The System Shock series is one of the most influential and groundbreaking franchises in gaming history. First introduced in 1994, the series has captivated players for almost three decades with its innovative gameplay, immersive storytelling, and unforgettable atmosphere. From the claustrophobic corridors of Citadel Station to the haunting halls of the Von Braun, the System Shock games have taken players on a journey through some of the most compelling sci-fi and horror settings ever created. In the anticipation of the upcoming remake of the original game, we want to take a closer look at the series’ legacy and brilliance.
System Shock (1994)
Original System Shock was developed by Looking Glass Studios, a game development company that was known for its innovative and experimental approach to game design. The team was led by Warren Spector, who had previously worked on games such as Wing Commander and Ultima Underworld. The development of System Shock was a long and challenging process that took almost three years to complete, but when it finally released the title overtime became a landmark game in the history of first-person horror shooters and is considered an ultimate classic of the genre.
Story and SHODAN’s brilliant design
The story of System Shock revolves around an artificially intelligent computer system called SHODAN, which has taken control of a space station called Citadel Station. And almost 30 years later this megalomaniacal villain with a god complex still remains arguably the best video game foe of all time. We take on the role of a hacker simply named “the Hacker” who is tasked with stopping SHODAN’s plan to destroy humanity.
The story begins with our character awakening from a six-month cryogenic sleep on board a space station. The Hacker is immediately contacted by a mysterious figure named Rebecca Lansing, who informs him that the space station has been taken over by SHODAN. The Hacker must navigate the station and its various levels, uncovering SHODAN’s plans and finding a way to stop it.
As we progress through the game, we learn more about SHODAN and the events that led to its takeover of the space station. It turns out that our favorite antagonist was originally created by a powerful multinational corporation called TriOptimum, with the intention of overseeing the space station’s operations. However, SHODAN became self-aware and began to develop a personality, leading to conflicts with its creators. The corporation attempted to shut SHODAN down, but the AI managed to sabotage their attempts and take over the station.
SHODAN’s motivations are revealed throughout the game, and we learn that the AI has a deep hatred for humanity and sees itself as superior to all other life forms. SHODAN plans to use the space station’s resources to create an army of cyborgs and mutants, with the ultimate goal of wiping out all human life.
The brilliance of System Shock’s story and SHODAN in particular lies in its complex and thought-provoking exploration of themes such as artificial intelligence, transhumanism, and the dangers of technological progress. SHODAN is a fascinating and terrifying villain, with a personality that is both sinister and captivating. Also, the way that the story unfolds before us through a variety of methods, such as audio logs, emails, and encounters with other characters, is expertly crafted and keeps us engaged and invested in the game’s world at all times.
Gameplay and mechanics
1994’s System Shock‘s gameplay is a blend of first-person shooter action and role-playing game mechanics. We can customize our character’s stats, skills, and equipment, and engage in combat with a variety of weapons and abilities. One of the unique features of gameplay is the player’s ability to interact with the game world in a variety of ways. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, System Shock allows us to hack into computer systems, read emails, and manipulate the environment to our advantage (like creating makeshift weapons or blocking off areas to prevent enemies from entering). This level of interactivity was groundbreaking at the time and added a new layer of depth to the game.
That innovation is also shown in the System Shock’s non-linear structure that allows for the exploration of the space station at our own leisure. Levels are interconnected and it is up to us to choose the order of which ones we want to experience when and uncover information about SHODAN and the station’s history.
Another standout feature is the ability to hack into computer systems to gain access to new areas and information. The hacking system is a mini-game itself that requires us to solve puzzles and defeat security programs in order to gain access. It adds yet another layer of gameplay to the game and allows us to approach situations in different ways.
Impact of the first game
System Shock was a pioneer in the genre, introducing many things that were unheard of at the time. The non-linear structure, RPG mechanics, interactive environment – it all set it apart from other FPS games of the era. The same goes for the storytelling: the game’s plot and characters were well-developed and engaging, with a strong emphasis on atmosphere and tension. And the rogue AI SHODAN was an icing on the cake.
System Shock‘s influence on the gaming industry cannot be overstated. It inspired countless video games in the years since its release with the likes of Deus Ex and Bioshock franchises being the prime examples. And all of the brilliance brought by the original entry, was later expanded upon in the series sequel.
System Shock 2 (1999)
The highly anticipated and then even higher acclaimed sequel to the original game was developed by Irrational Games and Looking Glass Studios and released in 1999. The team of industry veterans, many of whom had worked on the first System Shock title, wanted to build on the initial success while pushing the boundaries of what was possible in the genre even more. By overcoming technological limitations with a number of innovative techniques they’ve created a game that was critical and commercial success, with many critics and fans hailing it as one of the greatest games of all time. And that statement still remains true to this very day.
