Hello, I’m Tornado, and I'm a relatively new reader of this wonderful blog. Through it, I've been able to relive games I played years ago and learn about those I missed. And so, I’m grateful for this opportunity to write this final post on B.A.T. II (aka, The Koshan Conspiracy).
At the outset of this guest post, let me express my deep thanks to Ilmari for pushing through 99.99% of the game. I played Koshan Conspiracy as a kid and never got very far. Over the years I’ve wondered what I’d missed, and so I’m grateful that he took over 33 hours of gameplay time to flesh it out here at The Adventure Gamer.
My main motive behind this post is to set the record straight regarding the game’s final puzzle, which Ilmari couldn’t quite solve.
|This is where we left poor Ilmari.|
One of these simply says, after being Google-translated from French, “combine the lights on the left to see the end of the game.” That’s not very descriptive or helpful.
Another also beat the game, but “never figured out the logic” of the final puzzle and thus concluded, “possibly, the whole thing is just random.” In a later narrative analysis seemingly written for a college class, the same author wrote of the final puzzle, “it is very disappointing because there seems to be no logic to it.” (As I’ll show, that’s not right—but hey, speaking as a college professor myself, I approve of his choice of topic for his final paper! Hope he got a good grade.)
After playing with the puzzle, I’ve discovered that it is governed by just two straightforward rules. The game doesn’t make those rules clear to the player, but once they are understood, the solution is simple. But before getting to those rules, let’s back up a bit to the entry to Koshan Tower and describe what’s going on. This is necessary to understand how the two rules are connected to both gameplay and story logic.
|You can break in to the tower during the day, but it seems more spy-like to do it at night.|
At this point in the plot, the player has become king of Roma II, but the Koshan company still holds power on the planet. B.A.T. isn’t satisfied with this. Their (convoluted) plan is for the player to fake his own death in a way that implicates Koshan. Specifically, the player needs to break into the vault in the Koshan building and leave a fake murder contract in it.
As Ilmari described, the player breaks into the vault using the same method as the bank robbery earlier.
What isn’t clear is that entering the Koshan Tower also starts an invisible timer. If the timer runs out, clicking on a button in the final puzzle will always lead to instant death, even if it was the right button to press. More on that shortly.
After entering the tower, the player has two choices (other than going back outside): 1) approach the vault by going to the left, or 2) go through the door on the right. As Ilmari described, directly approaching the vault leads to the player being caught and immediately losing the game.
|It might’ve been nice to have a sound effect of an alarm at this point.|
To avoid that fate, the player must first go to the right and flip the switch so that it is in the down position.
|Hey, it’s the big, important lever that controls the alarm system—|
let’s put it in an obvious and unguarded location!
Then, the player can approach the vault, leading to this screen.
It looks like there’s a lot going on here. I’ll break it down, but a warning: It’s going to sound more complex than it actually is. I wonder if overwhelming the player with a false sense of complexity is part of the puzzle’s point.
The grid flows from left to right. The = and <> are logic gates. A = gate tests whether the two colors coming in from the left are the same. If they are, the gate outputs an orange to the right, and if they aren’t, it outputs a blue. The <> does the opposite, outputting orange if the input colors are different and blue if they are the same.
The circuit board only has one exception to this and I suspect it’s a glitch. The exception is the = gate at the bottom left of the screen. No matter what input comes in from the left, it always appears to output a blue. For example, when the inputs to this gate are the same color, it shows a blue when it should be an orange. But nevertheless, the light still acts like it is orange when input into the next logic gate. I suppose this could be a purposeful red herring, but given the other game problems described by Ilmari, I think a bug is the more likely explanation.
And ultimately, that little programming glitch doesn’t matter. Despite how complex this all looks, the response to player input is actually quite simple. The player manipulates the lights on the far right by pushing one of the sixteen buttons on the far left. As long as the timer hasn’t run out, these will have a cascading effect on the lights, according to the pattern of the logic gates. The four vertically-arranged lights at the far right are the board’s output.
|If the board looks like this, and I push the button at the very top…|
|… then the button I pushed changes from blue to orange. |
The light on the right, at the top, changes from blue to orange, too.
The goal of the puzzle is to get these output lights (the four on the far right) so that they are all orange. Once they are, the player has won The Koshan Conspiracy.
Again, the manipulation of those output lights is actually simple. Really, you can forget all the messiness with the logic gates in the center of the screen. As numbered from the top, pushing buttons #1 through #4 will always reverse the top output light; buttons #5 through #8 will reverse the second output light; #9 through #12 will reverse the third, and #13 through #16 will reverse the fourth.
