System Shock Marathon Comparison Episode 2
Posted By: Lion O CyborgDate: 6/8/23 12:52 p.m.

System Shock Marathon Comparison & talkthrough Season 1: System Shock 1: Enhanced Edition

Episode 2: Mutagen Herd part 1

Act 1: We Can See in the Dark. Can you? – Maintenance Department: Access junction & workshops

Welcome back to the System Shock & Marathon talkthrough series. Last time we covered the game story and basics before following the first mission to destroy the Space Colony Citadel’s mining laser. SHODAN isn’t happy with us but she isn’t resting on her laurels either: This colony is getting closer towards the Earth at tremendous power. There’s a good chance that if this keeps up…we’ll collide with it. SHODAN has other plans for when we get there other than crashing into the surface however:

Good news: There’s a way to stop her as all the groves can be jettisoned from the station. Gamma Grove already was in fact. We can do that to Beta Grove and send it out into space, where it won’t cause any problems for us at all, no sir. (Looks around nervously)

Bad news: It’s not that easy and we gotta take a detour to levels 3, 4, & 5 first. A woman named Parovsky radios me and tells me she and the remaining resistance are on the flight deck holding out against a Cortex Reaver. Oh boy.

Up on maintenance, it’s really dark and the pattern buffer is locked behind a SHODAN level security door. The music is replaced with ambient sounds that sound like plumbing rattling as fluids ooze through them, Silent Hill style rhythmic metal tapping sounds and muffled banging in the distance.

I thought it wasn’t on the soundtrack but I was wrong: it is under the title “sshock00”, albeit it’s on the classic soundtrack (MP3 versions at least) on GOG, not the Remastered one you can get with the Steam version.

This is the only full level to be played for horror instead of action in this game with the exception of certain hanger bays and a possible exception on level 9 and it shows. The worst thing here is that the darkness is a threat and the “music” is a warning. Here are one of the scariest mutants besides the Zero G ones.

Invisible mutants. Atrophied manty ray-like creatures with translucent skin who spit the same acid/antibody blobs as Zero G mutants. I used a sight pill here so I could see it in the dark which is why the area doesn’t look that dark. They’re tough little buggers too, soaking up too many pistol bullets and sparq shots to be practical.

For that, we need the lightsabre. Those mutants remind me of the manty ray thing that was the “manager” of the Overlook Hotel described in The Shining fleeing the hotel as it was destroyed. No, Diego isn’t one of those mutants despite the comparison.

Some repair bots around the corner behind me guard the server for this area and I record the number. I also realise the KEX version of Enhanced Edition has a very bad bug that corrupts your map notes if you reload a saved game or go back to a particular floor after placing enough: they display missing letters, gibberish or nothing at all and trying to interact with the text area of the notes makes the game crash. The old non KEX versions of Enhanced Edition never did this and I can’t find a solution. So I’m fecked if I want the full set of numbers from those CPU servers.

Recording the number anyway, I head to the far corner in the screenshot above to find the pattern buffer. It only requires destroying the server and a few cameras to get through. Up a ladder near the elevator to research I find what I’m mainly looking for on this level:

The lightsabre or “laser rapier” as the game calls it is the other melee weapon in the game and the best. You can ditch the lead pipe now and keep this. It uses power every time you strike but it doesn’t use that much and it’s super overpowered.

My sight pill has worn off. You can see how dark this place is, even with my now impaired vision from the pill’s side effect. In a side room around the corner near the buffer is a beheaded corpse smiling away. This is Abe Ghiran and his head cannot be destroyed unlike the others as it’s needed to open a retinal scanner on this level past a SHODAN locked door by the CPU. We need what’s in there.

The aug here is a flashlight, which is a must for this level. No need to turn it off except power usage. The logs detail a few things about the mid to late game levels.

Getting to the upper level of the hub is tricky however, especially if we don’t have the jump jet boots aug. Otherwise it’s through the maze.

We’ll go into more details when we get there. Basically the level plays like Neither High nor Low crossed with The Hard Stuff Rules.

It makes me wonder: did Abe kill himself in order to avoid becoming a mutant or did the cyborgs catch him? In another corner is a recharge station but using it damages you as well due to sparking wires above it. There’s an upgrade to my rear view mirror on the floor that gives me a smooth framerate but I didn’t pick it up until backtracking from level 6 prior to the groves.

In a side room nearby is a repair report computer and a crawlspace where I can easily demonstrate the two forms of crouching in this game. The lower opening requires going prone/commando crawling.

