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Archimedean Dynasty

Entry updated 9 April 2015. Tagged: Game.

Videogame (1996; vt Silent Running in Germany). Massive Development (MD). Designed by Alexander Jorias, Helmut Halfmann. Platforms: DOS.

Archimedean Dynasty is an example of an unusual Videogame form, the "sub sim" – a Space Sim which has been transposed from an interplanetary to an underwater milieu. Its ocean world is displayed in real time and in three dimensions when the player is piloting their character's submarine Under the Sea, and as a series of static images when they are talking to the inhabitants of the game's various undersea Cities. As in many Space Sims, the gameplay revolves around a variety of missions which the player can undertake, including transporting cargo, escorting other ships and salvaging equipment, most of which involve frequent combat; any profits can be spent on upgrading the player's vessel.

Players of Archimedean Dynasty adopt the role of an amoral mercenary on a Post-Holocaust Earth so ruined by war and environmental collapse that humanity can only survive Under the Sea. This is a world without a sky; not only has the land been flooded by the effects of global warming, frozen by nuclear winter and poisoned by fallout, but the surface of every sea is covered in a thick layer of radioactive debris which forever block out the sun. The oceans seem only marginally less hostile than the land. Humans subsist on artificially created food and "breathing gases", manufactured with energy supplied by giant fusion reactors. The details of the marine Ecology are unclear, but it appears that in the absence of sunlight most forms of sea life have become extinct. While the tone of the game's dialogue veers between undersea noir and ludicrous melodrama, its visuals are consistently beautiful and atmospheric. A broadly linear plot gradually emerges as the player makes their way through the various missions (see Interactive Narrative), revealing the hidden threat posed by a Hive Mind composed of aggressive Cyborgs to the competing power blocs of the game's politically complex future. Ultimately, Archimedean Dynasty offers a convincing simulation of future submarine combat fused with a moody, claustrophobic vision of life in the last surviving remnant of Earth's biosphere, a far darker picture than that presented in such contemporary examples of "submarine fiction" as seaQuest DSV (1993-1996).

AquaNox (2001 MD, Win) designed by Björn Braun, Philipp Schreiber, Helmut Halfmann is a sequel in which the player adopts the same role as in the first game. Gameplay is similar to that of its predecessor, but far simpler; AquaNox focuses on action and visual appeal at the expense of tactical complexity and narrative depth. The Physics of its submarine simulation is also far less believable than that of the earlier work, presumably because the designers were hoping to create a faster paced, more immediately thrilling game. Any such hopes were not, however, fully realized. AquaNox 2: Revelation (2003 MD, Win) designed by Björn Braun, Philipp Schreiber, Helmut Halfmann is a further sequel, though with a different protagonist. Its design and gameplay are generally similar to those of AquaNox, but the storyline and dialogue are markedly worse. [NT]

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