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CyberMage (DOS)

CyberMage: Darklight Awakening DOS
Genre: Action, FPS
Perspective: 1st-person
Gameplay: Shooter
Setting: Cyberpunk / dark sci-fi
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: ORIGIN Systems
Released: 1995
Platform: DOS

The action takes place in the now near future. As the pessimists expected: after the decisive victory of the forces of capital in these harsh times, the world is hopelessly squeezed under the heel of the global control of ruthless corporations, whose main goal is to make a profit at any cost. And by the very definition of the term Cyberpunk, it becomes obvious that life in such times is clearly not sugar. Crime, anarchy reign all around, people decorate themselves with various implants that significantly increase the chances of survival in such a ruthless world. Cities are far from respectable areas - they are, in fact, huge desolate slums where the most heinous human vices rule the show. Another hallmark of the cyberpunk atmosphere is the obligatory presence of mutants - a clear illustration of the fact that jokes always ended badly with the genetic code. Your hero of the game finds himself in such a sad time...

Everything collapsed in 2044. World governments were ruthlessly wiped off the political maps, and in their place, insatiable sharks of the worst manifestations of capitalism appeared on the global arena - those same mega-corporations. Of course, not everyone was willing to be uncomplaining slaves in the hands of powerful capitalists. There are also rebels in this world. They fight against corporate domination. Apparently, these are the best representatives of the descendants of those whom we today call anti-globalists. Your hero is just one of those rebels. Once he saved the life of a stranger, giving his own for it. Such an act can only serve as an example of the highest devotion to the ideas of struggle and humanism. But this rescued stranger was not so simple. He had a lab that was doing some legally dubious research on biology, the genome, and the like. Here in this laboratory, our hero was “patched up” for free, resurrected and did not forget to implant some extraterrestrial crystal that generates a powerful energy called Darklight. Now it does not matter for what "noble" strategic motives the researchers did this to the experimental subject, but we are faced with the following fact at the beginning of the game. The great representative of the forces of evil on Earth - NeCrom, the lord of corporations, also has a very serious claim to monopoly ownership of the commercial brand "DarkLight ™"; we don’t know how the news about the newly created competitor reached him, but now we urgently need to run from the laboratory ...

The game begins with you waking up inside the walls of the laboratory, which has already been attacked by NeCrom's stormtroopers. Well-being after such an "awakening", you know, is unimportant, and you still need to break through a large number of unfriendly characters on the map and find a way out of the laboratory. In the course of completing missions, you will learn from friendly NPCs about your abilities and about what the Dark Light gives a person. The global and strategic goal of the game is to find, fight and defeat NeCrom himself, who is a stereotyped representative of the classic American "very bad guy" type. The game's intros, art, and inter-mission pictures are beautifully designed to look like the title pages of a comic book. I don't know how popular these David W. Bradley comics were (if they were at all) before the release of the game, but theoretically comic-based games potentially have a better chance of success, since the audience is already informationally prepared for the release of the gaming masterpiece, although this debatable question.

The graphics engine of the game is somewhat similar to the Build engine, but this, it turns out, is not Build. Applied its own engine, its own design. Inclined surfaces are not observed, but in terms of the map, the edges of the polygons can be bent arbitrarily, although the discrete splitting of the map into square segments is felt - like in a school notebook. The engine is not quite optimized and then was very demanding on the computing resources of the machine. Unlike the Build engine, which had a hard time with serious multi-story development in those years, this game has maps whose directionality has a noticeable vertical component: stairs on the walls, windows, floors, stairs again ... All this was achieved by using floors or, correctly expressed in the context of this game, levels. There can be up to four levels on the map. When you go to a level (higher or lower), the level number is displayed in the upper right corner. And in the best traditions of 2.5D-architecture games, a convenient map of any level where the player is currently located can always be displayed on the screen. So the graphics engine of the game looks very solid compared to its other "peers".

In addition to the indicator of vitality, there is another important indicator of internal energy, which is constantly generated by the implanted crystal. The term for the name of this energy, which has already become a classic in RPGs, is mana. In the game, internal energy can be additionally fed from the "souls" of biological opponents (not robots) that you have killed. Shortly after their death, a screaming blue wraith appears. This soul is called Mann-Ra, which is quite consonant with the word mana. Also, excesses of this energy have a positive effect on the level of vitality of your character. An interesting protection of the player from damage has also been thought out. No, this is not an analogue of a primitive shooter "armor", but a complex cybersuit, which must be constantly maintained and strengthened in the game. The more complete and complete the suit, the less the loss of vitality when it hits different parts of the body. Now the most important move in the gameplay. You will have basically two types of weapons: the first is ordinary, namely: the entire line of “human extermination” items has been collected - from sabers and axes to “super-sophisticated” blasters, and the second weapon is powered by internal energy and emits various clots of mana from your glove: fireball, pain, shock, and so on; Naturally, cartridges for such weapons, unlike technical means, are not required. But with each shot, the indicator of internal energy quickly decreases, and at the most crucial moment of the battle, you will have to urgently run around the corner and wait - when the mana is slowly restored for at least one more shot from the glove. I think this separation of weapons potentially guarantees a tight balance, which in the game is really not in favor of the player. That is, with the presence of weapons that do not require cartridges, the setting of maps becomes less critical, at least in terms of the placement of ammunition for high-tech weapons. Since the number of types of weapons far exceeds the number 10, it turned out to be impossible to classically "hang" them on the number keys. Therefore, the choice of weapons is made in two clicks: F1 or F2, respectively, the type is “gun” or mana, and then by the second click it is selected from the proposed list. This is not very convenient in combat, but tolerable.