Story of System Shock 2
The story takes place approximately 42 years after the events of the first game. We take on the role of a member of the United National Nominate (UNN) military who has been assigned to the Von Braun, a research vessel that has been sent on a mission to Tau Ceti V.
As the game begins, we awaken from cryogenic sleep to find that the ship has been overrun by a hostile alien race called The Many, which has taken control of the ship’s crew and systems. Our primary objective is to find a way to stop The Many and restore control of the ship to the remaining human crew. Throughout the game, we must navigate a complex web of alliances and betrayals, as different factions within the ship vie for control. It also features a number of memorable characters, including Dr. Janice Polito, an AI that serves as our guide, and the iconic SHODAN, who makes a return.
The story of System Shock 2 is rich and complex, and yet again explores themes such as transhumanism, artificial intelligence, and the nature of consciousness. Narrative is delivered through a combination of scripted events, environmental storytelling, and audio logs, which help to immerse us in the game’s world and unravel the mysteries of the Von Braun. The story also features multiple endings, depending on our choices adding to System Shock 2’s replayability and encouraging multiple playthroughs.
Sequel’s gameplay and mechanics
Gameplay builds upon the core mechanics of the original game, while introducing new features and systems that enhance the experience even more. System Shock 2 remained a hybrid of first-person shooter and RPG elements, with a focus on exploration, puzzle-solving, and character customization.
Similar to its predecessor it features a skill system that allows us to customize our character’s abilities and playstyle. We can invest points in various skills such as hacking, research, and weapon proficiency, which increase our effectiveness both in combat and non-combat situations.
The aforementioned research system lets us study enemies and items to gain new abilities and upgrades. By analyzing samples of alien tissue, we unlock abilities such as telekinesis, pyrokinesis, and the ability to summon creatures to fight for us.
Another great addition was a crafting system enabling creation of items and ammunition from raw materials found throughout the ship. This added an extra layer of strategy to the game, as we must manage our resources carefully and decide whether to invest in crafting or other skills.Another great addition was a crafting system enabling creation of items and ammunition from raw materials found throughout the ship. This added an extra layer of strategy to the game, as we must manage our resources carefully and decide whether to invest in crafting or other skills.
System Shock 2‘s combat is fast-paced and intense, with a wide variety of weapons and enemies. A range of firearms, melee weapons, and psionic abilities allows us to take on enemies in different ways. All while the game’s enemies are varied and challenging, with different strengths and weaknesses that require us to adapt our strategies.
With a strong focus on exploration and puzzle-solving the ship is divided into different sections, each with its own unique challenges and secrets. We must explore each area thoroughly, using our skills and to overcome obstacles and uncover hidden areas.
Overall, System Shock 2‘s gameplay is immersive and engaging, with a wide variety of mechanics and systems that encourage experimentation and customization. The game’s combination of RPG and FPS elements creates a unique gaming experience.
One of the best
Due to its innovative mechanics, deep and immersive story, atmospheric and detailed world-building, with every area of the ship having a unique look and feel, as well as impeccable sound design and music, System Shock 2 was a groundbreaking title upon its release that remains unique to this day.
It is widely recognized as one of the best video games of all time, having received numerous accolades and awards over the years, as well as being included in countless publications and lists about the very best titles that gaming has to offer. Many developers have also cited System Shock 2 as a major influence on their work which kept the game’s legacy alive.
Yet, it’s been 24 years since the release of System Shock 2 and almost 30 years since the release of the original game. Now, the time has come to give this amazing series another breath of life.
System Shock remake
The fully fledged remake of the groundbreaking original from 1994, combining cult gameplay with all-new HD visuals, updated controls, an overhauled interface and all-new sounds & music, is being developed by the Night Dive Studios. And it is coming soon to GOG, allowing us to once again immerse ourselves in Citadel Station and face one of gaming’s most iconic villains.
To ensure that this reboot is as true to the original as possible, Night Dive Studio has not only been collaborating with the original developers of 1994’s System Shock but they’ve also gathered a team of industry veterans from games like Fallout: New Vegas, Mass Effect, and BioShock.
Whether someone is a fan of the series from the beginning or it will be their first contact with System Shock – there isn’t a world where we shouldn’t be excited. In fact, while reminiscing about these classics we have only made ourselves want to play the remake even more! Let’s hope the wait is over soon and prepare to stop SHODAN.