Part 23: CapitulumHo, ho and a merry Christmas to y'all!
Let's see what Santa has in his big bag...
I mentioned that I still have the tech demo for a game by Apeiron that didn't get developed. Here it is! The demo is unstable as all hell and I had to play it way too many times. For instance, saving will crash it.
Instead of trying to explain this game, I'll just post an info blurb that came as the English version of the demo was made available.
Apeiron made available a playable demo of our ambitious project that should have followed Reloaded (E7), but did not interest publishers. SPM meets an RPG in a Fallout/WH40k hybrid kind of a setting.
It is set in a neofeudal society on postapoc Earth, some 3 centuries after a catastrophe (a global war against extraterrestrial invaders which aliens won and then left), about 24 or 25 century. The plot revolved around an "order" of elite stormtroopers who were created for the alien war out of brainwashed and genetically and cybernetically enhanced criminals, but weren't awakened by their controlling computer in time, and overslept for 300 years until their bunker was broken in and the computer stolen by the junk smugglers. Player controls one of those "knights" (brainwashed into following medieval knightly ideals and given names like Roland, Galahad etc) as he explores the world and searches for the stolen computer.
The setting is very gothic, think WH40k or better yet, Fading Suns - barons, inquisition and all this dark medieval stuff, but with some high-tech equipment, both makeshift and remaining from previous civilization. Most of the action happens on the ruins of known locales in central/eastern Europe, such as Prague and St. Petersburg. Much of Europe is some cursed, warped place called Rift where no normal life dwells after an alien war, and eventually we get to discover why.
Gameplay was normal SPM, with some stuff that later got into Man of Prey (like static weapons or hostile animals). The flow was more RPGish, JRPGish even maybe, with more parts of the world opening up once you get a hold on some advanced means of transportation, but a plenty of freedom within each of the parts.
The demo contains one level, set upon the ruins of Kazansky cathedral. It involves our "knight" visiting a village of "shroomeaters", who harvest medically precious mushrooms in the tunnels which once were the Petersburg subway, and finds the villagers enslaved by a self-proclaimed "baron" and his gang of robbers, while the tunnel plantations are overrun with monstrous "Darklings", Rift-warped zombie things.
Not much to do here. Fun fact: Chapter House is a literal translation of Capitulum. At first it should become the official English title, but that idea was quickly dropped.
When we enter the game, we get greeted by an on-screen text blurb.
To strengthen their position, the Knights Templar undertake a mission for the Farmatius family. This clan knows the secrets necessary to manufacture medicines and enjoys the protection of the Church of the Allfather. A while ago, a remote village of mushroom-eaters ceased its transfers of Penicillium chrysogenium - the valuable penicillin mold used to produce antibiotics. Besides, the village was a source of gourmet mushrooms. The head of the Farmatius family asked the Knights Templar to investigate the cause and eliminate it, if possible.
With our motivation established, let's take a look at our hero.
This is Roland. And sure enough, he bears the Knights Templar cross on his pauldron. But before you start to drool, the armor is just for show. He's a bit more resilient then other actors, but getting hit even once will doom him. He'll either bleed to death or succumb to wound effects.
Taking a look at his back, we can see that he wears a mask instead of a helmet. Also the top of his head is shaved, like some monk orders do.
I'm not going into too much detail about the UI. A lot of things are like in 7,62, so just know that the areas next to the metal sphere define your aim and shooting mode. And the brown blocks at the bottom are for raising your weapon, showing field of view and such things.
Let's take a look at his inventory.
It's the same as in 7,62 and pretty barren.
Wait a minute. Roland and Durendal... I've heard these words before.
I really tried my best to free the camera from the horrible angles the developers chose. No luck though!
So I have to use this dumb aerial angle to show most of the area.
Hard to say if that is a broken walkway, or train tube.
But the real action is right in-front of Roland.
When Roland gets close, a cutscene will trigger. But the text is hard to read, so I'll transcribe it. Ye best braceth yeself.
:"Ah, entrails'n gunpowder! Shall we argue with ye 'til the night comes? Look ye toadstool, put the noose on yer sorry self already!."
:"The noose's a bit small, you see. Just doesn't fit. Mayhaps you will help?"
