System Shock 2 Marathon Comparison Episode 3
Posted By: Lion O CyborgDate: 6/9/23 12:32 p.m.

System Shock Marathon Comparison & talkthrough Season 2: System Shock 2

Episode 3: Reprisal

Act 1: Watch Your Step – Hydroponics: sector B & C

In the last part of the System Shock 2 writeup series, we went down to the Engineering level and got the elevator working. However, the shaft is blocked and we come to level 3 in order to find out what’s going wrong.

"Damn! Something’s blocking the shaft, and the elevator can’t reach deck 4. I’m attempting to determine…I’m detecting massive quantities of some kind of biomaterial that’s plugging up the elevator shaft. The environment on this level has been altered to be some kind of breeding chamber for the xenomorphs! It shouldn’t prove dangerous unless you plan to stay for more than a few hours, but in order to clear the shaft you’re going to have to remove the biomaterial. I’m accessing the primary data loop. Let’s see what we can find out there.”

On the floor is a log from Miller talking about how compelled everyone feels to protect the young worms they found on Tau Ceti f, Anatoly giving the only condition that nobody is to be told what the work helping them is. Another log of his in an office down the hall talks about his mutations and that the Many are feeding him ideas such as how to make a handy implant.

“OK, stop where you are. There’s a vial of an experimental material called Toxin-A. It was developed by the Sci staff to reduce the growth of the aliens. But I can’t find any data on how you should use it. You should be able to research the toxin. I’m uploading you enough cyber modules to acquire the research skill if you don’t have it.”

This is the first time a particular skill in the game is required to progress. Luckily, the first lab down the other path has a Lab Assistant implant you can use to boost your research skill by 1 even if you don’t have any skillpoints in research, which can let you avoid getting softlocked if you waste those cyber modules.

“Life grows within the womb of these walls. Life which has never seen the surface of the Earth.”

We saw a glimpse of those earlier but those are the Many’s eggs. They are clearly ripping off the xenomorph eggs in Alien and they even hatch the same way.

Those are the Many worms: the equivalent to headcrabs, Flood infection forms, facehuggers what-have-you. They could also be seen as a counterpart to the ADAM sea slugs in Bioshock.

Gameplay wise they simply try to bite you and occasionally jump on you. You can’t actually get infected. In Secmod, they now leap out of their eggs like dolphins. Search the eggs before destroying them in order to harvest any organs that might be inside, such as the healing glands we found before. Sure enough, I find some.

Like the purple pods on the level Watch Your Step in PID, some eggs don’t hatch worms but instead fart toxic gas and large turds in your face. This is where the PSI toxin shield comes in handy as it prevents us getting poisoned when they do this. However, it’s a tier 3 PSI power so until I can unlock the tier with 30 cyber modules and some to spare to get the powers I want there, I’m stuck with being cautious.

The second OS upgrade unit is here. I take the upgrade that lets me use 2 implants at once.

Here is where Delacroix was researching Toxin A. The Many have sabotaged the replicator here she was using to produce the chemical. More toxin A can be found in the lab next door with the lab assistant implant. I return to previous decks to gather the ingredients I need for my research. However, one needle I found requires sodium and only Hydroponics has it so far. This gives me incentive to find the chemical storeroom on this level besides researching toxin a.

Worm Organ

Summary: While you have learned the vulnerabilities of this creature, they’re so easily killed it hardly matters. Like all Annelids, they are somewhat resistant to energy weapons. Annelid Eggs often contain useful organs if you search them before they are destroyed.

Analysis: Genetically female, the Annelid Worm is the most basic Annelid form (no shit!). The creature is principally nervous systems and musculature – the highly advanced (for a worm) nervous system appears to be tied into a rudimentary psionic sense organ. While wormlike in appearance, the worm has no actual digestive tract, but is furnished with energy reserves at birth. When these are depleted, the creature shuts down into a dormant state, possibly until a further psionic trigger acts on it. The eggs that these emerge from often contain organs that might be extracted for useful purposes, unless the egg has been destroyed in combat.

Recommendation: The worms are fairly fragile, but can be somewhat dangerous if they close before you see them. In large numbers, they may prove a more significant threat.

Delacroix Re: A Ray of Hope

“Killing the children won’t be easy. But I think I’m actually onto something: the biochemistry of these worms, which I call the Annelids, treats inverted proteins as toxins. With the help of the replicator in the Biological Survey Lab, I’ve managed to isolate some inverted proteins in a number of vials. However, the mix with the base compound is still off, so I need to do some more research. Once I do that and mix the toxin into the 4 environmental regulators…Well, things can only get better.”

Why does she call them “the annelids” when that’s just the Latin name for worm? It’s kind of obvious, so she needs to come up with something better. Just as well I’m doing her research for her and the implant I found makes it go faster.

Toxin A

Summary: Placing this toxin in an environmental regulator will reduce local annelid growth.

Analysis: This is an experimental toxin, highly virulent, developed specifically to break down and dissolve annelid tissue. The canister is highly pressurised, as the liquid toxic would evaporate quickly under ordinary conditions.

Recommendation: For maximum coverage, this toxic should be introduced into an environmental regulator immediately after being opened.

In Bioshock’s Arcadia and Farmer’s Market levels, our mission there was the exact opposite of this one: instead of researching a poison with other poisonous chemical elements to kill animal life blocking the way, we gather less toxic materials for a U-Invent station in order to create a serum that brings dead plants back to life in order to avoid suffocating to death when Andrew Ryan kills the trees in Arcadia with a deadly neurotoxin.

Marathon wise I’d say it’s like Couch Fishing, where we prevent the spread of an entity throughout the ship except this one is alive in the traditional sense instead of an AI. It also requires more steps, like a repeat of Never Burn Money & Defend THIS.

As I make my way down the hall past some benches with booze and nanites, Xerxes demands to know why I let “the metal mother” guide my actions and why don’t I join them. An audio log from Delacroix to Polito talks about discovering Korenchkin isn’t well (as he’s a hybrid) and wonders if the AI Polito found is connected to this. Up a ladder near the Xerxes core is the pattern buffer for this section. In a hydroponics lab next door to it is some cyber modules and a log from Miller: The worms are dying and they are powerless to help due to the toxic gas some of the eggs contain. Another crewmember wouldn’t leave them and died for it. Miller discovered a way to make the cyborg midwives so they could nurture the eggs and worms inside them without getting poisoned. A log from Anatoly downstairs (below the pattern buffer) says that he feels he has a purpose more important than the company now that he’s joined the Many.

Downstairs from the lab with Millar’s log is a cyborg midwife guarding some eggs and some biomass growing around the first environmental regulator. I put the first vial of Toxin A into the machine and there’s an inhuman hissing sound as the meat surrounding it dies and dissolves. Polito is pleased and she gives me more cybernetic modules.

“Good. You’ll notice that the bio-matter on the walls and in the elevator shaft has been impacted by the introduction of the biotoxin. Now do the same with the other 3 regulators.”

Polito sounds oddly robotic when she says “biotoxin”. Something isn’t right. I jump through the open window into a square hallway above another square hallway behind a locked door near Xerxes’s core. I can break through some damaged glass into the lower area. The Many contact me again: I’ve entered another of their nests:

“Babies must sleep. Babies must rest. Wise is the one who does not waken them. Leave this place now, or we will wound you, as you have us.”

As if to back up their threat, there’s a cyborg midwife here guarding the eggs, but also a working laser pistol on a dead crewman among them. I ditch the broken one and charge the new one with a portable battery I have a few of so I can fight her better. I also find more healing glands in the eggs. Past some boiling water, I come to some monkeys and a camera next to a hydroponics pond with cyber modules in it. One or two of the monkeys are red: those new ones have pyrokinesis. They don’t get a chance to use their PK fire though as they decide to try rushing me for melee attacks instead. Big mistake.

Midwife Organ

Analysis: DNA sequence confirms that the subject was originally a human female, cybernetically modified. An auxiliary CPU in the base of the spine serves as a controller, overriding most signals sent by the subjects natural brain. Both speed and musculature have been mechanically enhanced, and the cybernetic apparatus also serves as physical shielding for the softer human tissues.

Recommendation: Due to the half-mechanical nature of this creature, incendiary and anti-personnel weapons will be fairly ineffective, but armour-piercing rounds should be effective.

In essence, they are Little Sisters from Bioshock in terms of serving the purpose of handling a parasitic invertebrate combined with the aggressively protective nature of the Big Daddies, except arguably worse to fight as we don’t have electrokinesis or chemical throwers.

Just as well we read up on them as we see ghosts of the very first cyborg midwife, Erin Bloome getting converted next door.

“Please Papa Suchong! I don’t want to go back on the table!”

Erin herself is right next door in the chemical storeroom. She still has an audio log from before she was kidnapped and converted. Compare the midwives’ model’s face to that of Erin’s log portrait.

I wash my hands before cooking my needle recipe: this room has the sodium I need.

PSI Booster

Summary: This hypo will increase the user’s Psionic Ability by 1 for five minutes.

Analysis: This pharmaceutical combines a complex mix of psychoactive chemicals, some of them quite powerful, and refined annelid tissue. Many of the chemicals have enzymatically bonded to the annelid tissue fragments, many of them since construction of the hypo, as if the annelid tissue is still biologically active.

Recommendation: This experimental hypospray will increase your Psionic Ability for a few minutes – if you don’t mind injecting yourself with purified annelid tissue. Long term usage may well cause hallucinatory side effects.

They won’t. Unlike the dermal patches/pills in System Shock 1, none of the hypodermic needles in System Shock 2 have side effects. The only exception I can think of is if you use a speed booster with high agility, you can take damage just by running into walls but that’s just the laws of physics, not the effect of the drugs. There’s more toxin A in Erin Bloome’s desk along with some antimony & vanadium to research it if you haven’t already, and some cyber modules in the trash can. I wonder who put those there.

There’s another hydroponics pond nearby with some med hypos and either a rad or anti-toxin hypo guarded by a camera but not much else. A body near the first pond has the keycard out of here back to Xerxes’s core. I also find a grenade launcher here!

Bioshock again is the obvious comparison but I say this is more like PID. While the PID grenade launcher was in gameplay terms an explosive Super Shotgun from Doom 2 due to being hitscan and reloading with a barrel break, the System Shock 2 grenade launcher is an in-universe miniature railgun, though the text cuts off before it can say unless I scroll. It can also use Disruption Grenades which are basically the PID HE rounds: smaller blast radius but bigger boom.

It requires heavy weapons skill of 1 to use and I’m not using it so I dump the gun and its grenades by the lift.

I learn more PSI powers while I’m here: I learn PK fire, PSI Toxin Shield and PSI Recharge which for energy weapon users, is immensely handy. Tier 3 powers like those are 8 XP a pop so it brings me down to 0 again. I think player stats and maintenance is next. Near the ramps I came down to return is a freezer area full of more eggs and the next environmental regulator. PSI toxin shield comes in handy around eggs from now on so I don’t get poisoned. The Many contact me again:

“Submit to the biomass and your suffering will end.”

That last sharting egg contains a new organ for me to cook. The recipe calls for some gallium and yttrium, boil for 5 minutes and chop up in a cup with large amounts of butter, salt & pepper.

There’s more cyber modules, nanites, ammo and tech software down here as well.

I feel sorry for the poor crew’s kids and their spouses back on Earth. Imagine how horrified Erin’s kid must feel after the game, knowing their mother was turned into a metal monster looking after other monsters before getting gunned down by a psychonaut. Hell, what about their dad? How would he feel knowing he lost his lover in the depths of deep space?

And here’s a cartoon of what PK fire looks like once I upgrade my PSI stat later:

The final 2 regulators are in different maps. First I head to Sector A which is above the freezer. The keycard is on one of the bodies down in the freezer beside a farting egg.

Act 2: Don’t Get Poisoned – Hydroponics Sector A

Polito Re: AI Voice Fragment

“Marie, this is urgent! It seems the AI from Tau Ceti has integrated itself into the ship’s computer. I picked up this fragment today.”

“*static & glitches*Insolent, INSOLENT children!”

“Not only that, but after I found the fragment, I returned to my lab to find it ransacked! I must see you. You’re the only one I trust now. I have a theory about this AI: I tried to find information about the various rumours regarding the events on Citadel Station. I think I’m on…” MESSAGE INTERRUPTED


“Log fragment error. Please rerecord.”


The plot thickens! The voice fragment alone should be enough to tip you off who the AI is but I’m keeping quiet until the next level.

Besides the 2 cameras, there’s a lot of maintenance bots in this map. The laser pistol makes things so much easier. There’s no pattern buffer here, so be careful.

This was where I’d learned about hydroponics tanks but I think I did see them in garden centres as a kid before I played this game. Check between the plants in the tanks for ammo and cyber modules. I can never remember where they are. You may recognise this hallway from the opening FMV. At least one older build of Brutal Doom Extermination Day has an entire biodome of hydroponics tanks in one Episode 1 map. Sadly the latest version removed that room.

A body in this room has the keycard for the final section on it.

“Why do you go so slowly? Do you think this is some kind of game? It is only through luck and my continued forbearance that you’re even alive. Now move!”

I’m really starting to distrust Dr Polito: she sounds nothing like herself in her logs, being a cold, impatient bitch. Dr Polito said in her logs that the AI she found escaped into the ship’s network. Given how robotic she sounded when pronouncing the word “biotoxin” earlier as well…

Check the eggs, use toxin shield to avoid getting poisoned if you have it and check between every tank on both levels of these side rooms.

There’s more robots patrolling here and another one as well as a cyborg midwife guard some more eggs beside the regulator and a large hydroponics pond.

This is the first time I’ve been able to get a good look at those Metroids up close, though I am using a models improvement mod.

Cybernetic Modules

Cybernetic Modules contain a mix of programmable RNA databases and brainwave EM which can be used to augment a cyber rig at any Cybernetic Upgrade Unit, a proprietary TriOptimum training device. Skills acquired via Upgrade Units are not guaranteed to last more than a few weeks, though skills acquired in this fashion and then used consistently, and especially under stressful conditions, are frequently found to be permanent.

“God, was he jacked. I had never seen a specimen like him. How much of his original self remained? Hard to say. However, I must admit … he put the ‘sigh’ back in cybernetic.” ~ She Magazine, July 2111

Returning to the entrance after using the environmental regulator, I kill a hybrid carrying a log. This is apparently a female hybrid despite all hybrid models being male. Maybe the Enhanced Edition will fix that. Rise of the Triad: Ludicrous Edition is.

Turnbull Re: Changing

“What do you know? Bronson was right after all. I imagine I’ve got about an hour…but I’m tracking the…the transformation in the hope that the data might be useful to someone else. There are tumours on my leg and back. I can feel that thing inside of me… chewing, growing fat. My theory is that need a living host to complete the transformation. Screw Diego, screw Korenchkin, screw Tau Ceti V! If someone finds this, don’t have any regrets about punching my clock. I was already gone.”

Act 3: Threek Show – Hydroponics: Sector D

Actually, it’s spelled Caesium.

Add a squeaking sound when you squeeze it and you have a lovely doggo and cat toy.

Analysis: This gland produces a potent cocktail of psychoactive and adrenal hormones that acts to rejuvenate and enervate neural tissue. In addition to standard (and somewhat unusual) biological compounds, the gland also appears to secrete small amounts of semi-physical psychocreative energy.

Recommendation: While this gland can be used to restore psionic potential, the danger inherent in consuming alien psychocreative energies suggests that this should only be done in emergencies.

This organ should be used only in emergencies but not for the reason the research results say: using those organs restores all your PSI instead of just some of it. They’re precious and you shouldn’t waste them. The door to sector D is near the benches past the security station.

It’s a mess. The music is replaced with ambient whirring noises and heartbeats. Diego has a log to Anatoly on the floor among the blood. He sounds pained and angry as he talks due to the Many’s voices echoing with him.

Diego Re: Our Alliance

“I believe the plans the Many have for me are greater than I even imagined. The change is upon me, but the path is more glorious we imagined. It does not stop at a mere single mutation! The form I’ve been promised is more beautiful than even that: they tell me I will float through the air and strike at the foes of our biomass with my mind. With our mind! My cup runneth over!”

Another log in a desk next to a beaker has a woman whose staff were taken by Miller find out what he’s up to: she saw Erin Bloome whom we killed earlier. In the room above by a security crate I hack and loot is a log from Anatoly spamming shotgun blasts into a terrified crewman while praising the Many.

This is the best armour in the game but you need to keep it powered or else it does nothing. PSI Recharge/electron cascade comes in handy for that. There’s cyber modules hidden above the pipes through the window here but watch out as the water below is boiling. There’s no pattern buffer in this map either.

Down in the red tank filled room is another nest with cyber modules in it. A new enemy appears here:

Annelid arachnids or just simply spiders are the System Shock equivelent to the skitters from Pathways into Darkness. They’re based directly on similar giant spiders from Thief right down to their biting animations. Don’t get bitten or they poison you. Those little ones are always found here but are actually quite rare: starting in the next level you encounter bigger ones that deal more units of poison damage and have more health. The little buggers here didn’t even drop their organs for me to research. Maybe their big sisters will. Polito says she’ll be waiting for me once I make it up to deck 4. I return to the elevator and use the beaker on the worms inside the security station to make more worm clusters.

Mmm. Cup of meatnoodles. It’s making me hungry, so I think I’ll get some for lunch tomorrow at time of writing. Sadly this isn’t Mother 2 or Mother 3: That isn’t actually an Udon of Life so we can’t eat it: for that we need to use it and the implant that lets us eat them on the actual pile themselves. Next stop: the Ops level and Dr Polito!

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