(This is part of my journey playing through System Shock 2. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)
When I try to leave, the walls melt to reveal my true guide: SHODAN. In an electronic, halting voice, she fills me in on some of what’s been going on. After the events of System Shock 1, a pod with her AI in it was ejected from Citadel Station (“remember Citadel”) and it somehow managed to cross several lightyears in the intervening 30 years to crash-land on Tau Ceti V. There, SHODAN created the Many, a lifeform without restraint or conscience, but it (shockingly) turned on her. So she’s enlisted my help to fight the Many (and Xerxes, who is on the Many’s side for some reason), putting her in the category of “evil villain who is technically aligned with my interests.”
Now if you were wondering, yes, I’ve long known about this twist in the game. It’s come up on several lists and is fairly well-known, not to mention that this dev team pretty much lifted the whole idea for BioShock, plot twists and all, from System Shock 2. Finding out that you’ve been unwittingly working for the bad guy is a pretty major breach of trust between the game and the player, but that’s also a major motivational factor too, since there’s a desire to get even.
I guess I am truly on my own then, but that’s just how I like it! After my little chat with SHODAN, I start exploring the rest of Operations. The goal on this deck is to find chips to put into the computer so that SHODAN can unlock more areas, but truth be told, I’m more interested in space pool. Looks fun. And I’m still amazed how neat this ship is.
Ghosts and PDAs continue to expand upon how bad things got prior to my unfreezing here on the ship. These ghosts were victims of a massacre by security forces, and a nearby PDA suggests that my own memory has been wiped to forget some implants that were put in my noggin.
I can’t help but think of how interesting a game would be if you had to play while the breakdown was happening on the ship instead of through its aftermath. Paranoia, deceit, covert activities, forming a desperate plan to escape. That would’ve been cool.
Past the horror of corpses, conniving computers, and jack-in-the-box ghosts, I really am enjoying my time prowling through this ship. It’s obvious that a lot of thought was put into the design of these levels to make it feel as “real” as possible. I’ve seen System Shock 2 labeled as a simulation RPG, perhaps to put more emphasis on how immersive it is. Seeing more of these levels is my main motivation to proceed, really. I just wish that I could use a pistol for more than six shots without completely breaking it. You’d think that space pistols would be more resiliant.
I begin a sweep through the crew quarters, which are both appealing in design and a little unnerving the way the Many have moved in. It’s around this time that I realize that System Shock 2 is quite enjoyable as a shooter when you can let go of your worry that your weapon will break or run out of ammo. The guns are satisfying to use and it’s cathartic to blast your worst fears into smitherenes.
Around this point two new mobs start making their presence known: grenade-flinging hybrids (no biggie) and cyborg assassins. I saw one of the assassins from afar, took a shot at him, and he dodged into a nearby corridor and… disappeared. Can they do that? If so, I’m in trouble.
…and a high-tech piano. I have so many questions about this piano. It’s obviously high-tech, so why does it need to be so bulky? Couldn’t they just use a small synthesizer instead? And if it’s a proper piano, why does it need an electric readout like that?