There were a few attempts to bring back Arena Shooters into the foreground of the competitive gaming. Toxikk, Xonotic, Diabotical, Warsow and Reflex Arena were more or less decent games but have made little or no impact whatsoever. Hell, even Quake Live that is reworked Quake III Arena has gone seriously downhill in the modern competitive gaming scene. This could indicate one thing: That old arena style is gone. Simple arena combat isn’t that interesting to people anymore, it needs to evolve.
Long ago, in the year 2001 I was in high school and it was the time I already had played seemingly unnumbered amount of matches in both legendary games, Unreal Tournament and Quake III Arena. While I did enjoyed in Quake, I was more of a UT fan and we’ve even played UT via LAN before and after the IT class. That one day, I came home from school and continued sketching the idea of my perfect UT sequel. It had characters not only for show but each of them with a certain unique passive and active ability, their starting weapon of choice, different weapon models and skins, different armor pieces including more to unlock as well as colors and patterns, and in the end, individual backstory that would resonate with players wanting to get invested in the world. Sounds familiar? Exactly!
Good part of what I imagined 16 years ago ironically now comes from another game. For better or for worse, Quake universe has more diverse cast and types of characters (although incredibly inconsistent), so the diversity is guaranteed. There are weak but fast characters, there are strong and slow characters and those who vary on each step between. Ranger is the default and he’s one of the most balanced characters with pretty useful teleport or bomb ability. He’s the only one available for free and a great starting point. The others are also great but here’s the catch, you’ll either have to buy them with real money or play and grind literally for years just for a random chance that some of them is opened in a lootbox, and that chance is no more than a 0.001%. There is one last option but I find it ridiculous. You could buy one of them just for a day but it costs ingame currency spent on lootboxes that you never get enough off anyway.
So, realistically, provided you bought the Champions Pack (now for 30€), you get another most balanced character – Doom slayer, from Doom series, weaker but dual wielding capable BJ Blazkowictz from Wolfenstein series and the rest of the cast old and new from Quake series. Visor does what Visor do but is not very popular right now, Clutch is replacing Tank Jr and has ability to dodge but is also not popular right now, and another least popular character is Galena who has cute Totem ability which more skilled players will just ignore anyway. Among most popular ones are tanky and resilient Scalebearer who can ride over opponents and Sorlag who often kills people just by placing alien green goo everywhere. Ultimately, it looks that Quake game despite offering something else is just more the same in the top ranks regarding the gameplay. Quick moves, lots of jumps, rockets and rails dominating the arena. Here come the fastest ones: Nyx who can disappear momentarily, Slash who leaves explosive trail behind her and Anarki, who’s just surfing around taking heads off at sharp angles.
The choice to play as another character is here but only if you pay for it. Whether you wan’t a hero from another series, an iconic cyborg, the galactic juggernaut, big bad robot, unholy psychotic zealot, slimy alien lizard, special forces hottie, crazy surfer or a hot pants roller it all comes at a price.
The game has a loadout system but actually it is finally the loadout system made right. You choose between three weaker versions of weapons and they only depend on your play style. Whether it’s machinegun, shotgun or nailgun, none of them will be better or worse in a skilled hand. Other weapons are spread across the arena and most of them are great. The only thing that stinks is their default model design (which looks like another generic Sci-Fi weapon design) and Nailgun which can be highly inconsistent plus TriBolt which is great substitution for grenade launcher but still is least played weapon by far. Alternate skins (which are tough-to-earn 1200 shards each) were number one one my list of priorities and I believe will be on yours too. There is nothing comparing to the legendary Quake II Railgun, Quake I Nailgun or a Quake III Machinegun. Id obviously knew this, so they made sure to make them available as soon as possible.
Like in every multiplayer game, the experience depends alot on the way community acts also. The more exploitable features there are, the more frustrating will it be. Community itself is highly divided (and unfortunately will continue to be so, since it’s F2P title). There are some good people willing to help you with challenges or just be decent enough to play fair. However, there are alot of those who don’t give a crap, who exploit every flaw in the system (and are accused to be hackers in chat accordingly), and don’t even respond or even speak english for that matter.
