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Back when I reviewed the original Quake, I also covered a few mods, one of them being Arcane Dimensions. Since that time, the mod has been updated to v1.70 which from what I understand is the final release. Arcane Dimensions is a collaborative effort between several Quake modders and took years to complete. The previous version of the mod included a new map that was so large, a dedicated Quake client was required to play it. Since that time, a new version of the Quakespasm engine has released, eliminating the need for a special Arcane Dimensions mod engine. Quakespasm is a modern, cross-platform Quake engine based on FitzQuake and supports 64 bit CPUs, custom music playback, a new sound driver, bug fixes, and other improvements. After playing one of the previous versions of Arcane Dimensions, it really stuck with me and I’ve wanted to revisit it for a while now. And since a new version has released, and because of the sheer scope of this mod, I thought these were good enough reasons for me to revisit it and dedicate a review to it.
Arcane Dimensions is a mod with a whole new set of maps, some new weapons and powerups, and new enemies. You start in a hub area where you can select your difficulty and surrounding you are portals to all of the new maps. One of the portals takes you to another hub area known as the Lost Chapters with even more maps. You can complete the maps in any order, giving you a bit of freedom in how you progress, and your progress is saved. The exit portal in each of the maps takes you back to the hub area and the weapons and ammo you’ve collected are reset upon exiting and entering a map. Some maps are bigger than others and many are humongous and may take you a while to complete. Each map varies in theme and there’s no real narrative connecting them all but the mod does provide an end goal of sorts in the form of a secret map. Hidden throughout specific maps are runes and when you collect them all, you gain access to the secret map.
All of the classic Quake weapons are present in Arcane Dimensions but the mod includes three new weapons, or weapon upgrades, which are helpful in combating many of the new foes. The Shadow Axe is an upgrade to the axe and on the surface it just looks like a visual change but it actually inflicts much more damage than the standard axe and can kill low level enemies like zombies very easily. The Widowmaker is an upgrade to the Super Shotgun and it does do more damage. It also consumes three shells per shot. The Plasma Gun is the third new weapon and it’s an upgrade to the Thunderbolt, otherwise known as the Lightning Gun. The Plasma Gun fires plasma bolts, inflicts more damage, and also deals splash damage. Just like the classic roster of weapons, I found these new ones to be very useful in specific situations and against certain enemies with the Widowmaker being my default go-to weapon. As you would expect, ammo for all of the weapons is scattered throughout the maps and I noticed in some areas that the ammo pickups will respawn over time after being acquired. In addition to the new weapons are two new artifacts, or powerups; the Sharp Shooter and Nail Piercer. The Sharp Shooter reduces the bullet spread of shotguns and the Nail Piercer makes your nails travel through monsters.
I think one of the things that makes Arcane Dimensions so special is the large roster of new enemies and bosses. If you visit the Arcane Dimensions website you can view the readmes for each version of the mod. The readmes for v1.42 and v1.50 are very detailed and cover all of the new content including the new monsters, their descriptions, and stats. I got so immersed into the mod that I really wanted to know what the hell I was shooting at so I actually read through the readmes a few times to try and identify each new monster based on their descriptions. The new monsters in combination with the new maps not only follow the mold of Quake’s Lovecraft-inspired aesthetic and atmosphere, but also retain the dark and mysterious nature of the vanilla game. You’ve got everything from Wizards launching skulls at you to Minotaurs spawning Gargoyles. Enemies will come breaking through walls or crashing down through ceilings. New heavy metal Ogres wield hammers, flail Knights will fire homing missiles, Crossbow Knights will attack you from long range and from above, and spiders may sneak up on you if you’re not paying attention. Some monster attacks can cause debuffs like poison and burning and the higher-tier monsters like bosses do have ammo resistances similar to how the Shambler has a resistance to rockets. Golems and other stone-type enemies have a resistance to nails, the Eliminator has a resistance to cells, and the LichFiend has a resistance to nails and rockets. The readmes list what enemies can resist what but there are visual ques you can look out for to know if your weapon is efficient against a particular enemy. These resistances will force you to try different weapons and strategies. Running and strafing are still essential for staying alive during hectic battles and that’s especially true for some of the boss battles. Several maps end in a boss battle with the boss usually being a large and/or powerful creature, some with names I don’t know how to pronounce correctly, and they’re usually accompanied by standard enemy types assaulting you from multiple directions. You basically always need keep moving.
