Similar to Ultima 4 but with lighter RPG elements and a completely different setting
The year is 2400. A race called the Tzorgs has enslaved your planet and turned the city of Metropolis into a prison. The Tzorgs themselves have withdrawn and the whole planet is now run by cyborgs. As a new citizen you have the opportunity to do something about this and the ultimate aim of the game is to get to the master control panel and deactivate all the robots.
This was the third game created by Chuckles for Origin. It appears to use an enhanced version of the Ultima 4 engine (although I don't know this for certain) which is no bad thing. The game uses an entirely new tile-set however so it very much has a feel of its own. It is clearly aimed at newer players than Ultima 4 as its a smaller game and the RPG elements are much lighter.
The whole game takes place in the city of Metropolis. The city is fairly huge and on 9 levels. There are no multi-scale maps as in Ultima 4 and the combat screens are also gone as you have to take on the Tzorgs on your own. To compensate, there are loads of little things not seen in Ultima. For instance, the city has moving walkways to speed you around. If you go in the underground, trains run up and down the lines and flatten you if you stand in front of them.
Underneath the city is the underground. Aside from housing the railways, this is also where the human underground has its HQ. This is where you can buy weapons & shields and eventually hunt down the passcodes you need to shut down the robots. The underground is spread over 4 levels and nearly as large as the city itself.
You have three main stats - IQ, Affinity & Energy. IQ affects whether or not you can fix things. You guns and shields randomly break and this saves you the money and effort in getting someone else to do it. This is raised by successfully fixing things or by paying 1000 credits to a guy hidden away in the underground.
Affinity I gather affects whether people will talk to you but I never noticed this. It is ridiculously easy to raise as it goes up by one pretty much every time you talk to someone.
Energy is your hit points. Its also used if you try to break down doors. It goes back up as time passes and the maximum can be raised through combat. You also have the option to run instead of walk (this moves you 3 squares at a time) which raises maximum energy quickly but also depletes your current level leaving you vulnerable.
Combat is relatively simple - you start the game with a basic ray gun and no shield. You can still defeat some robots fairly easily. Once you have a better weapon and shield, you can easily take out pretty much anything as long as you don't face too many at once. The games best equipment is only needed for the final assault. Although its not required, there are plenty of options and strategies that can be adopted. You can reprogram robots with the right equipment, or if you avoid their fire for a while, robots have to run back to a recharge point and you can block them off and shoot them while defenceless.
There is no food in the game, so you can heal up just by passing turns with no real penalty. The time constraint used is that you have to report in to a particular building every 2000 ticks. If you don't all robots start attacking you on sight. If you report late you also get a social demerit, 5 of these and all robots attack until you get sent to jail. Getting sent to jail is no big deal as you can easily escape, get all your stuff back (once you know where to look) and the slate is wiped clean. Once I got far enough on in the game, I stopped bothering to report back.
Some of the interactivity later seen in Ultima 5 is seen here first. You can push objects around (if you are strong enough). You can climb over certain types of scenery. Something I particularly like is that you can climb over other people if they are in the way (which they often are). There are also objects you can pick up and use for the first time in an Origin RPG, although you can't actually see them as tiles here and have to stand on an adjacent tile and search.
The keyboard controls are needlessly complicated. As in Ultima games it uses pretty much every letter of the keyboard for one control or another, but not necessarily the same letters as in Ultima. It takes a while to learn which keys to use.
The game uses the same conversation system as in Ultima 4 but in general people have even less to say. There are no standard conversation topics (name, job) so they often say nothing unless you know what to ask. This gives more of a feeling that they are just there to get you through the game, although this isn't always the case.
I played the game through to the end but I feel like I didn't try a lot of things. This is mostly my fault but the combat is possibly a little too easy and really doesn't encourage you to try alternatives.
There is no music at all, just sound effects. The sound effect for bumping into something (which happens a lot when you are running everywhere) gets on your nerves after a while.
The Bottom Line
This is a fun little RPG for people who were either new to the genre or didn't want to dedicate weeks to a single game. The RPG elements are so light, that this in many ways plays more like an adventure game where you have to figure out what you need, where it is and where to use it. Despite the lighter RPG elements, the city is still large and detailed and this is definitely the best game Origin had published to date that wasn't an Ultima. Anyone who enjoyed exploring the towns in Ultima 4 should give it a go.