Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Galactic Empire: Won!

How did I get past the roadblock I alone found impossible to breech? Well, I got a different thought than I previously had. What if I need to have an animal shoot the robot? That mural looks more like an animal shooting a robot to me. I can't help but feel like I tried it before though.

Now, the fun thing about this is that the shooty animals are a pain to lead into anywhere. Their pathfinding is slightly better, since they're chasing after you in a zig-zag pattern, but that's the only good thing. They shoot quite rapidly and its easy for two or three shots to kill you. You need to dodge this while successfully getting the AI to go around a corner that looks like this: --| |--
I'm not sure that's coming off in the screenshots, but it is an infuriating thing. Not only does it seem like the game is set up so that this isn't possible, its set up so that if you think you've done it THE GAME SCREWS YOU OVER ANYWAY! If this is the right way to do it, no wonder nobody online has beaten the game. Right, screw it, back to cheating. If I try to do any of this legit I'm just going to be frustrated.

This turns out to have been the wise choice, because otherwise I never would have gotten anything here done. In the sense that there was something for me to get done. Because neither the animal nor the robot ever decide to attack each other, I start positioning it so that their attacks will hit each other. At some point it surely must have happened, so we can exclude this as a possibility. As insane as Coktel Vision could be, I refuse to believe they expect their playerbase to perform feats of such precision while your resources are not just slowly being drained, but very quickly.

Right, so its time to cheat again. Its actually something I have to go the extra mile to deal with, since I have to use Game Conqueror, that is, a Linux version of Cheat Engine, to find out what numbers my ammo, health, power and oxygen are. Yeah, this is that kind of experience. I should also note that I've found a landmine out in the jungle, so there might just be something else out here.

Cheating doesn't actually do anything for me, at least in terms of advancing. It does seem to reveal how much of a fool's errand dealing with the animals and the logimech is. Either I have to figure out a single animal or find something out in the jungle. Let me make it clear if it isn't, but my god finding and bringing a specific animal WITH cheats feels like work, without it, I'd be surprised if anyone won it. Spending more than a few minutes trying to do something results in a mess of tangled animals, running fruitlessly against a wall, and a huge pile of meat. All the animals here are carnivores, see.
I almost think I've gotten it when I try using the badge that just opened up doors back on the space station causes a sound when I use it on the logimech, but this is just a red herring. Nothing spawns, nothing happens.

That looks like a robot expressing terror at being shot
Rather than using more brute force techniques, I decide to figure out which animal matches the head on the mural by having a screenshot of it out at all times. Its success straight away, as outside the building are two animals, one who always chases after me and one who has been beneath my notice. Now, I just need to figure out how to get it into the pen. Its kind of running away, even if it attacks me sometimes. Fortunately I can gather enough meat to drag it into the enclosure, or not, since it got stuck on the wall. Hey, never tried using meat on the animals, rather than dropping it.
Well, that seems like it works, but because it won't stop following me afterwards, it dies to the logimech. Worse still, it seems like a fluke, because it doesn't happen again. But at least I know that if I'm ever getting past this, this is the animal to get into the enclosure. For the first time in quite a while, it feels like I actually have a chance at getting past this. That, was what I wrote in September.

November arrives, and the tone is much more somber. Like clockwork, cheating to give myself infinite health and ammo has failed. Now I have to do the task of setting it up again, and hoping that I can save it for a later time. I can't help but feel on my combined playthroughs of this game I've spent more time trying to cheat than I have playing most games. All for another fruitless evening of trying to move around this damn animal into a coral so it'll hopefully shoot the thing I want it to shoot. Then I realize I've been small-minded about this whole cheating thing. All I can think about is making myself invulnerable, and yet I have the ability to do anything that could be measured in-game. Like, say, moving characters around?
Frankly, this seems to be too complex to successfully do, and worse yet, I end up with a character who looks like he should attack, but doesn't. Still, I figure I should attempt it on another day, especially if my luck with cheating ends up holding.

All that trouble for a tiny badge...
I manage to get the correct animal in, through dumb luck. Okay, I think, guess I should try to move myself around cleverly...and its shooting at something. Wait. I slowly approach. There's no logimech. There's an item on the ground. OH MY GOD! YES! This is the happiest moment I've ever had on this blog. The culmination of what seems like years of failure finally resulting in victory snatched from the jaws of defeat. You just absolutely need to focus on one single animal and get it in here. Its doable, even if it seems impossible.
Aren't I working for the government?

