The Marauder – A love letter

Posted 8 May, 2020

Doom: Eternal hit shelves just over a month ago. It’s visually stunning, a technical marvel and the gameplay is quite unlike anything else in the FPS space.

At the time of writing, it’s estimated to have sold over 700,000 copies on PC alone. It’s probably a lot more actually, it’s taken me forever to finish this. A significant portion of those sales are likely as a cure for erectile dysfunction. Near universal reception from critics and consumers alike has probably helped, too.

Nevertheless, the game has also proven to be quite divisive. Even those generally praising of its mechanics, have taken issue with some key decisions. Certainly, I won’t argue that cheap, surprise tentacles and irritatingly sticky purple floors are pointless and annoying. Like ethics.

But one element has upset people more than any other – The Marauder. This hyper fast, seemingly invulnerable advesary flips the combat chess board upside down. He is punishing and demanding. Many have deemed his inclusion an unnecessary one. Some, including reviewers and YouTubers I tend to agree with, are going so far as to say it’s simply bad design.

Yeah, that’s not true

Personally, I think these views are flawed. I completely sympathise with people not liking the game or The Marauder. But accusations of the character being poorly designed, I find generally misplaced and often, factually incorrect. I think it’s a great, much needed addition to modern Doom’s gameplay design that does exactly what it’s designed to. But in a time where publishers are all too willing to pander to moaning, I also fear there’s a chance that we won’t see one quite like it again in future releases.

Should that be that case, I therefore feel the need to explain exactly why The Maruader is fudging great. I’ll do this by picking out the most common criticisms I’ve heard and addressing them one by one.

Before accusing me of ‘having too much free time on my hands’, let me clarify that I totally don’t. This is a massively irresponsible indulgence. My cats are going unfed, just so I can right this wrong.

But it’s worth it, because The Marauder is fudging great.

Story continues below...

The Marauder – Behavioural summary

A late(r) game pain in the arse

Initially introduced as a boss battle of sorts in the latter half of the game, The Marauder represents a threat unlike any other in Doom’s bestiary.

From an offensive perspective, he’s effective in every situation. When up close and personal, an insanely fast axe swing and Double-barreled shotgun blast will immediately decimate a chunk of your health. And self-esteem. Got yourself nice and far away? Sorry, that axe is getting launched straight into your stupid face. Mid range however is a real sweet spot. Unfortunately, he’s fast and agile enough to reduce the space between you in seconds. Therefore, you need to use this proximity to bait an attack that you can counter, rather than as a defensive position.

Regarding his defence, there’s not a single weapon (hit scan or projectile) that his shield won’t block in a millisecond. Shells, chainsaw blade, plasma, rockets, that BFG/Unmakyr stuff, insults about his hair – are all equally useless against it.

The Marauder!
The Doom Slayer!

Here doggy, doggy!

These qualities alone make him a handful, before even taking his mutt into account. That’s right, annoy him enough and he’ll spawn a wolf made of fire to hunt you down and bite your nads. You read that right – a wolf made of fire. I’m not sure if this is set to a timer, or triggers when a certain amount of damage has been absorbed by his shield. The latter would make more sense, as punishment for wasting your ammo instead of being smart about timing your attacks.

Either way, a reasonably difficult encounter reaches all new levels of ballache with its introduction.

The result of these characeristics converging, is an incredibly small window of opporunity for player success. Both in tactical options and the time available for their execution.

The game flat out tells you – wait for his eyes to blink green. This means his defenses are down for a moment while he gears up to attack and that is your moment to strike. You need to compel that action out of him and be ready to twat him in the face when he does.

All in all – beating The Marauder demands a level of speed, precision and awareness that is unequalled by any other opponent in the series. Generally.

Make no mistake – I am a bang average player

I’m going to prefix the following by stating one very simple fact – I’m not very good at Doom: Eternal. I’m not bad, having finished the game on ultra violence and all the Slayer Gates in the process. I’d say that’s about average for someone who has been playing these games as long as I have. But many areas gave me considerable difficulty (especially the penultimate boss) and in every case, I overcame these by addressing the shortcomings in my strategy and thus, adapting my approach.

Not by complaining.

I know. Such a novel concept in 2020.

So I just want to clarify that before giving the impression that I’m a master of such games who is just using this as an excuse to look down on those who struggle. As someone who did struggle, I appreciate the challenge The Marauder presented. I likewise appreciate the (relative) sense of accomplishment that comes from overcoming such challenges. That’s what makes the game worthwhile.

And finally – before going any further let me just advise that gameplay and plot spoilers follow. Starting with this video of The Marauder’s introduction. Then we’ll move onto people’s complaints.

The Marauder's introduction to Doom Eternal. Footage courtesy of Boss Fight Database.

The Marauder's introduction to Doom Eternal. Footage courtesy of Boss Fight Database.

“They contradict everything the game has been teaching you up to that point”

The argument here is that Doom: Eternal spends all its time teaching a very specific rule set, only to throw those rules away when The Marauder arrives. A knowledge of opportunities, threats and approaches to problem solving is cultivated in the player through every enemy engagement. It then takes a cheap shot by introducing something completely inconsistent with that understanding.

Except it doesn’t.

Doom: Eternal is largely about speed.

Speed in thought, navigation, map control and enemy management.

You enter an arena and within seconds are under fire. Swift movement is not only key to survival, but as a means of quickly learning the layout of the map. In the process, you build up a roster of the monsters you are facing. Through play and notes, the game teaches you each of these enemy’s strengths and weaknesses. You use this information to prioritise threats according to scale and immediacy.

There are further layers of complexity to this. Swift movement can be punctuated and even hastened, by melee attacking or chainsawing weakened enemies for resources. The level of threat posed by an enemy may be exaggurated or mitigated by the structure and geometry within the environment. Your suit and weapon upgrades can alter your fundamental approach.

You iterate upon your strategy in realtime and at breakneck speed.

Distilling and enhancing these principles

The Marauder doesn’t contradict these principles. If anything, they are in full force when you’re fighting him. Your knowledge of the map layout and ability to both prioritise and execute quickly, is under scrutiny nowhere as brutally as it is here.

If you want to avoid those long range attacks, capitalise upon the available space. To maintain that sweet spot distance, be nimble and quick. Sick of dancing and just want to lay the guy out? Time your strikes and think outside of the box with the arsenal you have available.

I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with handling him, but I’m never confident it’s going to be an easy fight. I still get a feeling of slight dread and panic everytime he shows up. I recognise that my day is about to get worse. Not because ‘oh my god, I need to change my playstyle’, rather ‘holy knob-balls, I need to seriously be on it now’.

Which feeds quite nicely into the second criticism. Based on the above, you might argue that even if The Marauder doesn’t outright contradict Doom: Eternal’s combat rhythm, he certainly disrupts it. That essentially…

“The Marauder needs to be killed before everything else.”

The combat puzzle – management is key

More relaxed detractors have argued that while fine as a boss battle or one-on-one situations, The Marauder destroys the typical arena scenarios. Why? Because he’s such a menace that you really need to deal with him first. This undermines the ‘free-form’ approach to combat wherein players are left to determine their own priorities.

Except it doesn’t.

You don’t need to focus on the Marauder first, you just need to adapt to his presence (like you do with every enemy in the game). It’s your choice whether to drop everything and fight on his terms, or find away of accommodating his unique threat in your own playstyle. For example, as much as I love the guy, I tend to just ignore him. Him and that little dog of his. Simpsons reference.

Saving the best ’til last

When facing The Marauder in a group, my strategy tends to involve a lot of meat-hooking across the map, dashing mid air and glory killing enemies to keep myself suspended, full of health and/or (just) moving quickly. Not only does ensure I’m consistently dodging both fire dog and ranged attacks (allowing me to annihilate enemies from a distance), it also introduces an additional offensive option.

Inadvertent friendly fire can draw The Marauder’s attention away from you, because he’ll naturally turn to shield himself from the source of the shot. This opens a window of opportunity to strike him from behind with an explosive or well placed shot. If nothing else, knowing The Marauder is down below is added incentive to maintain my vertical superiority, a useful defensive maneuver in itself.

The challenge of Doom: Eternal’s fundamental combat puzzle is in how effectively you adapt to threats as they present themselves.

So no, you don’t need to drop everything and focus your attention on him. He’s not your wife / husband / girlfriend / boyfriend / genital infection / parent / sibling / deep rooted resentment towards the world / dog, he’s just another piece of the puzzle. An exceptionally tricky piece (initially), granted. But that along doesn’t equate to bad design.

But let’s just say for argument’s sake, that you do have to prioritise him. I certainly understand why that’d be the approach people take. But that’s neither problematic in and of itself, nor the first time such a thing has happened in the series.

There’s always one prick to deal with

Doom 2 introduced the Arch-vile, a complete prick who is capable of obscence damage regardless of distance. Furthermore, it will reanimate fallen foes. Yes, it can bring back monsters you’ve already killed. Ignoring the Arch-vile not only risks heavy damage, but an overwhelming number of enemies to face if you’re not careful.

The Arch-vile as it appears in Doom 2, Doom 3 and Doom Eternal

Myself, Tom and Rich have spent countless (lunch) hours, co-op blasting our way through the original Doom games on nightmare. Our strategies tend to unfold naturally and through informal discussion on a per map, per mood basis. “Ed, what are you doing?” seems to be the most popular. But there is one thing upon which we all agree – when the Arch-vile shows up, kill it.

