Quake Champions Closed Beta Hands On Preview: Frantic Multiplayer Deathfest

Quake Champions Closed Beta Hands On Preview: Frantic Multiplayer Deathfest

Quake is a classic FPS that had a massive impact on the shooter genre when it released in 1996, similar to Doom’s impact. Quake, like Doom, had a single player campaign and a multiplayer mode. While both games are very similar at their core, being fast-paced FPSs with a wide variety of weapons, there were two critical factors Quake had that Doom didn’t: Official mod support and a very high skill ceiling. ¬†The classic moves that most people know are the rocket jump and strafe jumping. ¬†In case you aren’t familiar with those terms, rocket jumping is when you aim the rocket launcher at your feet and fire a fraction of a second after you jump. ¬†If done right, you jump very high and very fast. ¬†Strafe jumping is where you constantly jump but at an angle, which causes you to gain speed. ¬†Both require skill, and if pulled off correctly, results in breathtaking speed. ¬†All of this matters because it takes skill and a lot of practice to pull off¬†and it is really fun to watch. ¬†So while this was not the first game to have¬†paid tournaments, it was the first game that could draw in people to watch multiplayer matches.

Over the years ¬†and through subsequent releases, the intense popularity of the multiplayer overshadowed the single player, to the point that by the time Quake III: Arena was released, it was multiplayer only. By this point the game had been refined to a razor’s edge, requiring dedication and skill to even survive. ¬†Quake Arena is considered by many to be the pinnacle of arena shooters from that era and the definitive Quake experience – rocket jumping, spinning, strafe jumping madness. However Quake Arena has been been dead for quite some time. There was a brief resurgence with Quake Live, which was effectively Quake Arena on the web, but the numbers were never big enough. This led us to the announcement of Quake Champions, the next multiplayer entry in the series which is set to release sometime this year. Recently, Quake Champions entered a Closed Beta and having spent some time with it, I’ve put together this preview on what’s inside.

Genre: FPS
Developed by: id Software
Published by: : Bethesda Softworks
Release date: 2017
Platforms: PC
Website: https://quake.bethesda.net/en

Quake Champions Features

  • Extremely high skill ceiling gameplay
  • 7 weapons
  • 8¬†champions
  • 4 Game Modes – Deathmath, Team Deathmatch, Duel and Sacrifice

Story & Setting

People want to shoot you. ¬†You’d rather shoot them instead. ¬†That’s about it, really. ¬†Each of the Champions has a background, but unlike Quake Arena there’s no explicit overarching thread (thin as it was) connecting everything together. ¬†It’s a hodgepodge of creatures tossed together in arenas, and that’s really all there is. ¬†It is possible that there is an actual story here, but if there is Id has kept very quiet about it. Which is all the well as those picking up the game are doing so to play some violent games of tag.

Gamplay

What is Quake Champions? Quake. It is Quake. Don’t listen to the rumors lumbering around the ‘net like old shamblers, this game is¬†quintessential Quake. Quake Champions is fast. ¬†It is about running, using strafe jumps to accelerate to crazy speeds, and then rocket jumping half-way across the map. ¬†Of course as you’re rocketing (sometimes literally) around the level, you’re trying to line up a shot on other players doing the same thing. ¬†It’s fast, frantic, takes a lot of practice, and I can’t wait for the full version.

Modern elements have been added in of course, but they have been added in such a way that they feel like Quake versions of those elements. For example, let’s take a look at Champion Powers. ¬†Each Champion (more on them in a bit) has an active power they can use. ¬†All of them can damage the enemy directly, but they also all impact movement. ¬†Some accomplish this by moving the user and some by creating danger zones that other players don’t want to enter, but it still impacts movement. ¬†Oh and that 30 second cool down timer? ¬†You can reduce it with pickups scattered throughout the map. ¬†So if you have really good movement control and map knowledge (both essential classic Quake skills) you can use your power more often.

Direct hit with my acid spit. That doesn’t happen often.

I’ve spent the vast majority of my time with the Ranger and Sorlag, and I’ve found both of their powers fun to use. ¬†The Ranger has an orb which when tossed out you can teleport to. ¬†If you have good enough positioning and timing, you can telefrag another player by teleporting into the same space they are in. ¬†Most satisfying. ¬†Sorlag has a nasty acid spit that if it hits directly inflicts massive damage plus add a damage-over-time effect. ¬†Even if you do miss, it creates an acid field for a short bit that other players really don’t want to walk through. ¬†Both of these were great fun to use but more importantly, it took skill to use them correctly. ¬†By no means were these ‘Press to kill everyone in sight’ type powers. ¬†Timing and placement were key to getting a kill with them, just like any other weapon.

So about this Champions thing, which is just Quake Champions way of saying ‘classes’. ¬†At first glance this might seem to be distinctly un-Quake like, but it’s really not. ¬†Yes, there’s some minor variance in the starting/max health/armor values for each Champion, but that’s not the really important aspect. ¬†The really important aspect is each Champion¬†moves differently. In the Quake world, this makes each Champion feel very different. ¬†More importantly, this means there are some Champions that are easier to play than others.

