The Gateway games are loosely based on the science fiction novel by Frederik Pohl; the main character, Robinette Broadhead, is ostensibly the same in the games, although compared to a game protagonist, the personality is far stronger in the book. The setting is that of a sort of science fiction gold rush to exploit alien technology found in a space station located between the orbits of Mercury and Venus. Built by the Heechee millennia ago, the space station is filled with automated ships with FTL drives set to go random places in the galaxy. Some locations might be interesting, while others might be dangerous, or even deadly.
In the first game, the main character has won a lottery ticket that will take him to the station, where he can then try his luck with the ships, to see if he can find any useful technology to bring back and sell. The first part of the game involves exploring the station, going on some basic missions, finding a few Heechee artifacts, and working our way up to get more lucrative and interesting location codes.
|Successfully completing a mission.|
Each of the four shield generator planets has its own set of puzzles, some of which require objects from the station. The fourth planet also has a notable and friendly NPC: Rolf Becker, who was a prospector lost years ago on his third mission. An optional sub-puzzle is to learn how to be kind to Rolf so that he'll want to come back to the station with you. After we activate all four generators, we learn that there's a fifth piece that must be activated at a location in the same system as the Watchtower. We have to go into enemy territory, basically, and after we get there, we find ourselves caught in a VR trap set up by the Assassin AI. We have to use techniques learned earlier in the game to break the VR programming, escape the trap, defeat the AI, and get the shielding system fully activated.
|This guy really grows on you.|
|Beginning of opening sequence|
July 25, 2112. Outpost Foxtrot Seven, part of NASA's Deep Space Sensor Array, detects an anomaly in the fabric of space. Alarms go off and sleepy crewmen stumble to their duty stations. Scientists study sensor readouts with a sudden sense of urgency. Something is making a faster-than-light transit jump into Earth's solar system. The Artifact is gigantic: it is more than six kilometers long and has a mass in excess of three million tons. The Artifact ignores all attempts at communication and holds position quietly and enigmatically. It seems to be waiting for something...
When news of the Artifact's appearance reaches Earth, the United Nations enters emergency session. The Earth's population watches and waits with growing fear. They could be Heechee, representatives of the benevolent civilization that left humanity a high technology treasure trove when they vanished 500,000 years ago. Or they could be the Heechee's ancient enemies, a deadly race known as the Assassins, who routinely wipe out entire civilizations.
August 15, 2112. San Francisco. While the UN deliberates and the rest of the world races close to the edge of panic, you ignore the hysteria and continue to enjoy your early retirement from the life of a Gateway prospector. The $50 million bonus from your last mission ensured a comfortable existence. You have invested that money well, and you lead a quiet and prosperous life.
You have just returned to your luxury high-rise condo in downtown San Francisco after a vacation in your Hawaii beach house. The last thing on your mind is the discovery of the Artifact...
|The end of Gateway mentioned a $25 million bonus...|
|...but a $50M bonus would have put his total net worth close to $100M!|
|Starting location: home sweet home!|
The underwater scene on the large screen blinks out and is replaced for a brief moment by the Pacific Data Services logo and the words "PRIORITY OVERRIDE" in flashing red. A female voice says, "Your regional PV carrier, Pacific Data Services, is interrupting your access to the Net for an emergency communication as authorized under FCC regulation 2315-81. Stand by for an important message." Then a new image fades in: a man behind a huge desk, sitting in a majestic office in one of the 300 floor needle towers in New/New York.
With a chill you realize that you have seen this man before. He is a very senior executive at Gateway Enterprises, the largest and most powerful corporation in history. You met him once before, on Gateway station, when you were given the assignment that almost killed you. You were lucky to return from that mission, a dangerous adventure that brought you into contact with an Assassin and earned you a cool $50 million.
The man has a slightly stressed expression on his face. He looks like he has just discovered that there was a mix-up in his dinner reservations. "Hello again," he says in a mild voice. "Long time, no see. This is a one-way, non-interactive communication. The outbound circuits in your PV are apparently not working."
