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.
It dives into the
action faster than Scourge. There’s no warm-up techbase to get you
started. You’re thrown straight into one of two episodes: a mainly
medieval fortress, or a time travel themed episode. Episode 2 is the
more interesting of the two, with a much greater diversity of levels
offered by its’ theme.
Monster placement is suspect: shamblers
in clear rooms, fiends in tight corridors, and ‘let’s spawn a scrag in
front of that wind tunnel just as you jump in, so you fall into the lava
and die’). The new weapons are minimum effort re-skins and lack oomph
but they do make combat feel faster and more exciting.
The new monsters are introduced slowly. Some of the design choices strike me as baffling.
Who thought it was a good idea to make a Spawn the same colour as the wall textures?
I wish I could just click my fingers…
Dissolution is marred by designs like that. Slip ups that make some sections far more frustrating than they should be.
“Well-coordinated and heavily armed group of eldritch abominations beaten by a ranger with the genre’s weakest shotgun and a grenade launcher with 14 foot max range.”
This morning I finished my Scourge of Armagon run.
Scourge of Armagon
is good fun and worth playing after finishing the ‘main’ campaign of
Quake, but I don’t think it was worth full asking price. The new ideas
are forgettable and (most) of the levels indistinct. I like the idea of
Ranger (and possibly his homeworld?) continuing the war against ‘Quake’
which now seems to be the codename for all the Lovecraftian entities
that want to attack Earth.
Scourge doesn’t seem to have had a
lasting impact on Quake multiplayer, and its’ new features and weapons
aren’t found in later Quake mods. It has this feeling of not being
‘canon’ as it introduced nothing iconic, and I doubt Id Software will
ever care to reference it.
It’s just a new set of levels with a
couple of new weapons, some new power-ups and a very small amount of
new enemies. The new laser gun is great, and much preferred over the
charge-eating lightning gun, while mjölnir
went largely unused.
It starts fairly strong but the levels
started to feel bland by the halfway point. They’re all fairly well put
together but progression feels disjointed, even for Quake. Armagon
having 0 personality and impact certainly doesn’t help things. He’s just
an enemy fought in the last level (even Shub had some text at the end
of each episode). There’s no sense of an evil plan, no feeling that
you’ve invaded his home. The boss fight against Armagon himself is
pretty lame; I had him dead in about half a minute.
levels feel samey. There is a noticeable overuse of Vores – while it is
nice that the designers wanted to escalate Quake’s challenge, the lack
of a new high-tier monster on the level of the Shambler / Vore hurts the
Scourge of Armagon is a competently put together
expansion pack, but it is just a retreading. Good but forgettable. More
Quake is always nice though.
Time for Dissolution of Eternity. Widely said to be the inferior expansion but which seems to get remembered more.
Arcane Dimensions is a single player mod for Quake which is frankly astounding. It massively expands the game with enormous, technically impressive levels and is just all-around an amazing experience. It’s a must play.
Below are screengrabs showing a first pass at my next rulebook FRAG. FRAG is a simple d6 based wargame where squads of FPS heroes fight hordes of monsters. The artwork is just stuff found online and added to look pretty for my gaming group, so I’ll be looking for commissioned pieces of art closer to final release.
Current armies are: Space Marines, Hell, and the Old Ones. The Old One list is only half-done, and the list is already so huge it’ll probably end up pruned or split off.
Work on the system is ongoing. Future updates will add The Order (Heretic/Hexen) and the SS Paranormal Division. I also want to make a list of themed NPC-type characters who live on the worlds each faction visits, like cops/guards/WW2 GIs, etc.
I run Mutant Chronicles tabletop campaign. Sometimes I write things for it. Sometimes I make new monsters for it. About six months ago I replayed Quake 1 for the first time in years, and a new threat for my players was born.
Vorare (Elite) A tri-legged spideresque horror. Drawn from arcane dimensions, they are parasites that feed on raw Dark Symmetry flowing from enslaved universes– though some inhabitants of those haunted realms claim they are birthed from the Empress of the Void herself. They are sometimes summoned by the greatest scholars of the Dark Symmetry to serve as eldritch guardians.
Not just the gameplay (which is fast and fluid, with a healthy roster of distinct enemies), not just the graphics (aged but still effective) but the atmosphere. Quake has some of the best atmosphere I’ve ever heard. Heard is the word – the lighting and the theme of the graphics are part of this, but it’s the sound and music design of Quake that really make it shine.
Everybody likes to talk about Quake’s multiplayer, but I’m not that interested in Quake as a multiplayer franchise. It’s fun, but for me the real high point of Quake is in the single player. There’s simply no other game quite like it. We have a lot of brown shooters, but there’s only one Quake.
You’re a sci-fi military soldier, from some kind of brutalist retro-futuristic Earth, making his way through countless arcane dimensions and fighting against evil eldritch monsters. The worlds you visit are bleak, dark and very hostile . You are constantly made to feel like an intruder in a strange and darkly oppressive place, waiting for the next eyeless abomination to jump out from the shadows or teleport into the room with a distinct PING sound
through Quake’s E4M2, with the lighting set just right and the sound
turned up, was one of the best and most memorable shooting experiences I
had last year.
The thought of a modern Quake reboot going back to the series’ dark fantasy Lovecraftian roots is tantalizing, though I wonder if it would be possible in today’s market. You never know though – Doom 2016 happened
Until then – get a sourceport, get the files, and play some Quake.
I can get quite anal about texture alignment in levels, so it’s nice to spot even minor errors in the commercial Id games. Quake’s e2m1 has a fairly infamous misaligned wall, but Doom and Quake both have lots of tiny, barely noticeable instances of textures misaligned or cut off due to awkwardly sized or sloped rooms.