Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Crusader: No Remorse - Part 3

Crusader: No Remorse - Part 2

Crusader: No Remorse - Part 1

- Mission 3 -

I've realized that to keep posting the amount of detail I have for the previous two posts will result in my just playing and posting about Crusader for the next month.  While I don't mind playing Crusader, that will take up too much time and space on this site and I want to eventually get to other games.  So I'm going to try to cut down again on how much I post for each game going forward.  Like I've said before, this is new to me so I'm still trying to find a good middle ground.  

Anyway, on to mission 3!  Back at Echo Sector Base, no really has anything interesting to say to me.  I am blamed for the deaths of the prisoners by some of the Resistance fighters, but we know it wasn't my fault.  What I am going to do is buy a new gun from Weasel.  I'm going to try one of the assault rifles.

Buying a new gun
I ended up buying the RP-22 and some ammo (the step down from the one above).  Hopefully I find some ammo in the next mission, but if not I still have my trusty pistol I've had since the beginning.  The briefing by the commander states I am to infiltrate a mech factory and steal plans for a new mech the WEC is building.  Seems easy enough.

He's always got his cigar
Starting area
Right away I notice this definitely a new environment.  I've gone from an office space to an industrial space, with spilled barrels of pollution and lots of electrical transformers and storage bins and things like that.  I'm also running across new enemies that are clad in blue instead of grey and they seem to have a bit more armor and take more shots to bring down.  Also, some of them have a kind of laser gun that does more damage than usual.  

Oh damn, mechs!
 There are also mech enemies on this level!  Bad news!  They shoot a laser and take a lot of shots to bring down.  The brown barrels with the nuclear material insignia on them are explosive, so that can make for some nice pyrotechnics.  Notice the enemy below that was too close and got lit on fire.  This was a noteworthy enemy death animation when Crusader came out and was somewhat famous in PC gaming circles.  In fact, there are few gruesome death animations that Crusader was famous for when it came out, like enemies disintegrating, melting, that kind of thing.  But the poor guy below is doing the "on fire and burning" death animation.

It seems to me that having explosive barrels of nuclear waste laying around is another sign that the WEC does not take employee safety seriously.  

A few minutes later in the level and I've come to a room with some dreaded platforming puzzles.  I was really hoping that Crusader would keep these kinds of things to a minimum since I don't think anyone really likes them.  In this room, there is one of those floating platforms moving around the room that I need to get on and ride to another part of the room.

I need to get to the upper left area with the red keycard on the desk

Here I am getting on the platform

Weee...I'm riding it

Made it
That took me a long time to accomplish.  To add to the difficulty, the red and blue lights on the walls are buttons that I needed to shoot in certain orders to raise and lower elevators that gave me access to the raised platforms from which I got onto the floating platform.  It is difficult to describe, so lets just say it was annoying as hell.  In fact, here is a GIF of me trying to maneuver a similar platforming section from later on in the level (it's a long GIF, I tried taking out some frames in the middle to cut down on size, I'm still new on making GIFs):

See, that just isn't fun.  Sure it's difficult, but not difficult in a fun or challenging way.  It's difficult in a frustrating way.  I don't have anything against platformers or platforming action in a game, but the engine has to be built in a way that makes the platforming fun.  In this instance, it just isn't.  I don't really feel like I have control over the Silencer to make him do what I want.  He doesn't respond to movement commands quickly enough or predictably enough, and those are key elements of having fun platforming in a game.  So that is definitely a knock against Crusader.  The controls are already iffy and clunky enough, adding precision movement puzzles into the game makes an already bad problem even worse.  If I recall, this was also a complaint against Ultima VIII.

At least in these sections, there is not jumping involved.  In all the platforming areas in this level, I was only required to walk onto moving platforms and not jump onto them.  And in the end I only had to redo each segment a few times before successfully completing it.  I spent way more time figuring out button combination puzzles or key finding puzzles than I did on platforming segments.  So don't get the wrong idea and think the whole level is one big platforming sequence, because it was only a few rooms that had things like this.  They just drive me crazy.

