A new trailer has been released for Hideo Kojima’s upcoming release of Metal Gear Solid 4
I guess this might be time to think of getting a PS3. You can preorder from Amazon.com btw
A new trailer has been released for Hideo Kojima’s upcoming release of Metal Gear Solid 4
I guess this might be time to think of getting a PS3. You can preorder from Amazon.com btw
Jade Empire is an action RPG developed by Canadian developer BioWare. It was published by Microsoft and released for Xbox worldwide in 2005. Later released was a two-disc “Limited Edition” of the same, containing extra content. On May 10, 2006 BioWare announced that it would release a PC version of the game for Microsoft Windows, to be published by 2K Games. This version was released on February 26, 2007 in North America as a “Special Edition”. It was also released on the Steam delivery system on February 27, 2007. BioWare executives have strongly hinted that a sequel is in the works; allegedly to be most likely developed for the Xbox 360 platform.
Jade Empire is based in a mythical setting inspired by ancient China, and allows the player to progress through an adventure based on traditional martial arts. As the character (who can be either male or female) progresses through the game, he is able to discover and develop new fighting styles (either martial arts, weapon styles, magic styles, support styles or transformation styles). During combat the player can switch between styles by hitting a pre-assigned direction on the D-Pad. Combat is not turn-based, but is in real time and gives players the ability to control how and when his character dodges or attacks. In this fashion the player has the ability to change styles during combat and possibly initiate a Harmonic Combo.
The traditional RPG stats are not featured in this game; rather, they are replaced with just three: Body, Mind, and Spirit. These primary stats control the secondary stats of Health, Focus, and Chi (respectively), and the conversation skills of Charm, Intuition, and Intimidation. Focus is used by fighting with weapon styles (such as a longsword or a staff) or by choosing “focus mode”, which slows the movements of other characters, allowing the player to attack at high speeds. Chi is a character’s spirit energy. The player can use it to heal himself, to charge up a powerful “chi strike” to deal large damage, or to use it as “mana” when casting spells or transformations. Health, focus, and chi can be replenished by collecting power-ups left by defeated enemies in combat or by using Focus Shrines and Spirit Fonts found in the game world. Additionally, certain party members have the ability to add their power to yours—refilling your stats while they remain out of harm’s way.
Certain aspects of Jade Empire‘s gameplay engine, dialogue and quest systems are handled in a way that is very similar to BioWare’s Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic games for the Xbox and PC. Players can speak to NPCs in the game’s towns (and other areas), asking questions for information to learn more about the world, the storyline, and other characters (also some have willing to join your party). Many of these NPCs will offer the player side quests that can be completed for experience points and items. These quests often have more than one method of completion depending on whether the player chooses to follow the “High path” (in the game referred to as The Way of the Open Palm ) or the “Low path” (The Way of the Closed Fist ). The player can respond to questions or take courses of action that are consistent with the philosophy he or she follows; different actions will affect a character’s alignment and his ability to cast certain spells or equip certain items.
There is also a vertical-scrolling airplane shooter included in Jade Empire as a mini-game, which is triggered by certain events in the storyline. In the mini-game, only the health and chi bars are active. Chi is replenished by shooting enemies, and is used for special attacks specific to the mini-game. The yellow focus spheres will upgrade your primary cannon up to three times. Red health spheres refill your health bar as in the main game.
Jade Empire also features the constructed language Tho Fan developed by Wolf Wikeley, a Ph.D. candidate in linguistics at the University of Alberta.
Much of the game places a certain amount of emphasis on the two major philosophies in the world of the Jade Empire, the Way of the Open Palm and the Way of the Closed Fist. Officially, while these can easily be equated to a “Light Path” and “Dark Path”, one who follows the Way of the Open Palm is not necessarily good, and one who follows the Way of the Closed Fist is not necessarily evil. Context plays a huge part in the way these philosophies act out, so it is indeed a hard task to generalise what either path means all the time. However, in terms of game play, following the closed fist path can involve performing blatantly evil actions.
The “Way of the Open Palm” basically states that the key to maintaining the universe is by being in harmony with nature, one’s surroundings, and one’s station in life. As an effect of being in nature with one’s surroundings, one is expected to actively assist in lessening the chaos in the area, through the assistance of lessening burdens. While this seems “Peaceful”, the Way of the Open Palm is strict in another form: one should not act outside their station and purpose in life. This in turn, can lead to the low path of the Way of the Closed Fist.
Looking at the aforementioned example, in the case of a person with a gambling debt, an evil follower of the Way of the Open Palm, judging that the debtor attempted to act outside of his station and thus violated the harmony of the universe, may give the debtor the money – in the form of a gamble the Open Palm follower rigged so the debtor would win. While this seems to have helped out the debtor, it has in fact perpetuated the debtor’s gambling problem, only dooming the person to wind up in the same situation again – perhaps even worse next time. The debtor is thus unable to act above his situation, whilst the short-term effects around him contribute to harmony.
On the other hand, the “Way of the Closed Fist” follows the philosophy that the purpose of life is to follow the ways of serving oneself – to face one’s challenges head on, challenge one’s station in life, and work to become self-reliant. The emphasis of the Way of the Closed Fist is combat, turmoil, and constantly challenging oneself, which is why many of those who are evil tend to be considered to follow the Way of the Closed Fist, in that they bring about chaos in the universe. However, such people can no more be classed as true followers of the Way of the Closed Fist than common thieves can be classed as revolutionaries.
Using the same example as shown before, a good follower of the Way of the Closed Fist would indeed inform the debtor’s collectors where the debtor is hiding, but from the point of view of the follower, this is hardly a betrayal. Following the beliefs of the Closed Fist, it would be meaningless for the debtor to get out of the situation through someone else’s help – instead, forcing him into a position wherein he is forced to deal with his problems directly allows him to grow, and thus become stronger than he would have been otherwise.
The more extreme variant of this, usually used by the ones who use the Way of the Closed Fist to justify slaughter, would be to kill the debtor oneself, then take the money the debtor had. The claim therein would be along the lines of “if the debtor was not strong enough to survive me, he didn’t deserve to live.” However, this is not truly following the Way of the Closed Fist, rather simply contributing to chaos for one’s own benefit.
Many solutions that are resolved using the philosophy of the Way of the Closed Fist could be considered to have much in common with Social Darwinism where Darwin’s theory of Survival of the Fittest is applied to humans. For example, you come across a slave and her slave master. A follower of the Way of the Closed Fist would make the slave fight for her freedom against the slave master so the strongest person wins.
Although there are three different types of character selectable by the player (certainly in the non-LE Xbox version), the Player Character can be heavily customised to suit each player’s taste on the beginning of a new game. The three main attributes (Health, Spirit and Mind) can be individually tailored per character, as can the model (there are six choices in the non-LE Xbox version).
During the course of the game the player will meet various NPCs that will have willingness to join the player’s party and thereby become a follower.
Jade Empire gives the player-character the option to form a romantic relationship with several of the non-player characters, including characters of the same sex. Successfully romancing a character results in them standing outside your tent on the eve of the battle against the golems, whereupon, unless you choose to reject them, your character and the NPC will lean in to kiss (although if the character is of the same sex, the camera will pan away before the actual kiss itself). Male characters can romance Dawn Star, Silk Fox or Sky. Female characters can romance Sky or Silk Fox. Male characters can also romance both Dawn Star and Silk Fox at the same time. If this is the case, the cutscene and dialog at the tent implies that Dawn Star and Silk Fox spent some time together in their grief and lead you off for a menage-a-trois. When you romance a certain character, you are also given the opportunity to influence his or her way of thinking. For example, the normally calm and collected Dawn Star can be persuaded to stand up for herself and become an altogether less mellow person, effectively following the path of the Closed Fist.
Chapter 1: Two Rivers
The game casts you as a martial arts student under the tutelage of Master Li, head of the Two Rivers martial arts school, based in the in-game geographical locale of the Golden Delta.
The player’s training is interrupted as the town of Two Rivers comes under attack from an aggressor in a strange ship, who summons ghosts to attack the student. The attacker is defeated by Master Li who comes to the students’ rescue, and reveals that the attacker was a member of the Lotus Assassins, a mysterious force serving the Emperor of the Jade Empire. Gao the Lesser, a rival of the student, issues a challenge for a duel and loses. He is expelled from the school after he attempts to use explicitly forbidden magic on the student. Master Li explains that the student is the last of an order of Spirit Monks. He, a brother of the Emperor and leader of the army, had ordered an attack on Dirge, where the Spirt Monks’ temple existed, in order to end the drought. He claimed to have opposed the act and to have saved the student and the Dragon’s Amulet.