Its fire blasts and powers of ressurection can completely turn an otherwise successul run into an unmitigated disaster. This disruption to your priorities and the resultant real-time adaptations you need to make, significantly contributes to the games depth.

You can’t just run and gun without consideration for where you’re running or what/whom you’re gunning.

It was largely the same in Doom 3. Hell, even Doom (2016) had the Summoner. This thing would spawn new enemies on the battlefield and while not as brutal at the Arch-vile, is often my primary target when playing the game on harder difficulties.

A new threat, a demand to adapt

These challenges are great in games. They prevent you from getting complacent, by demanding you adapt and employ the lessons you’ve learned in ensuring you succeed.

I don’t remember what the Arch-vile’s reception was like when Doom 2 released. It wouldn’t surprise me if it was similar to that of The Marauder today. What I do know, is everyone was excited to see its reveal in the Doom: Eternal announcement footage. Not because ‘Wow, he looks so cool!’, but because this meant the challenge was going up a serious notch.

Now to be fair, you could argue that it’s not a fair comparison, since the Arch-Vile can be killed via normal weaponary in all three of its appearances. Sure, it demands your attention, but the means of dispatching aren’t as limited as they are with The Marauder.

Essentially…

“Most of the weapons are useless against The Marauder.”

Why my BFG not work?

Even if this was true, I don’t really get how that’s a problem. Doom 2016 could be beaten for the most part, by using just the rocket launcher and super shotgun. You didn’t need to be strategic and that’s one thing which Doom: Eternal absolutely demands of you. To think and use the right weapon for each scenario. The power fantasy needs to be earned.

That’s what this game is. Complaining about it is like being upset by boobs in pornography, spice in your curry or morons in politics. They are intrinsic.

Nevertheless, I’ll entertain it for arguments sake.

This issue stems from the use of his shield. A common complaint is that he just pulls it up out of nowhere and blocks everything. This is half untrue. Sure, it can block anything, but the shield is his response to direct attacks. If you see the shield, it’s because you mis-timed your shot. This can be beaten by timing attacks properly, or by adopting new strategies.

During my first playthrough of the campaign, I was able to dispatch The Marauder with the shotgun, super shotgun, ballista, rocket launcher, BFG, the Unmakyr and I’m fairly sure even an accidental grenade chuck. This was after failing to make a dent with most of these weapons in my first attempts.

The failure wasn’t in the weapons, it was in my application.

My preferred combo for fighting The Marauder. Part one - Ballista!
Part two - Super shotgun! Exceptionally useful once the ignited meathook has been unlocked.

Oh, it does.

As mentioned, The Marauder will always block direct attacks with his shield, unless they’re accurately timed within that very brief opening. When they are timed correctly, he enters a staggered state unto which you can unleash a second and sometimes even a third attack. Squeezing in that extra attack is where an custom key layout is super useful.

Regardless, surely this just reinforces the argument that there’s only one way of fighting him? Wait for the green eyes and shoot?

No.

Again, during my own play throughs I found the following strategies quite effective, depending on the scenario:

  • Shotgun sticky bombs around his feet damage health.
  • Flame belch and fire meathook replenish armor while quickly moving in to attack, when stunned.
  • Splash damage from grenades and rockets damage health.
  • Remote detonating rockets behind to stagger and damage health.
  • Firing the BFG over his head toward a group of enemies. This forces him to face the blast with his shield, leaving his back exposed for an attack – while clearing the area of other enemies. Like a strategy.

Exactly which I use is a question of map layout, available ammunition and enemies, as is consistent with Doom: Eternal’s gameplay philosophy.

In accepting that, one might then argue that The Marauder requires a different mentality and approach than pretty much everything else. That in essence…

“The Marauder is unfairly hard and forces you to play a certain way”

I’ve lost count of how many gameplay videos or streams I’ve watched where people just stand infront of the guy, pumping round after round into his shield and getting frustrated at the lack of progress, blaming bad design rather than their incompetence. They are doing everything the game is tellling them not to do, both through dialog boxes and the fact that they’re constantly dying.

It’s exactly like the time I lost my shit with a fridge that wouldn’t open, only to realise I was pulling at the wrong side of the door. I don’t think I’d even had anything to drink.

Sure, he’s not exactly a breeze, but The Marauder is only as difficult as your approach is rigid.

Adapt or die

You will struggle against The Marauder as long as you resist adapting to the challenge he presents. In this respect, he’s not special – because this is true of every enemy in the game.

