Sunday, October 8, 2017

Chaos in Andromeda: Summary and Rating

     
Chaos in Andromeda: Eyes of the Eagle
Denmark
Kirk Moreno Multimedia (developer); On-Line Entertainment (publisher)
Released in 1991 for Amiga, 1992 for Commodore CDTV
Date Started: 21 September 2017
Date Ended: 2 October 2017
Total Hours: 25
Difficulty: Hard (4/5)
Final Rating: 30
Ranking at Time of Posting: 146/263 (56%)

What an infuriating game. I couldn't win it. My character got trapped in an enormous network of caves--the same that I had entered at the end of the last session--and couldn't go forwards or backwards. This is partly thanks to enemies who respawn every time you walk over a particular pixel. Even at high levels with lots of good equipment, my character left every combat barely alive, and I had to sit there and wait 5 minutes real-time for his hit points to regenerate before moving on.

Mostly the problem is the exploding robots, which often spontaneously generate in your backpath. Even if you filled all your inventory slots with droids of your own, you couldn't guarantee that you'd have enough to wipe out all the enemy's exploding drones. If there's another way to deal with them, I don't know what it is.

My character thus dies an ignominious death on Level 2 of the caverns. He missed a couple of crucial items on Level 1, and he can't get back there because the moment he passes one particular passageway, two exploding ball droids come rocketing down and kill him instantly. I do have a save state from Level 1, but that was like six hours ago, and I'm not willing to invest that kind of replay time.
     
My personal "ending" to the game.
     
I already replayed most of the caverns once. After finding the NPC who wanted that weather report, I was convinced it was a major part of the game. I reloaded from outside the caverns, fought my way through the first level again, brought the weather report triumphantly to the rebel intelligence officer, and got nothing more than a "thanks" for my efforts. I was pretty angry. But I later discovered that he surreptitiously slipped me a magnifying glass during the encounter, which was important for reading a set of blueprints.
       
I just told you!
    
Miscellaneous notes:
         
  • The caves contained several machines that, when I got too close, caused my character to go insane and run around randomly for about a minute. I have no idea what was happening there. His "mind shield" ability didn't stop it from happening.
  • I don't know why the game set up the Sword of Freedom to be such a great weapon. I found several better weapons in the caves, although (unexpectedly) never any ranged or sci-fi sounding weapons. I ended the game fighting with a spear. 
  • In the latter areas, there were a few items that reduce your attributes, including cigarettes (-1 constitution) and beer (-1 dexterity).
  • Very late in this session, I realized that in addition to "Drop," there's a command called "Leave" that lets you lay down your inventory for later pickup. That would have saved me a lot of angst. That one was my fault.
  • At some point, I got a "Telekinese" power. It occasionally worked in combat, inflicting injury on my opponents. But you have to be right next to the opponent to use it, so it was no help with the droids.
     
One of the few time that "Telekinese" actually worked.
      
The extra portrait slots on the main screen are meant for droids. Each type of droid has a separate screen slot, so you can only have one of each type active at once. The outdoor area had delivered "D-probes," and an NPC on the first level of the caves sold me "G.H.O.S.T.s" On the second level, I finally found the occupant of the third window: a humanoid probe labeled "Robo-Digi-Sync." Despite his appearance, he wasn't more or less useful than the others. Although they look like additional "party members" in a traditional RPG, they're not. They can't do anything but move and blow up. You can't view their attributes or give them complex commands, and they don't automatically follow with the main character; you have to move them separately. Oh, and everyone, even friendly NPCs, attack them if they move into adjacent squares. They are not destined for long lives. While it would be theoretically possible to have a droid of each type active at the same time, it would be functionally pointless and annoying to move around.
       
The fourth type of droid, who looks uncannily human, joins the party.
        
At one point, I did see the object of my quest, Noko Yai, running down some corridors. I gave chase but lost him.
       
The closest I got to finishing.
     
Alex A., my helpful commenter from Italy, was able to win the game, and he provided screenshots to document the remainder. Winning involves finding a pair of "telepads" that bounce you between them. Before you blow up the chemical plant . . .
        
   
. . . you make your way outside and leave one of the telepads so you can make a quick escape. Then you re-enter and sabotage the main computer of the chemical plant with an "IC-666 Chip" and a "spinner-diode" (I found the first but not the latter). This gives you 20 seconds to escape before the computer causes a self-destruct.
     
  
Once outside, you meet Noko Yai in a circle of stones. He refuses to come with you and he's unbeatable (for whatever reason) with normal weapons. You have to vaporize him with something called a "H.A.V.D. Inverter," which I also didn't manage to find.
      