He sends the student down to a cave beneath the school where he finds part of a Spirit Monk amulet and has a vision of the Water Dragon, the entity whose death at the hands of the Emperor ended the decade-long Long Drought but left spirits roaming the land. Dawn Star, one of the students at the school and a friend of the player, is kidnapped by Gao The Lesser. The student rescues her but returns to find the village in flames, and Master Li kidnapped. The student, Dawn Star, and Sagacious Zu, a man whom they had met in the swamps around the village, head off in a borrowed flying machine towards the Imperial City, where Master Li has been taken.
Chapter 2: Tien’s Landing
The party crash-lands their machine in Tien’s Landing, and set out to find you a new flyer and a wind map that will show them the way to the Imperial City. The flyer, the Magnificent Dragonfly, is taken from the base of Gao the Greater, the father of the dead student of the first chapter. Gao the Greater is working with Grand Inquisitor Jia’s elite subordinate, Inquisitor Lim, and is distressed to hear of his son’s death. The player tracks down and kills him, and recruits Sky, a rogue, and Kang The Mad, Gao’s personal engineer.
The party goes to a recently drained area near Tien’s Landing, which flooded when the dam was first constructed. The Lotus Assassins opened the dam in order to search the ruins of the old Tien’s Landing, covered by the flood. The student fights Chai Ka, a demon bound in the body of a little girl, and learns that Chai Kai was sent to protect the student and that the Lotus Assassins already have the amulet. The player then can close the dam or destroy the controls, keeping it open forever.
The student then heads to the Great Southern Forest, under the ownership of Lord Yun, and has the option of helping the Forest Shadow defeat a demon known as the Mother, or helping the Mother’s cannibalistic demons destroy the Forest Shadow. In either event, the player can convince Lord Yun that the forest is recovering, and get his wind map. Inquisitor Lim will ambushes the player at this point; the player kills him and recovers a piece of the amulet.
Chapter 3: Imperial City
The party lands in Imperial City and meet up with Silk Fox, who is revealed to be Princess Lian the Heavenly Lily, daughter of the Emperor. She is unconvinced that her father is behind the sickness the plagues the land, and believes that Death’s Hand, the black armor-clad head of the Lotus Assassins, is responsible. After joining either the Executioners or the Inquisitors, the student’s party infiltrates the Lotus Assassin’s training ground to recover the last part of the Spirit Monk amulet. Sagacious Zu reveals that he was one of the Lotus Assassins who killed Master Li’s family. During their quest, the party helps Master Gang assassinate his superior, Master Shin, making it look like an accident, and puts a corrupted Spirit Shard into a Jade Golem, causing it to go out of control. The golems go out of control, damaging the underground complex. The party kills Master Gang. They also find Grand Inquisitor Jia, who reveals that the Emperor knew about what Death’s Hand and the Lotus Assassins were doing, and ordered them to do it. The player kills her, but Death’s Hand arrives. Sagacious Zu sacrifices himself to save the student, burying Death’s Hand in rubble.
Chapter 4: Imperial Palace
The party fights their way to the Emperor’s throne-room where Silk Fox learns of what her father has done. He is aware that the Water Dragon’s death is stopping the dead from reaching the underworld but is mad with power. The Emperor knocks down all the people in the throne room with a blast of magic and summons guards to attack the student, who defeats them. The student battles the Emperor, who is able to alternate fighting styles and damage immunities. The student kills the Emperor, but Master Li gets up, takes the Jade Heart for himself, and kills the student.
Chapter 5: Spirit Monk Temple
The student wakes up in the underworld as a spirit. The Water Dragon reveals that Sun Li had planned this all along, as he wished for the Water Dragon’s power and needed the amulet and to defeat Emperor Sun Hai. The student meets up with the spirit of Abbot Song, who tells him what truly happened at Dirge. He reveals that Sun Li wore Death’s Hand’s armor and killed the abbot when he tried to stop him and his brothers. The brothers defiled the fountains with human blood, weakening the Water Dragon, and Emperor Sun Hai killed Sun Kin when he and Sun Li attempted to oppose him. Abbot Song then reveals that one of his order attempted to escape with the student, but Sun Li, who had escaped from Sun Hai, killed the student’s guardian and assumed his identity. The player and Abbot Song make their way through Dirge and learn that an evil being has taken control after the fall of the temple. The student reaches the place where the Water Dragon was slain, and defeats aspects of his darker emotions. The student then returns to life, and the rest of the party, who learns about this through Dawn Star, flies to Dirge to reunite with their friend.
Chapter 6: Defending the Temple
While the student was dead, Sun Li realized that action would have to be taken against him, and retrieved Death’s Hand from the rubble of the Lotus Assassin headquarters. He then sends the Imperial Army against Dirge. Sky pretends to betray the group, and lures Death’s Hand out so that the student can defeat him in single combat. However, this is not enough to defeat him; Death’s Hand rises again, but the student uses the force of his will to expel Sun Li’s influence. The player may then release Death’s Hand, use him as a slave, or convince him to seek redemption.
Chapter 7: Back to the Palace
The party flies back to the palace to confront the Emperor. As they make their way through the palace they discover that the Emperor had stopped the drought by cutting open the Water Dragon’s corpse and letting the water that flows from it feed the Empire. The student chooses either to destroy the Water Dragon’s body, thus freeing her spirit and allowing the dead to find the underworld, or defiling the water to weaken the Dragon and claim her power after defeating the Emperor.
The student reaches Emperor Sun Li, who first sends Constructs of Bull and Elephant demons, the most powerful in the game, after the player and his companion. Sun Li then encases the student in stone and attempts to defeat the player with the force of his own doubt. However, if the student’s companions survived, they will reduce the number of enemies that must be fought in each of the two stages. Sagacious Zu appears and helps free the student from his mind.
Emperor Sun Li offers to help his student live in legend forever, if he dies without fighting. If the player makes this decision, the student is remembered as a hero for knowing his place, as Sun Li looks on and laughs. If the player does not, Sun Li attacks, and the student defeats him.
If the student chooses to free the Water Dragon’s spirit, then the end sequence shows the people of the Jade Empire cheering the student and their party. If the student chooses to enslave the Water Dragon, the end sequence shows the Lotus Assassins kneeling at the feet of the student. After this end sequence, there are short text summaries detailing the fate of any characters who survived the adventure. These vary depending upon whether or not the student chose to enslave or free the Water Dragon, and also what romance options the student pursued.
Dawn Star: She either settles down with the student, settles down on her own, rules the empire with the student, or if the student talked her into a Closed Fist philosophy and/or abandoned her, wanders the Jade Empire alone.
Silk Fox: If the student does not romance Silk Fox, she will become Empress of the Jade Empire. If the student does romance Silk Fox and the student is male, the student and Silk Fox will rule the empire fairly, or with an iron fist. If the student is female, Silk Fox will either rule the empire fairly with her ‘companion’, or will again rule with an iron fist, both the student and Silk Fox dressing up in the Silk Fox costume to silence dissenters.
Sky: Sky will use the Guild for good purposes, or serve as the student’s consort or as the new Death’s Hand. If the student is female and romances with Sky, they leave the imperial city and live on the outskirts of Tien’s Landing.
Black Whirlwind: Black Whirlwind will roam the empire cutting off heads, eventually making his way around the world.
Henpecked Hou: After a series of mishaps, he starts a delivery business, which he immediately uses as a method of escaping his overbearing wife.
Chai Ka: Chai Ka will either return to the heavens, freeing the girl whose body he inhabits to live her life. Or the girl will end up wandering the empire as a raving lunatic.
Ya Zhen: Ya Zhen will either serve the student until he or she passes away (resulting in him moving to bigger plans) or serve the student forever and loyally.
Death’s Hand: Death’s Hand will either become more evil, mutating so badly that his armor cannot hold his demonic form, or he will spend the rest of his days wandering the empire as a crusader for good, in order to make up for his past misdeeds.
Kang the Mad: Kang will continue to invent machines until an explosion appears to take his life, although strange machines continue to appear every now and then. Or as Lord Lao, Kang’s lack of danger affects his imagination in building machines, so as a radical solution, Kang starts arming the mobs that are after him, or he works for the emperor(player), worrying his use will eventually be worn out and he will be disposed of, eventually crafting a portal to another dimension and disapearing in a huge explosion, taking an entire lake with him.
