Doom And A Pseudo Power Fantasy
At times, Doom can be hard. Don't get me wrong, Doom isn't an inherently tough game and cant be compared to something like the Dark Souls series or even stuff like Celeste. The game isn't designed to be a challenging experience for the player to push or in this case shoot their way through. Doom is designed to be a balls-to-the-walls first-person shooter with fast and brutal action. Instead of being a difficult game, Doom makes the player feel stronger than they actually are, creating a pseudo power fantasy.
The first piece to this puzzle is the lack of health bars for enemies. Since Doom isn't an RPG and doesn't incorporate RPG elements into its gameplay and progression loop, the lack of a health bar certainly isn't a mystery. With no stat-based damage for each weapon and no method for the player to increase the power of each gun (apart from mods but those don't inherently change the gun's stats inside code), an enemies health bar can't be whittled down by slowly removing set numbers and values from it based on a gun's stats.
One might think that this lack of a health bar actually makes the player feel like they have less power and are inferior to the enemies due to the player not knowing how much damage they are doing and if an enemy doesn't fall quickly enough, they will start to panic and get the feeling that whatever they are doing doesn't work. But Doom's enemy design and overall gameplay design works in tandem with this to actually make the lack of health bar create a feeling of power and superiority.
Almost all the enemies that you face in Doom are designed to not be bullet sponges. This means that you won't have to shoot an enemy for 5 minutes to finally kill them. This makes the lack of a health bar acceptable and more justifiable since the player seldom feels like they aren't doing any damage because enemies don't take that long to kill.
Furthermore, Doom's combat philosophy places a large emphasis on movement and speed. This means that a player isn't facing off against one enemy for too long and switches between multiple foes as they navigate the battlespace in an attempt to stay alive. This ensures that the player isn't too focused on that one larger enemy that is taking some time to kill, having to instead move around and then returning to it after probably taking out a few smaller and menial Imps. This means that once they return, they feel like the cycle of killing the enemy has started again when in reality the enemy is already half dead. This results in the player being able to finish off the enemy rather quickly, creating a false sense of power, all due to the simple lack of a health bar for enemies.
The second piece to the puzzle that ensures a pseudo-power fantasy in Doom comes from the rather clever glory-kill mechanic. This is an action that can be used once an enemy is staggered, indicated by the enemy in question glowing blue or golden. Once this has happened, the player can approach the enemy and perform a melee attack. But unlike normal melee attacks, this one triggers a short animation of Doomguy brutally finishing off the enemy, but more importantly to this conversation, it drops health.
Now one might ask, "So what if they drop health? What makes this so special?". In Doom's case, it's the fact that this makes the player feel stronger once they take out an enemy, especially if they are currently running low on health. Imagine a standard room in Doom where you are tasked with clearing out a group of demons. You take out a few of them but the stronger enemies lead to you being low on health. Time is of the essence now because you are probably going to die soon. You proceed to take out an obligatory enemy before accepting your doomed fate. Instead, the game showers you with health after performing what you thought would be your last glory-kill.
The tide of battle is flipped on its head. The player is now back up and running. Burning with vengeance and adrenaline from surviving the near-fatal situation that took just place, they proceed to steamroll every single enemy in sight. They start to feel like they are the most powerful man or woman in town. They start to feel stronger than they actually are.
The final piece of this elaborate pseudo power fantasy puzzle can be summed up with two iconic words in the Doom franchise, "Rip and Tear!". Doom guy is extremely visceral and brutal in the way he goes about dismembering demons and this translates into the psychology of the player. Due to the first-person perspective, it's as if the player themselves are the ones performing these incredible feats of strength. This would have miserably failed in a third-person camera perspective as the player would have clearly been able to see the character that they were controlling be the one performing these moves.
This carries on to the simpler actions that the player performs throughout the game. Doomguy doesn't just open doors and click buttons, he kicks down doors and punches buttons to the point where they crack. The demeanour in which Doomguy carries himself around creates an aura of strength and invincibility, something that normally belongs to a muscular demon slayer. Which is exactly what the player is in this game.
Doom isn't overly frustrating in terms of difficulty, but it isn't a cakewalk either. About six and half hours into the game's campaign, I've come across particular fights that took me multiple attempts to complete. "Go to hell Summoner 1 and whoever decided that you belong in this game". Doom and id Software twisted and turned the game's gameplay mechanics to create a pseudo power fantasy so that playing Doom feels less like a doomed endeavour, and you more like a badass.