Review: “Dimension Of The Past” (Levels For “Quake”)

Well, since I was still in a “Quake” kind of mood, I thought that I’d check out a set of unofficial levels from 2016 called “Dimension Of The Past” that were made by a company called Machine Games to celebrate Quake’s 20th anniversary.

As usual, I used the “Darkplaces” source port whilst playing these levels. However, due to issues with either the source port and/or my computer, I had to lower the graphics settings to 16 bits per pixel in order to get a playable framerate. So, the quality of the graphics/textures in the screenshots in this review is probably slightly lower than the ones you’ll see if you play the game on normal (32 bit) settings.

So, let’s take a look at “Dimension Of The Past”:

“Dimension Of The Past” contains eleven levels for “Quake” – including an introductory level, a secret level (that I didn’t find) and a deathmatch level. These levels are “vanilla” levels that just contain the standard textures, monsters etc.. from the original game. Since the level set presents itself as a ‘fifth episode’ for the original game, then this decision makes a lot of sense.

One of the very first things that I will say about “Dimension Of The Past” is that it quickly goes from being ‘enjoyably challenging’ to ‘borderline unfair’ very quickly – even on normal difficulty! If it wasn’t for the fact that I’ve built up an attitude of dogged determination from playing quite a few ultra-challenging modern “Doom II” WADs over the past few years, then I’d have probably abandoned this level set out of frustration fairly early on.

Seriously, even this part of the second level will give you quite a challenge… and it’s easy compared to the later levels!

Seriously, don’t let the easy first level lull you into a false sense of security! Even though this level set has been made by a modern games company, it is anything but easy!

These levels do the usual “Doom II” WAD trick of throwing lots of mid-high level monsters at you regularly. But, whilst much stronger forms of this sort of creative unfairness can work really well in “Doom II”, it doesn’t always translate that well to “Quake” for a number of reasons.

The first reason is the “Quake” contains a much gloomier aesthetic than “Doom II” – as such, it can sometimes be difficult to see where to run to when you are besieged by monsters. The second reason is that “Quake” and “Doom II” have different weapons that handle differently. The third reason is that the movement speed in “Quake” is at least slightly different to that in “Doom II”. The fourth reason is that both games have different monsters that act (and attack) differently.

For example, there isn’t a proper “Doom II” equivalent of the fast-moving Fiends in “Quake” (the closest thing is possibly the weaker and slower pink “demon” creatures).

The borderline unfair difficulty in “Dimension Of The Past” is further compounded by the fact that many of the levels are at least slightly stingy when it comes to health and ammo. Whilst there is often just enough to get through each level, there are at least a few segments of “Dimension Of The Past” that feel more like an old survival horror game than a thrilling action game. In other words, you’ll probably have to flee from monsters sometimes.

Seriously, this part of the fourth level even looks a bit like something from a “Silent Hill” game!

Again, there are some amazing modern “Doom II” WADs out there that rely on the player not being able to fight literally every monster in order to create thrillingly fast-paced gameplay that almost seems more like a type of puzzle game than anything else. But, due to the age and visual style of the game, this sort of gameplay works better in “Doom II”. The cute cartoonish graphics, ludicrous movement speed, perfect weapon progression, simple monster AI and more well-balanced gameplay mechanics in “Doom II” mean that this type of gameplay becomes an thrilling abstract puzzle.

But, in a grimly gothic game like “Quake” – with very slightly more intelligent monsters and with different weapons, then even a relatively mild example of this type of gameplay just doesn’t feel as fun.

Likewise, the fact that it’s harder to dodge projectiles in “Quake” doesn’t help either.

This also has something to do with emotional tone too – in “Doom II” WADs, completing a brightly-coloured level containing 300+ cartoon monsters makes you feel like an expert gamer. Yet, thanks to it’s bleak emotional tone (that evokes feelings of vulnerability), completing one of these 20-75 monster “Quake” levels just feels like you’ve survived some kind of grim ordeal.

