Tag: horror (page 1 of 15)

Flash Fiction: The Gift

It was an anonymous package. Those always raised suspicions. The museum’s security had gone over it several times, and it had been run through all sorts of tests before it landed on the assistant curator’s desk. Amanda came back from Starbucks to find it waiting there, illuminated under the wan light of the lamp that always seemed a little too dim for her tastes. Her requests for stronger lighting continued to fall on deaf ears. She shook her head, put her coffee aside, and turned the package to face her.

Even at that small touch, a chill ran up Amanda’s arm and down her spine. Her hand snapped back from the plain brown wrapping of its own accord. Her mind scrambled for a rational explanation. She stepped away from her desk and towards the thermostat. She found the temperature the same as when she had left.

open it

Slowly, Amanda turned to look at the package. It had not moved, of course, but the chill found her again. Her shaking hand reached out for her coffee, but moved towards the package instead. It took a moment of intense focus for her to pick up the paper cup instead of touching the string tied around the delivery.

open it

It took Amanda a moment to decide on a course of action. She went to the curator’s desk, near her own, and picked up the Rolodex. Frantically, she paged through the notecards, finally finding the right one. Doctor Gibbons often called upon the person in question to discuss more esoteric or obscure fines, always out of the office, always off the record. She didn’t know what else to do, other than obey her lizard-brain instinct to run or the voice telling her to open the package. She shook her head, and used her free hand to pick up the phone.

open it

Amanda drew in a sharp breath. Her hand seized just above the receiver for the phone. She looked up at her desk, at the package under the lamp. Without taking her eyes from it, she picked up the card from the Rolodex, backed away towards the door, and picked up her coat from its hook. She was out the door as quickly as possible, draining the cup in her shaking hand. She tossed it into a garbage can near the exit and looked down at the car. She walked as fast as she was able. The address was a dozen blocks away, but her long legs ate up the distance quickly. She was sweating and her breath was short as she headed up the stairs.

OPEN IT

“How did it follow me?”

As if in response, the door opened in front of her. She was greeted by a man slightly taller than her, with short stylish hair graying at the roots, dressed in a bathrobe and holding a mug of what smelled like tea.

“Um. Can I help you?”

“Yes. I think so. I’m the assistant curator at-”

OPEN IT!

Amanda grabbed hold of her head with both hands and gritted her teeth in pain. The man put his tea aside and put a gentle hand on Amanda’s shoulder. Only slightly aware of what was happening, she let the man lead her into his office. She was eased into a couch or chair. An indeterminate amount of time passed, and Amanda felt her head pounding in an incredibly uncomfortable fashion. Something warm and aromatic was waved under her nose.

“Here. Drink this.”

It took an obscene amount of effort for her to put the mug to her lips and tilt her head so the liquid flowed into her mouth and down her throat. A hand that was not hers eased the mug away from her before she started to choke. The warmth of the tea washed down through the core of her being and the throbbing behind her eyes faded to a dull, distant ache. The voice with its demand began to echo deeper in her mind, still present but nowhere near as overwhelming.

That was when Amanda started crying.

The man took the mug away and returned with a box of tissues. Amanda wiped her eyes and blew her nose. She was horrified when the tissue came away stained red with blood.

“What is happening to me? I don’t understand.”

“You must be Amanda. Doctor Gibbons has mentioned you several times when we’ve had lunch together. Do you know who I am?”

She shook her head. “I know your name. You’re Nathan Deacon. You’re an archaeologist. That’s what the card in Doctor Gibbons’ Rolodex says.”

“He’s a good and private man. He hasn’t mentioned my falling-out with the University administration or how long I’ve been looking for another position. I had to sell my car and house, making sure I have the money to fly to digs and locations. Oh, and pay for this.” He gestured at the somewhat run-down office and the basket of blankets on one side of the futon, topped by a rumpled pillow. “The price I pay for being a ‘crackpot’.”

“I’m not sure I follow.”

Deacon opened a small first-aid kit, removed a penlight, and used it to study Amanda’s eyes. “When did the voices begin?”

Amanda blinked. “How did you-”

“I’ve seen this before. A former colleague of mine came across an artifact that he claims filled his head with voices. He had nosebleeds and migraines for two weeks solid before he eventually wandered, delirious and screaming, into traffic. City bus hit him. There wasn’t much left.”

Amanda shivered. “That’s terrible. What was the artifact?”

