System Shock 2: Surviving The OSA – Part 2

“They see you! Run…RUN!!!” I don’t need telling twice – time to Foxtrot Oscar. Run down the corridor, hang left, take the next right… shit, security camera… double back. Owww, fuck, a shotgun slug to MY back. Go right again instead of left, and hide, hide in the… Chemical Storeroom? Great. After my last diary entry I had just been given a royal dressing down by Dr Janice Polito, seconds after being vomited out of a cryostasis unit, and, after picking up the huge yellow wrench in front of me, scurried out of the decompressing cryostasis area. This is how every game starts in System Shock 2, and each time it feels like a brand new beginning. Obviously it isn’t, but for a game that is largely linear in how the story develops and how you explore the ship, there is always a renewed sense of the unknown as you quickly try and find a somewhere that isn’t rapidly being vented into space.

After crawling out of the a-typical ventilation shaft found in every first-person videogame, and stumbling through a couple of doors, I found myself in a place of relative safety. Immediately Polito was back on my case, both congratulating me on not dying but also insulting my speed and lack of general intelligence. She was gracious enough to give me some cybernetic modules – used to upgrade my skills – and I began looking around for any supplies because, based on previous experiences, I was going to need them.

Already the early limitations of the OSA were starting to rear their ugly heads and, like a Hydra, for every head I cut off, for every problem I solved or workaround that I found, two more took its place. The OSA was never going to be a piece of cake, but I was starting to realise just how fucked I really was. I had decent stats in everything and anything that had a grounding in Psionics, which was… well, just Psionics really. I had nothing in research or hacking, two of the most important traits to be well-versed in. I couldn’t even hack a level one container at that point, meaning I was going to have be even more careful with salvaging and recovering items from corpses. You usually get all your smarts from the Navy class, and without that I was a man who could use the power of my mind to hurt people, but couldn’t play a little dot-to-dot game to open a create! Equally, I had no stats in any basic traits associated with the Marine class, so I could make objects levitate with the power of my mind, but I couldn’t pull the trigger on a gun.

That wasn’t really an issue at that point, however, because even if I was an all-singing, all-dancing meathead marine, I’d still have the uphill task that is the start of System Shock 2. All the weapons are in poor condition or jammed and unable to fire, security cameras are scanning the halls, turrets are primed and ready to fire, and then, of course, there are the things actively hunting and trying to kill me.

The Many, as they are collectively called, refers to an artificially created biological collective that has spread across the two ships, the Von Braun and the Rickenbacker. Think Borg but organic rather than machine and you’re pretty much there. There are various forms of The Many and they make up the majority of the opposition that roams the halls trying to absorb me into their slightly creepy collective. On Deck 2 I should only come across the standard types of Hybrid, which is basically a human with a parasitic worm pulsating across its neck and upper back. They’ll come armed with wrenches and shotguns. I can run away from both very effectively, but the shotgun ones pack a pretty nasty punch if I get caught out.

All these thoughts tumbled through my mind as I looted corpses, desks, cupboards – basically anything that wasn’t nailed down and which didn’t require a hacking skill to open. Of course, games keep all the best shit locked away and leave plant pots and energy drinks in desk drawers, so I made it my first priority to save up and unlock some basic hacking.

If all this makes for bleak reading of the OSA class – and it should – there are some benefits. Firstly, I fell fresh as a daisy out of stasis with a Black Ops Psionic Amplifier (Psi-Amp) plugged into my arm. This basically looks like I’m holding a Death Star paperweight, but in reality it is actually the tool that allows me to put all my psionic abilities into practice. With this plugged into my arm from the get-go, I had an early advantage that the other classes didn’t: I had a weapon that didn’t require any generic ‘ammo’, and something that didn’t degrade, need repairing, modifying and which wouldn’t jam. It was the only thing in my inventory that was present the moment the game started, and that would still be there the moment it finished. For that reason I’ve given it a name, and so Fenton is born and will be joining us for the rest of the adventure. Secondly, I didn’t have to worry about clogging up my inventory with loads of different weapons that either break or jam, and could instead take all the ammo I found and trade it for nanties, which can be used to buy all manner of goodies.

Having searched the initial area high and low, taken note of the fact that I needed thirteen cybernetic modules (initial costs to unlock skills are higher on harder difficulties and continue to be more expensive than lower difficulties) to get level one hacking, I decided it was time to get to th elevator to get up to Operations Deck, as instructed. I hadn’t taken two steps out of the first door when I heard the eerie call of the Hybrids – “Is there another?” Yes there is, and he’s packing a giant bloody wrench and mind-bullets that could kill a yak from two hundred yards away. Come at me, bro!

Yeah, that was my first mistake. The first Hybrid rushed at me, pipe in hand, as a second one came around the corner. I dodged the swipe of the first and went barrelling into the second. He promptly caved the back of my skull in and, had the game been in third-person, I probably would have witnessed some tiny stars begin to spin around my head. Unfazed by losing nearly a third of my hit points, I started laying into the second guy. My second wrench attack caused him to stumble, and the third left him open to be finished. The first Hybrid, clearly miffed at being totally ignored at this particular dance, came hurtling towards me, smashing the front of my head to make sure it matched the back.

