Review: Quake Mission Pack 1: Scourge of Armagon
So you telefragged your way to the end of Quake and you want more? Well, you came to the right place. Scourge of Armagon is the first of two “official” expansions, neither of which were created in-house at iD but carry the stamp all the same. This isn’t exactly more Quake in the way you might be thinking, but there’s a chance you might enjoy it even more.
Unlike the base game whose story could fit on a Post-It, Scourge of Armagon seeks to create a slightly more cohesive experience. In the wake of your victory over the… bad guys, you set out to track down the rest of the… bad guys. This means instead of four disparate episodes to blast through, there’s a linear chain of 17 levels that form a story out of their very design. You’ll start in familiar tech bases and research labs, gibbing grunts and commandos, before passing through an impressively-detailed dimensional gate and ending up in the gothic castles and hellish mazes of the… bad guy world. You can generally see where you came from when you start a new level (or at least how you got there) which adds a nice bit of continuity to your journey.
It’s essential to note that levels in Scourge of Armagon actually look like real places. Bases have control panels and supply cabinets. The hellish cathedral has pews and bookshelves. The mines have cart rails and drilling apparatuses. Every area is far more grounded and identifiable than the insane architecture of the original, though this isn’t necessarily a plus considering how much I enjoy the fever-dream ambiance of Quake. You also might not care for how huge these levels are, featuring room and monster counts double or more than the ones you’re coming from.
This brings me to the difficulty, which is the one aspect that sours me on SoA. Every level is absolutely jam-packed with enemies, with some absurd mixes of threats in later areas. Normal in SoA feels like Hard in Quake, and I’m not about to try anything harder than that given how much effort each level takes to finish. You’ll also run into some devious traps and one-hit kills like crushing ceilings and deadly fans that can quickly end an otherwise promising run. This is exacerbated by the amount of backtracking most levels need, some being so maze-like that the creators helpfully included signs and scripted messages to key locations. Virtually none of SoA’s levels are straight shots, and they have a habit of spawning more enemies for you to battle when you pass back through completed areas.
If you can stomach the challenge and the wandering, though, there’s a lot to appreciate here. The new enemies and weapons fill in some interesting gaps in the original lineups and are welcome additions. The artistry on display in each level, from the architecture to the scripting, is top-notch and feels pulled from the very best user-created maps. Honestly Scourge of Armagon almost feels like a midpoint between Quake and Quake II, especially in the look of the levels and the new weapons. It’s an interesting experience in ways that the original Quake is not, yet features a lot of the same exhilarating combat that you’re here for. Any fan of the series owes it to themselves to give it a try.