“It was part of an ancient cult.” Deacon stood and walked to step behind a privacy screen set up in a corner of the office near the wardrobe. “They believed that god-like beings were angry with the course of human history and the species’ impact on the planet, and were praying for what they describe as ‘a great cleansing’ to wipe out humanity and let the planet heal itself.”

“Almost every culture has an end-of-the-world scenario.” Amanda felt her mind returning to normal. “We’ve had artifacts from those sorts of things before. This is the first time I’ve had this sort of reaction to such a thing. I mean… voices in my head…”

“It’s disconcerting. I know. I’ve been researching the cult for years.” Deacon reappeared in a rumpled button-down shirt, jeans with a hole at his right knee, and a leather jacket he was shrugging into, an item with quite a few zippered and snap-closure pockets. “Like I said – ‘crackpot’ in the eyes of the university administration.” He handed her a handkerchief. “For your nose.”

“Thank you.” She dabbed at her nostrils. They were clear, for now. “You say your friend…”

He held up his hands. “Don’t panic. The tea I blended works as a stopgap, but we need to deal with the source. We need to destroy the artifact, whatever it is.”

“How? This all started when I touched the package. Just the package.” She looked up at him. “How do we do this?”

Deacon smiled, and offered her his hand. “Trust me.”

They walked back to the museum. Along the way, Amanda felt the voice beginning to get stronger. She told Deacon about what it was saying, how it sounded, and the nature of the pain it caused. The older man nodded as they walked, holding the door open for her and following her through the building back into the offices.

To Amanda, the inner office she shared with Gibbons seemed darker. The light on her desk was a single, weak source of resistance to the encroaching gloom.

“What do we do now?”

She looked to Deacon in order to get her answer, but she saw the man was pulling on a pair of white gloves, with circles and odd symbols embroidered into their backs. He reached into another pocket and handed her a small, crystal vial.

“Repeat after me.” Deacon then said a short phrase in a language Amanda didn’t recognize, but she sounded out the words as best as she was able.

“Good.” He pulled the stopper from the vial and handed it to her. “Drip some of the tonic onto my gloves, repeating the phrase as you do it.”

Amanda didn’t say or do anything for moment, then obeyed. Deacon held out his hands, palms up first, then turning them over and holding them under the drops before he nodded.

“Thank you. How do you feel?”

“My head hurts. It still is telling me to open it.”

Deacon knelt by the desk, drawing a circle with a piece of chalk. He gestured for Amanda to approach.

“I want you to put your hands near the circle. Please think about the world you know. Family, friends, good things, bad things. The entirety of the human experience. Fix the image of humanity in your mind. Do NOT break the circle. This is not going to be pleasant.”

Amanda nodded, sitting cross-legged near the chalk and leaning out to lay her hands near it. A low moan began in her mind, and she ground her teeth together, careful not to move. Deacon reached to the desk, pulling the string loose and unwrapping the brown paper. He took a sharp breath, and gently opened the wooden box. The moan became a howl, and Amanda winced.

“What are you thinking about, Amanda?”

“Picnics with my family. A really nice date I had with James.” She winced again. “Breaking up with James. Spending New Years’ alone. Spending New Years’ in the club…”

“Keep going.” Deacon removed the artifact. It was a small stone statue. Amanda couldn’t tell if it was a bust or a full figure, but it was a mass of appendages that were not remotely human, eyes and beaks in odd places. The whole thing turned Amanda’s stomach. But she kept speaking as things came into her mind.

“Getting sideswiped by a bike messenger. Walking with people to protest police corruption after Ferguson. Dropping that vase that I had just dated back to the 3rd century…”

Deacon placed the statue in the middle of the circle. Immediately, the shadows seemed to deepen even further around Amanda. She shrieked, and for a moment, her mind went entirely blank, save for a oily, ineffable feeling of what could only be described as a cold, unfeeling, empty void…

“Don’t stop!”

Deacon’s voice felt like a whipcrack. She repeated herself, her voice rising, adding memories from her childhood and things she hoped for, opening her eyes to see Deacon raising a claw hammer. The statue had begun to glow, emitting seething violet light from somewhere within it. Her eyes widened but, in spite of her fear, did not stop talking.

The archaeologist brought the hammer down hard on the statue. It shattered into stone shards that flew throughout the office, sizzling and spitting as they dissolved. The shadow of the creature rose over the humans, violet points of light reaching for Amanda. Deacon quickly pulled out a handkerchief embroidered with a design similar to those on the back of his gloves. After applying some tonic, he dropped it into the circle on top of something Amanda couldn’t see.

