Saturday, 25 January 2014

Game 40: Future Wars - Subatomic Solutions

Hero Journal Entry 1: "What the hell is going on!? One minute I'm cleaning the windows, the next minute I'm standing in swampland! OK, so I may have snooped around a little in one of the offices in the building that I probably shouldn't have been in. What was that machine I was checking out? It looked like a photocopier, but unless they've advanced dramatically since I last used a copier, I don't think they have the ability to teleport people to other locations! Let's hope I'm not too far from civilization. Time to look around I guess..."

A few seconds in and I can already see that Mr Chahi did a great job!

I played just under an hour of Future Wars and it’s been a bit of a slog. I’m hoping that I’m just going through a an adjustment period, given the new interface and visual design. It’s either that or this game is really going to make me work to make consistent progress. I certainly can’t deny that Future Wars looks very pretty indeed! Right from the intro, things look really nice, with great use of colours and smooth animation. It’s in this intro that I got a glimpse of the dangers that await me. Three humans walked out into an opening in  a dark looking forest, only to be attacked by a large spaceship descending while firing highly destructive laser beams. The humans fought back with their own laser weapons, but they were no match for the death from above. I assumed that this event took place in the future, given the weapons and dress of the now deceased, yet as soon as it was over, I found myself looking at the side of skyscraper in the present. Here I was introduced to the character I’ll be playing: “You are standing in a cradle, perched on top of a skyscraper. Muffled traffic noises reach your ears as you work energetically at what is, believe it or not, your full time job.” So I’m a cleaner! Well that's certainly a step down from my last two occupations (the King of Britain followed by an astronaut)!

The pay might not be good but the view sure is!

A window opened above me and my boss Ed looked out. Just as he did, I kicked the bucket of water over that had been sitting next to my foot. “The list of invectives that Ed hurls at you would be too long to quote here.” As my cranky boss moved back inside and slammed the window, it struck me just how similar this was to the typical Sierra formula (particularly Space Quest). I had control now, so it was time to check out this newfangled interface. Right clicking anywhere on the screen brought up a menu with Examine, Take, Inventory, Use, Operate and Speak in it. Clicking on Examine allowed me to move my cursor around the screen and be told whenever I crossed over something I could interact with. This meant I was going to have to pixel hunt to make sure I get everything on every screen! I moved my cursor around and found I could examine the scaffolding, the empty bucket, the window and myself (I’m labelled simply “hero”). Examining me only got a message saying “Hey, that’s me!”, so I tried the scaffolding. “There’s a control box in the cradle. You notice two buttons on the box.” After this discovery, a little image of the control box appeared near me, allowing me to interact with the two buttons that were mentioned. I didn’t feel ready to press either the up or the down button just yet, so I instead examined the empty bucket. “The bucket of water stands on the floor of the platform. Empty.”

Perhaps this is an ancestor of Roger Wilco?

Seems pretty straight forward.

Apparently pressing up is dangerous!

I figured I might be able to pick the bucket up, so right clicked, selected Take, and then clicked on the bucket. “OK, so you pick up the bucket.” I’m not going to continue to describe my actions in such detail, but I’m sure you can tell by now that the Cinematique interface is a very functional one. I tried to operate the red button on the control box, only to be told to “Come a little closer”. I had to position myself in front of the box to be able to press the buttons, which seemed fair enough I guess. When I managed to press it, the cradle rose up and then stopped just below the window from whence my boss verbally assaulted me earlier. The window was half-open, so I opened it fully by operating it and then climbed in. Inside was a waiting area, with two doors leading to what I assumed would be offices and another leading to a bathroom. It was obvious already that I was going to have to scour each screen really well in Future Wars, and my tactic in games with that requirement is to approach it in small segments. I chose to check out the bathroom first, so wandered in and started looking around. I examined the mirror: “You look at your reflection in the mirror. You wink at it, and it responds, setting your mind at rest.” I wondered whether I might be able to fill the bucket back up with water from the sink, so felt it was a good time to check out the inventory.