The new monsters in addition to the vanilla ones aren’t just placed willy nilly in the maps. As you progress through the map, the amount of monsters you’ll have to fight from battle to battle will increase and/or new tougher enemy types are introduced, forcing you to change up your strategy or approach. The mod also implements a minion spawning system for certain monsters which allows for more dynamic encounters. How it works is there are several monsters that will spawn other monsters. Certain Minotaurs can summon Gargoyles, darker skinned Vores will throw Voreling eggs, Wizards wearing black robes will summon Lost Souls, and Wraiths will throw scorpions or spider eggs. The idea here is that these monsters are easy to deal with on their own so the spawned monsters, or minions, act as support. I’ve never noticed it reach a point where there’s too many enemies to deal with so the system does regulate itself and the spawning monsters are placed strategically at the edges of areas so you usually have to fight your way to them or you can try to kill them from long range. These monsters in particular usually become a priority in battle otherwise you risk getting swarmed by enemies and/or draining through a lot of ammo.
The maps are one of the biggest highlights of Arcane Dimensions and they are incredibly well designed. Everything from the architecture to triggered events keeps each map interesting from start to finish. Many of the maps are very large and very intricate with all kinds of branching paths, secret areas, and even environmental hazards like swinging blades, fire coming out of the walls, and nails shooting from the walls, ground, or ceilings. It is very easy to get lost in many maps and trying to acquire all the runes will not be an easy task. Some maps contain collectibles you need to find like tomes of power or circuit boards. You may across books with text that add to the atmosphere of the environment. Each map feels like its own little world complete with its own secrets and dangers to uncover. If you’ve played vanilla Quake or even the classic Doom games, you may have gone through a map, took your time, and found a shit-ton of secrets so by the time you reach the end, you feel a sense of satisfaction in thinking you’ve seen almost everything or all there is to see in the map until you finally exit and see your stats only to realize you didn’t even discover half of the secrets. Well that may happen often in Arcane Dimensions and one map in particular contains up to fifty secrets. The atmosphere of the environments made each map feel very compelling that it was often hard for me to stop playing. I always wanted to see what was around the next corner and it’s like environments have some kind of mysterious history. You’ll traverse through cathedrals, swamps, a mountain prison, medieval town, and more. Just like vanilla Quake, you still have to hunt for keys and press buttons to gain access to new areas and progress. The maps offer plenty of reasons to explore and some maps are less linear than others, offering multiple paths to a destination. The mod implements a breakables system which means the environments are somewhat destructible. You can destroy wood planks and blast through weak walls but this also means there are more ways for enemies to ambush you. You may acquire an item only to suddenly hear the sound of walls breaking around you and the next thing you know, you’re surrounded by enemies. You should always be aware of your surroundings.
I can’t tell you how many times I stopped just to look around and gaze at the beauty of the environments. Whether it be the architecture or skyboxes, there’s always something to admire on your journey through each map. Even though Quake is clearly dated by today’s standards, and even though I think the raw graphics of the vanilla game haven’t aged all that well, there is something charming about its blocky visuals and the new particle effects introduced here only enhance the visual presentation further. When shooting an enemy that has a resistance to your weapon’s ammo, you’ll see gray impact particles, smoke, and chunks fly off the enemy. Sometimes you’ll trigger something that causes the ground to crumble underneath you. There are some new textures, new skyboxes, and new sound effects to accompany the new content including the new monsters which does help to make them feel different than the vanilla Quake ones. I experienced any technical issues and the mod ran smoothly for me throughout my entire experience.
Arcane Dimensions is by far one of the greatest mods I have ever played and I think I enjoy it more than the vanilla game. It’s that good. And I do really love the vanilla game. It’s got a retro feel with some modern touches. It’s got new environments to explore, new secrets to uncover, and new threats to combat. It’s the kind of mod that I hope will have its own mods. In fact, I think it already has some. Arcane Dimensions is such a masterful piece of work that I got more immersed into this than I did into vanilla Quake. Everything from the new monsters to the look, feel, and atmosphere of the environments captivated me. And I still say Quake is one of the most unique games aesthetically to date. Arcane Dimensions just amplifies everything without sacrificing anything that made the vanilla game special. The amount of care and detail that was put into each map is astonishing and everything ranging from the design of the new monsters to the surreal quality of the environments is incredibly well done. And because of the size and intricacies of most maps, and due to the runes and all the secrets, the replay value here is extremely high.
I would absolutely recommend Arcane Dimensions to fans of Quake and first-person shooters. In my opinion, this is one of the greatest mods to release for any game ever and best of all, it’s free. Mods are definitely the lifeblood of classic shooters like Quake and Doom and a mod like Arcane Dimensions not only shows off the talents of the modders behind it but also shows how mods can really breathe new life into a decades old title like Quake. Arcane Dimensions feels like it’s more than just a mod. It almost feels like a new game. The size and scope of Arcane Dimensions makes it feel much larger than a typical expansion and the quality of work here is awe-inspiring.