A third, alternate ending is available if the Student agrees to the terms of surrender presented by the main antagonist in the final confrontation. The ending sequence features a statue of the Student being praised assumedly years later by a class of children with a skin condition similar to that of the Lotus Assassins. One child asks what life was like before the protagonist’s honored sacrifice and is quickly shushed by his teacher as a Jade Golem readies an axe to quell such questioning. The sequence ends with the main antagonist laughing evilly.
Although generally well liked by reviewers and players alike (winning Game Informer’s Game of the Month award and 2005 Xbox Game of the Year from IGN.com) some elements attracted criticism. One was the problem of loading screens, shared by BioWare’s Knights of the Old Republic. Some effort was taken to combat this, such as having the “team gathering/home base” areas separated from the main “town/village.” Going there would bring up a mini-loading bar, rather than a whole new load screen. Also, some areas incorporate the use of an elevator device to mask the game loading to a new area; these include the Imperial Palace and the Headquarters of the Lotus Assassins. This serves to remove drag time in waiting for the game to load, but one area of the game that draws constant attention to long and frequent load times is the arena sequence, in which the player must endure a loading screen before and after every match, many of which can last up to a minute. The PC version of the game also uses loading screens, but on newer systems the load time is dramatically reduced from the Xbox version.
Another area that attracted some concern was the ease of the battle system. Even on higher difficulty settings the tactics are rather facile and tend not to change. For instance, the player attacks until the opponent blocks, the player then uses the special attack to break through the block, and the process is thus repeated. However, enemies being immune to certain styles forces players to diversify their skills, and some encounters require special techniques to win (to defeat one boss, the player must knock down some pillars to collapse the cave, while another boss is able to become immune to certain attacks at will.)
Some have claimed that the game is too short. However, it takes longer to complete if the player completes various side-quests along the way, and replay value is added with the different endings and the ability to follow the Way of the Open Palm or the Way of the Closed Fist. According to the developers, the average playtime is approximately 26 hours (assuming that no dialogue or cut-scenes are skipped and all the quests are undertaken.) Compared to BioWare’s Knights of the Old Republic, there is less variety in locations (for example, Jade Empire only has one major city and two small towns, one of which is inaccessible after a short time)
See BioWare’s page on their official Jade Empire site for a complete listing.
A “Limited Edition” of Jade Empire was available for those who pre-ordered the game. Eventually, they came to the shelves also. The Limited Edition version has a different box art than the original. It has a red, reflective background instead of the sky blue, and the words “Limited Edition” was printed on the bottom of the name. This version of Jade Empire was packed with an extra disc that contained the data for the character model Monk Zeng, a magic type character, a “Making of” video by G4, and three game demos; Forza Motorsport, Conker Live & Reloaded, and MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf. The game itself is also slightly different; the first staff that can be chosen is Tien’s Justice instead of the Golden Star.
The PC version of Jade Empire is known as the “Special Edition”. It is based on the Xbox “Limited Edition”, and also includes the Monk Zeng character, but not the Tien’s Justice weapon style (both of which are available in the limited edition described above). Changes from the Xbox version includes increased resolutions up to 1600×1200 (1920×1200 in Widescreen), new special effects and redrawn textures, two new martial styles named iron palm and viper, a new rhino demon transformation, new monsters, new high level weapons, an improved AI, with enemies able to take cover more often; a new “Jade Master” difficulty level, with ability to import savegames; a new world map interface; and keyboard and hotkey support. It also contains a bonus art book and poster.
Like the original version, the Special Edition has also been criticised for being too short and for having rather easy battles using a simplistic battle system, getting an average review score of 83% according to GameRankings. Other criticisms included a lack of cheat codes, and the ease of changing your alignment (hence changing the ending) at a point near the end-game which effectively discounts any good/evil deeds you’ve done for the majority of the game.
John Cleese lent his voice to game. His role was that of an “outlander” named Sir Roderick Ponce von Fontlebottom the Magnificent Bastard, stranded in the Imperial City of the Jade Empire. His character is essentially a British colonialist stereotype who refers to the people of the Jade Empire as savages in need of enlightenment.
Descent: FreeSpace 2 is a space simulation computer game developed by Volition, Inc.. After THQ acquired Volition Inc., the source code for the game was released to the fan community and the FreeSpace engine has continued to develop under the FreeSpace Source Code Project.
FreeSpace 2 takes place 32 years after the events of Descent: FreeSpace. The alliance between the Terrans and Vasudans is sealed with the foundation of the Galactic Terran-Vasudan Alliance (GTVA). The GTVA campaign in this game is threefold. The first priority is stopping the Neo-Terran Front (NTF) led by Admiral Aken Bosch. Bosch, a former Admiral of the GTVA, who flew for the Galactic Terran Intelligence (GTI) as a pilot, united a group of rogue Terrans under the banner of hatred of Vasudans. Initially, he threatened to destabilize the Alliance and destroy the Vasudan race. The second priority was the discovery of the Knossos Device, a massive, ring-shaped device believed to have been constructed by the Ancients. In essence, the Knossos appeared to be an artificial portal generator. This obviously interested the Terrans, who were still searching for a way to return to their homeworld Earth. The third, and most dangerous, was the return of the Shivans. This time, the Shivans have a fearsome new array of ships, including the Sathanas-class juggernaut that exceeds 5.5 kilometers in length.
During the course of the campaign, the player learns about the truth behind the Neo-Terran Front and the nature of the Knossos Device. The NTF insurgency is quelled near the beginning of the campaign when the Knossos Device is activated; this opens access to a nebula that is discovered to be filled with Shivan forces. Inside this nebula is discovered a second Knossos portal. As a result of this second portal, the eventual GTVA retreat and destruction of the first portal is not enough to stop a second Shivan incursion, and as hopes for victory slowly disappear, humanity takes desperate measures in order to secure its survival. The most daring of these include the introduction of the GTVA Colossus, a 6-kilometre long capital ship. The GTVA also detonates the GTD Bastion (one of the player’s base of operations from the original game) loaded with meson bombs in the threshold of a jump node in order to seal it from Shivans in the same manner that the Lucifer’s destruction sealed off the Sol jump node at the end of the First War.
Despite these desperate measures, the Shivans continue their assault and show no signs of stopping. The Colossus plays an integral role in many of the missions, especially those quelling the NTF insurgency, where it proves to be an unstoppable force going against the NTF’s weaker Orion class destroyers. The Colossus meets its match with the Shivan Sathanas-class ship. Though the first Sathanas is destroyed by the Colossus and the player’s wing of bombers at great effort, the Shivans unleash over eighty more of these juggernauts. As the GTVA retreat from the Capella system, the Colossus is providing support when it is attacked by a Ravana Shivan destroyer. Victorious but weakened, the Colossus is then finished off by one of many Sathanas ships in the system. The destruction of the Colossus causes GTVA morale to plummet, as the Shivans grow closer and closer to finishing the genocide they started 32 years before.
In a cutscene near the end of the game, the player is shown the last recorded log entry of Admiral Aken Bosch. By this point in the game, it is already known that Bosch has been attempting to make first contact with the Shivan forces; up until then, contact had never been successfully made with Shivan forces. While listening to the log entry, it is revealed that Bosch was apparently successful in his attempts. Furthermore, he and several of his crew were actually brought on board a Shivan transport for reasons unknown, while most of its crew had been slain by the time Bosch’s flagship was discovered. It is never revealed whether the Shivans are actually interested in contact with the Terrans, or if their communications with Bosch were further attempts to destroy the Terrans, or for some other unknown reason.
In the final mission of FreeSpace 2, the player is tasked with evacuating Terran civilian and military personnel from the Capella system, where the Shivans were inexplicably congregating. At least eighty Shivan Sathanas class juggernauts surrounded the Capella sun. In the final minute of the game, the Capella star goes supernova and the player is presented with a choice: stay behind to help the last civilians escape (which will invariably result in the player’s death from the blast of the sun), or flee to the jump node and escape. Both options are acceptable, and the game will be completed either way, with different final cutscenes for each.
The final cutscene displays the Sathanas fleet in the process of detonating the Capella star. Just before it goes supernova, most of the juggernaut fleet enters subspace and flee to an unknown location, with the remaining juggernauts going completely dark just before the star explodes. Why the Shivans caused the supernova is one of the major questions still on fans’ minds.
