Been on a bit of a Quake kick lately. I played all the way through Quake 1.5, which is a bit like Quake’s version of “Brutal Doom” (minus all the stuff the Doom community hates about Brutal Doom). It’s basically a big overhaul for the original game, with beefier sound, new mechanics (melee kick!), new guns, reworked levels, an expanded roster of enemies (including old ones gaining new abilities), new boss fights to cap off episodes 2 and 3, and even slight roguelike elements where monster layouts change slightly from run to run.
It’s absolutely brilliant, filling Quake out to feel like more than just another Doom-also-ran. Now it feels closer to the standard of modern-retro FPS games like Dusk, or Amid Evil, or Ion Maiden. My only real complaint is the ending – Quake 1’s original final boss, Shub-niggurath, is kind of a dumb, gimmicky fight, almost more of a joke than anything (to beat it, you must simply telefrag it). Quake 1.5 keeps the same basic idea but completely changes the execution in a way that’s legitimately awesome on paper but is dragged down by being an insane difficulty spike. I played on normal difficulty, which was a reasonable challenge for most of the game until near the end of the 4th episode. But even that didn’t feel insurmountable, it just meant I had to buckle down and grit my teeth.
Shub-niggurath is where it crossed over to impossible. The amount of tough monsters they expect you to fight, versus the shortage of health and ammo, it was just too much. I gave up and turned on cheats. It was either be miserable trying to legitimately beat the boss, or be miserable with guilt for feeling like I had to cheat. Nobody wins.
Alternate to that, I’ve been playing the Quake Halloween Jam 2. This is a community map pack overlaid over the top of the “Arcane Dimensions” mod framework, which is what parts of Quake 1.5 were also developed from. Here, this just means even more new monsters. It took me a while to find a Quake Source Port that would play nice with it (they recommend Quakespasm for this, whereas Quake 1.5 comes with a custom build of DarkPlaces) but it’s a good, spooky, seasonally appropriate mod. There’s a trailer that gives you a taste of most of the maps, and they run the gamut of high-concept, visually beautiful maps to overly-ambitious worlds and puzzle boxes. It’s also EXTREMELY difficult, so I wouldn’t find any shame in dropping it down to easy (plus, these maps can get pretty long and Quake doesn’t have a checkpointing system).
My favorite part comes at what I’m going to consider the “end” of the mod. The whole mod is presented like a Quake-ified version of Princess Peach’s castle from Super Mario 64, where you jump through paintings to access levels. However, there is a secret painting that I think might only be accessible after you complete at least one map. It’s tucked away in a dark corner where you can’t really see it, and once you find it, it’s just a blank canvas. If you jump through it, suddenly you… end up back at the Quake 1 starting map.
Now, the first thing you think is that this has to be a glitch, and I’ve noticed people here and there actually trying to report it as a glitch, thinking the “real” map is just missing and this is Quake resolving that problem by sending you to the default start map. It’s not, of course, it’s the start of a legitimately great creepypasta where familiar elements are twisted against you and the game itself begins to rip apart. I loved it to pieces.