Hey Space Cadets, I decided that I wanted to keep playing some of those adventure games I briefly looked into during E3's usual "anything but E3" series of mine. I've been on an adventure game kick of late, and Legend's stuff is so well written and thematically interesting that I figured it was worth showing more of it off.
Mission Critical is a sci-fi themed adventure that, unlike most of Legend's other games, is based on an original story penned by writers from within the studio rather than being based on a novel, or series of novels. It's also the first Legend game to feature FMV actors, though they're only used sparingly for exposition cutscenes. It's not quite the FMV digitized actor nightmare that adventure games were lamentably evolving towards heading into the late 90s.
Before I resume, I'll recap the story so far (though you are very welcome to go back to
the original thread and check it out there):
The USS Lexington and USS Jericho, a warship and science vessel respectively of the progress-focused Alliance, have reached the end of a long and trying journey across the cosmos: the planet Persephone, in the Deneb Kaitos star system 68 light years from Earth. Though the details of the mission are top secret, known only to Captain Dayna (played by
Star Trek TNG's own Commander Worf, Michael Dorn) and his first mate Lt. Com. Jennifer Tran (played by Manhunter/Desert Hearts' Patricia Charbonneau), they still find themselves ambushed and outgunned by the sudden appearance of the Geneva-class UNS Dharma, a powerful warship of the enemy UN forces (yes, the UN are the enemies in this game).
The UNS Dharma handily defeats the USS Lexington, and demands the unconditional surrender of the entire crew. Knowing the critical importance of the mission, the Captain knocks out an officer (the player) assuming the enemy captain would overlook a single casualty and provides them with a note explaining the circumstances, leaving Tran to record a few logs to instruct them on what needs to be done to fix the ship and complete the mission. He then carries over a live warhead in the crew shuttle to the UNS Dharma, destroying the enemy vessel and the crews of all three ships.
After fixing a hull breach and averting a catastrophic engine meltdown due to a malfunctioning coolant system, the protagonist's next task is to get the ship's main computers and sophisticated AI back online. We've also discovered some worrisome reports that points to a turncoat officer as the one responsible for setting up the ambush. The officer in question is dead, along with the rest of the crew, but I doubt we're quite done with that sub-plot just yet.
Anyway, let's get down to it:
Part 3: To Hell With Ship Repairs, I'm Going To Write That LP About the Sassy CPU Well, now that we're no longer at risk from being disintegrated by a faulty engine core, what say we get around to fixing our computer buddy? First though, I take a gander at the only floor we haven't visited yet (well, besides the Weapon Bays. Ain't much going on down there though.) Deck 6 contains the shuttle bay and the cargo bay. This cargo bay is packed floor to ceiling with all kinds of fun looking stuff, but the only thing we need here (and the only reason to ever visit) is for that Multitool in the bottom left corner. Unsurprisingly, a Space Swiss Army-like device will be pretty useful. Man, shuttlebays always give me the creeps. It's like a big empty room with a giant door that will kill you if it opens. We don't need to be here yet, since there's no shuttles left to take us anywhere. Right, so if you recall last time, we weren't able to access the computer room because this corridor got torn the eff up. Fortunately, we have a cutting tool that allows us to squeeze past the worst of it. Miura, the paranoid hacker dude that he was, left a four digit password lock on this door to stop us passing through. Given that we've already raided his stateroom and found the programming code that allowed us to generate Pi to a thousand places, finding out that the answer was "3141" wasn't exactly breaking the Enigma code. Sweet Win 2k burn there. I caught another screenshot of Tran, this time mid-duckface. I swear I'm not doing this on purpose. She gives us more details on the mission itself, now that we're pretty much done fixing the ship. Turns out they found an alien "marker" on Persephone (oh no way, I hear you exclaim) and since the UN is focused on maintaining technological standstill, they're likely to reduce any high-falutin' alien super-advanced whoosits that might lie underneath the marker to slag. That's why we need to get there first. The computer's a lot more chatty now that it's back online, and freely provides as much additional exposition, backstory and technology talk as you could want. You can even get deep into an interesting discussion about emergent AIs and whether or not it's possible to actually create a computer-based sentient life-form. Essentially: Yes it is, but it needs to be the focus of the computer's design. As in, it needs all the capacity for rational thought and learning that a human has, which means multiple databanks and processors dedicated towards that express purpose. Our ship's AI ain't going to be sentient anytime soon, for the same reason a toaster won't. But let's get back on track here. The next task is to get navigation back online so we can communicate with the other