Friday, January 19, 2018

Crusader: No Remorse

Date: 1995
Developer: Origin Systems
Publisher: Electronic Arts
System Requirements:
 - 486/DX2-66 MHz
 - 8 Megabytes of RAM
 - 2x CD-ROM
 - Video card that supports SVGA at 640x480
 - 30 Megabytes of HDD space

Where to purchase?

This week on RPDG, I'm going to be playing a PC DOS game that I played and loved when it first came out.  I have not played it since then, so this will be pretty close to a new experience for me as it has been 20 years(!) since I last played it.  The game is Crusader: No Remorse, an isometric third-person action game by one of the best development studios of the 80s and 90s: Origin Systems.  Almost every game Origin made was a classic, I can't think of a bad game by them.  They had a run from the release of Wing Commander in 1990 to Wing Commander Prophecy and Ultima Online in 1997 where basically every game they developed was fantastic and a competitor for being a game of the year.  Even the games they released as the publisher were great, such as Ultima Underworld 1 and 2, System Shock, and Shadowcaster.  

Crusader: No Remorse came out in 1995, right in the midst of Origin's peak.  It got great reviews at the time, but how does it play today?  Can a third-person action game, that was acknowledged to have somewhat cumbersome controls at the time of its release, overcome this issue to be still playable and fun?  I hope so!


Playstation Box
Saturn Box
As I mentioned above, Crusader: No Remorse was released in 1995 and developed by the great Origin Studios.  It took some risks in its technology and was one of the first big commercial games to release only on CD-ROM and to require SVGA-compatible graphics cards.  The primary force behind the decision to use these new cutting edge technologies was the game's director, creator, and main programmer: Tony Zurovec.  From what I can gather, the Crusader games were really Tony's babies.  Which makes sense as he is listed as the director for the franchise.

In 1995, first-person shooter games were the new "big thing" in PC gaming.  If you were a PC developer in the early 90s and wanted to make an action game, your best bet was a FPS game.  Even Origin was getting into the FPS market with games like CyberMage: Darklight Awakening (developer) and Shadowcaster (Publisher).

CyberMage: Darklight Awakening
Crusader: No Remorse's perspective really was unique.  There weren't many isometric third-person action games on the market in 1995, I can't think of any in fact.  Part of the reason behind this is that it was difficult to make these games on computers of the early 90s.  Computers of this time did not have the processing power to render the high resolution backgrounds expected in a third-person game while also delivering the smooth scrolling expected in an action game.  It was much easier to make third-person games in other genres.  There were strategy games such as the XCOM games that were turn-based isometric third-person games.  RPG games like SSIs Gold Box Dungeons and Dragons games could be classified as isometric third-person games, but this is stretching the definition a little.  The only other game that looks and plays similar to Crusader is Ultima VIII: Pagan which was, unsurprisingly, developed at Origin.  Also unsurprising is that Tony Zurovec was also a programmer on Ultima VIII.

Ultima VIII: Pagan
 Ultima VIII's engine was modified and used as the foundation for Crusader: No Remorse.  But the question still remains, why did Origin opt to create a third-person action game instead of another FPS?  One reason could be that they already had the Ultima VIII engine and decided to get more use out of it by using it to make another game.  Mr. Zurovec stated that one of the benefits of using a third-person perspective was the extensive environmental damage that could be implemented.  It also opened up the opportunity for more varied kinds of puzzles and map layouts that would be possible in a traditional FPS game or side-scrolling game.  To get around the problem of smooth scrolling, Mr. Zurovec kept the static frame method from Ultima VIII.  This means the game screen stays locked to a position until the player's character moves to an edge, at which point the screen moves to the next location.  This negates the need for constant, smooth scrolling.

Crusader's development took 16-18 months, which seems incredibly short compared to today's game development.  It was around this time that Origin's upper management promised Mr. Zurovec royalties from the sales of Crusader: No Remorse.  The game released to critical praise and sold very well.  The publisher EA wanted a Crusader 2, but only game Origin and Mr. Zurovec 10 months to develop it.  Zurovec pushed back, saying this was not enough time, and won EA's agreement to call the game Crusader: No Regret instead of Crusader 2: No Regret.  10 months was not enough time to implement all the changes he wanted to make for a full blown sequel, such as outdoor environments, alien environments, and new AI algorithms.  Towards the end of the development of Crusader: No Regret, he had still not received his royalties and it now turned out EA had never agreed to this in the first place or they were now reneging on that agreement.  Either way he wasn't going to see that money, so he left Origin.  Origin brought in some new people to try to develop a third Crusader game, but that ended up going nowhere.

