3D Realms, the creators of Duke Nukem and the original Prey, have whole-heartedly embraced its past as old-school game developers. With Ion Maiden still in the wings, a throwback game that strongly emulates old-school shooters, the team at 3D Realms have more plans for another return trip to the past, strengthing the studio’s belief that there’s more to be said about games from a particular era. In the upcoming Wrath: Aeon of Ruin–launching this summer on PC– it channels the same sense of action and pacing found from the early days of the 3D first-person shooter.
In a similar vein to 3D Realms’ Ion Maiden, Wrath follows that same trend by sticking closely to the classic design of early 3D first-person shooters of the mid-90s, while also going all in on its action-horror angle. The developers, however, decided to push things a bit further by injecting some modern flair to help enhance some of the old-school aspects of its design. Built entirely on the original Quake engine, the same technology that id Software used for the 1996 FPS Quake, the developers worked closely with a number of designers and modders–including Jeremiah ‘Killpixel’ Fox–who used the tech at the time to make Wrath a more authentic game from the era.
“Everything we miss about the classic era is kind of gone now in most modern first-person shooters, and we kind of want to bring that back,” said Frederik Schreiber, Vice President of 3D Realms. “Ion Maiden was basically the restart of our [3D Realms] timeline, we basically went back to 1996. For Wrath, we actually stumbled upon a Quake modder going under the name ‘Killpixel’, who was actually working on a particular mod for the game. There are tons of mods for Quake out there, but his stuff looked surprisingly cool. We decided to work with him on this and develop it further, hiring the best people who knew Quake and actually worked on the engine back in the day, all in order to put together a true successor in spirit to what the original Quake was back in the ’90s. It’s also the first major 3D Realms game that has been made internally in over a decade.”
In Wrath, you play as the mysterious Outlander, who finds himself lost within the ruins of an old world. Eventually, he encounters an entity that tasks him with eliminating various deities and monsters lurking throughout the decaying landscape, and he’ll use a variety of grotesque weapons and mystical artifacts to do just that. Set across three chapters, with five levels each, the campaign will take the Outlander across a variety of different locations that grow more bizarre and challenging as new creatures and foes come up.
Jumping into Wrath will feel right at home for those who have fond memories of old-school shooters. With swarms of enemies in every field and narrow passage, you’ll quickly get accustomed to the strength and weight of your arsenal of weapons. Starting out with a wrist-blade, which offers an interesting secondary attack that can thrust you forward, you’ll quickly upgrade to more devastating tools of war like the classic double-barrelled shotgun and a poison-sack launcher. Eventually, you’ll find special artifacts that allow you to use powerful perks and skills, such as a relic that absorbs health from enemies. In an interesting twist that highlights the game’s focus on challenge, the Soul Tether artifact doubles as a spawn point and a save game mechanic. If you die, you’ll return back to where you placed the artifact, which uses up your relic in the process–essentially making saved games a tactical and finite option.
Though it’s a classic ’90s shooter through-and-through, it does introduce some more modern tricks and innovations. In addition to some new technology boosting the Quake engine beyond its previous limitations, allowing for larger levels and faster gameplay not seen in games from the ’90s, it also incorporates some gameplay mechanics and quality-of-life touches on the physics and core gameplay that emulates the ease of use from recent titles. It was interesting getting to revisit this style of gameplay after having been so used to the games of today. There’s noticeably very little filler when it comes to making your way through the levels. The action kept up at a swift pace, and it was constant. It all felt very matter of fact and to the point, which of course is by design.
Wrath: Aeon of Ruin aims to rekindle much of the same energy and tone found from the darker FPS games of the ’90s. With Quake being such a seminal game of the era, and with hardcore fans keeping the tech and spirit live in the years since, the developers plan to make Wrath a real tribute to the classics of the ’90s, while also showing that they’re still worthwhile in today’s age. Though the PC version will release first, Wrath will also find its way to PS4, Xbox One, and the Switch sometime later in 2020.
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Author: Alessandro Fillari