A possible hint at the reason for detonating the sun is given in one of the two ending cutscenes. Should the player escape the supernova on the last mission, Admiral Petrarch, captain of the warship which the player is stationed on, hypothesizes in a following cutscene that the Shivans may be exiles themselves, and that the supernova is a long-range subspace gate through which the Shivans are returning to their homeworld, which would explain why many of the Sathanas juggernauts entered subspace soon before the Capella star exploded. Such an exodus of the Shivans may be considered an effective end to the storyline.
FreeSpace 2 was notable for allowing users to make and distribute copies of the game to friends and acquaintances. This, along with the open source engine, are a few of the main reasons why the game is so easily available years after it was released.
A portion of the license agreement, with the relevant part bolded, follows.
In comparison, authentic copies of FreeSpace 1 are increasingly difficult to obtain; however, the FreeSpace 1 missions, including the Silent Threat expansion pack, have been remade for the FreeSpace 2 engine under the name of FSPort.
In April of 2002, Volition released the source code for the FreeSpace 2 engine. This allowed coders to modify the game in unprecedented ways. However, because the source code is under a noncommercial license, it does not qualify as free software.
To prevent a plethora of different versions of the game from appearing, a single ‘umbrella’ project (with the unified goal of enhancing the game) was formed. The resultant FreeSpace 2 engine has many advantages over the old engine, including (but not limited to):
In addition, content update packs have been developed which take advantage of the upgraded game engine. These packs include higher-poly models and higher resolution textures. The end result of this project is to create a graphically superior (and far more flexible) game engine, while still retaining all of the gameplay elements that made FreeSpace 2 successful.
A Terran corvette in an asteroid field. Various changes on capital ships include more details on their exterior.
A recreation of the box art in-game, where a Shivan corvette fires a beam that pierces through a Terran corvette. Note the beam reflection off the fighter, as well as the detail of the ‘spherical light’ from which the beam came from.
A convoy of transports flying past an asteroid field. High-detail asteroids in FreeSpace 2 are now made possible by the upgraded engine.
A Vasudan corvette firing off its flak cannons. Note the engine trail off the corvette, as well as the level of detail of the explosions.
There are several user made campaigns which rival the complexity of the original campaigns that came with the game. Some of them are mentioned below.
Half-Life, often abbreviated as HL or HL1, is a sci-fi first-person shooter computer game developed by Valve Software, first released by Sierra Studios on November 19, 1998. Designed for PCs running Microsoft Windows, the game uses a heavily modified version of the Quake engine, called GoldSrc.
In Half-Life, players assume the role of Dr. Gordon Freeman, a recently graduated theoretical physicist who must fight his way out of an underground research facility whose teleportation experimentations have gone terribly wrong. The game was the first first-person shooter with a story told entirely in-game in real time, without the use of cutscenes. On its release, critics hailed its overall presentation and numerous scripted sequences, and it won over 50 Game of the Year awards in 1998-9. Its gameplay influenced first-person shooters for years to come, and has since been regarded as one of the greatest games of all time.
With over eight million copies sold since, Half-Life is the best-selling PC first-person shooter to date. The Half-Life franchise – expansions such as Half-Life: Opposing Force; standalone Half-Life: Blue Shift; mods such as Counter-Strike, Team Fortress Classic, Deathmatch Classic, Ricochet, and Day of Defeat; and its sequel Half-Life 2 – has seen over 15 million sales.
The game was also released for the PlayStation 2 on November 15, 2001. A Sega Dreamcast port was made, but was cancelled just 2 weeks before release. The fully-playable Dreamcast version has since been released onto the Internet.
The titles of Half-Life and its expansion packs are all named after scientific terms. Half-Life itself is a reference to the half life of a quantity, the amount of time required for the quantity to decay to half of its initial value. Opposing Force is a reference to Newton’s third law of motion, while Blue Shift refers to the blue shifting of the frequency of radiation caused by the Doppler effect.
Most of the game is set in a remote desert area of New Mexico in a facility known as the Black Mesa Research Facility, a fictional complex that bears many similarities to both the Los Alamos National Laboratory and Area 51, during May or December (as seen on calendars in the game) of 200X, meaning it takes place sometime between the years 2000 and 2009. The game’s protagonist is the theoretical physicist Gordon Freeman, a survivor of an experiment that goes horribly wrong when an unexpected “resonance cascade” (a completely fictitious phenomenon; see also constructive interference and prompt critical) rips dimensional seams, devastating the facility. Aliens from another world – known as Xen – subsequently enter the facility through these dimensional seams (an event known as the “Black Mesa Incident”).
As Freeman tries to make his way out of the ruined facility to find help for the injured, he soon discovers that he is caught between two sides: the hostile aliens and the Hazardous Environment Combat Unit, a United States Marine Corps Special Forces division dispatched to cover up the incident by eliminating the aliens, as well as Dr. Freeman and the other surviving Black Mesa personnel. Throughout the game, a mysterious figure known (but not actually referred to in-game) as the “G-Man” regularly appears, apparently monitoring Freeman’s progress. Ultimately, Freeman uses the co-operation of surviving scientists and security officers to work his way towards the mysterious “Lambda Complex” of Black Mesa (signified with the Greek “λ” character), where a team of survivors teleport him to the alien world Xen to kill the Nihilanth, the creature keeping Xen’s side of the dimensional rift open.
The game’s plot was originally inspired by the video games Doom and Quake, both personal computer games produced by id Software, Stephen King’s short story/novella The Mist, and an episode of The Outer Limits called “The Borderland.” It was later developed by Valve’s in-house writer and author, Marc Laidlaw, who wrote the books Dad’s Nuke and The 37th Mandala.
The “resonance cascade”, as witnessed by Gordon Freeman.
Half-Life begins with a long expository sequence that situates the player in the game’s environment prior to serious action or gameplay. The player-controlled character, Dr. Gordon Freeman, starts his day riding a tram deep into the heart of the Black Mesa Facility, where most of the game is set, on his way to the Anomalous Materials Lab to begin work. The tram ride gives players a perspective of the facility, setting the mood and serving as a vehicle for some comic relief moments. The ride also marks the first appearance of the G-Man, first shown as a strange man in a blue suit watching Gordon from another tram. When Gordon Freeman arrives at the Anomalous Materials Lab, a front desk security guard informs him that a system crash occurred shortly before he arrived, which has complicated communications between the Black Mesa scientists. The player must then acquire his Hazardous Environment suit before proceeding to the test chamber.
On his way to the test chamber, Gordon receives a briefing from a group of scientists. Before entering the test chamber, his co-workers inform him that his job is to push a “specimen” into the scanning beam for analysis. As soon as he does so, a fictional time-space catastrophe called a “resonance cascade” occurs. This event opens a portal between Earth and a bizarre world called Xen. During this, Freeman is briefly teleported there and at one point sees alien life forms known as Bullsquids and Vortigaunts.
Back in Black Mesa, Gordon exits the test chamber and sees that most of the scientists he had spoken to minutes before are dead. After finding some survivors, he discovers that there are no means to communicate with the world outside Black Mesa. Scientists then implore Gordon to make his way to the surface to get help. Black Mesa has suffered massive structural damage, and to make matters worse, aliens from Xen begin randomly teleporting all around them. Some are shown to be “wild” alien animals who attack the player because they are unfamiliar with their new surroundings and feel compelled to defend themselves. Others, such as the Vortigaunts, are depicted as more intelligent and attack Gordon with a clear intent to kill. The player can also occasionally glimpse the G-Man, who watches from out-of-reach places and always disappears before Gordon can get to him.
As the player progresses through the game, he runs into scientists who inform him that human soldiers are on the way to the base to rescue them. However, once Gordon encounters the soldiers, he discovers that the Hazardous Environment Combat Unit, which has taken control of Black Mesa, is not just killing the aliens, but is also killing everyone connected to Black Mesa. After fighting the soldiers and eventually reaching the surface of the complex, Gordon is informed by scientists that the secretive Lambda Team may have the means to solve the problems brought on by the cascade. Gordon must then reach the Lambda Complex at the other end of the facility to assist them.
Gordon Freeman is subsequently faced with several tasks, such as killing a giant, rapidly growing tentacle creature, riding across the facility on a railway system in order to reach a satellite rocket that must be launched in order to reverse the resonance cascade, and fighting a group of mysterious Black Ops, before being captured by Marines and dumped in a garbage compactor. Gordon escapes without being crushed and makes his way to an older, secret part of the Facility where he discovers an extensive collection of specimens collected from Xen long before the resonance cascade.
