Mission Critical is an adventure game from Legend Entertainment. The player is the sole survivor of a fierce space battle above the planet Persephone, entrusted with a vital mission by his deceased captain. Before he can complete this mission, he has to repair the ship, defuse a bomb left behind by a traitorous crewmember and deter incoming enemy reinforcements.
The game is notable for being the first Legend Entertainment game to use live-action FMV sequences featuring famous actors. Michael Dorn (Star Trek: The Next Generation) and Patricia Charbonneau (Desert Hearts) play USS Lexington Captain Dayna and his first mate Lt. Commander Jennifer Tran respectively, with a handful of minor roles voiced by less well known actors. Though both characters die shortly after the opening scenes, they appear a few more times in recorded video and voice logs.
The game was released in October of 1995 on PC only, across three CD-ROMs. It was the fourth of seven graphic adventure games put out by the defunct developer, which was acquired by GT Interactive in 1998 and shut down in 2004 by GT Interactive's eventual purchaser Atari (formerly Infogrames).
The USS Lexington and the USS Jericho, a warship and a science vessel of the Alliance forces, reach the planet Persephone in the distant Deneb Kaitos system. Their purpose there is top secret and known only to the commanding officers and Alliance Intelligence, but they are ambushed by an enemy vessel: the powerful warship the UNS Dharma.
Outgunned and forced to surrender, Dayna concocts a desperate scheme to ensure the success of the mission. Rendering a resourceful officer unconscious with a note explaining the circumstances, he transfers his crew and the crew of the USS Jericho across to the Dharma, carrying with them a live warhead from the weapons bay. The warhead ignites, destroying the Dharma and the crews of the Dharma, Lexington and Jericho. The sole survivor is the unnamed officer left on the Lexington: the player character.
After troubleshooting various problems on the ship, including fixing a minor hull breach, restoring coolant to the main engine core before it melts down and rebooting the main computer, the protagonist gets in contact with Alliance Admiral Decker. Though ordered to withdraw and wait for back up, the player character is instead determined to see the mission through.
Like many of Legend's games, Mission Critical uses the distinctive point and click interface first seen in Legend's Companions of Xanth, with a first-person view on top and an inventory bar that scrolls across the lower center of the screen, underneath which is a text box that relays useful information.
In Mission Critical, interactions with objects in the environment have been streamlined to only include context-relevant commands, like "open" for a door or "pick up" for a useful object, rather than having a full list of verbs to choose from. The player has an inventory, and items can be combined with one another or used in the environment to solve puzzles. There are also a handful of mini-games, the most pronounced of which is a tactical real-time combat mode during which the protagonist must control the ship's semi-automated drones to protect the ship from harm.
Using the ship's on-board tactical system, and an experimental headset that allows direct communication with drones, the player is able to direct space battles in real-time.
The player begins with nine drones. The drones can have their load-outs changed -- fighters are fast, attackers are strong and bombers are required to quickly destroy capital ships -- and be placed into formations, allowing them to effectively attack enemy drones in groups. The player can direct each of the drones, and also change the speed of the battle in order to have more time to strategize. The destruction of all enemy ships is the target, though it's usually necessary to take out the enemy drones first. In addition to the drones, the capital ships regularly fire slow-moving missiles at one another, which can be intercepted and destroyed by nearby drones. It is for this reason that leaving a drone behind to protect the player's capital ship (the USS Lexington) is usually recommended.
The game contains eight training scenarios to play through before the actual story-relevant battles begin. The player can also change the difficulty, and switching to the lowest setting essentially allows the computer to take over.