If this was “Doom II”, then this scene would involve gleefully fighting Hell Knights in a cartoonish corridor. But, it’s a bit more frantic and grim in “Quake”.

But, even just running away from monsters doesn’t work all of the time in “Dimension Of The Past”. The final level contains no less than six shamblers – all of whom have to be defeated in order to complete the level (four block your path, and a barrier in front of the exit won’t lower until the final two are defeated).

This wouldn’t be too bad if it wasn’t for the fact that the level also contains death knights, yores, scrags…. and barely enough health and ammo pickups! Seriously, unless you find a hidden quad damage early in the level and use it in the most efficient way possible, then you won’t even get to the final part of the level. And, when you get there, you’ll need to play very tactically until you finally, eventually get lucky and defeat the final two shamblers with whatever scant ammunition you have left.

Seriously, even though it is possible to get them to fight each other… don’t rely on it!

Again, this sort of hilariously extreme difficulty can work really well in “Doom II” WADs, but even relatively mild examples of it just don’t translate well to “Quake”.

The fact that ammo is so scarce that you occasionally have to resort to using the axe doesn’t help either!

Although “Dimension Of The Past” begins with a couple of sci-fi style levels, the majority of the level set is taken up with gloomy, gothic medieval-style levels. This creates a grim and foreboding atmosphere that is reinforced with a few fiendishly evil set pieces throughout the game – such as a fast-paced puzzle segment where you have to stop yourself from being crushed by finding two hidden switches within about 10-20 seconds.

Seriously, I even tried rocket jumping out of here a couple of times, before I finally realised you have to shoot two hidden switches!

The actual technical design of the levels is really good. Most of the levels are the kind of creative, non-linear levels that used to be standard in FPS games. You’ll be searching for keys, backtracking, opening doors elsewhere with switches etc.. As much as I might criticise the difficulty in these levels, I cannot really criticise the level design too much.

In fact, the only major criticism I have is that a hidden platform you need to jump onto in order to get to the ending of one level is quite literally shrouded in shadows and next to impossible to find (seriously, I was stuck for at least an hour before I discovered it!). Then again, this might be a byproduct of the 16 bit graphics setting I mentioned at the beginning of the review (since it tends to make the shadows a lot more solid).

Seriously, it took me at least an hour to work out that I was supposed to jump here!

However, one minor design quibble I have is that there’s no “ending” to this game – not even a small text screen. Once you finally, eventually beat the punishingly difficult final level, then you are… just taken straight back to the introductory level. In fact, since I hadn’t seen this level for a few days, I initially mistook it for a ninth level – before noticing the difficulty selection portals.

All in all, “Dimension Of The Past” is a set of technically well-made levels whose borderline unfair difficulty will heavily challenge even the most experienced retro FPS gamers. However, I just wish that this had been a “Doom II” WAD instead. A lot of the design tactics here would work really, really well in “Doom II” – but are somewhat ill-suited to “Quake”.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get three.

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Review: “Quake: Dissolution Of Eternity” (Expansion For “Quake”)

Well, after playing the amazing “Scourge Of Armagon” official expansion for “Quake”, I thought that I’d check out the other one. I am, of course, talking about Rogue Software’s “Dissolution Of Eternity” expansion from 1997.

Before I go any further, I should point out that I played “Dissolution Of Eternity” using the Darkplaces source port rather than the GL Quake source port supplied with the version of the game available on GOG. Not only was this because, after working perfectly exactly once, GL Quake then started crashing my computer every time I tried to play the game – but also because using Darkplaces allowed me to save hard drive space. Seriously, the download of “Quake” on GOG is a bloated 1.1 gigabytes in size!

Likewise, due to some problems with Darkplaces and/or my computer, I had to lower the texture quality to “16 bit” during the last couple of levels of “Dissolution Of Eternity” in order to maintain a playable framerate. So, if the textures in a couple of the screenshots in this review look slightly posterised, that’s why.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Dissolution Of Eternity”:

When you get here, choose the door on the right and don’t look back!