:"Yeah, right, so ye rips my throat out like ye did to poor Skold. Do ya'll grow so huge on 'shrooms alone?"
:"That brigand scum dared to touch my sister. We'll break the necks of the whole lot of you, just give us time."
:"Shut up, ye mold. We ain't no brigands anymore. We be Baron Timor's warriors! Listen up, do we have to bother? Let's just shoot'im and bury in the bog. I can shoot off this mushroom's cap right away. I betcha!"
:"Wasting a precious bullet on offal? I'll keep mine for chimeras. No way, let him hang here as a lesson for the rest of them. Besides, a death from a bullet is too noble for a 'shroom-eater. Look, let's beat him up, break his hands and legs, then hang him. You go from the right..."
I really would like to now what the Russian original text was like.
After this we get into the game's dialog system.
Roland can just waste them, but let's get as much out of this as we can.
:"Entrails'n'gunpowder, Raccoon! Told ye to watch the road! Miss'd a dear guest, ye did!(Demonstratively flicks the safety switch off his rifle) We be hangin' an unruly thrall, pilgrim. Harass'd people, he did. Private business, as them us'd to say in the old times. Away with ye...nay, wait. Ye be kind of weird, methinks. Yer gun be weird, yer armor be weird... Ye be Landsknecht? Or some wandering knight, eh? (Grins scornfully) Listen up, my lord knight... This be the only road, and ye shan't pass. Go away. But leave yer gun, and armor too. In good memory, heh-heh..."
"Landsknecht" is an old German term for mercenaries that fought on-foot, and primarily used a pike.They were quite famous during their time.
:"I am going to the village of the mushroom-eaters. This man is going with me. Drop your weapons and you'll keep your lives."
:"He's raving mad, entrails'n'gunpowder. Let's off him, Raccoon. The gun's mine, ye can take the armor."
Yeah, that was quick. I'm sure that they pumped Roland's stats, as he is very fast and accurate.
:"Ouch, thank you! Those "Baron Timur's warriors" almost hanged me, may a darkling eat their guts. Such wonders make me a worshipper of the surfacers' Allfather someday! Already I bade farewell to my fathers' tunnels... Name's Xey. Fine fighter you are! Hailing from wandering knights indeed?"
:"Not exactly. I am here on the Order's business. Who is this "Baron Timur" they spoke of? And the noose, for what?."
:"That's not hard to tell, my lord knight. The noose's for my neck. I have slain one of the bastards. Too bad I couldn't get the others. There is no Baron Timur, and never was. There is juts a gang of cutthroats led by the murderer Timur, may the immunodeficiency virus strike his loins! For years they lived from robberies, but now it is no longer enough for them! Timur and his knechts attacked our surface village in treacherous daylight, killing our best warriors and taking the rest captive."
:"How many people this Timur has? How are they armed?"
:"There were about two dozens here, but surely he has more. Some remained behind at their base, somewhere behind the swamps. Now they'll all move here... As for their weapons, almost all had firearm! I have no clue where they got these, the guns from pre-war days, all carbines and pistols. Maybe found some pre-war fortress, or something. I've seen handbombs too, self-made ones. And our "Villains", of course - we used to trade a lot with the Fief of fire in the past."
By "Villain" he refers to a type of shotgun.
:"So the tunnels are captured by the brigands?"
:"No the tunnels are a different story, and way worse than the brigands, too... The mushroom-eaters had to settle outside, on the surface. But we're losing time! Self-styled Baron had left the village with most of his knechts, leaving only seven as guards. You have slain two, and I strangled one before... That leaves four. We'll handle them easily with your help. What say you?"
:"Let's go. Are you skilled with some weapon?"
:"I had a "Villain" and was a decent shooter. But fighting on the surface... I don't have much experience, you see? I'll shoot in their general direction. It may miss them, but will keep them busy."
:"Well, not too bad. Shall we begin?"
:"There is another thing... We'll have to get into the village first. there is a drawbridge to keep the uninvited guests and chimeras out. Sure thing, the brigands use it too. As they dragged me here, one of the bandits raised the bridge. He's likely to return soon, to let these two back, but we shouldn't wait for him if we want to take them by surprise. We have to find out how to lower the bridge from this side..."
