You know what they say about assumptions. They make an assump out of tions, and that’s what they did to me. In the recently re-released System Shock 2, you find various bits of “unresearched” materials, mostly gleaned from the innards of whatever you’re trying to remove the life from with your weapons. My thought (without reading the instructions, mind you) was that to research these things, I’d need a lab, or more likely, a “research table” or something. Eventually, I accidentally right-clicked on one of these inventory-hogging items, and the research just started up all by itself! Sure, I needed some chemicals, often in remote parts of the ship, to continue figuring them out, but to think of all the other items I’d juggled, wondering if I needed four of the same enemy-remnant or just one.
There are two other bits of baggage I brought to this game that were wholly wrong: One was the concept that I could never return to wherever I’d come from. Most games involving shooting stuff on spaceships keep things fairly linear with little cause (or player agency) to return to previously cleared-out places. This assumption exacerbated a second one that comes from modern gaming: I was sure that whatever I left lying around would eventually vanish from the game, so if I found a weapon I wanted to use later when I had the skills but I needed health injectors more, I figured I was kissing the laser pistol (or whatever) that I was leaving behind good-bye. I have been slapping my forehead quite a bit as I’ve muddled through this game. What’s that? Have I read the manual? Pshaw! Its far more fun to see how far I’ve fallen from the early days of computerized adventure-shooting!
Speaking of shooting (and pretty much most attacks), as I progressed on my door-opening quests, I found that dealing out damage is kind of a rock-paper-scissors affair, but with modifiers. I have (so far) my psi cryo-attack, a wrench for melee (and desperation), and a pistol that can use standard, anti-personnel, and armor-piercing bullets. Zombie dudes go down best with anti-personnel, machines don’t like armor-piercing, and standard is what you use if you don’t want to get within wrench-range. This is all modified by how much you’ve enhanced the weapon with your skills (which I can’t do for now), your stats, and how many points you’ve put into the weapon type you’re using (there are four types, I think).
Did I mention I’m still traipsing through Med Bay? In retrospect, there’s not a lot to what I’m doing: I’m going after a series of audio logs that contain passkeys to various doors on the level. All the while, I’m hearing my former shipmates telling me about joining them in “the unity” or how my flesh is discordant or somesuch. That sounds vaguely insulting, which earns a wrench across the chops for these guys. A side note: There’s a perk you can buy later that allows you to have an “overhead smash” attack. I haven’t bought it myself, but I think this is a “your wrench won’t get caught on the wall you’re next to when you swing” bonus, which would probably have saved my bacon on more than one occasion.
By the way, Bioshock was supposed to be the spiritual successor to this game. It has the audio logs and vending machines, but unlike its predecessor, Bioshock doesn’t have quite the same freedom of location throughout the setting. On the other hand, System Shock 2 doesn’t let me shoot bees out of my hands, so there are trade-offs.
So after muddling through, I found a room with some chemicals that allowed me to start researching goopy things which (so far) give me bonuses to my pitiful attacks. I’ve also encountered security turrets which I can beat to death with my wrench if I position myself just right… and don’t mind the damaging explosion when they “die.” The mechanical enemies here are most definitely of the Star Trek variety, as they seem to think that the best way to end their existences is with a grenade impression.
To make a long playthrough (because of player error, mostly) short, I finally find a specific corpse with a specific keycode that lets me open a hatch into Engineering… after I beat up a security robot guarding it. It might not have been fair, since I was able to keep its zap-gun behind a corner while I wrench-bopped it to pieces, but it got me back in the end by, you guessed it, exploding in my face. At the bottom of the hatch was a celebratory severed arm and a bottle of bubbly. Nothing bad ever happens in Engineering, right? Next time, we’ll see why my Geiger counter is doing some kind of happy dance when I open a nearby door…