I managed to play through 2400AD after all this weekend. Worlds of Ultima with the Ultima 4 engine wouldn’t be a bad description but the gameplay is a little different in this case.
The multi-scale world of Ultima 4 is gone here. Instead the entire game takes place in the city. Its pretty much the equivalent of the towns in Ultima 4 except much much larger and its on 9 levels. The tileset is completely new – it reminded me immediately of the first Commander Keen games for some reason. The colours are a bit brighter than Ultima anyway.
The world is quite alive. There are loads of people around. The game has moving floors you can use to speed around on. If you go in the underground trains will move around (curiously these move at walking speed so you can outrun them).
The conversation system is pretty much the same as Ultima 4 except the usual queries of name and job don’t get you anywhere here. Quite a few characters just give a one line response as in Ultima 3. Others have more information but in general they have less to say than in Ultima 4. These characters don’t really have anything to say that isn’t related to a quest. If you don’t know what to ask them about, they often say nothing.
The controls are the same myriad of keys as in Ultima, except this time they all do different things. Its bad enough having every letter of the keyboard assigned to a particular action, but I am fairly used to the Ultima system. One thing I do like is the climb command which gets you over certain types of scenery. e.g. you can climb over a bar to get to the back room. You can also climb over people if they are in the way (which happens a lot).
There is no combat screen here. Its a one man RPG so there are no parties either. Theres a reasonable range of weapons but the only ones I ever used were various degrees of ray gun. One of the games quests involves fixing a broken plasma rifle you are given. This is the games ultimate weapon and kills all but the stronger robots in one hit. Fixing it involved running around between the cities electronics shops finding, buying and trading for the parts needed.
There is a similar quest to get the games ultimate shield. This time you have to find the blueprints in a particular building, take them to the right person and pay 3500. The clues for what to do are scattered between various people.
The role playing element is fairly light here. You are given three stats to assign at the start of the game affinity, energy, and iq. Energy is your hit points, iq dictates whether you will be able to fix your equipment if it breaks and affinity whether people will talk to you.
Its pretty easy to raise most of these stats. Affinity goes up every time you talk to someone. You can grind it to 99 in minutes, although its hardly neccessary. Energy goes up if you run everywhere. This also doesn’t take long. IQ is trickier, you actually have to be able to fix something before it goes up. I ended up just paying to get my stuff repaired. I did find a guy who increased my stats if I paid him 1000 credits but I still never fixed anything. The plasma rifle and field dispenser don’t appear to ever break so I really didn’t need to.
There are a number of different types of robot of varying toughness. Even right at the start of the game I could still take out two types easily provided I took them on one at a time. Once I got a reasonable weapon and shield, I beat them every time. The plasma rifle and field dispenser made combat in the city ridiculously easy but were essential for the final assault.
The plot of the game is very simple. Right at the start you join the underground who are resisting the robots and from then on you get a few minor quests to achieve. You basically have to get the best shield and weapon, find the access terminal in the underground to get the 3 passcodes to deactivate the robots. Then fight your way through to the terminal and type these codes in.
As a human, you have to report in at a particular building every 2000 ticks or the robots start attacking you. If you do report in you get an SD (Social Demerit?). 5 of these and you have to go to prison. Going to prison is not a big deal. You just climb on the bed and can get straight out again. All your stuff is hidden in a locker in the building but once you know where its easy to get it back every time.
I gather there is an alternative route to the terminal. The one I used meant a frontal assault and then I had to use a jetpack to go the wrong way down a conveyor belt. The building was absolutely full of the toughest robots in the game but its easy enough to take them out a couple at a time then find a corner to pass turns and get energy back. There is no food in this game so you can take as long as you want.
At the end of the game, you type in your codes and there is a brief message saying the Tzorgs will detect this and mobilize a response (hinting at a sequel) + a not too impressive firework display.
I rushed through this game with a walkthrough and now I’ve finished it kind of feel I didn’t really give it a fair chance and should possibly have held back on the walkthrough. Its a pretty short game and wouldn’t have taken that long to play properly. It’s not up to Ultima 4 standards but this is a fun light-RPG.