The shadows and noise immediately ceased. Deacon knelt, gathering up the cloth in his hands.

“What was that?”

“An idol to a being that pre-dates mankind and was worshipped by that cult I mentioned. This is a drop of its blood.”

What?” Amanda blinked at Deacon as he removed his gloves, which were still around the cloth. “That thing was real?”

“Not was, is. And it’s looking for for a way into our world to destroy the humanity it sees as a plague.”

Amanda felt another chill slide through her body. “It would have used me.”

“Yes. But now we have its blood.”

She narrowed her eyes. “Are you saying ‘if it bleeds, we can kill it’?”

Nate Deacon shrugged. “I’ve seen movies before. But yes. We can, in fact, kill this thing.”

Flash Fiction: Cup of Comfort

The Necronomicon
Courtesy istaevan

The series at Terribleminds continues…

++++++++++++++++++ Part 1: Josee De Angelis ++++++++++++++++++

Of course it would rain today. It couldn’t be nice and sunny. Perfectly crappy weather for a crappy day. Shane dragged her luggage down the hall, her box of books under her arm, all her hats on her head – good thing the rain hat was the last one she found. What she couldn’t fit in her suitcases she wore. The furniture would have to come later. She couldn’t stand to be in that apartment one minute more.

The rain was coming down hard when Shane opened the front door. It was very dark, as if the clouds decided to play with people’s minds and make it look like nighttime. This did nothing to lighten Shane’s mood. Where would she go? Where could she go? Not going to her parents’ home, that’s for sure. Her sister’s? Only if she wanted all her past choices to be dissected, analyzed and declared wrong. They were wrong, but did she really need to hear it from someone else? Not so much.

Shane decided to walk north to put as much space as she could between herself and the apartment, where she lived moderately happy for six years. That was before everything changed. Before yesterday.

++++++++++++++++++ Part 2: Liz Neering ++++++++++++++++++

Yesterday the shadow had appeared. It began as a black spot, hidden away in the corner. But as the day progressed it had bled like spilled ink into the bulk of the room, until by the time she had gone to bed, it had stretched its dark fingers across the bulk of the apartment. She had slept huddled on the sofa, her knees drawn up to her chest, her hands wrapped around her shins to keep her tightly coiled and far away from the blackness coming to claim her.

They would never understand. They would never believe.

Shane pulled her hats down further, tugging them down her forehead until their stacked brims concealed her downcast, black-rimmed eyes. She stopped in the street. Water poured down her hats, splattering fat droplets onto her shoes. She rubbed her eyes until they burned.

“Think,” she said. “Think.”

She felt something; the short hairs on the nape of her neck rose. She turned on her heel.

The blackness was there. It crept towards her, sentient, hungry, writhing like a serpent as it slunk closer. A voice, oily and thick, cut through the air.

“Shane,” it hissed. “Come to us. Be one with us. We understand. We do not judge.”

++++++++++++++++++ Part 3: Ken Crump++++++++++++++++++

That voice, she thought, I know that voice!

Slowly the pieces began to fall into place. Shane spun on her heel, gathered her box of books tightly under her arm and strode toward the Cup of Comfort coffee shop at the north end of the block. Her suitcase rolled smoothly through the gathering puddles, making rhythmic “sslack” sounds as it jumped the sidewalk cracks. Halfway there, a wheel caught in a crack, broke off, and rolled into the street. The suitcase reeled and twisted out of her control. Shane stole a look over her shoulder at the suitcase and then back toward the blackness. It still crept toward her. What had she read about the blackness? She squeezed her books closer to her body, and abandoning the suitcase, she walked on.

That box of books was one of her past choices her sister would undoubtedly dissect and analyze again, given the chance. “You paid how much for those?” she had demanded in that I-know-everything voice that only big sisters have. “They’re so old the covers are all bubbly.”

“The covers are not bubbly,” Shane spat. “They’re anthropodermic!” And she immediately wished she could have unsaid it. Her big sister didn’t need to know the books were bound in human skin.

++++++++++++++++++ Part 4 ++++++++++++++++++

“Can I get you something?”

