Damocles (Second Review)

Title           Damocles (Mercenary II) (Second Review)
Publisher       Novagen
Game Type       3D Adventure
Players         1
HD Installable  HD-patch: from Bert Jahn's WHDLoad page
Compatability   68000 Amigas only (All Amigas with patch)
Game data/utils Spoilers - aminet:game/hint/damocles.txt
Submission      Graham Crump

Damocles is a 3D-adventure game set in an entirely exploreable solar
system. The game starts with an automated introduction that sees you fly
into the Gamma system and head for the planet Eris. Once landed at the
spaceport you're given control of your character and instructed to pick up
a key at reception for a not-very-stretched limo and to head for the
President's house.

It's here that you discover why you're on Eris in the first place: To save
the planet from the catastrophic catastrophe of the comet Damocles
destroying the planet. Which, thanks to your lousy timekeeping and the
bother of escaping from Targ (twice!), leaves you with about three hours
to do it.

Piece of cake - Corben Dallas did it in The 5th Element, and the oil
rigger did it again in Armageddon. Both those people look remarkably
similar, might even be related.

But rather than splitting the comet in two, or using a supreme being
with bright orange hair to stop it, there are five ways in which you can
save Eris from destruction:

1. Blow it up (1) - sounds simple enough. Gather a few explosives,
drop them on Damocles, set the timer, run like hell.

2. Blow it up (2) - Use the prototype Novabomb, with its 4 hidden triggers
scattered around the solar system, this is how you're told to proceed in
the game itself.

3. Destroy Icarus - Use either of the above to blow up the planet Icarus,
which changes the course of the comet if done before a certain point.

4. Wish for a solution - Find a book of wishes and a magic wishing crystal
and you can save Eris.

5. Use the Author's computer - Damocles can be destroyed by using the
Author's computer, which (thankfully) isn't a Windows PC.

Of course you're not a charity so you're not going to save the world for
free. You can bargain with the President on what to get paid, but don't
go too high. There's also an incentive to try to save both Eris and
Damocles which will earn you a few extra notes (read: millions), which
always come in handy.

Transport around the game area is provided by a range of land, air and
interplanetary vehicles, and of course walking, but it would take you the
three hours just to walk from the spaceport to the Presidents house, a bit
pointless then. Interplanetary flight uses the theory of relativity in
that the faster you go the more your perception of time slows, so a thirty
second flight from Eris to the systems star Dialis for you, would mean an
hour wasted of the game time, and so isn't recommended. To help you get to
other planets without running out of time, you're provided with
transporters which don't suffer from relative effects. The 10
transporters are placed in different locations, which may be of use. Once
certain items have been collected you can pick up transporters, and indeed
vehicles, which helps you get to where you're going quicker.

The game is very open ended in that you can wander around and do things
not related to the task at hand. It is also very difficult to die/get
stuck in the game. If you do, by staying on Eris for a good view of the
apocalypse, or by getting yourself locked up in jail (explained below),
you simply get placed in a ship somewhere in space to carry on from. The
disadvantages with this are that you then have to travel back to where you
were which takes up valuable game time. Time stops for no one.

However, not everywhere in the system is free to explore straight away.
There are lettered keys hidden around, which unlock doors with
corresponding letters next to them. This provides many more hours of
searching for certain keys. For instance, once you've found the Author's
House, which (surprise!) holds the Author's computer you've then got to
trek half way around the system to find the key. This does make you
wonder about security in the Gamma system as there are only around 10 keys
in the whole system, meaning you can go into most houses unhindered,
indeed the doors even open for you as you approach.

The game's GUI has the main game screen in the top two thirds and the
instrument panel in the bottom, populated with lots of dials and numbers,
telling you your speed, position on a planet, the planet your on or near,
your inventory and your computer: Benson. The 3D graphics at the time of
release were far ahead of those available on other systems. Before, line
drawn models had dominated, as in Mercenary 1: Escape From Targ. With
Damocles the polygons have been filled with colour which gives the more
believable impression of a solid gaming area. And a whole solar system to
explore. The actual playable area is a thing to behold in this day of
Bloatware, as on just an 880k floppy disk you got an area the size of our
solar system to freely explore. Graphics and sound 12 years ago weren't as
memory hungry as they are now so this could be achieved.

The game has an addictive quality that has kept me playing for years, as
its not just the gameplay which strikes you when you play, it's all the
in-jokes, secrets and so forth which keep you coming back to discover
more. Paul Woakes and the Novagen team have done a really thorough job on
this and the other games in the Mercenary series.

Prisoner Cell Block Metis. That's right, get locked up when visiting the
prison on Metis, a moon of Eris. Although you're not told what you've
done (something about burglary on a planetary scale I believe), you get
sentenced to be locked up until the release of Mercenary III.

Damocles was set for an updated port to the PC with Novagen and Psygnosis
in 1995 which looked brilliant, technology had moved on in leaps and
bounds since 1990. Unfortunately, difficulties between the two parties
meant that Damocles PC never saw daylight, although pictures were released
of what the game was going to look like.

In conclusion, if you like adventure games they don't get much bigger and
better than this. I recommend this to any Amiga owner past or present,
(and future!!). Track down a copy and give it a whirl. I guarantee you
won't be disappointed.

Finally, thanks to Simon Guyart for his website: 'The Mercenary Site'
which inspired me to start playing the Mercenary games all over again. He
has all the solutions to all 3 games, including lots of extras that fans
of the games will love: http://www.geocities.com/Paris/7150/merce.htm

Category list.

Alphabetical list.