ship, the USS Jericho. We'll need their lander to reach Persephone. We've also been informed to contact the Erebus Colony to report our situation to the higher ups within the Alliance, since they'll have the release codes to activate the lander. But because there's always a "but", we'll need to replace some electronic parts on the dish that the ship uses to make long-range communications. Guess what that means? I didn't screencap the reply to this first query, but it's basically "Nope. Sucks to be you." At least we can find the parts easily enough, as we found a storeroom on Deck 2 filled with all sorts of oddly-named gizmos. Or so you'd think. The EC2001's been borrowed for that Holovideo VR thing in the mess hall. Sure, let's just add more walking around. It took me a while, but there's a very small spot on the VR system where you can emancipate the required EC2001 from the rest of the system's hardware. I did manage to rip out its cables during my awkward scrambling, though. Looks like no-one's going to get to enjoy "Welcome to This Horse's Anus" any time soon. So this sucks, I now gotta go out into space to actually fix the dish. I mean I guess it was inevitable that we had one of these tense spacewalk sequences, right? Doesn't mean it won't be vertiginous and eerie. Ah, right. This is a problem. There were no oxygen tanks in the suit locker, and I can't really go out into space without one. I'm no scienceman, but air seems important. Fortunately, we don't have to worry about it right now, because the ship just told me that an antimatter bomb has been activated somewhere on the ship. ...Wait, what? Part 4: Giant Bomb and Space Linkin' So yeah, we already knew Poole was the culprit. Using the multitool we picked up, I've taken apart that suspicious spaceship model and found all sorts of interesting things. The first is this note that Poole left for his brother back on Earth, explaining his motivations for betraying the Alliance. Essentially, his parents got turned into pink goo by prototype nanomachines, so he's kind of anti-technology as a result. It's nice they bothered to humanize the guy, really. Also in the package is this binoculars device, which I ascertained immediately had something to do with the Medical Officer's safe, as well as a sub-space transmitter and a little blue key. The safe was actually a red herring. The only things in there was a weird headset, an ampule and some instructions about an experimental drone interface device. None of it seemed to have anything to do with the bomb though. I'll admit it took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out where this blue key goes. Given Poole's propensity towards airship models, I guess it should've been more obvious. The second model contained the bomb itself, here stopped for dramatic emphasis at close to 20 minutes. Hey, I wasn't going to wait around for it to say "007". Yeah sure whatever lady computer, I'll just carry around a 1 kiloton yield explosive in my briefs. That'd make for one hell of a pick-up line. So now that the second imminent disintegration threat of the day has been taken care of, it's time to look at this manual for the Hype/Telecon system I obviously stumbled upon far too early. I'm not a fan of this "the user goes insane and then dies" Known Shippable they've got listed here. That's frickin' Early Access for you. Since I'll have to do it eventually, I go down to the Weapon Bays and ensure all the drones are coordinated with the Hype/Telecon system. I recognize the "inevitable heroic tragic death by experimental superhero drug" trope when I see it. Excellent. I don't know why I didn't do this sooner. Ah, right. That spacewalk I've been putting off. Remember when I said how embarrassed I was about taking my sweet time finding that bomb? That's nothing on the half hour I spent wandering around on the ship looking for an oxygen tank. I even tried cutting a few things with this cutting torch, which has its own oxygen tank now that I look at it closely. Surely not... What's this tiny thing going to be good for? Like five minutes? Like I need more things to be trepidatious about. Well, here goes absolutely nothing. Literally. ohgodohgodohgod ohgoditsspace ohgodohgodjustreplacethepartssowecangoback Phew. So after we get the dish working, the oxygen tank decides it's had enough and goes out for good. The next part is navigating a route through a series of beacons to establish a link to Erebus base. It's actually kind of neat. There's various nodes to select, each either takes you closer to the goal or further away. Some simply terminate. By using this starchart, you can see how much closer you're getting to the target star system. Until finally, you reach the Erebus Colony and can send a message. The Jeffrey Jones-esque Admiral Decker (actually avuncular character actor Henry Strozier, who was in Contact and has had multiple voice roles in Legend Entertainment games, including Lord Xar of Death Gate) gives us a direct order to pull out of the system and wait for back-up, but I'm too much of a big damn obstinate hero to go for it (and also it leads to an early game over anyway). He finally relents and gives us the codes to activate the Jericho's lander, as well as sending the computer more details about the mission. He also gives us the official breakdown of the Hype/Telecon drone interface system, in case we hadn't found it yet.