Gordon again reaches the surface, which has become a war zone. The Vortigaunts, along with Alien Grunts and a giant monstrosity, have begun fighting the Marines, who are beginning to lose. They’ve called in reinforcements, but it isn’t enough to turn the tide. Gordon must scale cliffs and navigate bombed out buildings while avoiding both sides. Finally, Gordon reaches relative safety underground.
The Marines begin to evacuate Black Mesa and airstrikes begin. At one point, the player must use the military equipment to call an air strike to re-enter the base. Gordon navigates underground water channels and tries to avoid scores of alien soldiers as they pick off remaining Marine stragglers. After much struggle, Gordon finally reaches the Lambda Complex, which is revealed to be the location where they developed the teleportation technology that allowed scientists to travel to Xen in the first place. Gordon reaches the handful of surviving personnel, who have holed themselves up in a small stronghold, and discovers that, unfortunately, the satellite he launched was not able to reverse the effects of the resonance cascade because an immensely powerful being on the other side of the rift is keeping the portal between the worlds open. Gordon must kill this being to prevent the Xen aliens from taking over completely. The scientists activate the teleporter and Gordon is relocated to Xen.
Freeman on Xen.
On the strange border world, Gordon encounters many of the aliens that had been brought into Black Mesa, as well as the remains of HEV-wearing researchers that came before him. The player engages in one of the few boss-style battles against Gonarch, a giant headcrab with a huge egg sac. After fighting his way through an alien camp, Gordon arrives at a huge alien factory complex, which engineers and builds the Alien Grunt soldiers. After fighting his way through mysterious, levitating creatures, he finds a giant portal and enters it.
In a vast cave, Gordon finally confronts the Nihilanth, the creature who was maintaining the rift, and destroys it. As the creature dies, it explodes in a giant green blast that overpowers Gordon’s senses. After awakening, Gordon’s movement is restricted as he is confronted by the G-Man. Both are transported to various locales around Xen, while the G-Man praises the player’s actions in the border world. The G-Man explains that his “employers”, believing that Gordon has “limitless potential”, have authorized him to offer Freeman a job. The final teleportation takes the player to the original tram car, which appears to be flying through space. If the player refuses the job offer, the G-Man teleports him to a location in front of a considerable number of alien enemies, stating, “No regrets, Mr. Freeman,” as the screen fades out. If the player accepts, by stepping into a portal, he finds himself floating in nothingness and hears the G-Man’s voice one last time: “Wisely done, Mr. Freeman. I will see you up ahead.”
In this scene, the player must bypass a dam and reservoir guarded by an Apache helicopter, a group of soldiers, and a cannon emplacement. This shot shows the original MP5 sub-machine gun, rather than the High Definition Pack’s M4 Carbine replacement.
Half-Life, a first-person shooter, requires the player to perform two kinds of tasks: combat and puzzle solving. Unlike its peers at the time, Half-Life utilized scripted sequences, which range from small events, such as an alien ramming down a door, to major plot points. While most contemporary first-person shooters relied on cut scene intermissions to detail their plotlines, Half-Life‘s story is put forth entirely through scripted sequences, keeping the player in the game at all times. In line with this, the player rarely loses the ability to control Gordon, who never speaks and is never actually seen in the game. Half-Life has no “levels”, opting instead for a continuous world divided by short load times to minimize interruptions in gameplay. That said, the game can clearly be split up into distinct “chapters”, the titles of which will flash up on the screen at the start of each one.
The game regularly integrates puzzles, such as navigating a maze of conveyor belts. Some puzzles involve using the environment to kill an enemy. There are few “bosses” in the conventional sense, where the player defeats a superior opponent by direct confrontation. Instead, such monsters occasionally define chapters, and the player is generally expected to use the terrain, rather than firepower, to kill the “boss”. Late in the game, the player receives a “long jump module” for their HEV suit, which increases the horizontal distance and speed of jumps, by crouching before jumping. This is used for platformer-style jumping puzzles in the later portion of the game.
For the most part the player battles through the game alone, but is occasionally assisted by non-player characters; specifically security guards and scientists who fight alongside the player, assist in reaching new areas and impart relevant plot information.
A wide array of enemies populate the game including alien lifeforms such as headcrabs, bullsquids, headcrab zombies and Vortigaunts. The player also faces human opponents, in particular HECU Marines and black ops assassins who are dispatched to contain the alien threat and silence all witnesses.
Half-Life has a large array of weapons the player can use, including the trademark crowbar for mêlée fighting, the conventional firearms of the Glock 17 pistol, SPAS-12 shotgun, MP-5 submachine gun with grenade launcher, .357 Magnum revolver, and rocket launcher as well as unconventional weapons ranging from a crossbow to alien weapons such as Snarks – small, voracious, explosive alien insectoids – to experimental weapons including the Gluon gun and Gauss gun.
With the installation of the High Definition Pack, the weapons’ appearances are substantially updated, mainly due to a larger number of polygons in the models. Although their appearances have changed, they perform exactly the same as their original counterparts in terms of gameplay. The Glock 17 and MP5 are replaced by the Beretta 92FS and M4A1 as well.
Half-Life was the first product of Kirkland, Washington-based developer Valve Software, which was founded in 1996 by former Microsoft employees Mike Harrington and Gabe Newell. They settled on a concept for a horror-themed 3D action game, and licensed the Quake engine from id Software. Valve eventually modified the engine a great deal, notably adding skeletal animation and Direct3D support; a developer stated in a PC Accelerator magazine preview that seventy percent of the engine code was rewritten. The company had difficulties finding a publisher at first, many believing their project “too ambitious” for a studio headed by newcomers to the video game industry. However, Sierra On-Line had been very interested in making a 3D action game, especially one based on the Quake engine, and so signed them for a one-game deal.
The original code name for Half-Life was Quiver, after the Arrowhead military base from Stephen King’s novella The Mist, which served as early inspiration for the game. Gabe Newell explained that the name Half-Life was chosen because it was evocative of the theme, not clichéd, and had a corresponding visual symbol: the Greek letter λ (lower-case lambda), which represents the decay constant in the half-life equation.
The first public appearances of Half-Life came in early 1997; it was a hit at Electronic Entertainment Expo that year, where they primarily demonstrated the animation system and artificial intelligence. Valve Software hired science fiction author Marc Laidlaw in August 1997 to work on the game’s characters and level design. Half-Life was originally planned to be shipped in late 1997, to compete with Quake II, but was postponed when Valve decided the game needed significant revision.
In a 2003 Making Of… feature in Edge, Newell discusses the team’s early difficulties with level design. In desperation, a single level was assembled including every weapon, enemy, scripted event and level design quirk that the designers had come up with so far. This single level inspired the studio to press on with the game. As a result, the studio completely reworked the game’s artificial intelligence and levels in the year leading up to its release. At E3 1998 it was given Game Critics Awards for “Best PC Game” and “Best Action Game”. The release date was delayed several times in 1998 before the game was finally released in November of that year.
Half-Life was ported to the PlayStation 2 by Gearbox Software and released in 2001. This version of the game had a significant overhaul in terms of both character models, weapons, and more advanced and extended levels and general map geometry (see Half-Life High Definition Pack for a model-comparison). Despite the increased level of detail, the style of some of the models (most noticeably the human grunts) is also noticeably altered, meaning that whether they actually look better or not is subject to opinion. Also added in is a head-to-head play and a co-op expansion called Half-Life: Decay that allowed players to play as the two female scientists Dr. Cross and Dr. Green at Black Mesa.
Versions for the Sega Dreamcast and Apple Macintosh were essentially completed, but never commercially released. The Dreamcast edition was eventually leaked onto the internet.
Gearbox Software was slated to release a port to the Sega Dreamcast under contract by Valve and their then publisher Sierra On-Line near the end of 2000. At the ECTS 2000, a build of the game was playable on the publisher’s stand, and developers Randy Pitchford and Brian Martel were in attendance to show it off and give interviews to the press. However, despite only being weeks from going gold, it was never commercially released; Sierra announced that Half-Life on Dreamcast was cancelled “due to changing market conditions” onset by third-party abandonment of the Dreamcast. That year Sierra On-Line showed a PlayStation 2 port at E3 2001. This version was released in North America in late October of the same year, followed by a European release just a month later. Around the same time, Half-Life: Blue Shift, which was intended to be a Dreamcast-exclusive side story, was released on PC as the second Half-life Expansion Pack.
