WRATH: Aeon of Ruin (Early Access) | Review

Throwback first-person shooters have been all the rage for a while now, with more and more brilliant titles being pumped out by talented teams aplenty. This, however, is the first title we’ve seen built in id Software’s Quake engine in 17 years. Developed by KillStreak and published by both 1C Entertainment and the boomer game company that’ll never die – more formally known as 3D Realms – the Early Access build of WRATH: Aeon of Ruin is a small portion of retro-shooter goodness that kicks serious willy. 

The story goes like this: you play as a cool-looking bloke known as Outlander. After waking up in a decaying world, a holy figure known as the Shepherd of Wayward Souls has you track down the Guardians of the Old World. And so, you set off through ancient ruins and temples, clearing out the eldritch horrors that stand in your way. There’s no cutscenes or intermission texts to advance the story in the Early Access release just yet. Since it’s keeping up with nineties shooters’ tradition, the plot serves as a backdrop for the action.

The enemy count is seriously high, but it’s actually not too daunting.

It may not look like a game made in the Quake at first glances, but it certainly feels and controls like one. The mobility and smooth air control is definitely uncanny. Considering the technology they’re using, the levels are incredibly large and very detailed. Many areas look murky, damp and unwelcoming with its waterfalls, snow-covered graveyards, and gloomy catacombs. Its atmospheric soundtrack by game OST demigod Andrew Hulshult is a real mood-setter as well. 

Mourningvale serves as the hub world, where you’ll be able to access the two levels on offer. It’s a very big place, but finding the portals to each level sin’t too daunting. Before you enter them, you can scavenge the area for hidden loot, and there’s plenty stashed away from prying eyes. Anyway, the mission layouts are really well crafted, if a bit streamlined at times, and you can expect plenty of traps and surprise ambushes, as well as numerous secret areas to uncover. 

You won’t have to worry about running out of special items to use against these.

There’s a handy hamper of weapons on offer. The first is the arm-mounted Ruination Blade, which allows you to chop baddies or dash forward, perfect for platforming and reaching secret areas. There’s a half-decent triple-barreled pistol for long-range attacks, a buckshot with a chargeable blasts, the fully-automatic gun that spews pointy teeth out for maximum satisfaction, and an acidic slime launcher. It’s a sweet haul that’s drip fed to you across these two levels. There’s so much ammo on offer, especially for the shotgun, which does make it a bit easy.

Items are also in plentiful quantities, too. You’ve got a handy inventory system for collecting tidbits that’ll heal you upon each kill, breathing apparatus to prevent you from drowning quickly, and so on. You also need to rely on artifacts called Soul Tethers to save your progress, though you can find and hold onto so many of these that you’re never really needing to fret about being too careful. There are a few altars that auto-save your game and heal you up as well.

Just a friendly reminder that this was built within a 20+ year old game engine.

The enemies will put up a fair fight, but not enough to make Hard mode true to its name. In any case, there’s the usual flying projectile foes, zombies, and other small fries. You’d best look out for the bullet-sponge slime-spewers, as well as the chunky, charging dudes decked out in armour. Neither of them flinch too much when they’re hurt, meaning they’ll still dish out a lot of punishment before going down. They can be a bit of a pain to fight, but it’s all the more satisfying to take ‘em down.

The demo of WRATH: Aeon of Ruin is a swanky shooter that’s well worth keeping an eye out for. While it’s a bit barebones and has a few niggling issues at the moment, these issues are likely going to get fixed with each new update before the full shebang drops. It’s not the toughest title out there, but it looks gorgeous, sounds brilliant, and plays like if Quake and fantasy-themed titles like Hexen II. May the nineties never die!

The juicy gib effects never get boring.

Review code donated by developers.

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