|Of PID and Powerslave comparison part 1
|Posted By: Lion O Cyborg
|Date: 2/23/23 9:27 a.m.
Pathways into Darkness as we all know is an FPS RPG by Bungie prior to their Doom clone Marathon. Pathways is predictably a Wolfenstein clone but I see similarities to both the System Shock games in gameplay and a bit of Quake in terms of tone. We’ll get to System Shock eventually but first we gotta talk about another game with similarities to PID, Lobotomy Software’s Powerslave. Also known as Exhumed here in Europe thanks to those killjoy fucks at Iron Maiden (thanks for ruining the title of Ion Maiden with your dumb & wrong lawsuits over medieval torture device names, assholes!). Or in Japan it’s known by the mouthful title of Seireki 1999: Farao (Pharaoh) no fukkatsu, meaning 1999 AD: Resurrection of the Pharaoh. I think I’ll go with the original American name.
This game was a Sega Saturn title and one of the best 3D games made for the console, using the developer’s own Slavedriver engine, also used by the Saturn ports of Duke Nukem 3D and Quake. To avoid falling too far into obscurity, they ported it to Playstation as well and made a reformulated PC version on the Build engine, previously used by Duke Nukem 3D that same year. I’ve noticed the game has some similarities to Pathways into Darkness not the least of which being the plot and setting. I spotted most of these in vtuber Civvie 11’s review of the remaster which is how I heard of the game.
Oh yeah, Powerslave was remastered last year by the coding gods at Night Dive studios and brought to PC as Powerslave: Exhumed. That’s the version I’ll be covering for the original, but I recently bought the Saturn original too. Here we list major comparisons between the games, a little comparison to Marathon and a talkthrough of each version. I recently did one sans the talkthrough parts for Tomb Raider & Prince of Persia too that people on Steve of Warr’s Discord liked.
In Pathways into Darkness, an W’rkncacnter crashes into the Yucatan Peninsula and sleeps for millions of years. Eventually it starts waking up and a pyramid that is neither Aztec or Mayan forms over its body on the surface, with caves & caverns bubbling to life inside and under it, leading down to the dreaming god’s body. The Jjaro contact humanity and warn them about the W’rkncacnter. Us and our squad of 8 men parachute into jungle by the pyramid, but our chute fails and we barely manage to pull the reserve before landing hard and passing out for hours. We wake up and find our squad gone on without us believing us to be dead. However, we later find out they died themselves fighting Greed (the first boss) and the one survivor died on a lower floor to a ghast while he was busy fighting skitters.
In Powerslave’s world the city of Karnak (in Luxor with the big temple complex from Tomb Raider 4) was a shining example of civilisation thanks to Pharaoh Ramses II. He had visions of an empire so spectacular, all mankind would come to marvel at its glory.
Today, Karnak lives on as a shining example of archaeological significance second only to the pyramids in Giza, Cairo or the lost library of Alexander the Great in Alexandria. The Karnak temple complex is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Egypt next to the pyramids.
Sorry folks, this apparently can’t last. If it did, there’d be no game! Do you want to play or not?
One fateful day, the evil aliens Kilmaat seize the city, steal the mummy of Ramses the II out of his tomb and defeat all the world’s militaries as they try to fight back. None return alive: the aliens are crushing all the human’s forces!
Just like the manual text opening to Rise of the Triad, an escapee makes it to help out in the desert but unlike that one, he dies soon after telling us what’s going on. The Kilmaat have been eating the woman & children and made slaves of the men. No change there then. Troublesome, isn’t it? And untidy too!
In this now alien occupied city, strange phenomena begin to occur. Freaks and hostile characters appear, dismembering, skinning alive, experimenting on and mummifying every unfortunate soul they can find! They definitely need a hero to save them now! Don’t ya think?
The Poundland HUNT team to the rescue! Going counter clockwise we’ve got Sam Fisher, Indiana Jones, Anna Navarre, Arnold Schwarzenegger, our player character who is that blue vested skin diver guy and Ian Paul Freeley. Us and our squad of 4 men & 1 woman are to get airlifted by helicopter into the Karnak valley. Technically further south than the actual Giza pyramids but like PID we’re still in a country that’s famous for them, plus there's more pyramids in Upper Egypt too, just smaller.
