You know the first question. Why did it take you so long to play it?
I wasn’t old enough, like Half-Life, to play System Shock 2 when it was originally released. Since adding it to my Steam library just over a year ago, I have been too distracted by Skyrim and more modern titles to pay it much notice.
You’re playing the Steam version, and you usually play with a 360 controller. Does the keyboard and mouse controls put you off at all?
I don’t like that I can’t customise the keyboard settings in any meaningful way. It’s a good thing that I haven’t got RSI at the moment or else it would have been painful playing the game right handed.
There’s the obvious parallels with Bioshock. How much of Bioshock do you think can be traced back to System Shock 2?
Elements like hacking are similar and the way you can choose which abilities to focus on are all quite similar, though still really different. But actually what this game and the first Bioshock have in common is atmosphere.
You found the game actually a little terrifying. Why is that?
That unending dread that each footstep you take is taking you closer to something that wants to kill you in painful and unusual ways. Like, it’s bad enough when you meet your first human mutated hybrid that’s some polygonal mess of creepiness, it gets worse when you meet your first test monkey and it tries to claw your eyes out… and then I encountered the monkeys with psionic abilities and found myself wishing they were throwing their own poo.
You felt like this game was similar to Dead Space in some ways. Why do you think Bioshock and Dead Space are so different?
Bioshock went for social commentary with action, Dead Space went for terror with action. Their core plots emphasised different themes, but with Levine being involved in System Shock 2, it’s easy to see the links between it and the Bioshock franchise. But creepy, horrific stuff happening in space? Apart from films like Alien or Event Horizon, one assumes some of the creative side of Dead Space were influenced by System Shock 2, because there are similarities in terms of setting, portrayal of technology and madness in space.
How different does the game feel compared to the bog standard FPS?
You don’t have to play it like an FPS, that’s how it’s different. The chance to focus on different areas of character skill development mean that you may rarely fire a gun, especially if you favour psionic abilities.
The graphics look a little bit dated compared to other games of the same time. Were there any points you were put off by them?
Seeing my avatar made it a little difficult for me to identify with it. I’d have rather not seen myself, or have any gender references for that matter.
From what you’ve played so far, how well has the story been portrayed?
There seems to be a lot of systems reminiscent of today’s biggest RPGs, such as the choice system and abilities. How intuitive are these?
Not very intuitive at all. Sure the three main skill groups are demonstrated to you, if you choose so, at the beginning of the game, and they seem equal, but once you’re in hostile territory it is obvious they’re not. If you’ve only developed psionic abilities, you die easily, for example, but it’s expensive to spend modules to develop a more balanced character.
By now, I think we can gather it wasn’t really a game you were eager to play. Does it make you want to play something else? If so, what?
It left me wanting to play something completely different. I recently picked up all the games in the Indie Royale Mixer 7 bundle, which included Corporate Lifestyle Simulator and so I think I’m going to play that next.
This was released a year after Half-Life. Which do you think is better, and why?
Half-Life is the better game, because it didn’t try to make itself too complicated in terms of the character development you are in charge of. Seriously, the skills/abilities system in System Shock 2 are a bugger to navigate.
System Shock 2 has received a lot of praise. Do you think it’s worthy of it?
It’s only worthy of the praise that points out how terrifying it is. It doesn’t aim much better than a lot of the games from that period, as I’ve now pointed out, character development was a hard to do, which is a problem, because you can cripple your own character. The idea of a mad A.I. isn’t unique to the game, and I did get tired of the information that was being thrust my way all the time – I think we all got lucky with Bioshock.