Hexen: Beyond Heretic (or Hexen) is a first-person shooter and fantasy adventure computer game developed by Raven Software, published by id Software, and distributed by GT Interactive beginning on October 30, 1995. It is the sequel to Heretic. The main goal of the game is the destruction of Korax, the second of a trio of demon brothers known as the Serpent Riders, who has taken over the world of Cronos. The first Serpent Rider, D'Sparil, was the final boss of Heretic and the third, Eidolon, would later appear in Hexen II.
Hexen uses a modified version of the Doom engine, which allows (like in Heretic) up and down views, network play with up to eight players and the choice of three character classes. It also used a "hub" system of maps which allowed the player to travel freely between several levels while preserving their state (monsters killed, puzzles solved, items collected, etc) between visits. In addition, the game features doors and crushers that rotate or move horizontally (rather than vertically), pulsating lights and scripted level events. Ambient sounds are supported but instead of being hard-coded into the engine as in Heretic, they are script-based which allows the level designer to edit their action more freely.
Unlike previous games, which had relied purely on MIDI for music, Hexen can also play tracks from an audio CD. The tracks included on the Hexen CD are recordings of the Hexen music using a Roland Sound Canvas. The entirety of Hexen's soundtrack is not present on the CD, however, and many levels are associated to different songs depending on whether MIDI or Audio CD music is used.
An expansion pack for Hexen was released in 1996, called Deathkings of the Dark Citadel. Heretic, Hexen, and its expansion pack were later included in a compilation called Towers of Darkness: Heretic, Hexen and Beyond. The game was also ported to the PlayStation, Sega Saturn and Nintendo 64 consoles.
Heretic chronicled the adventures of Corvus, a heroic Sidhe elf who challenged the forces of D'Sparil, the weakest of the three dimension-traveling Serpent Riders. His victory was hardly insignificant, but the other two Serpent Riders were far from idle and continued sowing the seeds of destruction in several other dimensions for a thousand years1. One such dimension is Cronos, the world of Hexen: a human world, but one where the forces of magic are both stronger and more strictly controlled than those of the Elven world.
Over the years, the humans have learned that while magic can be a powerful tool, it also has more destructive potential than any other force in their universe. From this harsh realization a disciplined and orderly society has developed, one where every citizen knows his place and where the vast majority of common men are held in thrall to a few ruthless, powerful leaders. Wielding magical powers and arcane artifacts, these men overshadow every other human force on Cronos, suppressing individual thought and action in the name of the greater good.
Within this strict order, three organizations maintain the fabric of human society: the Legion, the Arcanum, and the Church. In an uneasy balance often threatened by petty squabbles and escalating power struggles, these three organizations share absolute dominion over all humanity. The Legion represents human military strength, using brute force backed by magical weapons to impose a strict and inflexible order upon the populace. The Arcanum is the center of learning for all magical studies, and as such it determines who will or will not have access to its wealth of arcane secrets. The Church acts as a bridge and buffer between the Legion and Arcanum, using a mixture of magic and military training to maintain the balance of power while secretly furthering its own interests. Together or separately, these three groups control every aspect of human life.
Each organization is led by a single man. Zedek, Marshal of the Legion; Traductus, Grand Patriarch of the Church; and Menelkir, Arch-Mage of the Arcanum. These men are the ultimate embodiment of power on Cronos. Cold, calculating, and devoid of concern for anything but the advancement of their own status, these leaders were the first to fall under the sway of Korax, the second of the three Serpent Riders. In return for their allegiance, Zedek, Traductus, and Menelkir were rewarded by Korax with the dark gift of Unlife. Using the powers granted them by Korax as well as the relics already in their possession, all of humanity quickly fell under their spell.
Only three humans escaped the aegis of the leaders' new powers: Baratus, a Fighter of the Legion; Daedolon, a Mage of the Arcanum; and Parias, a Cleric of the Church. Now these three have sworn to destroy the leaders they once followed and anything else that gets in the way as they execute their task. Entering the mystical portal used to invade their world, the three become hopelessly separated, forcing each of them to attempt on their own that which of they had little hope doing together: find Korax´s stronghold, defeat his legions of grotesque minions, and finally kill the Serpent Rider himself.
Their task will be a difficult one indeed. It is well-known that Korax´s special powers stem from his control of the Chaos Sphere, which he uses to warp and corrupt everyone and everything he touches. Though not the mightiest of the Serpent Riders, Korax is more powerful than D'Sparil was, and his lust for power is matched only by his hatred for all living things not under his control.
The three playable characters are Baratus, a Fighter; Parias, a Cleric; and Daedolon, a Mage.
Each character has four weapons and uses the two types of mana as ammunitions. The first weapon does not use mana, the second uses Blue Mana, the third uses Green Mana, and the ultimate weapon, which is built by finding three different parts, uses both types.
- The Fighter has weapons that are best used at striking range. This combined with his high strength, stamina, and life make him easy to power through the beginning of the game but more challenging later in the game. The Fighter's ultimate weapon is the Quietus, a longsword wreathed in a green aura that sends out a spread of magic.
- The Mage has long distance projectile magic. Although he lacks speed and toughness, his powerful ranged attacks make up for this. He tends to lag behind in the early game, but he becomes a force to be reckoned with once he has his third weapon and other items. The Mage's ultimate weapon is the Bloodscourge, a skull-topped staff that sends out homing fireballs.
