level has at least 8 of these bosses on the hardest difficulty.
  • Dying Curse: D'Sparil utters one upon his death at the end of the original Heretic. It turns out to be the reason for the following two episodes in Shadow of the Serpent Riders, and its full effect is seen at the beginning of Heretic II.
  • Earth Drift: The manual for the first Heretic states that the game takes place on Earth, but Heretic II retcons the setting into "Parthoris". However, it is possible that Parthoris simply refers to Corvus' homeland, or that Parthoris is another name for Earth.
  • Enemy Summoner: D'Sparil spawns his disciples while he's fighting you.
  • Expansion Pack: Shadow of the Serpent Riders, which added two more episodes to the three-episode Heretic.
  • Exploding Barrels: Takes the form of strange plant pods (or, as they're called officialy, gasbags). They can also be pushed around easily. For even more fun, some clusters grow back.
  • Expy Every (non powered up) weapon has a direct Doom analog:
    • The Staff is just like the punch.
    • The gauntlets of the necromancer are an alternate Emergency Weapon similar to the chainsaw.
    • The elven wand shoots little Hitscan shots.
    • The ethereal crossbow is basically a non-hitscan shotgun.
    • The dragon claw is a rapid fire Hitscan weapon like the chaingun.
    • The hellstaff is exactly like the plasma rifle but shoots red instead of blue.
    • The phoenix rod shoots exploding orbs which work just like rockets.
    • The fire mace appears to be an exception, until you realize it works similar to how the BFG9000 worked in alpha builds of Doom: spraying a massive amount of projectiles. (The BFG was eventually changed to its current form because of how much rendering that many projectiles taxed the CPUs of its day.)
  • Fake Ultimate Mook: Outside of their boss encounters, Iron Liches are hobbled by a severe shortage of speed. Their attacks can be devastating but they'll be hard pressed to use them in regular levels where the player can retreat and abuse cover. You also gain weapons that can devastate them such as the powered-up Hellstaff and Fire Mace (you can bounce the giant spheres around corners thanks to their homing). If you lack a Tome of Power, the unpowered Phoenix Rod kills one in 4-shots. Just don't bother with the rippers from the powered-up Dragon Claw, as they do 0-1 damage per interval to Liches instead of the normal 1-8 they do to any other enemy.
  • Fire and Brimstone Hell: Subverted, the episode titles and lava pits make it appear that Corvus is on his way to here. Episode 2 comes closest but is in fact an active volcano with frozen-over regions. D'Sparil's compound meanwhile is actually an Underwater City at the bottom of and ocean with much more water than lava & fire. You can even say D'Sparil's properties are relaxing with all the audibly flowing water you encounter and a spectacular view of the ocean overhead.
  • Flunky Boss: One of the main things that distinguishes D'Sparil from Korax and Eidolon is that he constantly teleports away while summoning mooks to help him, instead of just straight up trying to tank you like the later Serpent Riders do. Korax does this to a lesser degree, where he does teleport around his arena and opens doors to Monster Closets, but D'Sparil is much more annoying in this regard.
  • Gatling Good: Surprisingly, the Firemace isn't a melee weapon at all. It has a rotary section on the end and functions like a Nailgun shooting short range bouncing orbs of metal very rapidly (without a Tome of Power).
  • Genre Shift: All of the games in the series (the Hexen games included) are First-Person Shooters until Heretic II comes along, which switches the perspective to third-person and throws in action-adventure elements.
  • Gorn: Some attempts in the manual, and enemies do tend to die messily in the game as well.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: Turns out that when you're using a series of seven Amplifier Artifacts to cast a spell turning your entire race into physical gods, and one of those seven artifacts has gone missing, a duplicate will not suffice. Morcalavin, the Final Boss of Heretic II, finds this out the hard way.
  • Guide Dang It!: E4M9: Mausoleum: The secret level of episode four is a grandiose underground tomb with a cryptic progression. There is a subtle hint at the southern ends of the mausoleum on how to progress that you can gloss over, but you'll likely wonder why none of the doors work for several minutes. Fortunately, once you've figured out opening the first room, you can open up your "automap" to see what new sector lines have been drawn upon the display after patrolling the corridors for a minute or two. ZDoom engines even redraw the map for you while in map mode, so you can look for new lines being drawn with the map open.