A side room near the second main elevator here (connected to the executive level where we’ll be heading later) has an invisible mutant and his former log on the floor. The log is super scary and the audio is way better than the text. The text isn’t any less scary however.

“It’ll be over soon… soon I’ll die. This pain will end… I can’t even recognize my own damn arm. SHODAN’s virus. I can see… oh God, I can see through my own body! Shit, there’s another virus in the grove… God, let me die… please.”

In the hub’s right room is a workshop with invisible mutants, a recharge station that doesn’t damage us and a log. The log complains about the new cinema on the executive level being too small and the suits hogging all the movie tickets. He figures It’ll be months before he and the other “maintenance slobs” actually get to use the nice, new facilities on the recreation deck. Again, this doesn’t paint the company in a good light.

The workshops have really impressive textures. It’d be cool if Marathon had stuff like this as a workaround to being unable to render them as map geometry or placed objects. We have repair stations, chemical tanks, and what looks like power sockets. Up a grav lift nearby is a cache of grenades, an updated automap aug and several interface demodulators. Remember this area: we’ll be back in part 2.

In the left room of the hub is a freight elevator to the storage level and flight deck. I go inside and take the lift up because we need to do stuff on storage before going to the hangers. Parovsky can wait. There’s literally no rush as we’ll see.

Act 2: Space Colony for Sale, Cheap! – Storage Cells

It’s Ridley! Well, not really. Avian mutants look like pterodactyls and while they make bird of prey screeches when attacking, they sound like elephants when they die.

For me? You shouldn’t have! Down some ramps is a cyborg warrior and his big sister:

No wonder System Shock is a Metroidvania: there’s Samus Aran! Cyborg Enforcers are tough as hell girls with spazer beams who take a lot of hits from a magnum to kill. This one is guarding an upgrade to my air shoes. Two logs can be found in a similar trench on the other side of the freight elevator.

This coupled with the privatisation of Saturn and the executives hogging all the fun stuff on the recreation level more or less confirms Trioptimum or at least the branch operating on Citadel is a black company like several Japanese businesses (cough, cough, Konami), Amazon, Disney, or Tesla with work ethic to match. The only thing missing is being dragged away to the pub for pints with the boss after he can finally be arsed to leave the office hours after everyone else’s shifts are over, wasting everyone’s time when we have far better things to do than suck up to bad work ethic practices regardless of country, planet or business.

SHODAN has devised a little game for us to play but unlike Durandal she doesn’t count on us winning: One area has grav lifts installed up by the ceiling which let us fly somewhat and another area has a sick half-pipe ramp.

I could add those to my collection, but this time I’d rather get socks, thanks.

OK, the parallel to Mother 3 I drew with SHODAN’s log on Research was supposed to be a one-off but this is clearly potential material for a chimera from that game. Gorilla-Tiger mutants are exactly that: gorilla heads on tigers’ bodies and what looks like smilodon canines. Did the groves contain zoos as well as gardens? That can’t have been made from a human! The pattern buffer is nearby down a second grav lift. In the opposite corner is the CPU servers.

The audio actually has him get confronted by what sounds like either a cyborg assassin or a cyborg enforcer going by both the dart or silenced gun sounds and feminine breathing. I blow the servers and record the number.

Sabo sounds so bored in the audio for this log. Nearby in this southeast area of the upper floor of this level I find a broken radiation piping room with a catwalk above and a grav elevator in the middle.

There’s a lever to switch the grav lift to “Up” just out of sight under the ledge I’m on but the lift turns back to Down in a few seconds. Through the low opening on the catwalk is a large storage room with crates, computer consoles, presents and those microwaves mentioned previously.

Outside the door is an area with catwalks and fluctuating light bridges guarded by spiderbots, a gorilla-tiger mutant and cyborg warriors. Walking on the catwalks feels weird due to the game handling walking on 3D objects strangely.

With the Shadow skates and sprinting it’s way easier than Colony Ship for Sale. On the far end is the plastique we need for later. There’s loads but we need only 4. Grab it and toss it down into the room below. There’s no fall damage so you’ll be fine. You can make inventory space for it later. We also start finding more magpulse gun ammo on this level starting with this room.

Wanna see some sick air? My air shoes come in handy in this room too.

Thank you!

This is the location of the grav lifts that were being installed in weird areas a previous log mentioned. I took the screenshot in fullscreen HUD as it’s hard to see the full obstacle course without it. I then turn it off again so I can play normally. Those arrows on the wall mark grav lifts that let you “fly” near the ceiling. We need them to reach a lever in the far corner.

