With Quake Champions entering open beta, the NDA has been lifted and we can now talk about it. I shall save you time, however, and tell you that it is still pretty much Quake. If you enjoyed Quake 3/Quake Live, you are going to enjoy Quake Champions.
Of course, there is more to it than its similarities to Quake Live, but it’s both undeniable and good that it plays much like its predecessor. There are two (relatively) major changes to the game, however, that might mean the difference between success and failure.
While throughout Quake 2 and onwards (and possibly Quake 1/World, but I never played it that much) we could select different models to represent ourselves (and in competitive, to represent everybody else brightly), in Champions that selection matters as the characters now have active and passive abilities that spice up the otherwise Quake gameplay, and slightly different attributes to them.
Nyx, a squishier, faster champion, can phase to another dimension, making her essentially invulnerable for a few seconds, while Visor, much beefier, can see through walls for the short duration of the ability. Sorlag, a slower, tanky champion, has an area denial ability that, on impact to the player, applies damage over time. Ranger, our classic Quake guy with, perhaps, the closest to classic gameplay, can launch a ball and teleport to it (which can telefrag, because it ain’t Quake without them).
These active abilities provide new, interesting options during fights, providing different enough gameplay styles while also not negating the generic, everybody can just pick up a rocket and shoot you with it, satisfying gameplay. The passive abilities further spice things up, sometimes showing the influence of other games in the arena shooter genre.
Anarki, for example, beyond his Adrenaline ability, has more air control than any other character, which immediately made me think CPMA (but might be closer to QW, as per this video). Nyx’s wall jump could be traced back to Warsow, Urban Terror and Brink. And Slash’s crouch-slide…, a mechanic present in Urban Terror, and Quake 4, which I’m surprised to mention considering how short-lived its competitive life was. Another fun one is Scalebearer’s Heavyweight passive, which damages people he collides with as long as he’s going faster than 400 units per second.
It should be noted that Quake Champions is free to play, with an option to permanently unlock all champions with a one-time purchase(as reported by Polygon), and there are customization options for each character. To customize them, you’d need to obtain the parts either by drops from boxes or by buying them with a specific in-game currency I do not know if you can buy or not. I do not believe this will be an issue – though they haven’t talked about what their plans are for maps. If Quake Live taught them anything, though, those will be available for everybody. Hopefully.
Besides the Free-to-play elements, though, the other change is to the default duel mode. Instead of the one-versus-one deathmatch until the time runs out, players are now asked to draft three champions with which they will play a Best of Three rounds match. Each round, the players will face each other, where a kill both means getting ahead in the round score, and eliminating that champion from play from the round. For example, if I draft Nyx, Visor and Slash, and my opponent kills me while I was using Nyx, I’d have to respawn on either Visor or Slash afterward. Once the round ends, the one with the most kills (or whoever kills all three of their opponent’s champions first) gets the round point. Everything will be reset and a new round shall begin, all three champions available.
Whether this change to duel will be successful or not is up to time, but it is refreshing to see they are not afraid to mess with a formula that clearly hasn’t held people’s attention. If anything, I can see this mode and a “Classic Duel” coexisting in the future, or even further changes. But, again, time will tell. QuakeCon is coming soon, and I’d be surprised if we don’t see a tournament or two there.