I find it hard to believe any skyscraper would have windows that open at this height.

I guess they had the option to either increase the size of the on-screen character or decrease the size of the frame to keep things in proportion. Not sure they made the right choice.

The inventory was as simple as an inventory can get. I could see that there was an empty bucket in it, but I wasn’t able to select it to get a visual or text description. I thought perhaps if I selected examine I might then be able to pick the bucket somehow, but couldn’t. I got back to the task at hand and clicked use, selected the bucket, and then clicked the sink. The sentence “USE empty bucket on sink” was formed at the bottom of the screen. “OK. You fill the bucket with water.” After playing Conquests of Camelot and Earthrise, I expected to be rewarded with points for this action, but nothing happened. I wasn’t going to be given any hint as to whether my action was a positive one or not. The bathroom had a door leading to a toilet and a cabinet on the wall. I opened the toilet door, and was surprised to find that I couldn’t interactive with anything in there. I opened the cabinet and found a canister of insecticide inside. It was difficult to examine it because I couldn’t select it if I was standing in the way and was told to move closer if I stepped even a short distance away. I eventually found the right spot. “It’s the usual type of insecticide canister. You read the label: flies, mosquitos, wasp-effective retro-bioactively!!” It sounded useful to me, so I picked it up.

The interface is super simple. Perhaps too simple?

Ever tried to carry a bucket of water around with you?

Retro-bioactively? Well I'm convinced!

The bathroom was done, so I moved out into the waiting room. There was a waste-paper basket in the corner which I discovered had an empty red plastic bag in it. I wasn’t able to pick up the basket itself, but I was able to add the plastic bag to my inventory. It was at this point that I tried operating the carpet, not really sure what that might achieve. I got the “come a little closer” message, which seemed a bit odd. I walked around on the carpet until I was informed that I could feel something under my feet! When I operated the carpet in that area I found a little key underneath it! I picked it up, thinking it most likely would unlock one of the two office doors. It turned out that it didn’t, and neither of the doors was locked anyway. I tried opening the door on the back wall, only for my boss to come out and shake his finger at me. “Ouch! The boss!! He doesn’t look as though he appreciates your escapades. You get a nasty feeling in the pit of your stomach and think you might be better off going back to work.” I tried the other door, but the boss came out of his office again and aggressively discouraged my snooping. I’d expected to be able to get into at least one of the offices, so was now not sure what I was meant to be doing. Perhaps I really was supposed to get back to work!

I'm standing right in the middle of the damn thing!

Looking under the carpet was

I took a brief trip back outside onto the cradle, but was soon pretty satisfied that there was nothing out there to do. The cradle wouldn’t descend further than its starting position, and pixel hunting revealed nothing else of interest on the side of the building. I went back inside and began going over everything again. It had seemed really strange that I wasn’t able to examine anything after opening the toilet door, so I concentrated my cursor sweeps in that area. Suddenly some words flashed up next to "Examine" as I moved past a section on the floor. I moved back over it until I found that there was a tiny little flag sitting on the floor just in front of the toilet. Seriously, the flag was represented by the smallest collection of pixels you could have without making something entirely imperceptible. I examined it: “It’s a little red flag. You pick it up and put it in your pocket.” Well that was good and all, but how would a tiny little flag help me? I looked through my inventory and the items I’d collected, trying to figure out how any of them could be useful. Suddenly I had an idea. No...surely not! That can’t be the solution! Can it? Was I really expected to put the bucket of water on top of the boss’s door?! I operated the bucket on the door, almost hoping that I was wrong. “OK. You place the bucket of water on the half-open door, giggling to yourself in advance at the great joke you are playing (little things please little minds).” Really?!

I'm really going to have pay a lot of attention while playing Future Wars. This flag was tiny!

I can't believe I'm doing this!

