Space 1889 review by Al Giovetti
By Al Giovetti
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Space 1889 has been a Game Designer's Workshop paper and pencil role-playing game (RPG) for years, and Paragon performed an admirable feat in turning it into a computer game. Like MegaTraveller, it offers far more than just a combat system, for your characters must use skill beyond the combat skills of most RPGs.
Exploration and problem-solving are more important than combat. You will pilot ocean-going ships, ride horses, and man the complex controls of an interplanetary "ether flyer." You will visit Venus, Mercury, and other parts of our solar system, each with cities and mysteries to explore. Talking to the natives, a la Ultima, is equally entertaining.
But some items are as unique as they are essential to success, so certain quest segments should be completed in their proper order to more efficiently move through the game. Hints may be gleaned by talking with the non-player characters (NPCs) of the game which leads you in a linear fashion, if you prefer. But I recommend that you spend some time on the entertaining side plots.
There are many ways of earning money. Members of the landed gentry or aristocracy have an allowance from investments, but even the lowest peasant has some income. Additional funds can be procured by going on quests for the NPCs, and you can work in the mines and other locations on various planets.
Besides the gloomy interior of King Tut's tomb, you'll prospect for gold in California, discover the lost city of Atlantis, delve into secluded Inca temples, navigate a sand boat on the sand seas of Mars, uncover the hidden worm cult of Mars, stop a Nazi plot to take over the solar system, construct an ether flyer, hunt big game on Mars, drink and gossip with the bartenders of the planets, trade objects and time to boost your attributes and skills, earn immortality, and find missing persons -- to name just a few of the activities.
Each of the more than 500 unique characters has a distinct personality, and it's fun interacting with such historical figures like Jules Verne, Rasputin and Thomas Edison. NPC personality is handled well: some won't speak with certain party members, but are moe receptive to a different leader. To catch Jack the Ripper red-handed in London, for example, a specific character must be leading the group to attract the sexual deviant's attention.
You may generate up to 20 characters to place in your character pool and move them to and from the pool and party at any time. Each may have first and second careers, choosing from 26 available careers in each of six categories, such as government, exotic and criminal.
There are 24 skills (six groups of four skill types). Fisticuffs, Throwing, Close Combat and Trimsman are Strength skills because they relate to the attribute of Strength, and other skills also pertain to other specific attributes. Skills improve with their successful use and may also be boosted by exchanging certain items to NPCs. You cannot purchase skills as in MegaTraveller, however.
Puzzles are solved by exploring, and there are over 100 historically accurate and intricately detailed locations on earth alone. While exploring, your character looks at and examines objects and talks to NPCs. There is no automapping, but few mazes require mapping so this was not a major detriment to play.
Many puzzles involve finding the key that opens the lock. You're challenged to use the clues to assemble objects and operate them in the right manner and location to solve the puzzles.
Combat: The combat system is similar to version 3.0 of MegaTraveller 1. You control each character individually while giving general orders to the others, all wielding 19th century weapons such as bolt action rifles and the innovative-for-its-time Dr. Gattling's machine gun. Fighting is based upon a real-time, arcade-like system. Weapons are selected, next you pick your targets and then the battle begins.
Space combat is based on firepower, but you can also link with and board an enemy ship for melee battles. Then combat proceeds much as it would on land.
With a Doctor in the group, the cure feature conveniently heals party members at any time. If he's injured, a less skilled character can heal, but he may do more damage than good unless he uses Robb's Medical Companion and the Household Physician, two books available in the game.
A new, improved movement system replaces the often confusing movement system of MegaTraveller. If facing in the direction you wish to go, your character takes off when you push the corresponding arrow button. If not, the first push fo the cursor arrow in the direction you wish to go will turn the character around to face in the direction of the arrow. You will soon get used to the unusual movement interface and be moving smoothly.
Information on your party appears overhead, and small icons may show up to tell more about the leader's condition. All icons activate by pressing the first letter of the word on the keyboard or by a "point and click" of the mouse. The single hot key activation of icons is very convenient for those who type.
Gimme some Trim!: Space travel is accomplished by sailing on the "luminiferous ether" of space, which is similar to sailing on the sea. Three flying officers in your crew of five are the Captain, the Helmsman and the Trimsman. The Trimsman's task is unique to sailing ether ships. Trim is similar to the concept of bouyancy. If the ether ship is not kept level or trim, it flounders in the ether and falls into a nearby planet. You guide your ship by the constellations with charts included in the game.
Over 500 objects, some unique and others common, are sold at Alchemists, Pawn Shops and the like. Many towns have archaeologists who'll identify the use and value of objects and artifacts, and you can sell items at the Pawn Shop. Besides essential equipment like food and camping gear (so you can rest and recuperate anywhere), you can get inventions -- special purpose items usually available at the Alchemist. Inventions are often essential to completing part of the main plot or mini-quests. The water breather and mineral detector are particularly ingenious inventions, amusing and useful at the same time.
The keyboard interface is quite sophisticated for object manipulation, and I found it easiest and fastest. Combining keyboard commands with the mouse or joystic accelerates the action to light speed.
The inventory is limited to 21 items that you can carry at one time. You must be careful not to discard or abandon essential and unique items or you will have to restore an earlier save game or start the game over. When accessing the inventory, you scroll through all 21 items one at a time and you can't get to the 21st item by going backwards from item number one at the start of the list. Inventory lists should scroll backwards and forwards from any point in the list and shouls wrap so that you can get to the last items direcly from the first. Items don't vanish immediately when dropped on the ground. Eventually the item will disappear and you will have to start over or reboot an earlier game.
This one-of-a-kind game of colonial space travel is set in the Victorian Age, a unique and magical time, and combines Victorian trappings with the "what if" idea that space travel was invented by Thomas Edison. In the game, the erroneous and fictitional theorey of "luminiferous ether" (Ed: Ether was seen in many classic science fiction tales as the matter that makes up space, a kind of hyperspace, that spaceships travelled in.) is a fact, and we play the role of space travelers who are colonizing space the way people of the Victorian Age colonized the world.
London Calling: The game begins in a London museum, at an exhibit of recently discovered Egyptian artifacts where you alter ego (Herbert George Wells, if you use the pre-rolled characters), hears of a fabulous treasure in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. The location of the fabulous treasure of King Tutankhamen can only be guessed at, but the prospects of this quest are so intriguing, you organize an expedition that includes four more adventurers and set out to find the treaure before a compter-generated team grabs it.
The complex story that unfolds from that point is not, in the words of the game designers, based on "saving the universe or making two quadrillion dollars; we tried to develop a unique plot that will remain a mystery until the very end. Instead of gold, diamonds or a perilous princess as your reward, we've offered a chance for the greatest wealth of all -- immortality."
The authors go beyond their goal, in achieving an interesting and engaging mystery story. Though you must kill a few evil, war-mongering Nazis, it's not a "seek and slay the evil wizard" plot. It has at least 38 side plots that are not essential to the game's conclusion. So main quest, can be completed in a variety of ways, and many small one done out of sequence.
Characters are more detailed than in Megatraveller. They appear in a semi-diagonal perspective and the whole body is visiblenot just the head and shoulders. Paragon added many narrative descriptions of your most important discoveries. As these interesting and lengthly descriptions unfold, a large, full color graphic replaces the aerial view. These graphics aren't animated, but are well done and add dramatic effects and backdrop, even if they are still the eight bit variety.
AnimationThe color and animation are good.
Voice ActorsDigitized sounds produce realistic speach and exciting sound effects.
Music ScoreNo music was noted for the review.
Sound EffectsThe sound effects are digitized.
UtilitiesYou can save up to 30 save games. You can save, load, pause or quit the games at any time.
Copy protection calls for a key word from a high quality, 88-page manual, which has complete documentation on the game. The game installs quickly and easily on the hard drive. You can copy the five 360K 5.25 inch disks or three 720K 3.5 inchd disks to other disks and play from floppies. Using high density disks saves a lot of time "floppy flipping" for those with AT computers.
Multi-player FeaturesUnfortunately the game is not a multi-player game.
Cheats, Hints, Walkthrough
The most useful traits that you can get are Fisticuffs, Throwing, Close Combat, Trimsman, Stealth, Crime, Marksmanship, Wilderness Travel, Tracking, Observation, Engineering, Science, Bargaining, Linguistics, Piloting and Medicine. Don't settle for the first set of attributes since you can get 32 points. Roll until you get 6 points in Strength and Social, 5 in Intellect and Endurance, and any number for Charisma. After selecting a Career, do not select a second career but take the 12 points to distribute instead and put them in skills. In London, find Claus Von Schmelling, on the streets near the club where yuou start. Claus will sell you a report that gets you started on the road to Egypt. Dont go to Egypt until you see Raven at the London Inn and get the fever serum.
ReferencesAl Giovetti, QuestBusters, volume 8, number 1, pgs 6-7, January, 1991
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