The game has an admixture of RPG elements. I would say that there is an almost equal proportion of two different genres. The fact is that NeCrom, according to his declared "tactical and technical parameters", is a very formidable opponent. That is, this is not even a primitive boss in the old classical sense. To defeat him, you will have to constantly expand your own naturally set limits on the reserves of vitality and mana in the game, in order to later use more energy-intensive and, accordingly, more lethal weapons. This is the main element of character “leveling”, which is carried out by selecting thematic pyramids throughout the game.

Of the novelties, it is worth noting the following. Well, first of all, for the first time, the ability to control mechanisms has been implemented: a tank and an aircraft. Let them be sprites, but this was done before anyone else in shooters. Immediately later, the same will be implemented in the Terminator, but for now it was for sure the first time. There are elements of the accumulation of funds, the so-called $cash$. With this money, you can buy more serious “trunks” in a gun shop, as well as gamble. For some reason it reminded me a bit of Kingpin. There are a lot of NPCs in the game who report verbal information (for some reason, text duplication was not implemented). There are also rebels who will fight by your side. The game perfectly implemented the trinity of the opposing sides. The parties can be conditionally divided: “ours”, “corporate forces of NeCrom” and “brotherhood”. The last category includes gladiators and street scum who are unfriendly to you only because the media immediately detailed your escape from the laboratory, and, of course, the reward placed by NeCrom will be a welcome addition to the budget of any of these opponents. Gladiators and hooligans do not like NeCrom’s soldiers, most likely for the “mayhem” they are doing in their native slums, NeCrom’s soldiers are sworn not to love you, and all the frostbitten slum rabble does not like you because of the already announced reward for your own head. Hence the conclusion: if representatives of three sides meet at once in the same room, then there is no need to rush, hide and wait until the strongest remains, and then easily finish off this already weakened “strongest”. A wonderful illustration of Chinese wisdom. Another of the atmospheric features: for example, in the second location of the "Slums" you will even have to fight in the arena as a gladiator in order to gain full freedom and go further into the city.

The main work of art in the game are the character sprites. Who is not here. I counted 25 different kinds. It is the detail and high graphic resolution that is striking. There are mutants, slugs, zombies, soldiers, women... By the way, about them. As befits in games, all women are very beautiful, right of the most elite varieties. They are represented in the game as many as four "species". Of these, only the “Mother of the Earth” is decently dressed, while the rest… the barely covered bodies of another evil “mother” and a gladiator, and the last type, Noxie, are representatives of the very “oldest” and, apparently, very much in demand in the future profession. According to the profession, they have only one stylish epaulettes from clothes in the upper part of the body. Not a bad move to stir up interest in a gaming product. According to the canons of the genre, Noxies are very important NPC sources of various information, so it is not recommended to offend them.

The music is very decent, sometimes just a masterpiece. It plays differently depending on the game situation. The sound effects didn't disappoint either.

But still, the game failed. Yes, meat shooter Doom (forgive me...) looks like a hopeless primitive in comparison with this beautiful and revolutionary cyberpunk game. However, what prevented CyberMage: Darklight Awakening from gaining well-deserved popularity in 1995? That year in terms of 3D-shooter’s construction can be described as very calm, without very bright “revelations”. Of the worthy gaming manifestations of 1995, one can note the excellent shooter Dark Forces, which, however, also did not have a very impressive success with the gaming audience, and Terminator: Future Shock, and others. There was also fantasy Hexen. But then Doom reigned on Earth. Someone finished level 666, someone shot a neatly placed 1000th crowd of cyberdemons from BFG10000, and so on. And therefore, in my opinion, in the interval of a small number of years from D to Q, few people noticed the rest of the good and more complex games. But the game CyberMage: Darklight Awakening, for all its atmospheric and novelty, had a number of serious shortcomings. The complexity of the maps and passing levels, sometimes boring gameplay, the exactingness of the presence of megahertz, as well as a rather serious decline in the quality of artwork and atmosphere by the end of the game, may have repelled fans of "uncomplicated" shooters, who dissatisfiedly turned away "from another game that was ahead of its time" and went on to “harvest meat” on hundreds of maps for Doom that had bred at that time. By the way, most likely, just because of the confusing maps for the game, a perfectly executed guide was released, where all the moments about the characters, weapons and passing levels are described in detail.