I backed off, not wanting to take another – likely fatal – hit, and whipped out Fenton. I charged my Projected Cryokinesis beyond the safety limit and released it before burnout occurred as the Hybrid rushed towards me, meeting a ball of cold, psychic death. That was my first fight as an OSA agent and it hadn’t gone well. I’d lost nearly two thirds of my health and had drained almost a quarter of my PSI energy. For those sacrifices I’d managed to find two cans of soda and pistol round. Bollocks. During that whole event the stingy cow Polito gave me more modules, bringing the count to twelve – one short of what I needed. Double bollocks. No matter, it was time to get to the Operations Deck.

The elevator had no power. Super. Get to Engineering Deck to restore power. HOW? THE ELEVATOR HAS NO FUCKING POWER! Use the maintenance ladder, it’s behind that door over there. This door? It’s locked. I’ll need a code from Dr Watts, and he’s stuck in the Crew Subsection. Okay, fine, let’s go there, and get the code. WHAT? The Crew Subsection is locked down and the keycard is with Grassi and he’s WHERE? Medical Subsection. Brilliant, right, fuck it; let’s go get Grassi then. Jesus H Christ, it’s no wonder these guys all got fucked up – no bastard could be bothered to travel around picking everyone’s shit up.

Wandering around the starting halls of the Von Braun brought back some chilling memories, but also highlighted just how wrong the place feels. The halls are lined with bullet holes and blood splatters, some doors and windows are broken from either violent fighting or the last remnants of human life trying to escape The Many. The interior of the Von Braun is utterly wrecked and it’s floating in space with the Rickenbacker, doing nothing except mimicking its larger, more technologically advanced brother. One thing that does remain is Xerxes – the A.I aboard the Von Braun is keeping all the turrets and security cameras in check, aiding The Many and, ultimately, my destruction. With the odds heavily stacked against me, I decided that it was best to seek out the Quantum Bio-Reconstruction Device on his deck. Each deck has one, and it acts as a respawn point should I be killed during the game, but I have to turn them on first so that they take a copy of my DNA. On Deck two this took me towards the mortuary where I found the hanging body of a crewmember. This sort of desperate act isn’t uncommon aboard the Von Braun, and I’d be seeing plenty more people who decided they’d rather be dead than a slave to a parasite before the game was over.

For some reason, I didn’t quite get to the Quantum Bio-Reconstruction Device and, instead, headed towards the door for Medical Subsection. I got within a few feet when I remembered I wouldn’t be getting to Grassi just yet; the door to the Medical Subsection was also without power, and the auxiliary for this bulkhead was also out of juice, so I would need to grab the battery off the floor and find a charger. Polito chirped up and reminded me that the previous charger I used was now floating in space so I’d have to find another one. It was around that time that I heard the words “They see you! Run… RUN!!!” coming from a Hybrid behind me. I stupidly coasted backwards a couple of feet and let the security camera see me for long enough to sound a general alarm – as previously stated, it was now time to Foxtrot Oscar.

And that’s how I ended up in the Chemical Storeroom. I grabbed what bits and pieces I could on the way through and healed myself while dodging assailants, so I was now at half health and full PSI. I waited patiently for the alarm to tick off its last few seconds and then waited… ten seconds…thirty seconds… a minute…two minutes; nothing came looking for me. System Shock 2 is a game where you don’t want to get cornered at the best of times, but the last thing you want to do is take the fight to The Many or Xerxes and his robot army. Not yet, anyway. It wasn’t the time for straight-up fighting; it was the time for scurrying around like the pathetic creature of meat and bone that I am. Taking the fight to the enemy comes later, or at least it would when I got hold of an assault rifle. Something told me that this would be more a game of hide and seek than playing Rambo.

Exiting the Chemical Storeroom I had a flash of a past memory and remembered I had ended up right next to the recharge station that I needed for the battery. Thankful for the turn of good fortune, I promptly smashed an absent minded Hybrid over the head with my wrench, pinched all the local supplies and recharged the battery. Polito must have had her afternoon nap because she rewarded me with two cybernetic modules, meaning I could finally get an entry-level hacking skill and start opening some bloody crates. It also meant I could hack security stations to cancel alarms, should I get discovered again.

I made my way back towards the Medical Subsection door, this time doing a full lap of the section of Deck two I was on, scooping up a couple of extra medical and PSI hypos, as well as some generic ammo and weapons. They were all jammed and worth less than a fart in a windstorm to me, but at least I could break them down and trade them in for precious nanties – at least so I thought. Turns out you can trade ammo in but not weapons, and that’s only once I picked up a recycler, wherever the hell that was. So much for the theory of having tons of nanties to fuel my escapades. I finally made it back to the bulkhead and promptly smashed that bastard camera in the face with my wrench, plugged the battery in, and hurried through to the Medical Subsection. The sooner I found Grassi and Dr Watts, the sooner I could get off this deck!

Make sure to return for Part 3 of the diary where I find encounter both Grassi, Dr Watts and some really clever monkeys, long for the reassuring touch of a gun in my hand, and go toe to toe with a robot, armed with nothing more than my mind and a wrench.

Last five articles by Chris



  1. Marian says:

    It’s been years since I played SS2, your articles bring back a lot of good memories! I love your style of writing, I hope you’ll make it through the whole game ;)

  2. Chris Toffer says:

    Thanks Marian. My memory gets a little fuzzy after this, so the rest of the game will be quite an experience :)

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