Finally, Tiph-Ether, the capital. Though checking the manual after, it seems like this should be Dsehe, the other city. Guess the spaceport was Tiph-Ether? This is honestly a very interesting image, because it tells me that the whole land cruiser thing was intended to be a substitute for what they really wanted to do, but couldn't. Really, they should have just gone with making a graphic adventure like they usually did. Also, I turned off my cheats at this point, but let's just say that didn't stick.

Tiph-Ether starts out with me inside some random merchant's house. I am quite possibly the only person on the planet to be excited to see a new variation on NPC design in this game. He doesn't really want to associate himself with foreign journalists. I'm not going to screw with him yet. Ah, let's see what a wonderful world I've been placed in!

Ah...smell that smog...
Why a police officer! That's interesting, everyone else was soldiers back on the space station or space port. I give him my usual spiel, Ted Fost, journalist from Cosmopolis. "I am of course, neutral in this war", at which point he relieves me of my weapons. Good thing I saved, I think to myself as he opens fire and kills me in one shot. His gun makes a real mean sound whenever it hits me. I like it, I want one. I reload and take out both the officer and the merchant, the officer drops nothing, but the merchant has an access card. Interesting, but it seems like when I try to negotiate for it at all, he refuses to have anything to do with me. A puzzle I have to return to? Optional side content? Or is shooting him the correct solution?
I decide to come back to this, only to be stopped by a locked gate. Well, that's disappointing, it looked like the game was opening up some, but I guess we can't have that. Right, what's the correct way of dealing with this merchant? I try everything, even intimidation...and nothing. That's not true, he shoots me, which also kills me in one hit. I see where this is going, and I don't like it. If you're going to play dirty, I'm going to play dirty. This is probably the best choice, because after I went through the locked gate I noted the sound of someone shooting at me, who wasn't the cop from earlier, and a few moments later I find a soldier who upon spotting me just starts blasting. Then I try talking to a merchant, who responds by refusing to sell me anything and starts shooting me.

It makes me wonder if the game is intelligent enough to tell what I did on previous stages. Of course, testing that intelligence would involve beating that stage a second time. That's something that's really not going to happen. So I guess I'm just going to operate under the principle of shooting everything that isn't friendly. Which, you know, is sort of a problem when friendlies are of questionable friendliness. Guess it is a war zone after all, and nobody's going to care if a few merchants get shot. This gets me some interesting stuff, like a logimech detecting radar that seems to just detect everyone, and a needle gun, which just seems like another stun weapon. I also discover there's an inventory limit, which is a good sign.
Then I discover this. I can't make gifs in DOSbox, so what you should be seeing is these things crawling back and forth. Earlier, the game told me to look out for traps. Its tricky getting past these, and I'm not sure its possible without walking over them at least once. They go off like you're being shot with a machine gun, and for once damage isn't lethal. I mean, its a small advantage considering that right past this is an area where you can end up fighting two soldiers at once, and die incredibly fast. You can fight them one at a time if you're clever, but you have to fight both, since one is guarding a key. I've actually gone back to cheating this game has given me one oxygen and one refill since I've arrived here, hardly sufficient to advance.
To be honest, I'm not sure how you'd get past this without cheating either. Assuming neutrals didn't attack you I see no reason why the enemy wouldn't, and there are just so many of them. Further, you need at least two items from NPCs to pass, that combined with the tight handle on supplies makes this feel like a sequel or a expansion for the players who are good with hard games.
There's also this thing, a turret you can't seem to shoot. Like the floor traps, its more of a machine gun with a damage to match rather than everything else's execution weapons. Every new thing like this feels less like a challenge to overcome and more like an attempt to prolong suffering. Remember, health recovers, while ammo and oxygen doesn't, and there's a limited supply of that here. I find another stunning weapon, spherogel, along with a thermal regulator which is a more mysterious item.
Yes, the room is on fire
Its actually getting to the point where I have far more items than I know what the hell I should even be doing with. This game is outright brutal because I have no idea if the needle gun or the spherogel is going to be useful later, and obviously I can't toss away any keys or oxygen. I wonder how the hell that guy managed to win this so long ago. The game is constantly throwing curveballs at you, like hiding defensive items and keys inside buildings that those defensive items just so happen to protect against. I actually thought that the game was putting you in an unwinnable situation with a room that goes on fire when you enter it, but that's what the thermal regulator is for. Maybe this pass thing I had was supposed to help with me NPCs, as it seems more likely that they don't care for off-world journalists.
I have no idea what this "psycho" thing I got is supposed to be good for, though the manual tells me it manipulates humans somehow. Not good against soldiers, that much is clear.

