argurotoxos: a scene from System Shock 2 with a ghost crewmember (System Shock 2 | by plant_boy)
My mom came down with a very bad stomach virus over the weekend. I got it yesterday, with vomiting, diarrhea, and chills. I'm feeling a little better today, but have been eating nothing but jello, broth, and Gatorade. (It's hard to get enough calories to do much of use on that diet!) I also called out from work tomorrow for the first time. It's left me feeling restless, but without enough energy to do much -- not even the Christmas presents I'd planned on mailing out today.

Changing topic, I've been sporadically looking for a copy of System Shock 2 for several years. When I first began my search, there were no legitimate downloads; now, you can get System Shock 2 digitally on both GoG and Steam. However, I still prefer to own the physical copy. What made the search more challenging, and more expensive, was I wanted a copy with the original box, and most of the used copies are CD-only.

I happened to be on eBay earlier this month looking for presents for a friend and ran through my saved searches, including System Shock 2, while I was there. There were still a few copies with the full box, all over $60, which was more than I wanted to pay. However, I did see a listing for the CD and the manual for $25. Thinking it over, while I quite like my complete Thief Gold original box, I rarely look at it and it's not something I would pay an extra $30 for, and having the manual was good enough. So, I finally have an official, hard copy of System Shock 2. Of course, the first things I did upon acquiring it were to go over to the System Shock 2 forums to download the mods and fan missions.



The first time I started it up, I played for almost an hour straight, which is rare for me these days. I thought it might be interesting to play System Shock 2 and System Shock side-by-side based on decks, but don't think I'll have the time or energy to carry through. (Vaguely related, I finally got to the Red Forest in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, which looked completely different from what I expected. I spent most of the Red Forest sprinting past everything because I was tired of combat. I then lost interest again and haven't played for a month.)

System Shock 2 was the last computer game I had on my wish list. I've had recommendations for the Elder Scrolls series (particularly Morrowind) and a couple other games, but nothing has piqued my interest enough to buy it.

The second early Christmas present I bought myself on eBay was a pair of belly dance bracelets/anklets that look like the ones I got at a local Greek festival earlier this year. I initially ordered one pair of white anklets with silver coins and one pair red with silver coins, but the former turned out to be unavailable. (My belly dance outfit is themed black, white, and silver, but I sometimes like splashes of colour.)

argurotoxos: a scene from System Shock 2 with a ghost crewmember (System Shock 2 | by plant_boy)
In late 2003, Ion Storm released Deus Ex: Invisible War, the sequel to 2000's highly lauded Deus Ex. Five months later, Ion Storm released Thief: Deadly Shadows, the third entry in the Thief series. Both games were built on the same engine and were the first in their respective series to be released for console as well as PC. And both games have a reputation of not being very good among fans (or at least on TTLG, which is where I go for my gaming needs).

I played Deadly Shadows back in 2008. You can read my initial thoughts on it here, though I don't like it as much now; it's the only Thief game I don't have installed. I think Deadly Shadows is worth a play, but it's definitely the weakest in the series for me and the only reason I even keep my copy is if I have the urge to play the Shalebridge Cradle again. (The Shalebridge Cradle is indeed a fantastic level, but I think the effect is lessened once you know what's going to happen next and you realise it's essentially a glorified fetch quest. [So is "Return to the Haunted Cathedral" from Thief: The Dark Project, but Lauryl (Deadly Shadows) is much more tolerable than Brother Murus (The Dark Project).])

Due to some confusion on my part, I ended up buying Deus Ex: Invisible War before the first Deus Ex. It didn't matter in the end, though, as Invisible War refused to run on my older laptop despite it meeting the system requirements and Deadly Shadows running fine. I've only played Deus Ex through once - which is a bit odd as I've played The Nameless Mod (a Deus Ex game-length mod) twice - but I spent over 50 hours on my run and had an absolutely fantastic time. Together with Thief and System Shock, Deus Ex is in my personal top three games and I believe I've played every long-ish fan mission there is (The Nameless Mod, ZODIAC, 2027, Red Sun, The Cassandra Project, Burden of 80 Proof, Hotel Carone) except the most recent (Nihilum).