There was some work done on a PSP port of the game around 2006, but this also went nowhere.  You can view some gameplay of this build here on youtube.

Crusader: No Pity on PSP

That actually looks like it could be really fun.

- The Game -

Crusader: No Remorse takes place in the year 2196 on an Earth ruled by a group of mega corporations that refer to themselves as the World Economic Consortium, or WEC.  The WEC controls Earth and her colonies spread out over the rest of the solar system in a ruthless and brutal manner.  Think 1984, Warhammer 40k, and a little bit of a dystopian version of where we are headed today.  To help the WEC maintain control, they employ a force of super-soldiers called the Silencers, of which our character is a part of.  A group called The Resistance is fighting back against the WEC, and they are headed by a former officer of the WEC named Quentin Maxis.  I can't remember if we get to meet him in the game, I hope so.

Like a lot of 90s PC games, the game makes heavy use of full motion video (FMV) to tell the story between missions.  I also need to mention the music in this game, it is fantastic.  Do yourself a favor and check it out: Youtube link

The game opens with 3 Silencers walking through a sewer returning from a mission where they refused to kill some unarmed civilians, who they were told were "rebels".  They are in a bit of a panic about disobeying a direct order...
Ah Origin...I miss you
Our man Tony

One of them regrets not killing the civilians...nice buddy
A WEC mech identifying the Silencers as targets for termination 
The WEC mech performing that termination

Our character survives, and tosses a grenade under the mech

The mech is disabled and our character walks up to its malfunctioning camera and shoots it

The main title screen, a recreation of that last scene from the intro of the Silencer blasting the disabled mech
Our nameless hero just became a traitor to the WEC cause.  Nothing else to do besides join the Resistance.  Let's start a new game on the second difficulty level and see where the story leads to next...

Mission 1:

I like the psuedo-email address on the bottom, nice touch

Gen. Quentin Maxis, I guess we meet him right away
Right away the game starts off with a video email message from General Quentin Maxis himself welcoming us (now known only as "Captain") to the Resistance.  He makes sure to state that a lot of people in the Resistance think I am a spy, so he is giving me one shot to prove I am now loyal to the Resistance.  My mission is to infiltrate an oil refinery and plant an explosive device on some specific part.  Interestingly, I'm going to get in and out via teleport pads.   

First gameplay screen
Right away I teleport in am greeted by a worker who says I am not supposed to be there, and then he goes and sets off the alarm.  Great, thanks man.  The interface is pretty straight forward along the bottom of the screen.  The gun on the lower left is showing me which weapon I have equipped.  Next to that is the ammo and number of clips.  In the middle is which inventory item I have equipped.  Finally we have our health and energy, energy being used for shields and energy weapons.  

The first thing I'm going to do now is get revenge on that worker for hitting the alarm.  I mean, if I was in his shoes and saw a heavily armed unauthorized super soldier teleport into my work area, I might hit the alarm as well.  But you can loot dead people in this game and he might have some stuff I want.  

Remember how in the intro I got into this whole mess because I wouldn't kill unarmed civilians?  Well...

I am now remembering how...clumsy the controls are in this game.  They are really pretty bad.  The game has "tank" controls where your character doesn't control relative to their position in the game.  The only way to move in a walk or run is to go forward the direction your character is facing.  Using the left and right arrow keys turns your character in place in those directions, then you press the up arrow key to move forward in the direction you are now facing.  Holding ALT allows you to side step left or right, and holding CTRL allows you to roll left or right.  But its awkward because the directions are absolute relative to the character and not their position on the screen.  In other words, if you are facing towards the bottom of the screen and you hold ALT and press right, the character side steps to THEIR right, and not towards the right of the screen.  It will take some getting used to.  Mouse control is present but not any better, so I think I'll stick with keyboard controls for now.  

There is no auto aim, but a target appears over an enemy when you are pointed in the right direction to hit them.  This is hugely helpful because otherwise there is no way to tell if you are pointing close to an enemy or not.

After dispatching the soldiers that came running in response to the alarm, I turned off the alarm and moved on to find this engineer fellow taking a nap in a pool of red water.  Honestly, he was like that when I found him.  But as I walked past him, two doors opened in the wall to reveal hidden turrets.

Destroying the turrets
Searching a green box
Moving on, I remembered that I should be searching containers and dead bodies.  I forgot to search that poor worker I shot back at the beginning.  Pressing "S" when next a usable item like a container or button brings up this blue target like in the screenshot above.  Hitting "ENTER" takes whatever items are inside, which can be anything from ammo to credits to deployable spider bombs.  