There is one final wrinkle, though, and that is the changing nature of the circuit board. Every 2 seconds, the four lights at the top change, which also changes the color of the output buttons on the right. The nature of the change seems to be random, but the top lights will never change to make the output all orange (after all, that’s the players task).
|If it looks like this...|
|… two seconds later, it might look like this.|
I’m describing this in detail because I don’t think this puzzle has been documented on the Internet before. But in doing so, I fear that I might mislead the reader into thinking the puzzle is more complex than it is. And really, that’s perhaps the most daunting thing about the puzzle—it tempts the player to overthink it.
In the end, the puzzle obeys two rules:
- Turn all of the output lights orange.
- Do it within the time limit.
To be crystal clear: the timer starts when you enter the tower. So, if you enter the tower and wait in one of the other rooms for a bit—say, while you take a bathroom break, answer some text messages, or take a screenshot and a few notes for a blog post you’re writing about the game— and then go to the puzzle, you’ll get a game over when you try to push a button (see the “you’re discovered!” screenshot above).
But what if you’ve saved the game at the puzzle, and the save is beyond the time limit? That’s what you’ll find if you download the save game file posted by Ilmari. Fortunately, you’re not in a walking dead state. All you have to do is go back outside the tower. Reentering the tower will restart the timer.
It’s worth noting that the puzzle’s logic also matches the storyline logic. You’re a spy rewiring a lock that has a shifting code combination, and you only have a limited time to do it before you’re caught.
The easiest way to beat the puzzle is to wait for the output to display only one blue light, and then click one of the buttons that will turn that output light to orange.
|In this screenshot, only the second output light from the top is blue. I’m about to click |
one of the buttons that will turn that second output light from blue to orange.
Once you do that, you’ve finished the game.
|I like the “yeeaaahhh!” sound effect here.|
In exchange for the hours invested in the game, the player gets an ending sequence that’s about a minute long.
|You fake your own death.|
|There’s a fake funeral.|
Then, some scrolling text provides a “press release on roma news” about how Koshan takes the fall for the murder.
|The English in here isn’t awful, but certainly isn’t great.|
With the mission finished, the player’s agent flies off into space.
|A sequel we’ll probably never see. Hey, Ilmari, can we put |
you down for a Kickstarter donation? What? Why not?
So, that’s the end of B.A.T. II. Clearly, it’s a mediocre game at best, as Ilmari’s PISSED rating suggests. I agree that the game’s strongest point is its Roman/sci-fi/cyberpunk setting with beautiful graphics to match. I might have given one more point in the sound/graphics category, owing to the fun European techno soundtrack (for decades, the music in the in-game fast food franchise has been stuck in my head).
If the game isn’t that good, why has the memory of it stuck with me all these years, other than because I couldn’t figure out how to progress? Why have I occasionally googled for more information about it? Why was I so eager when the game appeared on The Adventure Gamer’s upcoming list, and why was I so curious to read Ilmari’s write-up?
I think it’s because I appreciate what the game was trying to do (more than what it did do). On one level, the game is a mash-up of adventure game, CRPG, various simulators, and even basic arcade games. Taken individually, each piece is unremarkable. It isn’t hard to find a better CRPG, or adventure game, or simulator. But together, they form a world, and I think that was the designers’ goal.
As much as I love traditional Sierra and LucasArts adventure games, they often shoot for worldbuilding in story and setting rather than worldbuilding that bleeds into gameplay. Even a game as great as Fate of Atlantis can feel like a series of puzzles to solve rather than a living, breathing world. In contrast, Roma II is an environment the player gets to inhabit with its own set of rules. To be successful, the player must learn how to maneuver that world, juggling basic needs like hunger and thirst, social needs such as being liked by others, financial needs by making (or stealing) money, and so on.
I speculate that hybrid projects might lead designers toward this kind of worldbuilding-by-gameplay in a way that traditional adventure games don’t. When faced with disparate gameplay elements, designers must think about how to fit them together in a coherent way. That leads them to create an ecosystem that (hopefully) balances these pieces and melds them together. A game that fits within one genre doesn’t need to think about that.
The ultimate success of such an ambitious worldbuilding project depends, in part, upon which elements are taken from each genre. B.A.T. II seems to take subpar elements of each, combining obtuse adventure game puzzles with stats that don’t matter (a common RPG problem, so I gather from reading CRPG Addict), mixed in with clunky simulator and arcade interfaces.
In contrast, as Ilmari pointed out, the real exemplar of great hybrid-game worldbuilding is the Quest for Glory series, which is more discriminating in how it blends genres into a coherent ecosystem. The Starflight games and Star Control II also stand out to me as adventure game hybrids that do an excellent job of modeling the gameplay world. Perhaps commenters can think of others.
Enough reflection on hybrids and worldbuilding; really that could be an essay in itself, and that is not my main point. Rather, I hope this post demystifies the final puzzle for any who might later try to solve it. It also gives me a sense of closure for this game, and I hope it does for other readers too. Ilmari, thank you for the opportunity to write this, and I hope you enjoy your well-deserved break!