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Not So MMO: Spawn. Frag. Die. Repeat. Quake Champions Early Access Review

Columns By Jacob Semmes on August 28, 2017

Spawn. Frag. Die. Repeat. Quake Champions Early Access Review

Quake Champions is not nice. Quake Champions is the bully of the FPS campus that took my sandwich and wiped its butt with it. Quake Champions is a full throttle, blood filled killing spree. Well, not a killing spree for me. I do the dying. And not really a spree for other people, either. Special people get killing sprees. The rest of are wallowing about our butt wiped sandwich, our dead body a little less than a carcass scattered across the grim arena landscape. That, really, is what makes Quake Champions awesome. No punches pulled, max speed FPS that embraces everything Quake and adds a touch of flavoring, leaving newbies in the dead pile with smiles plastered on their fragged faces.

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Fragging Combat

Quake Champions is fast. It is unequivocally Quake, and it isn’t trying to mimic or build off other more recent team shooter titles, like Overwatch. Overwatch is molasses in comparison. The speed of the characters ensures lightning fast reactions are rewarded and quick accuracy is paramount to getting a kill. Death is guaranteed, even if by accident. When you die, and die you will, you can respawn as quickly as you realized you’d been fragged, ensuring players non-stop action packed combat. The only lull in the match is the few seconds it takes you to process that you had, indeed, just been turned inside out by a rocket. The mouse sensitivity options are numerous. The speed at which you can potentially turn your mouse is nauseating. Some players can handle the speed. Some can’t. Unfortunately, that learning curve is steep and those who are already cresting the curve are fairly obvious on the scoreboard.

Combat in Quake feels great. Most of the guns are fun to use, even though the rocket launcher is both fan-favorite and better in general. The starting guns feel mostly useless in order to force players into conflicts. Melee attacks, however, feel like they have no impact. It’s hard to say why a whirling death blade doesn’t feel impactful despite its generous damage. There is little indication that damage has been inflicted. Melee battles feel silly with players spinning around each other hoping the saw connects.

Quake’s modes are limited. There are four modes. Two of those are a form of deathmatch. One is dueling. The last is an interesting take on capture the flag. The game doesn’t try to innovate on these and players will find themselves fragging over and over again in the two deathmatch modes. This lack of diversity is disappointing. Matches feel too familiar with one another even with interesting maps.

Unbalanced Matchmaking

The speed is both the most important aspect of Quake Champions as well as its biggest hurdle. Flying around the map with laser skates shooting a lightning gun is awfully fun. However, too often there is someone else in the match who can do that better. So much better, in fact, that there is no counter play. Their skill far surpassing anyone else the in the match except maybe one. Most matches boil down to one or two players vying for the lead in kills with the rest of the players picking up the scraps. Winning doesn’t pay as much as other games, though.

Experience is how players are rewarded throughout the match, and a the majority of that comes from achieving medals for any number of ways you can kill another person. Even the player with the least frags doesn’t get less than a few hundred experience than the top players. This does little alleviate the powerless feeling you have during the match. This really isn’t a problem with the combat. It’s a problem with matchmaking. Right now, it is pretty unreliable as most matches feel incredibly one sided.

Characters and Customization

Quake Champions has an assortment of characters, all of whom are unique and full of flavor. Each has its own special active and passive ability. The actives are almost all fun and exciting to use. Slash is by far my favorite with her laser skates. Yes, yes you did read that right. Laser skates. Slash’s ability leaves a damage trail behind her and, because having laser skates isn’t cool enough, she can then explode her trail by reactivating the ability. Each character also has a unique passive ability. Sorlag moves quicker the more he bunny hops around the map which is weird considering his lumbering form.. Some of these abilities are less good than others and others, like Nyx’s wall jump that seems like an afterthought considering the Doom Slayer’s double jump that functions similarity without the wall requirement.

Even though combat is too fast to really appreciate another player’s unique look while trying to blow their face off, there are key moments where other players get a chance to show off their bling. Character customization is extremely deep, from small adornments to entire outfits to shaders. It’s an excellent addition to the Quake model and opens up the game’s entire business model. Quake Champions is going to be free which means the free-to-play monetization is in full force. Customization options don’t come cheaply or whenever a player wants it. All options are unlocked through RNG loot boxes. Quake demands you earn those boxes, either through playing or by paying. There are three types of currency, and the rarest of chests isn’t purchasable with the currency players can earn, only the current that can be purchased. Players can level up and get the occasional rare chest. For a free-to-play game, this type of lootbox RNG is standard procedure. But with thousands of customization options, it could take a long time before you’re able to amass a collection that’s notable on multiple characters.

Conclusion

Quake is hella fun. It’s full of cool character depth, customization, and great quick combat. Currently, the matchmaking is a little busted and if you’re not familiar with the pace of Quake, you’ll find yourself near the bottom of the scoreboard frequently as you won’t be paired with people are who equally horrible. This plus a lack of game modes holds Quake Champions back from being truly great. If you’re a fan of fragging, Quake Champions offers all you’ll need and more sans sandwich.


Score: 7.5


Pros:

  • Quick satisfying combat
  • Huge amount of character customization
  • Unique cast of characters and abilities

Cons:

  • Unbalanced matchmaking
  • Few game modes
  • Unfortunate sandwiches