It’s Quake time. Quake doesn’t get huge amounts of attention anymore, but it has an active community still making content for it.
Quake modding used to be about strikingly different total conversions / mods (Air Quake, QuakeRally, Fantasy Quake, Horrorshow Quake, Special Forces Quake), but nowadays it is more focused on providing an enhanced and refined Quake-style gameplay within the original Quake universe. Quake+. The bleeding edge of Quake modding is Quake gameplay in hugely expanded and often breath-takingly beautiful worlds, often with new enemies. Arcane Dimensions is the most visible of these.
Then are more vanilla offerings that provide a classic experience – meaning no new monsters, no changes to weapon or monster behaviour, no complex scripting and minimal or no use of new textures. Masque of the Red Death by Tronyn is one of those. It’s a mostly vanilla offering sticking closely to the design of the original Quake, just larger and far more action packed than the original levels.
Masque of the Red Death opens with a desperate battle against huge numbers of knights, death knights, fiends and scrags. The beginning is one of the hardest sections and if you’re not a master of monster infighting the fight is almost unwinnable. It gets easier as you pick up new weapons but the battles against huge numbers of monsters carry on throughout the level. The architecture is impressive but vanilla. It doesn’t make you wonder whether you’re playing a next gen game in the way that limit-breaking ‘Quake+’ levels do. It’s most definitely a Quake level.
I found the fights enjoyable for the most part. The level gives you a clear goal – get the rune to the door to leave – and a clear sense of progression – fight your way up the tower to get the rune. What I didn’t enjoy was how the large monster hit boxes restricted movement and made the combat in tighter spaces more of a chore, particularly the fight against the knights along the battlements.
The number of monsters really felt incredible, but I managed to win most of the battles first time. Ammo was tight in a few spaces but I almost always had what I needed to progress, even though I only managed to find 1 out of 8 secrets on my first play-through.
Masque of the Red Death is certainly worth a try. It’s an intense experience with a satisfying sense of progression.