Hell is a cornerstone element of the Doom universe. It is a chaotic dimension of pure evil and is the source of the demonic invasions fought against in the games. It has a significant presence in many levels, and is the setting of parts of Doom, Doom II, Final Doom, Doom 64, Doom 3, Doom (2016), Doom Eternal, and other games in the series.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Inhabitants of Hell
- 3 Demonic possession
- 4 Access to Hell
- 5 Differences between games
- 6 Extended universe
- 7 Literary influences
- 8 References
Typical features of Hell in these games include copious numbers of mutilated bodies, some apparently still alive and presumably of the damned, and scatterings of Satanic iconography. Most of Hell's levels' architecture involves jagged rock walls, fire, wooden doors, stalagmites, dead trees, and lava in place of radioactive waste. Rarely does the player come across natural or technological aspects in the Hell levels, and indeed the structure of the levels themselves often do not have any sense of flow or continuity.
In every Doom game, Hell is depicted as having developed (or stolen from Earth and made quick use of) biocybernetics, implanting modern and futuristic weapons into many of its demons. In fact, the cyberdemon and the spiderdemon are both powerful demons with mechanical and organic body parts, while the icon of sin appears to be an enormous, partially mechanical demonic head, though Doom II's endgame text indicates it has a suitably massive body as well.
Inhabitants of Hell
Hell is populated by a wide variety of creatures, from damned souls and zombies to demonic beasts and cybernetic monsters. Not much is known about the exact origins of these creatures. Some of them are likely former humans, while others may have been born (or created) in Hell itself. These creatures are all savage, brutal, and relentless, yet fairly intelligent and able to work together towards a common goal: The conquest of Earth.
In Doom 3, the creatures of Hell are controlled by an entity of great power and malevolence, which refers to Hell's inhabitants as its "children." This nameless entity speaks through Dr. Malcolm Betruger and later manifests itself as the Maledict. It is unknown if this entity is the sole ruler of Hell, or just one of many such leaders. In any case, the creatures of Hell obey its every whim. Doom 3 also establishes that the demons once controlled Earth at some point in the distant past, but for unknown reasons lost possession of it. Since then, they've sought to take it back and destroy the Human race.
Doom (2016) suggests that while the demons are organized to a degree, infighting among their number is both normal and common, as can be frequently seen by demons attacking each other without discernible provocation. Tablets recounting demonic history found by the UAC show that a powerful Lord of Hell referred to as "The Great Serpent" was ultimately slain by a rival called "The Guardian", suggesting that the demons are ruled by whichever of their kind is best able to assert dominance over its rivals. Hell's history is apparently divided into a series of "ages" by demonic reckoning, but it is uncertain as to whether this is measured by a unit of time or if it is based on which Lord of Hell is currently in power. As of Doom Eternal, its leader is the Dark Lord, a being known only as the Nameless One. He in turn is served by the Archdemons - the most powerful demons in Hell, all of which answer only to the Nameless One.
The events behind the fall of Argent D'Nur and the corruption of Olivia Pierce also lend credence to the idea that demons are highly manipulative, with a penchant for tempting the weak-willed with promises of whatever they might wish for in exchange for aiding the forces of Hell. Unsurprisingly, the demons have no interest in keeping their end of any such deal- they will honor the letter of the bargain, but the spirit of the deal is always twisted in a way that ultimately furthers the demons' own goals. Many of the recorded demonic invasions seen thus far have been preceded by the cultivation of traitors within the ranks of the enemies of Hell, the better to eliminate resistance and sow confusion.
Doom Eternal reveals that many demons were once humans that were forced to wander the depths of Hell; as their souls and life essence were siphoned away, their bodies became demonic over a period of eons. Following the aid of the Maykrs and the Argenta, a new process was designed in which a human was tortured to the point of complete despair, at which time the soul was forcibly extracted with a device called the Evulsor. The soulless body was then dumped back into Hell, where it would rapidly become a new demon. The essence of the departing soul is then used as energy, either on its own or after being converted into Argent energy.
Zombies in the original Doom are often regarded as "former" humans possessed by demons from Hell. The Doom Bible states that possession can happen to living but sleeping humans.
