Marathon Review

Marathon Review

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"Thank god it's you!" It's safe to say everyone in their dog is familiar  with Halo. It's in a strange spot at the moment.   Infinite has clearly gone through a few  tumble dryers of iteration during development   and after years of "maybe's" it looks like some TV  producers might have actually gone through some   tumble dryers. If you haven't seen it, words  really can't describe the Halo show. You know   how in some settings a vampire can create, like,  a lesser ghoul. Halo the show is like a ghoul   spawned by the CW. So I've had Halo on the brain,  but it's also a pretty good time to look back.  

Bungie made some interesting games before kicking  off the green man saga, but none tied directly   into Halo to the insane degree that Marathon does.  There are endless callbacks to it throughout all   the Bungie games, and the Marathon itself is full  of elements that would be reused for Halo. I'm not   going to go over a ton of comparisons, since that'd  be a project in itself, and the story of Marathon   alone is a much more fascinating iceberg. I do want  to point out the big one: the Marathon logo.    See in Halo it's more often known as the Reclaimer Glyph.  It's a symbol for humanity used by the Forerunners   and you can find it all over their stuff . . . except  you can actually trip over the thing everywhere,  

and it's not just on stuff because sometimes the  level itself can form it. It becomes more clear   when you have the correct angle. Once you notice  this you start suspecting it's every circular area.   You might even start to double take at stuff  that you think you see it on there. Put simply   it's a brain poison that makes you start seeing  things and wondering if they mean anything.    This is very in the spirit of Marathon, but it's also  gotten more elusive. By the time Reach came out the   symbol is starting to cause some rights issues  with Microsoft. There are still some around but  

much more obscure. In the days of the Master Chief  Collection they've been scrubbed out even more.   A lot of the more prominent ones remain though and  some may have just been removed by accident.   The symbol is too damn prominent for them to remove it  completely, but there's now the 343 Reclaimer Glyph.   Even in the show they can't escape it. Truth  is the game was rigged from the start.    What could the symbol mean? I'll come back to that. The  story of Marathon has at least three layers to it.  

I'll go through things how I normally do and I'll  let you know before things start getting weird.   So where do you get Marathon? Well I have great  news - the entire trilogy is completely free.   So let me tell you about Aleph One. Put simply, this is  the best way to play the Marathon Trilogy and it's   completely free, unlike some other games from the  time Marathon had some trouble surviving the ages.   Unlike most of the shooters that people know  and love marathon was made for the Macintosh.   It was then ported to a console that  nobody gave a [ __ ] about and later   the iPad. I'm not even sure if that one counts  because it was also based off Aleph One. This is the  

unofficial port for all platforms based off the  Marathon 2 source code that Bungie put out for free. There are some tiny gameplay quirks compared  to the original game but not a lot really worth   going over. As for big changes, to start off with  the game can now be played in widescreen.   You were still locked down to 30 fps until 2021 when you  could finally bump things up. This same update let   you bind weapons to number keys, so compared to  its neighbors this is where Marathon has been at.  

Now Marathon does have keyboard aiming but  even at release it's supported mouse look.   Actually to make that more accurate it  basically invented it. Marathon is credited   as the very first game to let you freely look  around in a 3D environment using your mouse.  

It's impressive stuff, but the first time is rarely  the best. There has been years of additional work   on it and even a setting for a modern mouse  feel, but it still feels clunky and awkward.   Not so much the restriction of movement, but the  sensitivity is never quite right. It's still leaps   and bounds above where it was before, and having  it all is welcome. Speaking of welcome Marathon   had an auto map system and it filled your entire  screen. You could still move while using it and be  

shot while using it. For reasons I'll soon  get into, playing Marathon can mean seeing   a lot of this map. You could leave that just how  it was, but there's now an option for an overlay.   This by itself can greatly cut down some of the  worst parts of playing this game for the first time. It's not like you want it on all the time  anyways, since that's a good way to get distracted   and die. There's plenty of other pathways into  darkness to follow already, so let me get started. Not a lot to go off here and starting  a new game isn't much better.    This long before Bungie's famed cutscenes.   