My boss opened the door and the bucket of water fell on his head. Part of me figured this was not the right thing to do and would perhaps even cause a rapid end to my game, but this feeling was soon allayed. “This is not time to hang around!!! You rush out of the room before your boss can find out who was responsible for this pathetic practical joke.” I was now able to walk straight through the door to the right of screen, which made absolutely no sense, but whatever. The room within was an office as I’d expected it would be. Given what I’d just done, I thought it would be a good idea to close the door after entering, but it was much harder to put this thought into practice than it should have been. Closing the door while standing in front of it resulted in: “Yes, but I can’t close it from here”. Trying to close it from just to the right of it gave me: “Come a little closer!” So did trying to close it while standing behind the door! I considered giving up trying to close it, but thought doing so might stop me from discovering something on the shelves behind it. I tried standing in several different spots until finally my character was able to close it. I’d only played the game for half an hour or so and it was already frustrating me. Clearly I’m going to need all of my patience reserves to get through this one!

There's no way that he will know it was me! What with all the other people in this office.

An office is an office is an office.

Apparently I'm not close enough to this door to close it.

It was time to explore the office, so I took a left to right approach. The shelves had books on them, but none of them appeared to be of any interest. The first cupboard that I tried opening was locked, so I tried operating my key on it. It worked, but sadly it was empty. The second cupboard was also unlocked by the key, and inside I found a typewriter. I examined it: “There is a small ribbon cartridge in the typewriter. On examining it, you notice that a series of digits has been typed... 40315!” Clearly this was a code of sorts, so I took a screenshot and moved on. The key didn’t unlock either of the last two remaining cupboards, so I turned my attention to the desk. There was nothing on it, but inside the drawer I found a sheaf of blank paper. I tried operating it on the typewriter, but it didn’t work. Examining the large military map on the wall gave me a close-up of it, at which point I knew exactly what I was supposed to do. There were red flags stuck in it, just like the one I’d found earlier, and there was a small hole on the close-up. I operated the flag on the hole, and the wall moved away to reveal a secret passage!!! I felt I’d done everything I could in the office, so I walked into the passage to see what lay beyond.

It's been so long since I've seen a typewriter, I'm not even sure how viable this is.

Does a sheaf differ from a ream? (quickly Googles) Well you learn something every day!

I can only imagine the frustration if I'd not found the flag in the bathroom.

I was now standing in a small enclosure, and before I could start pixel hunting a message popped up telling me that the ceiling was descending down upon me! I quickly noticed there was a keypad on the wall in front of me and figured the code I’d found on the typewriter ribbon would likely get me out of this situation. To enter the code I had to right click, select operate, and then press a number button, then repeat. By the time I’d pressed 4 and 0 the ceiling was on top of me and it was game over. I restored, and this time made it to 4031, but still wasn’t able to complete the code! I made it on my third attempt, but it was clear that the interface was not designed with speed in mind. Let’s hope there aren’t a lot of time limited activities in Future Wars! Once the code was entered, the ceiling stopped descending and I was able to walk through a doorway leading out of the passage. This brought me to a room filled with high tech equipment, including what looked like a photocopier sitting in the centre. “There is a small opening in the front of the machine, and two buttons on the top panel.” I didn’t seem to be able to interact with anything else in the room, so I pressed the green button. “Apparently nothing happens, except that the machine is now emitting a faint humming noise.” I examined the small opening and found it to be about 20 centimeters wide. I operated the sheaf of paper on it and it got sucked into the machine. What now?

One thing's for sure. I'm soon going to be a lot shorter!

Shame it took me about thirty seconds to enter it!

This is one awesome utility room!

There appeared nothing else to do but to press the red button, so I did. “I think you’ve just managed to set off the ALARM!” The room began flashing and a man in black soon entered through the same door I had. He stood behind the machine and just looked at me. I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing, but then I noticed the sheaf of paper had been spat back out of the machine. I examined the document, but was simply told that it contained “figures and more figures”. I took a step towards the man, at which point he shot me with some sort of high powered laser gun. I was instantly fried, so restored to try to figure out what the hell was going on. This time I quickly picked up the document after turning off the machine, at which point a bright light appeared between the two circles to my right. I walked into the light, just as the man walked into the room, and...disappeared!!! Clearly I’d just time travelled, and I flashed back into existence in a swampy area filled with trees and lushly green grass. This was a very interesting development, and I had absolutely no way of telling what year it now was. This seems a very good place to end my first gameplay post for Future Wars. I’m really interested to know what’s going on, but I do feel a bit daunted by the pixel hunting, interface and proximity issues I’ve faced within this first short session. At least now I know what I’m in for!

