Enter Legend’s tale of deep-space survival.
So is Mission Critical deserving of the dreaded ‘Myst clone’ label? Perhaps on some technical level, yet on the whole this adventure game release from developer Legend Entertainment comes with a sleek, well-written story in the ‘hard’ science fiction vein, written by designer Mike Verdu, as well as intuitive and often entertaining gameplay. If you’ve played Death Gate, Companions of Xanth or any of Legend’s earlier titles, you know that these guys have kept up a very high standard of complex, involving plotlines as well as play, and an oh so welcome silky smooth interface!
The story starts on board the USS Lexington, a space battleship escorting a science vessel (the Jericho) to an alien world, and nobody on board the ship, except the Captain and his second in command know what’s going on. The onscreen cast seen in the surprisingly well produced FMV intro are Michael Dorn (aka Worf of DS9) and Patricia Charbonneau (RoboCop 2). These are almost the only two actors seen in the game, and they get killed off inside of fifteen minutes, so calling Mission Critical an FMV adventure is a stretch by any measure.
After comming under attack from an enemy ship, the crew of the Lexington, in a desperate move, pledge their surrender and evacuate the ship in preperation for boarding, but eerily turn Kamikaze and blow themselves and the enemy vessel up courtesy of an on-board nuclear warhead tucked away in their transportation pod. This all sounds very convoluted, but the bottom line is that your character wakes up as the sole survivor onboard the Lexington, which is gravely damaged because of its recent battle, and you’re left completely responsible with the survival of the ship and the accomplishment of the mission… the one you have no knowledge of since it was super-secret. No pressure!
If you manage to keep the Lexington from blowing up, you then have to deal with an advancing armada of enemy ships wondering what all the trouble’s about. This leads into a very interesting and well designed combat sequence. At this point in the future, all space combat is handled by computer-controlled battle drones. But by taking an experimental drug, you can speed up your reaction time and can manipulate the speeding drones very easily. If you are easily frustrated with this kind of tactical activity, you have the option of letting the computer play the sequences for you. After controlling the battle from the display or letting it play itself out, the player is rewarded with a spectacular battle scene. Lasers blasting, ships swooping, big fiery explosions…
When all the chaos dies down, you can finally visit the mysterious planet’s surface and learn what all the fuss was about. This part of the game gets more than a little surreal: alternate timelines, computer AI, nanomachines, a quick trip to Flatland; it’s all here, and it’s all bizarre. In the end, Mission Critical is an innovative, entertaining game with a lot to offer the adventure buff, and it’s one that even people who despise Myst might consider giving a look.
System Requirements: 486/66 CPU, 16 MB RAM, 1MB SVGA Video, Windows 95