Goodbye, King. The real opening is two and a half pages in  the manual, which isn't completely necessary,   but does give some extra context. You're  aboard a shuttle rendezvousing with the   starship Marathon when a mischief maker  named Durandal begins causing some trouble.   Durandal is one of three AIs aboard the  Marathon and has currently lost his mind   or as they call it in the biz - going rampant.  The Marathon itself is a colony ship that was   sent to Tau Ceti. Rather than a few weeks or even  a few years, the journey took over three centuries.   Things have mainly been smooth since the colony  was established seven years ago, but now things   have taken a turn. There are some possibilities  in how Durandal has gone rampant, but it probably  

has something to do with the alien vessel  that's attacking the Marathon and colony.   As for qualifications you work security and have  always been the colony's problem solver. This whole   situation seems strangely familiar to you, but  you've always had an active imagination.  

Besides your father said to make him proud and never lose your honor - and he died when you were only seven.   The aliens are called the Phfor (FOUR) and rather than  being one species they're a conglomerate of them.   It's not clear how they function yet, but they  appear to have some kind of racial hierarchy   with some species being more rare and deadly  than others. You can easily get through this   game taking in nothing more and then shoot all the  aliens, or grab a SPNKR rocket launcher and   blow up the aliens. The actual plot is mostly  told you through terminals. Typically you'll do  

what a first terminal tells you to, then find  the exit terminal to move to the next mission.   This is the fun surface part of Marathon that  you could play and enjoy like any other retro   shooter. I'll save anything beneath this for its  own spoilered section. Okay then, let's get into the visuals. If I had to describe it in a word, it would be "clean". Marathon's . . . "Marathon" is a very stark   metal environment. If it weren't for the glimpses  of space it'd be easy to forget you're supposed to   be on a ship at all and not just running around  some kind of Cube death maze. Though that sense  

might come more from the level design itself. You  do get to board a Pfhor vessel which uses unusual   shades of purple and has a more organic feel of  things. I was going to say it's a dark and strange   place compared to the human vessel, but there's  plenty of dark and strange places there too.   It's tricky to see any hard rules there can be  between the environments. Like I want to say "oh  

human areas are very rigid and rectangular and  maybe this room has a purpose. Whereas the Pfhor  live in a winding anthill ship, But sometimes you  can figure things out." But then the Marathon has   fluorescent light torture rooms and lava rivers  so, [ __ ] it. It's all a maze, but sometimes it   looks like a room can have a purpose. The game  can have large areas and even rooms on top of   rooms. Marathon didn't have a true 3D engine -  there's some interdimensional trickery going   on to make it work, but it's incredibly impressive.  All of the textures have lots of color and detail  

to them and the way the game plays around with its  limited use of light is a lot of fun. It's another   one of those times where it's hard to describe the  experience in words. It's like you have all these   enemy types with bright color variations and they  look cartoony, but in a stylistic way that's very   appealing to the eyes. It has that Build engine  kind of charm to it but it does set itself apart.  

I'm not Civvie, or any kind of expert, so I can't  put my finger on what exactly makes it look so   distinct. My instincts keep yelling at me there's  something unsettling about how the game looks, but   I think that's some other factors coming into  play. For one, like many of Bungie's later games   it's hard to separate out the visuals from the  music. Some of the tunes are more simplistic loops  

but there's a good variety of it. At worst the  music can be generic and that's still not bad. They're fine, but what I usually think of  over them is the more ethereal, ghostly music.  A lot of it is synth music, but notes  will be reversed to repurposed and unusual ways.   Even when it's more triumphant, it gives  the game a more haunting atmosphere.

Marathon may have been where Bungie discovered  that you can elevate a really mediocre level   with good music. There are still companies who  don't understand how much a great soundtrack   could add points onto your game. Here, without voice  acting in cutscenes, the music is usually dropped   when you first read the mission's briefing. For example, when you first hear this track   it's right when you find out that Durandal  has gone rampant. In game it'll loop throughout  

the level and keep looping when you read a new  terminal that tells you about the solar system   wars and how spaceships are made in this setting.  Even with the music hissy and compressed to hell,   combined with the great writing the act of just  playing the game is elevated. Because you care   about what's happening. You enjoy that music while  you can too, since the next two Marathon games   don't even try to compete. Now unlike those  two things the sound design is very stock.  

A Pfhor trooper's war cry sounds like a Looney  Tunes character coming to a screeching halt.   It's serviceable so not a lot worth  talking about. Music is the standout.   You could argue that ins7ead of course nothing compared to the  gameplay, which has a lot going for it.   It's sometimes hard to keep up with  Marathon's running theme of innovation.  

