Quake Champions Review
Pros: Fast-paced combat, multiple characters, detailed map environments, truly free to play
Cons: Fast-paced combat isn’t for everyone, low number of maps and modes, Champions don’t seem diverse, no test area or tutorial to learn the ropes
We were able to check out the closed beta of ID Software’s new FPS title Quake Champions recently, the game went into a free to apply instant access closed beta for a few days for players to check out and we snagged ourselves a beta key to see what was going on in the game. A follow on from the original Quake titles, first launched in 1996 (yeh… just over twenty years ago before most of you were born…) the original game helped pave the way for the first multiplayer First Person Shooters and was infamous for its fast gameplay and brutal skill requirements. Well, it looks like the team are at it again with Quake Champions and look to revive the franchise, with the last Quake game being Quake 4 in 2005, but focusing more on its own predecessor Quake 3: Arena (1999), which cut the single-player story element and focused specifically on the arena based combat.
We got a bit of a shaky start with the game, once we’d patched and logged in we sat looking at a loading screen for five minutes; prompting us to close it, retry, close it, retry and then finally hit the forums to find out what the hell was up. There’s literally just a long loading time (but no bar so it looked like the game had froze) and was a source of many complaint threads; given the small pool of Champions, maps and modes, we can only attribute to the high graphical setting options and higher game performance with its unlocked framerate and ability to run at 120hz all contributing to this poor loading speed.
Loading in the game did look pretty good, we imagine it looks a lot better but with our Radeon HD 7800 it seems we are slowly falling behind the times as it was nowhere near powerful enough to play in the High or Ultra settings (and with the fast pace of the game you can’t afford it to look stunning but a little slower). The maps were pretty huge and consisted of multiple key areas, choke points, various levels and a variety of jump pads and teleporters to traverse them all; as large as the maps were though given how quickly you zip around them it doesn’t take long to check it all out, we will say that the developers have made a perfect balance for the map size – character speed, it doesn’t feel so big that you’re running around looking for people, but being able to get about doesn’t feel like you’re all boxed in. The settings are all themed places of worship for the various gods in the Quake universe, taking on the form of an Aztec style overgrown temple, huge Gothic cathedral and a crumbling tomb beneath a volcano that is succumbing to lava. That said, there is only three of them.
There are currently four available game modes, Team Deathmatch, Deathmatch, Duel (1v1) and the newest game Sacrifice which combines capture the flag and point defense where you must pick up a single “Soul” that both teams are fighting for, then bring it to one of two different obelisks and keep it there for a period of time. Combining this with the small map pool it doesn’t take long before the matches start to feel a little bit samey and we were craning for a bit more variety. That said, it was handy being on the same maps a few times because it allowed us to work out the layout (of a fashion) and remember where most of the powerful weapons were hidden, such as the rocket launcher, railgun and lightning gun, as well as the various health and armor powerups, and the legendary Quad Damage spawn point that… well… quadruples your damage. However, this being handy is only because the game lacks any map, tutorial or AI mode to try and get familiar with the levels, mechanics and your own Champions and so you pretty much learn as you play against other players.
The Champions are one way in which some variety is added, currently a pool of 9 playable characters that each have a unique skill with the initial “Ranger” character being the free starter character everyone has access to (he’s the main lost marine character from DOOM and the early Quake games). The other characters can either be purchased with premium currency, through the Champion Bundle to get access to all the characters, or hired for 24 hours by spending Favor, which is earned simply through playing the game. The amount of Favor you acquired seemed decent enough, with extra from quests, and so amassing the 5000 needed to unlock a new hero wasn’t terrible and does indeed offer a free to play option; it is however at the expense of not purchasing loot backpacks to unlock new skins and cosmetics, which also use Favor.
We played with Ranger for a few games, his own ability was to fire of a ranged orb that would detonate dealing damage when it hit a surface, but also allowed players to teleport to its location whilst it was travelling giving it some great utility for engages and gap closers, reaching upper levels, and nice escapes. He was a fairly balanced character and suits new players well. With 10,000 starter Favor we checked out Nyx, a female agent able to enter a different dimension with her skill, which makes her temporarily invulnerable and invisible for a couple of seconds until it runs out and she returns back to the fight. The added utility on her ability is that if she rematerializes in the same spot as an opponent then they are instantly killed, which sounded absolutely awesome. It was, however, the most ridiculously difficult manoeuvre to try and pull off as, like we’ve mentioned, everyone is constantly running about and is super mobile with no real reason to stand still (most snipers seem to shoot on the go as well due to the type of high skill level player the game attracts). The result of this was that as often as not we’d go invisible, engage the enemy, not be able to stand on their spot as they were moving, and then being point blank with a character that has the lowest health pool of any Champion…
In all honesty we didn’t really like how the abilities worked, in combat none of them seemed to make that much of an impact as the respawn speed is crazy and as soon as someone is killed then aside from getting a “frag” for your score, they’re pretty much back into it in a few seconds. It was barely noticeable when an opponent or team member was using an ability, and that just didn’t feel right, especially when coming from a game like Overwatch where each hero has various unique abilities and attacks and their ultimates can single handed change the tide of battle. So what the game feels like is a fairly typical FPS such as the likes of Counter Strike, and will definitely see a boom in the eSports scene, requiring skilled twitch-based reactions where you need to be able to hit your headshots on moving targets as they rocket-jump through the air; it is an unforgiving title for players that aren’t at the top of their game and can be extremely frustrating as your deaths start vastly outnumbering your kills. It’s hard to find a “comfort pick” character as the abilities all feel mediocre and everyone has free access to all the different types of weapons that are scattered across the battlefield; that said, at least unlike some other FPS titles where you can acquire and upgrade your weapons at least the gear is kept balanced where every rocket-launcher is only more or less effective depending upon the player that wields it.