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System Shock 1 Marathon Comparison Episode 5
Posted By: Lion O CyborgDate: 6/8/23 1:43 p.m.

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

Episode 5: Cannonís Core

Act 1: YOU GOT THE CPU CODE?! Thatís Norfair! Ė Reactor Level: Core of the Colony

Welcome back yet again to the System Shock Marathon Comparison and Talkthrough. Where last we left off, we destroyed SHODANís satellite dishes to prevent her from downloading herself into Earthís internet. Now SHODAN and Rebecca contact us yet again.

In the audio, she says she will be watching. And if you play on Story difficulty 3, they do and she does once you run out of time albeit the rest of you goes into a Cortex Reaver.

***INCOMING MESSAGE FROM SHODAN***

ďThis is a death sentence I declare on all mankind. If my calculations arenít wrong, in 27 minutes and 53 seconds, Citadel will crash into the Earth and you shall all die together. With the loss of my Eclipse Cannon and Orange Death mutagen virus, my plan for revenge will start. This program is irreversible. You foolish humans took my godhood away from me. Iíll make you feel the same despair that I did.Ē

***END MESSAGE***

Energised by overclocking, the Space Colony Citadelís core has turned into a giant nuke. Like SHODAN said, if we crash, the surface will turn into nothing but dust! That mad scientist! The colonyís systems authorisation code is tied to the CPU servers on levels 1-6 as logs revealed before.

Besides story difficulty 3, the GUI and movement controls in Classic/Portable/Non KEX Enhanced, this is the biggest parallel to Pathways into Darkness in the whole game: All those numbers we were recording by the servers after destroying them are digits of the code as also was revealed. In Pathways the manual gives us the nuclear bomb code as a form of copy protection and we learn in-game the first 3 digits were changed as part of a puzzle (possibly also copy protection as they donít tell you the rest?). Here we have to destroy the CPU servers and record the digits of the code, preferably using in-game map notes to save paper because fuck being forced to use pen & paper in any videogame unless you want to, not have to. Then we return to the deepest part of the colony and input the 6 digit code in the main nuclear reactor to set it to blow. We then also have an escape though it thankfully isnít timed: with the shit controls of the Classic version itíd have to be.

I run through all the levels checking the code screens and any remaining map notes that werenít corrupted by the bug, which was none of them. >:( Unlike PID, the code is randomised every time you play though the non KEX version of Enhanced had a bug where it was always the same code due to differences between DOS and Windows. I canít remember the specifics. The full code this time is 435926. This is exactly the same code as That Trav Guyís review playthrough and the non KEX version code was always 539579. Night Dive didnít bother to fix this bug. As System Shock Portable is a mod for the CD version of System Shock Classic, the code is properly randomised there. I should know: I used to play Portable as my way of playing this game before Enhanced Edition existed.

Returning to the reactor level, I enter the Core of the Colony through the diamond shaped tunnel near the Eclipse Cannon safety override.

Interestingly, the Radiation-Orange parts of the reactor are labelled as magnetic containment fields. Thatís very interesting: itís not a fission based reactor at all, but a fusion reactor like in Halo. The orange parts of the magnetic containment fields? Itís plasma from a small artificial star. The core of the colony is guarded by flier bots (those green things off to the side above) and security 2 bots backed up by two security 1 bots. I destroy them all so I have room to put the code in in peace.

This log is someone saying they need to shuffle shifts around as two of her colleagues have caught the Orange Death. I take the grav lift up inside the reactor. Itís time.

Pretty much this whole game and this sequence in particular make me feel like Iím truly playing a videogame adaption of Alien. The strategy guide author thinks so too. The final level in particular feels like the climax after Ripley escapes and has to deal with the xenomorph that snuck on the escape pod with her.

Act 2: Engage Edward Diego Motherfucker! - Flight Deck: Life Pods

As soon as I hear the alarm blaring, I ride the grav lifts out of the reactor and back up to the balcony before sprinting to the elevator. SHODAN radios again and she is PISSED.

She also says her cybernetic children will feed on my flesh and itís hard to tell if sheís being literal considering how angry she is. A mutated cyborg is waiting for me in the elevator and thereís security 2 bots flooding the halls.

Sure enough, Edward Diego is waiting for me by the lifepods guarded by robots. He teleports away again after fighting him.

Here we go!

You BITCH! This is the equivalent of Mother preventing Ripley from cancelling self-destruct as she was too slow.

Act 3: Final Rush Ė Security Department

Rebecca radios desperately.

Yes. I think they can. I take the elevator to the Security level. The alarms quieten down but the danger is still there. Abe Ghiren has a log by the door to the central area here. He reiterates the place is a fortress and he must reach the central shaft.

The entire security level is based around that central tower in the middle. Presumably it used to be a central glass elevator connected to the Central Control Room similar to the one in Prey (2017), hence the shaft inside it. All the catwalks are missing not just for story purposes but likely also because Looking Glass couldnít add any that felt good to play on or looked good. We have to ascend gravity elevators around the sides and carefully work our way up and around the shaft via the side rooms on upper floors making up the majority of the level, occasionally coming back to the main room via the balconies so we can finally reach the light bridge through the web of energy drain mines to the centre.

