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System Shock 2 Still Owns Me

By TronFAQ on Sunday, April 09, 2006 at 7:49 PM
I've been saving this for a slow news period. This is one of the few times where I'll post something almost completely off-topic.

It might come as a surprise to you, that TRON 2.0 is not my favorite game of all time. It's a very good game, yes. And it's in my top three picks. But it's not number one. TRON 2.0 is number three. Deus Ex (the original, not the lousy Invisible War) is number two. And, of course, System Shock 2 is number one.

As I get around to playing more games (which as of late, I have had very little time for), this may change. For example, I have yet to play the first two Thief games, which were made by the same company: Looking Glass Studios. (R.I.P.)

Irrational Games -- who partnered with Looking Glass to create SS2 -- still exists, and is what I consider one of the last game developers who could really innovate and surprise us when they release Bioshock next year. (The "spiritual" successor to SS2.)

What never ceases to amaze me, is if you take a gander at the Through The Looking Glass site: development of fan missions and other add-ons is still going strong. Even though SS2 is almost seven years old, now. If I ever need inspiration not to give up on TRON 2.0, all I need to do is look at SS2 as an example. People are still modding and playing that game. Admittedly, they have an advantage though. Looking Glass and Irrational were good enough to release all the development tools and source maps used in the game, unlike BVG.

There have been several good FMs (short for Fan Missions) released recently, and an example of one in particular is called Ponterbee Station by Christine from Germany. It has an unusual name, but the mission itself is nothing short of amazing. And with the addition of texture and model upgrades added: SS2 looks really good even today.

If you have an opportunity to pick up a copy of SS2 (or Deus Ex) from the bargain bin or somewhere online, I strongly suggest you do. If you liked TRON 2.0, you should also enjoy SS2 . . . and Deus Ex, for that matter. All three games have similarities to one another. Rich, immersive atmospheres on every level. Great soundtracks and sound effects. Hybrid Action/RPG play, with inventory management. A science-fiction setting, with "cyberpunk" elements to them. And the list of similarities goes on. (In fact, TRON 2.0 sometimes feels like a Deus Ex Lite. Very similar game mechanics, but more light-hearted and not as dark.)

SS2 may not be everyone's cup of tea, as it has a lot of horror elements to it. It's been called one of the scariest games ever made. And I tend to agree. When Doom 3 was released, people were hailing that as the scariest game in recent memory. But frankly, the "monster closets" got old fast and I hardly found the game to be scary at all. Meanwhile in SS2, you never know when you're going to be attacked. Enemy AI spawn and attack completely at random. And you never seem to have enough ammo or health. To top it off, your weapons are unreliable and sometimes break. All of this creates serious tension.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Shodan, the game's Computer AI antagonist. Shodan is an enemy that manipulates the player and the environment around her, from behind the scenes. She continually taunts and mocks the player, as he progresses. The feeling of isolation, combined with an enemy that seems to know your every move -- and tells you in no uncertain terms that you're going to die, if she has anything to say about it -- and the haunting logs of the dead crew, add up to an experience that will never be forgotten.

SS2 can be a bit troublesome to get running on Windows XP, but it will be worth the effort. All you need to do is visit the TTLG site, and there you will find plenty of advice on how to get the game running. And don't forget to download FMs like Ponterbee Station, while you're visiting. The screenshots in this article, are all from this fan mission.

One final thought, before I finish. Ken Levine, the General Manager and co-founder of Irrational, posted an article on IGN that other game developers and publishers like BVG could learn a thing or two from. One section in particular caught my eye, that I'll leave you with.

Given the size and dedication of our fanbase, we knew that the last thing we wanted to do was a make a follow up to Freedom Force that tried to expand the market to casual gamers. To do so would have meant alienating our core fan base, something we refused to do. Freedom Force is always going to be a PC game for people who love strategy, RPG and heroes. It's not going to be for everybody. You know the old saw . . . "Try to please everybody, you end up only pleasing the marketing department."
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1 comment so far.

  1. Anonymous July 23, 2006 3:17 AM
    That's cool. I liked SS2 also. But I liked Thief 1 and 2 better (also made by Looking Glass Studios). And, like SS2, they have a very strong cult following/fan community making fan missions. Pretty amazing. You ever play Thief 1 or 2?

    Thief: Deadly Shadows (Thief 3) alienated the core fan base of Thief 1 & 2 by being a dumbed down game on a lame gaming engine. Thief 3 was okay, but a far cry from having the impact and replayability of Thief 1 and 2. I still play Thief 2 from time-to-time; so Thief 2 owns me.

    Looking Glass Studios rocked, and it's a shame they are no longer around.

    Enter: The Dark Mod. We hope to carry Thief-like gameplay into the future by giving fans a toolset to create Thief-like missions using the Doom 3 gaming engine. It is no small feat, since we all know Doom 3 didn't have the most advanced AI or gameplay. Everything is being re-programmed and new art/sounds being provided.

    In memory of LGS, we are Broken Glass Studios. We released a new trailer on July 8... http://www.thedarkmod.com

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