Like PID, something goes wrong and we have to go in alone. Unlike PID, all our squad dies at the start in a helicopter crash and we are the only survivor having parachuted out in time. No talking to the dead for us. OK, that’s a lie but it’s only one person.
Armed only with your wits and a knife, you enter the occupied temple complex.
2. Guns & Gameplay
The original game is closer to PID in gameplay despite not being an RPG as it is one of the first ever 3D Metroidvanias, predating Metroid Prime by years though it wasn’t the actual first: having been beaten to the punch in 1994 by System Shock. If System Shock is FDS Metroid 3D, Powerslave is Akumajou Dracula X: Nocturne in the Moonlight/Symphony of the Night 3D. The DOS version on the other hand is a traditional linear FPS similar to Duke Nukem 3D, though it leans closer to Doom.
Both PID & Powerslave have us start with a survival knife as our emergency melee weapon. The difference is that PID uses a standard army knife while Powerslave uses a large machete. Weapons seem closer to Marathon though: we get a weak pistol we’ll be using for a bit followed by an assault rifle, which is more of a light machinegun. There’s no grenade launcher but in the DOS game we do get hand grenades which suck: you barely throw them and cooking them to throw further doesn’t do much. You’re still going to use them a lot. The original has ancient Egyptian style grenades called Amun bombs that are a lot more useful. Both are handy for revealing secret walls, which we blow open instead of walk through.
There’s also a flamethrower and ancient weapons: a cobra staff I never found in DOS without cheating which fires heat seeking explosive snakes, the Eye of Ra which summons a Mario Jugemu thundercloud over an enemy for massive damage (DOS only), the Ring of Ra which craps bouncing fireballs everywhere like the bomb launcher in Jazz Jackrabbit and the Manacle of Power (that I also didn't find in Powerslave Exhumed though this time I didn't cheat) which is basically the violet crystal from PID. The latter two weapons are Exhumed remaster/original only. Both versions have weapon power orbs dropped by enemies but they work a different way per game.
In the original & remaster, weapon power does what you think and serves as universal ammo for guns though unlike Deus Ex 2, all guns have a separate pool. Still a dumb idea though as it only refills the weapon you’re currently holding, making recovering ammo a chore.
In the DOS version, weapon power gives you mana for using inventory items and guns use actual ammo pickups. However, ammo becomes really rare late game and you will run out.
PID has the Isfet crystals, equipment and treasure items, some of the latter of which can be used and need to be, such as the red cloak and ruby ring. Powerslave has special items you can use to reach new areas as is standard for Metroidvanias. The DOS version on the other hand uses those items as inventory items powered by mana as said above. We have a Zelda heart acting as a blue potion and a gold & lapis lazuli scarab brooch as a violet potion. We also drink potions for health except Powerslave has us drink goblets of blood like a vampire. We can also find berries on bushes too like in Unreal. Also like PID there are poison potions except unlike PID we don’t need to take one for any puzzle and our character is too stupid to not scarf them down as soon as he touches them. There are also mana potions which are a lot better than weapon power orbs at refilling your mana.
In Powerslave Exhumed, we refill health by eating giant human eggs.
Rats are friendly but spiders and scorpions aren’t. The latter one only appears in the Playstation version of the original and all versions of the remaster; it’s missing from the DOS version. By the same token spiders are in DOS and Saturn but are missing from Playstation. Exhumed has both.
Headless are replaced with Anubis Zombies: they might not actually be undead and more like the Chimeras from Mother 3: jackal heads grafted onto human bodies. They shoot plasma balls at you and on DOS are very good at leading their shots. I personally link the Anubis zombies to the Headless but they’re clearly inspired by Doom’s imps.
Skeletons are now mummies who can resurrect other mummies with a pound of their staffs and shoot homing shots at you. Sometimes they revive a lot, wasting your ammo killing them again. In the original, they seem to fire the snake staff shots at you and you find it by stealing it from them, like the Enforcers except unlike them they don’t drop it: you find it placed on the level for you to find in the Heket Marsh level. In DOS, they fire white skulls and red skulls. If they hit you with a red skull, you turn into one of them. This immediately bites them in the ass as you can also use their staff attack, which kills them all in an area of effect like a Ghast earthquake and possibly other monsters too. With their deaths, the curse is cured.
