Saturday, April 29, 2006

Dystopian visions

Dystopia, the winner of the Independent Games Festival HL2 Mod of the Year, has become a favorite of mine. I think that it springs from two reasons.

  • 1. The darkly cyberpunk vision is something that is not found in the me-too WWII mods that are found almost everywhere else.

  • 2. The game vaguely reminds me of Tribes, which in my opinion was one of the best games ever made.

  • The second reason is noteworthy for the same reason that I found Tribes so compelling. The game allows the user the absolute freedom to define their role in-game. Unlike BF2, where you select a class that completely predefines your role on the battlefield, Dystopia and Tribes provide a wealth of choices. Both allow 3 types of armor (light, medium, heavy) and a wide selection of weapons (although some are limited by class). In Tribes you could choose various packs (although only one per armor) that provided benefits on the battlefield. Some favorites were the energy pack (energy for skiiing across the landscape), the repair pack (for turret monkeys to repair turrets and defensive teammates) and the shield pack (for heavies on the flag). In Dystopia there are a lot more modules to choose from, but there is an inverse relationship between armor and modules. Light armors have the widest selection, including the cyberdeck, while the heavy armor has the least amount of selection. In Tribes the heavier the armor, the more weapons, while in Dystopia the weapons are limited for all armors (mostly one main, one sidearm, and a few extras like grenades).

    The cyberdeck is one of the unique aspects of the game. Hackers can login to a computer terminal and enter cyberspace, a realm where the normal rules of physics do not apply. Hackers can then access various components such as turrets, doors, and spawn points and change access for their side. Hackers can also encrypt components under their control, which forces their opponents to spend valuable time and energy hacking their way around these security blocks.

    Another distinguishing feature are the stealth packs that result in a Predator-like stealth field around the player, rendering them virtually invisible to their opponents. In order to combat this there are TAC scan modules (all enemies show up on radar for a brief period of time), and a visual scanning module that shows ememies up in infrared. These options provide for a great deal of tactics in the game that are not normally found beyond the need to kill your opponent in other games, and it makes the game both more thought-provoking and more frustrating, especially when dealing with people who have no idea what they are doing.

    There's a basic player guide here, and a forum where people can find answers to their questions. I look forward to seeing where this mod goes in the future, and especially hope that more great maps come out to provide some options for playing.


Torley said...

Wowza, that is HYPNOTIC. I like those graphics. I have never played the stock HL2 but I hear so many good things about it. Cyberpunk games I've really, *really* enjoyed are so rare. Those screenshots look sort of like a cross between Neocron and Rez, with a dash of Katamari Damacy thrown in for good measure.

bllius said...

The cyberspace takes a little getting used to since "up" and "down" have altered meanings.

I've never seen Neocron and Rez.