    
You can then enter your spacecraft and leave the planet. Apparently, there are different endings depending on whether you blew up the plant but didn't get Yai, got Yai but didn't blow up the plant, or accomplished both.
    
Part of Alex's winning text.
   
The endgame text says that you've been put in "some kind of hibernation" and then weirdly rips off 2001: A Space Odyssey with a complete non-sequitur for a final screen.
      
    
I'm sorry I can't carry this one as a "win," but not sorry that I didn't invest another 20 hours to get that as a final image.
    
My GIMLET:
  • 4 points for the game world. I have to give credit to the developer for trying to do something original with it, and I guess it all kind-of makes sense if you pay close attention. There are a lot of plot elements that don't pay off--such as the rebels' insistence that the company employing me has an even bigger chemical weapons capability. Noko Yai's allegiances and motivations are never really clear.
      
This feels like it should have gone somewhere.
      
  • 3 points for character creation and development. It would have been okay in a normal RPG. I like that you can improve attributes by both leveling and finding helpful items. 
  • 4 points for NPC interaction, perhaps the strongest part of the game. There's a fine line between NPCs and enemies here, but either way you learn about the game world and obtain resources through dialogue. There are no dialogue options or role-playing opportunities, though.
       
An NPC gives a key item.
      
  • 3 points for encounters and foes. None of your enemies are named, and it's hardly ever clear why they're attacking when other NPCs of the same icon aren't attacking. The game isn't even consistent in the appearance of the foes: sometimes the deadly exploding balls are red, sometimes blue. Sometimes little grey warriors are trivial pushovers, and sometimes they're deadly dreadnoughts.
  • 2 points for magic and combat. There aren't enough options in combat. You just stand there and swing. The "psionic" abilities didn't develop enough, and weren't useful enough, to get much credit there.
  • 4 points for equipment. There were a decent number of weapon and armor upgrades, plus attribute-boosting items, plus quest items. I have to give some credit for originality in the way the droids work, appearing as inventory items until you "use" them, and then appearing in your party.
     
About to swallow some vitamins for a constitution increase. Note the different types of weapons and armor I've equipped.
       
  • 2 points for the economy. You get a few hundred credits for almost every enemy you kill, and it really just stacks up. There are a couple of NPCs to bribe, and you can buy probes from the NPCs who sell them indefinitely, but there's never a time you feel you have too little money.
  • 4 points for the main quest, and with three potential endings. That's unusual for the era.
  • 3 points for graphics, sound, and interface. It gets almost all of that for the interface; Mr. Moreno was a rare Amiga developer who ensured that every button on the screen had a mapped keyboard shortcut. The graphics are all a bit too small, and there's no sound except for opening music and music you can play on your Walkman.
  • 1 point for gameplay, which it gets for being a little nonlinear at the beginning. Beyond that, it has no replayability; and the ability to so easily get in "walking dead" situations makes it far too difficult. It just drags and drags. I spent 11 hours in a few screens of caves, mostly standing and waiting for hit points to regenerate after every single combat.
               
One of those walking dead situations. There really is no way to open the door.
         
That gives us a final score of 30, which comes out a bit higher than I feel it should, but I guess I'll leave it there. As I remarked last time, there are some decent and original elements in the game; they just don't come together to make a satisfying whole.

Reviews of Andromeda appeared in the August 1991 Amiga Power and Amiga Action. They rated it at 69% and 66% respectively. While I can't disagree with their final ratings, the reviews are both idiotic. They waste their limited space on goofy setups ("It'd be pretty worrying if, whilst munching your way through an early morning bowl of Honey Nut Loops, you received a letter from the future," the Amiga Power one begins); they get half the facts about the game wrong; and it's clear that neither reviewer played it more than a couple of hours. Amiga Action's screenshots are almost all from the opening cinematic rather than actual gameplay. The Action reviewer notes with some wonder that the inclusion of RPG attributes is a "style that seems to be seeping into all sorts of games nowadays," as if he'd never heard of the entire role-playing genre. If we each get a personal hell, mine will require me to spend eternity reading issues of British Amiga magazines.

There's one aspect that I haven't mentioned, and it deserves some attention even if it didn't make the game more enjoyable (for me) to play: an original and complex musical score. The opening screen features a kind of 1980 sci-fi techno-thriller tune that wouldn't be out of place in The Terminator or something like Scanners. You can hear it at about the 40-second mark of this YouTube video.

