Originally conceived as a gothic take on Doom’s hellish setting, Quake has since transformed into the granddaddy of online arena shooters. Quake III Arena is perhaps the most fondly remembered entry in the series, becoming the go-to place for online shooters in 1999 – Unreal Tournament fans may disagree. The landscape has drastically changed since then, to the point that id Software’s Quake Champions actually takes ideas originally found within Overwatch. I got to try out the recent beta and while I like the game, I have concerns going forward.
Quake Champions retains the gothic aesthetic the series is known for, with the three maps that were available each having a distinct theme. They generally look fantastic and are full of nooks and crannies where power ups such as Quad Damage and weapons can be found. It doesn’t do anything completely special, but they’re serviceable enough for the game types on offer.
Shooting feels just like Quake III Arena ever did, but a new twist is that your starting weapons are actually weaker versions of the shotgun, machine gun, or chain gun. In addition to finding more powerful versions in the map, you’ll also find more skill orientated weapons such as the rocket launcher, railgun, and the lightning gun that shoots a concentrated bolt of electricity to shock foes.
Where things vary significantly from the Quake of old is with the Champions’ abilities. They all have an abilities on a timer, as well as always-on abilities such as Slash being able to slide if you press the crouch key during a jump, or Sorlag being able to move faster by bunny hopping in addition to being immune to venom that was spewed as an activated ability. With different maximum health and armour per character, this goes a long way to making them feel unique.
As for which active abilities are the best, they’re certainly situational. My current favourite is Nyx who can wall jump, but also phase in and out of reality if under pressure. Slash is also pretty good at retreating as she can lay a stream that deals damage to enemies that walk into it and can be detonated remotely. Galena’s totems can heal allies and explode on enemies, with her ability cooldown being affected by healing items on the field.
Others take some skill to use, such as Visor’s vision to pinpoint opponents or Scalebearer’s charge, but in the right hands and in the right situation, any character can be effective. While Clutch’s shield is rather inconsequential when used in Deathmatches, it can prove a godsend while defending a point in Salvage.
So far, so Overwatch with id Software clothing, but the real issue I foresee going forward is the uninspired list of game modes. Four of the six game modes have been revealed, with Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch being exactly how you’d imagine them. Salvage is essentially capture the flag with point defence over two rounds, the first to score three points wins the round. Not exactly the most inspired choice, though being able to throw the skull around is a nice touch.
Duel on paper sounds more compelling. You are pitted against one person, then take it in turns to draft three champions. One player will get to pick first, then the second picks two, the first player picks two more, and the second player picks the final one. These three champions can be the same ones, oddly enough, which does take away some of the drama.
You then fight 1v1 in the same arenas, with each character having one life. First to three kills wins the round, with a match being a best out of three rounds scenario. It’s surprisingly compelling, taking some inspiration from MOBAs, but perhaps with a few more champions than the ones currently on offer this could expand to include more players and more restrictions on player choice.
With two modes yet to be revealed, I’m curious if they can step up their game with more interesting game types or will stick with the tried and tested. This is largely what, if you’ll forgive the pun, doomed Doom. Without unique game types to support the solid foundation provided by the champions, there will be little to take players away from its competitors. We’ve seen id Software innovate before and I sincerely hope they can innovate once more.
Yet despite the clear effort that has gone into Quake Champions, one element I’m glad they’ve decided to do is to have a fully paid version of the game as well as the free-to-play version. Much like Overwatch, you can unlock chests via levelling up or spending in-game currency accumulated during fights, though there’s also premium currency and currency generated via selling loot.
When I began Quake Champions, only one character was unlocked for me to use: Ranger. Everyone else turned up either via renting the characters for 24 hours using in-game currency or obtaining them from chests. Eventually as the beta period ran, all the characters became usable, a move I sincerely hope means that they’re adopting a similar, consumer friendly approach to what Overwatch did by having all champions unlocked from the start, even new ones.
There’s still a while between now and the release of Quake Champions. Its success depends on the two game types yet to have been revealed and future champions doing interesting things. If it manages this, the fans of Quake III Arena will have something fresh and exciting, yet familiar and nostalgic.