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OVERVIEW


"Captive" is a futuristic dungeon based action RPG where the player must rescue himself from prison onboard an alien space station that looked a little bit like a Death Star. To achieve this, the player has control of four robots through a futuristic laptop computer (dont ask me why the ailens didnt confiscate it). These robots are stationed on board their spaceship somewhere in the galaxy.

GRAPHICAL INTERFACE


The intro movie featured a view of the closed briefcase. The briefcase then opened and the players "view" dived into the briefcase until the screen appeared as the main game view. This was supposed to represent the laptop computer inside the briefcase. The top of the screen had monitor screens, one for each robot, plus a 'camera' screen. The use of these screens is covered below under the "UPGRADES" section. Below these, the play screen was split vertically in two. The left hand side of the screen was used to view the robots environment from a first person perspective. The right hand side was dedicated to function icons related to robot controls (although practically, keyboard equivalents were the norm), an icon for each robots inventory and icons for the robots hands - for details see the "HANDS" section. There were also icons for instigating "sleep" mode (used for certain time-based tasks), pause and save game functions. Right at the bottom of the screen was a remote control type button panel, used for activating "UPGRADES" although again these were more often activated by keyboard equivalents in practise.

MOVEMENT


The robots view was a first person one and, just like Dungeon Master, movement was done on grid as opposed to smoothly like in Doom. The party could only ever face North, South, East or West. Your party could rotate through 90 degrees, walk forwards, backwards and sidestep. Don't take that as a criticism, this worked just fine. They could also move up and down floors via ladders, holes or lifts. 

AIM


The location of the space station where the player is held is unknown to begin with. The only way to locate it was to guiding the robots through ten locations (levels) looking for probes that show the way forward. Each of these levels take place in dungeons on planets. At the beginning of the game, the player is presented with his first probe and a map of the current galaxy. This map featured hundreds of planets making it very difficult to guess which planets held a probe. By dropping a probe onto the map, a planet holding the next probe (and ultimately the space station) would be revealed.

Each level had a scientist enemy that looked human but turned into a werewolf when attacked. When defeated he would drop a code that could then be typed into a computer located in the level. The computer would dispense a probe.

Once rescued from the prison, the player had the option to continue playing. At that point, the aliens would appear and whisk you and your laptop away to another space station and the whole thing would start again only with bigger monsters and better items to be had. Although there were a great number of pre-defined levels, the game also came with a random level generator for those brave souls that got far enough. Essentially, it is an never ending game!

DUNGEONS


With a planet identified by a probe, the player had to land on the planets surface and search for the dungeon entrance. Whilst on the surface, dinosaurs would attack you. When you found the dungeon door, there was a brief push-buttons-in-right-order puzzle to solve to open the door - but it was vital for the player to remember the code! At the end of the level, having retireved the "Probe" for that planet, the player was forced to blow up the base using explosives on the dungeon generators. When escaping the exploding dungeon, the player had to run back to the entrance and enter the door code essentially against the clock (depicted by flames chasing you).

THE ROBOTS


Each robot has a color and can be named. In typical RPG fashion, each robot has armour for arms, legs, hands, feet, torso and head. Improving armour would improve a robots stats (maximum carrying threshold, resistance to attack etc). The Torso was the most vital item as it powered the robots. Players had to regularly top up the power supply for each droid from handy power outlets found around each dungeon to keep the robots going. Damaged body parts could be repaired at friendly shop keepers, and only depletion of the health of the Torso unit would deactivate any robot.

UPGRADES


Each robot also had "slots" representing a backpack inventory, and slots for chip upgrades. These could be purchased from Shopkeepers that inhabit the dungeons you must search. These upgrades included things like "Visor" for seeing in the dark, "Mapper" to provide a basic map and most memorably "upside down" to walk on ceilings (this was to avoid corrosive water and to help hit certain enemies). Where and when appropriate, upgrades were displayed in the monitors across the top of the game view. Use of these upgrades would drain the Robots torso power charge.

HANDS


Most importantly, each robot has hands! Initial the robots were made to fight open handed. But quickly weapons were introduced. These could be bought from Shopkeepers, although occasional weapons could be found or dropped by defeated enemies.

Weapons ranged from throwable balls to swords to magnum hand guns to lasers to bazokas! Each weapon needed ammo that had to be stored in each robots inventory. Frustratingly, occasional weapons would "Jam" forcing the player to reload thus wasting ammo. Defeated enemies would drop money that could be accumulated to spend on new weapons, armour, chips or body repairs at shops. Occasionally enemies would drop weapons too, but these would only last a few uses before disintergrating. Enemies were varied, but perhaps the most recognisable was a walking robot that looked awfully like an ED-209 from the RoboCop movies!

EXPERIENCE POINTS


The use of armour and weapons was limited via an experience points system. Each robot gained experience from performing any and all tasks (even walking into walls). These points could then be "spent" upgrading your robots stats so that the lastest armour or weapon was within that robots mental capacity. For example, to use a Magnum VII may have required a Handgun Stat of 22 out of 24. In this way it was possible to customise your robots abilities.

LEVELS CONSTRUCITON


From playing the game, it was obvious that the levels were built out of blocks placed on a grid. Each block had the same features on all four sides. For example, a "shop" block alone in the middle of a big room would have a shop from on each face of the block. Dungeons did have doors in them. Often these doors would be operated by codes. Codes were found on tablets littered around the level. Famously, on level 16 (i.e. level 5 of play through no.2) there was a door whose code lay on a tablet that was on the locked side of the door! With no internet to solve the problem, me and my mates spent HOURS trying to run through every possible combination to the puzzle! We failed, but years later I found the code in a magazine and immediately went back to it.

SUMMARY


Captive was truly a great game that still stands up well today (theres a good Atari ST emulation about) and I strongly recommend you to go check it out.

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