In Doom 3 and Resurrection of Evil, it is demonstrated that both dead and living humans can be possessed. Most of the civilian and security personnel on the Mars base are possessed and converted into zombies in the first wave of the demonic invasion. These zombies also lack a soul after a given amount of time, as the Artifact cannot absorb a soul from a downed enemy that was a zombie, although it can take souls from any other bodies and in one instance it can take the soul of a man during the game who becomes a zombie in front of the marine and is killed.
For unspecified reasons, some characters - such as the Marine which the player controls - are not taken over. Counselor Swann, Jack Campbell, Sergeant Kelly, along with a handful of marines and civilians are also amongst those not instantly converted into zombies. Throughout the game, the Marine experiences instances of blurred red vision - usually accompanied by evil laughter, whispering, or demonic language. Also, early in the game, when the Marine looks into a mirror, he sees a vision of himself starting to transform into a zombie. These incidents are possibly the result of the demons' unsuccessful attempts to possess him. These events, coupled with the fact that quite a few of the base's military personnel were initially unaffected by the demonic invasion, suggests that the demons cannot possess those with strong, well-disciplined minds - or at least have difficulty doing it.
A second process of zombification is also referred to in Doom 3, in which the victim is slowly driven insane by a mysterious ailment. The victim suffers from hallucinations and hearing voices, before becoming increasingly hostile and violent towards those around him. Physical changes occur only at the end stage. It is unknown whether this is caused by a virus or magic, or is a side effect that Hell has on the mind. Initially, this insanity was only contracted by those who visited Hell during the Delta Lab experiments. However, in the weeks prior to the invasion, other people in the base - who had no connection with Delta Labs - began experiencing symptoms as well. One report recorded on Mark Caseon's PDA says that 10% of the base personnel have been diagnosed with personality changes, and that the true extent might be 30% to 40%. It is likely that Dr. Betruger was behind the spread of this psychosis, as part of preparing for the demonic invasion.
For reasons not stated, the player is not afflicted with this insanity despite journeying through Hell to recover the Soul Cube. This may be due to him having a strong mind. Being a fresh arrival not psychologically worn down by the mounting psychosis can have helped too. Alternatively, the Soul Cube may have protected him from Hell's influence.
In the 2016 Doom, possession results from events called Lazarus Waves and Hell Waves, which are said to transform ordinary people into the Possessed, various classes of zombie-like monsters with varying levels of completely necrotized flesh and missing body parts. However, these monsters can still function at a high level, violently attacking the living either with melee swipes or with armaments which they retain from their living state. The Possessed are also compelled to build gore nests, which open localized portals to Hell, which demons can pass through. Revenants are related as a phenomenon in this entry in the series, as they are said to arise from the same Argent energy waves affecting humans who have been specially prepared by the UAC via cybernetic augmentations. Another form of possessed entity exists as the Unwilling, a race of heavily decayed zombies, which are found only in Hell. They are the remnants of ancient civilizations who were conquered by Hell and are said to serve the demons as slaves.
In the classic Doom novels, where Hell is not a part of the story, it is indicated that only dead humans can be made into zombies, through biotechnology. In the Doom 3 novels, where Hell is part of the story, many of the UAC personnel are possessed just like the game, but some zombies grow claws, fangs, and demon-like body parts while others are stronger or faster than the game's zombies.
Access to Hell
In the classic games Hell is discovered following experiments in teleportation technology, and during gameplay Hell is only accessible by long-distance teleporters or gateways. In the original Doom teleporters notably have Satanic symbols on them.
Hell in Doom is heavily based on the religious concept that the souls of bad people spend eternal damnation in Hell after death. This is indicated in the Doom II endgame text, "You wonder where bad folks will go when they die now.", and again in The Plutonia Experiment's endgame text, "Hell has gone back to pounding bad dead folks instead of good live ones". Because one cannot physically travel to Hell without the aid of some sort of gateway, Hell's actual location is never revealed, though it is indicated by the Doom FAQ and by the unusual behavior of the environment in Hell in Doom 3 that it is not a part of our universe but rather another dimension entirely. On the classic games, the only way to get physically out from Hell is killing the leader of the demonic invasion such as the Spiderdemon or the Icon of Sin.
