A Brief Jaunt Through: Mindscape's Captive (Part 1)

Have no fear, Bombadiers, as I plan on doing a proper blog this week that will somehow link Lego Batman 2 and Asura's Wrath, of all the possible combinations in this great medium of ours. In the meantime, I'm getting a little esoteric with a look at Antony Crowther's 1990 sci-fi RPG Captive. Like most of the previous games this series has covered, Captive is a real-time first-person pseudo-3D dungeon crawler. Unlike the rest, you're controlling a band of previously inactive droids in a spaceship as directed by an amnesiac with a briefcase computer that has just awoken from a court-mandated 250 year cryogenic sleep. The goal is to direct the droids to an enemy base, find the probe that will reveal the location of the next base and then destroy the generators that are providing power to the shields around the space-station where the eponymous captive patiently awaits to be rescued. There's a few unique features to Captive that this Brief Jaunt (man, does that name not initialize well) will explain in further detail, but the major point (and one that ties in with the Roguelike-like discussion i had earlier this week) is that the bases are procedurally generated every time you start a game: The level of enemies remains consistant (so weaklings in base 1, tougher enemies in base 2, etc.) as does the mission in each base (find or buy explosives, find the planet probe that points out the next base and then find the generator room and skedaddle before the whole place explodes) but the actual layouts, items and obstacles will be different.

Back when I was a wee nipper with my beloved Atari ST, Captive was one of those games along with Elite and Space Crusade (both of which I intend to feature here at some point) that I poured days into. It certainly set a precedent for my future gameplaying habits, which of course lead to the slow transformation from a bright-eyed youth with his best years ahead of him to the tired, brow-beaten adult with nothing to live for and no future oh God what have these games done to me full to the brim with happy gaming memories that I am today.

The PC version of Captive, like Dungeon Master, can be found for free on many an abandonware site (though I'm not entirely convinced of the legality, since Mindscape was still a thing until it got annexed by EA relatively recently) and runs fine in DOSBox.

Part 1: "You're a Droid and I'm Annoyed?" That's the Worst Joke Ever, Guinan.

Welcome to Captive! As the game begins we're treated to this star map and I'm immediately put into a state of confused panic as I struggle to recall what I did in last playthrough of this game some 20 years ago. Preparation is key, people!
So in the meantime, let's check out our computerized accomplices. They don't have names or any way to level up yet, so we need to activate them first and foremost. Guess which item does that?
If you said "the left foot", congratulations! I bet all of you that said "that microchip looking thing" feel silly. (It is actually the microchip looking thing.)
I give the robots some classic robot names. An odd quirk with the character generation system is that the name will dictate the initial stats of your robots. Normally it's worth tampering around with the names for a while until you get some stats that you're happy with.
Here are my bro-bots. The two Mega Man looking dudes on the left are your basic "human model", which have better eyesight and more accuracy, while the two "for mash eat Smash" robots on the right are "tindrons", more suited for combat and carrying stuff around. Since the chip is essentially the character, the actual body parts are more like armor that you can switch around and replace with better gear.
Randomly picking a nearby planetoid to land on, I settle on the moon Degia here. The starchart stuff is pretty simple; it's more or less a world map that you pick your next destination from. Unfortunately 95% of the planets available are uninhabited. Well, mostly. You'll see in a moment.
For some reason the external areas of a planet are always include these moody, nighttime vistas.
Oh hey! A triceratops! They're friendly herbivores, right?
Aw dang it. The typo is just salt in the wound. Dino planet is a wash, so let's start over (which I believe is a direct quote from Nintendo after Star Fox Adventures was released).
So this time I stop messing around and head to Butre, the actual starting planet. This one has a helpful green dot I must've missed while on that wild dinosaur chase.
This planet actually has a door to somewhere, which is a good sign. Unfortunately all entry doors are locked with a four button combination (the blue triangles). With a possible 24 combinations though, they're not super challenging.
Plus the developers left a helpful hint to this particular one nearby. Thanks "Ratt"!
And we're in.
HOLY CHRIST IS THAT 43KG OF EXPLOSIVES
Oh. Yes. Of course. That's probably enough explosives. My thanks again to Ratt and his inexplicably heavy post-its.
This dead end is what awaits us immediately after the explosives. I already know what to do here (there's a visual hint towards the bottom of the screen) but I can't recall for the life of me which key does what.
I've decided to screencap some of my experiments. The Z button sends my robots to sleep. Why do robots need sleep? Good question!
This one shows off my stats. Huey managed to roll up a pretty decent Dexterity (damage/evasion) and a passable Vitality (health), which is why he's up front.
I finally find the "push wall" button (you have to right click the forward arrow, it turns out) and as the wheeled wall rolls back I'm immediately accosted by underpants gnomes and their adorable shovels.
I skip stage 2 (the brutal and bloody massacre of tiny people) and go directly to "profit" with all these little bags of money that the Lollipop Guild left behind. There's a huge emphasis on currency in this game: Unfortunately, money can also weigh a lot and encumbrance is one of the many things that can drain your power supply faster. There's a few tricks to alleviate this problem that I'll go into in later.
But first, these broccoli motherfuckers had the audacity to get the drop on us while we were robbing midget corpses. Looks like it's time for another hundred-hand slap from our metal fis-
OH SWEET MERCIFUL CRAP SO MANY MOUTHS
A little bit about how experience works: XP is boosted by your Wisdom stat, which is why Dewey is rocking a huge lead. Ideally, Wisdom-based robots are used sort of like mages and thieves; they get all the disparate classes and skills that are sometimes necessary for dungeon exploration, as well as the weapons which are generally more difficult to use (like laser guns) and require a lot of skill ranks. High Dex and Vit are important for your front two units, but Wisdom makes or breaks a robot. In this case Clyde, and not for the first time, is an utter dim bulb.
I leave you, tantalizingly , with this mysterious wall socket. Why do they exist in this rustic base full of monsters? How are they useful to our automaton crew? Why did I cover another old Atari ST game? Why is anything?! Some of these questions will be answered in part 2. Thanks for checking out another Brief Jaunt!
Other Brief Jaunts
Master of Magic - Parts 1 - 2 - 3
Lands of Lore: The Throne of Chaos - Parts 1 - 2
Dungeon Master - Parts 1 - 2
Captive - Parts 1 - 2
5 Comments
6 Comments
Posted by Mento