Move forward, accelerate. Easy-peasy.

Some might view this as heresy, but this is critical to bringing in new players.  Quake Champions is hard.  This is a game with a very high skill ceiling.  Having a newbie and an experienced player play against one another on perfectly even footing is much like having a novice chess player play against a grand master; not fun for either party.  Having some Champions that are easier to control will help close this gap slightly.  In turn this will hopefully keep players new to the game playing until they start getting better at those all important movement skills.

Yep, a 35 kill difference between #1 and #8. Welcome to Quake.

As with all class systems, there does exist the problem of hard counters, where class A will beat class B given both players have the same skill. The primary mode where this could be a problem is in Duel, but Quake Champions has an interesting twist to hopefully prevent this.

When you start up a duel, players choose their Champions in a 1-2-2-1 pattern.  One player goes first and chooses a Champion.  The second player then gets to pick two Champions, player one pick their last two, and then player two chooses their last Champion.  At this time, each player can choose the same Champion and there are no bans, thought this could easily be implemented later.  The duel itself is a best of three format, with each round lasting until someone loses all three Champions.

The one completely new mode QC has is Sacrifice. ¬†It’s mostly a 4v4 capture-the-flag with a dash of domination tossed in. ¬†After a short amount of time a ‘soul’ will spawn in the level. ¬†You need to get this soul and take it to an obelisk, which becomes yours for the rest of the match. ¬†Of course if the enemy teams gets the soul to an obelisk first, then you get auto-assigned the other one on the map. ¬†This begins a countdown, and once the percentage reaches 100 the team with the empowered obelisk gets a point.

Once this happens the soul will respawn in the level after 15 seconds, and the process repeats itself. ¬†Of course if you’d rather the other team not score, you can go stand near their obelisk for 3 seconds, steal the soul, and run it back to your obelisk. ¬†The biggest problem with this mode at the moment is signposting. ¬†It can be very confusing for new players due to the mix of CTF and Domination, and the game does not do a good job explaining things. ¬†Nothing that can’t be solved with a good tutorial of course, but for the moment games can be a bit random. Get two teams that know what they’re doing, and it’s crazy fun. ¬†Get a team that largely consists of new players who are slow on the uptake, and it’s very frustrating.

A spoonful of cosmetics helps the medicine go down…

So far I’ve been gushing over this game, and for good reason. ¬†This is a good game. ¬†Even though I’m not very good at it, I can’t wait to get queued back into a match. Not all is perfect in QC land however. ¬†Some of it is technical issues. ¬†While I have not encountered it myself yet, lag-switching has been a problem for other people. ¬†I’ve seen videos where other players in the match are very clearly lag-switching. ¬†This is something that must be fixed, and given that this is Id we’re talking about, I’m willing to have faith they’ll address this.

But let’s talk pricing model. ¬†As of this article, the game will be a free-to-play/purchase hybrid. ¬†You can either purchase the game for $50 and get all Champions, now and in the future, or you can play for free and only have the Ranger unlocked. ¬†Of course, you’ll be able to buy Champions but as of now we don’t know the price. ¬†We do know each Champion will coast 500 Platinum, which I’m willing to guess is $5. This doesn’t seem so bad, as it would make buying all the Champions cost $40, plus two additional Champions later (I imagine they’ll do more than two) would bring the price of the game up to $50, which is the box price. ¬†So far so good, right?

If 100 Platinum is a buck, then oh boy are those some pricey boxes.

Check out those loot box prices.  Now everything in those boxes are cosmetic, not a game changer in sight.  However, some of those cosmetics are really cool.  I mean, check out the shambler head.  I must have this.

Must. Have. This.

How much you want to bet I’ll be grinding level boxes for a looooong time to get that? ¬† Granted there is a breakdown system in place, but it doesn’t seem to be working in beta. ¬†Could be fair or it could take forever to earn the shards needed to buy stuff. ¬†You also got drip-fed backpacks and crates at a decent rate. ¬†Far more concerning to me is that non-functional consumables tab. ¬†I’m guessing it will be something like favor or xp boosts, but there’s some nasty potential there, and it makes me nervous. ¬†There’s also the issue of needing at least three characters to play duel. ¬†Now you can rent Champions, and earning enough favor to rent a single Champion for a day isn’t all hard, but you’ll be saving a bit (or have to be really good) to be able to rent two at once.

So what’s the final verdict? ¬†Well, if you like Quake, or frantic multiplayer FPS in general, then this game is without question worth your time. ¬†There are issues and concerns, so we’ll have to wait and see what the final product looks like, but it will definitely be worth checking out the free version. ¬†Whether you want to pick up a Champion or two or grab them all will depend on how often you think you’ll be playing. Now if you’ll excuse me, as I’m writing this the Closed Beta still has some time left, so I need to get back to practicing my rocket jump. ¬†And dying. ¬†Definitely will be practicing my dying.


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Tea. Dragons. Cartography. Video Games. These are a few of my favorite things. Still waiting for someone to combine them all into a holy gestalt of entertainment, but until then I'll just keep playing and analyzing games.

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