Clearly saving on electricity is not a high priority around here!

Agent K arrived just too late this time

The visuals are absolutely gorgeous! Let's hope the rest of the game doesn't detract from them too much.

Session Time: 0 hours 45 minutes
Total Time: 0 hours 45 minutes

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: I've written a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I've not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!


  1. Hey! I'm finally back in the comment section for what is probably one of my favorite memories in adventure games : Future wars! It was maybe the first adventure game I played from stat to finish as a kid and I absolutely loved it! That being said I think it helped that it was one of the few games in french at the time and that I was fascinated by time travel, because your beginnings in it reminded me also of how frustrating it could be. The "you're not close enough" still haunts me to this day.

    I hope you'll be able to avoid some of the most aggravating flaws of the game (like finding the flag in the toilets) and that you'll enjoy your playthrough, in order to help getting the french adventure games reputation out of the pit!

    1. Hey Alfred! Good to see you around. I hope you're doing well.

  2. Good going so far Trickster!

    Interface in gaming is so important that it can be baffling to see games that frustrate so much. Obviously they wanted to create their own design, rather than copy the likes of Sierra or Lucasarts. Once you are a bit more familiar with it, hopefully you should find it easier to cope with. I'm sure it won't be the worst you'll see.

    1. I've always felt that when bad interfaces like these come about, it's a result of them not wanting to get hit for copyright infringements and the like. Mind you, that's not to say it's any more forgivable. If you're going to make walking hard, you might as well have at least put in some keyboard support for it.. (Or is there some, Trick?)

    2. No, there doesn't seem to be, that would have been too easy.

  3. There's still one piece of interface problem you didn't mention, that is, the difficulty in moving the hero to the direction you want, because he can't go around obstacles on his own. Just spent considerable amount of time just getting from one room to another (gelvat gb hfr rfpnyngbef ng fuhggyr cbeg).

  4. "One thing's for sure. I'm soon going to be a lot shorter!" Is a reference to Han Solo's line in Star Wars "We're all gonna be a lot thinner!".

  5. Ok, while being sent back to a jungle is very common in SF fiction, I'd have thought about teleportation before time travel if you dumped me into the game blind. Am I the only one?

    1. Maybe that's why they showed a clear future scene at the start of the game, to avoid the confusion. Then again, I've never gone in blind, so I can't say how effectively it works.

      Also "future" in the title I guess.

    2. My first thought would be that I've went insane due to my intense bouts of furious masturbation. And getting hairy palms. And getting blind. Reducing me into a batshit crazy ape swinging around the jungle and smacking into trees.

    3. Wait... what the hell did I just post?!

    4. I agree Canageek that teleportation would be the likely answer, but the game is obviously about time travel. My character wouldn't know what has happened, but I sure do!

  6. I think you will finish this game in no time. IIRC, it was the first adventure game I managed to finish on my own without resorting to any hintbooks or walkthroughs. And I'm a really lazy gamer, seldom making any notes or maps.

  7. Classic Adventure Game Sale: Nikopol: Secrets of the Immortals, Scratches - Director's Cut, Still Life, Still Life 2, Syberia, Syberia II, Post Mortem: $40 ($10 off)
    You can also get most of the games at discount if you buy them one at a time.

  8. Classic Gem Promo: The 7th Guest + The 11th Hour on GoG, 80% off:

  9. So, did you try the door to the south in that lounge area? Seems there's a shadow of a door, but you didn't mention it. Maybe it's nothing important though.

  10. Wow, this game is indeed reminding me of Out of This World. Complete with walking dead scenarios and unfair deaths of the "couldn't have known that was coming" and "knew the answer but the interface wouldn't let me" varieties.