Have no fear, Bombadiers, as I plan on doing a proper blog this week that will somehow link Lego Batman 2 and Asura's Wrath, of all the possible combinations in this great medium of ours. In the meantime, I'm getting a little esoteric with a look at Antony Crowther's 1990 sci-fi RPG Captive. Like most of the previous games this series has covered, Captive is a real-time first-person pseudo-3D dungeon crawler. Unlike the rest, you're controlling a band of previously inactive droids in a spaceship as directed by an amnesiac with a briefcase computer that has just awoken from a court-mandated 250 year cryogenic sleep. The goal is to direct the droids to an enemy base, find the probe that will reveal the location of the next base and then destroy the generators that are providing power to the shields around the space-station where the eponymous captive patiently awaits to be rescued. There's a few unique features to Captive that this Brief Jaunt (man, does that name not initialize well) will explain in further detail, but the major point (and one that ties in with the Roguelike-like discussion i had earlier this week) is that the bases are procedurally generated every time you start a game: The level of enemies remains consistant (so weaklings in base 1, tougher enemies in base 2, etc.) as does the mission in each base (find or buy explosives, find the planet probe that points out the next base and then find the generator room and skedaddle before the whole place explodes) but the actual layouts, items and obstacles will be different.

Back when I was a wee nipper with my beloved Atari ST, Captive was one of those games along with Elite and Space Crusade (both of which I intend to feature here at some point) that I poured days into. It certainly set a precedent for my future gameplaying habits, which of course lead to the slow transformation from a bright-eyed youth with his best years ahead of him to the tired, brow-beaten adult with nothing to live for and no future oh God what have these games done to me full to the brim with happy gaming memories that I am today.

The PC version of Captive, like Dungeon Master, can be found for free on many an abandonware site (though I'm not entirely convinced of the legality, since Mindscape was still a thing until it got annexed by EA relatively recently) and runs fine in DOSBox.

Part 1: "You're a Droid and I'm Annoyed?" That's the Worst Joke Ever, Guinan.