Although it has never officially been released, the Dreamcast version was leaked onto the Internet, and was proven to be fully playable; it contains the full versions of Half-Life and Blue Shift, both with an early version of the High Definition Pack, but has a somewhat inconsistent framerate and lengthier load times when the player moves from area to area. Also, there are some saving problems; the number of blocks required to save on a VMU increases rapidly as the player reaches the end of a level, then drops at the start of the next. While the game allows the user to remove files to increase space, sometimes it still isn’t enough.
Though more or less complete and ready for mass production, the Macintosh port of Half-Life was scrapped because of incompatibility with the Windows PC version’s multiplayer mode. The developers also stated that mods for PC Half-Life would not be compatible with the Mac port. Additionally, concerns over the task load associated with providing technical support on more than one end platform at once may have contributed to the demise of Half-Life for Macintosh.
Half-Life 2 and Half-Life: Source
The sequel, Half-Life 2, was merely a rumor until it was finally revealed at E3 in May 2003, which ignited a firestorm of hype surrounding the game. The player again takes the role of Gordon Freeman, this time several years after the Black Mesa incident in the dystopic Eastern European “City 17” where he must fight as part of a rebellion against an alien regime. After a series of controversies and delays Half-Life 2 was released on November 16, 2004.
To experience firsthand the processes mod-makers would have to go through with the new engine, Valve ported Half-Life (dubbed Half-Life: Source) and Counter-Strike to their new Source engine. Half-Life: Source is a straight port, lacking any new content or the Blue Shift High Definition pack. However, it does take advantage of vertex and pixel shaders for more realistic water effects, as well as Half-Life 2’s realistic physics engine. They also added several other features from Half-Life 2, including improved dynamic lightmaps, vertex maps, and a shadowmap system with cleaner, higher resolution, specular texture and normal maps, as well as utilization of the render-to-texture soft shadows found in Half-Life 2′s Source engine, along with 3D skybox replacements in place of the old 16-bit color bitmap skies. Also redesigned was the crossbow that will pin its targets to a nearby wall if they’re close enough. The Half-Life port possesses many of the Source engine’s graphical strengths as well control weaknesses that have been noted in the Source engine. Half-Life: Source is available with special editions of Half-Life 2.
Half-Life Source has been criticised for not fully utilizing many of the features of the Source engine found in Half-Life 2, as it still uses textures and models from the original game. Due to this, a third-party mod remake called Black Mesa is also under development. Day of Defeat: Source was released on September 26, 2005.
On June 10, 2005, Valve announced through their Steam update news service an upcoming port of Half-Life Deathmatch, the multiplayer portion of the original game, much in the same fashion as the earlier released Half-Life: Source. No exact release date was given, simply the words “In the coming weeks…” On July 2, 2006, Half-Life Deathmatch: Source was released.
On June 1, 2006 Half-Life 2: Episode One was released. It is part of a three episode trilogy, of which the second episode is scheduled to be released in fall 2007.
Half-Life’s public reception was overwhelmingly positive in terms of reviews, acclaim and sales. As of 2007 over 8 million copies of the game have been sold, making it the best-selling first person shooter of all time.
Half-Life was critically acclaimed, earning an overall score of 96% on review collection website Metacritic.. IGN described it as “a tour de force in game design, the definitive single player game in a first person shooter.” Gamespot claimed that it was the “closest thing to a revolutionary step the genre has ever taken”. Gamespot inducted Half-Life into their “Greatest Game of All Time” list in May 2007.
The popularity of the Half-Life Series has led way to an array of side products and collectibles. Valve offers Half-Life-related products such as a plush vortigaunt, plush headcrab, posters, clothing and mousepads.
Two expansion packs by outside developer Gearbox Software have been released for the PC version: Half-Life: Opposing Force (1999) and Half-Life: Blue Shift (2001). The former, often shortened to OpFor or OP4, returns the player to Black Mesa during the events of Half-Life’s storyline, but this time from the perspective of one of the soldiers in the Hazardous Environment Combat Unit sent to cover up evidence of the incident. It introduced several new weapons (notably the M249 SAW LMG and a Barnacle grappling gun), new non-player characters, both friendly and hostile (Otis the security guard and the “Race X” aliens, respectively) and new, previously unseen areas of the facility. The expansion is shorter than Half-Life, having 11 chapters to the original’s 19.
The player takes control of Barney Calhoun in Blue Shift.
Blue Shift returns the player to HL’s Black Mesa timeline once more, this time as one of the facility’s security guards. (This expansion was originally developed as a bonus mission for the canceled Dreamcast version.) Blue Shift came with an optional High Definition Pack that could update the look of Half-Life, Opposing Force, and the new Blue Shift content. In particular, the models’ polygon count and texture resolutions were increased. However, the style of some of the models (most noticeably the human grunts) was noticeably altered, meaning that whether they actually look better or not is subject to opinion. Some changes were also made to the in-game sounds, most notably the shotgun. Blue Shift had relatively little new content compared to Opposing Force: aside from a few models (jacket-less scientists and security guards, Otis, and Dr. Rosenberg) all content was already present in the original Half-Life.
Half-Life: Decay was another expansion by Gearbox, released only as an extra with the PlayStation 2 version of Half-Life. The add-on featured cooperative gameplay in which two players could solve puzzles or fight against the many foes in the Half-Life universe.
In 2000, a compilation pack titled the Half-Life: Platinum Collection was released, including (with their respective manuals):
In 2002, the pack was re-released under the new titles Half-Life Platinum Pack and Half-Life: Generations. These new iterations also included the Half-Life: Blue Shift expansion pack.
In 2005, Half-Life 1: Anthology was released, containing Steam-only versions of the following games on a single DVD:
See main article List of Half-Life mods
From its release in 1998, Half-Life saw fervent support from independent game developers, due in no small part to support and encouragement from Valve Software. Worldcraft, the level-design tool used during the game’s development, was included with the game software. Printed materials accompanying the game indicated Worldcraft’s eventual release as a retail product, but these plans never materialised. Valve also released a software development kit, enabling developers to modify the game and create mods. Both tools were significantly updated with the release of the version 22.214.171.124 patch. Many supporting tools (including texture editors, model editors, and rival level editors like the multiple engine editor QuArK) were either created or updated to work with Half-Life.
Half-Life’s code has been released and is being used as a base for many multiplayer mods such as the immensely popular Counter-Strike. Other popular multiplayer mods include Team Fortress Classic (TFC), Day of Defeat, Deathmatch Classic (DMC), Action Half-Life, Firearms, Science and Industry, The Specialists, and Natural Selection. TFC and DMC were developed in-house at Valve Software. Counter-Strike, Day of Defeat, and others that began life as the work of independent developers (self-termed “modders”), later on received aid from Valve. There was even a free team-based multiplayer mod called Underworld Bloodline created to promote the Sony Pictures movie Underworld.
Numerous single player mods have also been created, like USS Darkstar (1999, a futuristic action-adventure onboard a zoological research spaceship), The Xeno Project 1 and 2 (1999-2005, a two-part mod starting in Xen and again including spaceships), Edge of Darkness (2000, which features some unused Half-Life models), Half-Life: Absolute Redemption (2000, which brings back Gordon Freeman for four additional episodes and another encounter with the G-Man), They Hunger (2000-2001, a survival horror total conversion trilogy involving zombies), and Poke646 (2001, a follow-up to the original Half-Life story with improved graphics).
Some Half-Life modifications eventually landed on retail shelves. Counter-Strike was the most successful, unexpectedly becoming the biggest selling online game to date and having been released in five different editions: as a standalone product (2000), as part of the Platinum Collection (2000), as an Xbox version (2003) as the single player spin-off, Counter-Strike: Condition Zero (2004), and the newest addition, Counter-Strike: Source, which runs on Half-Life 2′s Source engine. Team Fortress Classic, Day of Defeat and Gunman Chronicles (2000, a futuristic Western movie-style total conversion with emphasis on its single player mode) were also released as stand-alone products.
Half-Life’s soundtrack was composed by Kelly Bailey.
The tracks “Dark Piano Short” and “Sharp Fear Short” are later used in various forms of media, including the popular reality television show Fear Factor and Power Rangers: S.P.D
Disgaea: Hour of Darkness (魔界戦記 ディスガイア, Makai Senki Disugaia?, lit. “Netherworld Battle Chronicle: Disgaea”) is a tactical role-playing game developed by Nippon Ichi Software for the Sony PlayStation 2 video game console. It was released in Japan on January 30, 2003 by Nippon Ichi Software, in North America on August 27, 2003 by Atlus USA, Inc. and in Europe on May 28, 2004 by Koei. Disgaea follows the adventures of Laharl, a demon prince residing in the Netherworld.