After them we get the Sekhmet Girls, though the game calls them Bastets even though she’s a different cat goddess. Sekhmet Girls are human/lion hybrids, kind of like Botan Shishiro or Komako Agyou but not as cute. Unlike those two vtubers, the Powerslave ones attack us; climbing on walls to avoid our shots and teleporting when things get hairy. Civvie implies the original ones are weak to the flamethrower but I don’t know. Those ones gib on death like all Saturn monsters but the DOS versions turn to stone and fall over before breaking, implying they’re shabti robots from Egyptian mythology instead of organic experiments. Imagine the Claymen Golems from Diskworld or Mother 3.
That’s about as much as I can say for common enemies as the others are bosses or have major differences to how they behave between versions.
You also get limited save areas. Unlike PID, the save points in this game represented by little golden scarabs work more like point marker checkpoints in Sonic: you respawn at them when you die except kind of like System Shock, level progress like enemies killed and keys collected is kept. Powerslave Exhumed has them too but they work like traditional point markers/pattern buffers. The original lacks them entirely so dying means back to the start of the level like Perfect Dark or Goldeneye.
4. The DOS version
The Build Engine version of Powerslave has that cool animated title screen I used above as the title of this writeup.
Our protagonist is unnamed but unlike Sergeant Eddings in Pathways, we never get named in a guide so I’m just gonna call this guy Sergeant Sand. Copying Duke Nukem, he talks but unlike the Duke his one-liners suck. They consist entirely of him yelling “Come on!”, “That’s right.” or “Eat it!” when killing enough enemies, going “Son of a bitch!” when hurt badly enough, laughing evilly just after killing mummies with their own attack when they turn him and occasionally saying “see ya!” in his most annoying Crayon Shin Chan voice he can. I keep thinking he’s gonna follow up that line with “wouldn’t wanna be ya!” based on his tone alone. He’s almost mute in the original/remaster. Still, annoying voiced player characters are better than silent ones. Yeah, I went there.
While Powerslave is better considered the 3D equivalent to Akumajou Dracula X: Nocturne in the Moonlight which is an actual Metroidvania, if we imagine it like the first game, Akumajou Dracula X: Rondo of Blood for just a second, this makes the DOS version comparable to the Super Famicom version of the game, Akumajou Dracula XX: Vampire’s Kiss:
They follow the same plot as the original but take liberties. They try to recreate the textures and enemies in the game but due to the inferior hardware they have mixed success. For example, Dracula XX has cool fire effects in the burning village at the start which Dracula X: Rondo of Blood doesn’t have. Powerslave DOS has a similar vein as several places especially those flooded with lava look really pretty. I’m getting Sonic RoboBlast 2 vibes from the lava at several points, even though this game has as much to do with Sonic as Hot Lava has to do with Prince of Persia.
On the other hand, there’s just something off about how Build engine Powerslave & Dracula XX feel. Build Powerslave feels like Lameduke at best, and Witchaven with guns at worst. You can look up & down but you have to hold down a key to do it like DOS Quake except it handles weird. You can jump, but you can’t jump very high and fall fast. It feels like that weird jump in the EXPR sourceport of Rise of the Triad except you also have to deal with bullshit falling damage. And you are forced to take falling damage at several points.
Several story points are different to the main game while keeping similar beats. The talk to the dead comparison to PID comes in early on in both versions: we talk to the ghost of Pharaoh Rameses II several times, voiced by yet another classic actor I’ve never heard of, Don Lafontaine. He also did the opening narration. He also sounds a bit like Redd Pepper, the action movie trailers guy. You know the one. That’s who I thought it was at first.
On the actual DOS version, his lines here are fully voiced like the Saturn version. On certain sourceports like the one Civvie used, it’s only a text crawl.
Unlike Marathon or PID, we get an area map for each place we go to like in Doom. It’s pretty cool, though I question why Karnak valley looks nothing like it does IRL. It’s a common mistake for media to do this with Egypt.
See also Tomb Raider 4, Indiana Jones and Thundercats, unless Third Earth is so far in the future that even humanity’s modern ruins are buried. Considering Jupiter is just hanging a mere week’s journey away from Earth in that anime (less so the 80s one), this might hold some weight.
