With this posting, we move into a new year: 1987. This is important because the years pass slowly these days. 1983 had three games; 1984 had only five. But 1986 had 11, and 1987 has 22. I'm sure they'll stop doubling eventually, but from now on, any time a new year rolls around, it's a major event.
2400 A.D. takes place at some unspecified point in the future on a planet technically known as XK-120 but called "Nova Athens" by the residents. Colonized by earth for its mining potential, it became a major center for learning and culture, but over the course of a few decades it was conquered--along with many other earth colonies--by an alien race called the Tzorg. To keep order among the human populace of Nova Athens, and in its capital city of Metropolis, the Tzorg staffed the planet with robot patrols. Although the planet still nominally functions, it has gone to seed, and an underground Resistance network works to find and deactivate the robot's control center.
You play a computer specialist who has been reassigned to Nova Athens from another Tzorg-controlled colony. Somehow the Resistance has gotten you a member's journal detailing a member's attempts to infiltrate the center, and a recent project to build a secret underground tunnel to the center. Attached to the journal is a desperate note encouraging you to find someone named "Spider." After allocating 99 points to energy, IQ, agility, and "affinity" (basically charisma), you are dumped into the middle of Metropolis.
The game was developed by "Chuckles" at Origin Systems, and its lineage shows. The interface is very reminiscent of Ultima IV, with a top-down map occupying one half of the screen and dialog and game notes occupying the other half. Commands and movement are entirely through the keyboard, of course, with easy-to-remember actions like "(a)ttack" and "(g)et."
And there's dialog like Ultima IV! At least, with some of the characters, there is. Others just say one thing, like in Ultima III. Unfortunately, the dialog is tough to get into. The characters aren't like the friendly inhabitants of Britannia--they don't respond to inquiries about NAME, HEALTH, and JOB. You have to know more about what to say. But I did already get a clue from a guy named Eddie at a lunch counter that the enigmatic "Spider" is at Joe's Bar.
I found Joe's Bar easy enough, but it took me a good 15 minutes of screwing around to figure out that the way to get into the "back" of the bar to see Spider was to (C)limb over the bar itself. I can tell that the interface is going to take some getting used to. Anyway, Spider wants me to find someone named Reggie at Jonnie's Corner and get a password from him.
After leaving the bar, I got stuck in an alleyway between some kid and an innocuous-looking robot (these robots flit about and look so harmless it's hard to believe I'm going to be shooting them soon).
Since at this point in the game, I didn't have an energy pack for my weapon, and since neither of my companions seemed inclined to move, I started to get pretty steamed at what I thought was an idiotic design interface. But it turned out the solution was, again, to (c)limb over them. Seems pretty rude, but it worked.
Now notice the number after the "T" in the screenshot above. This value started at something like 2000 and has been steadily counting down, second-by-second, since then. What happens when it gets to 0? Do I have to enter 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42 into the interface?
I'm also wondering if I ever get to meet a Tzorg. The manual suggests that the Tzorgs took off and left the planet in the care of their robot servants. I'd like to know what they look like.
Going from Wizardry IV to 2400 A.D. feels a bit like stalking away from a chess tournament to go play tick-tack-toe. Maybe it gets a lot harder--after all, I've yet to fire a weapon--but something about the interface is lulling me into a feeling that it's an easy game. We'll see how it goes. I won't blog again until I've shot something.