  • Hailfire Peaks: "Episode 2: Hell's Maw" takes place on the sides of a volcano, according to the world map, but some levels contain icy areas in addition to the usual lava pools. There is even a Secret Level titled "The Glacier", that takes place near the bottom of the volcano, reinforcing the "fire and ice" theme of Hell's Maw. The Ice Grotto level of Episode 2 stands out with a slippery ice lake right next to molten lava.
  • Harder Than Hard: Black Plague Possesseth Thee difficulty level makes enemies way faster.
  • Healing Potion: Crystal vials, quartz flasks, mystic urns. The latter two you can carry with you.
  • Hellgate: E1M8 and Episode 2 are both named "Hell's Maw".
  • The Heretic: Our hero.
  • Heroic Mime: Corvus never says a word, at least until Heretic II. He does grunt a bit, and laughs menacingly when he picks up a weapon.
  • The Homeward Journey: At the end of the first Heretic, Corvus is cursed by D'Sparil upon the latter's death, causing the portal in the room to transport him to the perilous Outer Worlds that lie outside the crystal barrier where the main worlds of the Heretic-Hexen games are situated. The Shadow of the Serpent Riders expansion follows him as he attempts to find a way back to Parthoris, trekking through the remains of a world D'Sparil conquered and even the very fortress where the Serpent Rider was born. But it's not until the beginning of Heretic II that Corvus finally gets to return home, thanks to his Tome of Power sensing a powerful spell being cast using the other six Tomes and using it as a way to open a portal back; according to the game's manual, by that time, he'd spent decades hopping through the Outer Worlds trying to find the portal that would bring him home.
  • Humanoid Abomination: D'Sparil, though this isn't fully explained until Hexen II.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: What's beneath that cloak? A crossbow, several staves, enchanted orbs and disks, torches, numerous tomes of power, up to sixteen hourglass-shaped bombs, and eggs. While there is a Bag of Holding, it only increases your ammo capacity. You can still carry around all this stuff without it.
  • Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: "Thou needest a wet-nurse," "Yellow-bellies R us," "Bringest them oneth," "Thou Art a Smite-Meister," and "Black Plague possesseth thee" are the difficulty levels seen in the first Heretic, whereas Heretic II goes with "Adventure", "Action", and "Armageddon".
  • Idle Animation: Corvus has several in Heretic II; he'll shoo a fly, eventually swat that fly off the back of his neck and discard it, go into a combat stance and glance around for danger, let out a sigh as he wipes the sweat off his brow, scratch his ass, and even look back at the player and make a motion with his hand as if to ask, "Can we get back to business here?" Some of these won't play if Corvus is holding certain weapons.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: "Hell's Maw."
  • Karma Houdini: At the end of Heretic II Corvus completes the ritual, which ends the plague and makes Morcalavin a Physical God A downplayed example as the plague wasn't really his fault and happened because he did the ritual wrong (using six Tomes Of Power instead of the required seven) and the whole reason he's evil is because the plague automatically turns people infected by it into evil psychos (Corvus being the exception only because his tome of power protects him). At least he has the decency to show regret/remorse for what had happened before he departs Parthoris to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence.
  • Lethal Joke Item: The Fire Mace is a weird short-ranged "machine gun" that is completely ineffective against ghost monsters, and against most monsters, isn't any better than using the Hell Staff (Plasma gun). Also, if the floor texture is water, the shots will sink. However, if you power it up, then it shoots bigger, slower spheres that will One-Hit Kill anything excluding boss monsters. Oh, and the big spheres travel through teleport pads and can even telefrag you if you happen to be standing on the spot where they emerge. It still will not hit ghosts however.
  • Level-Map Display: In tan and sepia, to look like an ancient scroll. There's also a map scroll that reveals the entire map. Heretic II also has this, but it doesn't show where the player is at that point in time.
  • Ludicrous Gibs:
    • An unusual variation in the original Heretic: aside from one single exception, every enemy gets shredded on the kill shot, no matter how much damage is done or what weapon is used. The exception is the Weredragon, who falls to the ground bleeding profusely from several holes, and even then it can be gibbed if dealt enough overkill damage. The Gargoyle, The Goomba for the game, gibs in two ways: if killed normally, it falls to the ground and breaks apart with a slick "splorch" sound, and if killed with excessive force, it'll get ripped apart into smaller pieces before falling silently to the floor.
