System Shock is one gaming’s elite. Those games that managed to push the entire industry forward for one reason, or another. If Super Mario Bros was the first game to give us a real sense of progression, and games like DOOM gave us our first taste of 3D gaming with multiplayer, System Shock gave us our first dose of immersive in-game narrative. Instead of mindless action, or just a vague pre-game cutscene, System Shock spoon-fed their lore to players through audio-logs scattered throughout the environment, leaving players to find these messages and piece the larger story together. This novel approach was huge for the industry. System Shock, especially thanks to a particularly amazing twist towards the end, solidified the potential for immersive storytelling in first person shooters.
Now, two years after System Shock’s 20th anniversary, developer “Nightdive Studios” has announced that they are developing a remake, complete with Kickstarter. With the guidance of ex-members of “Looking Glass Games”, System Shock’s original creators, this small team of experienced industry vets hope to recreate the groundbreaking, and chilling sci-fi horror experience, reimagined for fans new and old.
If you need a refresher of the story, here’s an excerpt from “Nightdive Studios” website:
Caught during a risky break-in, you become indentured to a greedy TriOptimum executive. After six months in a healing coma, you awaken to discover the surgeons are missing, the station is in disrepair, and the once-prime corporate facility now teems with mindless cyborgs, robots, and mutated beings, all programmed to serve a ruthless A.I.: SHODAN. There’s scarcely time to think before it unleashes the first terror…
The project was launched on June 28th, 2016, and was successfully funded in 30 days, currently sitting at $1,350,700, well over the original $900,000 goal. Not simply intent on putting a fresh coat of paint over the original, Nightdive wants to do a complete remake. A port this is not. Nightdive describes their project as “… a complete remake of the genre defining classic from 1994, rebuilt from the ground up with the Unity Engine”.
Using a brand new engine, Nightdive wants to make the game to feel new, and look fresh. This, they hope, will pull in older fans, but also provide newcomers the same feeling gamers must have had in 1994. Nightdive studios goes into more detail about their goals for the game on the official page:
We wanted the art of System Shock to be fresh and new while still remaining true to the aesthetics of the 1994 classic. We’ve maintained much of the original look, while accentuating it beautifully by an array of modern rendering features such as Physically Based Rendering (PBR), screen-space reflections, real-time global illumination, ambient occlusion (HBAO), volumetric particles, and dynamic lighting.
Another big element that elevated the fear factor in System Shock was it’s sound, and music. The audio in the original System Shock really helped sell the feeling you were walking around a derelict, empty space station. Nightdive understands the importance of atmosphere, and wants to make sure the sound plays a big part of the horror experience.
System Shock will have a dramatic and modern take on a musical score. Combining its root sci-fi elements with dynamic acoustic elements à la BioShock, we are striving to set System Shock apart from other more action-based shooters as an atmospheric and dark experience.
As a proof of concept, Nightdive released a free demo of System Shock to download for free on Steam and GOG, as well as their website. Playing the demo, it becomes clear that this is not the same System Shock you remember. The first thing I noticed was the level of detail. The animations are smooth, and the voice acting is well done so far. In-game text appears regularly to describe items and provide information on objects in the environment. Upon killing an enemy, I was able to loot items using an easy-to-use inventory menu. The lighting and colors really call back to the original, as does the design of the station itself, and its inhabitants. The game itself is awash in hues of blue and green, and the robots give off a very Stanley Kubrick feel. The combat is a bit clunky right now, and the enemies are a bit clueless, but that’s to be expected for a game in such an early state.
It’s very impressive how well the game plays in this early state, and it’s going to be interesting to see how the game evolves along the way. Visit Nightdive Studios’ Kickstarter and check out their various stretch goals and rewards (one of which involves a SHODAN tattoo). Nightdive stresses on their Kickstarter that they are striving to recreate the magic of the original: “We want this game to be as chilling to players today as the original System Shock was when it was released in 1994. What is most important to us is taking the essence of the original game, and emphasizing that as we present it to gamers today”. Given the success of this particular project, it’s clear that gamers are pretty interested in revisiting older games, and here’s hoping this proves to be a welcome revisit to Citadel.