I’ll admit… I don’t love Wolfenstein 3D the way I love Doom.
There are a few Wolf3D mods that I’ve given a look, and none of them seemed like much more than map packs: a bunch of new levels, maybe a new weapon and enemy or two. And I just don’t feel Wolf3D is modular enough for a simple map pack to be something to get excited about. At least not the way I get excited over some Doom WADs, even those that add literally nothing but a few maps.
But a year or so ago, I found Operation Eisenfaust: Legacy. And it was everything I’d ever hoped for in a Wolfenstein mod… and more.
The story of Eisenfaust: Legacy follows up on the experiments of Dr. Schabbs that we had last seen in episode 2 of Wolf3D. It turns out that killing Schabbs didn’t end those experiments, just like killing Hitler didn’t put an end to the Nazis. The Nazis have merely gotten more desperate, and more obsessed with the occult… and Schabb’s apprentice, Dr. Neldner, has stepped in to fill his shoes. BJ heads to a Nazi-occupied village where people have been disappearing, and where it turns out the mutant experiments and occult shenanigans have reached a horrifying peak.
Team Raycast has taken all the Wolfenstein 3D you love and added more awesome than you could imagine. The mod is overflowing with new content, some “borrowed” from games like Heretic and Strife, but a lot seemingly original, and almost all of it perfectly fitting as part of the twisted and goofy world that gave us Mecha Hitler and the Angel of Death. This is as good a sequel to Wolf3D as Spear of Destiny was, with weapon reloads maybe being the one thing that’s decidedly un-’90s about it. It’s extraordinary.
You wouldn’t know it from the start, though. Eisenfaust: Legacy almost seems to be trying to turn players off with its first twenty minutes. The mod wants to be… cinematic? Maybe literary is a better word — the opening text dump is oddly prose-y, and preps you for a first level devoid of enemies, where you have wander around in some sickly green fog, talk to a bunch of farmers, and find a secret entrance to the village where your mission is to take place.
As the second map opens, rain washes away the green mist, a pistol appears in your hand, and it’s time for something more closely resembling Wolfenstein. You’re massacring Nazis by the dozens soon afterward. Too soon, from a game design standpoint. Eisenfaust: Legacy doesn’t give you much time to get a feel for the new stuff, face off against early-game resistance, and settle into a rhythm — before you’re bordering on slaughtermap territory.
To top it off, someone decided to make the fourth map a sewer level. Just in case there weren’t enough design sins happening already. What an innovative new locale!
But it gets better, right? YES, I swear it does.
Just stick with it until level 5 and you’ll start to fall in love. There’s nothing special about level 5, just that Legacy stops tripping over itself around this point. Friendly NPCs are long gone, the sewer is behind you, and you’ve got a satisfying arsenal at your disposal. Pistol, bolt-action rifle, SMG, assault rifle… (There’s a really solid shotgun later, but unfortunately you don’t find it outside of a secret until long after it would have been useful.)
To offset the cool new armory is a horde of new baddies. In addition to minor tweaks of the existing enemies, there’s a handful of new soldier types, mutant variants of all the basic troopers, mad scientists, occult wizards, skeletons, ghosts, demons (I think?), killer bats, a bunch of minibosses, and mounted machine guns and mecha suits that enemies can use against you.
Phew. It’s a damn fine bestiary, my friends.
What else? Let’s get the lists out of the way:
All new sound effects and music. Visually and aurally pleasing weapon reloads. Portable medkits. Wirecutters for getting through barbed-wire fences. Nazi doctors who infect you with mutant poison that causes damage until you shoot yourself up with the antidote.
I haven’t even gotten to the New and Improved Nazi Mutants yet. These suckers come out of the woodwork. They can dive into water and surface behind you. They come climbing out of a well here or down from an innocent-looking ladder there. Seemingly-dead mutants stuffed into cages or laying on autopsy tables spring to life without warning. And they’re all clamoring to kill themselves an Allied spy.
THEN there’s the mecha suits. Nothing is a bigger game-changer here, nothing steals the show like the mechas in this thing. Starting at level 10, you’ll begin finding not just enemies baring down on you in huge robot suits like the one Hitler used in Wolf3D — you’ll be finding unmanned ones that you can hop into and pilot around as a walking death machine.
The suits make you nigh invulnerable, and their cannons shred everything in your path. You’re limited only by your movement: you move and turn much slower than you would on foot, and it’s impossible to strafe while moving forward or back. The suit also costs fuel to operate; once you’re out of fuel, you’re dead in the water.
The moment mechas are introduced, the game becomes a wonderful waltz — slaughtering the pitiful human resistance, bouncing from one suit to another if your cannons get blown off, popping out to explore without wasting fuel, but then running back to your suit when you hear the thunderous footsteps of a hostile mecha incoming.
I love the mecha suit stuff, and it’s definitely the heart of Eisenfaust: Legacy, but just when you think it might get old, Team Raycast throws out most of the mutants and mechas and goes full occult for its last stretch: a last stretch that leads up to a final battle in Hell with an old friend.
Now, Eisenfaust: Legacy isn’t without its flaws. That first handful of maps gets things off to a rough start, and map design overall isn’t exactly masterful. Often the mod’s levels are something of a labyrinthine mess, and for some reason Raycast uses the same wall textures throughout entire levels at times, so everything ends up looking identical. But gosh dang is it not a ludicrous amount of fun, a brilliant followup to the original games, and just such a lovable package.
For the love of Zombie Mecha Hitler, check this mod out. I’ll leave you, for now, with this blessed image of an adorable skeleton firing a mounted machine gun.