Nippon Ichi has also licensed or produced a wide variety of Disgaea merchandise, including a manga. A sequel has since been released in 2006 titled Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories, along with a 12 episode long anime.
Due to popular demand, Nippon Ichi announced that they would be porting Disgaea to the Playstation Portable video game console which was released on November 30, 2006 in Japan. A North American or European version has not yet been announced.
Disgaea has many features which differ from those in other tactical RPGs. One of the game’s tutorial levels explains the ability of the player’s units to pick up enemies or allies and throw them to a different square on the map. Monster units cannot use this ability. The distance that a unit on the map can throw another unit depends on its character class; rogue class characters and Gordon have the best range in the game. It is possible to capture enemy units by throwing them into the player’s entry square on the map, after which they join the player’s party. However, bosses and humanoids cannot be captured.
The game also has “cycles”; at the end of each trip through the storyline, the player can choose to restart the story from its beginning and maintain each character’s statistics and item inventory from the previous game. Characters that join and leave the party as part of the game’s story will only be usable in the same parts of the game that they were before, but they, too, will retain their items, abilities, and stats. This complements Disgaea’s high character level ceiling of 9999, while also giving the player additional chances to see Disgaea’s multiple endings.
Disgaea’s configuration allows the player to select the audio and soundtrack in the U.S. release from English or Japanese. The song “The Invasion From Within” by Tsunami Bomb was licensed for the English audio track by ATLUS due to its organ opening and fast pace, and is only played when English is the selected language. The option to select the language is not present in the European release of the game, because the European release used a lower capacity storage medium (CD instead of DVD).
Souhei Niikawa and Yoshitsuna Kobayashi, the game’s producer and main programmer, have explained the intended humor of Disgaea; they give the example of Captain Gordon being a satire of American comic book characters. Episodes of the game are separated by previews, parodying such previews at the end of anime series episodes. Most of these have voice-overs by Etna and do not accurately reflect the plot of the next episode; one of the characters calls these previews Etna’s fantasies. The game is also filled with Prinnies, penguin-like creatures that explode when thrown. More information on their origins is revealed as the game progresses – they contain human souls and labor in the Netherworld and Celestia to atone for their sins. Character designer Takehito Harada described the prinny design as becoming less realistic as development continued.
Laharl’s castle acts as a hub, allowing the player to access the other locations in the game. Each episode of the game gives the player access to a new set of maps, which must be completed in order to proceed in the plot. With the exception of the Item World and the Dark Assembly, all sets of maps are accessed by speaking to a dimensional gatekeeper. With the exception of some maps, maps can be accessed and played again at any time, occasionally with minor changes.
Unlike many other RPGs, the world of Disgaea has only one set of stores where items may be purchased, consisting of an armor shop and a weapons shop directly within Laharl’s castle itself. These shops are described in-game as the Netherworld branch of the Rosen Queen Co. The overall quality and types of the items sold in these shops can be changed through proposals to the Dark Assembly. A hospital where characters may be healed in exchange for payment is also present in the same area of the castle and rewards Laharl and company by giving them items when they receive certain amounts of treatment.
At the other side of the castle, Laharl and the members of his party may appear before the Dark Assembly, an area where non-player characters may vote on proposals to aid Laharl’s party, including proposals to unlock special maps required for some of the endings or secret characters. Senators have a visible predilection toward the party that affects their votes. Votes can also be affected by bribes with items from the player’s inventory. Each proposal to the Dark Assembly costs “mana”, which is built up by characters as they defeat enemies. If a proposal fails to receive sufficient votes, the player may attempt to pass the bill anyway by choosing to “persuade by force” and defeating the opposing senators in battle. The proposals available to place before the senate depends on the number of promotion examinations completed by a character; these examinations consist of a battle with a handful of monsters on the floor of the Assembly.
Some maps in Disgaea contain Geo Panels, which are represented as squares on the floor of the map of a particular color. Colored objects on the map known as Geo Symbols may be present on either Geo Panels or regular, uncolored squares on the map. These Geo Symbols can usually be thrown. When a Geo Symbol sits on a Geo Panel, it gives the all Geo Panels of the color it sits on a property, such as making all units on them invulnerable, or decreasing the HP of friendly units on those panels by 20% at the end of each turn. When a Geo Symbol is destroyed on a Geo Panel of a different color, it causes panels of that color to change to the color of the Geo Symbol and damages units on those panels. If another Geo Symbol is on one of the panels when it changes, it too is destroyed, and the Geo Panels begin to change color and properties again, creating a chain reaction. This chain reaction can be of any length that can be supported by the number of colors of panel and symbols on the map. Some Geo Symbols have the color “clear” and cause the Geo Panels to become regular map squares when destroyed. Removing all of the Geo Panels from a map will cause a blast of energy which hurts all enemies on the map and results in maximum bonuses for the player, referred to in the manual as the Panel Termination Bonus.
Laharl’s party may also enter the Item World from the Castle, going inside an item in their inventory in order to increase its attributes. The world associated with an item contains up to 100 randomly generated levels. Inside the Item World, monsters called Specialists raise the statistics of the item they are in when defeated. Often, the maps are full of Geo Symbols.
Each floor has a gate, a special map square that can be used to go to the next level in the item world. However, a monster with the unique class “Gate Keeper” will sometimes block the gate. The Gate Keeper must be defeated to use the gate. Every once in a while, rare items, such as the Legendary Cosmic Blade, show up on a bonus list of items rewarded when all monsters on the map are defeated.
Every ten levels has an item boss – level numbers 10, 20, 40, 50, 70 and 80 have Item Generals, 30, 60 and 90 have Item Kings, and 100 has an Item God. The strongest of each type of weapon and the three ultimate items – the Yoshitsuna, the Super Robo Suit, and the Hyperdrive – each contain an Item God 2. Defeating these bosses also increases the attributes of the item. The Yoshitsuna can only be acquired from an Item God in a Legendary Cosmic Blade, the Hyperdrive is rewarded the first time the player defeats an Item God 2, and the Super Robo Suit can be stolen from Tyrant Baal. The Item World can only be exited at the end of every 10th level containing an Item Boss, or at any other time by using an item called Mr. Gency’s Exit, a play on the phrase “Emergency Exit”.
Main article: List of Disgaea characters
Note: Significant plot details follow.
Laharl is the main character and antihero of Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, He is the son of King Krichevskoy, former Overlord of the Netherworld. After awakening from a two hundred year slumber at the beginning of the game, he discovers that his father is dead and almost all of his vassals are gone (most of them are, in fact, trying to take Laharl’s place, rather than trying to serve him). As the rightful heir to the throne, Laharl sets out to conquer the Netherworld and establish himself as the one true Overlord.
Laharl is incredibly arrogant and always tries to prove that he is the strongest demon in the Netherworld. He does, however, possess incredible power for his appearance, which, despite the fact that he is a 1313 year old demon, is still that of a small human child (his large hair “antennae” and billowing scarf are meant to mask this fact). Will he succeed in his quest, and what kind of Overlord will he become?
Etna is one of the few former vassals of the late King Krichevskoy who remained in his castle after his death. At the beginning of the game, she awakens Laharl from his two hundred-year nap and tells him of the events that occurred while he was asleep. With the help of a Prinny squad, she fights alongside Laharl in his quest to become the new Overlord. Etna is driven throughout the game by a deep loyalty to the late King Krichevskoy, and she becomes Laharl’s closest, though not necessarily most trustworthy, vassal. Her carefree manner masks a devious and clever mind. What is she really after?
Flonne is an Angel Trainee who hails from the land of Celestia, where the Angels reside. She was sent to the Netherworld by Seraph Lamington, the ruler of Celestia, and was ordered to assassinate the Overlord, King Krichevskoy. Shortly after her arrival, however, Laharl and Etna inform her that King Krichevskoy has, in fact, been dead for over two hundred years.
Eternally optimistic and cheerful, Flonne is the most innocent and naive of the three main characters in Disgaea. She is deeply devoted to both Seraph Lamington and to the concept of ‘love’. Perturbed by Laharl’s rejection of everything to do with love, Flonne decides to follow him and learn if demons actually are incapable of feeling it. Can she teach Laharl the true meaning of love?
