2400 A.D. is a RPG published by Origin Systems (of Ultima fame) in 1987. The game is set in the year (quick! take a guess!) 2400 in the city Metropolis on the planet Nova Athens. Some 70 years earlier, the Tzorgs seemingly betrayed the humans and assaulted Nova Athens, presumably together with many other planets. Since then, they have left the planet but left control to a series of their robots, essentially enforcing a police state. You, a well-trained computer scientist, arrive on the planet with a batch of workers, only to stumble upon the diary of a resistance member, left there for you with the specific instructions to search for “Spider”.
Of course, all this background is in the game manual, and who reads game manuals? So I just started the game and was utterly bewildered by what happened after that. For starters, I didn’t know anything about the controls, and this game uses many keys to map the various commands. After a while, I found that the “T” key is used to talk, so I went up to the nearest person, tried to talk with them and was completely ignored. I managed to work my way out of the building (“O” to open doors), stumbled upon a conveyor belt of sorts (actually an ingenious moving walkway system that links the city together) and got completely lost. I then decided it was time to perhaps find the restart or the quit key (still haven’t found that last one), found out “W” changes between walk and run mode, started running and immediately fainted from lack of energy. I was carried to the hospital, but they didn’t treat me because I didn’t have cash. Instead I was sent to the “social rehabilitation center”, or rather jail. There was apparently no way out, so I closed DOSBox and started reading the manual.
After finding out about the 17 different commands (including “Z” for zurrender – because “S” is for search) and noticing the importance of the stats in survival (energy for running, fighting and climbing, affinity to get people to talk to you), I went on my way again. And it needs to be said, an interesting way it was. For starters, there are robots. According to the manual, 16 different types of them. Robots that are for maintenance, robots that will attack you when alerted, robots that check to see if you are allowed to be in an area, robots that confiscate illegal items from you, robots that follow you wherever you go, … Now, theses robots of course run on power, and there are various power nodes in the city where they will recharge every now and then – you’ll sometimes run across robots that didn’t make it to a power station and just shut down. These power nodes can be used by you to recharge your weapons, but doing that will alert all robots in the vicinity and they’ll shoot you for it. On the other hands, killing robots is about the only way to make cash. When you manage to destroy one, you can pick up its batteries and use them as credit. The amount of credit is proportional to the amount of charge remaining, so you might want to track robots around and kill them when they just recharged. Meanwhile, you have to check in to the tracking office every 2000 game turns, so you have to plan your trips somewhat. I could go on and on like this – the rules are not very complex but they create quite a bit of depth.
So I started on my quest to find and join the resistance and remove these robots from the face of New Athena. Coincidentally, the first person I talked with immediately told me the way to Spider. This is general behavior in Metropolis. The most unlikely person in some bank building seems to know about the codes to disable the robots, while I also noted this dialog:
My name’s Rhonda, I usually just sit around here in the park. I can help you though.
A field disperser is the best armor you can get.
Note that a field disperser is an experimental armor in development in an entirely different part of the city. You have to break down doors, steal blueprints and give them to the right guy with quite a bit of money to get this armor built. I can only suppose that the robots are too stupid to notice that the revolution is all around them and that they don’t really have secrets anymore. It just takes the right person to gather all the information together and do something with it. Gather the information on paper, of course, because the convenience of a quest log is something for a more modern age.
Another funny part is when you get locked up in jail. Not if, when. It’s almost certain you will eventually end up in the social rehabilitation center for life-long imprisonment. When you search around in your cell, it turns out there is a loose panel somewhere that leads to a ladder which goes down right into the base of operation of the revolution. From there it’s a quick walk back to the main city. Of course, the robots took you items from you. And hid them in a box on the floor level of the rehab center, where you can just walk in and take them back. I’m not entirely sure how the Tzorgs ever managed to win a war.
To conclude, I’d like to mention that I think I spent more time with this game than the previous 10 together. While this is no Fallout 3 in terms of content, it will keep you busy without getting too repetitive for many hours. Highly recommended if you want to play a simple (yet not dumb) RPG. 8/10