Even more interesting, your character has a Walkman with six tunes on it: "Mellowmarch," "Fade Gunner," "Koranis Antheme," "Never," "About Time," and "Boogaloop." They're all somewhat upbeat instrumental tunes with a techno beat, and as far as I can tell, they're all original (I ran them against SoundHound and got no matches, if that proves anything). The only other game I know where an in-game portable music system can be equipped and used to play actual music is the German Antares (1990).
     
The character's Walkman and his original music selections.
      
That brings us to the developer. The name--Kirk Moreno MultiMedia--sounds like a single developer trying to make his independent efforts sound grandiose. But there are several individuals credited on both Chaos in Andromeda and the company's only other title, Prey: An Alien Encounter (1993), and Mr. Moreno himself isn't one of them. These facts plus the decent production qualities make me think that KMM was a proper company. It had actual employees and an office in a commercial district of Aarhus (its former address is now the Sherlock Holmes Pub). Unfortunately, I can't find any of the developers, including composer Halfdan Larsen, listed on any other games. There are signs in the endgame text that they intended a sequel to Chaos in Andromeda, and some editions of the CDTV version may have been labeled Eyes of the Eagle: A Chaos in Andromeda Mission.
      
Unless I've mis-coded the country of origin for one or more of the titles on my master list, we won't see a Danish developer again until 2004, with MediaMobsters' Gangland. We will, however, remain in Europe for the near future, first as I try to make sense of France's Karma (1987), and then as I try to slowly make my way through a German text adventure, Drachen von Laas (1991), and even after that to the still-technically-European but less-foreign Kingdom of Krell (1987) from the U.K. It's probably also past time to wrap up Might and Magic III.

30 comments:

  1. Browsed a bit myself and all I could find about the programmer Kenn Damgaard were a few posts in comp.sys.amiga.games. Although there's a Kenn Damgaard who's married to an Amalia Moreno who writes cooking books - probably just a coincidence.

    Good thing you cut this short, especially since you were still able to document the ending thanks to a reader.

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    1. "Kirk Moreno bestar af ide-mand Arne Mayoh, programmer Kenn Damgaard, grafiker Remming Rubak og musiker Halfdan Larsen."

      So Kirk Moreno Multimedia pretty much was just four people in their low twenties, three of them working on this game.

      https://archive.org/stream/COMputerDet_Nye1990Nr1229November26December/COMputer_[Det%20Nye]_(1990)_Nr_12_(29_November_-_26_December)_djvu.txt
      https://archive.org/stream/COMputerDet_Nye1991Nr070827Juni29August/COMputer_[Det%20Nye]_(1991)_Nr_07-08_(27_Juni_-_29_August)_djvu.txt

      Delete
  2. If I was wearing "vibrator armor", I'd probably also find it difficult to focus on my main quest.

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  3. Is looks like a rare example of game that is simply bad, not bad because of goofy setup or poor execution, simply bad because... well, it is not good I guess? Few interesting concepts but nothing more.

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    Replies
    1. I get the feeling that with most of the games Chet has reviewed, the thing missing is adequate testing. Most of the issues for a lot of these games seem to come down to: UI, balance, and bugs.

      Funnily enough, that's still the case these days - ideas are cheap, execution is expensive.

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  4. Seems like it was mainly ruined by the terrible combat mechanics.

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  5. Well, that was interesting. Looking forward to Twilight 2000!

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    Replies
    1. Will twilight 2000 pass the test for being an rpg?

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    2. It's got the same creation system as Megatraveller.

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    3. Do characters develop DURING the game? If not, I could technically reject it, but I really should put a cap on Paragon's attempts to do something with GDW's properties.

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    4. At least Twilight 2000's tabletop rules allowed character development and character creation process is not random as in MegaTraveller. But let's say beginning is not easiest part in that game either.

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    5. I don't know anything about the game, but it's MobyGames description makes it sound a lot like XCOM, which I wouldn't really consider an RPG. MobyGames also has a review that states "the game is impossible to win", so if Chet does play it it could be interesting to see how he fares.

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    6. I have no idea, I tried it once a long time ago, but I didn't have the patience to figure it out. It seems interesting though.

      Looks like GameFaqs lists it as a Strategy game. Well then.

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    7. If Twilight 2000 really doesn't qualify as an RPG, I'll say now that I'd still love to see a single summary post on it. It's got plenty of relevance to other stuff covered by the blog (as the Addict mentioned, the GDW games; but I'd also be curious if there's any SSI-ish strategy / RPG hybrid feel in there, a la Roadwar 2000) and so long as it doesn't take too much time and effort, well... I'm just curious about it!

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  6. The three endings are mostly the same, only one line is different. Here's the whole text:

    A humming noise...

    Seven Hertz flickering light...