And now we have our very own knecht! As there are no stat windows, we just have to trust in his skills.
Just showing that the demo still uses the sector inventory from 7,62.
This will go on Xey.
No room for this.
After a short walk...
..we reach the village.
This is a job for, gun!
Once in the village, Roland does his thing.
I moved Xey around the right. He has to hurry if he wants to grab a kill.
There we go.
:"We must release my folk! One of the bastards should have a cell key."
They sure do. Also what gear they have is randomized.
This goes to Xey.
Have another look at the map, while our heroes make their way to the imprisoned folk.
This looks like the place.
They are so eager that I have a hard time clicking the door.
:"(The old man visibly shudders as he notices the Order's crest on the armor, yet speaks with courtesy) We thank you for releasing us, sir knight! I am Gory, elder of the mushroom-eaters. Who are you, and what business brought you here so fortunately?"
:"My name is Roland. The head of the Farmatius family sent me here to investigate the penicillium shortage."
:"I hoped for the Church and the Farmatii to get alarmed, even though we rejected their offer of vassalization. Alas, we have abandoned the tunnels of our fathers, the vast plantations of mushrooms and precious mold are lost... Even the scraps we managed to salvage are being stolen by the brigands."
:"What do the brigands want from you?"
:"The mad Timur longs for a barony to claim as his own! Once a common brigand, caravan robber and murderer of pilgrims, he gathered a large gang and armed his men with ancient firearms! No longer a simple band of cutthroats, they train new raiders and produce their own armor in their stronghold. All Timur lacked was a reliable source of slaves and income. Sadly, we mushroom-eaters live away from the fiefs and succumb to no Baron as a vassal. We were assured in our invulnerability in these tunnels.."
:"Timur's murderers assaulted the tunnels even before our exodus. Fortunately surfacers have a hard time fighting underground, we defeated them with little effort. But as soon as we left for the surface, we were attacked again, and this time the brigands had an advantage. The sun blinds us, we aren't used to expect an attack from all sides at once! Timur enslaved all who survived and hanged many brave warriors. Now he schemes to relieve our tunnels from Darklings, so mushroom-eaters will become his thralls on their own underground plantations..."
:"Why did you abandon the tunnels?"
:"For centuries the tunnels served as sanctuary and the source of life for us. We cultivated mushrooms and mold, traded with baronies and were protected, since surface chimeras couldn't reach the tunnels, and the that came from the darkness of the ancient subway were easily dispatched. But a month ago the waters were suddenly gone from the flooded parts, and hordes of Darklings rushed from the unknown depths, hungry and quick."
Metro 2033, anyone?
:"We had to flee. Having lost many, we managed to seal an exit from the underground city. There, behind the wall, Darklings still roam, we hear them clawing at the rocks. Luckily the creatures fear sunlight more than we do."
:"They are horrible creatures, chimeras born in underground depths, ever hungry devourers of all that is living! Our legends say the Darklings were spawned from the depth dwellers who drank the waters tainted by seeds of the Wrenching. This may be truth, but Darklings have no human nature left in themselves."
:"How is Timur going to destroy the hordes of underground creatures?"
:"Oh, the murderous baron has prepared well! I know not where he uncovered a mighty and ancient weapon, nor how he found a way to use it.. The truth is - his knechts brought some old parts across the swamps and assembled an unspeakable device right here, near the sealed entrance into the blessed tunnels. Now Timur is going to blow up the wall and destroy the chimeras with this pre-war mechanism."
:"Where are Timur and the rest of his knechts now?"
:"Three nights ago, Timur gathered his lot and took many of my folk into the swamps. He's going to take his stolen riches and move-in here. My enslaved people have to carry the cargo, of course.. The guards Timur left expect him by coming nightfall - he's going to blow up the sealed entrance as soon as he arrives. In daylight the Darklings won't leave the tunnels, but in the nighttime their hunger will drive them outside."
:"I'll examine this "mechanism" of yours. Maybe we can use it against its masters. Having killed the brigands, we'll use their own plan and destroy the chimeras. Any warriors left among your folk?"
:"There are few of us left, sir knight. Much of our warriors were killed, and the teenagers were taken into the swamps by Timur. The only fighters we have left are Marat and Andrey, you can take them both. Brothers they are, and reliable folks. And Xey, of course."
