88 49 @8849
Esoteria: Techno-Assassin of the Future (Windows)
Unique, atmospheric -- if very challenging
For me, the music and sound effects contributed to a sense of realism, immediacy, and seriousness. I feel that there is strong meaning in the plot's moral issues, and have summarized those issues here:
Is it okay to violate ethics by creating a hideously capable assassin, a self-aware combination of genetic engineering and robotics, if the reason is to be able to stop wars and protect your people? What if someone is misusing it? Is it a person with rights, or just a thing? It was ordered over and over to kill people who had done nothing wrong, but then some of its targets found a way to capture it, and convince it that its orders had been evil. Now it feels regret, like a shameful war criminal. It has agreed voluntarily to be sent for revenge against those who had given its previous orders. I felt sorry for the protagonist, Raven, as if he were real, and wished I could sit and talk with him. The box artwork and the illustrations in the manual were likewise very good quality, being detailed and better than I would have expected. The video introduction, in-game graphics, and video ending are crude by modern standards, but to my eye they continue to look good -- especially the backgrounds, with many industrial structures that seem striking and beautiful. I have heard that some of the backgrounds were painted, but I have no citation.
Although Raven has to do something that exposes himself before his enemies can get an idea where is, it is hard to know which was the first action that exposed him, or even how to stop this from happening. The game is extremely difficult, with large, confusing levels. Although Raven's physical movements are faster than his enemies, they massively outnumber him and can call in reinforcements very quickly. When you spot a fixed security camera, and want to avoid being picked up, it is never made clear whether it is a good idea to destroy the security camera. The game seems to have at least one bug, I once jumped directly through a corridor wall into a tank of water. It may or may not be that some keystroke combinations to select alternate weapons are difficult to perform correctly. Last of all, I have never been able to beat this game.
The Bottom Line
This early "stealth action" game, in third-person perspective, is relatively unsophisticated by modern standards. In the game, you play the sole remaining loyal combatant on a world that has been invaded. Deeply ashamed and conflicted, you are a copyrighted prototype, a self-aware bionically and genetically engineered creature grown from scratch for assassination and special operations. The game has good art and music, but in some ways draws inspiration from arcade games. It is very difficult, something like a much cruder version of Thief, Metal Gear, or Splinter Cell -- with fewer choices in terms of equipment and athletic maneuvers. There are also puzzle elements and similarities to BioForge. It has multiplayer functionality, which I have not explored. Its strong plot elements may attract those interested in far-future science fiction, sophisticated military operations, or both. Depending on style of play, there is the potential for much excitement and violence in the game. Raven's tough and horrifyingly emotionless appearance, with stark colors, glowing eyes, and light-absorbing skin, work well to set the tone in the game. There is a real sense of controlling a wholly artificial being who, at least on the surface, "lives only to stalk and kill whomever it is commanded to," just as it says in the manual.
By 88 49 on December 18th, 2007