Trial of Fame: System Shock 2

What is “Trial of Fame”?

“Trial of Fame” is our series of articles in which authors and friends of our blog play a ‘cult game’ for the first time in their lives and tell us about the experience. With this, we hope to provide a new interesting perspective on these popular titles.

“System Shock 2” by Irrational Games, Looking Glass Studios, Electronic Arts, Jonathan Chey, Robert George Fermier, Ken Levine, Gareth Hinds, Dorian Hart, Michael Thomas Ryan, Ian Vogel, Nathan Wells, Matt Boynton, Michael Swiderek, Mauricio Tejerina, Scott Blinn, Steven Kimura, Marc LeBlanc, Mark Justin Waks, Josh Randall, Laura Baldwin, Robert Vargas, Lulu LaMer, Kemal Amarasingham, Eric Brosius, Ramin Djawadi, Fred S. Galpern, Jennifer Hrabota Lesser, Daniel Thron, Michael J. Steinkrauss, Nathan Blaisdell, Daniel Krikorian, Hooboy, The Hoosh, Alex Duran, Matthew Gamble, David Bax, Alex Kay, Tom Grealy, Tavoo Smith, Tom Leonard, Chris Carollo, David Teicholtz, Michael White, Zarko Bizaca, Mike Rowley, Doug Church, Jae Gilby, Sean T. Barrett, Kate Jenkins, Johann Koehler, Randy Smith, Shawn Swift, Mark Lizotte, Eric Dannerhoj, Bill Bobos, Ryan Lesser, Mammoth Studios, Paul Neurath, Bill Carlson, Michael Malizola, Jonathan Conant, Maya Apfelbaum, Liz Hinks, Rob Meffan, Andy Meuse, Nicholas Valtz, Scott Evans, Jonathan Harris, Patrick O’Loughlin, Kristen McEntire, Daniel Hiatt, Doug Doine, Carl Grande, Erik Purins, Ken Cunningham, Jamil Dawsari, Rosalie Vivacano, Atsuko Matsumoto, Bryan Davis, Barry Feather, John Pemberton, Yuri Hospodar, Terri Brosius, Robert Caminos, Steve Canniff, Erin Coughlan, Bill Farquhar, Esra Gaffin, Gayle Robertson, Mike Romatelli, Stephen Russell & Karen Saltus.

“You awake from the cold chill of your cryo-tube to discover cybernetic implants grafted to your flesh and the crew of the starship Von Braun slaughtered. The infected roam the halls, their screams and moans beckoning you to join them as the rogue artificial intelligence known as SHODAN taunts and ridicules your feeble attempt to unravel the horrifying mystery of the derelict starship[.]”

I should have known that I would experience friction with this game. After all, both the predecessor and its engine-sharing game “Thief Gold” took me three tries each. I mistakenly thought that successfully playing through those two titles would be adequate preparation for “System Shock 2”. I quickly ran out of psy hyp0 – the consumables that replenish my psychic ability meter – which resulted in me restarting. Twice. Again.

All three games require patience to learn their respective systems. I am a trial-and-error-type who prefers to fail until I can figure a way out. None of these games have been kind to me in that regard: You really have to learn what it is all about to make the engine purr.

The frustration was exemplified by my first choice: Should I join the Marines, the Navy or the psychic military group OSA? My complete aversion to the use of military in games drove me to OSA because there is no real-life equivalent. Also, you use powers unique to this game – I am just not a fan of weapons when ‘magic’ can be used instead. Nevertheless, it is commonly known that this branch makes for the most difficult playthrough of the game at the beginning. Stubborn as I am, I decided to stick with it. It paid off as the invisibility power in the later game was incredibly useful and prevented unnecessary violence.

Admittedly, I used guides to help push me through the first few hours of the game. Without them, I would have been eternally disappointed by myself, turning away from any coverage of this game for years so I could experience it firsthand. “System Shock 2” is cited so often that any mention of it would drive a stake through my heart. Concurrently playing it was Crob4r, my Croc-wearing streamer buddy who found it much easier than I did. If it was not for him, I would probably put it off until later. Was my experience diminished a bit by this pressure? Honestly, yes. I almost cried from self-disappointment thinking about cutting the plug. Fortunately, just as with “System Shock” and “Thief Gold”, I came to enjoy it through a gradual understanding.

Through this struggle I realized that maybe I am just trying too hard to enjoy things because other people enjoy them. Not all experiences need to be easy, but one that I can easily just watch instead provoked me to rethink my desire to understand this canon I was trying to engage with. I mean… I want to enjoy “System Shock 2” and immersive simulation games. But why, if they are too difficult for me to get along with?

Video games are completely voluntary and there is no reason to play a game if you do not want to. I feel this could also apply on a personal level: I do not have to finish a game because I set a goal. But I certainly do not want to take that experience back as I learned a lot about managing expectations and tolerance. I will shy away from such painful trials in the future, but I had to know what it was like first, no? [PLAY]