The code to get into the storage cell with the hazard suit must be brute forced once you know the start and end digits. It’s 838.

We need that for beta grove or else we’ll succumb to the Orange Death. Even then it’s toxin resistant, not toxin proof. It also uses power while biohazards and other poisons are present and if it runs out, it won’t protect us. It also does nothing against radiation but the level 2 suit on maintenance and level 3 suit on engineering do. We want those too for the reactor.

Act 3: Yellow Dwarf Sunbathing with Fresh Mango Juice – Flight Deck and Welcome Centre

Parovsky says that they’re holding out but it’s only a matter of time. They need me to bring ammo and whatever I can then we’ll use my expertise to stop SHODAN. She also warns SHODAN is setting a trap for me. It’s in the welcome centre near the Executive Elevator to level 6. A log here talks about the colony’s defences destroying a TriOp shuttle for seemingly no reason.


The music here changes to the maintenance level ambience while I’m inside the hanger. Normally it plays the reactor theme which I’ve heard sounds a lot like a Nine Inch Nails song. There is a console here that controls sections of the light bridge above the hanger floor but it’s a puzzle to get them to appear right and even then I still have to jump after finding my way around via a vent in the ceiling. It’s like the shuttle drydock jacks “puzzle” in Marathon’s map Smells Like Napalm, Tastes Like Chicken except it isn’t a piss easy single button press to solve.

It looks like bigger rocket skates but it’s actually the jump jet boots. They work like a jetpack but drain your power in an instant though, so save them for when you really need them, even with upgraded versions. Speaking of which, that torch aug is an upgrade to my current one. Unlike the flashlight aug in Deus Ex, the System Shock one isn’t crap as it lights up far more than the one in that game.

Through the upside down triangle passage near the hanger is a “convection shaft”: An air vent shaft with gravity lifts inside it to make navigating it safe. Methinks Looking Glass were unable to model actual fans and wind physics so they made do with grav lifts.

I find an upgrade to my energy shield aug here as well as a blaster rifle. Well, it’s more like a blaster pistol. I may not need it for long.

This is the welcome centre for employees and guests after the shuttle ride here. There’s some offices, what might be an executive or guest hanger bay, some logs and the special elevator to the crew facilities, recreation areas and executive suites on level 6. Unlike all the other elevators, this one has actual lift doors as opposed to submarine hatches or the garage doors of the freight lift. Around the corner is a circuit puzzle locked door overlooking 2 more hanger bays and an industrial area connected to the pattern buffer, a recharge station and the CPU server. Parovsky is nearby and she said at the start to look for the word “grey” written on the wall in order to find the convection shafts connected to their hideout.

Gravity field rotors or power dynamos? Can’t be the latter as we have the nuclear reactor for that.

That’s the largest present box I’ve ever seen! You could hide 3 strippers in that thing. You can’t walk on it either as you just bounce off like it’s made of jelly. Boing!

The word “Gray” is plastered all over the hallway to the convection shafts. You’d think once would give me the hint.

It literally doesn’t matter if we ignore those guys until after the grove business, they will always all die before we can reach them. In fact, they are already dead: Unlike Marathon the game didn’t support friendly AI or at least it wasn’t built with it in mind. Ultima Underworld did but the conversation system felt like a separate game unlike PID, so that’s why System Shock solely does the audio log thing. System Shock 2 followed a similar philosophy and Bioshock copied it. The Cortex Reaver hits hard but is easy to deal with using my SMG. I find Parovsky herself stuffed into a janitor’s closet in the back with her last log and an assault rifle.

Unlike all other games including this one’s sequel, the assault rifle isn’t automatic and instead functions like the DMR from Halo Reach & SPV3, and is just as powerful.

That informs us of what our next mission is after the virus is dealt with. Instead of activating a satellite dish to send a message to Earth, we have to destroy several satellites in order to stop something (or in this case someone) from being broadcast. Using a secret grav lift to the vents, I return via the CPU to the welcome centre and check out the logs I missed in the reception area and guest hanger. The one in the hanger explains why the gravity lifts are in the convection shafts: the fans were damaged by a robot going nuts so the lifts were added for the maintenance crews to float up to work. Easier than scaffolding I guess.

The other log is by a Bianca Schuler from Rebecca’s department at TriOp, working undercover for Diego as his personal secretary.