Laharl and the others face a variety of challengers to his throne. One of these, Vyers, who refers to himself as “the Dark Adonis” and is renamed “Mid-Boss” by Laharl, is the first demon that Laharl confronts in his quest to claim the title of Overlord. Vyers reappears throughout the game as a somewhat comedic would-be rival to Laharl. Other demons Laharl must fight include Hoggmeiser, a pig-like demon with a self-proclaimed love of money, and Maderas, a vampire that attempts to blackmail Laharl into fighting a battle under very unfavorable circumstances.
Later in the game, they meet several characters from Earth, starting with Captain Gordon, the 37th Defender of Earth; his assistant Jennifer; and the robot Thursday. Laharl makes Gordon into one of his vassals after defeating him in battle. They also encounter Gordon’s rival Kurtis, who holds a grudge against Gordon and considers himself to be more worthy of the title “Defender of Earth.” Gordon and Kurtis are both under the command of General Carter, the leader of the Earth Defense Force.
Other characters include Big Sis Prinny, who seems wiser and more mature than the other Prinnies, the paranoid Archangel Vulcanus, who hates all demons and is suspicious of Flonne, and Seraph Lamington, the ruler of Celestia.
In addition to the plot-related characters, the player can create generic characters that are used only in battles. There are 3 different types of generic characters – humanoids, monsters, and Prinnies. Monster classes can obtained after the player defeats at least one of them in battle. Some humanoid classes are available at the beginning of the game, and others must be unlocked. Prinnies are basically the same as monster characters, with one major exception. A Prinny, unlike other monster characters, explodes when thrown during a battle.
Secret characters can also be found in Disgaea. Priere from La Pucelle: Tactics is the Overlord of an alternate Netherworld. Marjoly from Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure is the final boss of the Beauty Castle; she has items equipped that come from other Rhapsody characters — Myao’s Ears, Gao’s Guts, Crowdia’s Beauty, and Nyanko’s Soul. Both Marjoly and Priere become playable members of Laharl’s party when defeated. Another secret character is Baal, the Lord of Terror; he does not join the player’s party when defeated, but is instead reincarnated as a Prinny and can be challenged again. Baal also appears as an optional boss in most other games developed by Nippon Ichi.
Note: Significant plot details follow.
The story of Disgaea opens with Laharl rising out of an open coffin in his room. Etna, one of the castle vassals, is standing next to him, surrounded by various weapons. She explains that he has been sleeping for two years, far longer than he intended, and his father, King Krichevskoy, has died. Laharl vows to reclaim the throne, and, after consulting with Etna and his other vassals, goes to Vyers’ castle.
After defeating the demon Vyers, who refers to himself as the “Dark Adonis” and is renamed “Mid-Boss” by Laharl, he meets Angel Trainee Flonne. Flonne had been sent to the Netherworld by Seraph Lamington, the ruler of Celestia, to assassinate King Krichevskoy (who was already dead). Shocked by Laharl’s lack of grief at his father’s death, the eternally optimistic Flonne joins Laharl’s party to determine if demons are capable of feeling love. Observing them in secret is the paranoid Archangel Vulcanus, who interprets Flonne’s actions as treason and is convinced that she is plotting against him.
After Etna demands that Laharl pay the salary of the Prinnies that she has hired, he decides to attack the demon with the most money in the vicinity. This is Hoggmeiser at Dinero Palace. After defeating Hoggmeiser, Laharl is about to kill him, until Hoggmeiser’s son rushes out and gets in the way. Flonne convinces Laharl to spare them, and Laharl lets them keep some of the money. In response to this act, Hoggmeiser joins the party.
At one point, Flonne and Etna discover a photograph of Laharl in an embarrassing situation. Laharl refers to this as a “paparazzi shot”, however, the actual contents of the photo are never actually revealed. (Two popular theories are that Laharl was doing something sexual or that he was doing something nice. He could also have been caught crossdressing.) A threat on the back of the photograph states that copies of it would be distributed if Laharl did not accept a challenge to fight for the overlordship; thus Laharl was blackmailed. One of the demons in Laharl’s castle, after learning about the photo, says “I didn’t know you were into that sort of thing ♥”.
Responding to this challenge, Laharl meets Maderas, a vampire. He was banished by King Krichevskoy, for stealing the King’s favorite snack, black pretzels. Maderas takes advantage of Laharl’s two biggest weaknesses – optimism and women with sexy bodies. Maderas was also controlling Etna by holding her memory. He had instructed her to kill the prince, but she had put him to sleep for two years by poisoning him instead. Etna eventually betrays Maderas, and along with Laharl, Flonne, and Mid-Boss, defeats him.
Waking up later at night, Flonne discovers that several Prinnies are chanting and leaving the castle. Laharl, worried that his reputation will be tarnished if it’s discovered that he let his vassals escape, chases after them the next morning. Eventually, he runs into Death, and the player learns that Big Sis Prinny is actually Laharl’s mother; she became a Prinny because she gave her life to save him.
After Laharl becomes the undisputed Overlord of the Netherworld, he meets a group of humans from Earth: Gordon, self-proclaimed Defender of Earth; Jennifer, his assistant; and the robot Thursday. Gordon has been led to believe that his mission is to assassinate Laharl due to an impending attack on Earth by the Netherworld. Laharl promises not to invade Earth if Gordon defeats him, on the condition that Gordon becomes one of his vassals if he wins; Gordon is embarrassed by his ensuing loss and servitude. After the Earth Defense Force appears in the Netherworld, it is revealed that Gordon was actually sent to secure a path for an invasion of the Netherworld by the humans, who had been tricked by Vulcanus.
General Carter sends Kurtis to the Netherworld, and eventually goes there himself on the Space Battleship Gargantua. Kurtis abducts Jennifer, and Laharl engages the EDF fleet of spaceships in a rescue attempt, destroying all but the Gargantua by himself. When Laharl and his party arrive at the Gargantua’s bridge, several angels from Celestia appear and attack them. After being defeated, General Carter escapes, only to have Mid-Boss appear to give him a message.
In response to this turn of events, Flonne and the rest of the party decide to go to Celestia to confront the Seraph. Vulcanus goes to Seraph Lamington, declares that Flonne is a traitor who is leading an army of demons in an invasion of Celestia, and goes to lead a group of angels to repel this “invasion”. Vulcanus reveals to Laharl and his party that he intends to conquer all three worlds and rule over them as a god. After defeating Vulcanus, Laharl finally meets the Seraph and Flonne explains Vulcanus’s plan and what she has learnt while travelling with Laharl. The Seraph accepts her version of events and agrees that demons are, in fact, capable of feeling love. However, he declares that Flonne must be punished because she fought against other angels, and turns her into a flower. Outraged at this injustice, Laharl attacks the Seraph, initiating the game’s final battle.
The game has multiple endings. Depending on the way the game was played up to this point, the Seraph may or may not survive, Flonne either remains a flower, is restored to her original form, or is transformed into a Fallen Angel, and Laharl either becomes a great Overlord, disappears and leaves Etna in charge of the Netherworld, or dies and becomes a Prinny. It may also be noted that, on the Good Ending, when the spirit of Laharl’s mother appears to him, Vyers appears to already know her, and the way he talks to Laharl suggests that he is King Krichevskoy.
Note: Significant plot details follow.
Disgaea is separated into 14 episodes, or levels. After the first time the game is played, in subsequent cycles, new endings are sometimes available before the canon ending point of the plot; the availability of these endings also sometimes depends on conditions, such as having members of the player’s party kill other members of the party a certain number of times.
There are also extra levels that can be unlocked in the Dark Senate. These include “Prinny Land”, “Cave of Ordeals”, “Human World”, “Alternate Netherworld”, and “Beauty’s Castle”. After clearing “Alternate Netherworld” and “Beauty’s Castle”, “Baal’s Castle” will be available.
The style of Disgaea‘s visuals is very similar to the Super Robot Wars series, as the makers of Disgaea have responded that characters represented by 3-D models in other games are often limited by a “set pattern of motions”, and they were able to make the characters of Disgaea more expressive with sprites.
There were two different styles of boxart for the American release. These differences were noted by a single image located on the bottom left hand corner of the cover, which could either have been Laharl or a Succubus. Though with limited information, nobody knows for sure which one is the original print, and which was is the second edition print.
Disgaea animated series
Boomshine is a casual but highly-addictive Flash game. Click the screen to start a chain reaction and try to burst as many dots as needed to pass a level. The game contains 12 levels ranging from the easy to the hard (it takes the average player 25 tries to finish level 12!).