“Yet again being a cog in the machine…”
The dimension of Quake’s evil has the power to possess. We see its dark influence in the corrupted soldiers of fallen portal stations and the Eldritch structures that blot a netherworld beyond space and time. That dark influence has now taken possession of Machine Games, and they have channelled it into the game’s fourth official expansion, Dimension of the Machine.
And it fucking slaps, as they say. Of course, Machine Games already proved their Quake bona fides back in 2016, when they released Dimension of the Past. But it’s great to see them taking another bat at it, especially when they’re so attuned to Quake’s frequency.
Their Dimension of the Machine is a thing of baroque beauty. Almost every level exudes brilliance, taking full advantage of the remaster’s visual strengths to craft complex, intricate, and detailed new worlds. Worlds charged with that Gothic ‘Quakeness’ haphazardly laid down by the original and then forever seared into gamers’ imaginations.
As Quake works best when it’s kept simple and direct, the premise is as functional as it needs to be: an ancient machine must be powered to open the gate to Quake, where an old enemy has arisen. You’ll journey across five worlds in search of magical runes needed to bring the machine to life, and the forces of Quake, which have manifested across the cosmos, will attempt to stop you.
Be prepared for them to put up a tough fight. It’s substantially harder than the base game, with vastly increased enemy counts, many of which will take the opportunity to flood you, using the verticality of the maps to bamboozle and destroy. Quake’s ingrained brutality is amplified here, with plenty modern flourishes to keep players on their toes. I struggled at times, especially when playing on the Switch, which I just couldn’t sync with my play style. I eventually finished it on PC, sweating blood.
But as addictive and slick as its gameplay is, it’s Machine Games’ new worlds that delight the most. These are stunningly imaginative spaces, effortlessly expanding Quake’s universe (in fairness, it’s a pretty blank slate).
The machine itself, which acts as your hub, impresses first. It’s a complex and intimidating cluster of pipes and whirling metal rings, draped in the banners of the enemy. Beyond lies Cthon, which doesn’t elicit too much threat as he was a bit naff in the original, but the machine does a good job of laying on the requisite cosmic horror.
The first world I visited belonged to the Astrologers, who had scratched away at the surface of a holy site in pursuit of its rune. There’s only the suggestion that Quake had infiltrated their home – beyond our universe – and that’s all that is needed. I was immediately struck by the gorgeous purple nebula surrounding me, and it hit me then that Quake could be anything. Its essence is so diffuse, allowing Machine Games to make the best of it.
But the real star of this expansion is the Realm of the Cultists, which is so good it’s hard not to judge the remaining worlds in its light. It starts at a dilapidated cathedral perched atop rock punctured with huge rusting pipes. Below is an abyss. Above, a placid blue sky. There’s even some greenery – a rarity in the worlds of Quake.
It’s as deceptive as you think, but far more terrible than you initially imagine it could be. The deeper you go, the stranger and more sinister the deception becomes. Until eventually you realise you’re working your way back through the cathedral, only it’s been perversely inverted; the halls are now your ceilings, and the blue sky a hellish red. The normal has, quite literally, been flipped on its head, and the sense of vertigo as you look up to see the cathedral almost dangling from the rock is acute.
I loved it.
Indeed, I loved the entirety of Dimension of the Machine. There’s so much here to enjoy, whether you’re a fan of Quake or coming to it for the first time. Even with so much already packed into the remaster – enhanced visuals, 4k support, both original expansion packs, the original soundtrack, cross-play multiplayer – Dimension of the Machine manages to feel bold and fresh, reminding me that even twenty-five years on, there’s still so much Quake has to give.
And like Cthon himself, I doubt we’ve seen the last of its dark influence. I couldn’t be more excited.
The Quake remaster, courtesy of Nightdive Studios, Machine Games, and id Software, is now available on Steam, PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch.