System Shock 2
At the beginning, the survival horror element is very strongly present, because the protagonist the role of which you undertake is still helplessly weak; it is a horror that is psychological in nature and is very well executed as you wait in tense expectation for something dreadful to happen. Is there some thing lurking behind that corner or is it just a trick of mind..
After you upgrade your skills to a degree where you are no longer in danger of imminent death and get a grip at some decent weaponry, which as I recall happens on deck 3 (technically level 3 out of cca. 9), the transition to what is more a first person shooter with RPG elements begins; or a laser sword/crystal shard wielder, because the conditions cause a strong impression that it is necessary to conserve the resources due relative scarcity of ammo at the beginning and the extremely fast degradation of ranged weapons, which again require at that time valuable resources to be maintained in a good shape, and you have no idea whether you can afford it or not.
You can optionally just repair. It demands much less resources, but leaves you with barely functional weapons that tend to break again in very short periods.
So, at this point, the skills are not formidable, the resources are scarce and weapons are always (unrealistically) unreliable. Add challenging monsters and you get a very steep, at times antagonizing, difficulty curve on deck 4 that is perhaps too unbalanced. Here I began to save very often, in nearly minute intervals. I was also reloading quite often between decks 4 and 5. I was playing on easy difficulty.
If you are thinking of securing area bit by bit with cautious progress, luring the enemies to dispose of them one by one or of stealthy play, that will not have a desired effect as enemies are constantly respawning. The Many are many.
Speaking of skills, they are diverse and if you invest in certain area, it does have a visible impact. Though all skills are useful; I had invested in all more than less evenly, except for the psionic skills which I decided not to rely on but suppose are just as handy.
With the consideration of the release date, the graphics are great; detailed, diverse, adding to the gloomy mood and in some aspects nostalgic as can be seen in later stages of the game and which I think was a nifty idea, however, because important objects can be scattered anywhere, I was regularly switching the gamma settings not to overlook anything that would be key to progress.
With latest updates applied, the graphics were pretty much as I remember them from playing the game on smaller monitor more than a decade ago.
Sound effects are good. Some speech in crew logs, which can optionally be turned off, was excellent, a professionally done work, while on the other hand some of it sounded out of place, not well executed and disruptive to the atmosphere. I had turned the music off permanently because at the event of an enemy encounter, a very unfitting techno-style tune begins to play. I commonly play the FPS games without the music for a more immersive experience.
Game setting is intriguing; the concepts of SHODAN and Many are cool and mostly well executed. The story and events unfold with what you are told as you progress and with what you gather from logs. Gameplay becomes somewhat repetitive relatively quickly but it is a common thing.
While you are free to go anywhere on Von Braun, Rickenbacker and later both ships at any time; provided that you have the key cards/access codes, the progress is remarkably linear in aspect that SHODAN literally walks you through the game by telling you what to do. All the time. "Go there and do this, insect. Fetch that and that there and there and do that and that elsewhere, drone." Yours is the role of the errand pitiful fleshling.
If SHODAN doesn't provide you with the clue even for the simplest of tasks, be certain that a few steps ahead there will be a log informing you exactly what to do. While there obviously was a lot of potential for designers to do otherwise, nothing or perhaps very little is left to chance actual progress by intuitive exploration.
So, all in all, it is a somewhat mixed bag. I certainly do not regret the 18 hours (or about a day in all with all the reloads) I had spent with it.
Overall rating: 83%.