“Dissolution Of Eternity” contains 15 new levels (split into two episodes), new monsters, new textures, alternate ammo types and apparently new music too (but, again, I couldn’t get the music to work).

One of the very first things that I will say about “Dissolution Of Eternity” is that you shouldn’t judge it by the first episode. In fact, it’s probably best to skip the first episode altogether (and, yes, this expansion actually has a proper episode selection area) and just play the second one – because it is way better. But, more on that later.

The first episode, “Hell’s Fortress”, contains seven reasonably well-designed non-linear levels that contain challenging, fast-paced gameplay. However, this episode just lacks personality. It is drab, dull and dreary.

*Yawn*

Yes, the actual gameplay may contain a few really cool moments and E1M5 looks vaguely cool (in a gothic Lovecraftian kind of way) but, for the most part, this episode really isn’t anything that memorable – even down to the relatively weak boss fight at the end.

The fifth level of episode one is probably the best. I mean, there’s a reason why a demo of it plays in the background when you start the game.

And, yes, this electric pentagram in E1M4 looks cool – but this episode isn’t anything to write home about.

On the other hand, the second episode (“The Corridors Of Time”), is amazing!

Seriously, it contains all of the creativity and personality that the first episode lacks… and then some more. Not only are the levels in this episode longer, even more complex and slightly more challenging – but there’s loads more variety and creativity too. If you only play one episode, play the second one!

If you choose wisely when you start the game, then you should see THIS.

There are too many standout moments in episode two to mention. But, the best ones are probably the ancient ruined streets in part of E2M1, the amazing gothic ancient Egyptian setting of E2M4, the awesome Aztec-style settings in E2M6 and the epic boss battle (against a dragon!) in E2M8.

Thanks to the more complex level design and increased variety of interesting settings, this episode is an absolute joy to play 🙂

Since the background music didn’t work here, I supplied my own. Seriously, this Ancient Egypt level is even cooler with “Powerslave” by Iron Maiden playing in the background 🙂

And, yes, there’s an Aztec level too: )

And you get to slay a dragon too! Thankfully, this isn’t a “puzzle-based” boss. But, the battle is tough enough for a final boss battle 🙂

E2M4 is probably the best level in the episode, and it includes things like a giant temple to Osiris, Egyptian mummies, sarcophagi, complex mazes, smaller sphinx statues, smaller pyramids and even an excellent mini-boss segment. If you love classic Ancient Egypt-themed FPS games like “Exhumed“, “Killing Time” and “Serious Sam: The First Encounter“, then episode two is worth playing for this level alone 🙂

And, yes, there are even pyramids too 🙂

Another cool thing about the second episode is that, every level or two, you will have to fight several small mini-bosses. Near the end of many levels, a powerful ancient Greek/Babylonian/Egyptian-style giant (called a “Guardian”) will rise from the ground and attack you.

Not only is this guy a formidable foe, but if you retreat or hang around too long, he’ll start spawning weaker copies of himself too. Often, the portal at the end of the episode will only open when the “original” Guardian is killed. Not only does this add extra challenge to the game, but it also makes finishing each level feel like even more of an accomplishment:

And, yes, these battles can be wonderfully epic 🙂

The other new monsters in “Dissolution Of Eternity” are all reasonably good too. In addition to an ogre that fires a different type of grenade, there are also floating wraith creatures, electric eels, stone knights, lava mini bosses, stronger “Egyptian Mummy” versions of the zombies, a mini-boss version of the episode one boss and “invisible” swordsmen (fortunately, they aren’t completely invisible – there’s a floating sword and a light on the ground).

These new monsters help to add some extra challenge and variety to the gameplay. However, they don’t really seem to have the same level of uniqueness or “personality” as, say, the gremlin monsters from the “Scourge Of Armagon” expansion.

