Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Galactic Empire: Reintroduction

Welcome back to Galactic Empire, the one game I refuse to lose. For those of you who haven't read the original entries, this is more or less a way to bring us all back to speed on the colossal failure that has been my attempts to finish the game. Galactic Empire was an attempt at a FPS from French adventure developer Coktel Vision, known for the Goblins series. The game was based off a French tabletop RPG of the same name, and involved the lead writer of it. Why the bizarre combo? I have no idea, but we do know that it did okay, nothing special in the developer's eyes and got a sequel in the form of Advanced Galactic Empire. Because of the awkward name, I believe people wrongly assumed that AGE was more or less the same game, just upgraded. This is not correct.

The story of Galactic Empire is that on a far flung planet in a vast galactic empire, a figure called Voltar has overthrown the local government and declared independence. Ether, as the planet is called, is a harsh, hostile world who's primary point of interest is the planet's unique fauna. This adapted to live in the 450 centigrade heat of the planet, lives only a few hours, but exhibits fertility and adaptability that makes it thrive here. The creatures here can all mate with each other, and do so, and this somehow means these creatures are useful in medicine. Their poison also makes for a very effective weapon. Its tourism and export of certain articles of wildlife that make up Ether's entire reason for existing.
Otherwise this area consists mostly of a few populated cities and then various rural hunter communities. Life is unsurvivable outside of special suits, so the population remains low. Three years ago, Voltar started a revolution, stirring up anti-imperial and pro-human sentiment in the face of an economic crisis. His Scarlet Militia took over the planet, installed him as dictator, and have started internment camps. Four other groups exist, The Teknos, indifferent to politics, but against Voltar, hunters, who are now following Voltar, non-humans, who are too disorganized to make any effort, and La Hanse des Marchands, or the merchant faction who just want coin. The Teknos are divided into different factions who are at odds with each other.
The last SERSEC agent disappeared, presumably killed, and the player is the replacement. His final statement was "Its the Malkouts fault". The objective is to evaulate the strength of forces on this planet pro-Voltar and anti-Voltar, and uncover anything else. The manual notes that an unknown enemy could be manipulating events to their advantage. It even notes that what Voltar is doing is suicidal. The player goes in as a reporter, Ted Fost, for the "homeo-new paper" Cosmopolis, without anything that identifies him as an imperial agent.
The manual finishes with various bits of info, from weapons to the buildings and vehicles everyone uses to get around. In short, this is a space opera title where we play a secret agent uncovering information on rebellious planet, and we're not actually the bad guys. Its an interesting setup, and one that actually factors into the game very heavily. Since the manual isn't on most of the more obvious sites, and its not that well explained in the game itself, I believe this contributes to some of the confusion.
Also, most DOS versions around are broken AND the game doesn't work on regular DOSbox if anyone has EVER made a save. So for a good chunk of time, you had to play this completely legit, or emulate the Amiga or ST version. The game even locks up if you don't put the code in. Not sure if that's intentional or just poor luck. Its also in that weird position where it should be playable in SCUMMVM since its a Coktel Vision adventure game, but because of the 3D engine, you don't assume its anything like an adventure game.
The game starts with a simplified version of the events that were as follows, along with an intro of a city burning. The first time through I thought the skeleton was cool, but now that I've played the game quite a few times it seems silly. Why is some dude just hanging out without the mobile armor suit? I'm not sure he died to laserfire.
Quite a lot of spaceships coming and going at the edge of the galaxy

After that, we begin in what I believe is a spaceport in a space station outside of Ether. This isn't entirely clear, but things are flying by, so I believe spaceport is the operative word. You'll figure out why I say its a space station later. If you decide to play this, let me drop a piece of advice, the second you get control, press right click. This activates a mode which works somewhat like a more reasonable game. Numpad 4 & 6 turn left and right. (2 & 8 look down and up, but you don't really need that) Numpad + & - move forward and backward. You can now use the mouse like in the various RPGs of the era. Its not great, not by a longshot, but I found I didn't hate the control scheme when I did this. You could always use DOSbox's keymap to rebind them to more reasonable keys, assuming you're the kind of person who can manage that properly. I am not.

I'd just like to add that the game has one music track, its a nice one, less wearysome than they could have used, but still one single music track for a game that should realistically take 10-20 hours. Let's just say it hasn't. I'm linking the Amiga version, but the DOS version is very nice too.

