Preview: Quake Champions is everything you'd expect it to be
For better and worse.
Developers: id Software, Saber Interactive
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Quake Champions is an easy game to get excited about, particularly if you were a fan of Bethesda’s revival of another classic 90’s shooter, DOOM. I’m happy to say that Quake Champions looks and feels like what you would think a modern iteration of the game would look like. It’s deliciously old school, fast-paced, and relies heavily on your skills with a mouse and keyboard for you to have even a prayer of holding your own.
Also, if you didn’t already know, Quake Champions is going to a free-to-play model, so while the game will be accessible to anyone with a rig that can handle the game, there are some necessary paywall concessions as part of the trade-off. Of course, everything that can be unlocked in the game can be earned just by playing or rented through in-game currency for those less patient. More on that later.
For now, let’s break down what you need to know about Quake Champions.
Quake Champions has successfully found the midpoint between modern and old school.
Like DOOM before it, Quake Champions echoes the aspects that made the series as popular as it was when it first came out. The game is all about maintaining a constant momentum, while the keys to keeping your head above water revolve around map memorization and the meta game of building up your offensive and defensive capabilities by acquiring the various weapons and power-ups that are scattered throughout each map. There just aren’t many games nowadays that require this level of memorization from its player base, so it’s nice to feel like I’m actually playing something different.
Even if you do find yourself biting the dust 15-20 times a match, Quake Champions is still a ton of fun to play in large part due to its constant player engagement. Levels are packed with vertical elements that are easily leveraged via rocket jumps and jump pads, which all ties into the idea of keeping yourself moving at all times. There’s always a crevice to duck into if you find yourself caught in the crossfire, and there’s always an alternate route to get a better vantage point when a battle breaks out.
Each Champion comes with a unique rechargeable ability that adds a little twist of strategy to how everything works. The one that most players will be leveraging is the Ranger’s Dire Orb which simultaneously functions as a grenade or teleportation pad. You can either choose to let it explode or pressing the throw button will instantly move you to the spot that you tossed the grenade.
As far as free-to-play monetization conventions are concerned, Quake Champions seems to check off just about every box there is.
When it was revealed that Quake Champions was free-to-play, they weren’t kidding. The game has those controversial microtransactions, even though many of them are purely cosmetic. That said, the odd part about the cosmetic nature of the unlocks also extends to the many Champions within the game. Quake’s Champions need to be unlocked either by playing and acquiring Overwatch-style Loot Crates, renting them for a day with earned in-game currency, or purchasing them upfront with real-world money.
Everyone starts off with the same character, the Ranger, who is little more than the cliche space marine that has long been established in the shooter genre. As you progress and unlock (or rent) more characters, you will also be able to play as anything from an acid-spitting Lizard demon to a mechanically limbed spiky-haired dude that gets around on a hoverboard. All of the Champions look cool, but ultimately how they handle is largely the same.
Some characters will have a slightly higher defense or faster-moving speed, but the main difference is the rechargeable ability. As far as weapons are concerned, there isn’t a difference from one champion or the other. Which to be fair, would pretty much kill off the need to memorize maps and their weapon locations.
As mentioned earlier, everything that can be purchased with real-world money in Quake Champions is unlockable in the game. But the big ticket unlocks (the Champions) are rare drops. The game compensates for this with a one-day rental system using in-game currency, which can be supplemented by completing daily challenges, but most average players will likely find themselves only playing between 3-4 champions on any given day.
As far as fun factor is concerned, Quake Champions has it in droves, provided you are OK with the limits on character selection. It’s hard to tell if the fact that the Champions all playing very similarly will help or hurt the game in the long run, as there is an argument to be made for both sides. That said, if you’ve got a halfway decent rig and a stable internet connection, there’s really nothing to lose by giving Quake Champions a whirl when it releases later this year.