Occasionally, when trying to figure out what I want to write about next, I’ll just play something at random and end up going through it all the way and then decide to make that my next game I write about. This past weekend I had one of those moments.
I actually wrote about this on my blog before, back in September of last year. However when I played it then I was just messing around with it, not really focusing on trying to beat it. After listening to a series of interviews with people who previously worked at Looking Glass and watching videos of System Shock 2, I felt like giving this game another try one Saturday afternoon. After actually reading the reference card for the controls and using a special DOSBox config for the game, I started playing…and kept playing…after getting to the Executive Level, I realized I might actually beat the game. And sure enough, I did.
The whole thing became way more engaging as I got deeper in, upgrading my software and finding the audio logs. It’s kind of crazy that it took me this long to beat System Shock considering I already had it on my computer for a while. The game was not scary or anything, really, except for the moments when SHODAN’s face would just show up in the corner of your screen, along with what she has to say. Not exactly scary (maybe a bit unnerving, seeing this green pixilated face staring at you), but startling to the point where I didn’t have my headphones on all the time. I don’t know, it’s a weird problem of mine, and even when you’re playing the game with every difficulty setting at zero, including story, her face still shows up.
Besides that weird problem of mine, everything else about the game is brilliant. Again, reading that reference card, and seeing that the controls aren’t that different from the default controls in Thief, I got a quick handle on moving around. The UI though is the most interesting part of System Shock. Other than pressing escape to pause the game, none of the other functions on your HUD takes you out of the game. Stuff still goes on around you when you’re listening to audio logs, inputting keypad codes, hacking, or even playing games. Yes, you can play video games inside of System Shock, albeit relatively simple ones. Still a nice distraction within the game.
Another interesting thing during my time with this game was listening to those podcasts I mentioned at the beginning of this section. It brought some really neat insight to the creation of System Shock and made me appreciate the design a whole lot more. The idea of SHODAN being a metaphor for the game designer, creating challenges and traps for the player that might seem unfair, and everyone being dead on Citadel Station as a solution to characters not reacting properly to everything in the Ultima Underworld games. Really fascinating stuff.
Also, drugs make you better at video games in System Shock. No joke.
The game got better and better as I kept playing, to the point I was fully absorbed when you’re given approval to blow up the station. Rushing from the reactor to the flight deck to take an escape pod, only to be thwarted by SHODAN. Then it’s up the bridge and the whole time you can feel the station shake and rumble as it’s about to blow. You reach the bridge, SHODAN’s domain, and you go into cyberspace to face off against her. The battle itself is pretty interesting, as you gotta destroy her before your screen turns into her face and you lose. Compared to something like Bioshock, System Shock ends with a pretty awesome third act. Also, there’s a long ladder you have to climb on the security level which I’m sure would later inspire other long ladder climbing scenes in games like MGS3.
After just fumbling around with this game for almost a year I’m amazed I even got myself to go through it all. The design is obviously supposed to be a refined or modified version of the Ultima Underworld type of gameplay, but because people are familiar with Bioshock and System Shock 2 that it’s easy to grasp how progression through the game works. You just have to adjust yourself to controls that are different from what is the standard today.
And the Rest
Tekken 3D Prime Edition
I’ve already played SSFIV 3D and DOA Dimensions, so I figured I would try out Tekken 3D as well. Unfortunately, the game was quite disappointing. A huge lack of modes, with the only value I got out of it being Tekken Blood Vengeance, which I enjoyed for its stupidity (and because I have some interest in the universe and characters).
Things Other Than Games
Not much of interest going on here. I keep forgetting to get caught up on episodes of Persona 4 the Animation. I got to skip most of school on Friday to watch demonstrations from engineering majors at a college here in town. Normally I would not go on field trips on any kind, but since my physics class is really small, and filled with people I find very tolerable, I figured it would be alright this time. Also, there was pizza for lunch, which was actually the main thing that convinced me to go on that trip. The demonstrations were interesting.
Another blog finished, most of which was written just hours before posting. I really need to stop holding this off to the last minute, feel like it’s a bad habit.