Beneath a Steel Sky (1994)

Video Game   |  Adventure, Sci-Fi


Beneath a Steel Sky (1994) Poster

Robert Foster is an innocent outsider stranded in a vast city where oppressed civilians live and work in soaring tower blocks while the corrupt and rich lie underground, shielded from all pollution.


8.3/10
258

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4 July 2014 | TBJCSKCNRRQTreviews
8
| Be vigilant
It is the future. Time unknown. The nature of this dystopia is hampered by pollution and/or nuclear fallout. The "Euro-American War" has ended, and Union City, which you spend most of this trying to get back out of, has removed all labor rights. You are Robert Foster(yes, named after the beer), having grown up in the care of Aboriginals in the wasteland that is The Gap(I guess the store really took a turn for the worse) where you were abandoned, and now taken back to "civilization", to find that it is a 1984-ish Cyberpunk nightmare. You were apprehended by security officers who show immediately they mean business(I won't give away how), but they put you on a chopper and it… doesn't land on its feet. One way or another, you have to get to the bottom of what's going on. You seem to be connected to it, too…

This opens with something of an exposition dump, but it's also absorbing and drenched in atmosphere from right away. The few cutscenes are like reading a comic book, with panels, and it's mostly "still", just going to different frames when necessary rather than trying to fit it all into the typical in-engine stuff. Part of the reason is that art and plot were done by Dave Gibbons, who co-created Watchmen(!). He was chosen because the developer was a fan of the novel. The graphics are great, with natural-looking movement animations and dynamic backgrounds, such as mechanical equipment that may well be running on a loop. There is a tremendous amount of detail, and you believe that the computers, manufacturing machines, etc. can actually run.

You start at the top of a building having to make your way down to ground level, with the separate floors being like social classes, and as you progress, it increasingly opens up, since you can(heck, you have to) often go back to areas you've already been to, for further challenge. Arguably, it does get excessively difficult near the end, and it definitely is too easy to die in this. That in spite of the fact that you can save(and load) anywhere, anytime, outside of "conversations" and such.

You've got your best friend Joey, a robot moved from one shell(and he can use abilities of his current one to aid you) to the next, such as when one is destroyed. When you move to a new area, he'll drive(or occasionally fly) in from the area before it(though he at times moves very slowly, and often needs to be in an elevator with you when you move between floors). He also won't always follow you to the next area, meaning you may have to wait for him, at times not even certain if he's on his way or not. The two have a buddy dynamic relationship, tease, argue, etc. Characters can get "stuck" between each other, which can be annoying in cramped and/or crowded spots.

The plot is engaging and intelligent. It is indeed strange how everyone allows you there(you usually claim to be Security or a Safety Inspector), and, more so, comfortably answer your questions, even when they're about the very fabric of society… the core concept is cool and the exploration of it interesting, if clichéd by today's standards. With that said, this is still well worth playing, and today, it's freeware(so the price is right), and plays on Windows and other systems. It took me about six hours to complete. Of course, once you have beaten it, it doesn't have a lot of replayability, depending on whether or not you looked(and if you'd care to go back for it) absolutely everywhere and tried everything you could say to others and such.

This is a point and click adventure game, with simple, intuitive controls. Point to get "title/description", left-click to move/state what you can see and right-click to use/pick up. It will do the most logical action when you press something, such as open a closed door or close an open door, press a button, etc. Point to top of screen to open inventory, where you can combine, use, and examine objects. You also talk to NPCs and explore different places.

Puzzles are logical without being too obvious, with misdirects/red herrings. You meet memorable people, some of them bizarre and/or crazy, including some of the ones in power. There's definitely some Kafka going on here. The voice acting is very good, if some of it is goofy. Sound is well-done all the way, albeit some bits have an irritating repeating noise, such as a fish in a tank swimming loudly back and forth. You visit a multitude of different locations: swanky apartments, a park, a courthouse during a trial, etc.

The humor and the tone in general is decidedly Australian, even if some of the recorded lines were Americanized: it's offensive, doesn't hold back, and nothing is really off-limits(did the release of this just barely beat the founding of the ESRB…?). An early example is when a cop responds to your shock that your helicopter crashed into a hospital with "it could have been worse, it could have hit the factory." The comedy gets black, verbal, clever, silly, there are references, etc. This is seen in the dialog choices, and responses either you or others have to things("most doors are boring, but *this* one…!" when you check it out). It also manifests itself in events, etc.

This is one of the pieces of fiction to imagine the internet as a surreal, visual world that you plug your own form into, and it's fun to walk around in it. It goes into other sci-fi ideas, and while I can't say too much about which, they all fit here and are each interesting.

In addition to what I've already mention, there is some gore, disturbing content and bloody violence in this. A bit of it is played for laughs(!). I recommend this to any fan of this type of game. 8/10

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Storyline

Plot Summary


Genres

Adventure | Sci-Fi

Details

Country of Origin

UK

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