I eventually confronted and destroyed a few more mechs and found the secret plans and teleported out.  An FMV movie played at the end of the level where I am introduced to who I assume is a main antagonist for the game.  The cinematic sure doesn't leave any question as to whether or not he is a bad guy:

A WEC headquarters

Only bad guys have their faces partly obscured by shadow
Still obviously a bad guy and a sleazeball
Home sweet home again
Overall, mission 3 was not as fun as mission 2.  I spent most of the mission on the platforming segments or trying to solve some puzzles involving hitting buttons or switches in the correct order while being constantly swarmed by spider mines and enemies.  If it seems like I complain a lot about the puzzles and platforming segments, it is just because I really love the rest of the gameplay.  The shooting action and even some of the more straightforward puzzles are so much fun.  Something that I try to keep in the back of my mind is that this is also a function of when the game was made.  This was relatively new territory so games like Crusader were still trying out new things and experimenting to see what was fun and engaging.  

On to mission 4!

*Editorial Note* Someone on the Reddit subreddit r/dosgaming pointed out to me that DOSBox, which I'm using to run a lot of these games, has its own built in screenshot and video capture feature.  I tried this out and it seems to work a lot better than what I was doing, it captures the games at their true resolution (in this case 640x480), and the files sizes are much much smaller.  So from now on, I'm going to hopefully have my screenshots and GIFs be a much more manageable size.  For now, I'm not going to upscale them, so clicking on the screenshots should show you the image in its actual resolution.

For this mission, I am supposed to destroy a communications monitoring station by blowing up its central computer.  A small animation the Col. here showed me showed a large computer with a spinning antenna on top, so it shouldn't be too hard to miss.  Before talking to the Col. and getting my assignment, I went to the bar and talked to my team members there.  It was pretty much the same as last time, everyone is suspicious of me and told me to watch my back.  Except Pvt. Andrews, he seems to be nice to me.

I also stopped at Weasel to buy some new guns.  I bought a laser pistol and the shotgun.  I bought the shotgun mostly because I have been picking up a lot of ammo for it, and I bought the laser pistol out of curiosity.  I can't recall how the ammo works for the laser pistol, so we'll see.

Mission 4 starting area
Mission 4 starts in another industrial looking area with a lot of explosive barrels sitting around.  First things first, I want to try out my new guns.

Laser pistol
The laser pistol seems like it does a lot of damage.  It takes away energy from my energy bar in the lower right, which I'm not sure how to recharge.  I assumed the red energy cubes were used to recharge that bar, but I can't seem to use them when I select them in my inventory.  The shotgun also does a lot of damage but needs to be "pumped" between shots which takes too much time.  I don't think I'll use it much.

This mission has a lot of situations where I need to roll under pipes and ledges.  This is something I did not know or completely forgot was even part of the game.  In the above screenshot, I am repeatedly trying to jump over the pipe going across the conveyor belt.  I spent way too long trying to figure this out before finally going online and watching someone else's playthrough and noticing you can crouch and roll to get under obstacles.  Now I'm rolling and crouching like a madman, no pipe or low overhang is safe from me.

Supply room
I found a nice secret room.  At least, I think it is a secret room.  The switch on the wall may have opened an important door or it may have just started up the conveyor belt to help me get back out of the room.  I was mostly focused on the fact that there were medkits here, because I am needing them a lot in this mission.

After a bit more exploration, I came to an unpassable forcefield and an FMV cutscene started featuring the nice guy Pvt. Andrews messing with some wires to lower the forcefield for me.

Our teammate lowering the forcefield for me

But then...

Oh no!  They shot him!
 He gets ambushed and shot!  They killed the only guy that is nice to me!  Oh well, I'm sure I'll get over it.  The acting in this scene is great by the way.  He doesn't just get shot and then fall down.  He gets shot a bunch of times and then has a long, drawn out death sequence that is very nicely over-acted.

Later on the mission I find the kind of fun diversion that is one of my favorite things about the Crusader games: Controlling turrets and other machines.  In the two screenshots below, I take control of the turret on the right side of the screen and direct it by pushing the buttons in front of the Silencer on the left.  First I turned the turret and shot the guard, and then the last screenshot is me shooting the explosive barrels to detonate them and destroy the turret so I don't need to worry about it when I later have to go in that room.  These kinds of things are way more fun than jumping platforming puzzles.