Upstairs from the executive elevator is an office belonging to either Diego or one of his lackeys. A Zero G mutant guards a log of Diego’s on the floor by the desk.

There must have been an accident with the Orange Death before I even got involved with Citadel and I just happened to be there when Diego needed me. Unfortunately for him, he now has a rampant AI on his hands and is in deeper shit than ever. Or so it seems given SHODAN’s plans for him.

I then willingly walk into SHODAN’s trap with shields active and having taken a berserk pill to defuse it while high as a kite.

Apparently, those are cyberguards too. So what are the hunter-killers then? I can’t find any decent information on them online and the wiki entry just blatantly copies the manual text without describing what they actually are or where & how they spawn.

From this point on, ICE protected nodes fight back and it’s hard to wear them down and block their attacks with weaker ICE drill software. I can’t remember what one switch here opens but the other opens the supply closet opposite the cyberspace terminal. A log from SHODAN here directs a cyborg to keep everyone away from Beta Grove while SHODAN’s experiment with the Orange Death continues so nobody interferes, as well as guard against any mutants or un-mutated subjects escaping.

Act 4: Blaspheme Quarantine – Executive Level: Crew facilities, Executive Suites and Recreation Areas

I take the fancy elevator to the executive level and make a beeline for the pattern buffer to my left guarded by cyborg warriors. Down the hall with the weird walkway nearby (possibly meant to be over fountains?) I run into exec bots guarding the dining room. There was a massacre in here by SHODAN’s forces as the crew were hiding here and got caught.

There’s no dining tables or anything here but I’ll chalk that up to “they cleared them out to make room for the refugees”. There’s a log nearby and some papers.

The isolinear chipset is required to reach SHODAN in the Central Control Room on the bridge. Bianca has it so we need to follow in her footsteps.

Cyberspace on this level is a lot harder mainly due to the difficult ICE nodes being very good at deflecting my attacks and hitting me. Apart from a good upgrade to my pulser software, most software rewards here aren’t even worth it. We need to come here though in order to open access to Diego’s closet in his new quarters in Gamma Quadrant and access the Beta Grove elevator.

Cortex reavers look intimidating in cyberspace but they’re easy to kill. Seems to be a running theme. In fact the only enemy that isn’t easy to kill in cyberspace is SHODAN herself and even then that’s only if your own computer’s CPU speed is too fast if playing classic and I think non KEX Enhanced’s initial release.

Oh yeah by the way, the final boss against SHODAN is in cyberspace so don’t bother saving up tons of ammo to prepare for it. Just have enough for her minions. The two other dining rooms connect to the cinema we heard about on the maintenance level, with stunning windows out into space.

Yeah, other than the observation windows, this place is tiny. No wonder the engineers were annoyed. The floor is also grass.

I can’t wait to see this vista in the remake when it comes out. Anyone who has the backer beta, can you tell me what it’s like with screenshots please?

One of the 2 logs here (the third is a crappy sliding tile puzzle game for your MFD player) has someone complain that SHODAN is displaying random security codes on the monitors including the maintenance vent code between Beta & Gamma. We need that code, plus there’s a camera pointed right at it. It’s behind a forcefield so we don’t accidentally destroy it before we’ve used the code: the monitor is in Beta quadrant right beside the forcefield button.

The other log talks about the vent crawlway as it’s the only way into gamma quadrant now. It also is the only way to access the CPU servers on this level.

The audio is quite different: he seems amazed at the results of the experiments and asks someone to go and release the grove but they look at him like he’s crazy.

There’s the code on the left monitor. Also, all the monitors are cathode ray tubes like in Alien because this was the 90s and flatscreens didn’t exist yet. You can tell because they explode and there’s a rush of air as the glass breaks when you shoot them. God I miss color cathode rays! The papers talk about the groves.

As said in the Halo SPV3 Tour of Duty, I love parks, hanging gardens and biodome winter gardens. Setting one in space is even better. You may have seen the groves around the outside of the Space Colony Citadel: the Space Colony ARK comparisons ain’t gonna stop, but the groves make Citadel look more like the starship Terra Venture from Power Rangers: Lost Galaxy: big dome of major living quarters in the middle and several varieties of smaller countryside/garden domes on the sides.

Down the opposite fork is the shopping district. This place has the most artistic licence so far besides the groves as it looks nothing like a shopping centre. Another Samus Aran clone guards the bazaar down some ramps. She’s got a railgun on the shelf nearby. Don’t be fooled by the name: it’s a rocket launcher and not a very good one at that. It’s too cramped to use properly and ammo is rare.