So now we've made up our mind: The mission must be completed! And we'll almost certainly be killing ourselves one way or another in the process! Stay tuned for additional parts to come.
Oh hey look, here's another one:
Part 5: Keeping Up With the Droneses Now that I'm done swinging my giant balls around, I guess it's time to do that thing where I inject poison into myself so I can tell a bunch of robots how to fight, dang it. Admiral Decker gave us a pretty decent idea that there's more UN ships on its way, just in case the Dharma didn't succeed. This is like the least wisest thing I've done so far. Day's still young though. Ohhh shit it's kicking in. So this is when the game reveals its hand: there's an entire hidden RTS mode. It's actually kind of neat, though I suck at it. The Hype/Telecon system means I can control drones directly in real-time environments, whereas every other drone is beholden to its programming. I'm also able to think so quickly that I effectively slow down the passage of time, allowing me to make split decisions faster than the enemy drones can. It's simply a matter of telling each of my nine little buddies what to do. Drones have three types: nimble fighter drones, strong but slow attack drones and sluggish bomber drones who are best used against capital ships. Once a drone has met with an enemy, both health bars steadily drop. I can actually tell a drone to escape the battle if their health drops to critical, at which point they go repair themselves back at the capital ship (for us, that's the Lexington). There's other little details, like setting drones in formations that lets them gang up on smaller groups, and ensuring that a drone stays behind to protect the capital ship from ship-to-ship missiles, but it's fairly perfunctory stuff. It's still surprisingly deep for a point and click mini-game, and there's difficulty options if you just want to whizz past it (or let the computer play for you). After the above eight training scenarios are completed, the actual UN reinforcements show up. Nice of them to wait until I figured this shit out. The actual skirmish is only about as tough as the training exercises, except for... ...the fact that you immediately have to fight another battle afterwards. The first encounter is against two destroyers, with about six drones apiece. This second fight, against a Helsinki-class cruiser, is a bit tougher. It has sixteen drones to our nine and is more powerful to boot. It's actually not too bad, despite the numbers, but the danger comes from losing too many drones in the first skirmish. They don't come back. Eventually, though, we incinerate the Helsinki with a wave of bomber drones after all its fighter drones are taken care of. Take that, Finland! This is my favorite thing about leaving combat: I always forget to unplug the headset from the tactical console, so I imagine I get three paces away before it just pops out. Now that we're reasonably assured that no more ships will show up, I establish a link to the Jericho and use the codes Decker gave me to bring the lander across. This means getting down to the shuttle bay to let the thing in. Importantly, this means more looting! As well as this spool of wire and gas cartridge, we also snag a probe and a probe launcher (it's like Worf's big purple space bazooka from Star Trek: Insurrection, coincidentally enough) with which to launch said probe. Also we get all the oxygen we could ever want. Hooray! I get them attached to my EVA suit and cutting torch pronto. Before we leave for Persephone, using the autopilot's already laid course, we decide to get all morose about the gravity of the situation. So we're going down to some weird alien planet, upon which there'll be a race to see if we die from radiation poisoning, lack of food, oxygen deprivation or a painful death from all those toxic experimental brain-altering drugs we took. Look on the bright side: at least we don't have to keep wandering around corridors all day. Ah, the old "taking away all the junk we don't need, leaving an arbitrary assortment of junk that we've somehow deduced as necessary" process. I love it when adventure games do this. So cathartic.
Next time: Aliens and shit! Finally!