Shane blinked. The barista was looking at her pleasantly. For now. When Shane blinked, something else that wasn’t a barista was smiling at her. It was a smile she had seen before, in the shadows, a dark smiling face with eyes like bruning coals and teeth made of knives. Shane blinked again, and saw more of them. She squeezed her eyes shut and willed herself not to think about the books or the words penned in blood or the macabre images…

“Miss? Are you all right?”

She opened her eyes. She was back in Cup of Comfort. The barista looked more concerned than anything, and Shane tried to smile. It was difficult as the shadows got longer out of the corner of her eye.

“Yes. I’m sorry. I was thinking about my sister. Could I get a cup of coffee, please?”

“Sure.” The barista set about making the drink. “Are you in town to visit your sister?”

Shane swallowed. Her only hope was that, with a few customers in the shop, the darkness would be held at bay, at least for now. She needed time she didn’t have.

“No.” Shane bit her lip. “She’s dead now.”

The Creeps

HAL 9000

Slasher movies and torture porn will always have their place at Halloween and in the hearts and minds of horror fans. For me, effective and lasting horror does not necessarily have anything to do with buckets of blood or how stomach-turning the visuals are. Sometimes, the most penetrating stories of terror have less to do with what we see, and more to do with what we don’t; less about the delivery of lines, more about what’s left unsaid.

In terms of visuals, one of the most effective and haunting horror games I’ve ever played is Amnesia: The Dark Descent. A little indie gem from a few years back, Amnesia remains a game I have yet to finish. Some horror games like to throw their monsters directly at you in as loud and visceral a way possible, but Amnesia plays things with more subtlety. With no means to defend yourself, a limited amount of lighting in a game defined by darkness and shadows, and the addition of a sanity meter that makes things even more difficult if we’re alone in the dark for too long, when monsters appear (or don’t, but you know they’re there) it’s best to just run and hide. It’s frighteningly easy to lose track of where you’re going and what your goal for the moment is when you hear a moan or a scraping sound and you pretty much crap yourself in terror. The sensations created just through sound design and good use of the environment are, in a word, creepy.

Endermen in MineCraft also qualify. Dark-skinned creatures that appear in dark areas, Endermen are unique in that they won’t attack you right away. They’ll blink around with their teleportation powers, move blocks here and there, and stare at you. If you stare back, though… that’s when they become hostile. They scream. And they teleport directly behind you to attack you. Quite creepy.

Sometimes, though, the visuals and triggering mechanisms aren’t what stick in our minds as something that creeps us out. Sometimes, a person or object can appear completely normal, yet project that aura of vague discomfort that’s impossible to shake. This happens a lot when a character appears normal, but talks and acts in a way that hints that they’re not quite human, and perhaps only learned about humanity from reading a pamphlet or taking a correspondence course. The Observers in Fringe apply, especially September in the first season. The G-Man from Half-Life also springs to mind – courteous, polite, well-articulated, but… there’s definitely something wrong with him.

Stanley Kubrick is one of the best film directors to convey this sense of unease. Many of his shots in The Shining and A Clockwork Orange are off-putting in their framing, length, and presentation, even if the conversations within could be considered entirely mundane. But for me, one of the creepiest things he’s ever brought to life is the HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Faceless antagonists range from Doctor Who’s Daleks with their stilted, loud voices and monstrous appearances concealed by armored throwbacks to low-budget sci-fi, to Michael Meyers and his silent, towering, knife-wielding menace. But HAL is unique. He’s not overtly malevolent, nor is he outwardly psychopathic. He is a computer. He is a construct of logic and reason. His actions, given his programming, make sense, when you think about it. And he never raises his voice, never swears, never even speaks ill of those he wrongs. This calm, even manner of speaking coupled with the unblinking gaze of his multiple cameras and the amount of control he exerts over the crew of the spacecraft Discovery make him one of the creepiest characters ever created.

What’s creepy for you? Who’s your favorite creepy antagonist?

Flash Fiction: Bump In The Night Raven

Courtesy Alien

From the Terribleminds challenge “Last Lines First” comes…


“Truth be told, I’m not sure any of them are actually dead.”

The mug of coffee shook in the engineer’s hands. The nails were chipped and the fingers calloused from years of cleaning, changing, tightening, and banging the many moving parts required for jump drives. The man facing the engineer, wearing vintage suspenders over a tailored shirt with an open collar, nodded slowly.

“Just… take your time, Parker. Who was the first to die?”

“Rigger. Co-pilot. He, uh… he heard something, down in the bay. He didn’t check in for hours. Mosely, he was my partner, and he went to find Rigger. He… found Rigger’s comm unit. It was covered in blood.”