    • Heretic II is no slouch, though; body parts are regularly sliced or blown off, and enemies explode into a spectacular geyser of blood and gore if they're blown up (this even happens to Corvus if he falls into a pit, for whatever reason).
  • Magitek: "The Dome(s) of D'Sparil" comes across as very high tech in a setting where magic is normal. It isn't explained how D'Sparil's Domes were built under the sea and/or if it was one of D'Sparil's conquests. Curiously, the cities under the dome are still castle-like in materials.
  • Meaningful Name: The scientific name for the common raven is corvus corax. The protagonist of Heretic goes by the name of Corvus, while the Big Bad of Hexen goes by Korax. Both are probably a reference to the company that made the games, Raven Software.
    • Another name for a sledgehammer is a "maul", hence the Maulotaur. This may also qualify as a Punny Name.
  • Mighty Glacier: Iron Liches are some of the least mobile enemies in the game, but they're more than capable of tearing you a new one with their powerful spells. You can actually use their lack of mobility to your advantage; they are incredibly vulnerable to the powered-up Hellstaff.
  • Multi Shot: The Ethereal Crossbow fires two additional arrows when the Tome of Power is active.
  • Mystical Plague: A plague created using magic that's affecting Parthoris serves as the center of Heretic II's plotline; it turns whoever it infects into a crazed shell of their former selves... if it doesn't kill them first. Corvus sets out to find a cure before all of Parthoris is consumed, and the situation gets even more dire after he's infected with it himself.
  • Named in the Sequel: The first-person protagonist of the original game went unnamed — just an elf fighting against hordes of monsters. Come the third-person sequel, Heretic 2, said protagonist is identified as "Corvus".
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast:
    • D'sparil is pronounced like Despair-il.
    • Considering D'Sparil is your arch nemesis, Disciples of D'Sparil don't sound like friendly people happy to meet you. They're also moderately dangerous to fight & D'Sparil can summon as many as wants.
    • The "City of the Damned" doesn't sound like a relaxing vacation spot, and neither does "Hell's Maw".
  • No Fair Cheating: More savvy players of the first Heretic might be tempted to try Doom cheats, since the game runs on the same engine... only to discover they usually do the opposite of what you expected (e.g. Using Doom's God Mode cheat instantly kills you, while using the cheat that gives you all weapons instead takes away all your weapons and leaves you with just the staff).
  • Non-Indicative Name:
    • E4M6 is "Halls of the Apostate" — rather strange, given that you (the player) are the Heretic and hence the Apostate, and any halls you might have are either millions of miles away on another planet, or in another dimension.
    • Episode 2 is titled Hell's Maw but the setting is a relatively mundane volcanic mountain with frozen-over sections (even next to lava lakes). You don't even complete the episode by entering into Hell, rather you're taken to an Underwater City.
    • The Firemace isn't even a melee bludgeon, it's a machine gun that launches steel orbs that fall and bounce towards where you aim after a short distance.
    • Chaos Serpents are humanoid lizards, not snakes.
  • No Ontological Inertia: After D'Sparil's death his entire army kicks the bucket... except for those remaining in his own plane, hence the Expansion Pack.
  • No-Sell: D'Sparil can teleport at will and likes to do so just before your shots hit him. Plus, he and the Maulotaurs take greatly reduced damage from normally BFG-caliber weapons like the powered-up Hellstaff and Firemace, and are unaffected by splash damage.
  • Not Completely Useless:
    • The firemace. It's normally like a weaker version of the hellstaff (as it has a much shorter range, doesn't work on ghost creatures, and sinks if the floor of area has a water texture. If you use a Tome Of Power, the metal orbs it shoots become much more effective, being a One-Hit KO for mooks and other players. Even against bosses it does a respectable amount of damage (about the same as the phoenix rod).
      • It's actually not that bad in its base form, either. While the orbs scatter so much that it's not very effective outside of close range, it has a fast rate of fire, a higher damage per second rate than either the dragon claw or hellstaff, and it can easily stunlock the tankier enemies like weredragons, ophidians, and even iron liches.
    • The shadowsphere is normally overlooked, as it makes dodging projectiles harder. It has a few overlooked advantages, however. Undead warrior's axe projectiles are considered 'physical' (Even the red ones) and will thus go through you harmlessly, rendering large groups of them harmless as long as they don't get close. (Their melee attack will still hit you.) The Iron Lich's ice ball attack won't strike you (Though the shards will), and their tornado attack, easily the most frustrating attack to deal with, will not track you.