Sentinel Monks from PID are in this game too except they help you: they act as 1Ups, filling that red gauge of dots next to your health. Lose all lives and it’s game over.
We can also swim like in Marathon down to only being able to use melee attacks underwater, which is vital for fighting those annoying giant piranha. We can find Sonic Advance 3 bubbles along the way to restore our breath, which runs out in a mere 10 seconds. Luckily for long excursions underwater to find powerups, we get a Sobek mask item that’s basically Duke 3D and Blood’s scuba gear.
The flamethrower sucks in this version. While Marathon’s one is great against enemies weak to it, no enemies are weak to this gun here and the range is about the same as Marathon’s one, as is ammo consumption. This is a problem as you can build up a fair amount of ammo for it and burn through it in about 15 seconds, plus the damn thing overheats several times and unlike Marathon’s, there’s splash damage which can harm you.
This level reminds me of Silent As the Grave in Tempus Irae 2: The Lost Levels and Arid Canyon from the classic version of Sonic Roboblast 2.
Sure, lava sewers in ancient Egyptian ruins. Why wouldn’t you?
I love Sergeant Sand’s burned and gibbed hand textures. Not for the squeamish. Too bad Marathon didn’t have them.
Oddly, this first text scroll screen is familiar to me, as if from an old dream, but I can’t exactly remember…
The Kilmaat themselves turn up, but in the original they only appear towards the end. In the DOS version, they turn up as early as at least the Aswan Dam.
The Kilmaat kind of look like the Pfhor if they were designed by 3D Realms: they’re still bug/lizard hybrid species but are missing the 3 eyes and their insect qualities are clearer than their reptile ones. They fight with plasma pistols which are hard to dodge, like an irritating mix of fighters and troopers, minus the grenades.
It’s supposed to be Ammit the Devourer who eats the souls of the damned if they fail the heart weighing test in the afterlife, but it’s clearly a mutant armadillo. It’s only weak to the back or sides and it’s too good at turning to face you until it rears up like that. Pro tip: Ammit dislikes smoke.
What would a build engine game be without its waterslides? This is more a Duke Nukem 3D thing but Marathon got in on the action too with Marathon Eternal. I won't be comparing to mods in this writeup much as Eternal wasn't even begun by the time Powerslave was made given Marathon Infinity was brand new.
We even get possibly the first Build engine waterslide made of lava, unless you count the lava river in Duke 3D's The Abyss. I don't as that's just a river as opposed to a snaking and/or looping tunnel of liquid/soft hotplate sectors.
The game says that is the god of evil, Set but it’s clearly not. That’s a Cyberdemon cosplaying as a pinky demon from Doom 64.
All those souls escaping from Set’s ruptured digestive system upon death strongly resembles the same thing happening to the mummy at the end of the movie Bubba Ho Tep.
We also get the Omen Wasps. Dear Solaris, the Omen Wasps! Imagine the Marathon Eternal wasps if they were melee only and the same size as regular ones but kept the smaller version’s hitbox.
Those little bastards fly unpredictably, are hard to hit, get up in your face and can block you when jumping. Their wings have an annoying flapping sound and it never. Stops.
These vermin are everywhere on later levels and it gets tiring very quickly, especially as the assault rifle is best against them but you’ll be maining it so much, you’ll run out of ammo.
Fuck this boss. I think this scorpion drider thing is based on Selket the scorpion goddess. Her tail gun is hitscan, hits hard and it takes forever to kill her. You need a double weapon power item to stand a chance, which I forgot about and died, only to waste one on my next life because I died again about twice. Finally with nearly no ammo left at all I killed her. In the next level or 2, I ran out of lives and ammo entirely, followed immediately by my patience so I activated cheat mode just to beat the game.
Behold the Magmantis! An enemy that looks like it belongs in the future world levels in New Sonic if it was remade in GZ Doom or Aleph One, namely a cross between an Iblis Golem and an Iblis worm. That old Path of KAP mod I originally pipe dreamt of making would have had Glassworm enemies based on Sonic 06 too and the Magmantis is pretty much how I imagined them albeit they only swim in lava as opposed to also burrowing underground like the Glassworms would have similar to their inspiration from Sonic: They spit explosive fireballs at you, sometimes a line of 7 at once, constantly hide under the lava to avoid your shots and take about a hundred bullets. In the original version they can’t be killed, only gotten rid of. In this version, they do die and when they do, they die spectacularly. Still pictures cannot do it justice.