So much has been written about Deus Ex, including Kieron Gillen's excellent review that captures a lot of Deus Ex's strengths, that I don't feel I can add much. So, moving on to Invisible War.

I started playing Invisible War back in August when S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl's focus on shooting was driving me crazy. (I'll review Shadow of Chernobyl once I finish it, though I've been playing on and off since January, so . . . it may be a while. In short, great atmosphere and visuals, not half as much focus on exploration as what I wanted.) What a contrast that was. Moving from Shadow of Chernobyl's lack of hand-holding and difficulty (I play on the easiest setting and it still kicks my ass at times) to Invisible War's, well, we'll get to that below, was like night and day.

It took me 12 hours to play through Invisible War. 12 hours, over the course of three months, when the original took me over 50 hours over the course of less than a month. (I had more free time and was much more engaged in the game.) And yet, I feel like Invisible War overstayed its welcome by at least three hours.

Invisible War has some of the same problems Deadly Shadows, likely influenced by being released on the first-generation Xbox. Maps are relatively small and there are plentiful loading zones. No swimmable water, although Invisible War at least never draws attention to it. (Going to jail for falling in the water was one of the stupidest ideas in Deadly Shadows.) On the other hand, I thought both the player character and NPC movement was less stiff and smoother in Invisible War, though jumping and crate stacking are worse.

I started off Invisible War with the idea of playing a stealthy hacker, which, ever since Thief, tends to be my default character. The interface provoked much irritation and was clearly designed for a gamepad -- 'yes/no' prompts you have to use the mouse for; no keyboard support for custom-naming saved games, manually typing in passcodes, or writing notes in-game; no quick-save or load; no screenshot key (which is why there are no screenshots in this review, because Invisible War isn't worth the effort of using a second program); the minimum HUD is still rather invasive, and inventory management is a mess. Skill points were eliminated, as were different ammo types (yes, all firearms in the game use the same ammo, just in different amounts), the conversation log, and location-based health management. In short, the only ways to customise you character besides your play style are through your appearance, the weapons you use, and your biomods (augmentations). (I barely include dialogue choices, since there aren't very many and most don't seem to matter.) However, you can now choose to play as either a male or female.

Much more under cut. )

In summary: Deadly Shadows may be my least favourite Thief game, but it is at the minimum a decent game and a far, far better game than Invisible War. I don't think Invisible War is completely irredeemable - I did finish playing it instead of throwing my hands up in disgust after all - but there's not much to recommend it, especially compared to its predecessor.

So, what's good about Invisible War? The voice acting's not bad. There's a good mix of male and female NPCs. Invisible War actually does reward exploration, or at least what you can do in the small maps; as in Deus Ex, you can find ammo, equipment, etc., in somewhat out of the way places (under desks, behind pipes, and so on). Trier has a surprising number of readables that are actually decent. The ApostleCorp lab was somewhat neat, except that Invisible War cannot do horror or atmosphere. The Antarctic Versalife facility was better, and even had a nice ambient track!

If anyone wants to play Deus Ex: Invisible War on the PC, I will give you my copy for only the cost of shipping. (If the shipping's less than $6, I'll even pay that, too.) I have the CDs, both in very good condition, plus the manual, hardcover box, shiny slipcase, and even the kidneythieves card. I bought it second-hand, but there are hardly any signs of wear. The edges of the slipcase are the worst part, but still in good condition. There are a few photos below.

Deus Ex: Invisible War photos, up for sale. )

Profile

argurotoxos: Midnighter holding balloons, waiting for his husband (Default)
Ἀργυρότοξος

March 2016

S M T W T F S
  12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated 22 September 2017 00:42
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios