Posted on March 2nd 2019
Quake Champions introduced a new champion named Eisen in its 17th of November 2018 update. His special ability is that he is able to place a robotic turret that detects enemies and shoots at them automatically. Having a turret is very much one of my preferred play-styles - whether we are playing Team Fortress 2 or Borderlands or even Age of Empires, heh - so I was interested. Plus, the way the preview animation showed Eisen patting and talking with his turret, holding up his hands and playing shooting fingers with it (with a bit of underlying worry), was so endearing to me, I instantly liked him as a character. So I prioritized saving up my shards to unlock the ability to play as Eisen.
One of the first questions I had upon jumping in as Eisen was, where is the indication if my turret is still active or not? I tried to look it up, and instead all the Google search results were people whining that Eisen's turret is useless and he's a worthless champion. Eek!
Luckily for my already spent shards, I quickly realized that those whiners were misunderstanding the point of playing as Eisen. Eisen's turret is not meant to be a major defensive wall covered in rocket launchers a la the Team Fortress 2 Engineer's Level 3 sentry guns. Nor does it form a protective barrier or have any sort of healing function like the turrets in Borderlands. Eisen's turret is just a little beepy robot gun, and based on watching what it does, you can tell if enemies are nearby and from which direction they are coming. Besides detecting foes, a main feature of the turret is to serve as a distraction. If Eisen is on one side and his turret is on the other, which will the enemies decide to shoot at first? Hopefully splitting their attention will give Eisen and the turret and any allies in the area enough time to land enough shots to bring the unlucky targets down. This is important when playing team-based game modes, but also useful playing singly in Free-for-All (where the turret becomes your only ally).
So the turret is like having a little portable and highly-expendable teammate. As for my initial question of, how can I tell if my turret is still active, I realized, well, actually, it doesn't matter. I was thinking I shouldn't accidentally rebuild the turret if it was doing just fine in another spot. But what I should be thinking is, do we need the turret's help here? If so, what does it matter if it is beeping happily and even taking decent potshots at enemies on the other side of the map? Rebuild it here and now, since we need its help here and now. So while I still wouldn't mind actually having the UI indication for my own information, in the end, it doesn't really matter too much. If I can build the turret, and if I need the turret, I should feel free to build the turret. And if the turret is destroyed, even mere seconds after it was placed, that means the enemy spent those precious seconds at a critical moment shooting at the turret and not at me or at anyone else on my team. That's important, and the turret can always be rebuilt again soon enough.
The emphasis on playing Quake III Arena has always been on playing the game as skillfully as you can. While Quake Champions differentiates the characters by giving them special abilities, it seems to me like they are keeping the spirit of Quake III Arena by making those abilities merely as extensions of the basic gameplay. Each ability still requires you to skillfully pull it off at the right moment, and they simply supplement your already skillful playing. So, with Eisen, his turret isn't meant to play the game for you, with you hunched behind it and whacking it with your wrench - at least as of the last time I played TF2, a well-placed and well-maintained level 3 sentry gun was infinitely more valuable to your team's success than the Engineer himself, so an Engineer needs to focus on keeping the sentry and other buildings in good repair, and that could be fun too, but that's not a play-style that matches Quake Champions. Instead, Eisen still has to go shoot his enemies personally, and his turret is just there to help him do so.
Gameplay aside, what spurred me to write this is actually an important feature of Eisen's character. Here's the readily available backstory about Eisen:
One of the first things you are sure to notice about Eisen is, he's not speaking English. After listening to him talk for awhile, I realized he speaks a mixture of German and Japanese.
So, Eisen is German, but has learned to speak Japanese, because his wife, Akiko Tetsuo, is Japanese. He either knew Japanese before and that helped them communicate when they met, or he learned to speak Japanese later, to be closer with his wife. I might be biased, but I suspect it is the second case, since the majority of Eisen's lines are German, and just a few are in Japanese, and, as far as I can tell, the Japanese lines have a heavy accent. His other journal entries also make it clear that he'd be willing to try anything if it's for his wife, whether that's being in a leadership position in her family's company or even just trying to keep a journal at all. And I have to say, as someone who has been gradually learning a second language to be able to share that with my wife, this touches my heart so very much.
Considering I don't speak either German or Japanese and therefore couldn't understand much except for "Scheisse" and "Nani!?", I wanted to look it up any fan translations. However, once again, my Google search was full of people whining. This time, people were complaining that Eisen should just speak English with a German accent, so that they can have the benefit of understanding him without even needing to consider how they live their lives in an imperialistic monolingual bubble.
I am not sure if Quake Champions is following the exact same frame story as Quake III Arena (sometimes it seems like yes, and other times it seems like no), but the idea behind Quake III Arena is that the best fighters from every planet in every alternate dimension and every part of the timeline are being abducted to be players in a grand eternal tournament for the amusement of multi-dimensional alien overlords known as the Vadrigar. This means literal war heroes like Doomguy are whisked into the arena, but the aliens do not have such a narrow view of what it means to be a champion; Slash, a ruthless roller derby queen, is also considered a top candidate for the arena, and Rosy and I headcanon that Anarki from Quake III Arena was a top-tier gamer who doesn't even realize he's not still playing a virtual reality video game. ✽ The eternal battle takes place in what is essentially hell, where the champions continuously die and are brought back to life in order to die again and again. One particularly twisted element of the Vadrigar's scheme is that they intentionally picked champions who have devoted their lives to seeking revenge against each other, in order to ensure that the battle will rage endlessly. The players will never manage to make a truce amongst themselves to overthrow their captors, and instead will endlessly kill each other, making quite a wonderful show of it. In Quake Champions, Eisen has a rivalry with Clutch, the possessed robot responsible for his wife's death, and so he won't stop fighting while his enemy still stands - and it will keep standing as it respawns again and again.
Part of emphasizing that the characters come from any place and any time and any dimension is the fact that they are all so radically different from each other. And part of emphasizing that is that they don't all speak English. So that's why Eisen doesn't just speak English, dumbass. I would also say that the languages you speak and the words you choose to use are an important aspect of who you are, and so are an invaluable way of showing the characters' characters. In Eisen's case, it gives us this possible hint about his past and his relationship with his wife. Additionally, not everyone playing Quake Champions has their first language as English. I fully support art and media reminding those of us who might be living in an imperialist monolingual bubble that other languages exist and are valid and should be celebrated.
I do agree with the person on one of the threads I was reading who says it doesn't make sense that Visor and Eisen speak their own languages, but then Sorlag, a lizard-like alien, somehow is able to speak English. Either that needs a very good explanation, or she should be redubbed speaking her own alien language. Same for the other alien characters, like Scalebearer and Nyx.
But all in all, I have been very much enjoying playing Quake Champions as Eisen, sending out his little beepy turret, and hearing him cheerfully talk about giving the other players hell, in both his own language, and in the language of his deceased wife. Sniff.
- Eisen voice lines?, a fan translation of some of Eisen's German lines
- [Spoiler] Eisen Lore, a transcript of Eisen's unlockable journal entries.
- For more detail on Rosy's interpretation, check out her fansite Cyber Punk. This idea seems to not be the case for Anarki from Quake Champions. We're pretty disappointed that they made him into a junkie who would be willing to torture strangers to unlock access to another dimension and that they retconned his cheerful attitude and some other things about him that we had appreciated. But we'll probably talk more about Anarki another time.