:"All right, champions among Champignons, we'll see what stuff you're made of. All non-combatants, hide in the temple. Let's take positions an wait for the night."
Oh Roland, you jokester.
We already have a little squad!
Let's take a look at the ancient device and the tunnel.
The more important question is: How can we use that?!
You don't really know from where Timur will come, but as the map is small you can guess it. Next to the village is an industrial area where he will spawn. As I had to play this a bazillion times till I had a full run, I'm not ashamed to cheese the following battle.
When you press the Pause/break key on your keyboard, the game will transition to nighttime...
:"I've got unruly subjects, I see! Are ye rioting, pale ones? Drop yer weapons, I'll only hang the instigators. I need ye alive more than dead now."
We could attack right now, but let's milk this demo for all it has to offer.
:"I am Roland, knight of the Templar Order. These men are under our protection. You'll find naught but death here."
:"Eh, Knight Templar?? I've heard ye bother our folk in the south? Well, here I'll have yer teeth broken, Templar. Yer bones rot in the swamp.. But we can make peace still - here, on the ruins of ancient city, a new barony is born - a barony of mine! I need these tunnels. Mushrooms and mold are worthless, it's the ancient technologies I am after! I know for sure there are pre-war vaults here - imagine what they are filled with! Join me, and ye be a captain in my warriors! What do you say, Templar?"
:"A robber Baron and his "captain" in charge of two dozens.. Timur, your goal is unreachable. A brigand leader can't become a Baron, and ancient technologies shall not serve you, nor shall I. You're rotten inside and have no honor."
:"My teeth ache from yer stinking nobility, Templar! Ye think the barons' ancestors crawled out if their mothers' wombs with a title? They forged their baronies with gunpowder, plasma and blood - blood of others, not of their own! Who cares if I'm two centuries late? There is a lot of land here, and even more slaves. This is my final word, Templar, ye shan't stop me!"
:"Your final words have been spoken then. For the glory of the Order!"
I had to play this fight soo many times, despite my advantage.
Roland does most of the work, but his knechts aren't too shabby either.
And that's it for Timur.
The grenade isn't that strong, but at least it hit.
A small group comes from the left and then we're done.
:"Timur has fallen! We are forever in your debt..your and the Order's. You are a hero of our folk, yet I have to ask you, sir knight - why does your armor bear a crest of mankind's betrayers? Why does your order bear the name of the apostates, those who turned away from humanity in its darkest hour? Our legends preserve the bitter truth. How come the memory of surfacers is so short?"
:"Old man, your legends are far from the truth. Yet, we have to redeem of the sin we had never committed. Enough talk, we have business at hand."
More cool plot, we'll never know about.
:"(For a long time, the old man chews on his lips, having lowered his head. Finally, he nods and speaks, looking aside.) Forgive me, my lord Roland. I'll ask no more questions. Maybe indeed you are those Templars of old. If so, I'll soon believe in those fairytales about pre-war knights sleeping for centuries in underworld caves. (He giggles a bit, then suddenly turns serious, lowering his voice) Today I'd be grateful to Star Enemy even, were he to protect my folk. Know this: those ancient vaults the brigands spoke about, indeed do exist. My father told me once, long before the far tunnels were flooded, he saw the metal doors in one of the dead-ends of Orange Branch. Maybe you can find it. Destroy the Darklings and enter the tunnels!"
They actually gave Timur a unique corpse, so let's look what he has.
Down we go.
I really like the interactive environments.
Roland powers the cannon.
And Xey uses it.
The Darklings are fucked!
Roland blows the tunnel...
..and here they come!
You can let them get close and use your guns, but why would you?
There is a neat disintegration effect after the cannon hits.
But they keep coming.
One of them made it out of the tunnel, and while it lumbered slowly at first...
..it suddenly bolts towards Roland.
But he's the Boss.
And with that our knechts leave us...
..without a word.
All that is left, is to enter the tunnel.
It's a darn shame that this game didn't get developed, because it's fucking cool! But I imagine that the totally unstable demo played a part in that. Welp.
I'll leave you with a trailer that shows this demo in motion and some concept art. Also note that the devs had a free camera!
Also have a link to the English demo.