It also seems that merchants are just difficult to deal with, something I frankly don't really care about at this point, as some merchants are easy to deal with in a different way. It seems like the cool aspect of the game that felt appealing has just sort of gone away for what might as well be any other early FPS.

I eventually find myself facing down a rather annoying task, a crushing ceiling, except in this case its just some random pillar going up and down. Just walk past it right? That's harder than you'd think. It seems like you have just a bit less than enough time to successfully cross it and there's seemingly no way to disable it. As I don't particularly want to deal with this for an even longer time, I cheat my way past it.

That's actually it for the level, there's a little more walking, and then the level exit. This teleport takes me to the surface of Ether again. Guess they're reusing an image, I think to myself. I start off in a room, guess that's also how entering areas starts. Outside is much the same as the last Ether section. That's not true, its exactly the same as the last Ether, except the starting room is empty. There's even a logimech in a secluded area. There's just nothing out there. Except for a spaceship passing by. I would have ended it here, but I wisely decided to continue onward. Because believe it or not, this seems to be the ending area. And it gets WEIRD.
I know, shocking that Coktel Vision gets weird. Shocking that this game gets weird.
I guessed that I needed to do the whole course of what I previously did, put the right animal in the enclosure along with finding the exit out. Fair enough. I get what I think is the right animal, no dice. I figure since the psycho item, which seems to be a mind control item, didn't work previously I could try it with the animals. They start talking to me. WHAT? For the second time this entry things have gone off the rails. There's one that says "YOU HAVE FOUND ME-US", and the first time through I accidentally clicked through the ending.

I took a video of the ending. If you can't or won't see the video, the ending is a wall of text displayed the same way as the introduction, consisting of a dialog between Fost and the spokesanimal of Etherian animals. This is the Melkout we have been so warned of. It seems as though the animals of the planet consist of a grand unified intelligence, of which has been manipulating the population of the planet into this civil war. Fost says that they didn't know, and that they have protections for intelligent species. The spokesanimal agrees to a peace talk with one of our "chiefs" and the game ends, without any indication of how those will go.
That...was interesting. Granted, the plot twist of "tree chops back" is overdone, but the way it was executed here was beautifully done. The previous agent mentioned the Melkouts, we find out who the Melkouts were and its something we've seen the whole game, no curveball whatsoever. Then, the final level. I don't know if they intended this to be as cleverly executed as it seems to me, but if they did, well done. Thinking I have to find the exit and then do the same puzzle I did earlier was a stroke of genius, although I will say they should have given the illusion you can teleport out. Then you start talking to the animals. Its rare for a game to throw a curveball at a player, but this game did so spectacularly.

(also, I should note you can see how bad collision is in this game simply because of how much trouble I have at the beginning)

After this I checked through the dialog files with a hex editor to see what I missed. I'm guessing my ballistic discount strategy in the first area really did screw me over. For the second area, its mostly warnings about things I figured out, however, there were a few helpful things I didn't know ahead of time. Firstly, I could have destroyed the laser turrets with grenades, which I didn't do since I assumed I should save the grenades for later. Secondly, the green lasers activated some traps, whereas I didn't quite know what they did. That must be what activated the blocks I couldn't run past. Some of the territory were the greens, although I guess for palette limitations they had a different color, some kind of tan. Not sure if I could have avoided violence there.
Finally, the game actually tells you how to reach the ending, as someone explains who the Melkouts are, the animals, and that you can use the psycho to talk to them. Not quite sure how the stated purpose, controlling people, relates to the actual purpose of talking to animals or how those animals control people. I do believe that explains how they were able to control everyone though.

This Session: 5 hours 10 minutes

Total Time: 6 hour 20 minutes

1 comment:

  1. Well, congrats ! There is a special pleasure in clearing a game that almost no one has !