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

10. Ogre Bastille (ad_e2m2) by Sock


This is a remake of The Ogre Citadel, arguably the best map in episode 2 and the equivalent of Gloom Keep for The Realm of Black Magic, which also inspired the classic Day of the Lords (2003). Bastille is an interesting choice of title for this remake, especially as the moat is now full of blood instead of water. One of the elements that made the original so impressive and which has been imitated in a few excellent “wizard castle” levels since, is the nonlinear layout of the castle particularly through the use of underground routes and aqueduct systems. This is an ingenious way to incorporate exploration into the map and give the actual sense of infiltration into a guarded structure. The conversion of the map’s medieval style seems mostly successful, with a great deal of development of building fronts (as pictured above left) to give an impressive sense of place and make the most of an already strong layout. Watch out for the flamethrowers.

9. Final destination for AD travellers (ad_end) by mfx


This is a dreamlike, atmospheric end or intermission map, included with the original Arcane Dimensions. It is somewhat comparable to mfx’s earlier standalone map, Intermission / Kleins Bottle, which similarly assembles from fragmentary structures of stone, wood, and rock somewhere in between the many worlds or dimensions of Quake. Nice place to fight spiders.

8. Leptis Magna (ad_magna) by Ionous and PuLSaR


This level sets its tone immediately with imperial-style architecture on a monolithic scale which matches the giant stone statues and golems dispersed throughout the level's courtyards and plazas. This is a unique take on the medieval architectural style which seems to have its roots in Dissolution of Eternity and Hexen II or even Quake II, and it certainly builds up its theme effectively. It also makes effective use of traps such as saw blades, pendulum axes, and even collapsing sections of building. The route is fairly intuitive and linear, but because of the scope of your surroundings the map still feels very exploratory (and has an interesting concept as explained in hints, which connects to the finale). The dusky twilight lighting works but this map might have been even more epic if it was a dark and stormy night. Overall, though, great stuff.

7. Place of Many Deaths (ad_dm1) by FifthElephant


This remake of Quake's A Place of Two Deaths (dm1), which was built from discarded sections of unused single player levels and included as an experimental multi-player only map in the Quake demo way back in 1995, updates the gruesome temple design of the original with a much more ruined look and a new outdoor area, with torches and candles everywhere. The effect is of a bunch of revenants and mutants squatting in a church where terrible sacrifices have been celebrated, waiting for the end of the world. Thus, as with a lot of effective design ideas in Quake there seem to be Lovecraftian roots here, and new elements like the Shadow Wizard and other monsters seem right at home. While it doesn’t have the ingenious layout of the Ogre Bastille (which can be credited to the original map), this Elder World temple is very Quakey, and it’s nice to finally see a single player version which does justice to it and adds suitable new areas.

6. Terror Fuma (ad_tfuma) by FifthElephant and Ericw


This base map seems quite nonlinear (or perhaps I did take the correct route, but the signposting did not seem clear). Still, there is always somewhere to go, and the entire compound fits into one gigantic canyon, which is a design choice I very much approve of. Some kind of disease involving green arachnids and other monsters is spreading through the base; I kept thinking about the end of Total Recall. Look at how the above right shot, in particular, screams "Mars Base"; there have been few base maps quite like this (perhaps the closest being Glassman's classic Colony. From when a spacecraft lands above you onward, it's clear that this is not your usual kind of base map, and the use of vehicles (in one case a tank is involved in a horde attack!) is just another way in which this takes the map style to a new level. Great stuff for sure.

5. The City of Zendar (ad_zendar) by Sock


The original version of this level, The Horde of Zendar, was one of Sock's signature works before he even created Arcane Dimensions. It’s amazing to place this revolutionary level at only number five in the current Arcane Dimensions pantheon, as it really did set a new standard and illustrate a new style only a couple of years ago. The map’s visual style of lived-in/worn down (yet not fully ruined) environments has since been developed further, as has its innovative use of nonlinear, multi-leveled layouts. This map really develops the sense of infiltrating a castle that one gets in some of the best original medieval Quake maps (i.e. Gloom Keep, The Ebon Fortress, etc.). I've said it before, but this map strikes me as what id Software wanted to design.