However, the zombie mummies are about as metal as you can get \m/

Instead of new weapons, “Dissolution Of Eternity” includes three new ammo types (“Lava nails”, “Multi-rockets” and “Plasma”). These basically serve as an “alternate fire” mode for many of the game’s weapons (and you can toggle between “standard” and “improved” ammo by pressing the weapon’s number key). Plus, there’s actually enough of this extra ammo scattered around the expansion for it to actually be useful in many of the game’s combat encounters.

Yes, this looks really cool… and you’ll actually get to use it semi-regularly too 🙂

The lava nails allow both nailguns to not only be more powerful, but also to carry extra ammo too. The multi-rockets allow the grenade launcher to fire cluster grenades (which look cool, but aren’t that useful practically) and the rocket launcher to launch a powerful barrage of four rockets (which is a lot more useful).

The plasma ammo for the lightning gun… didn’t work properly (on my computer, at least) and did nothing more than place a floating blob of plasma in front of the player.

All in all, about half of “Dissolution Of Eternity” is really brilliant (and the other half is fun, but a bit drab). Although this expansion contains lots of cool extra stuff and a decent number of challenging and enjoyable levels, it often doesn’t quite reach the level of personality and fun found in “Scourge Of Armagon”. Even so, the fourth and sixth levels of episode two are well worth playing though.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would just about get a four.

Why Creative Works Don’t Always Have To Make Sense – A Ramble

Although this is a rambling article about why some creative works can still be good even when they don’t make logical sense, I’m going to have to start by spending several paragraphs talking enthusiastically about playing an old computer game whilst listening to even older heavy metal music. There’s a good reason for this that will become obvious later.

Anyway, as regular readers of this site probably know, I’m going through a bit of a “Quake” phase at the moment. If you’ve never heard of this classic mid-late 1990s computer game before, it’s basically a gothic horror-themed action game where you fight lots of monsters. But, whilst playing yet another level of the game’s “Dissolution Of Eternity” expansion pack, I suddenly realised something…. this game makes no logical sense!

Seriously, you run through a series of random rooms and the game just throws lots of monsters at you. After a while, playing the game begins to take on a strange rhythm- like some kind of bizarre dance that ultimately doesn’t mean anything and is done purely for it’s own sake. For a while, I almost started to feel like I was wasting my time…

…But, then, I found myself in the middle of an ancient Egypt-themed level and my attitude suddenly changed.

This is a screenshot from E2M4 of “Quake: Dissolution Of Eternity” (1997) [an expansion for “Quake” (1996)]. This one level is amazing!

Almost instinctively, I paused the game for a second, went through my music collection and started playing an ancient Egypt-themed heavy metal song by Iron Maiden called “Powerslave” loudly in the background. Then I continued playing.

Iron Maiden’s music suddenly felt just as awesome as it did in the months after I first discovered the band during my early teens and “Quake” suddenly felt just as cool as it did when I’d previously played it during my childhood, my mid-late teens and my early-mid twenties. And I realised that I didn’t give a damn that this game’s story and premise made no sense whatsoever. It was just awesome fun for the sake of awesome fun.

So, what was the point of this? Well, it’s an illustrative example of how (and why) a creative work can still be enjoyable even when it doesn’t make perfect logical sense. “Quake” is just a game about shooting random monsters and “Powerslave” is a random song about ancient Egyptian gods, death, servitude and… pharaohs? I don’t know. But, the experience of playing “Quake” and/or listening to “Powerslave” is brilliant regardless.

These things are enjoyable because they have some underlying element that is enjoyable regardless of whether the rest of the work makes perfect logical sense. They evoke emotions. They provide an experience. They make you spontaneously play the air guitar. They look cool. I could go on for a while…

A good literary example of this kind of thing would be Poppy Z. Brite’s “Lost Souls”. This is a novel that is almost plotless, yet it is one of my favourite novels of all time purely because of things like the atmosphere, the narrative style, the characters and the general “attitude” of the book. On a purely story-based level, it shouldn’t be a great novel. But, thanks to all of this other stuff, it is an astonishingly great novel.

