My finger is on the pulse of the boomer shooter renaissance. DUSK. Amid Evil. Ion Maiden. All excellent games worthy of carrying on the legacy of our memories – memories lightly dusted with 3D Dorito cheese. A new contender stands among them, and its name is Wrath: Aeon of Ruin.
Developed using Quake engine by the guys behind its popular Arcane Dimensions mod, Wrath still manages to feel as modern as its contemporaries in the gameplay department. Movement is quick but tight, and with the exception of some more granular sensitivity settings, mouse control feels as fluid as can be. Making clever use of your arm-mounted blade allows for quick vertical lunges in mid-air, a simplified but still fun alternative to Quake’s strafe-hopping.
Wrath is, in a word, chunky. Its use of the original Quake engine means there’s no choice except to look true to form, but in a way, things seem lovingly enhanced. Baked shadows, some creative texture-work, and ludicrous gibs at times make Wrath look even more like Quake than Quake does.
Each of the two available levels in the Early Access build are oppressive locales (a swamp and a crypt) littered with enough enemies to paint the town red. Weapons feel as crispy as the visuals, especially the double-barrel shotgun, which turns flesh into red confetti at a respectable range. Others, like the organic cyst-launcher, are more creative spins on standard FPS fare. Even if functionally identical to a grenade launcher, shooting glowing green sacs of toxic bile at enemies is a whole lot more fun.
One of the more interesting design choices in Wrath is its hub world, where each level can be accessed in varying order to obtain the key to unlock the next. Right now, each of the two levels can be tackled in either order, with the difficulty ramping up dynamically depending on which you do first. If this carries over to the full game it’ll be interesting to see how much replayability it adds – a once-easy level teeming with high-end bad guys makes for a very different experience.
There’s also an Ori and the Blind Forest-esque save system, where you create save points using the “soul tether” power. These are abundant, but limited, meaning quick-save spam is off the menu. Or, it would be, if Wrath wasn’t built using the Quake engine, meaning the ability to quick-save and quick-load are still hard-bound to F2 and F3, respectively. I abstained from the cheese, and I do hope they find a way around it, because the soul tether adds some much-needed tension and resource management to the otherwise forgiving preview levels.
My only minor gripes with Wrath thus far are its over-reliance on ambushes and seemingly microscopic item pick-up radii. It seemed every time I turned a corner or picked up an important item multiple fast-moving enemies would materialize behind me while shotgunners and grenadiers bombarded me from the front. Match this with an inability to easily pick up the myriad health vials littered about for a frustrating combination.
The real question is: is Wrath worth its $24.99 asking price in Early Access? My answer would be an unfortunately obtuse “it depends.” If you, like me, enjoy revisiting games as they receive meaty updates throughout their pre-launch lifecycles, Wrath has a pretty impressive roadmap leading up to its 2020 launch. If you’re trying to itch a retro-shooter scratch and 2 hours of pure, distilled Quake nostalgia will do the trick, go ahead. But if you’re looking for real substance I would wait until at least the next few levels and enemies are added. Until then, you can find me running the two available levels ad nauseam, ‘cause melting baddies with a shotgun is just so dang fun.
You can follow Wrath’s development on its Steam page. A preview code was provided by the game’s publishers.