Activision's first Quake add-on, Hipnotic's Scourge of Armagon, was an excellent enhancement of the original game, combining challenging, well-planned levels with improved versions of independent programmer hacks such as customized weapons and power-ups. Now developer Rogue Entertainment has stepped up to the Quake plate. Its Quake add-on, Dissolution of Eternity (Activision's Quake Mission Pack No. 2), sets out to expand upon the Quake universe by adding a fresh veneer, while preserving the basic concept of the game. To this end, Dissolution incorporates new themes and adds the requisite number of new monsters, weapons, and levels.
Like Armagon, most of the new weapons in Dissolution are refined versions of hacks that were previously available on the Web. Unauthorized armaments such as the grappling hook (which is only available in Capture the Flag games), multi-rocket, and multi-grenade launchers all make their appearance, but with a perfected look and feel. There's also a Lava Nailgun that spits out sizzling spikes. Same nailgun, more damage. Admittedly, it's satisfying to see four - count them, four - rockets trail into the distance from your sights.. But many of the new weapons - like the multi-rocket launcher just mentioned - are a little too powerful, making it easy to take out some of Quake's more menacing foes, like Death Knights, with a single shot.
Of the several new monsters in Dissolution of Eternity, a few are really grabbing, and a few aren't. New foes such as the Hell Spawn (an updated version of that annoying, exploding globule in the original), Electric Eels (who can hardly be described as "electrifying"), and Phantom Swordsmen (swinging bodiless swords) don't really add any drama to the game's atmosphere. The remaining enemies, however, may actually turn some heads - clean off. Ogres that leap down and lob multiple grenades, hovering grim-reapers called Wraths" who chant while firing off explosive energy spheres, statues who come to life only after you've wrested one of their coveted possessions, and Guardians, lurching ancient warriors who creepily emerge out of the ground, all prove to be frightening and formidable opponents. One level, Elemental Fury II, actually includes multiple lava monsters (a la Chthon), who spring up without warning to greet you with flying chunks of magma.
As the two mission packs are scrutinized closer, the comparison begins to narrow down to level design. The environments in Armagon are fraught with subtle challenges that gradually progress in difficulty as one pushes onward. A couple of levels in Dissolution - namely Blood Sacrifice and Elemental Fury II - are similar in that they grow more interesting as you advance. But while you may find an abundance of new cultural motifs throughout Dissolution's levels - Greco-Roman temples and mosaics and Egyptian Sphinxes and obelisks - the traps found therein aren't, for the most part, consistently challenging. And the maps can become excessively frustrating to navigate.
Even the single deathmatch level offered in the game lacks the austerity that makes for a classic network fragging arena. But Quake players who enjoy variations on the multiplayer game should enjoy the options that Rogue has included: Players can host variations such as Tag or Capture the Flag.
This pack is worth buying for players looking to further their Quake experience. But with its labyrinthine levels and some frivolous additions, Dissolution of Eternity lacks the same inventive quality that made Armagon a seamless continuation of Quake.