The same is true for art too. A painting or drawing doesn’t have to be 100% realistic or even a depiction of part of a logical story to be impressive. If the artist’s style, the composition, the lighting, the use of colour etc… is interesting enough, then the fact that the picture makes no logical sense or has no deeper meaning doesn’t matter because it is a demonstration of the artist’s technical skill and aesthetic sensibilities.

So, yes, creative works don’t “have” to make sense in order to be interesting or enjoyable. However, this only works if the creative work in question has some other underlying element that is inherently interesting, fun, evocative or fascinating.

————

Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Review: “Quake: Scourge Of Armagon” (Expansion for “Quake”)

Quake” is one of those games that I only ever seem to play every few years. I first played the shareware sometime in 1996-8, I played some of the full version in 2005 and I actually completed the full version in 2013.

Still, whilst looking on GOG a couple of weeks before I prepared this review, I noticed that a re-release of the game that included the two expansions (“Scourge Of Armagon” and “Dissolution Of Eternity”) was on special offer.

So, I thought that I’d return to “Quake” once again. And, since “Scourge Of Armagon” had the most cool-sounding title, it was the first expansion that I decided to play.

Before I go any further, I should point out that I played “Scourge Of Armagon” using the Darkplaces source port rather than the GL Quake source port supplied with the GOG version. Not only was this because, after working perfectly exactly once, GL Quake then started crashing my computer every time I tried to play the game – but also because using Darkplaces allowed me to save hard drive space. Seriously, the download of “Quake” on GOG was a bloated 1.1 gigabytes in size!

So, let’s take a look at “Scourge Of Armagon”:

Yay! Quake! It’s been way too long!

“Scourge Of Armagon” is an official third-party expansion (by Hipnotic) from 1997 that contains fourteen new levels (and three secret levels, although I only found one). In addition to this, it also contains new items, new monsters, new weapons and (apparently*) new music.

(*The music didn’t work in the version I played – I don’t know if this was because of the source port I used or the method I used to get “Scourge Of Armagon” to run. However, I vaguely remember some comments about the lack of music on the game’s GOG page too – so, it could possibly be a general issue with this version of the game. Likewise, since I wrote this review quite far in advance, I don’t know if it has been patched by now or not.)

The game’s story is fairly standard stuff – you play at the Ranger once again, who has to travel through a slipgate in order to defeat the forces of one of Quake’s generals called Armagon. In other words, it’s just an excuse to fight lots of monsters.

Seriously, I mean a lot of monsters!

Be sure to play the original “Quake” before you play “Scourge Of Armagon”!

Since this is an expansion, it is designed to be even more challenging than the original game was. So, it isn’t for new players! But, as thrillingly fun as these challenging new levels are – the difficulty curve is somewhat strange, since the final boss is ridiculously easy:

Seriously, I beat this guy on my second attempt. Despite the dramatic way that Armagon is introduced, this is just a “circlestrafe and hold the fire button down for a minute” type of boss fight!

One of the interesting things about “Scourge Of Armagon” is that it is split into three “episodes”. Although these episodes cannot be selected individually (and you’ll lose your weapons every 5-6 levels or so), this structure allows the game to contain a surprising amount of variety.

Most notably, the first “episode” is a sci-fi themed episode that obviously takes a lot of influence from the then-upcoming “Quake II” – this episode is also filled with grunts, enforcers, zombie dogs and robot scorpions.

It’s been a few years since I played “Quake II”, but I’m pretty sure this is a Strogg logo… in “Quake 1”!

This episode also includes a rather creative level that is set in an underground mine – featuring an “Indiana Jones”-style boulder segment, some cool-looking outdoor areas, some impressive machinery etc…

The other two episodes mostly consist of the kind of classic gothic medieval Lovecraftian horror type levels that will be instantly familiar to fans of the original game. Plus, the third episode starts with a level that reminded me a bit of an ‘evil’ version of “Riven” too 🙂

Seriously, it’s almost like “Riven” but with guns and monsters!

