Heretic title screen

Heretic, released on December 23, 1994, is a hit fantasy/action game by Raven Software, the result of their second team-up with id Software after Shadowcaster. Based on a modified Doom engine, Heretic pioneered an inventory system for real-time item use that has become commonplace in the FPS genre. id Software published the game under its brand. Like Doom before it, the game was initially released as shareware with the ability to call or mail in to receive the registered version. A later, expanded commercial release as Heretic: Shadow of the Serpent Riders was distributed to retail stores by GT Interactive.

Players took the role of a nameless Elven hero (given the name Corvus in Heretic II) whose race, the Sidhe, was nearly annihilated by a horde of evil monsters from another dimension. The first episode of Heretic was released as shareware as a precursor to the full version of the game.

Heretic won several awards for excellence, appeared in such notable publications as USA Today and Playboy, and opened many new doors in the computer gaming software industry for Raven Software and its team of developers. Heretic was Raven Software's most popular, highest acclaimed, biggest selling game to that point.

After its big success, two additional episodes were released for free, upgrading the normal Heretic to Heretic: Shadow of the Serpent Riders (v1.3). The original version of Heretic with three episodes was subsequently discontinued. The expansion was released on March 22, 1996.

Some of the modifications Raven made to the Doom engine for Heretic were flight, sectors that can push the player, an inventory system, ambient sounds, translucency, looking up and down and pushable objects.


The world of Parthoris was populated by many people who divided themselves into seven great nations, as well as the mystic Sidhe elves. It was these elves who kept the Tomes of Power and the sacred candle flames which eternally burned to represent the armies of the world.

The Sidhe believed in a prophecy of Armageddon, and their prophecy ultimately proved itself true when from the east came the three terrible Serpent Riders cloaked in black. They were great sorcerers, and they demonstrated their power by quelling the wars of the eastern provinces. Soon the men of the seven nations turned to their worship and built a great temple in their honor. Upon the temple was the Sign, a crossed trident, and the worshippers came to call themselves the Order of the Sign. The deeper into reverence of the Riders' dark ways they fell, the more they were sapped of their free will and spirit. Once all of the seven realms were theirs, the two eldest Riders departed, leaving D'Sparil alone to prepare the world for destruction.

Recognizing the fulfillment of prophecy, the Sidhe refused to follow in the worship of D'Sparil and thus they were set apart from the other people of the world. Once sacred guardians, they were now heretics, hunted and hated everywhere they went. D'Sparil's disciples turned the minds of the seven kings toward conquest of the Sidhe realm, and when the Seven Armies marched upon them, the Sidhe Elders extinguished the sacred flames, destroying them all.

D'Sparil was enraged and in the chamber of the Elders he stirred up a storm of white-hot flame, killing them all. The earth burst open beneath their charred bodies and from within poured legions of the undead as well as murderous beasts from worlds beyond. This new army overwhelmed the Sidhe and slaughtered them in untold numbers. In only one day, their civilization was destroyed and their survivors were scattered far and wide. The darkling creatures had carried off the Tomes of Power and the other artifacts of the Sidhe as spoils of war. Left defenseless, it was surely only a matter of time before all Sidhe perished under the Order of the Triad's unyielding fury.

Most of the few remaining Sidhe hid themselves away, but Corvus was determined to have revenge. Heading east into the wilderness he came upon the City of the Damned, where the very air reeked with rot and decay and the only sounds were the screams of foul creatures seeking his blood. Armed only with his staff and Elven wand, he had little hope to survive. So began the downfall of D'Sparil and the salvation of Parthoris.

Heretic skill levels[edit]

Attack of gargoyles in Heretic

1. Thou needeth a wet-nurse: Damage taken is halved; number of monsters is decreased; number of powerups and items is increased; ammo powerups give 50% more than normal. The game automatically uses quartz flasks and mystic urns to prevent the player from dying.

2. Yellowbellies-r-us: Number of monsters is decreased; number of powerups and items is increased. Otherwise similar to skill 3.

3. Bringest them oneth: This is the normal skill level.

4. Thou art a smite-meister: Similar to skill 3, but the number of monsters is greater; the number of items and powerups is decreased.

