PC gaming in the ’90s was a real wild west affair. When games like Doom took off, everybody started making shovelware compilations of anywhere from hundreds to thousands of levels. Most of them were downloaded off BBSes without crediting people, which is pretty scummy in itself. But if you had no internet connection, this was a way to get levels with ease.

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After a few years of this, publishers like WizardWorks started making their own unofficial expansions for games like Quake, Descent and Warcraft II. While this was an improvement – level designers could actually license their stuff for commercial use – the internet was really starting to bloom in the late ’90s, making these unofficial “expansions” obsolete.

Today, I’m gonna look at one of these unofficial expansions for a little game called Quake

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This looks like something I’d see as a background of some pick up artist’s vlog channel.

Aftershock for Quake is a terrible pun, but one of several expansions made to capitalize on Quake‘s success. Published by Head Games, this featured “advanced levels”, adding three episodes and a bevy of deathmatch maps.

Unlike the official expansions – Scourge of Armagon and Dissolution of Eternity – these have no new monsters, powerups or weapons. These are vanilla Quake levels, designed to run with a registered copy of the original Quake. The episodes are drastically shorter than vanilla Quake, only having five levels for each episode.

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There isn’t much of a story to these maps. Hell, with the exception of episode three, there aren’t any credits to who made this. It’s unfortunate, because I was hoping to find a “before they were stars” moments with this expansion.

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Episode 1 has some interesting design. E1M1 starts you with an ogre, a knight, and a pool with armor in it as a secret. A later level has you hit a hard to tell switch to move a boat across to grab the gold key, otherwise you die in hot slag. Then there’s stuff like this:

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I shudder to think someone trying to maneuver this with the default controls.

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Since this was released early in Quake‘s lifetime, a lot of the levels are simple, poorly lit, boxy, and have no sense of balance. One level starts you near a rocket launcher, but then drops you into a trap room with two shamblers, a few fiends, and a couple of pentagrams and megahealth to aid your fight. A lot of these levels have several “kill all the enemies to progress” rooms, and it’s a bit frustrating.

On the bright side, the designers didn’t know how to strip the player of their weapons upon completing an episode, so episodes 2 and 3 can be a breeze with a full arsenal.

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Out of all three episodes, episode 3 is the one that feels more fleshed out. With more custom textures, and even proper credits (made by one Greg McMartin, who’s still in the biz today!), this is the best of the stuff on display. Though he /did/ have a fascination with putting the gold key in death trap areas…

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That’s about it. There’s about 13 deathmatch levels also made, but most of them are simple or have gimmicks, such as the two LAVABOX levels. Since Quake MP was in its infancy, a lot of these were likely made for 1v1 skirmishes. None of these maps are anywhere near levels of DM3, but when you just wanted to frag your buddies, you were happy to get whatever maps you could get your hands on.

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You think that’s it, right? There’s enough there to give you something to play around with. Remember when I said that these were made when shovelware compilations were extremely common? Hidden on the disc is a level creator, called Thred (though the back of the box calls it the “Aftershock 3D Level Editor,” which sounds like a fake program I’d hear on a TV show), and a bunch of levels, single player and deathmatch, that aren’t mentioned on the box. There isn’t anything outstanding in this collection – no Iikka Kiranen levels or anything cool like that – and some of these levels are merely tutorials for how to do things in the Quake engine. Most of these levels are freely available online through places like Quaddicted, but you’re probably not missing out.

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Aftershock for Quake is not an amazing expansion. Episode 3 and the various DM levels are the only reason to check this out. As far as I know, this is abandonware. Head Games no longer exists, and there’s probably no penalty for pirating an unofficial Quake expansion twenty years after its original release. While not as outstanding as some of the other expansions, it’s a cool curiosity from years past.

SILLY THINGS I COULDN’T FIT IN THE REVIEW ANYWHERE ELSE:

  • Demon Gate cover courtesy of Mobygames. Aftershock for Quake cover courtesy of the Quake Wiki.
  • I couldn’t get the installer to work on Windows 7 64-bit since it’s a 16-bit application. Thankfully all I had to do was to copy the /AS/ folder from the CD into my Quake folder and I was off to the races.
  • No new music. It’s all recycled from Quake, with the exception of one level having no music whatsoever. Eh, why get a composer when you’re churning out something quick like this?
  • When I finished E3M5 the first time, Quakespasm (the source port I use) crashed with an unusual pushwall error. Surprisingly I could not recreate the error after that.
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