One interesting thing here is that some parts of the second episode are more gothic than usual. One stand-out level here is called “The Crypt” and it features ominous lightning, zombie-filled coffins and all of that kind of stuff 🙂

There’s also some really awesome lighting in this level too 🙂

The level design is mostly really good, with some creative touches throughout the expansion. Most of the levels are the kind of challenging, non-linear things that you would expect from a classic FPS game. But, there are some interesting variations too.

For example, one level called “The Gauntlet” deliberately tries to be more linear than usual in order to create a ‘gauntlet’-like experience.

*Sigh* Remember when linear FPS game levels were actually a rare and amusing novelty?

Likewise, since I’m more of a “Doom” fan than a “Quake” fan, it was surprisingly cool when I saw this in another level:

Yes, the ending to level eight (?) looks a little bit like something from “Doom” 🙂

However, part of the seventh (?) level is somewhat badly-designed. Basically, unless you know some of the tricks that only experienced “Quake” players (and retro FPS gamers in general) know, you’ll get totally and utterly stuck.

Seriously, it was only after wandering around the level about five times that I finally realised that you were supposed to bypass a locked door by standing on top of a small raised area and rocket jumping through a hole in the ceiling.

Unless you’re an avid FPS gamer who knows how to rocket jump, you’ll get totally and utterly stuck on this level!

The new items, weapons and monsters are really cool too. The new monsters consist of formidable robotic scorpions, really annoying floating grenade creatures and, best of all, the gremlins.

These adorable little critters will scamper around and try to steal your weapons. They also make really adorable squeaking sounds and look a bit like cute little green versions of the “Fiend” monster…. which will probably make you feel bad when you inevitably blast them into smithereens with your shotgun.

Plus, they’re almost certainly also a reference to an amazing Christmas movie from the 1980s too 🙂

The new weapons are mostly good. The laser gun is a powerful and useful rapid-fire weapon, whose projectiles will also bounce off of walls too. Likewise, the proximity mine launcher can actually come in really handy sometimes (seriously, there’s one segment where you can use it to defeat a shambler just by firing prox mines through a hole in a nearby door).

The other new weapon is none other than Mjolnir, the hammer of Thor! This mythological weapon can either be used as a simple club or it can shoot sparks at nearby enemies when swung at the ground. However, you probably won’t use this souped-up crochet mallet that often – since it’s often more practical to just use the other weapons.

Pictured: One of about three times that I actually used Mjolnir.

As for the new items, they’re really good too. In addition to a scuba suit and a new type of shield (the “Empathy shield”), the stand-out item is the Horn of Conjuring! This amazing item will summon a random “friendly” monster who will follow you around and help you out. Although the monster’s AI can be a little bit clunky, there is nothing more awesome than having a pet Fiend or a pet Shambler at your side during a fight!

Awww! It’s a pet fiend 🙂 Isn’t he adorable!

All in all, “Scource Of Armagon” is a fun set of enjoyably challenging “Quake” levels with some interesting (if infrequently frustrating) level design. Most of the cool new stuff added to the game works really well too. In addition to this, the expansion neither feels too short nor too long and it will provide at least a few hours of thrillingly challenging 1990s FPS fun 🙂

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get four and a half.

Review: “Quakedoom” (WAD For “Doom 2″/”GZDoom”)

2014 Artwork Quakedoom review sketch

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve reviewed any “Doom” WADs, so I thought that I’d take a look at one that I discovered a few weeks ago called “Quakedoom“. I played this WAD using the “GZDoom” source port, although it’ll probably work with other modern source ports too.

Screenshot_Doom_20140812_002333

As the name suggests, “Quakedoom” is a “Doom II” WAD featuring graphics and sounds from ID Software’s “Quake” games (which were, in many ways, the spiritual successor to ID’s “Doom” games). In addition to this, “Quakedoom” also features a few new levels too – but more on that later.

