Quake (1996)

Quake (1996), designed by John Romero, Sandy Petersen, Tim Willits, American McGee, developed by ID Software, published by BT interactive 

I never was a Quake kid.

I remember when Quake came out and it blew people away and I do understand why. Before Quake FPS genre aped Doom, which was a pseudo-3D game, with no real height differences or even with a proper way to look up or down. While it was and still is an immensely playable game, it faked a lot of 3D aspects. Quake, on the other hand, was pure, real 3D, with high adrenaline action. And it even supported 3D acceleration, which made it look nicer and play even smoother.

Yet I never was a Quake kid.

Back in the day, just like now, I was more partial to single player experience than I was to multiplayer and Quake was a game that shone as a multiplayer experience, being a game that hooked thousands of players with its high-speed gunplay over the network. You could play either a co-op game, going through the levels with a friend or take part in a no-bars hold deathmatch event with tens of players trying to mow each other down. It was the deathmatch that did it for a lot of people.

But for me, I was looking for a single player experience and in that Quake doesn't really do much. It is, as a single-player experience, pretty boring.  The monsters, the levels, the crude mid 90's 3D aesthetics, it all left me indifferent towards Quake. That's not to say I haven't enjoyed some later Quake title, but the first one, not so much.

Doom managed to grip me with its atmosphere, despite it was very light in a story. It was a title, that dripped atmosphere and everything about it was mindblowing, especially because I was barely 13 when I played the first time. Duke Nukem had more character. It lacked some of the nicer level design Doom had, but it had character. Quake, on the other hand, was lacking. It had the gameplay and sure, if I had been in multiplayer games back then I probably would think of it with more warmth, but as I never really experience the gun tag gameplay it had, it never really rose as the game to me like it did for many others. And frankly, I still find games like Doom and Duke Nukem 3D more pleasing aesthetically over the crude, blocky 3D of the mid 90's.

One big problem I've always had with Quake is the obvious mismatch of its design in what comes to monsters, surroundings, the weapons and the setting as a whole. If you know anything about the development of Quake, you probably know it was originally meant to be a far more ambitious title, taking a lot of cues from fantasy RPG's, even having 3rd person combat. In the end, most of those things were dropped and the focus was placed on high adrenaline action and the end result is a mixed bag of sci-fi and fantasy, of which neither are really that interesting.

The goal of the game is to collect four runes from 4 different realms. Each episode is one realm. After you've collected the runes, you can fight the main baddie of the game, Shub-Niggurath. The Lovecraftian horror seeks to enslave the Earth, so that needs to be stopped. The story really is just an excuse to shoot stuff up, so don't expect any form of high literature from it. Not that other FPS's of the era were known for their stories, either, but with Quake it's easy to see the story elements it has are remnants of its originally intended fantasy RPG beginnings.

In the end, the new tech proved to be trickier than the developers at ID at first imagined and the more ambitious RPG flavoured design was toned down quite a bit. The assets that were already done were used in the final game, which manifests as some odd level design, where the first level of each chapter is done with a sci-fi setting, but the rest of the levels are fantasy themed, with castles, moats and fantasy monsters.

Like I said though, people didn't fall in love with Quake because of fantastic single player. No, the meat of the matter ended up being the multiplayer component, which brought playing with real people to a different level altogether. The multiplayer aspect of Quake was so strong, that the third game was a fully multiplayer based experience.

So yeah. While I never was a Quaker kid, I still can appreciate what it did to FPS games. Nowadays I've even played some of the multiplayer based Quake games, but the first Quake, I still feel very indifferent to. When I try to play it, it doesn't really excite me, more than it bores me. There's just nothing there that would reel me in.