5. Black plague possesses thee: Similar to skill 4, but ammo powerups give 50% more than normal; monsters attack and move faster (up to two times faster, depending on the monster); enemy missiles fly faster (up to two times faster, depending on type of the missile); cheating is disabled.

The skill names parody the often badly understood Early Modern English common throughout the fantasy genre. 1, 3 and 5 are grammatically non-standard; they should be Thou needest a wet-nurse, Bring them on, and Black plague possesseth thee; the mix of English and German in 4's smite-meister is unusual, and 2 makes an out-of-place reference to Toys-R-Us.

Enemies, weapons, items[edit]





  • 1 Can only be found in the full version of the game.
  • 2 These items make a reappearance in Hexen.

Heretic levels[edit]

City of the Damned (Episode 1, the only one in shareware, sky color: grey)

Hell's Maw (Episode 2, sky color: red)

The Dome of D'Sparil (Episode 3, sky color: blue)

Fate's Path (Episode 4, sky color: grey)

Note: This level, built for deathmatch, is untitled in the game itself and can only be accessed via the engage## cheat or the -warp command line parameter (it does not appear on the episode select screen). Its name and the "episode name" were unofficially made up by fans and are widely accepted among the community.

Technical details[edit]

Raven Software has made several changes to the Doom engine, which allow the following new features to be implemented:

  • ability of the player to fly and look up and down;
  • inventory system;
  • carrying sectors in the form of wind or water currents;
  • ambient sounds;
  • translucent and pushable objects;
  • fullscreen version of the status bar;
  • several types of ranged attacks for some monsters;
  • changes to items that monsters drop after they die:
    • some monsters have multiple variants of these items;
    • each such item has a programmed drop chance;
    • due to coincidence of chances, some monsters may drop several items of different types.

Compared to Doom v1.2, Heretic introduced the following new lumps:

  • LOADING - text screen displayed when loading the game;
  • SNDCURVE - byte array used to set how sounds fade with distance;
  • TINTTAB - to support translucency.

Source code release[edit]

On January 11, 1999, the source code for both Heretic and Hexen was released by Raven Software under a restrictive EULA [1] which prohibited many uses of the code, and was incompatible with the GNU GPL. This rendered it impossible to create a properly open source source port (under The Open Source Definition) for either game. On September 4, 2008, the source code for both games was rereleased under the GPL [2].


  • Heretic's E4M1 is based directly on American McGee's Doom II deathmatch level IDMAP01.
  • Heretic, like Doom, has a demo rotation; however, the demos were recorded with version 1.0 of the executable, and were never updated to account for engine changes. Therefore, two of them go out of sync in version 1.2 as well as Shadow of the Serpent Riders. The first demo makes it to the ethereal crossbow and begins shooting at a torch before being slashed to death by sabreclaws. The third demo goes out of sync almost immediately, the player starts running into walls, shooting at the ceiling and never leaves the starting room.
  • A port of Heretic to the Sega Saturn was slated to be released by GT Interactive, but was canceled before release.[1] Hexen did end up being released for that console, however.
  • John Romero joked in a tweet that Rise of the Triad was in the same canon as Heretic and its sequels, comparing the Triad cult to D'Sparil's trident symbolism.[2] This would seemingly imply that Parthoris is in fact our world in the distant past, similar to Tolkien's Arda. ROTT was designed by id Software co-founder Tom Hall.
  • A reference to a Tomb of Desparil can be also found in the title of the twelfth level of Catacomb II, a game John Carmack wrote for Softdisk in 1991.

Physical media[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1.  (1 September 1995). "Sega Saturn Magazine Issue 35." Sega Saturn Magazine. Retrieved 10 May 2021.
  2. Romero, John (21 January 2019). "Heretic and Hexen DID take place centuries before ROTT...when the Order of the Triad began..." Twitter. Retrieved 9 July 2021.

Official source ports
Based on Name Base for
Doom v1.2 Heretic Hexen
Source code genealogy
Based on Name Base for
Doom v1.2 Heretic BeOS Heretic
Chocolate Heretic
Doom Legacy
Linux Heretic