  • One-Man Army: Corvus marches through hordes of D'Sparil's minions, through hell and back to get at D'Sparil, and then through the rest of D'Sparil's army trying to find his way home. He also serves this role in Heretic II; just replace D'Sparil's minions with Parthoris' infected citizens and various hostile creatures, as well as D'Sparil with Morcalavin.
  • One-Word Title
  • Painfully Slow Projectile: The powered up giant metal orbs from the firemace move slow enough to outwalk. This is undoubtedly for game balance reasons as getting hit by one means instant death to any Mook or other player.
  • Power-Up Letdown: Like the Blur sphere in Doom, the Shadowsphere causes enemies to fire shots wildly. While useful if you stand still, it actually makes projectiles harder to dodge, especially in large groups. It's especially bad, as no monsters in Heretic use hitscan attacks, and thus all enemy attacks will go wild. It does provide a few lesser known advantages, though, in having certain projectiles go right through you. See Not Completely Useless.
  • Press X to Die: An attempt to use the God Mode cheat from Doom in the first Heretic results in instant death. Also, using the infinite weapons cheat results in instant depletion of all weapons.
  • Puzzle Boss: The final boss of Heretic II can only be temporarily defeated through use of force. But if you don't execute a certain action in the room in the very small window of time he's down, he'll get back up, regenerate his health back to 100% and you'll get to fight him all over again.
  • Quad Damage: The Tome of Power, which came out before Quake's namesake. While some weapons simply get a damage and/or a spread boost (Firing three shots for the price of one), many weapons work in brand-new (And very devastating) ways. Notably, the rocket launcher analogue Phoenix Rod becomes a short range, ammo-efficient flamethrower.
  • Random Drop: Unlike Doom, where creatures that held ammo would always drop that ammo when killed, the creatures of Heretic would have a varied chance of dropping their particular ammo type, along with some enemies having a particularly uncommon item drop. See Rare Random Drop.
  • Rare Random Drop: Some enemies have a rare chance of dropping a valuable artifact instead of ammunition. Notably, the fairly common Disciples of D'Sparil have a rare chance of dropping a valuable Tome of Power.
  • Resigned to the Call: In the beginning of Heretic II, when pushed by Silverspring's former harbormaster, Dranor, to go to Andoria to obtain a cure for the plague from a Ssithra healer, Corvus initially refuses, saying it's "not [his] destiny to be a hero", but Dranor insists, saying that if he doesn't do it, Parthoris will surely be overrun with the infected. With a heavy sigh, Corvus changes his mind and says he'll go, but only because he doesn't want Parthoris to be taken over again.
  • Retcon:
    • The protagonist of Heretic was unnamed until Heretic II, which also established that there were a total of seven true Tomes of Power in existence (at least, his existence, since they reappear in Hexen II) and that Corvus really had only one of them. The ones he picked up in much larger quantities in his first adventures were fake tomes.
    • This seems to be the case with the ending of Episode 3, once Hexen was complete. A supposed second serpent rider appears ambiguously angry with a crystal ball spying on Corvus after Corvus struck down D'sparil. He wears a serpent rider robe similar to D'Sparil's and D'Sparil himself appears on a stained-glass window in his scrying chamber.

      This suggests that you would have fought him as a Big Bad in another game, but he got Demoted to Extra and became the Heresiarch in Hexen. He summons Dark Bishops to assist exactly like D'Sparil summons his own Disciples of D'Sparil, and instead of Teleport Spam, he uses temporary invincibility.
  • Sdrawkcab Speech: The Disciples of D'Sparil seem to alternate between saying "He's steppin' out Yoshi" and another phrase which sounds slightly rude; D'Sparil himself appears to say "I've seen Mr. Davros". All of these are actually English phrases reversed.
  • Sequential Boss: The final boss uses the same idea: D'Sparil starts out riding a fire-breathing serpent, then after you kill the mount he falls off and starts teleporting around, summoning monsters, and shooting stuff.
  • Shareware: Much like Doom, the first episode of the original Heretic was shareware.
  • Shock and Awe:
    • The Gauntlets of the Necromancer from the first Heretic shoot green lightning. Powered up, the lightning is red and steals life.