The first thing I will say about this WAD is that it’s kind of a strange combination of the first two “Quake” games and it features enemies, background graphics, a couple of weapons and one level from the original “Quake”.

Yay! Nostalgia :)

Yay! Nostalgia 🙂

But, at the same time, the bulk of the weapons, some of the background graphics and quite a few of the enemies have also been taken from “Quake II” too.

Yay! More nostalgia :)

Yay! More nostalgia 🙂

Although these two games are about as different as you can imagine – the first is a Lovecraftian horror FPS game and the second is a dystopic sci-fi/horror FPS game – the elements from both games (and a few things from “Doom II” too) come together surprisingly well in this WAD.

But, on balance, the design in “Quakedoom” leans a lot more towards the sci-fi elements of these games and this WAD most closely resembles “Quake II”.

As for the enemies, the sprite and sound replacements are surprisingly good – and many of the enemies act and sound quite similar to their counterparts in the “Quake” games.

Some of these replacements are absolutely genius – for example, the pink “demon” enemies from “Doom” have been replaced by the “fiend” enemies from “Quake”:

...Who are just as ...er.. Fiendish as ever!

…Who are just as …er.. Fiendish as ever!

However, since the “zombie” enemies from “Quake” replace the imps from “Doom II”, they are significantly weaker and much less resilient than they were in “Quake”.

Yes, THESE zombies won't just get up again after you shoot them....

Yes, THESE zombies won’t just get up again after you shoot them….

The only real exception to these changes are the “arachnotron” enemies, whose sprites and sounds remain completely unchanged from the ones in “Doom II” – but, since you only encounter a few of them in this WAD, this isn’t a huge issue.

As for the levels in this WAD, they’re kind of a mixed bag. One of the first things I will say is that this WAD seems slightly unfinished and, after level thirteen, you’ll encounter nothing but the standard “Doom II” levels.

Not only that, it is also impossible to progress past both levels twelve and thirteen without using cheats, for different reasons:

The transporter at the end of level twelve doesn't work.....

The transporter at the end of level twelve doesn’t work…..

...and there's no red door anywhere in level thirteen.

…and there’s no red door anywhere in level thirteen.

But, this aside, the rest of the levels are surprisingly good – although a couple of them are just standard “Doom”/”Doom II” levels, most of them are new and they are reasonably well-designed.

Yes, they won’t provide too much of a challenge to a seasoned “Doom” player, but they’re far from easy either – the difficulty curve in this WAD is reasonably fair and the levels get gradually more challenging as the WAD progresses.

The best level design in “Quakedoom” can be found in a wonderfully atmospheric gothic hall that you will encounter about halfway through the WAD, if I remember rightly.

Although it’s only a small part of the level (and parts of it are clearly inspired by “Hexen”), it looks absolutely amazing and I wish that it had appeared more often in this WAD.

Seriously, more WADs need settings like THIS! :)

Seriously, more WADs need settings like THIS! 🙂

Another interesting thing about “Quakedoom” is that it was obviously designed by a Metallica fan – since there are various Metallica album covers scattered throughout the game:

...Either that, or it's one of the worst cases of product placement I've ever seen in a game LOL!

…Either that, or it’s one of the worst cases of product placement I’ve ever seen in a game LOL!

Whilst this is kind of cool, and whilst “Doom” is probably the most metal game ever to be created (hell, the famous “E1M1” music was inspired by the title track from Judas Priest’s best album), these Metallica posters come across as slightly random and they also detract slightly from the atmosphere of the game too.

Yes, it would have been cool if just one of them had been included as an easter egg, but I noticed at least twelve of them in prominent positions throughout the WAD.

All in all, despite the faults that I’ve mentioned, “Quakedoom” is still an extremely entertaining WAD that is reasonably faithful to the source material. If you’re an experienced “Doom” player, you can probably complete it in an hour or two – but you’ll have a hell of a lot of fun in the process.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, then it would probably get three and a half.