    A CAMASC officer, leant back in a relaxed seated position, speaking slowly and hypnotically. Two guards as well in this cramped little spacecraft.

    - We welcome you, and thank you for your efforts...

    The transporter-spacefly assigned to the Ralon Starfleet destroyer, Concorde Five, has a powerful internal noise-generator that impacts on the alpha-waves of your brain, forcing you slowly, very slowly and against your will, into a deep dreamless sleep.

    Before sleep has caught you completely you sense a mixture of pleasure and pain, as the guards grab hold of you and save you from dropping to the floor...

    Though Noko Yai was not brought back, it appears to have no importance anymore, at least not to you.
    (OR)
    Though you have only managed to get hold of Noko Yai, and have not destroyed the production plant, it does not seem to have grave importance.
    (OR)
    Aware of having solved the mystery of Koranis 12 as specified, you remain somewhat puzzled with this last turn of events.

    Frozen, with no clear awareness of your body, you feel comfortable and warm.

    Apparently you have been put into some kind of hibernation.

    Only this is different...

    Maybe you are being kept in store and under preparation for something very important...

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    Replies
    1. So Half Life plagiarised this :D

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    2. Thanks, Zardas. I like that we now have the full text as part of this documentation.

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  7. Funny - I've been living in Aarhus since March and it's the first time I hear the city has a Sherlock Holmes Pub. Which mostly speaks to how expensive the damn things are in Denmark so you don't really go out drinking too often.

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    Replies
    1. Check it out and let us know what it's like.

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    2. but drinking is the only thing affordable in denmark everything else is way more expensive in comparison, but you could always try bar-netto (you go to one supermarket buy a beer and drink it outside an return the empty bottle at the next one so that you could buy a new one... and then you repeat... a great way to spend a spring afternoon if you are in denmark)

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  8. That dead end in the second-to-last picture actually does have a solution. It still requires having thoroughly explored the game world beforehand, so it's not going to help make the game look any better to you or to anyone here.

    ### ROT13 ###
    Erzrzore gung "Ebfr bs erhavba" lbh zragvbarq va gur svefg cbfg? Gung'f lbhe gvpxrg bhg bs gur ebbz, gubhtu vg qbrfa'g tvir lbh nalguvat ryfr erzbgryl hfrshy.
    ### END ROT13 ###

    Oh, in further reference to the makers possibly considering a game series, the ingame title of the CDTV version is "Eyes of the Eagle" with the "A Chaos in Andromeda game" subtitle. Below is a video of the CDTV intro showing that, plus part of some trailer.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3cEF0J5nrJs

    (no idea why there would be a "trailer" on the same disc of a game that was most likely not advertised on TV)

    Not shown on the clip is the post-character-creation cinematic, which is basically the one of the Amiga version except with speech and digitised photos. Some more digitised still images appear throughout the game, but they're mostly found on the so-called "trailer" as well.

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    Replies
    1. Sorry, I just realised I began my earlier comment with a rather unlikeable opener which is not very welcome at all here. I do apologise.

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    2. You are being over-sensitive IMO. I can't imagine anyone being offended by the preceding post!

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    3. No kidding. THAT's what that stupid rose was for? How would a player ever figure that out?

      I really only hate the word "actually" when it's the first word in the sentence. And anyone who did as much to help me with a game as you did does not need to apologize for anything.

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    4. So, I love 80's sci fi synth music, and had to check out the youtube video of the intro song. First off, it's great, fits right in with the best John Carpenter songs... Second of all, that CDTV intro is crazy! It's like watching a big budget Ed Wood movie... if it wasn't for that opening song I would never guess it's the same game. I wish there was more links to the CDTV music, I'm really into it.

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    5. Well, as they say, just google it. Googled "chaos in andromeda cdtv music," and it was the first link, an archive page called exotica. I won't link straight to it for the sake of the blog rules, but it's an easy find. And it's shockingly good (and goofy)... sadly the intro song is not included.

      Delete
  9. Damocles came out in 1990 and one of the items you can find is a stereo system. It only plays one tune -- from an earlier game by the same publisher -- but it is an example of an in-game music player.

    Jumping ahead a couple of decades, you can pick up an MP3 player in 2016's Final Fantasy XV and purchase tracks forit from shops around the game world.

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  10. After watching that CDTV intro I can say that intro promised way more then the actual game play then again that was often the case with amiga and c64.

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  11. So Mass Effect 3 wasn't the first game to throw in a Star Child at the end for no good reason.

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  12. I'm looking forward to Karma. I always enjoy reading about these obscure games. Hopefully it's not just a rehash of Tera. And good luck with Drachen von Laas. Looks like it's really verbose.

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