After nearly 2 months of modern games I’m back and ready to pick up this blog again. In this second stage I’ll be playing some games which I’m deeming Origin related. Basically, it’s going to include fan-games, sequels, and games made by ex-Origin staff. Right now on the list I’ve got Ultimerr, Ultima 4 Part 2, System Shock 2, Ultima 3 (GBA version), Lazarus, Ultima 6 Remake, WC Standoff, Caverns of Freitag, Thief series, Deus Ex, Starlancer, Freelancer & Ultima 9 with dialog patch. I’m also going to watch and review the Wing Commander movie + read and review some of the Ultima/Origin literature. I’ve missed some games off the list but its enough to keep me going for a while before I look for more. I’ll be a bit less dedicated than in the first stage and will break off to do other things between games.
I would have been back earlier but I’ve had all sorts of fun trying to get System Shock 2 running on 64 bit Windows 7. Once you know how it isn’t actually all that difficult, the problem is that there is just too much information around (none of it for Windows 7) and a lot of it contradicts. Without writing a detailed guide, you need to do the following:-
1. Install Virtual XP – (available as a free download from Microsoft)
2. Install System Shock 2 inside this virtual machine then copy the installation folder over to your Win7 hard disk.
3. Download and install the fan-made patch (the one with everything including fan fixes). This is currently at version 2.7
4. The ddfix part of the patch install will fail. You have to manually install it by editing shock.exe with a hex editor. Find the first mention of ddraw.dll and change it to ddfix.dll
5. Download the last free version of the intel indeo video drivers (something like version 5.1.1). Run the installation as admin or it won’t work.
6. Run the batch file in your sshock2 folder for the widescreen patch install. This needs redoing after the ddfix install or the screen resolution in the config files won’t match.
That should get it up and running. You don’t want to run in compatibility mode by the way or it won’t start at all.
I’ve also had a bit of teething trouble getting screenshots in Win7. The cutscenes just showed up black and the in-game shots are a bit smaller than I’d like. I’ll get this fixed for the next post but didn’t notice the problem until I came around to writing this one.
After splitting their allegiances with Origin, Looking Glass Studios were involved in making System Shock 2. Along with Warren Spector, they would go on to make the Thief series which I’ll be trying out later in this blog. SS2 is a game I must have owned since it was first released but never played as I was holding off until I finished System Shock. It’s long long overdue that I finally get around to trying this out.
The story takes place years after the events of the original. Humanity has just built a new state of the art spaceship called the Von Braun which is shown in a brief newsreel at the start of the game. After its triumphant launch, we get to hear a distress call before going back 4 years in time.
When I start the game I’m about to join one of the armed forces and get to play this out as a way of setting up my characters stats.
I should say a bit about the engine at this point. Thanks to the fanmade patch I’m playing this in widescreen at 1920×1080 and this works fantastically well. This helps the graphics quite a bit but they are clearly quite dated and I’d say of similar quality to Half-life. These graphics aren’t exactly awful but after some of the games I’ve been playing recently they are truly simplistic. I’m not sure, in hindsight, that these early 3D accelerated games don’t look worse in some ways than the games before them. Certainly the move from 2D sprites to 3D models meant that a lot of character detail was lost. I remember being quite unimpressed with Quake when it came out and preferred the likes of Doom, Dark Forces, etc. SS2 looks decent for its age anyway and the visuals do the job well enough – once I’ve gotten into the game properly I’ll stop noticing them but there is a bit of a culture shock after playing GTA4, then Crysis Warhead straight before this.
There is a full in game tutorial starting with basic training which again puts me in mind of Half-life. It appears to have been a big influence.
This means a trip round virtual reality where I’m talked through some basic tasks like using objects, picking things up, etc. The interface is very easy to use and the tutorial here seems a bit unnecessary but it doesn’t hurt and I could skip it if I wanted. I’m glad to say that you can set SS2 up to use standard FPS controls. My only real complaint about SS1 was the strange keyboard control system you were forced into using. The SS2 interface is really quite advanced and wouldn’t look out of place in a new release.
After basic training its onto the advanced stuff which is split into three disciplines.
Weapons training is standard enough. Something new for SS2, however, is that the weapons degrade over time and have to be maintained through special tools.
Navy training seems to concentrate on hacking. All of this requires nanites which I can pick up and store. The hacking itself involves clicking on coloured blocks in a grid trying to make a row of 3 light up. I’m guessing here that better training reduces the number of nanites used and lets you see which blocks are protected. I can also use the nanites to buy things from vending machines.
The final training area is on psi-powers. These can be used either as a weapon or to do things like telekinesis and grab a distant object. I don’t recall any psi powers in SS1 although they were in Cybermage which is nominally set in the same universe, so it doesn’t feel entirely out of place.
After all this training I now get to choose my career. This is a way of deciding my starting stats in the game. I’m fond of FPS’s so I go for the marine option on the basis that my shooting skills will get me through the game.
I now get another 3 choices of how I spend my first 3 years in the military, each choice again deciding my stats.
After these choices, I get another cutscene showing me waking up in a tank on the Von Braun. Something goes wrong with my memory restoration so I’ve no idea whats going on or how I got there. I now have some cybernetic implants which would be why I was in the tank in the first place recovering from the operation. This is a very similar start to System Shock but it doesn’t feel contrived despite this. Memory loss is a common theme in PC games but not one thats ever gotten stale for me as it works as a great basis for telling a story in a game.
I’m woken up by a woman who wants me to meet her on the fourth floor. She will be acting as my guide in this early part of the game although why she doesn’t fill me in on the details of whats happening I don’t know. I have to immediately get out of my current area as there is about to be a hull breach caused by an exploding radar dish. I pick up my first weapon (a wrench) from a body in a sideroom.
I climb out of the room through the ventilation shaft and at the other end get to see a woman being chased by some sort of creature through a window in one of the oldest FPS cliches in the book. Something is clearly going on here.
I make it to a safe area and am rewarded with a few upgrade modules which I can spend to improve my stats. It’s difficult to know what will be useful at this stage in the game. If its anything like Bioshock I’ll end up using my wrench most of the time so I go for a strength increase.
It’s not long before I get my first combat. We are both armed with wrenches and thankfully the cyborgs are very slow at swinging them so I can nip in and out of range and defeat them unharmed. Despite the basic models, I guess this is an obvious benefit to 3D enemies in that I can clearly see them swinging a weapon. The models really are simple though.
Thats all I managed for this first day. I’m likely to be getting a bit of a slow start to this game as I’m not going to have a lot of time this week. SS2 is looking promising so far and gameplay wise it looks like it will easily hold its own against its modern bretheren. Whether it will be a worthy sequel remains to be seen. I’m hoping it won’t be too much of a rehash of SS1 as it does look as if the storylines could end up being extremely similar. I definitely want more than a remake with newer technology and it will have a lot to live up to, to compete with SS1.