DLC Review: Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter – Legend of the Beast
This title is DLC for Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter
The period around Serious Sam 3 is really starting to feel like the Dark Ages of the Serious franchise. Hot on the heels of 3’s bizarrely grounded shift for the series, Croteam elected to return to The Second Encounter with DLC, of all things. This should be cause for celebration, with TSE being the current pinnacle of Samdom. But somehow, this DLC for the best of all the Sam games makes all the worst mistakes its contemporary does, now in a retro setting. I can’t fathom how Croteam misunderstood the assignment so badly, but Legend of the Beast barely feels like part of the series at all. Between the paltry arsenal, misbalanced encounters, and disappointing level design, I’m not sure I’ve ever had so little fun with Serious Sam.
Sam’s back in ancient Egypt! Why? Because Croteam had three cut levels from The First Encounter laying around, and figured they’d be good for something! They were, of course, wrong, but we’ll get to that. The only plot you’ll get for Legend of the Beast is that there’s some legendary beast lurking in Egypt, and you’re in the neighborhood, so why not kill it if you happen across it? This bite-sized quest plays out over three levels of varying size and scope, with the first one being rather short and the other two sprawling practically out of control, culminating in an admittedly interesting boss for the series. Getting there is no cake walk, naturally, as Mental’s minions will be swarming over everything to ensure Sam never lives to see another sequel.
I actually started playing this one as a break from Serious Sam 3, to escape its grim early areas with some classic TSE action. The first level of Legend of the Beast starts you off with some good old-fashioned yard clearing, pitting you against headless footsoldiers, kamikazes, and scorpion gunners. They’re dense fights, with foes coming from all directions, just the kind of challenge you’d expect from mid-game Serious Sam.
Here, you’re expected to take this all on with your pistol.
Not pistols, pistol. Your reward for surviving dozens of charging enemies and hitscanning gunners is a second Colt, and an ambush of the same enemies. You don’t get a new weapon until the end of the level, and it’s the regular shotgun…you know, the one you never use because Serious Sam games are balanced around the coach gun. The second level has some protracted fights between you and your next new weapon…the chainsaw. Later in the level, they deign to grant you the double-barreled coach gun, and near the end, you finally get the tommy gun. Understand that all this time, you’re fending off dozens of kleers, kamikazes, and gnaar, while the challenges also ramp up with the big guys that launch rockets and green homing fireballs. All before you get the guns that the original games balanced these enemies around!
This is what I mean about Croteam misunderstanding the assignment. The Second Encounter gives you your pistols, the chainsaw, both shotguns, a rocket launcher, sniper rifle, AND flamethrower all within the first ten minutes. That’s the fun of Serious Sam, having a arsenal bursting with possibilities to blast through crazy battles with. They remembered the crazy battles here, but they forgot to give you the guns to get through them. Even the item pickups are anemic, with +10 health vials and +5 armor helmets being your reward for scouring areas. In the second level, there’s a side path that terminates in a shrine with a +25 armor pickup, the kind that TSE sprinkled all over like candy. Picking it up triggers a huge fight with gnaars, kleers, and kamikazes that will almost surely leave you poorer for engaging. The entire DLC is balanced like some kind of survival horror joint, keeping you low on weapons, ammo, and healing the whole way through.
Disappointing, frustrating combat is more than enough to damn any attempt at a Serious Sam game, but there’s more. The three levels, while interesting enough architecturally, don’t really offer anything memorable in terms of encounters, spectacles, or secrets. The goofy secrets of TSE in particular are conspicuously absent here, with most of your rewards just being some extra healing or armor. There are some uncomfortably narrow hallways, some arenas that aren’t big enough for the enemies dropped into them, and some horrendous backtracking in the middle level. With nothing notable beyond the unique boss at the end, there’s really no reason at all to even give this one a shot. Legend of the Beast is a gross misunderstanding of Serious Sam’s appeal, made all the more apparent by being bolted onto the best game in the series.