Gameplay wise this reminds me a lot of Atlantis in Tomb Raider, which was also themed around ascending a central shaft around side areas and coming back to it every so often, aiming to reach a control room at the top. The cancelled remake goes further by putting the central control area at the very top of that shaft in the middle atop a gigantic brain, reached via a small catwalk and elevator, whose stem makes up a central column in the middle of the shaft held up by huge chains.

Going by FPS examples, the most obvious one is Fusion Station in Duke Nukem 3D 2 years later but in reverse: we climb up the middle bit and occasionally go out to the sides in that level. For us Marathon players, this is a more complex version of Neither High nor Low. Also, thereís no pattern buffers from now on so if we die, we die for real and need to save frequently. The Hard Stuff Rules indeed.

The bottom level of the central column has some supply cupboards guarded by more of those Samus Aran clones that are cyborg enforcers. Flier bots patrol around the column, backed up by mutated cyborgs and cyborg assassins on tiny ledges you may not see at first, some obvious ones of the bottom floor, some more discreet on the sides of the central shaft. The first balcony is the lowest one, reached by a grav lift. More cyborg enforcers, assassins and flier bots are here as well as first aid kits, a closet of mines & a battery, and a button to unlock the next grav elevator up in one of the offices.

The next floor has a small balcony and a foyer of sorts. Another gravity lift leads up and thereís an experimental weapon in one of the labs.

That is the plasma rifle: the best energy weapon in the game. Unlike all other energy weapons in this game, the plasma rifle shoots a ball of plasma like a small purple sun that ricochets off surfaces and deals a ton of damage, including to you. Itís similar in practice to the dark energy cores from Half Life 2 and Portal, most often seen as the secondary fire of the pulse rifle. The forcefield guarding it is blocked by SHODAN level security so I will be back.

On the higher floor is another foyer guarded by robots. One of the offices here has a keycard and an interesting painting.

Itís as low resolution as a Minecraft painting so I canít tell if that house is surrounded by read leafed forests or itís on fire. The next balcony has a small ramp around them and a grav lift down but SHODAN has control over it. The main security office up here on this floor has the cyberspace terminal for this level and 2 logs, one from SHODAN and another from cyborg Diego.

There was also supposed to be another log on this level from one of the cyborgs reporting that they were successful in catching her but it was cut.

Text:

ďPer orders from Diego CY-001, Schuler unit has been captured by cyborg warriors and stored in a special containment cell on the bridge. Schuler unit is an enemy to the great scheme of our Lord SHODAN. We are holding Schuler unit for further study and possible neuro-disassembly.

For SHODANís glory, we meld our output.Ē

Audio:

ďPer orders from Diego CY-001, Schuler unit has been captured. Schuler unit presently being transported to detainment cell on bridge. Schuler unit being held for further study and possible neuro-disassembly. We await SHODANís triumphant empire. EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE!Ē

Iím just joshing on that last part but the audio for this cyborg really does sound a lot like the Daleks.

https://shodan.fandom.com/wiki/Schuler_Captured

This means on the bridge, the Central Control Room will be bathed in radiation. The cyborg elite guards on the original western box art appear for the first and only time there, protecting SHODANís cyberspace terminal. Now for the final full cyberspace terminal before the final boss.

That cyberspace switch opens the detention block i.e. jail cells on another floor on this level. In the original floppy disk version of System Shock Classic, that switch is missing, rendering the prison inaccessible.

Behold! The final CPU servers of the entire game. We need to blow them to lower security enough to access the other passages around the level up more grav lifts.

Now weíre locked and loaded. In the power station on the ground floor, thereís a log saying that while security 2 bots are charging, it drains power from the lights and doors. You can hit a charge interrupt button to unlock the doors and turn the lights back on as well as the robots. We want to destroy them while they charge.

The plasma pinballs through all the bots but they activate anyway once enough of them are destroyed. Most I dealt with so turning them on and unlocking the grav lift door doesnít matter. In the next floor, virus mutants come out of cells on the sides and a mutated cyborg attacks from the far end. I also snipe a cyborg assassin on the central column before he sees me. A man named Brocail who worked on SHODAN originally radios me as soon as I enter the room.

SHODAN considers herself the grand intellect now does she? The nearby room is the prison. Mutants, mutated cyborgs and cyborg enforcers are in the cells. One virus mutant has a ton of pills around him in his cell. There was supposed to be an audio log talking about chasing a dermal patch/pill trafficking ring but it was also cut.

This is a cool room. In a similar room next door is the switch that turns on the light bridge through the energy drain mines to the central elevator shaft.

Full disclosure here: itís entirely possible to use the jump jet boots to fly between the energy drain mines from below to the doorway and skip pretty much the entire level. Thatís what I did when I first played via System Shock Portable as I didnít understand this was the exit & not a secret, and streamer Onolumi did it this way too when she played System Shock.

Iíd assume those are the primary engines of the Space Colony Citadelís bridge. If I donít hurry up that ladder, Iíll be roasted in the exhaust blast. At the top is the service elevator to the Central Control Room.

The metallic biological growth from Diegoís quarters on the Executive level is in the vestibule by the elevator. No sooner do I reach for the doors does Diego appear behind me and for the last time. I power up my shields and make him my bitch with the plasma rifle.

Of course. One last sneaky trap. Looting their bodies and taking Diegoís personal access card, I take the final elevator to the Central Control Room. Next stop: killing SHODAN!

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