System Shock 2 – Official Guide

System Shock 2 is a game that needs little introduction. It’s held up by many as one of the greatest games of all time and is the most requested game on GOG. Unfortunately it isn’t owned outright by EA leaving it in legal limbo, making a re-release or subsequent sequels unlikely for the moment. It’s an issue that crops up frequently with many games having shared rights, which can then get passed around after buyouts or closures leaving the ownership situation far from clear.

Not being able to buy a downloadable version is no excuse not to play it, of course. It’s worth the time and effort to track down a hard copy and it will run on 64 bit Windows 7 with a little tinkering. It’s stood the test of time extremely well although there are games released since that can compete with it, with the most obvious being its spiritual successor Bioshock.

The System Shock 2 guide was published by Prima in 1999. I expect it’s going to be one of the more popular downloads on here, given the interest that is still around for System Shock. It’s certainly one I was keen to have a look at myself and is among the more expensive guides I’ve bought. Most of them are practically being given away but this was about the same price as it would have been new. The game itself is much the same and is worth nearly as much as the new price these days but it’s a bargain compared to the $5,000 someone just paid for a copy of Akalabeth on Ebay.

The guide is by the same team who created near enough all of these books for Prima so it’s no surprise that it follows the usual formula. This means that it starts off with fairly general information and plenty of it including guides to character development, weapons, ammo, armour, etc.. I’m glad to say that this isn’t just pure tables of info and includes lengthy descriptions of all the items and creatures, even down to explaining why all the champagne you find is the same brand. If you want needless background info on the System Shock universe there is plenty here.

The best fact I got out of this section is that a lot of the textures used in the body of the many were created from images of one of the Looking Glass producers colon. He was having an internal examination anyway so he didn’t go quite to the extremes of getting it done just for the game. He just asked his Doctor for the images and he obliged. That whole section was unpleasant enough without this bit of knowledge.

This first half of the book covers all the various options on how to play the game well and I’d be interested in playing an OSA character having read through this. It would be quite a different experience to the melee specialist I usually go for in this sort of game. I’ll try it out if I ever go back and play it again.

The walkthrough section takes up the second half of the book, using both annotated maps and lists of all the items you can find in an area and where they are. The map annotations act as a step by step guide of sorts but it’s as much about what can be found and done in each area, leaving you free to proceed in another order rather than having to follow the guide explicitly. All the logs from the game are printed among all the text, allowing you to follow the storyline to a large extent. There are no developer interviews unfortunately so the book ends with the walkthrough.

This is a fairly standard guide but much more complete than most others I’ve looked at, with enough in here to give it plenty of appeal for anyone who has already finished the game. I’m glad to see that not all Looking Glass games got the poor treatment Thief did, especially given that I have Thief 2 and Terra Nova guides still to look at.

Apart from System Shock 2, I’ve done a load of scanning since the last post and have uploaded the guides for The 7th Guest, Last Express, Myst, Gabriel Knight 1 & 3, Under A Killing Moon and Dungeon Keeper. There are some of my favourite games in there, as well as Myst which I’m less keen on but I wasn’t going to turn the guide down for free. I’ve not exhausted my supply of these books yet but it’s starting to run low.

The pace of scanning will slow down drastically for now. Apart from anything else, I’ve started on Fallout New Vegas which is probably going to consume most of my spare time for the coming weeks. I had been putting it off but a scan of the missing Wing Commander novel, False Colors, will be next.