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Classic Games Resurrected: "Rise of the Triad: Dark War (ROTT)"

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ANDR01D writes PC game reviews and shares his views on the video game industry.


Game Info

  • Developer: Apogee Software (3D Realms)
  • Publisher: Apogee Software (3D Realms)
  • Engine: Heavily modified Wolfenstein 3D engine
  • Release date: February 17, 1995 (full version)
  • Genre: FPS (First-person shooter)

Back in 1996, roughly a year and a half after the shareware version of the game was released, I happened to be at a friend’s house.

They were raving about some game they calledROTT, and of course, there were a few jokes thrown in about the game as well, such as the dog in the game was a ‘ROTTweiler’ and shouting “ROTT in hell!” when reducing a guard to glorious giblets, and so on.

It was only the shareware version, though, and later in the year, the real deal came along, when he got a hold of Dark War. He often got rewarded by his dad for not failing a subject in school, which he often did.

I immediately put the shareware version on my Pentium 100 Mhz, which was considered top of the range for this game back then; it was happy on a 386 or 486. It was the holiday season; the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and we were ROTTing!

It was id Software that developed Wolf 3D, and Apogee was going to churn out the add-on Wolfenstein 3D Part II: Rise of the Triad, although it is claimed that they didn’t really have the rights to it.

The first part was dropped after id software cancelled, and the project became Rise of the Triad or as it is casually known, ROTT. It still had the feel of a game set in the 1940s. This could be attributed to the World War 2 era weaponry like the MP40 submachine gun, and the bazooka. The guards in uniform also conveyed a sort of Nazi look about them, with their helmets, trench coats and insignia printed on their sleeves.

Besides that, there were fictional elements to the game as well such as levitating platforms, and futuristic weapons as well as dark magic and obscure power-ups. It was easily one of the strangest and most addictive games that I’ve ever played.


A group called the High-risk United Nations Task Force, or H.U.N.T. for short, goes to San Nicholas Island off of California to investigate reported cult activity. Their boat is blown up after being discovered by patrols and they have to fight their way through to the monastery.

They find out that the cult intends to wipe out L.A.

Inside they encounter numerous types of guards and later on more bizarre enemies such as robots, deadly monks and eventually El Oscuro, the leader.


  • The ability to choose one of five different characters to play, all with different attributes
  • Better lighting effects than Wolf 3D or Doom
  • Outdoor environments with panoramic skies
  • The ability to look up or down
  • Crafty enemies, who will pretend to surrender, feign death, steal your weapons, throw grenades at you, capture you with nets and dodge your attacks while trying to take you down.
  • Digitized actors who are actually part of the team who made the game
  • Fatal traps like spinning blades, spikes, fire traps and moving walls that can crush you
  • Unique weapons with alternate fire modes
  • Gore effects that supersede Doom’s
  • The player can also use a number of things like moving platforms and jump pads (trampolines). To think, years before Quake 3!
  • The environment is also somewhat destructible as well, as you can blow up objects like lights, pot plants, flags, glass windows and the like.
  • Push walls like in Wolf 3D except much more sophisticated, some using touch plates and switches as triggers.
  • Cheat codes that make the game much more interesting and add to the experience
  • Great multi-player (now with bots in the source port!)
  • A sense of humour; not taking itself too seriously and plenty of inside jokes and pop culture references.



The graphics were a step up from Wolf 3D as it used a heavily updated form of this engine, with some code from Doom’s engine as well. You had the ability to look up and down and it was one of the first games, second to Doom, to use more open outdoor environments; you weren’t confined to just corridors all the time.

The scenery used in the game was better with panoramic skies and even atmospheric effects like fog and gas.

Some textures were quite amusing. Switches and arches aren’t just singular; they’re textured up an entire piece of the wall. Whether this was done to make it easier to see is arguable.


Since the source code was released and is still available for free off the game’s official site, it has been ported to modern O/Ss and people can enjoy it on Windows XP.

With the source port, some of the objects have been redesigned, and the scenery looks a little better and not so flat. The walls are properly vertical, and some things like the floating platforms and trampolines have been spruced up, and the wall and floor textures have been improved too.

You can also play on higher resolutions and the game now has a more 3D look to it, and the lighting effects are better. The enemies are all still 2D though as the author of the WinRott and WinRottGL source ports, Birger Andreasen, claimed ‘that to change them would spoil the game’.



Once again, it was the standard MIDI range of songs, but some of them were catchy. They were developed by Lee Jackson and Bobby Prince, both renowned musicians.

Bobby Prince worked on Doom before ROTT and Lee Jackson worked on Duke Nukem 3D, Duke Nukem 3D Atomic Edition, Stargunner, Balls of Steel, Shadow Warrior, and Duke Nukem Forever after ROTT.