    • The Lightning Shield, a Defensive Spell in Heretic II, surrounds Corvus in small, electrically-charged orbs that swirl in a sphere around him, zapping any enemies that come into contact with him. It's good for holding off melee-focused foes.
  • Shout-Out: Many in the original Heretic:
    • The second difficulty level is a reference to Toys-R-Us.
    • The no-clipping cheat "kitty" is probably a reference to the X-Men character Kitty Pryde, who can phase through matter.
    • The ''Shazam!" cheat code toggles the Tome of Power, which temporarily makes weapons more powerful.
    • The "rambo" cheat gives the player all weapons, ammo and armor.
    • The "engage" level-warp cheat code may be a reference to Star Trek: The Next Generation.
    • The "ponce" cheat, which fully restores the player's health, may be a reference to Juan Ponce de León, who sought the Fountain of Youth.
  • Shows Damage: Since Heretic II uses Quake II's engine, it shares that game's ability to replace a character's textures with bloodier pain skins as they take damage (and since this game is third-person, that includes your character). In this game's case, when specific body parts of a character take damage, only that body part's texture will be swapped out for a damaged version instead of that of the entire model.
  • Sigil Spam: The Serpent Riders' crossed trident emblem is everywhere in the first game - on buttons, on some of the doors, on stained glass windows, and on the robes of the Disciples of D'Sparil.
  • Slave Race: The Ogles in Heretic II are timid creatures who don't tend to respond to threats with violence (in fact, they run and hide) unless directly attacked. This aspect of their lifestyle, however, has made them the go-to choice for enslavement by the more dominant races of Parthoris for centuries, perhaps because of their skill with metalworking. By the time of the events of the game, they've been enslaved again, this time by guards under the employment of Morcalavin, in order to mine metals and Earthblood from the World's End Mountains where Morcalavin's Cloud Fortress is based. Fortunately, Corvus arrives in the mines near the end of the game and attacks the guards, giving the Ogles the courage to rebel, help him kill the guards, and regain their freedom.
  • Smurfette Principle: The High Priestess from Heretic II is the only female character in either of the Heretic games (not counting the female-voiced Tome of Power used by Corvus in the same game) and is one of the few female characters in the entire series, along with the Assassin and Demoness from Hexen II.
  • Snake People: The Ophidians; they only appear in the actual "Dome of D'Sparil" and the episodes proceeding the episode of the same name. Their humanoid torsos wear armor plate that covers up their features.
  • Spiritual Successor: The Maulotaur is a huge bovine-like biped similar to the Cyberdemon with a ground-fire spell that hurts like a rocket in the face. They also have extras like a bull-charge to close the distance and an attack that hurls a row of five fireballs.
  • Spoofs "R" Us: The second level of difficulty is called "Yellowbellies-r-us".
  • Standard FPS Guns: Even if the weapons in the first Heretic are shown as magical staffs and artifacts, many of them still seem familiar if one has played Doom. (Shown in terms of WITHOUT / WITH "tome of power" respectively.)
    • Staff = Weak melee attack / Berserker Punch
    • Gauntlets of the Necromancer = Chainsaw / Short-range Life Drain Chainsaw
    • Elven Wand = Pistol / Rapid-fire Short-Range Shotgun with slower non-hitscan components.
    • Crossbow = Non-hitscan Shotgun / Non-hitscan Super Shotgun
    • Dragon's Claw = Standard automatic weapon / Large-Area BFG-style weapon
    • Hell Staff = Plasma Rifle / Area-effect-red-rain
    • Phoenix Rod = Rocket Launcher / Flamethrower (Just remember to hold the attack button)
    • Fire Mace = Short-range Nailgun (predating Quake I, it even rotates gattling-style) / Gimmicky BFG
    • Timebomb of the Ancients = Non-throwable grenades (placed in front of the player's point-of-view)
  • Stone Wall:
    • On difficulties less than Black Plague, the Maulotaur is surprisingly low on aggression, but has 3,000 Hit Points, short of both D'Sparil and his Chaos Serpent at 5,500 hp. Play on Harder Than Hard, and Maulotaurs become Lightning Bruisers thanks to their "Nightmare!" aggression and their higher chance of using a bull charge.