He continues. "I'll cut right to the chase. We would like your help again." You start shaking your head. The man holds up his hands defensively as if he can sense your reaction. "No, no. Don't worry. This doesn't require any FTL travel, activation of planetary cloaking systems, or encounters with the Assassins. This time we just need a little of your time."
|That's what they always say...|
As you are probably aware, we have been working overtime on the situation created by the appearance of the Artifact. We don't know if it is a Heechee starship, an Assassin battle cruiser, or an asteroid with an FTL power plant. It is too far away to get any kind of visual on it. We suspect that it is a ship, but it is currently completely inert. It has not shown any sign of activity since its emergence from Tau space two and a half weeks ago."
"It might be waiting for us to make the first move. It might be waiting for reinforcements. Or it might not be waiting for anything at all - it could just be a damn piece of rock. Anyway, we have decided to act. The UN has authorized the Corporation to send out one of our experimental pulsedrive scoutships to meet up with the thing. On board the ship will be a designated Ambassador from Earth. The ship is almost ready to go, on a pad at Romeo Delta Two."
"The interesting part is that the Phoenix Sect, a cult of crazy Assassin-worshiping fanatics, has killed our first choice for Ambassador. The Sect believes that the Artifact is an Assassin ship, and they don't want us heathens visiting a vessel crewed by their gods. About eighteen hours ago, a Sect hit squad infiltrated one of our compounds and blew Madam Ambassador (and themselves) into tiny pieces. This is bad news because the mission was ready to go. Luckily, we have an alternate ready, and we want your help in preparing him for his trip."
"We have about a day to brief him for the flight. You need to tell him everything you've learned, everything you know about the Heechee and the Assassins. A few hours with you is probably better preparation than the orientation we gave the first Ambassador anyway."
"I have assumed, perhaps rashly, that you will help, that you can leave right now, and that you will perform this service for free. I know your motivation in helping us with that other... problem was more altruistic than financial anyway, and I think you have more money than you know what to do with. An aircar will be arriving on the roof of your building within a couple of minutes to pick you up. Don't pack - this should only take a few hours. Thank you in advance for your help."
|I won't pack - but I will pick up a few useful things from the bedroom.|
The PV console in the living room chimes again. The familiar female voice says, "An individual who wishes to keep his identity confidential is urgently requesting an audio-only collect call. Because your outbound circuits are temporarily down, Pacific Data Services has decided to forward the call."
A throaty whisper comes over the PV speaker. "Please listen very carefully. You are in great danger. A Sect hit squad is on its way to your location. An ECM team has already disabled the outbound circuits of your PV and frozen the building elevators. When the hit squad arrives, they will re-activate the elevators and use them to reach your floor. They have instructions to kill you."
"The only way out for you is via the stairs. You must find a way to keep the elevators down and use the stairs to get to the roof. The hit squad could be there at any minute - you must hurry!"
"Please heed this warning. I am an FBI agent operating undercover in a cell of the Phoenix Sect. I am calling you on my own initiative - my requests to get official approval to warn you were denied. I don't know why. Either you are considered expendable or the Bureau has been penetrated. Anyway, good luck. We all owe you one." The speaker clicks and the female voice says, "Call terminated."
|Ramping up the stakes right away! Mystery! Danger!|
|The stage is set and we're off to the races, as they say.|
The first game ended up with a final score of 65, not quite top 10 for the blog, but pretty high. Let's see if the sequel can live up to that! So get your score guesses in and join me next time to find out how to survive a hit squad attack, a gas attack, and a rocket launch!
Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There's 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 CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it's an opportunity for readers to bet 10 CAPs (only if they already have them) that I won't be able to solve a puzzle without putting in an official Request for Assistance: remember to use ROT13 for betting. If you get it right, you will be rewarded with X CAPs in return. It's also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All correct (or nearest) votes will go into a draw.