Thursday, October 14, 2010

Game 28: 2400 A.D. (1987)

Lord British's jester found time to make a game.

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 desperate plea that starts the game.

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.

"Left" and "right" are tough concepts in a top-down game.

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.

Yes! We all want to change the world.
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).

Hey, it's called "personal space." Check it out.
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.


  1. If Chuckles is involved, there surely will be obnoxious riddles.

    At least there's a bit more colour though? (both in terms of graphics and interaction)

    "I won't blog again until I've shot something" - I guess we have to hope this isn't a non-violent game?

  2. This is one game I didnt like very much at all.

  3. Way to bias me right at the outset, Stu.

    Andy, given the variety of blasters the game offers, I suspect that's not the case.

  4. I actually remember rather enjoying 2400 AD. It's not a terribly long game, but the environment is fun, and the story is interesting. Hope you enjoy it.

  5. You can shoot something anytime you want, as it's the only way to make money in the game. Just load a weapon from a power node (corners of buildings) which is against the law, and away you go. Or I suppose you can go the covert route, like you are, if you want.

    Do you have an image of the map that came with the game? Makes life easier if you know where Jonnie's Corner is without having to read the sign on every door.

  6. Regarding maps:
    Andrew Schultz has FAQed and mapped this game, too. Quite extensively...

  7. "2400AD" doesn't strike me as being such an "unspecified point in the future" :-)

  8. RPGA, thanks for playing and posting about all this games. I enjoy reading all. I don't have time to play as I used to! and some of this games I didn't even heard about before.

  9. Thanks for the link, 'Libra. I can't use the walkthrough, but if the map was part of the original game, as Brian indicates, I can use that.

  10. The game includes a (printed) map like most Origin RPGs. In this case it's a "simple" city map, showing all the buildings.
    You could use Schultze's level 0 street map to be "legal" and ignore all underground and upper floor maps.

  11. There is something about the look of this game that really bothers me.

    The way the graphics look, for some reason, make me thing of stiff, slow movement and tedious dialogue.

    Maybe a long time ago I played a game that looked kind of like this and now I'm subconsciously associating anything that looks kind of like it with its flaws.

  12. So, hundreds of years later, we lost the invention of post-it notes and had to revert back to using sticky tape on a crummy piece of paper?

  13. Ah. I thought this seemed familiar...
    This is precursor to Space Rogue. UI seems almost identical.

  14. AHHHHH I LOVE 2400 A.D. SO MUUUUCH I totally have a framed print of the box art on my wall. I think I only bought it because I owned the cluebook compendium "Quest for Clues II" (bought for Wasteland[!]) and when perusing the other games it covered, this one sounded absolutely amazing. And so it was to me. It felt like such a strangely comfortable amalgam of things I liked in other CRPGs, yet the overall package was novel (I also had never played Ultima IV at the time, though). This either makes no sense or is something you will end up saying much more eloquently, hard to say. Ooh I hope you end up liking it!

    1. I imagine you were disappointed by my final rating.

    2. Something I've found very amusing whilst reading through your blog is that when you come across a bad game (to most gamers) - there is almost always one person in the world who leaves a comment saying that they loved it or it was a personal favourite. Do you think nostalgia has something to do with it? Or perhaps limited exposure to other CRPGs?

    3. I know. It's funny and kind of sad, really. I think both factors are at work. I'm constantly questioning whether I have the same biases. Did I rank Ultima IV-VI so high because they're really that good, or because they were some of my first RPGs?

      Comments are one thing, but what really gets me are fan pages. Someone out there legitimately thinks Vampyr: Talisman of Invocation or Maze Master is the greatest RPG ever made. I always want to ask, "Have you played ANY others?"

  15. "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."

    Can I just note the pleasing symmetry this trend shares with most XP-levelling systems in CRPGs? :)

    1. Indeed. But it had better stop at some point, or I'll have to fight 800 games just to level from 1992 to 1993.

    2. I suspect that a lot of games will go faster and faster though, as you become more skilled at CRPG playing. I mean, think about it; you can't spend this much time playing games with similar mechanics without getting better at them.

      That said, we had better keep you away from the later Final Fantasy and Persona games, as apparently 250 hours is the MIDPOINT in some of those.

    3. "As I become more SKILLED?!" Are you implying that after 30 years of CRPG addiction, three years of constant playing and blogging, and 100 games reviewed, I'm some kind of novice? Man, you have some high standards.


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