After the release of DUSK last year, the indie scene has been steadily releasing new takes on classic 90s FPS titles. With Project Warlock, Amid Evil, and Ion Fury all proving better than their inspirations, there was a lot riding on Wrath: Aeon of Ruin. Developed by Killpixel (a studio with members from the impressive Arcane Dimensions mod for Quake) with official backing from 3D Realms (famous for Duke Nukem 3D), the sheer pedigree of everyone involved could have sunk Wrath.
Thankfully, that's not the case. While this early access version is incredibly light on content, what is here is shaping up to be yet another excellent throwback shooter.
To go over the nitty-gritty first, Wrath is currently available on both Steam and GOG in an "early access" state. For $24.99, you'll get immediate access to two levels, five guns, and the game's first hub world. For its final release (which is scheduled for Q2 2020), Wrath will have three hubs with high levels each. There will be four more weapons, some new enemies, and a full multiplayer mode.
The game is inspired by the likes of id Software's HeXen. Wrath is a more exploratory shooter with an emphasis on backtracking. You'll be navigating levels to find specific runes that will then unlock more levels in each hub. You can do levels out of order, though some are easier if you collect weapons. It's not as cut and dry as other recent examples in this genre.
If you've always loved Turok, though, and wished it were good, Wrath will please you. Being built on an updated version of the original Quake engine, the movement in Wrath is just incredible. Your character speeds around like he's wearing rocket boots and can jump insanely long distances without much effort. Your starting weapon, a wrist-mounted blade, even allows you to propel yourself forward and clear gaps with ease.
Being based on such old technology, obviously, Wrath doesn't look cutting edge. That being said, the ability to push the resolution out to 4K results in an insanely clean picture. There's not a jagged edge in sight, though you can even decrease the visual fidelity if that's your thing. Along with such a high resolution, the game runs flawlessly on modern hardware – as is to be expected. If you have a toaster made in the last 10 years, you can run Wrath.
None of this technology mumbo jumbo would matter if the game didn't have a solid arsenal, but Wrath is off to a great start. Featuring some FPS staples (like a double-barreled shotgun), Wrath combines ideas together to make a selection of guns that feels distinct from the pack. Your basic pistol has an alternate fire function that shoots like a shotgun, which comes in particularly handy for one-shotting enemies. The shotgun has a delayed fire shot that can ricochet off walls and cover massive ground.
Those are the basics, though. It's the next few that steal the show. A mini-gun like weapon, here called the "Fang Spitter," rapidly fires the discarded teeth of your foes. Its alternate mode shoots out two shots at once, stun locking enemies to help with crowd control. Finally, the "Retcher" is a semi-grenade launcher gun that shoots toxic cysts that explode on impact. It seems inspired by Unreal Tournament's bio rifle, but it's so powerful and awesome to look at it clearly tops its forefather.
With this arsenal in hand, you'll be faced with a colorful rogue's gallery of enemies that will test your FPS skills. Borrowing from the template that is classic Doom, Wrath has archetypal enemies that will require specific guns and motions to defeat. Basic zombies can be slashed with your melee blade, boil spotted foes are best dealt with your pistol, and these monstrous floating tri-headed beasts shout be put down with the Fang Spitter.
It's basic FPS 101, but it just works so damn well. Wrath nails all of the fundamentals and has such a lightning-fast pace that you can't help but get sucked in. Being surrounded by enemies and quickly cycling through these different weapons is a thrill that never gets old. There are a few unique wrinkles in Wrath that separate it from its contemporaries.
The biggest change is that quick saving is not an option. Wrath equips players with "Artifacts" that temporarily modify combat. You'll find one that drops your health to 10 but gives you invulnerability for 20 seconds. Another restores health as you make kills. The main one, though, is an artifact called the "Soul Tether." This allows you to make a save on the spot, but it's the only method you'll have of quick saving.
Temples scattered around each level will also save your progress, but you need to carefully consider how far you're progressing and whether or not a save shrine will be around the corner. It's a real thrill since you could die at any moment…or at least, that's the idea. In its current form, Wrath is far too easy. Ammo is plentiful and anyone with a basic understanding of retro FPS games will do fine on the Hard difficulty mode. The few deaths I did suffer were from careless mistakes more than actual challenge.
Still, we're talking about the first two levels of what will be a much longer campaign. It's not like these levels were even short, with both taking around 25-45 minutes to complete. There's a ton of hidden secrets, loads of enemy encounters, and an abundance of chances to test out your weapons.
That might presently be a hard sell for $24.99, but Wrath is shaping up beautifully. It's like the sequel to Quake fans have always wanted. It's dark, bloody, fast-paced, and engaging as hell. The only real downside is that the levels can feel a little spread out. Still, there's time to alter some things and the core combat is rock solid.
If you have even a passing interest in retro shooters, buy Wrath now.
A PC preview copy of Wrath: Aeon of Ruin was provided to TheGamer for this preview. Wrath is currently available on PC.