The NPCs are rendered in real-time and look around, Fost is 2D
Nearby is an Etherian civilian, which I can talk to. Ted Fost has 5 moods he can talk to people in, ranging from hostile to friendly. Because of the civil war, everyone is paranoid. This is part interesting game design and part bad game design. This particular fellow more or less shows you how conversations can go if you don't know what you're doing, and you seem to be able to get information from someone once, before they decide to not talk to you. So if you make the wrong conversation choices, well, you'll have to reload.
Note that Ted's face changes depending on the option
You can also trade with most people in-game. This is required for some, as you need badges and cards to advance in-game. Unfortunately, this random man in the airport doesn't have anything useful to give me, just a refill, in exchange for a stunner. As he's not needed, I can be as hostile as I want to be. I'm sure what Ted here is saying is much cleverer in the original French, but I like the thought of someone flipping someone off and saying this. If I really wanted it, I could use a ballistic discount.

Luckily, he doesn't take it too hard. This game is often really eager to put you into a situation where you've accidentally ended up in a fight or done something you don't want. These states are not necessarily unwinnable, but without cheating you won't have a shot now. The game also has some off-limits places in this section, where you'll immediately get some soldiers after you.

Throughout this area are dispensers, which dispense either refills, for ammo, or oxygen, for your oxygen. Oxygen slowly drains throughout the course of the game, and weapons are very thirsty. Each one only gives out one item. This is the only practical method of restoring these things on the space station, so you're on a time limit. Not a strict time limit, I don't think I was ever in danger of running out, but I managed to parse out how to get past this section fairly quickly. As you also drain your suit's power by walking, this does create an interesting mix. (the suit automatically recharges if you stand still)
Civilians all have various grey shaded hats, while soldiers have red, the reason why they're called the "scarlet" militia
What's next? Well, its time to go through customs. Its not as bad as you'd think, since you are a secret agent trying to get in without suspicion. As much suspicion as someone with no real identifying items can be, anyway. Fost starts the game with a stunner, which is not necessary to my knowledge, but I suspect the locals don't wish Fost to have it. The customs agent does nothing, and Fost has nothing to declare, because we're smuggling weapons into the planet. But not this weapon really. I'm given a badge and told to go to the next building.

However, there's a building behind him with some useful stuff, a radar and a light laser. A guard arrives and attacks, but you start with a stunner which is an effective enough weapon to deal with him, its one of the weapons that stop enemies in their tracks. Weapons that stop your foes in their tracks are much more useful than those that don't. You might think this would break something, but I've done this section several times, and if it does, its obscure enough that I never noticed.