The interactivity with items and the environment makes the Crusader games almost like an early, third-person Deus Ex.  Parts of this game can be very RPG-like in that you can solves puzzles and get through areas in multiple different ways.  For example, below I found a computer terminal that has an email containing the new passcode to get into a restricted area.    

Good there are no spies around here...nope, no sir...

Punching in the passcode
 I reduced the size of my screenshots by half since 1900x1200 was making each screenshot 3-4MBs, which is too big.  So that is why they might look a little artifact-y now.

Moving on, below is an example of the standard enemy soldiers behind a laser-wall that is deactivated with a switch on the wall next to it.  I am hiding behind those boxes.

After some practice, I am able to get the hang of the controls.  Using the roll and sidestep function is still not easy, but it can work.  Here is an example of me using a roll to be a true super soldier and take out some bad guys:

This mission has a lot of doors and switches and as far as I know there is no in game map.  This has been OK so far as I haven't had to back track much at all yet.  After moving through a few more rooms with enemy soldiers, I came to one of the best features of the game: taking control of a mech!

A remote service droid with machine guns!
You can take control of service droids and combat mechs throughout the game from terminals like this.  In most cases that I can remember, there is no time limit or distance limit, you are only limited by closed and locket doors that the mech can't open.  They also do a lot of damage, as you'll see below.

I am not controlling the mech

Shooting through the doorway

Blowing up everything

Blowing up more of the room

Me now standing in the aftermath
Notice all of the damaged equipment with new textures showing their damaged state.  I love the detail in all that.  The explosions also look great as well, the high resolution graphics and textures really do make a difference I think.  In this room, I was able to get a keycard from a safe and I also accessed some security cameras, one of which showed my target for this mission:

My target
A bit later I came to another puzzle Crusader likes: turn the valve to shut off or turn on leaking steam or fire.  In this instance, I have to close the valve to shut off the flames, but in other instances you can turn on steam or flames to burn unsuspecting enemies.  

The valve 
All clear

I'm not sure what that liquid is below this walkway.  I'm supposed to be at an oil refinery, so maybe that is the ocean but very heavily polluted.  Or else the WEC builds their oil refineries over pools of their own pollution, which could also be the case.  Anyhow, that doesn't seem very safe or sanitary.  

Thanks a lot Brandt
It also does not sound sanitary to leave puddles of dangerous plutonium on the floor.  I am starting to think WEC does not care very much for the wellbeing of their employees.  

After moving on, I found the red keycard and the red door.  Even though Crusader: No Remorse is an innovative game, it still came out in the 90s and therefore is required to have color coded keys and doors.  After going through the red door, I was met by a scientist who is also a Resistance spy.  He gave me a keycard I needed to get to my target area:

Nice suit

After giving me the key, he gets the heck of there as the alarm goes off
I was swarmed by guards here and use some of my medkits from my inventory.  Leaving this area, I came to a bridge over the sludge with a guard standing on a moving platform over the sludge that looks so ridiculous it made me laugh out loud.

It's hard for me to take WEC and their security forces seriously when one of them are zooming around on a hover platform.  I then found an elevator that takes me to the second floor.  These levels are bigger than I remember.  I may have to break these playthroughs up into multiple posts if subsequent levels get even bigger.  But before leaving this floor, I found another instance of a WEC employee being careless and this time they started a fire.  It makes me wonder if maybe this might be purposeful sabotage?  More likely these employees are just idiots.

Sounds like Tech Stokes has done this kind of thing before...

Elevator to floor 2
Floor 2
Those orange squares move in a pattern and are electrified, stepping on them takes away about 1/5 of my health.  I just ran over them and took the health hit, I couldn't find any way to turn them off.  Usually there are ways to avoid the traps in this game, but in this instance I couldn't find any.  I moved through a couple more rooms and killed another guard on a floating platform.  Another thing Crusader gets right is its level design.  So far no two rooms have been the same, and most have distinguishing features or traps that make them memorable.

I eventually find myself at this red key door that I can't open.

I can't figure this out.  I've gone back and forth to the beginning of this level again and again and I can't find the damn red key.  I've checked all bodies and containers and blown up a bunch of things but I can't find the key.  I'm going to have to search on the internet for a walkthrough...

<Some time later> I couldn't find a walkthrough, but I did find a video in German of someone playing through the entire game.  I had to watch very closely, but I found the key:

How NOT obvious
I mean, realistically it makes sense that the key would be on the desk next to the cool retro desktop computer.  But in computer game logic, that is not where I was looking.  It is also really hard to see it there.  I'll just keep my eyes peeled now for keys on desks.  After all that work searching for the key that was in plain sight the whole time, my health is looking pretty low.  I could use a medkit, but there is a health station on the other side of the red door forcefield. 