4. Foggy Bogbottom (ad_swampy) by mfx


This gigantic and sprawling level takes place in a vast series of connected grottoes and valleys in the warped ruins of a medieval town. I hope this description captures my enthusiasm for this beautifully atmospheric level design, which builds on the classic earthy dungeon designs of Castle of the Damned, The Necropolis, and The Grisly Grotto, with a convoluted route through an environment reminiscent of Lovecraft stories like The Festival or The Shadow Over Innsmouth. While the route can get confusing, there is a huge amount of potential for exploration in this map (it contains a secret rune, for example, and there is potential for even more secret routes and areas) and the strong sense of place will make you want to play it multiple times. Noclip might be necessary at one point in coop, but this is an essential map.

3. The Necromancer’s Keep (ad_necrokeep) by Scampie and Lunaran


This is basically the Gloom Keep of Arcane Dimensions; it uses a number of similar design features, yet also expands on the moldy medieval mansion style with well-conceived further details and brooding horror atmosphere. Monsters both old and new seem perfectly in their environment here, with cobwebs and candles indoors and gravestones and spiked fences outdoors, all connected by broken and warped gothic architecture. Traps keep the gameplay interesting and the layout often crosses back over itself from new directions. The theme of black magic is well executed, from the foggy forest at the start to the attic chamber filled with jars of blood at the very end. This is one of the moodiest levels available for Arcane Dimensions and great fun to play, it really just takes the haunted mansion theme to the next level.

2. The Realm of Enceladus (ad_azad) by mfx


The first version of this level came out in the IK Temple-themed Map Jam 2 (2014), but this new version is significantly expanded. There are significant new areas that fit naturally into the layout, but the overall gist is the same: you travel over snowy hills into a ruined mountain temple or chapel, clamber through its cavernous foundations and visit a number of snowy courtyards along the way. In this map, even just a simple open air hallway (screenshot above left) is beautiful. Architecture, texturing, lighting, and skybox all contribute to the remote winter atmosphere. The layout and setpieces give a strong sense of an ancient, airy place, full of statues and candles. The central stacked dome, for example, is a characteristically excellent design. One new detail in this version is chains and slightly hovering rocks, so that this could even be interpreted as a void map. This version features a new grand finale complete with an ice golem; this improved version of what was already a masterpiece is my favourite map by mfx.

1. The Forgotten Sepulcher (ad_sepulcher) by Giftmacher and Sock


This vast and sprawling ruined castle-dungeon claims to be loosely inspired by Quake's E1M3: The Necropolis, first released in the shareware demo more than two decades ago. However, I only really noticed the similarity close to the end of the map, as the entire Necropolis could probably fit into this behemoth at least five times over. The amount of detail is simply staggering, everywhere crumbling stone pillars, towers and arches are stacked, with warped wood and metal bracing against grimy rock, grass, and dirt. Contemplating the slimy wall on the lefthand side of the screenshot above left gives me more joy than it probably ought to. Much of the environment is breakable and there is a ton of exploration, especially considering there are fifty (!!!) secrets. Unfortunately it is too easy to get lost; an attempt was made at signposting but the complexity and slightly repetitive (though consistently inspired) nature of this environment does not really help. Still, the nonlinear exploration is great, and this is a gorgeously grimy place to get lost in. Never has an Ogre fishing been more appropriate in Quake, as the monsters feel like they really do live in this environment, and the Lovecraftian sense of unwholesome things growing is increased by exploding pods, among other environmental hazards, and lots of swimming. Bodies are everywhere, giving this environment the sense of an interdimensional war zone. This level has distilled its particular take on Quake to something really quintessential that is just epic and inspiring to play. While confusedly wandering these rotting, swampy halls, a description from the game Myth: The Fallen Lords (1997) came to mind: "the farmland surrounding Covenant was choked with the shattered remains of two armies and pregnant with diseases of the blood… It is from this fortress that he issued his commands."