- The Cleric is well rounded and has a diverse selection of weapons, and decent armouring and speed. He is a good compromise between power and magic. The Cleric's ultimate weapon is the Wraithverge, a crucifix-shaped staff that tears apart enemies with a ghostly horde.
Enemies, weapons, items
Enemies and items are less static than in other Doom engine games, since ACS is used to repopulate the maps and the things placed in a map depend not just on skill, but also on character class. For example, mages, who start with a ranged weapon, will face many more afrits than the fighter and the cleric, but fewer ettins. Certain items, such as the fléchettes and mystic ambit incants, function differently according to class, as well.
- Hub 1: Seven Portals
- Hub 2: Shadow Wood
- Hub 3: Heresiarch's Seminary
- Hub 4: Castle of Grief
- Hub 5: Necropolis
The expansion set Deathkings of the Dark Citadel provides four additional hubs.
Source code release
On January 11, 1999, the source code for both Heretic and Hexen was released by Raven Software under a restrictive EULA  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 .
- Being a sequel to Heretic, Hexen was originally to be called "Heretic 2" before Raven made the decision to name it "Hexen" instead. Raven later did create another sequel to the original Heretic, named "Heretic 2", while keeping this name rather than discarding of it again. The latter Heretic 2 game was much more of a direct sequel to the original Heretic, even including the protagonist from the original game resuming the role of the player character.
- "Hexen" is the German word for "witches," also meaning "casting a spell" when used as a verb. Moreover, the game has a "warlock" skill level, and warlock is the male version of a witch (called a "Hexenmeister").
- In v1.0, it was possible to leave the Castle of Grief hub early. First, the player would simply turn into a pig with a projectile trap that surrounds one of the clock gears. If the player gets under the space in the river leading to the Effluvium portal, the player can simply go to the Forsaken Outpost, back to Effluvium, and then the Gibbet. This makes the Axe key accessible, and practically the entire hub can be bypassed. This was an oversight by the designers, and was remedied in v1.1.
- v1.0 of Hexen contains an incomplete level called "Maze" that consists solely of moving walls with no exit. Its presence in the released game is almost certainly an oversight; the level was removed in the 1.1 update. The "Maze" level can only be accessed by using the cheat code "visit41" in unpatched versions of the game.
- The MAPINFO lump contains the names of several levels presumably used during the development of the game. Though the levels themselves are not in the game IWAD (with the exception of "Maze" listed above in Version 1.0 of the IWAD) the names and MAPINFO data for them (mostly only sky info, but a few have more such as fog and warptrans parameters) still exist. They are as follows:
- Shadow Wood (MAP07, likely a beta version of Hub 2: Shadow Wood (map))
- Swamp Demo (MAP14, likely an early version of Hub 2: Darkmere)
- Nada (MAP29)
- Maze (MAP41, and the only map to actually show up in Version 1.0 of the IWAD, removed for version 1.1)
- Eric's Whirlwind O' Death (MAP42)
- Maya (MAP43)
- The Badlands (MAP50, likely an early version of Hub 2: Wastelands)
- Caves of Ascension (MAP51, likely an early version of Hub 2: Caves of Circe)
- Lower Crypts (MAP52, likely an early version of Hub 2: Sacred Grove)
- The Hypostyle Hall (MAP53, likely an early version of Hub 2: Hypostyle)
- The Sanctorium (MAP54)
- The Athenaeum (MAP55)
- The Cleric's Citadel (MAP56)
- Programmer Map (MAP60)
- Bgokey (MAP90)
- Paul Map (MAP92)
- Paul Map2 (MAP93)
- email@example.com (MAP95)
- Sound Development Map (MAP96)
- Players or monsters are gibbed if they reach -51% health or lower.
- The player must stick with one character class throughout a game under normal circumstances. However, a glitch on the N64 port allows one to switch classes mid-game. There is also a cheat code to change classes in the PC version.
- Fans speculate that some members of the Cronos Triumvirate pledged allegiance to Korax and were transformed into monsters. The manual states that clerics became dark bishops and legionnaires became ettins. However, the manual may not have been written by Raven and its authors may not have had a proper understanding of canon. In addition, there are a number of ambiguities resulting from changes/overhauls during the development process. This has created an avenue for discussion and speculation on canon. One theory is that legionnaires became slaughtaurs, clerics became dark bishops, and mages became reivers. Another theory is that mages became dark bishops and clerics became reivers instead.
- Necropolis is the only hub throughout Hexen and its expansion Deathkings of the Dark Citadel that does not have a Wings of Wrath in single player anywhere outside of cheating, although it does appear in several of its maps in deathmatch mode.
- 1. ^ Timeline from the Heretic II FAQ. (archived)
- 2. ^ There is also a prologue map (Winnowing Hall) and an epilogue map (Dark Crucible), which are actually part of the first and last hubs, respectively, but due to the game architecture they can only be entered once.
- Raven Software's Hexen page
- id Software's Hexen site (archived 🏛)
- Official website for the Deathkings expansion
- The HeXen FAQ (archived 🏛)
- Hexen on Steam
|Official source ports|
|Based on||Name||Base for|
|Heretic||Hexen||Hexen (Apple Macintosh)|
|Hexen (Nintendo 64)|
|Hexen (Sega Saturn)|
|Hexen (Sony PlayStation)|
|Source code genealogy|
|Based on||Name||Base for|