Bye bye turret

Another turret sequence

I destroyed those two mechs, now I'm wrecking up the room

I kind of got a bit lost later on in this mission, I couldn't find the communications relay.  I eventually had eliminated all the guards on multiple different floors and couldn't find the thing I was supposed to destroy.  I even took the elevator up to a fourth floor office which did not seem to have any purpose besides giving me a passcode from a computer terminal.  But I did like the office theme with the big screen TVs on the walls and the executives in suits:

I eventually found a teleporter that took me to the room with the communications relay I needed to destroy.  It was guarded a few mechs that killed me a few times and required some reloading.  A combination of spider mines and save-scumming got the job done.  I was able to plant the bomb and blow up the relay:

Then I got a quick message from Wizard again telling me to get the heck out of there.

Don't call me Tin Man
As usual, he said I have very little time to get out of there, but there is no timer.  Luckily the teleporter was nearby and even though it was guarded by multiple turrets, I was able to just run by them and teleport out.

Back home again

Uh oh, boss is waiting at the teleport pad again

End of mission 4
And thus ends mission 4.  And thus ends my playthrough of Crusader: No Remorse.  I know I only played through a small fraction of the game, and I didn't even get to some of the more interesting weapons and enemies, but like I said in an earlier post: I am anxious to get a few more games up on my site so it has some content.

Once I have a larger number of games on the site, I may invest more time and play through larger portions of these games.  I may even come back to ones like Crusader: No Remorse or Blood and continue my playthroughs of them (or maybe even Dominion...).  But for right now, I want to get a few more games up on the site first.  I really did not realize how long some of these games were.  I thought I would be able to play through the whole game when I first envisioned this site, but now that is less likely.  I would still like to do that, but not yet.

So what did I think of Crusader: No Remorse after all these years and is it worth playing today?

- Review -

My answer to both of those questions above are: Crusader: No Remorse is still great and absolutely still worth playing today.  Even if you are going into the game without any nostalgia from having played it in the past, I think you will still enjoy it.  

Crusader was praised at the time of its original release, and some of the reasons its was originally praised (graphics, environmental destruction, immersion) are still valid today.  The graphics are very well done.  They are sharp, detailed, and really get the atmosphere of each level across nicely.  If I was to compare them to another game of that era, I would say they are similar to those of Fallout 1 and 2.  Well drawn sprites and textures will always hold up over time, in my opinion, even at 640x480 resolution.  Especially with the retro fads nowadays and pixel art being so popular.  Crusader does environmental destruction exceptionally well, unbelievably well for a game released in the mid 90s.  Almost everything in a room can be destroyed, and sometimes with different levels of destruction.  What I love about this is that it isn't based on physics.  The artists and designers created and drew damage sprites for everything from ordinary railings to huge storage tanks to computer screens to trash cans.  Everything can be damaged or destroyed.  And the explosions look really pretty.  

The parts of Crusader that I did not like, and that I think most people will take issue with when trying to play the game today, are the controls and some of the puzzles.  As I mentioned in my first post on the game, the controls are just...bad.  They just are.  Even the existing mouse control is terrible.  To make matters worse, the Silencer is not responsive enough to these crappy controls.  Especially when trying to run or jump.  

And that leads me to the jumping and platforming puzzles.  They make me mad when I play them.  If the game could be just shooting up rooms of enemies with some light key hunting or switch puzzles, that would have been perfect.  I'm sick of complaining about the platforming puzzles in the game so I won't talk about them anymore.  There aren't that many of them actually, they just really stand out.  I didn't even die that many times on them...I just don't like them. 

I mentioned earlier in my posts about this game that Crusader kind of reminds me a little of the games in the Deus Ex series, and I think this is something people often forget about the Crusader games.  I don't mean to imply that Crusader is anything but an action game, it is definitely NOT an RPG.  But there are multiple instances in the missions where you have different options to progress.  Some areas have different ways to open locked doors, whether it be finding a key or using a computer terminal to find a passcode to take another way in.  And then there are the fantastic instances of taking control of mechs and turrets, which are one of my favorite aspects of the Crusader games.  Reading emails messages on computer terminals and viewing security cameras add a nice level of immersion that again reminds me RPGs like Deus Ex or System Shock.   

So I did end up enjoying my time replaying Crusader: No Remorse, and I may even continue to play it after I've moved on to the next game on my list for this site.  I also recommend the game today regardless of whether or not you've played in the past.  I am not giving it a perfect score because of the damn controls, but 4.5 Silencers out of 5 Silencers seems fair.  It is an awesome game.

That's it for my writeup on Crusader: No Remorse.  Thanks for reading anyone who got this far!

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