In Doom 3, it transpires that teleporter technology was derived from tablets left behind by an Ancient Martian civilization, which went virtually extinct after a full-scale demon invasion on Mars some point in the distant past. Unlike in the original Doom where Hell was discovered upon the invasion, in Doom 3 the UAC on Mars was secretly aware of Hell's existence before the events of the game (though they didn't actually know it was Hell until much later) and actually sent expeditions there to capture demons for study. Dr. Betruger became obsessed with the other dimension and eventually visited it himself, and became corrupted as a result. He later arranged for the demons to invade the Mars base through the main teleporter in Delta.
Doom 3 also establishes that the demons can create their own portal - known as the Hell Hole - which the Player must destroy in the final level. In Resurrection of Evil it is revealed that the demonic Artifact found at the beginning of the game acts as a gateway between Hell and our reality, and upon being awakened, enables the demons to invade Mars again. At the end of the game, the Artifact is destroyed, along with the Maledict, thereby cutting Hell off from our dimension once more.
Much like in Doom 3, the incarnation of the UAC in Doom 2016 was secretly aware of Hell's existence for some time before the game begins, so much so that the inner corporate structure of the company has transformed into a cult. This came about as the UAC's experiments into Argent energy led to the discovery of its use in teleportation as well as its origins from Hell. The UAC had sent several expeditions into Hell using an interdimensional tether system that they developed; however, due to the total loss of life on these expeditions they had resorted to using automated surveys to explore its terrain as well as retrieve samples and artifacts. A special manned incursion into the Kadingir Sanctum was eventually undertaken by Samuel Hayden to find and return with the Doom Slayer's sarcophagus.
The initial demonic invasion was triggered by Olivia Pierce using an Argent Hell Wave triggered from the Lazarus Labs, and she successfully widened the portal by bringing an Argent accumulator in contact with the beam of the Argent Tower, allowing the demons to pour through onto Mars. After that point, the portal could only be closed by destroying the Well, the source of Argent energy. The Doom Slayer uses the remaining available stores of Argent energy (one from an accumulator powering the cyberdemon and one from the core of the AI VEGA) to make multiple trips to Hell to retrieve the Crucible and shut down the Well. The marine was pulled back to Mars using an instance of the tethering system installed onto his Praetor suit by Samuel Hayden. Ultimately Hayden used this tether to banish the Doom Slayer to prevent further interference, as he intended to continue supplying Argent energy for Earth despite the catastrophe.
As Urdak is in effect on the "opposite side" of the universe from Hell, the Maykrs are incapable of traveling there. As a result, they use the Hell priests and other catspaws as their proxies in Hell.
Differences between games
While the major Doom games all depict Hell, the theme changes slightly between games. The variations between Doom and Doom II are based mainly on levels created by different designers. Doom 3's Hellish atmosphere departs more strongly from the original games.
The original Doom's Episode 3, Inferno, entirely takes place in Hell, where it is depicted as predominately brimstone-covered with a fiery sky, complete with a demonic cathedral and pools of blood. Walls or floors occasionally appear to be made from body parts including human skulls, intestines, spines, and skin. In the PlayStation version, Hell's sky is filled with flames, while the Sega Saturn version's stages have a city skyline.
The game's box art and the ending screen for The Shores of Hell both depict rocky, barren landscapes.
Thy Flesh Consumed takes place on Earth immediately after the player's return from hell, as evidenced by its endgame text and the episode's resemblance to Inferno's ending sequence. Until the episode was released, the first level to take place on Earth was MAP01: Entryway (Doom II).
In the original Doom, Mars's moon Deimos provides the first link between here and Hell.
In the storyline approaching the beginning of Doom, military experiments are conducted between the gateways at UAC facilities on Phobos and Deimos. Something went wrong, and "soon afterwards, Deimos simply vanished from the sky."
Deimos's mysterious absence is referred to in Knee-Deep in the Dead's ending text, after the player steps through the gateway at the end of E1M8: Phobos Anomaly: "It...looks like the lost Deimos base." It is later revealed at the end of Episode 2, The Shores of Hell, that the entire moon had somehow been transported to Hell, which would no doubt account for the complexes being seemingly warped and taken over by demonic means more so than the Phobos installations. The gateways, still functioning between Phobos and Deimos, provided the first entryway into Hell.