The well-dressed man exchanged a look with the room’s third occupant. Nothing was said. After the engineer took a shaky sip of his coffee, he continued.

“Mosely was next, of course. He went to the head – ate too much cornbread. He always ate too much cornbread. Anyway, I heard the scream. I ran to the head, opened the door, and his toolbelt was there. The vent was hanging off of its frame. I guess… I guess whatever it was grabbed him and yanked him up through there. His toolbelt wasn’t bloody, though. There was this… goop on it.”

“‘Goop’.”

“Don’t know how else to describe it. Doctor Bolton took a sample, and told us later it was a ‘viscous secretion’, whatever that means. That was after two of the mining crew got snagged. We still hadn’t seen the thing. It was down to me, Captain Hammond, Akers the pilot, Doctor Bolton, Lydia the company rep, and Des the mining foreman. We were talking about abandoning ship and looking for help.”

“What happened?”

“We… we saw Rigger.”

The man in the suspenders leaned towards Parker. “Describe exactly what you saw.”

“He was standing there, in the door to the mess hall. He had… this chunk missing from his neck. One good eye. He stared at me…” Parker gripped the mug in his hands, trying to steady them. “It was like getting stared at by an animal at a zoo. There’s something there but it’s not him. It’s not the guy I used to swap dirty jokes with over moonshine on third watch.”

“Was it just Rigger?”

“At first. He came into the room, went right for Captain Hammond. We tried to fight him off. But he was so strong. Stronger than I thought he’d be. Then Mosely came in, and… I got away. I ran.”

“Nobody can blame you for that. What happened next?”

“You need two people to activate the self-destruct. Nobody else made it out after me. So I grabbed a shuttle and flew out of there. I was never a good pilot, but we were in deep space. I just headed straight towards Proxima, and that’s when the patrol picked me up.” Parker finished his coffee. “Mister Cogburn… am I in trouble?”

Cogburn shook his head. “No, you’re not personally in trouble. The Company knows that there was nothing more you could do. But I wanted to get your story first-hand.”

Before Parker could ask why, Cogburn produced his tablet and showed the image on it to the engineer.

“The Night Raven, your prospecting vessel, was spotted by patrols on a direct course for the Sol system.”

“… Earth?”

“That’s right. If they get to Earth, they can either take control of the hub of space travel for all the colonies, or head for the surface to make more… things. We’re still not sure exactly what we’re up against here, but we do know we can’t let that ship reach Earth.”

Parker looked to the other figure facing him. “Is… is that why you’re here?”

Cogburn turned to the person next to him. “At this point, the Company is asking the United Colonial Military Command for help. Lieutenant Olsen here is in command of an Expeditionary Platoon operating out of Barnard’s.” He handed Olsen the tablet. “Do you think you’ll be able to help, Lieutenant? We need to intercept the Night Raven, capture at least one of the infected subjects, and determine the origin of this… contagion. The Company is willing to give you anything you need.”

Olsen frowned. “Are you and Parker coming?”

Cogburn shrugged. “I doubt Parker would want to come along.”

“Oh, Jesus, God, no.”

“Right. So it’d just be me. I’m the Company’s liaison and work in their R&D department. They wanted to send an executive but we were able to convince them that you’d find a brain more useful than a suit and smile.”

“You know how to handle a gun, Cogburn?”

“I’ve fired one a couple times. Never at anything living, though.”

Olsen’s face did not soften. She had yet to uncross her arms or move from her position of leaning on the desk, but she looked like the sort of solider who’d be combat-ready at the drop of a hat. Green eyes studied Cogburn from under a close-cropped mop of blonde hair, and the scar on the right side of her mouth for her lip to her chin made her scowl all the more intimidating.

“Don’t expect my men to hold your hand when things get dicey. Ship invasions are tense, close-quarter clusterfucks under the best of circumstances. I don’t like taking civvies into combat zones.”

“One: I’m not your typical civilian. Two: The Night Raven is owned by the Company and they want to protect their investment. Three: If you have to scuttle the ship, you need someone who can override the ship’s fail-safes quickly, and unless one of your soldiers is a former Company employee, that means you need me.”

Olsen snorted. “That’s extortion.”

“No, Lieutenant, those are the facts.”

“If you’re lying to me, I’ll shoot you myself.”

“Fair enough.”

“Um.” Parker looked up at the two of them. “Does… this mean any of them are still alive?”

