Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Blake Stone: Star Institute General Operations

Back in my misspent youth, I had a big shareware CD that I spent most of my time on. It had the big shareware shooters before Duke and Quake, plus some smaller ones like Depth Dwellers and Isle of the Dead. I've talked about Isle before, its crap, and young me was wise not to play it. Blake Stone is not the best Wolf-clone, that would be Nitemare 3D in this gamer's humble opinion. But Blake Stone takes a not-so-rough second. Now, unlike other Wolf-clones, Aliens of Gold is actually made in the same engine. I'm not sure how close it is under the hood, but above the hood, its got little visual touches, resurrecting enemies, projectiles, automap* and actual non-enemies. This is a first for the more traditional FPS I'm used to, Galactic Empire beat this to the punch, but that's one weird game. Flight sims and Ultima Underworld too, but that's to be expected. Its also designed by Jim and Big Mike who worked on the three Catacomb games.
Blake Stone is a British secret agent in a semi-realistic near future setting. Colonies have been made on various moons and planets, terraforming underway on some of those. He is to be sent to the STAR Institute in order to uncover whatever it is that one Dr. Goldfire is doing. The story doesn't mention what it is nor do the instructions. Which is told mostly in-universe, by a R.E.B.A. voice interface. Its not actually a secret, but whatever. There are 11 levels, 8 regular, one boss, one after that, and a secret level somewhere in the first 8. There are four difficulties, which I do believe control how many enemies there are, but I've never beaten any of the episodes on Veteran, so I'll be picking the next one down, Expert.

The intro text is something about Goldfire being aware of our entrance into the building, yatta, yatta, yatta, he's fleeing, kill the Spider Mutant. Thanks for that helpful tip, game. So much for the secrecy.
The opening area exposes you straight away to an enemy. I don't start with a gun in a certain sense. Its the weakest weapon, the game's no ammo weapon, but it is ranged. Its silent, no activating enemies, and self-charging, so it takes a while between shots. I always thought of it in my mind as like a self-charging flashlight. Imagining Blake furiously shaking his gun before popping off another shot.
Anyway, the weapon the standard guards drop is a "Slow-Fire Protector". Semi-automatic. This fellow is a scientist, some of them are friendly, some of them are not. The friendlies just don't shoot me. There are three ways of detecting which is which, talk to them, stand in front of them or look away and shoot. Shooting them brings down the score. If he's an enemy, he'll attack. You can't just predict which ones will be which. There's a random chance at the start of each episode.
The starting area contains the elevator, which I can't use yet, it requires a red card. It also contains some kind of containment area and a cafeteria, with more guards and an evil scientist. This thing is a food dispenser. There are two kinds, beverage and sandwich. I need food tokens to get one and each thing has a limited supply of items as well. Its an interesting addition, and one I'm sad to see didn't get more use.
The containment area has two mutants. Good job hiding these guys! They can't shoot me through the bars, so I have to push a wall in order to enter, at which point we slug it out. Secrets are not necessary to get a full rating. Being that they don't, of themselves give points, and its points that are of interest. They eat a good chunk of my health, fortunately, there are some steaks on the floor. Hmm, floor steak. There's a little computer room south with two evil scientists. Now, some real secrets.
On the southwestern corner of the map there's an entrance into a room full of ammo. Also inside, two of these orb things. Plasma orbs, I'd guess they're called, but I'm not looking at the message screen while shooting at them. Full ammo, nearly perfect health, time to look for a weapon.
I don't remember this level as well as I thought. I forgot there wasn't a rifle guard in this hallway. Just a pistol guard, who nearly manages to kill me. No, the rifle guard is in a secret passage. Before I do that, I'd like to say there are two kinds of barriers, the ones by the mutants, which are merely solid, and these, which are also damaging. Both can be defeated by turning the power off. The barrier to the mutants on this level can't be changed.
Inside the secret area is a whole bunch of secret areas. I think this is some kind of torture chamber? The guards here have body armor, and will fake being dead in order to throw you off. I think this is planned in a way to surprise the player, but I can't confirm this. You can tell if they're fake dead or real dead. Unsurprisingly, I get shot. Blake Stone runs on a live system, which is seemingly built to easily game over you. You can only get like 2 extra lives after the starting 3. That's what saving and loading is for. Now...to find a way to get weapons without getting shot.
After a few failed attempts to advance...I remember the last difficulty being this hard, but I must just be out of practice here, I finally decide to go straight for the red card. So I enter the brick room, see a scientist, fire a warning shot. Nothing. I talk to him, he's an enemy. Fine. I open the door to the red card room, see some "plasma spheres", and a friendly scientist gets in my way. Good. I am just not hitting what I want to hit.
On the northeastern side of the level there's what can be described as a containment area with gold bars and mutant guards. A secret door let's one collect the gold, after killing the mutants of course. Unfortunately, the guards take a ton of shots from my protector, nearly killing me and my ammo supply. This isn't actually accomplishing anything, I don't think I have anything to gain here. There's a pair of medikits on the end, good thing, since there are two human guards hiding behind the pillars.
There is a secret, which leads straight back to the area with the body armor security guards. All roads lead to Rome. Okay, I didn't want to save-scum, but its clear I have no way of getting past here without it, and my dear friends are protecting what I recall is a rocket launcher. So I take advantage of the two different entrances, open one, thus bringing them towards that, then enter via the other. Only, it doesn't work out that way. I only woke one, and he stayed inside the area. But I did manage to just barely get the rocket launcher and blow them away.
They drop "Rapid Assault Weapons" and the rocket launcher is the "Plasma Discharge Unit". Generic space weapons, whatever. This whole thing was done stupidly on my part, as if I remembered, I could have just gone through the back door and pushed into a different secret, then behind the guards, into a prime spot to grab the PDU.
One of the interesting things the western electrical barriers do is give you an option to kill yourself. Just a switch for the barrier your standing on. Weird. At this point, I encounter the most obnoxious enemy in the game, the High Energy Plasma Sphere...or something like that. In this room, there are three scientists, two of which are enemies, but there are too many of these plasma things. They fire non-stop, they don't take much damage, but they will get the drop on you. And later on these guys have respawning pits. They can't open doors, which would put the cherry on the chocolate sundae.
They're in a sort of...money area. There's a robot too, who cares at this point. Some treasure, more in a secret area. Only one place left to go.
The final battle on this floor proves interesting. Just interesting. There are more robots. Now I did say who cares, but I should also point out that I didn't get hit. They're not any nicer than any other enemy. I have to be careful to avoid killing the informants. 100% enemies dead, which means bonus points. Ah...crap, I missed some of the treasure. This takes more time than I had anticipated, and checking to make sure I didn't miss any secrets. Another 50,000 bonus points, followed by the bonus for keeping all the informants alive. That really doesn't get given until the treasure is full? Whatever.
Ah, full completion. 100% everything. Next level...and I've been here for two hours. Oh, that bodes well. Hopefully the next level is going to go by faster.

This Session: 2 hours

Total Time: 2 hours

*To show how much I remembered this, I didn't even realize this was a first until I started up the second entry, and looking for a date comparison realized that was not a thing already.

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