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System Shock 2 is the sequel to System Shock. It was released on August 11, 1999 in North America. The sequel was originally designed as a standalone title with no relation to System Shock; story changes were made when Electronic Arts—who owned the Shock franchise rights—signed on as publisher. Like its predecessor, it did not sell well even though it received positive reviews.
Like its predecessor, gameplay in System Shock 2 is an amalgamation of the role-playing game (RPG) and first person shooter (FPS) genres. The player uses melee and projectile weapons to defeat enemies, while a role-playing system allows the development of useful abilities. Navigation is presented from a first-person perspective and complemented with a heads-up display that shows character and weapon information, a map, and a drag and drop inventory. Backstory is explained progressively through the acquisition of audio logs and encounters with ghostly apparitions.
The game begins with the player choosing a career in a branch of the Unified National Nominate, a fictional military organization. Each branch of service gives the player a set of starting bonuses in certain skills, though he may thereafter freely develop himself as he pleases. Marines begin with bonuses to weaponry, Navy officers are trained in repairing and hacking, and OSA agents get a starting set of psionic powers.
The player can upgrade his skills by spending "cyber-modules", which are obtained as rewards for completing objectives or searching every nook and cranny of the ship. Skills are enhanced by spending cyber-modules at devices called "cyber-upgrade units". O/S units allow special one-time character upgrades to be made (e.g. permanent health enhancement), while in-game currency, called "nanites", may be spent on items at vending machines. "Quantum Bio-Reconstruction Machines" can be activated and reconstitute the player for 10 "nanites" if they die in the same area. Otherwise, the game ends and progress must be resumed from a save point.
The player can hack devices, such as keypads to open alternate areas and vending machines to reduce prices. When a hack is attempted, a minigame begins where a grid of green nodes form; the player must connect three in a row to succeed. Optionally, electronic lock picks can be found and automatically hack a machine, regardless of its difficulty.
Various weapons can be found throughout the game, they are classified as standard weapons (pistol, shotgun etc.), energy weapons, heavy weapons and exotic (alien) weapons. Non-melee weapons degrade with use and will break if they are not regularly repaired with maintenance tools. Different ammunition types exist which are more effective to susceptible enemies. For example, organic enemies are vulnerable to anti-personnel rounds, while mechanical foes are weak against armor-piercing rounds. Because ammunition is scarce, the player must use it sparingly and carefully search rooms for supplies. Additionally, players can research unknown items and enemy weaknesses, by sampling their organs and combining chemicals found in storage rooms. Software upgrades can be found to help with research. Psionic powers can also be learned, such as invisibility, fireballs and teleportation.
The story begins in 2114, forty-two years after the events of System Shock. After joining the United Nations Nominate, the protagonist, Soldier G65434-2, is assigned to the UNN Rickenbacker, a military starship. The Rickenbacker is escorting the Von Braun, an experimental faster-than-light starship, on its maiden voyage. As the Rickenbacker does not have an FTL system of its own, the two ships are attached together for the trip.
A few months into the journey, the ships respond to a distress signal from the planet Tau Ceti V. A rescue team is sent to the planet surface where they discover strange eggs. The eggs infect the rescue team and integrate them into an alien communion that calls itself The Many. The infestation eventually overtakes both ships.
The soldier awakens in a cryo-tube on the MedSci Deck of the Von Braun with amnesia due to a computer malfunction. He is immediately contacted by another survivor, Dr. Janice Polito, who guides him to safety before the cabin depressurizes. She demands that he rendezvous with her on Deck 4 of the Von Braun. Along the way, the soldier battles the infected crew members. The Many also telepathically communicate with him, attempting to persuade the soldier to join their collective.
After restarting the ship's engine core and purging an elevator shaft, the soldier reaches Deck 4 and discovers Polito is dead. He is then confronted by SHODAN, a malevolent artificial intelligence that devastated Citadel Station, in the previous game. It is revealed she has been posing as Polito to gain the soldier's trust.
She goes on to mention that she is responsible for creating The Many, the results of her bio-engineering experiments on Citadel Station. The Hacker ejected the grove that contained her experiments to prevent them contaminating Earth, an act that also allowed part of SHODAN to survive the events of the first game. The grove crash-landed on Tau Ceti V. While SHODAN went into forced hibernation, The Many evolved beyond her control.
SHODAN issues an ultimatum to the soldier, stating his only chance for survival lies in helping destroy her rebellious creations. SHODAN informs the soldier that destroying the Von Braun is their only option, but he must transmit her program to the Rickenbacker first. While en route, the soldier briefly encounters two survivors, Tommy Suarez and Rebecca Siddons, who flee the ship aboard an escape pod.
With the transfer complete, the soldier travels to the Rickenbacker and learns both ships have been enveloped by the infection's source, a gigantic mass of bio-organic tissue. The soldier enters the biomass and destroys its core, stopping the alien infection. SHODAN congratulates the protagonist and informs him of her intentions to merge real space and cyberspace by subverting the reality-altering mechanics of the Von Braun's faster-than-light drive. The soldier confronts SHODAN in cyberspace and defeats her.
The final scene shows Tommy and Rebecca receiving a message from the Von Braun. Tommy responds, saying they will return but Rebecca is acting strange. Rebecca is shown speaking in a voice similar to that of SHODAN, asking Tommy if he "likes her new look", as the screen fades to black.
The following descriptions indicate how PSI powers generally work. Some exceptions may be found; for example, not all creatures can be calmed by Psionic Hypnogenesis and some may be more or less vulnerable than normal to certain attacks.
PSI powers are divided into five tiers:
Tier One powers all cost one PSI point to use. The Tier One ability increases your maximum PSI points by 2.
Tier Two powers all cost two psi points to use. The Tier Two ability increases your maximum PSI points by 4.
Tier Three powers all cost three PSI points to use. The Tier Three ability increases your maximum PSI points by 6.
Tier Four powers all cost four PSI points to use. The Tier Four ability increases your maximum PSI points by 8.
Tier Five powers all cost five PSI points to use. The Tier Five ability increases your maximum PSI
points by 10.
- Main article: The Many
- Main article: ShockEd
There has been a modding community built up with this game. Some of the most well known mods are the SHTUP mod which sharpens the pixily environment, the Reborn mod which changes models and skins, and the Multiplayer mod which allows two players to connect over the internet and play together.