(This is part of my journey playing through System Shock 2. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)
We’ve finally made it to the penultimate deck of the Von Braun, command. SHODAN pops on the comm to tell me that we might as well give up on this ship, as it’s a lost cause, but before we blow it up we have to transfer everything over to the Rickenbacker. Wait a second, the Von Braun is the only ship with a FTL drive. Why are we giving up on it again?
Right off the elevator, I trigger a security camera that sends out an alarm. If you don’t get these cameras quick enough, the game goes into a two-minute security alert while mobs bum rush you and the klaxon goes off. It’s very nerve-wracking, so I usually find a hidey-hole and hope that I can live to see another day.
Happily, the inventive level design hasn’t ceased — the command deck has a tram system! Ooh, I love trams and trains and all assorted public transportation goodness. While I take a ride to the first stop, the Many tell me (how?) that they’re looking forward to getting to Earth and wiping it clean of us free-thinkers. Me and SHODAN are the thin cyber line between the homeworld and this threat. That’s not a comforting thought.
As I make my way through operations, I spot the last two humans on the Von Braun fleeing from one of the big muscley dudes. Naturally, I’m behind a force field and can’t help or join them, so it’s just like the last dozen or so times that I’ve encountered NPCs.
One of System Shock 2’s limitations is the fact that all of the men share the same look and the women share the same look (with one exception in the latter case). It’s not terribly noticeable since most everyone’s dead, but once you do spot it, it becomes hard to ignore that you’re on a ship of clones.
Since my character is incapable of shouting, “Hey, wait up guys!” the escape pod takes off and I’m left behind. Again. So alone, forever alone. It seems like a bit of a jerk move on their part, since they’ve obviously seen me at least once. I guess I would be a third wheel.
I turn around and fiddle with the trash on the ground, finding yet another pack of cigarettes. One thing that System Shock 2 has taught me is that even in the future, even in deep space, even on a high-tech vessel, there will still be people sucking on cancer sticks.
With the last escape pod gone (why would I want to go to Tau Ceti V anyway?), I resign myself to doing SHODAN’s bidding once more. This involves getting to the bridge and helping to regain full control of the ship from Xerxes so that SHODAN can blow it the heck up. Hey, I just work here, I don’t make policy.
This is where the game gets extremely annoying, because in order to “beat” the command level, you have to return to previous levels (such as operations and engineering) to accomplish various tasks. It’s a lot of needless backtracking to fiddle with buttons and then coming all of the way back to the bridge anyway.
There’s also a side mission in which I have to blow up some shuttles to stop the Many from escaping the ship before it can be destroyed. I can’t help but think that I’m also getting rid of my own escape route, but I’m then distracted by the wall decals misspelling “shutle” all over the place.
This was a fun fight. I was heading back after blowing up the shutTles when a whole pack of hybrids came at me through the corridor. That involved a lot of backpedaling while I switched to my assault rifle and went to town on them.
Well, even after gaining full control of the ship, SHODAN says that the Many are “one step ahead” as usual and the self-destruct isn’t an option. I’m going to have to go to the Rickenbacker (as if there was any doubt about that anyway), but before that happens I have to take care of the capain of the Von Braun.
The captain has mutated into a floating brain thing, which so reminds me of Mother Brain. It has this regenerating psychic projection that attacks from elsewhere, so you have to find the brain and kill it in order to shut the whole thing down. How’s life as a floating brain working out for you? Kind of hard to hold weapons, I would think.
With everything wrapped up on the Von Braun, I take the umbilical to the Rickenbacker and prepare to see what fresh hell this second ship has in store for me.