Doom II's Hell levels, beginning with MAP21: Nirvana, are often closer to subverted human buildings, with the exception of the last three levels. The sky in these levels (where there is any) contributes heavily to the Hellish atmosphere.
Final Doom's portrayal of Hell does not deviate much from previous depictions, and seems to be a combination of the original Doom's cavernous areas and Doom II's building-strewn stages. Hell levels have two different skylines; a "nightmare" red sky in TNT Evilution and a crimson sky that looks like stretched, bloody muscle (the end of level tally screen background) in The Plutonia Experiment. The latter is referred to as the Devil Hive.
Doom 64's Hell levels take a dark, cavernous, and frightening approach. There are two separate types of Hell environments: rocky, volcanic areas with a burning red sky and mountains, or similarly-themed mountainous areas with dark blue storm clouds, complete with thunder and lightning. The architecture found in most of the levels resembles castles, cathedrals or temples, replete with vicious and horrific Satanic symbolism, including plentiful pentagrams, inverted crosses, and blasphemous altars. Various human remains are strewn about these levels, including impaled heads, butchered carcasses on meat hooks, and splattered corpses on the ground. Later levels possess a skyline of burning red or green fire against a dead, black sky.
In Doom 3, the player ventures into Hell to obtain the Soul Cube. Hell is largely a claustrophobic and cavernous plane with crimson blood sky (it also resembles outer space to some extent), both dark and fiery (although "outdoor" sections do appear). Mostly, Hell takes place in a large chaotically structured area resembling portions of dungeons; it is furnished throughout with massive stone bricks, broken cell gates, cave-like passageways, towering obelisks and columns, glowing Satanic glyphs and pentagrams, and oceans of magma. The conventional rules of physics are frequently violated, with the giant stone bricks moving on their own accord to form bridges or access ways. Supplies left behind by the UAC's secret expeditions are scattered throughout the level.
Unlike in Classic Doom, the atmosphere in this Hell is almost constantly noisy, typically with the crying and moaning of damned souls and extreme sizzling and bubbling of hot magma. People who enter Hell tend to experience a surge of physical energy much like that of an Adrenaline rush: seemingly able to continually exert themselves without tiring. Dubbed the "Hercules Complex" by researchers, this effect is noted in the game by the player having an inexhaustible stamina bar (with flames shooting through it) while in Hell.
Also in Doom 3, Hell corrupts parts of the Mars base in the form of a fleshy, tentacle-like growth, often oozing with blood and in some cases covered in a chitinous exoskeleton with bone-like spines protruding out. This demonic growth is first seen in the Administration Complex, and the Player is alerted to it by Sergeant Kelly. The growth's presence is initially subtle, but becomes more and more apparent as the game progresses. By the last third of the game, the demonic growth has literally consumed entire sections of the base, and even transformed some corridors into pathways of hovering floor tiles suspended over pools of lava.
Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil
In Resurrection of Evil, the combat engineer Marine takes a journey to Hell after activating the Phobos Labs teleporter, which leads him to the old Delta Complex from Doom 3. As the Delta Labs and other Mars City sectors seem to be dominated by a demonic vortex from the main gateway, the Marine gains access to Hell to return the Artifact in order to stop the invasion.
The area of Hell this marine visits differs drastically from that in Doom 3, and includes many disjointed and varied areas. The majority of the level consists of a long series of stone caverns, occasionally interrupted by stone hallways. Other areas of note include a green foggy area where the marine is forced to use the Artifact to destroy a large number of demons, and the area of the final battle with the Maledict, an eroded island with sizzling magma and a gigantic demon skull resembling one found near the entrance of Hell in Doom 3.
Somehow, like in Doom II and Final Doom, when the combat engineer Marine enters Hell, he manages to keep his inventory with all of his weapons upon entering. However, the marine's fate remains unknown at the end of the game due to its ambiguous ending.
The Lost Mission includes two new Hell levels which draw inspiration from the previous Doom 3 levels as well as the original Doom. Notable landmarks include a forest of crooked mockeries of the Christian cross, a gigantic obsidian fortress resembling the Unholy Cathedral which floats atop a conflagration of lava and fire beneath a swirling chaotic vortex, the river Styx itself, and an outpost somehow built in Hell by the ancient Martian civilization, inside which Betruger had built the other half of the experimental Exis teleporter. This teleporter appears to be directly integrated into the remains of ancient civilization technology, suggesting they may have originally used the site for the same purpose of bi-directional teleportation to and from Hell.
Doom 3 Novels
The atmosphere of this Hell is very similar to the game, with claustrophobic sections and cavernous planes. But there are more damned souls and possessed human bodies than in the game. The place where the Soul Cube is guarded is changed to an enormous throne which possibly belonged to the Cyberdemon. The Guardian of Hell is also absent, replaced by an enormous horde of demons. John Kane's escape from Hell is also longer and more dangerous than it is in the game.
The 2016 Doom depicts Hell through multiple distinct regions, and states without any ambiguity that Hell is a dimension which grows through the conquest and absorption of other worlds. Various locations that can be found within it are remains of such places, and some of their denizens remain both as unwilling slaves and as tormented spirits.
Kadingir Sanctum, also known as the Blood Keep, is the first of the Hell levels encountered, consisting of a shattered fortress of stone and metal held together by currents of Argent energy as it floats in the void. This is where Samuel Hayden's expedition recovered the Doom Slayer's sarcophagus. The Helix Stone contained encoded information about this location, and the annals of Hell tell that the Slayer was trapped and defeated here after he sought prey inside the temples, which the demons brought down upon him.
The Titan's Realm is the second Hell level. It is an enormous demonic graveyard made of the skeletal remains of gigantic demons known as Titans, one of which was slain by the Doom marine himself after his relentless purge of the Umbral Plains culminated in the giant demon's rise against him. The player explores the large caverns within the graveyard to reach the Crucible.
The Necropolis is an uncharted region of the Titan's Realm, where the Crucible resides. As the name suggests it is a vast fortress filled with bones, blood and bodies. Among the remains of many giant demons found here, a notable appearance is made by the dormant Icon of Sin. At the end of the level, the Doom Slayer must engage the mighty Hell guards in battle.
The shattered remnants of Argent D'Nur serve as the last of the Hell levels. This domain was once home to the Night Sentinels who fought against the forces of Hell, until they were betrayed by one of their own number. The souls of the captured Wraiths are responsible for providing power to the Well, the source of Argent energy, enslaved and exploited by Hell. Their powers were also channeled by the UAC through the Argent Tower for use by mankind, which ultimately provoked the demonic invasion of Mars.
This entry in the series is also notably the first to suggest that Hell's diametric opposite of Heaven, or at the least various divine realms and powers, may exist as well. The record of the Doom Slayer, as left by the lord of the current age of Hell, states that the Doom Slayer was armed with "sword and shield of adamantine strength" by the entity known as the Seraphim.
The aesthetics of Hell in this game were heavily influenced by the dystopian surrealism of Polish painter Zdzisław Beksiński, most renowned for his later "fantastic period," which featured disturbing images of gloomy environments with detailed scenes of death, decay, landscapes filled with skeletons, deformed figures and deserts.
Doom Eternal further clarifies that Hell is essentially outside the bounds of the mundane universe, existing as a "lower" reality of sorts. For this reason, beings from Hell are incapable of visiting its "higher" counterpart of Urdak (initially, at least- when the Icon of Sin is awoken in Urdak, it breaks the barriers that prevented demons from entering the heavenly realm) and vice versa, forcing the Maykrs to rely on proxies to interact with Hell. As in the previous game, numerous regions of Hell are visited directly, with several more being described in the Codex.
The second half of Exultia takes place in Hell in an area referred to as the "Hellscape" (perhaps a generic term for Hell's environment) accessed via slipgate, in which some Sentinel ruins can be found, along with a view of the Nekravol looming in the distance. Giant Sentinel mechs called Atlans, permanently mired in gore and tentacles, remain poised in battle with the corpses of massive Titans. The Betrayer made a permanent dwelling here as a self-inflicted punishment for his actions against Argent D'Nur.
