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Abyss of Pandemonium

DOS - 1998

Alt name Abyss of Pandemonium: Total Conversion for Quake
Year 1998
Platform DOS
Released in United Kingdom
Publisher Perfect Publishing
Developer Impel Development Team
4.6 / 5 - 5 votes

Description of Abyss of Pandemonium

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Quake Keeps On Quaking

Every day we seem to hear more announcements of Quake-alikes. Quake 2 is very much alive and kicking, receiving a whole new life with the addition of mission packs, and Quake 3 in the pipeline. Unreal is currently being hyped as the engine to beat, and with such games as Daikatana and Heretic 2 in the pipeline, you would think that the original Quake is very much a spent force.

Well, you would be wrong. One of the great advantages of the original Quake (and one that has been carried over to its descendants, both legitimate and otherwise) is its infinite extensibility. I help run Games Domain's sister site , a searchable database of downloadable add-on levels for games (including Quake), and I can happily report that not only is the patient well, it's positively thriving. Not only that, but Quake has the ability to run quite happily in DOS, on even the most aged 8Mb DX4-100 - something which its hungry offspring wouldn't begin to contemplate. Add to the fact that you can now happily buy the full registered version in a bonus add-on pack with either the two official add-on missions or the Malice total conversion means that those of us on tight budgets can have hours of fun for a very small outlay.

Into The Abyss

Which brings us to "Abyss of Pandemonium". AoP (as it usually abbreviates itself) is the offspring of Impel - a group of developers whose names have featured on some of the best Quake maps and add-ons to date - and they certainly know their stuff, if AoP is anything to go by. AoP is being distributed by Perfect Publishing, who specialize in publishing CD-ROMs of add-ons and levels for various games. A label on the back of AoP's packaging claims them to be "Anti-Shovelware" - by which I presume they mean that they attempt to exercise some quality control over what they put on their CDs, rather than banging together any old tat.

The Plot

Basically the plot follows on from Quake and its two expansion packs. Briefly, Yet Another Of Quake's Generals called Legond has returned from quelling the natives to find the Empire in tatters thanks to you. Legond, who is somewhat miffed at finding the old firm in ruins, swears never to eat cheese and baked-bean toasties until she has your head on a spike in the middle of her occasional table - presumably as a conversation-piece during the post-lunch coffee and mints.

In other words, its the same ragged old Alien-meets-Dennis-Wheatley plot. Ignore it and get on with the game.

Playing With Guns

This is Quake, and so the gameplay can be roughly defined in the following way :

Meet interesting people and things in exotic environments, then kill them.

Of course, this is an extension of the original Quake, so as well as the usual tried-and-trusted weapons. we get a couple of extra ones which are even more fun. Just to add to the game, these weapons are only effective on certain types of monster. Firstly we get the impaler, which fires rocket-powered sharpened-steel stakes into your unfortunate opponent. Secondly we get a modified version of the grenade gun which fires napalm grenades.

Being napalm, the resultant flames stick to walls and floors as well as opponents, enabling you to lay down a carpet of flame which you and your opponents cannot pass without bursting into flames and ultimately..... bursting. Thirdly we get an experimental prototype electrical gun called the LG2, which allows you to fire bolts of energy which bounce off walls, causing your targets to leap about and explode. Finally we get the suit-mounted laser system, which has three upgrades, and which is deadly. On the power-ups side, we also get a force-field rune, which increases personal armour.

Such A Lovely Place

On the exotic environments side, we get a whole new set of ten levels to explore, plus six deathmatch levels. The design of the levels is nothing short of fantastic. Whilst playing previous Quake Add-on packs, I have sometimes got to the point of boredom with the levels therein. Quake's original levels could be extremely irritating, as the first few highly entertaining levels gave way to some rather tedious later ones, and the same could be said of some of the later levels in the add-on packs. One of the claims made for AoP is that it is the first add-on to feature believable and realistic outdoors scenes. Well, I'm afraid that isn't true. The exterior scenes presented in AoP fall way short of those in, for example, Zerstorer or Scourge of Armagon.

However, this isn't a problem as the plotting of the levels for single player is excellent. Traps abound for the unwary who prefer to charge about with mad abandon, including the rather nasty Pin Head trap. Survival is a matter of cunning as well as being quick on the buttons and mouse. The levels reek atmosphere, with even the initial selection level providing an impressive demonstration of the AoP teams talents. Problems and puzzles are cleverly designed, so that replayability is high. For example, gaining access to AoP's "hell" level (their version of Quake Nightmare) is cunningly implemented. My only complaint is that perhaps AoP is a little short - then again, it's a universal rule that you should always leave your audience wanting more.

Ugly and Truculent Staff

Of course, it's not enough these days to feature the same old Quake Monsters, although such well-known and hated standards as the Ogre, the Scrag and the Grunts and Enforcers do make appearances. My favorites are the Juggernauts - giant heavy armour-plated battle robots which just don't stop. The Dark Knights - reincarnated cybernetic knights with the power to electrocute you - are also pretty high on the list. Other creatures noteworthy of mention are the bat-like Grenlings, who are a cross between the face-huggers from "Alien" and the Mynocks from "Empire Strikes Back". Beware also the Lightning Enforcers, who look just like standard Enforcers, except that they are armed with lightning guns. Another little addon which seems to escape description in the documentation is the small, spider-like robots which are dotted around the second level.