Unlike Deus Ex as there is no money system or usable shops/vending machines, you can’t use the ATM machines. The remake does have such systems however so I wonder if they’ll have similar machines here?

Up the ramp nearby is the central hub, guarded by security 1 bots and exec bots. The hub itself is a pit around a pillar with grav lifts back up. Alpha Quadrant and Gamma Quadrant doors are broken and can’t be opened. Beta isn’t however and there’s a recharge station through there. Ahead is beta grove and to the left is crew quarters. A log here has someone talk about SHODAN sealing off beta grove for her experiments though he doesn’t know that. He thinks about opening it via a button in Diego’s old room in beta quadrant or by the cyberspace switch I found but he’s killed by a cyborg.

That grey alien thing is a virus mutant we saw in the Research Facility: advanced humanoid mutants who throw large boils full of the Orange Death filled pus at us and they have the exact same roar as King Koopa in Mario Kart Advance, Mario Kart 64 & Super Mario 64. SHODAN has a log here revealing what must be done to launch beta grove now.

So now we get to go exploring some space gardens. Bad news is they’re full of SHODAN’s mutants and we also have to go inside Beta Grove, hence the hazard suit. Fun fun fun!

The crew quarters are a mess with broken walls, mutants and exec bots.

Through a small maintenance tunnel is Diego’s old quarters with the switch and a camera for Beta Grove’s elevator and some unfortunate chap impaled on a claw like spike.

In the opposite corner of the crew quarters is the hatchway to the crawlway. I find the servers and record the final number. CPU severs still exist on all other levels except the bridge but their only purpose from now on is to lower the security level.

Diego is so full of himself. In fact, his new quarters are here behind some weird metallic biological growth on the walls, kind of like similar weblike stuff on the alien ship levels in Marathon 1 & Marathon Infinity. Diego himself is here and he confronts me as soon as the metal slime ridden bulkhead door opens. He’s SHODAN’s right hand cyborg now and he wields duel laser rapiers.

He also has duel cannons as well. Shoot him enough times and he’ll teleport away from you. He’ll be back much later however.

Inside Diego’s quarters are 2 logs and some papers talking about installing a jump pad in the side door nearby that links to the elevator to maintenance (where the crawlway code was flashed on the screen). I check out the log I find outside by the “shrine” first.

The cowardly executives want to leave the workers behind but SHODAN is an equal opportunity killer: she isn’t letting them get away that lightly. After all, the execs probably contributed to her reaching the angry stage of her rampancy. Speaking of which, Edward Diego did exactly that as he gloats about his power and control over the colony in one of his logs, ordering SHODAN to take a letter mocking Trioptimum for their efforts in investigating his illegal mutagen virus experiments. He also reveals he was the one who ordered SHODAN to destroy the TriOp shuttle on the flight deck.

By “take us out” does he mean he’ll take us out of our healing coma and send us on our way or was he planning to betray and kill us if he didn’t need us? He’s a bit vague given the context for his wording. The audio for this log is even better: he sounds so arrogant and high & mighty.

“A TriOp security team just tried to land at bay 6. They were real impressive until I blew out their attitude jets. Hey SHODAN, take a letter: Dear TriOp, please send some more people to investigate me. I run security! I run the robots! I’m jamming communications. That’s right Rebecca, investigate me. INVESTIGATE! MY! BUTT! Note to myself: Keep that hacker on ice for a while in case I need him. Otherwise, just take him out.”

He has to eat his own words a couple of weeks later however as the very next log from him in here has him grovelling before SHODAN, begging for his life and betraying the survivors in the dining room. It’s hard to get his tone and stuttering from the text alone.

His closet nearby is full of ammo and grenades. I also just found out according to the wiki that there was also supposed to be a radio message from him here presumably after beating him but it was cut.


“So, Master Dark, you’re still alive. I’m very impressed. Are you pleased to see the results of your hacking into SHODAN? We have much to thank you for… but I’m afraid I’ll have to kill you nonetheless. We shall meet soon, I promise.”


“So, you’re still alive, hacker. I’m impressed. How do you like the results of your work? I’ve got a lot to thank you for… although I’m afraid I’m going to have to kill you anyway. We’ll meet again soon, bet on it.”


Part 1 on my log originally included the groves too and part 2 was just returning to level 3 but the groves section makes this part of the writeup here too long. I'll be back in a tic, bet on it.

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