The Nekravol is a combination of a city, fortress, and slaughterhouse designed for the extraction of Argent energy from the damned. The damned are herded into the presence of the ancient demon called Kalibas, the Sightless Judge, who determines whether or not an individual is viable for conversion. Those who are deemed unworthy are cast into the filth of the Blood Swamps to die. Those who are deemed suitable are instead led deeper into the fortress until they are brought to one of the Soul Spires to be tortured until their souls can be removed and turned into hell energy, which is then combined with Wraith power to form Argent energy.
Since, according to Samuel Hayden, the demons only use a small portion of the energy of souls they torture, the Maykrs struck a deal with the Lord of Hell to build this structure and the machine it houses, and as a result the bulk of the energy is sent to Urdak. The Maykrs use this energy to keep their species and world alive, at the cost of untold multitudes of sentient beings' souls. Hayden refers to this as an unholy union that must be stopped.
In the 2019 film Doom: Annihilation, the themes of Hell and demonic invasion are kept intact as the film explores an alternate take on the invasion of the Phobos moon base detailed in the first episode of Doom. The invasion occurs after experiments with an ancient system of teleporters which connect Mars to Earth goes awry, sending the travelers through Hell on their way to their destination. The film's protagonist, Joan Dark, eventually travels into Hell herself after being shoved through the gate by Malcolm Betruger, and arrives there to find a mire of mud, rock, fire-filled trenches, and organic vine-like masses populated by throngs of demons.
Doom without Hell
One of the primary criticisms of the Doom novels is that Hell was cut out and the demons became aliens genetically engineered to scare humans instead.
A similar criticism was aimed at the 2005 Doom movie, where the monsters were humans mutated by a Martian gene splicing experiment, and universally lacked the projectile attacks of their game counterparts.
The themes and depictions of Hell in the Doom series draw on various traditional and modern sources, in some cases directly, and in others indirectly through their influences on popular culture elements, including heavy metal music and album design, and the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game.
The Divine Comedy, a highly influential work of medieval poetry in the Italian language written by Dante Aligheri between 1308 and 1320 CE, depicts Hell thoroughly in its first canto, Inferno. Heavily mixing the ideas of Catholicism with elements of Classical mythology, the Inferno is depicted as a nine-circled pit which leads through the center of the Earth, exiting eventually into Purgatory and then eventually into Heaven. Each of the nine circles of Hell is used for the punishment of a different class of sins and has distinct demons which dwell within it and serve as guardians of their realms. Elements drawn from Inferno for Doom include the name of the third episode itself, the appearance of Limbo (a dwelling place of unbaptized but innocent souls) and especially Dis (a major infernal city) as parts of Hell, and elements of Hell's description, such as the inclusion of rivers of blood, and dry, fiery landscapes. The idea of the mythological Minotaur as a major demon of Hell is also found in this work, which may have influenced the concept of the cyberdemon.
Paradise Lost, an epic poem written by English author John Milton in 1667, is a retelling of the Biblical story of the fall of man, beginning with Satan and his legions' banishment to Hell as punishment for their rebellion against God. Paradise Lost informs some aspects of Hell in Doom, including the areas of Pandemonium, the capital of Satan; Limbo; and Erebus. The design of the Icon of Sin also displays some degree of possible influence, both in its gigantic stature (a trait shared with Milton's fallen angels) and its method of spawning demons from its forehead, which occurs in this work when Satan spawns his daughter Sin in a similar fashion.
Influences from modern literature also exist. The particular depiction of Mt. Erebus in Doom seems to draw some inspiration from the works of H. P. Lovecraft, in particular the Cthulhu Mythos, wherein the same-named volcanic peak of Mount Erebus in Antarctica plays a pivotal role in At the Mountains of Madness. Symbols also appear carved into flesh which were derived from the Simon Necronomicon, a real-life version of Lovecraft's fictional book.
- Hurley, Leon (5 May 2016). "New Doom art teases story stuff & THE ICON OF SIN." gamesradar. Retrieved 22 August 2016.