So far, grenades kill anything you can kill in one hit
After opening up a "laser gate". Read, what they could actually make as a wall. On the path to the next building is two things, a grenade just lying in the road, and another civilian. He says that Voltar is closing the planet down, and that's it for what he can tell me.
Why are the robots all hostile?
Through one of the fences I can see the Watcher Logimech. This fellow is running around like crazy. He's the guy guarding the path out of here, and he is always hostile. At least, if he ever isn't, you need to figure out a way to make him not hostile. I hacked the game once so I could teleport past him, at the very start of the game so no action I took could be deemed hostile, and he still attacked me. Presumably, there's some way to make him non-hostile, as there's a station here that allows you to repair and regenerate your armor.
Since the HUD is supposed to be how I see the world from inside the suit, this seems like an awkward camera angle
At the second station I end up screwing things up. I don't know what I said to the customs agent, but he says he doesn't like my attitude and shooting me. That's the problem with talking in this game, people are way too eager to start getting violent. Reloading, and I do things properly. Well, a couple more times and I do things properly. You really have to suck up to this guy to get through. Doing so gets me a badge, and he doesn't notice if I take a card by his side. Now what?
All five options you get are so what!
Well, the badge opens back onto the central area and then another gateway into the same place the card opens up. So this is a way of preventing players from getting stuck? I doubt it. There's a soldier here you really don't want to talk to, simply because if you aren't really nice he starts blasting you. There's another citizen, who seems to have much the same things to say as the last couple.
But inside some of the buildings in this area are merchants, who sell things. I notice something I didn't before here. While going away to type, I often pause the game and to return I have been pressing "f", which seems to result in this guy acting like I just said something really offensive. I guess the keyboard doubles for the various dialog choices, but I didn't notice that in the manual...The next merchant over sells what I'm actually looking for, an exit badge. For some reason he gets angry with me after paying.
Note my health bar there at the bottom, you do not get a lot of time to react in this game
As I leave I am attacked by a soldier. I knew about him, he's another always hostile character, he just hangs out behind this merchant, next to something called an arachnopistol. This is an anti-riot weapon used throughout the empire, as the manual explains, using the "viscus suc" which I believe is the wild animals poison. It paralyzes anything it hits, and will kill enemies given enough shots. In practice its a better stunner.
They don't attack me unless I go for the card
This is about as far as you can get playing the game without engaging in combat. As such this is about as far as most people seem to get. Either due to that guy or due to the next section. There are three buildings here, two with merchants and a third that's prohibited and contains two soldiers, but also the keycard to advance. I also take this time to "relieve" some merchants of their items, including grenades and an anti-laser screen. It takes about half a charge of ammo to take out a soldier, so this is perfect for taking out the two of them. If there's an alternate path, I don't know it.
I'm not much of a wildlife photographer
This opens up an area with two more merchants, but they don't have anything useful. An animal radar that just shows animal dots when you stand still. But it does open up a zoo area, leading to the map's exit.
This isn't a robot, but a soldier who hits like a truck
This is guarded by one of the logimechs, or robots. I'm calling them that from now on. This one just takes a grenade to kill. Despite having an anti-laser screen, I die in two hits at best, one hit at worst to most enemies. I don't think its doing me any good. I'm also just crafting a trail of destruction in my wake, uninterested in trading for what I want. Even if there's seemingly no benefit for me to not do so, as I find a flamethrower, a weapon I have yet to find any use for, and I can trade it for a refill.
There is no benefit to saying no, as these aren't limited
Walking over to the exit, I talk with another civilian, who tells me that the exit badge is in a building to the northwest, and destroy another mech with a grenade. You know, I remember these guys being invulnerable. You really have to anticipate combat situations or you'll get killed right away.
This allows me to get a stunner and use the service station, before teleporting down.
You can tell nobody got this far because they would absolutely show this screenshot

We get a nice full-screen graphic of me teleporting.

And I'm on Ether, somewhere in the wilderness. Creatures wander around the area, usually looking for meat. Some attack me, but I can deal with them. Where's the way out? Why I start there, and on the wall is a mural of some kind of bird attacking a robot. Unfortunately, I need another exit badge and there's not another one on the first level.

The only feature this location has is a a small corral with a robot inside. I cannot do anything about it. Its at this point that I'm stuck. The robot is unkillable, it doesn't show any signs of taking damage. Even cheating seems like a fool's errand. I have, a couple of times, managed to get the robot to shoot a bird as shown on the mural, but nothing happens. Nobody else on the internet has ever gotten this far, nobody shows any images of the planet. Maybe, information is hard to find on this game and I don't speak French. I know its possible to get past this section, because a period reviewer mentions that one of the images on the back, depicting a side-scrolling beat 'em up sequence, is not anywhere in the game. (its actually from Cougar Force)
Now, I've already tried to beat this for quite some time. Ever since the last entry I've played the game off and on and never went anywhere. I've done things like looking through the files to no use. Since its unreasonable to continue this indefinitely, I'm going to continue to try winning this throughout the rest of September and October. Most of the time since Galactic Empire, the games I would have been blogging alongside it were frustrating enough that I didn't feel like playing a game I didn't have a good idea on how to continue with. This October is going to have some frustrating games too, but I think they're of the sort I'm used to enough that I can at least try to make progress here. In any case, I'll have more than enough days to dedicate just to this game.
As far as how I'm going to get past this, I have two theories. The first is that I missed something on the space station. Very unlikely, but I feel like the robots shouldn't require me to kill them, there should be a non-violent way of passing. I didn't miss any items anywhere obvious, so if this is the answer, its incredibly well hidden. The second is that I need to get an animal with a specific head into the enclosure with the robot. Which is going to be oh, so tedious. That requires putting meat inside the corral and hoping something enters. You can get meat off any animal in-game, but their pathfinding and range makes entering this cage a tedious experience. Its going to be a challenge if I can continue the game.

This Session: 1 hour 10 minutes


  1. Woot ! Interesting game I had never heard about !

    Sadly for you, I looked for walkthrough in French ("soluce" or "solutions" as we would say) and no luck either. It looks like you are on your own...

    ... how exciting !

    1. I kind of figured as much, discounting sites that dedicate themselves to finding games like this, nobody else talks about this game, and as I implied, even they don't show anything as far as I've gotten.