The Little Things That Count

Of course, any gonzo with an editor can bang together a load of levels, monsters and weapons and call it a total conversion. The thing that sets AoP apart from many other efforts are the little touches. For Example : if any of your more fleshy enemies are unfortunate enough to be killed by explosion, not only are you subject to a shower of blood and (occasionally) a disembodied head, but you will see such gory items as bone fragments. If the unfortunate victim happened to be immolated, then some of those fragments will remain on fire. If you happen to use the impaler on a Fiend or an Ogre, then you can quite clearly see the steel stake embedded in the poor unfortunate creature.

Yet another little touch, and one of the nicest, is the fact that after a Win95 installation you will find AoP has installed options to start either standard DOS quake, Winquake or GLquake.

Power Hungry?

I managed to play the game on several systems to test its speed. Firstly, I tried it on my aging 486, which has been upgraded to an AMD 586 CPU running at 133Mhz. It's a bit long in the tooth, and the sound card (an aging soundblaster clone with wavetabling) isn't compatible with Quake, but otherwise the game seemed to move reasonably quickly, providing I didn't venture beyond the basic default (low) resolution. Some of the bigger maps would cause a noticeable slow-down, even at that resolution. Bear in mind that the majority of the review was undertaken on this machine, and I was more than happy with its performance!

Secondly it was tested on my P120 at work, with a soundblaster clone. This was my main testbed for the office multiplayer games. It seemed quite happy with no noticeable slowdown unless I started going for the highest graphic mode supported. Again. some noticeable slowdown on larger maps when in higher modes. This humble P120 also managed to happily run a listen server for at least eight players, including me playing on it. Finally it was tried on a P200MMX with a 3D Accelerator, which was of course, fantastic, with no noticeable problems. It was also tried on the same P200 without the 3D acceleration, at resolutions of 800x600 and 1024x800. Again, this was pushing it somewhat and one or two of the bigger maps caused noticeable flickering as framerates lowered. Having said that, If I had a P200 with a 3D card I wouldn't waste time trying high modes like that as it offers graphics way beyond the capability of software-only rendering.

Challenge

Of course, the challenge of AoP is a sustained one, as it is designed to attract the hardened Quake player who has managed to finish the original and possibly the two official add-ons, and is looking for yet more of a challenge. They will not be disappointed by the level of challenge issued by AoP. The initial difficulty settings offer just enough so that the average player (ie me!) can get through, whilst the hard and hell levels are for the (erm) "hardened" player. Which is not to say that they are ridiculously impossible. A lot of thought has gone into the design and placement in the different levels.

Multiplayer

Being a Quake add-on, single player is only half the game. I'm very pleased to say that Multiplayer fun has not been ignored, with six marvellous maps specially for deathmatches added to the pack. We're fortunate in being able to play Quake across the Games Domain office network every lunchtime and so we were able to give AoP a sustained test - which was intense fun. I mean, where else would you be able to set fire to your Boss and watch him run around? (without losing your job or charges being pressed, of course)

Again, the AoP attention to detail stands out. In standard Quake it was very easy for the game to become "Race for the Rocket Gun", and the addition of the extra weapons to the game tends to equalize the problem out. The only map that didn't get a good reception was AOPDM6, probably because of the large areas of lava. The smallest map is great fun for sustained fragging, being merely one room with two levels, but this was disliked by some of the weaker players as it didn't give them much chance. Some of the other single-player maps were tried for deathmatch with varying results. One of them did give a minor problem, as it was possible for a player to regenerate in a badly-placed position, so that they were stuck inside the scenery. This was the same map in which a large amount of the single-player map was cut off, which was a bit disappointing.

The Bad News

Good though it is, I think that this project has its weak side. This is mainly due to the non-existent plot and lack of cut-scenes. Zerstorer proves that both can be done. The ending of both sections is pretty naff. Kill the Boss and that's it. No cut-scene, just that dreadfully slow text scrolling across the screen. Again, one only has to look at Zerstorer to see that things can be better. Couldn't we have a more cinematic James Bond style ending with explosions et cetera whilst our intrepid hero races to the warp-gate to be saved just in the nick of time? It often seems these days that designers spend their time on the game, tacking on a brief and unsatisfactory ending secure in the knowledge that many people won't even get far enough to see it. Perhaps they should look up Catharsis in the dictionary. Of course, Impel deserve to be rewarded for their time and trouble, particularly when you realise that they have managed to build something in their spare time that easily equals professionally produced add-ons. But is it a case of too much too late? After all, the games market has moved on, hasn't it?

Well, no. The fact is that an awful lot of us can't afford to replace our computers every two years so that we can play the latest games, and so we've got a lot of catching up to do. In the meantime, Quake does very nicely, thank you. As well as that, Quake II hasn't totally converted everybody. In fact opinions on Quake II are divided neatly down the middle in the Games Domain office, half thinking it's the greatest thing since sliced bread, the others thinking that it merely gilded the lily that is Quake. Added to that if you check the enormous amount of servers across the web that STILL play standard Quake, and you will see that there's life in the old dog yet.

Well?

Well, it deserves to succeed. It's more fun than Quake, it doesn't pall after a few times through, and it never fails to amuse and impress. However, its release may be considered bad timing, coming in the wake of price cuts on the original Quake and it's add-ons. In the meantime, I'm off to play it through again now I've discovered how to get to the Hell Zone.

Review By GamesDomain

Abyss of Pandemonium is an addon for Quake, you will need the original game to play.

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Comments and reviews

Daisy1968 2019-04-11 0 point

This mod for quake is amazing but a real nightmare difficult xD
Especially with the Darkplaces and Epsilon it's beautiful but very system demanding in 1920x1080 and ultra settings.

MarkTheMorose 2019-02-11 2 points

An unofficial 3rd expansion, according to Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quake_(video_game)#Expansions

Demonstar 2018-10-12 3 points

I'm pretty sure this is either a quake clone or a mod pack for quake

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