System Shock Final Cyberspace

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I've been playing games since the 1980s and 5¼" disks, but this is one of the first games I really loved. Figures that it would be a "3D" sci-fi shooter. I loved System Shock 2 even more. The Bioshock line has been really cool in its way, but didn't have the same feel I loved.

It occurred to me to write a player aid on the final cyberspace in SS1, because it was a little tricky. This was a novel idea for me at the time and I felt a little brave-cum-foolish doing it. Only in hindsight do I see it was the first(?) time I formally expressed outwardly something I went on to do my whole life.

I posted it to the Files area of GAMERS forum of CompuServe (CSi) (GO GAMERS). I had joined CSi circa 1987 (a 300 baud modem at $6.25/hour IIRC), and been a long time resident there, of GAMERS, SCIMATH, PCHARDWARE, and other forums. This was posted in 1994. In 1995, I and many others found the internet. Strictly speaking, though, I had already been on dialup bulletin boards and then online services for many years.

From a registration-card questionnaire I know I bought SS1 12/17/94, and I had a 90 Mhz Pentium PC with 16 MB RAM, a 1 GB hard disk, DOS 6.22, Windows 3.11, a mouse, a CD drive, Expanded Memory Manager, and Stacker disk compression.


Without further ado, my System Shock Final Cyberspace write-up as a text file is here, and I've made a verbatim conversion below that only has wiki formatting added. FWIW, I also had it in a Word doc, which said it was created 12/25/94 22:17, last modified 12/31/94 15:07, and I had spent 2.5 hours working on it. Without further ado:


SYSTEM SHOCK: THE FINAL CYBERSPACE

Mike Fay, 12/31/94

The following are cheats for the final System Shock cyberspace battle against Shodan (the terminal on station level 9). Do NOT read if you don't want to know!

CAVEATS

This is how the game worked for me. Some things could be random and/or Origin may have released different versions, how would I know? I used the floppy version that says "version F1.5S" when you exit the game, with a SSCHOCK.EXE of 1,174,697 bytes dated 9/11/94 12:21.

GENERAL LAYOUT

The general layout is two concentric square "rings", with Shodan inside the inner ring (like a bullseye). There are rooms at each corner of the outer ring (i.e., four), and none in the inner ring, with three crossovers between the two rings (all sides except where the entrance comes in). There are also three external rooms (including the entrance hallway), sticking out three of the "sides" of the outer ring.

You enter the grid at the outer ring. The inner ring's flow goes in the opposite direction of the outer ring's. There is only one entrance to Shodan's innermost room, opposite the entrance to cyberspace.

SCHEMATIC

                             Start
                               |
                               v
             Room 4  >---------------------> Room 1
            "torso"                    "ovoidal plus"
               ^                              v
               |        ---<-------<--        |
               |      /        ^       \      |
               |     |         |        |     |
               |     v         v        ^     |
               |     |     --------     |     |
   "volley     |     |    |        |    |     |       Crazy
     ball <--->|<--->|    | SHODAN |    |<--->|<---> Health
    court"     |     |    |        |    |     |       Room
               |     v     --------     ^     |
               |     |                  |     |
               |      \                /      |
               |        --->------->--        |
               |               ^              |
               ^               |              v
                               v
             Room 3 <--------------------<  Room 2
           "barn with                   "hourglass"
            overhang"       (nada)

STRATEGY

Spacebar moves you backwards in Cyberspace

When I'm in cyberspace, I rely heavily on the spacebar to speed me up, so as to outrun shots from cyberguards and to move quickly in general. In this final cyberspace, however, I found that the spacebar moved me backwards when first used. This makes it almost useless for keeping on the run to avoid bullets. The warning Elaine tried to email when the final level is entered may have been about this. I have not yet been able to verify that other players have found it to do the same thing.

But I found that it was only temporary. Namely, if I "sat on" the spacebar as soon as I got into cyberspace, it would move me back for about 15 seconds (keeping me pegged in the "Start" chute), and then it would move me forward as usual for the rest of the time. So, I just "burn out" the backward movement before leaving Start, and it's fine for then on.

Combat

Aside from the initial spacebar problem, it's combat as usual in cyberspace. Use your Pulsar for shooting at guards, NOT the Drill. (Note that you can simply use the Tab key to save time when switching between Pulsar and Drill software.) I find it quite effective to keep moving fast with the spacebar when guards are shooting at me. Their slow shots then usually miss.