Ever since Quake III Arena I always thought that the future of FPS will be in integration of RPG elements and Quake Champions proved that I was right. What I didn’t predicted however was that the main portion of them would be locked behind the paywall and cringey “lootbox” mechanic. Back in a day, all those skins, weapons, models, challenges, characters and other bonuses were waiting for you in a game you already bought. Now, we could argue that you’re unlocking those boxes just like you unlocked them in an older game by ingame currency, but there are two huge differences: You weren’t been able to buy them with real money, and there was no chance of duplicates, you either didn’t had it or you did and opened another one. In this case however, there is even a good probability that the chances of getting duplicates are very likely to be rigged. After I got aprox. 20% of the content, every second or third I opened later was a duplicate. This is probably made to ensure that players are kept in the game for as long as possible, which stinks for every collector out there. What also sucks in this lootbox system is that there are many additions that are just pathetic and clearly made just to fill up the numbers. The only redeeming qualities are the fact that the game is (atleast currently) under priced for 30€ and that there is no “Pay2Win” content to unlock whatsoever.
As far as the game content is concerned there is a decent amount of content to keep you busy for 2 hours per day. There is no singleplayer content and looks like there never will be. The only solo addition to the Champions are the Lore scrolls which can be found in game maps which tell the backstory of the characters and provide special skin for each when all are collected. Then there are daily challenges (three per day), rune challenges (if you unlocked them), lootboxes bought by ingame money and leveling up and the same money from the matches (aprox. 25% needed for a single cheapest lootbox per match). It’s decent but nothing to write home about. They’ll have to add more content if they want to keep player base active constantly. Otherwise this will be “another game just to pass time with”.
Leveling in the game is divided. On one hand the number of matches needed to level up is pretty decent but there’s an issue when we take a closer look. The good thing is that players with more skills, more medals (special achievements) and more fraggs are accordingly better awarded, but the issue happens when it comes to team modes: A player with poor performance will still gain alot more XP if his team won the game than a player with great performance whose team lost the game. That is so unfair it hurts. Nowadays, when you’re waiting for a team game you’re praying in advance that you’ll be placed in a better team. That’s how it works unfortunately.
The new team mode “Sacrifice” is a combination of Capture the Flag and Domination or if you played UT like a Domination and Bombing Run. It’s a cool spin on the idea but not too fun to be honest. I guess Duel will still be the E-Sport mode number one.
All in all, it’s hard to evaluate the game in this state. The potential is here, and without restrictions it would be a great game. It is sad to see how a great concept struggle to be realized because of tons of technical difficulties and the fact that the game is working on a hybrid between id Tech engine and Saber Tech engine is not giving much hope (since when Saber Interactive was a synonym for a quality game development?). Every patch that fixes something breaks something else. That combined with Launcher that is unoptimized, still in beta and disconnects constantly is a terrible experience that only the most hardcore players will suffer through to play the game. Now in the Early Access it is only mildly better, as netcode has moved from terrible to just bad which is not encouraging really. It would be much better if they took the time needed but the fact is that the game is forced on each step of the way. You play the game on your computer and you find yourself shooting blanks through opponents making zero damage, your controls not completely responding, opponents blinking in front of you, fragging you with melee on distance… Then you tune up the official stream of the tournament and suddenly everything is running perfectly with ease, and you’re thinking to yourself “what is this sorcery?”. So, it does not run properly for majority of people, yet already they’re making it an E-Sport, organize tournaments and optimize it just for those events. The fact that marketing and business is bigger priority than shipping a solid product is really hurting here and is obvious no matter how hard they try to mask it. Knowing how hard-headed community can be I think the game will last despite those serious flaws and since there is nothing else popular in terms of old-school arena shooters it will grab it’s share of popularity, but how long will it last depends completely on id/Saber and Bethesda. As a fan of the series and old-school gaming I will give it a chance and play it here and there, but I ain’t gonna spend a single coin on platinum, that’s for sure.
– Fun and addictive gameplay
– Still mostly skill based
– Loadout system made right (finally)
– Great visual design
– Very good sound design
– Champions themselves
– Champions diversity
– Lots of customization
BAD (and the ugly)
– No singleplayer
– Still very bad netcode
– Terrible matchmaking
– Paywall restrictions / F2P mode is a very bad demo actually
– More than mediocre soundtrack
– Some weapons, hitboxes and powers still inconsistent
– Animation variations
– Occasional unexplained fraggs
– Accidental deaths and ring-outs are taking your frags out
– Score count errors
– XP gain ratio
– Lootbox cost and ratio
– Forcing the game on each step of the way
– Still no Klesk champion
EARLY ACCESS SCORE 66%
Great game ruined by corporate choices and technical issues. Try it after release perhaps.