Reviewed and ranked by Dustin 'Tronyn' Geeraert.

Ranks 37-31 | Ranks 30-21 | Ranks 20-11 | Ranks 10-1

Arcane Dimensions is a single player and coop Quake mod started by Simon O’Callaghan (aka Sock), a longtime game designer who reconsidered commonly used or well-established Quake design principles. His early design criticism was compared to Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses. Whether it is evolution or revolution, Arcane Dimensions represents the realization of the design vision Sock first outlined a few years ago. It’s great news for the Quake community and the most influential mod since Quoth, and the recent release of the final version represents an interesting opportunity to consider the shifting trends in level design over the last few years.

Like Scourge of Armagon, Zerstorer, or Nehahra, there is an interpretation of Quake itself implicit in this further work. As with many mission packs, the nature of this new world's interpretation becomes clear in the start maps. Both start maps blend many different architectural styles together expertly, creating the impression of interlocking worlds wearing away at the seams. What remains consistent across the various styles of architecture is the scale or sense of proportion and level of detail, as well as the common element of neo-traditional themes and nods to design elements that now go back more than two decades. With some common design features, most notably the design influence of Sock himself, Arcane Dimensions levels find their own place in Quake’s tradition of "digital folk architecture."

These reviews are not ratings (objective) but rankings (relative), admittedly based on subjective criteria, and meant as constructive criticism, being inherently appreciative of the content. The hope is to document some trends in map design and aesthetics, while also providing a brief survey of the maps.

37. The Grotto by Sock


While this whole list is in some sense comparing apples and oranges, that is particularly the case with this Christmas jam map. It's definitely amusing/fun, but it's also very short. Not wanting to spoil any surprises I will say that this level is like Sock meets Madfox, which is awesome, but difficult to rate in relation to other maps.

36. Untitled (xmasjam_naitelveni) by Naitelveni


In a take on IKBlue temple perhaps comparable to the red and blue colour scheme of Scampie's map jam 2 map, this brief untitled Christmas jam map takes place in a round tower with some magical mechanisms and gameplay that can be challenging in close quarters.

35. A Horse Named Quake (mjb_horse) by Bloughsburgh


This is a small vertical "courtyard" or "atrium" map which is perhaps a little rough around the edges, but is also charmingly old-school. Supplies seemed very short on hard difficulty and despite the vertical layout movement around the map could definitely be smoother, so this might be a frustrating map for some players, but still potentially a fun blast.

34. Remains in a Manger (xmasjam_dumptruck) by dumptruck_ds


Beginning in a small dungeon, this subterranean level progresses into a more open cavern setpiece which is the design highlight. As the title implies, it's a Christmas jam map, so space (and time) is limited, but it does seem like the layout and architecture could have been developed further. Perhaps the most striking thing about this level is the eerie soundtrack.

33. To Absent Fiends (xmasjam_5th) by FifthElephant


This is a fairly traditional Quoth-style dungeon inhabited by medieval monsters. You ascend through a few chambers and arrive in a courtyard full of ruined arches, which provides the level's visual highlight. Overall, this is not ground-breaking, but instead a traditional theme well-executed.

32. The Mire (ad_dm5) by Ionous


Quake's The Cistern (1996) has also been remade as part of Negke's Bad Dark Cistern (2012) and Than’s Round The U-Bend (2012). It is interesting to see how an initial simple and even random design, can evolve into a much more elaborate articulation in multiple later versions. The use of water remains important, but these later versions agree that the sewer system, however ancient and here apparently even Roman, needs a newer (Victorian at least) mechanical system, even if it is falling to pieces a bit more these days.

31. Etemenanki (xmasjam_ionous) by Ionous


This is a neat little temple tucked away into a flooded canyon, with multiple levels to explore and a colourful palette in its designs. Some of the layout is a bit cramped or confusing, but this offers a unique environment in Arcane Dimensions.

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