The Mancubus, Cacodemon and especially Whiplash absolutely kicked my arse in my first few encounters with each. They didn’t just seem tough, they seemed like an unreasonable level of escalation which the game just wasn’t adequately equipping me for.

But my frustration lasted only as long as my stubbornness. I continually adopted the same approaches to every encounter and every arena, until I realised that not all challenges are created equally. Overcoming those challenges is where Doom: Eternal is at its most rewarding. But I had to take several beatings to learn that lesson. The game is teaching you this through its duration, introducing enemies which behave differently and change the dynamic of every battle, depending on those they share the arena with.

What’s special about The Marauder, is he’s really the last of these lessons. He arrives when you’re on top of the world, comfortable with the vast arsenal of weapons and strategies at your disposal. This is the point at which the player absolutely needs to be challenged with something far more comparable with their own potential damage output. Only by beating the living shit out of this prick, can you truly adopt the mantle of The Doom Slayer.

Is The Marauder tough? Yes, I would say so. Tougher than anything else in the game? Possibly. But unfairly difficult? No. He represents the pinnacle of Doom: Eternal’s gameplay systems and for my money, is perfectly balanced.

You could just… turn down the difficulty?

What’s more, is that as brutal as Doom: Eternal can be at higher difficulties, it’s an incredibly forgiving game. You can change the difficulty rating up and down, whenever you please. The developers want you to feel like a badass at the skill level you’re comfortable with.

So either learn how to play the game or turn down the skill setting. I have. It’s not down to poor design that I keep failing at Ultra Nightmare. It’s because my skills aren’t up to the challenge yet. Maybe when I’m further into my nightmare campaign, I’ll be up to the task.

But if you’re turning down the skill setting, is that not anti-thetical to Doom? Is it not true that…

“The Marauder just isn’t Doom.”

I actually sort of agree with this one, but only because I’d argue that Doom: Eternal isn’t (strictly speaking) really Doom, either.

Personally (and I’ve probably mentioned this a thousand times before), 3D era Doom has always felt closer to Quake, than its namesake. Quake 3: Areana (one of my top five games of all time) especially. I think the transition to true three dimensional space, free aiming and verticality inherently left a core tenant of Doom behind.

There is just a rhythm, an ebb and flow to those original games which I believe the 2.5D world, fixed view and absence of vertical movement is intrinsic to.

Is that enough to say Doom and Doom: Eternal aren’t Doom games? No, unless you’re being really pedantic. I think both embody enough of the core gameplay design tenants that id Software established so effectively back in the day. They just do so with their own sense of identity, tools and priorities.

Doom 2016 introduced elements which weren’t in previous games. I legitimatly remember people complaining about the double-jump when it was first revealed, because ‘that’s not Doom’. Perhaps on a purely surface level they are correct. But these additions facilitate an evolution of the fundamental gameplay philosophy.

And as with all things, evolution is absolutely key to long term success.

Doom isn’t just Doom. It’s Doom.

‘Doom’ isn’t just what was in the first game, it’s a collection of evolutionary branches presented in each title. The introduction of the Arch-vile represented a branch which is now considered vital to the series DNA. It is now a staple of Doom’s identity, despite how significantly it effected the formula.

Sure, some of those branches can wander into vague, nebulous territory and become evolutionary dead ends. Very few people for example, are screaming for a return to Doom 3’s PDAs. By the same token, that game’s art direction is arguably the most recognisable in all the series. Even if you disagree, there’s no arguing that it had an impact on the games which followed.

Just like there’s no arguing the impact that The Marauder has had on the series. Will it be one that survives no further than Doom: Eternal, or will it become as integral to future games as no-reloading and running really, really fast?

Personally, I’m hoping for the latter.

Even if he brings his dog.

Buy Doom: Eternal, fight The Marauder and see for yourself

That’s why I think this guy is the shit. In short, he distills everything that makes Doom: Eternal the uniquely intense experience that it is. He ruins my day every time he turns up and yet, his demise is always enough to make a bad day considerably better.

My only real problem with the character is his use in the lore. He represents a far more direct, difficult and worthy opponent to the Doom Slayer than The Doom Hunter. Yet, the latter is built up considerably in the narrative as having been designed specifically to take you out. But as a sheer threat it never comes anywhere close.

So if anything, my problem is with the Doom Hunter, not The Marauder. So even my criticisms are invalid. Take that, me.

If you want more Doom: Eternal goodness from your’s truly, please do check my April 2020 Daily Photogrammetry Challenge. I featured a Cyberdemon toy in one of them. I mean, it’s technically the Doom 2016 Cyberdemon. But Doom is Doom.

Back to isolation.

Thanks for reading and thanks to id Software for this beast of an enemy.

Cheers!