I wasn’t sure whether to write this article. You see, I wasn’t quite as enamored with the concept of the new expansion packs as I was the old. Sure, it’s nice to have more Quake, but I was bummed that they only used the base-game content. Plus they ignored all the new assets/weapons/enemies from the expansion packs. But I wanted to complete the entire set, and was curious to see what sort of gameplay updates developers had figured out in the many years since the originals released.
Dimension of the Past
This first expansion pack was released in 2018, to celebrate the game’s 20th anniversary. The first thing I noticed is how much larger the levels have gotten. There may not be as many as older releases, but each one will take much longer to complete. I also found them far harder, clearly designed for longtime Quake veterans. Considering the nature of its development and release, this was a good call. Ammo was also incredibly scarce, and I found myself relying on monster infighting far, far more often than in older titles. (Which isn’t a complaint, mind you. Monster infighting is one of my favorite mechanics.)
Something I found weird was how easily you could stumble into secrets. I usually ended a chapter missing only one or two, and they kept popping up during times I thought I’d found an ordinary route or passage. Not a bad thing per se, just odd. I admit I’d also expected some sort of graphical/visual upgrades, as I’d read DotP came with some of those, but I couldn’t distinguish any compared to what used to be. Perhaps this upside was rendered obsolete by the remastering of the base game itself.
Ultimately, while I enjoyed my time in DotP, I felt the experience somewhat hampered by not adding any new mechanics or assets to the base Quake experience. It really didn’t feel like it had its own identity like the previous two expansions did. The final level, which lacked a boss and instead merely pit you against a medley of typical monsters, couldn’t help but punctutate that pervasive feeling that the whole expansion didn’t really bring anything new to the table.
Dimension of the Machine
Ah, here’s those graphical improvements! From your very first moments in the starting-hub level, DotM shows bold and eye-catching set design that gives everything a menacing and atmospheric personality. Also, for a series first, you can tackle the game’s episodes in any order thanks to two radial cul-de-sacs of warpgates. This was an interesting design choice that immediately showed this episode was determined to craft its own identity.
And the environments awaiting you in the various realms didn’t skive on execution. From floating aetherial asteroids to sigil-covered stone churches, these levels are crammed with character. There are also loads of setpiece experiences, much like in Scourge of Armagon. This includes some memorable moments where enemy factions slug it out while you watch.
The return of Chthon
Originally I thought it odd that they ended the episode rehashing Chthon from Quake. But after fighting him, I appreciated how much more creative and complicated they made the fight compared to his simplistic one from the orignal game. Plus this solved my major complaint with DotP, that the lack of a final boss made the ending feel unfulfilling. Considering they were restricted to base-game assets, Chthon was literally their only option for creating a ‘new’ final boss.
Overall, despite being equally-restricted in available assets, this expansion pack showed incredible creativity with how it built its levels. I’m really glad I didn’t quit before getting this far, because DotM was ambitious and commendable. It embraced Quake‘s design while also adding a ton of its own identity to the formula.
I hope my review of DotP doesn’t sound too pessimistic. I totally understand that it was a free celebratory release, and shouldn’t be treated as full ‘expansion pack’ in its own right. There is nothing mechanically wrong with it; it has wonderful and enjoyable levels with all the same polish and playability as what came before. If you like Quake, definitely give it a shot because it’s a slightly-more-challenging version of that. But DotM in particular exceeded my expectations on every front. It really showcases some incredible advancements in design from what we had in 1996. And it did so while working within the constrains of base-game assets. While I personally only really consider Scourge of Armagon and Dissolution of Eternity novel enough to really recommend on their own merits, DotM is a singular experience that ends the entire Quake experience on a resounding high note.