Recharging health
A few more rooms then it is up to floor 3:

Huh...the sign under that turret says "Out of Order"
The sign under the turret was a trick!  After I walked past, the turret fired up and shot me in the back.  In retrospect, I should have suspected something.  I was too trusting of the nice folks at the WEC. 

Moving on, I've found some spilled radioactive material.  The email from earlier said tech Brandt had spilled plutonium on the floor on the 5th floor, and this is the 3rd floor.  So that means at least two floors in this oil refinery have puddles of plutonium or other radioactive material waiting to be cleaned up.  Time to write a Yelp review! 

Well this sounds promising...
Bwahahaha! That is a big gun pointed at you buddy!
Hmm, I got the first soldier that I'm looking at in the above screenshot, but I can't hit another one to the south of the turret.  The soldier is at an angle where I can't get the turret to line up with him.   The turret jumps a few degrees when turning it around, it isn't a smooth circle.  I also have the feeling that I'll be running into this turret myself really soon.

Just can't quite line up on him

I found an elevator nearby so on we go to the fourth floor.  Wait a second, the security camera I was just looking at had an elevator exit and it was on the fourth floor...

I got shot by the turret

Well, I found out those turrets do a lot of damage.  I had 3/4 of my health, and it killed me in about 2 shots.  I'm going to try this again, but this time I'm going to run past the turret and not try to fight it.  Maybe if I had a better weapon, but all I have is my pistol and some spider bombs, neither of which I'm confident will be able to make a dent in that thing.

Moving past the turret, I come to another electrified grid room.  At least these rooms aren't jumping puzzles, that would be terrible.  I'll just hit the button on my right which I assume turns off the grid, and I'll be on my way then...

See that little tiny dot on the wall next to the orange and white poster on the wall?  That is a sensor that is really hard to see that re-activated the floor grid and raised a force field across the doorway.  So I need to shoot the little sensor, walk back across the floor while getting electrocuted, and turn off the grid again.

There we go
Our mission objective
The next room has our mission objective.  It is a big power conduit or something that we need to destroy using a bomb in our inventory.  I assume that when I blow up this thing, the whole refinery is going to explode as well.  You can see in the screenshot above that I have the medkits selected in my inventory right now.  As a side note, using medkits from your inventory and using the walk-in med stations are the only ways to restore health in the game so far.

The "O" and "I" keys cycle through your inventory, and "U" uses whatever item is selected.  So I'll just cycle to the explosive and use it next to the conduit...

Look how much of a cool cat I am, just standing there while explosions happen all around me.  As soon as the explosions finished, a custscene started:


As is 90s tradition again, here is the young, precocious computer expert/hacker.  He tells us there is a teleporter on this level we need to get to ASAP, but there's no timer or anything like that that makes me hurry.

Going back the way I came from, There is now a new doorway I can take that was blocked off.  Going through that door brought me to another big turret in a room filled with laser traps.

This could be trouble
It actually wasn't too hard, I only died once.  There are a series of switches to flip that sequentially shuts off the lasers, and the turret just keeps rotating around in a circle without stopping to track me, so I was able to time it and get by without taking much damage on my second try.  Right on the other side of this room is the teleporter, and we are done with the mission!

Escape teleporter
There goes the WEC refinery!
My new home
Well hello there
 As soon as I teleported out, I was treated to a cool cutscene of the refinery blowing up.  It then cut to the outside of the Resistance Echo Base (Star wars...?).  The game then goes back to the in-game engine to show me teleporting in with someone standing there staring at the teleport pad waiting for me.

How come its called Echo Base and not Ely Base then?
As another 90s tradition, our boss here is a gruff black guy smoking a cigar.  He basically says he doesn't trust me yet, so I should watch my step around HIS base.  There was a funny bit of censorship here in the subtitles.  Col. Ely told me his team "works like fricken clockwork!".  But the subtitles said "my team is great".  I thought that was funny.  I am then dropped back into gameplay at what looks like a bar or cafeteria.

- Change of Plans - 

I am going to change the format of my posts, at least for now.  I'm having a lot of fun playing Crusader: No Remorse, but this post is getting way too long.  I now realize there is no way I can play through a large portion of these games while also providing a lot of screenshots and commentary and keeping the posts to a reasonable size.  I want to keep each post to a manageable size, both for myself in writing it and for anyone who happens to read it.  So my options are to take fewer screenshots and/or write less text or break each game up into multiple posts.  I am going to try the latter option and break the games up into multiple posts and see how that goes.  

To continue reading about my playthrough of Crusader: No Remorse, jump to:
 Crusader: No Remorse - Part 2

Crusader: No Remorse - Part 3

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