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Larry Kuperman, Director of Business Development & Justin Khan, Producer & Designer at Nightdive Studios, System Shock — Interview Series

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System Shock Review

Well, it might’ve taken just shy of three decades to come to fruition, but at long last, 1994’s System Shock has received a fully revitalized version for consoles and PC. To learn more about it, we decided to reach out to the folks over at Nightdive Studios to get a clearer look into its roots, as well as their plans for its future.

First of all, congratulations on the recent release of System Shock on Xbox and PlayStation! How did you find it, slipping back into the roots of this 1994 classic?

Thank you! It’s been a long time coming, but we’re thrilled that we were finally able to bring System Shock to consoles! The experience for the team was nothing short of eye-opening. Being able to closely analyze the intricacies of such an important game was incredible and made it clear why System Shock is the grandfather to so many modern systems and storytelling mechanisms found in the games today.

Speaking of which, would you kindly tell us a bit more about System Shock? What’s the story here, and how exactly do players fit into the narrative?

Players find themselves in the shoes of a nameless Hacker who is caught hacking into the backend of TriOptimum, a government-sized megacorporation, with the goal to steal a military-grade neural implant. They are arrested and brought to Citadel Station, a space station deep in Saturn’s orbit, by TriOptimum's Security Forces and executive Edward Diego. In exchange for the neural implant, Diego demands the Hacker remove the ethical constraints of the Artificial Intelligence that governs Citadel Station, SHODAN.

Waking from the implant surgery six months later, it’s clear to the Hacker that the ethical constraints were the only thing stopping SHODAN from becoming a megalomaniac god, hell-bent on cleansing humanity, and also that they are the only survivor on Citadel Station. It’s up to them to thwart SHODAN’s plans using the myriad of implants and weapons they find across the station, jacking into cyberspace, and overcoming the army of mutants and cyborgs that SHODAN has unleashed.

How would you describe the gameplay? Could, say, a newcomer who’s never played the original version get stuck in with no existing experience?

System Shock is a first-person immersive sim game. It’s a slow-paced and meticulous shooter that asks the player to carefully assess each enemy encounter and analyze every puzzle. The labyrinthine corridors of Citadel Station offer no help in navigating the story, especially as it’s up to the player to piece together the events and critical path by listening to audio logs from deceased members of the station. 

In short, System Shock does not hold your hand. Expect to get lost and make great use of the respawn chambers.

System Shock - Announcement Trailer | PS5 & PS4 Games

It takes a great deal to recapture the beating heart of a classic video game — especially when said game is three decades old. What are some of the hardships that the team had to endure during the development process?

Make us feel old, why don’t you! The biggest question we had to constantly ask ourselves was “how much of the old esoteric 90s game design should we keep or modernize?”. Even by today’s standards, System Shock was a complex game which was trailblazing in ways the industry had not seen up to that point, and wouldn’t see again! That being said, we tried our best to keep the essence of the original game, which absolutely meant that we had to forgo some modern conveniences in pursuit of that. Even to this day, there are internal debates on what systems should have been kept or let go! At the end of it though, we’re happy with the results. We feel it properly captures what makes System Shock so special – including its tough-as-nails difficulty!

And would you say that System Shock is an exact shot-for-shot replica of the original blueprint, or are there a few hidden elements that you’ve implemented into the mix?

It’s darn close. In fact, you can almost use a guide from the original game to walk you through the remake! But we have rewritten and re-recorded the script, added a number of new sections within each of the levels, and reworked every weapon to make sure the experience is fresh. We want System Shock 1994 and System Shock 2023 to be able to live beside each other and not have the remake be an outright replacement.

Do you have any useful tips or life “hacks” for those interested in picking up a copy of System Shock this year?

Pick up every bit of junk! Loot every corpse! Search in every corner of Citadel Station! You’re going to need all of the resources you can get in order to take SHODAN down and there are plenty of secret areas with lots of goodies, including weapon modkits, but maybe I’ve said too much now.

So, what’s next for you guys? Aside from System Shock, you’ve also recently released PO’ed, too. Do you have your eyes set on any other classic titles at the moment?

Nightdive Studios is always hard at work to bring back lost treasures. We have just announced two more classics: Killing Time and The Thing. And you can count on us having some surprises by the end of the year!

Any final words for our readers?

We love our fans! Thank you so much for playing System Shock! We did this for all of you!

Thanks for your time!

 

For more information on Nightdive Studios’ latest release, as well as all things related to System Shock, then be sure to check in with the team over on their official social handle here. Alternatively, you can visit the website for more information here.

Jord is acting Team Leader at gaming.net. If he isn't blabbering on in his daily listicles, then he's probably out writing fantasy novels or scraping Game Pass of all its slept on indies.