Note that guards must turn (slowly) to face you, in order to shoot you. Thus, if you keep moving fast with the spacebar, you can kill them pretty safely by (1) swooping around them in a wide arc (i.e., don't move straight toward them, "eating" the bullets they're shooting at you), and (2) zoom to right behind them and open up with rapid fire. They will still be slowly turning to face you; meanwhile, most anything will be killed within a few shots (except Shodan). The upshot, so to speak, is that you can kill most guards with only taking a few stray shots, if you move fast and zoom behind them.

Keeping on the move with the spacebar has the added advantage that, if you didn't see one of the guards, you won't suddenly have several bullets from him piling into you. You'll see them whiz by, and then you can take action.

Also use "cover" to your advantage. For example, in the first "room" of the last cyberspace, there are two banks of guards in two of the four "coves" of the room. Move quickly into a cove that has no guards, then move into position so that you can come over the edge into one of their coves with guns blazing. Conversely, if you just sat in the middle of the room where the four coves converge, they'll all be taking potshots at you the whole time.

Goodies

Most of the four rooms on the outer ring have some real goodies in them. Of particular interest, Room 2 has a Drill version 8 on ice, and Room 4 has a C-Shield version 8 and a FakeID. Since the FakeID is used to break through ice, and Room 2's ice had the best goodie (for me), it makes sense to use Room 4's FakeID to break Room 2's ice.

I couldn't tell what was in the ice in Room 1, because it was obsolete (for me). Upon entering this last cyberspace, my software versions were Drill 4, Pulsar 8, and C-Shield 7. If your versions are not this high, either you missed something in previous cyberspaces or Origin makes different versions of this game. (And if yours are higher, than I may have missed something.) Note that, for example, Level 2 has two cyberspace terminals in it, and they do go to different cyberspaces. Also, I can distinctly remember at least one semi-hidden passageway in a previous cyberspace that had a goodie in it. So, look carefully through all cyperspaces if you're going through the game another time and you didn't have software versions as high as mine your previous time through the game.

The Rooms; Movement Tactics

If cyberspace had actually been challenging -- if it had been hard to live through and kill the guards in some of the rooms -- then it would make sense to use some strategy to moving. Such as, initially zooming through Room 1 ignoring the guards and going straight for the exit, then getting to the inner ring and going directly to whichever room had the best software goodies for protection and firepower, and then come back and kill the guards. But, for me (I began the game with all difficulty settings on 2), it was easy enough to just go through the rooms sequentially and take out all the guards. Yes, I took some hits, and even got pretty low once, but the health snacks always got me back up to par. If you're difficulty settings are 2 or easier and you're having a hard time surviving cyberspace, you need to do something better, such as some of the tactics described above.

So, just go through the four main rooms sequentially, and come back and use the FakeID on Room 2. Then feel free to explore the two bonus rooms off to the sides. I call "the volleyball court" this name because it's as though you are traveling through lines that define one:

         ----------------------------------------------<-  Enter   
          |                             |                          
          |                             |                          
          |                             |                          
       ---|--------------------------   |                          
       \  |                          \  |                          
        \ |                           \ |                          
         \|                            \|                          
          \                             \                          
           \                             \                         
            \                             \                        
             \                             \                       
               ------------------------------                      

Something like that. There's no "flow" in this "room"; you just move whichever way you want. I couldn't find anything in here; let me know if you do. The other room ("Crazy Health Room") is fairly simple and contains a few health snacks.

Shodan

Although you can zoom in to Shodan's room pretty quickly and fight him without worrying about the rest of cyberspace, that takes the fun out of exploring the rest. Do what you want.

When you're ready to fight him, if your version of System Shock is like mine, you'll find it surprisingly easy. Some "snow" appeared on my screen when I entered Shodan's cyberspace room, which I guess is supposed to represent jamming or something. But, Shodan is not even shooting at you, as far as I can tell, so you just need to sit there and fire away. After maybe a dozen hits, Shodan dies, and it's on to the endgame video! That's all there is to it.

SUMMARY

System Shock is a pretty good rollercoaster ride. More atmosphere, mind-puzzles, and plot than Doom, with some very cool extra effects (love those rollerblades!). Yet somehow not quite as viscerally gripping as Doom. Basically, it's a lot of fun to work one's way through, but after you've been through it one or three times, that's it. It seems (seems) like they could've fairly easily made the cyberspace episodes a lot more elaborate, much larger with far more nooks and crannies to explore, more movement capability (side to side, etc.) and combat options, and worse monsters such that getting better software along the way really makes a difference in winning at the end or not. I really looked forward to finding each new cyberspace terminal and taking a ride on the virtual side -- but they were always so easy. As with the rest, it was a fun ride, but when it was over, it was over.

Best of luck in your successful recovery of the TriOptimum space station and the saving of humankind!

Mike