Review: “Quake” (Computer Game)

I’m sure that there probably isn’t a single FPS gamer over about the age of twenty who hasn’t played “Quake”. ID Software’s 1996 First Person Shooter game stands the test of time well and it deserves it’s place amongst the pantheon of important and influential computer games. Anyway, since I finished re-playing it a while ago, I thought that I’d write a review of it on the off-chance that someone, somewhere has yet to discover this brilliantly fun piece of gaming history.

The storyline of “Quake” is fairly basic – legions of evil creatures (led by a H.P.Lovecraft-inspired creature called Shub-Niggurath) have taken over the Earth and it is up to you, an unnamed space marine, to both vanquish them from the Earth and to fight them in their own domain. In order to reach Shub-Niggurath’s lair, you must travel through four episodes and collect a rune at the end of each one.

Interestingly, you can play these four episodes in whichever order you like – although they get progressively more difficult if you play them in the “right” order. One of the very first things you will notice about “Quake” are the extremely innovative difficulty selection and episode selection areas. Yes, you heard me right – areas.

Rather than a couple of simple menus, you actually have to walk through several portals in a fairly ominous hub-like level just to start the game – this really adds a lot of atmosphere and immersion to the game and I’m honestly surprised that this format wasn’t widely copied by other FPS games in the 90s.

Interestingly and infamously, the portal for the hardest difficulty setting (“Nightmare”) is actually hidden in the area for the fourth episode. Getting to it can be slightly tricky (since you have to fall through the water in exactly the right position), but there are plenty of guides on the internet which will help you to find it.

In terms of gameplay, “Quake” is pretty much a spiritual sequel to ID Software’s slightly more iconic 1990s “Doom” games. Many of the weapons in “Quake” are fairly similar to the weapons in “Doom” and you’ll even see a picture of your character’s face on the HUD too (which, like in “Doom”, will get progressively more bloody if you are injured).

The only major difference is that, unlike “Doom”, “Quake” actually uses proper 3D graphics rather than the “2.5D” graphics used in the “Doom” games. As such, you can actually jump, swim and do all the things you would expect to do in a FPS game in “Quake”.

For a game made in 1996, the 3D graphics in “Quake” look amazing. Although a couple of of the enemies look slightly blocky, most of them still look menacingly creepy (especially the Vore, Fiend and Shambler [ok, on second thoughts, the Fiend looks cool, but not really that creepy]) and well-designed. Not only that, all of the settings in the game still look convincingly Lovecraftian, gothic and gloomy seventeen years after the game was made – which, when you think about it, is one hell of an achievement.

The level design in “Quake” is amazingly good and, like in “Doom”, you’ll usually have to explore each level and find a couple of keys before you can progress to the next level. Not only that, but every level also has a wonderfully gothic name too (my favourite level names are probably “Satan’s Dark Delight”, “The Crypt Of Decay”, “The Wizard’s Manse” and “Gloom Keep”).

Interestingly, many of the levels in “Quake” take place inside old castles, underground caverns and the occasional occupied base on Earth and, as such, the game has an incredibly gloomy and claustrophobic feel to it most of the time. In any other game, this could get annoying, but somehow “Quake” manages to use this to it’s advantage.

Not only that, some levels have hidden traps which can catch you by surprise if you aren’t careful (as well as the standard hidden enemies which appear when you pick up something important) and there are also a few secret areas in each level too. Plus, the ammo boxes for the nailguns all feature the “Nine Inch Nails” logo too (since the music in this game was composed by Trent Reznor).

If you’re playing “Quake” on a modern computer, then you will probably need to use a source port – there are quite a few out there, but the one I used was one called Darkplaces.

All in all, “Quake” is still a spooky, action-packed, innovative and atmospheric game – even by modern standards. If you’re playing a modern FPS game, then there’s a good chance that at least some part of it has been inspired by “Quake”. As I said earlier, you’ve almost certainly played this game already. But, if you haven’t, then be sure to get a copy of it as soon as you can.

If I had to give “Quake” a rating out of five, then it would get a six.