Welcome to Captive! As the game begins we're treated to this star map and I'm immediately put into a state of confused panic as I struggle to recall what I did in last playthrough of this game some 20 years ago. Preparation is key, people!
So in the meantime, let's check out our computerized accomplices. They don't have names or any way to level up yet, so we need to activate them first and foremost. Guess which item does that?
If you said "the left foot", congratulations! I bet all of you that said "that microchip looking thing" feel silly. (It is actually the microchip looking thing.)
I give the robots some classic robot names. An odd quirk with the character generation system is that the name will dictate the initial stats of your robots. Normally it's worth tampering around with the names for a while until you get some stats that you're happy with.
Here are my bro-bots. The two Mega Man looking dudes on the left are your basic "human model", which have better eyesight and more accuracy, while the two "for mash eat Smash" robots on the right are "tindrons", more suited for combat and carrying stuff around. Since the chip is essentially the character, the actual body parts are more like armor that you can switch around and replace with better gear.
Randomly picking a nearby planetoid to land on, I settle on the moon Degia here. The starchart stuff is pretty simple; it's more or less a world map that you pick your next destination from. Unfortunately 95% of the planets available are uninhabited. Well, mostly. You'll see in a moment.
For some reason the external areas of a planet are always include these moody, nighttime vistas.
Oh hey! A triceratops! They're friendly herbivores, right?
Aw dang it. The typo is just salt in the wound. Dino planet is a wash, so let's start over (which I believe is a direct quote from Nintendo after Star Fox Adventures was released).
So this time I stop messing around and head to Butre, the actual starting planet. This one has a helpful green dot I must've missed while on that wild dinosaur chase.
This planet actually has a door to somewhere, which is a good sign. Unfortunately all entry doors are locked with a four button combination (the blue triangles). With a possible 24 combinations though, they're not super challenging.
Plus the developers left a helpful hint to this particular one nearby. Thanks "Ratt"!
And we're in.
HOLY CHRIST IS THAT 43KG OF EXPLOSIVES
Oh. Yes. Of course. That's probably enough explosives. My thanks again to Ratt and his inexplicably heavy post-its.
This dead end is what awaits us immediately after the explosives. I already know what to do here (there's a visual hint towards the bottom of the screen) but I can't recall for the life of me which key does what.
I've decided to screencap some of my experiments. The Z button sends my robots to sleep. Why do robots need sleep? Good question!
This one shows off my stats. Huey managed to roll up a pretty decent Dexterity (damage/evasion) and a passable Vitality (health), which is why he's up front.
I finally find the "push wall" button (you have to right click the forward arrow, it turns out) and as the wheeled wall rolls back I'm immediately accosted by underpants gnomes and their adorable shovels.
I skip stage 2 (the brutal and bloody massacre of tiny people) and go directly to "profit" with all these little bags of money that the Lollipop Guild left behind. There's a huge emphasis on currency in this game: Unfortunately, money can also weigh a lot and encumbrance is one of the many things that can drain your power supply faster. There's a few tricks to alleviate this problem that I'll go into in later.
But first, these broccoli motherfuckers had the audacity to get the drop on us while we were robbing midget corpses. Looks like it's time for another hundred-hand slap from our metal fis-
OH SWEET MERCIFUL CRAP SO MANY MOUTHS
A little bit about how experience works: XP is boosted by your Wisdom stat, which is why Dewey is rocking a huge lead. Ideally, Wisdom-based robots are used sort of like mages and thieves; they get all the disparate classes and skills that are sometimes necessary for dungeon exploration, as well as the weapons which are generally more difficult to use (like laser guns) and require a lot of skill ranks. High Dex and Vit are important for your front two units, but Wisdom makes or breaks a robot. In this case Clyde, and not for the first time, is an utter dim bulb.
I leave you, tantalizingly , with this mysterious wall socket. Why do they exist in this rustic base full of monsters? How are they useful to our automaton crew? Why did I cover another old Atari ST game? Why is anything?! Some of these questions will be answered in part 2. Thanks for checking out another Brief Jaunt!
Other Brief Jaunts
Master of Magic - Parts 1 - 2 - 3
Lands of Lore: The Throne of Chaos - Parts 1 - 2
Dungeon Master - Parts 1 - 2
Captive - Parts 1 - 2
Moderator
Posted by Video_Game_King

@Mento said:

I've decided to screencap some of my experiments. The Z button sends my robots to sleep. Why do robots need sleep? Good question!

Because otherwise, they freeze up like a motherfucker? (Finally managed to find this blog on the forums.)

Posted by ArbitraryWater

Does this end with you going insane and posting a billion pictures from Legend of Grimrock or something? Because that game is like all these other games, including the whole "balls hard difficulty" thing.

Posted by Mento

@ArbitraryWater: That would be telling. (But yes, I did buy Grimrock in the sales and intend to play it soon.)

Captive isn't quite as balls-hard as Dungeon Master, but it's certainly got its share of crazy nonsense going on that you need to figure out. It's partly why I dig it though; there isn't any game (especially in this genre) that has anything like its emphasis on gadgets and the cool weird shit you can mess with later on, like Dalek remote control cameras and something that I don't want to spoil that's coming up in Part 2. Plus it's randomized, but not in the soul-crushing pointless way Dungeon Hack is (though I should totally cover that too!), so it's like a near endless selection of possible dungeons to scout out, loot from and blow the everloving shit out of.

@Video_Game_King: Sleep does literally nothing except make time move faster. Since the only time-sensitive thing I've encountered is the whole "base exploding in t-minus 30 seconds" routine, I fail to see a useful application for it. But then maybe there's some next level strategy shit I'm not privy to.

Moderator
Posted by Video_Game_King

@Mento said:

But then maybe there's some next level strategy shit I'm not privy to.

Ending the game more quickly?

Posted by ArbitraryWater

@Mento: You should. Dungeon Hack is preeeeety bad. One character only pretty much means you will be rocking the Fighter/Mage/Thief at all times, if not the Fighter/Mage/Priest, classes that are effectively gimped in any other situation. So clearly, when that remake of Baldur's Gate comes out I should make my character one of those.