The head floats in the lava and then explodes itself soon after. Yes it deals damage, kind of like destroying a juggernaut tank.
4A. The DOS version ending
Like PID, there are multiple endings but they differ per version. Sadly no fancy game over screens for the most part. You just get mummified by Anubis zombies if you run out of lives.
They find your body and give it new life. As a mummified chimera, you will serve the Kilmaat well.
The design of the Kilmaat city differs greatly between versions. In the Build version, it’s very Gieger esque, like the Pfhor ships with more blood.
At one point, I come across several Kilmaat sleeping in a hive. This predates Eternal so I can’t show the Hive from its chapter 2 failure level there.
This hallway makes me think of Marathon for some reason. I can’t place exactly what level but I’ll just say Welcome to the Revolution and move on. There’s another hallway before this that reminds me of the Alien Ship level in Strife.
Unlike PID, the final boss doesn’t suck. It’s the Kilmaat Queen, the Kilmaatkhan (KHAAAN!), which looks like a multi-mouthed scorpion that summons langoliers. When she dies, she turns into a 3D version of the giant caterkiller robot boss from Sonic Mania’s Mirage Saloon.
It’s hard to get it from the right angle.
Now we have a joint comparison between PID and Marathon: our final objective is a timed mission like PID albeit we have an unknown amount of time, possibly 15 minutes?
Yep. In short, the Kilmaat ship is armed with a Trih Xeem. Soon this planet will be a thin shell of plasma riding the shockwave of its exploding core. You can stay behind to work on your tan if you like, but I’m leaving.
Or not. This ending sucks. PC players were robbed until Powerslave Exhumed came out. The ending in the original and said remaster is MUCH better. This exclusive final level takes place on the Kilmaat ship which due to texture limitations looks nothing like an alien spaceship and more like a bunch of lava filled canyons and Kilmaat techbases floating in Xen. We have to travel all around the ship looking for the Trih Xeem’s “energy towers” which look like this:
All under a time limit whose exact amount I have no fucking idea because the countdown looks like this:
You can break those screens too and sometimes you need to because there’s switches hiding behind them.
You can think of this being like PID’s mission once you plant the bomb except we’re defusing one. Other than that, it’s thematically similar to Aye Mak Sicur: a confusing as hell level with none too easy to find objectives, some of which are hidden followed by a shit ending. Gameplay wise it’s actually closer to Forever my Greatest and Only Love from the old 1.03 version of Marathon Eternal. (It was repurposed as the upper level of Killing the Giants as they Sleep in version 1.20 onwards) It’s the same objective: disable a planet or star killing weapon by disarming several glowing energy spots although the Marathon level only had three “towers”, one of which was the main beam in the middle, repurposed as a reactor in later versions of the level geometry.
If we fail to destroy the towers in time or if we die, we get the bad ending.
Destroy all the towers followed by the final one on the bridge and you get the “good” ending.
Too bad we’re stuck on the Kilmaat ship as it rockets off to Solaris-knows-where. Sergeant Sand even parodies Duke Nukem’s first voiced line in Duke 3D: “Damn alien bastards! How do I get off this ride?!” There was predictably no sequel so the ending was wasted.
The credits do the Rise of the Triad thing where they get bored of you waiting for them to finish and tell you to go away, or in this case egg you on into staying longer just to see how long they’ll drag it out.
Like play the better version of this game i.e. Powerslave Exhumed, as well as Pathways into Darkness and Marathon?
Why not both?
Continued in part 2 unlike the original log post as I don't trust it won't be too long for the Story Forum messenger.
|Of PID and Powerslave comparison part 1
|Lion O Cyborg
|2/23/23 9:27 a.m.
|Re: Of PID and Powerslave comparison part 1
|2/24/23 11:37 a.m.
|Re: Of PID and Powerslave comparison part 1
|Lion O Cyborg
|2/24/23 12:20 p.m.
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