    • The Ophidian only has 280 Hit Points, but is the strongest Mook in the roster of regular enemies. Their weapon of choice rapid-fires three weak energy balls that cause 1-8 damage each. Then they pause briefly and fire a stronger fireball that causes 3-24. This makes their attacks less damaging than most if you dodge properly and only get hit by one projectile.
  • Subsystem Damage: Heretic II grants you the ability to cut humanoid enemies' limbs off using the bladestaff, rendering them unable to damage you and forcing them to run away or making their attacks less effective (or outright killing them if you hit them in the head, which decapitates them). In the game's multiplayer, this can also happen to you by the hand of other players, and you'll be unable to use any weapons or spells that require the use of the limb you've lost. Even worse, you lose health from blood loss, and you'll die if you don't get to a shrine on time to restore your lost limb. Dismemberment can be turned off by the person who created the server, though, if they don't like the idea.
  • Suspicious Video-Game Generosity: Now why would they give you all the items and weapons, along with a full load of big Phoenix Rod orbs, at the start of E5M8? You'll need them all against the eight fucking Maulotaurs that are ready to kick your ass.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Corvus' quarterstaff in the original was the worst weapon you had. Lousy damage, short range, plenty of retaliation time for bad guys, can't harm ghosts at all and any other weapon is better with the Tome of Power. In Heretic II, a blade is added to one end and it becomes one of the coolest weapons in the game that can dismember humanoids to make them harmless, execute spinning attacks or mid-air downward stabs to do increased damage and (with the help of shrines that give permanent upgrades in power) remains a potent weapon throughout the game.
  • Tornado Move: The monsters known as Iron Liches can create tornadoes to attack you. The tornadoes sweep you up into the air and do a great deal of damage besides.
    • In Heretic II, the Whirlwind defensive spell, exclusive to multiplayer, allows leaving a tornado countermeasure.
  • Tragic Villain: Morcalavin. Although his intentions (turning his entire race into immortal physical gods) were born of arrogance, and thus not entirely pure, he only failed due to something entirely beyond his control. The Spell of Ascension could only be cast using the seven Tomes of Power. Unfortunately, Corvus possessed one of them. More unfortunately, Corvus' defeat of D'Sparil ended with him getting exiled to the Outer Worlds, so Morcalavin had to make do with a duplicate Tome he made himself. This had unintended and disastrous consequences.
  • Underwater City: In an inversion of Doom's third episode, "Episode 3: The Dome of D'Sparil" takes place in cities under an ocean instead of a volcanic hellscape. The extra episodes in "Shadows of the Serpent Riders" share the same undersea-dome skies. While the game engine is too primitive for you to actually go underwater, the third episode does have a lot of floors with water textures as well as a lot of walls with a blue ocean motif.
  • Video Game Flamethrowers Suck: Averted with the powered up Phoenix Rod. It acts like a flamethrower that does massive damage and is very ammo-efficient (only using 1 unit every 10 seconds). It's only drawback is it's relatively short range (about 30-40 feet.) It's powerful enough that the 3000-hitpoint Maulotaur can be killed in well under a minute of continuous fire; just be sure to have a Ring of Invulnerability to neutralize their devastating hammer attacks.
  • Video Game Flight: The Wings of Wrath lets you fly for a short amount of time. They return in Hexen.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Corvus in Heretic II, who is very fit. At least one reviewer compared him favorably to Lara Croft, considering his butt not too unwelcoming to look at.
  • Warp Whistle: The Chaos Device warps you to the beginning of the level. Or, in Death Match, to a random spawn point. Heretic II brings it back as a defensive spell named Teleport, but instead of the beginning of the level, it teleports you to an area away from danger.
  • Was Once a Man: The Disciples were originally D'Sparil's human followers (hence their name), but have lost their humanity as a result of practising his dark magic.
  • Weaponized Ball: The Mace Spheres, fired off by the Firemace. With the Tome of Power, sends off a giant one that can seek out enemies, but uses up more at a time.
  • World-Healing Wave: Implied at the end of Heretic II, after Morcalavin's failed Ritual of Ascension is corrected. It cures the plague, but it doesn't bring back the dead. As Morcalavin states, "The dead cannot be reborn".
  • Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: The difficulty levels, with the third one, "Bringest them oneth", being the most egregious example, which may actually count as an Exaggerated Trope, as it's basically "randomly stick -est and -eth endings on a modern English phrase".