Cogburn tried to smile. “Maybe. Anything’s possible.”

“Either way,” Olsen said, “we’ll take it from here. We leave at 0800.”

Game Review: System Shock 2

Some may consider it a bit of a cheat for me to go over a game I’ve discussed previously. However, a discussion of body horror in video games as part of a Halloween theme is not the same as a full-blown review. And since this game is now available on Steam, I figured now would be a good time to give it the full treatment. Let’s get right into it.

Courtesy Irrational Games

The Tri-Optimum Corporation, late of the original System Shock, has backed the world’s first faster-than-light drive, installed on the science vessel Von Braun. Tethered to the military cruiser Rickenbacher, this historic trip takes the crew of scientists and pioneers to the distant system of Tau Ceti V. When your character awakens, it’s clear that the trip has not gone very well. The Von Braun has holes in it, the AI has gone a little nutty, and the crew? Well… most of them ask you to kill them as they slam your face with a length of pipe.

Like the original System Shock, the setting pits the player, effectively alone, against sci-fi corridors full of active threats. However, it quickly becomes apparent that there are more layers to this game, and I’m not just talking about the multiple decks of the Von Braun. While the malevolent AI SHODAN was the sole antagonist of the first game, it doesn’t take long for a voice other than the Von Braun‘s computer XERXES begins to taunt the player. The game is full of reveals and changes in plot and setting that are well-paced, thanks to the layout of the starships and the ways in which the player upgrades their character.

Courtesy Irrational Games
They tell you to run. They beg you to kill them. They’re very effective creatures, and they’re just the beginning.

This is a true RPG with shooter mechanics, as opposed to shooters with RPG elements like BioShock or Deus Ex: Human Revolution. This isn’t to take anything away from either of those games, as they’re both excellent. However, the focus of more modern games is on the shooting as opposed to character construction. System Shock 2‘s melee has the Half-Life feel in that you can just slam the attack button until whatever is in front of you crumbles. Shooting is better, but since ammunition is very scarce, you may not be doing it as much as you do in other games. You need to rely on other skills, like hacking, weapon maintenance, and possibly psionic powers in order to not end up like those poor hybrids.

In addition to its well-balanced and thought-provoking character system, System Shock 2 conveys atmosphere extremely well. Sound design especially stands out, from the pained groans of the hybrids to the skittering noise of the arachnids to the chittering of the creepy worms. In terms of overall creepiness, the cake is probably taken by the cyborg midwifes, while the ramblers really shocked me into nearly crapping my pants with their speed and desire to swallow my face in those really disgusting tooth-ringed maws of theirs. Yeesh. You see one of those lumpy sons of bitches, you’re gonna have a bad time.

Courtesy Irrational Games
… Yeah. This game is creepy.

The dated nature of the graphics can undercut the tension somewhat, but there are plenty of mods out there to help with that aspect. The nature of the engine can also get in the way of your enjoyment. I’ve heard of people getting frustrated when they spent all of the cyber modules on their Endurance and Heavy Weapons stats only to realize they needed something else entirely to finish the game. As much as the game does not railroad you into certain builds, and allows you to construct your character any way you like, there are “optimal” builds that will make the game less challenging. It’s not exactly a drawback for me, but I know it may turn others away, and therefore bears mentioning.

Stuff I Liked: The atmosphere of the game is super creepy and the level design is very well done. The setting has plenty of depth and background. The ability to switch around your ammo as the situation demands is a neat idea.
Stuff I Didn’t Like: Most of my complaints can be chalked up to the age of the game. As solid as it is, it’s not as smooth as some modern titles. But they’re all minor quibbles.
Stuff I Loved: The Polito thing and everything after, full stop. The necessity of managing both inventory and stats and nanites (cash) give it an entire layer of challenge that has nothing do with combat.I also loved the open-endedness of the game’s RPG system, and the replayability promised by the idea of different builds. I hear Psi-heavy builds are fun and I’m curious to try one out.

Bottom Line: Like the original Deus Ex, System Shock 2 has appeal beyond nostalgia. The systems of the game are rock-solid despite the passage of time, and it still is both enjoyable and challenging to play. The story feels decent in its construction and the layout of the levels means things are well-paced. Regardless of whether you’re new to the idea of sci-fi RPG shooters or you have fond memories of games like this, System Shock 2 now being available on Steam means you have no excuse not to play it. So go do that.

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