The source port WinRottGL has support for mp3s as the MIDIs aren’t only outdated but are quite jerky during play.


The guard’s taunts are some of the most memorable and funniest of any game and the weapons’ sounds and other atmospheric noises were quite good for its time.

Other effects like lightning feature prominently in the outdoor areas of the game.

There is little to no directional sound in the game, so if you hear a guard’s taunt or someone shooting, it’s hard to tell where it’s coming from.



Think of this game as just one big puzzle, moving from one level to the next, as you try to fathom the game’s sometimes quite complex levels.

Add some guns, some people to shoot as well as some weird but fun objects and traps and it makes for an addictive experience.

The main objective of each level is to collect keys, eliminate as many enemies as possible and make it to the exit. This game has arches instead of switches like Doom, or elevators as in Wolf 3D.

The cheat codes for the game actually add a hell of a lot to the game if you try them out.

The multi-player has many different game modes, including your typical deathmatch and others and included here are the hilarious taunts that a player can hurl at other players by pressing one of the ‘F’ keys at the top of the keyboard.


  • The Source Port has added quite a bit as well.
  • The menu now boasts extended options like new environment effects, and extra map and actor settings.
  • The multiplayer modes, like deathmatch, now have AI-controlled bots! They aren’t easy to beat either. Some other game modes still require two players, though.



No mouse aiming made it awkward back in the day as multiple enemies could take you down because the player couldn’t turn fast enough.


With the source port, mouse aiming and a few other goodies are available to improve the gameplay.

Observations and Other Comments

The Overpatrol enemy that shoots nets at you is supposed to be a rendition of Mahoney from the Police Academy series. Not only does he have a dark blue uniform, but compare the way he sounds when killed in-game to a scene where Mahoney jumps from a moving speedboat.

The game should have some sort of record and award for the most missile-based weapons in any game.

Some of the levels are parodies of famous movies or other things:

  • 95 Windows: Windows 95
  • A Tomb With a View: A Room With a View
  • Clear and Present Danger: Film with Harrison Ford
  • Great Halls of Fire: Great Balls of Fire
  • King of the Hill: cartoon of the same name (although it came after ROTT)
  • Technical Ecstasy: Black Sabbath album
  • Cross Purposes: Black Sabbath album
  • The X Factor: Iron Maiden album
  • Spears of Density: the id game, Spear of Destiny
  • Prelude to a Kill: View to a Kill, a James Bond film
  • Yellow Brick Road from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

It was the first game to memory where the enemy seemed to be at least a little intelligent. They could beg for mercy and pretend to surrender, feign death, steal your weapons, throw grenades at you, capture you with nets and dodge your attacks while trying to take you down.

The code, ‘GOGATES’, which exits to DOS, could refer to Bill Gates.

Remember Max Payne and the ability to witness the bullet whizz through the air when firing a sniper rifle? This game did it first with the code, ‘RIDE’. It allows you to watch a missile trip, called ‘Missile Cam’.

The only game where God Mode is literally a power-up called the ‘Hand of God’. There is also a cheat for permanent invulnerability but this is different.

The spinning symbols that you have to collect in order to get extra lives are Egyptian Ankh (☥) symbols for ‘life’.

Source port Easter eggs

  • In the GL folder that you’re supposed to create for WinRottGL, there’s a texture in there called bfg.png and another file called bfg.tmd. It looks like the BFG from Quake 2!
  • Also in the GL folder are the new models for the bulletproof and asbestos armour that you can pick up in-game. They’ve been remodeled, and both of them look as though they came from Quake 2.
  • The gas mask that you find in the game looks like the re-breather from Quake 2.
  • The .png image for the MP40 looks like the machinegun from Quake 2.

Bugs and Other Issues

In the source port called WinRottGL, the game tends to be a bit unstable at times; freezing and crashing to the desktop.

When you use some codes like the GOTO code for skipping levels, the screen goes blank, while you can still hear music.

There’s also an irritating bug with the energy weapons, the Dark Staff and the Hand of God, where the projectiles don’t always dissipate after making contact with something, and the noise it makes is terrible.

As far as I know, these bugs are source-port related as I didn’t encounter them with the DOS version.

What I Think of ROTT Now

I like playing old games, especially when there are no new ones out on the market.

There’s something to be said about the nostalgic feeling I get when replaying this particular title.

It might not have been such a great commercial success or household name as Doom, Wolf 3D or Duke Nukem 3D, but it was just one of those games that created a cult following (El Oscuro is powerful after all), and it pioneered many things that are seen in games today.

That and the fact that it drew some of us into its bizarre world full of danger, exaggerated gore and hours of maniacal laughter.

© 2008 ANDR01D