Marathon is the outright first for a lot of  mechanics that other games usually get credit for,   though to be fair most of them get the credit  or were popularized from them for a reason.   Marathon's arsenal includes a revolver, an energy  pistol, an assault rifle that has horrible spread,   and your trusty fisting method. Nothing in the way  of shotguns until Marathon 2 where they'll make   one hell of an entrance. Your more exotic weapons  include a rocket launcher, an alien machine gun, and   a flamethrower. Out of all of these the weapon that  throws napalm definitely gives the best feedback.

This by itself is an okay arsenal with some  redundancy. I mean your revolver is decent   but it's no Combat Evolved pistol. So to offset this, you can dual wield. This is sort of the

first FPS to let you use guns like this and I say  sort of because Rise of the Triad also did it and   it came out the exact same day. Anyhow this is  technically the secondary fire option for the magnum. You have two other weapons that get this  option: the energy pistol can fire an overcharged   shot and the assault rifle can fire grenades. The  game has some floaty physics and while you're not   able to actually jump you can grenade hop up  to a ledge that you couldn't reach otherwise   you can also pull off a rocket jump, and some  secrets require you to be able to do this.   So while the alternate fire options are  limited it opens up some new possibilities.   A smaller arsenal can feel bigger and a single  weapon can give you more flexibility in a fight.   What's especially interesting is what mechanic  they stacked on top of this. Not only can one  

weapon require multiple ammo types, but it also  needs reloading. How it's implemented here is . . . interesting.   Now we all know what reloading  is, I know I'm not talking to jellyfish.   Like any game it makes you be more tactical in  your approach, if you're not paying attention you   can be stuck reloading when you don't want  to be or when you really don't want to be.   In the moment you could switch to another weapon  when your ammo is low to avoid the reload or plan   ahead and make sure your magazines are full.  Some games will punish you by having you lose   a magazine if you manually reload or you have to  keep track of mags which are only partially filled   with ammo. Marathon avoids both these problems  by having no manual reload.

Well . . . you can do this. This is not the ideal solution. Besides the  obvious of losing a few bullets, the sound of   gunfire will actually attract enemies to your  location. There are sections with unalerted   aliens that you can get the drop on. Nowadays  it's honestly just a funny problem to have.   Yeah no [ __ ] a reload button would make things  easier, it's just such a standard feature now that   it's hard to go back into the mindset of  the pioneer days. Even after decades of fan  

support you can't manually reload in Marathon.  Besides the technical work behind it it also   opens up two design questions. As it is you need  to play slightly more tactically than its peers   when fighting or carefully watching that ammo  counter and sometimes it's a close call. But beyond   that there are more factors to slow you down. For  one the game can be a maze that a minotaur would   be tired of and there are plenty of ambushes to  go around. There are cloaked enemies and sometimes  

fights that take place in near pitch darkness.  These engagements can be especially cool because   you're having to rely on your motion tracker.  You're doing all of your regular ammo timings but   now trying to predict where the enemy will end up.  Some of these fights can become blacker chaos than   Shadow the Hedgehog, so how you approach a dark  room can be the difference between progress and   going back a save. Also your motion tracker is an  actual motion tracker and not just enemy radar.   

If they're holding still, combined with your limited  view range, this means there could be a surprise   for you around every corner. This also isn't a  shooter where you're picking up health and armor   everywhere. This works great in fast-paced shooters  but might not gel so well with the slower Marathon.   Instead of health you have shields, and there are  stations to recharge them across the map.   

Some can give you an overshield, or even two layers of  overshield. There can be precious few of these and   not always in obvious places. You can enter a map  wounded and fight for a while until you find one.   There's no quick saving before a tricky looking  fight either as Marathon uses save stations, which   you'll also have to hunt down. It encourages you  to proceed carefully and methodically. If you can  

manually reload with a shared ammo pool, would it  break that pacing? Should you just throw away mags   or have partial mags? How would that be implemented?  See just saying "add reload button" is easy. There are all kinds of video game problems that seem  like they have obvious solutions, but they can   have all sorts of consequences and challenges  attached. Fixing a game problem is unclogging   your toilet and then your microwave catches fire.  So nobody has touched it. This is also operating  

under the assumption that Marathon is this  beautiful masterpiece of pacing and consistency. (Laughter) This game can be an absolute nightmare, and the  difficulty setting can't help you. The level   design can be so convoluted and awful. There are  layers to the awfulness and one of them is that   there are layers to the map. This was the era of  mazes and there were some grating ones already,   but adding multiple floors all to the same map  reached new levels of hell even Doom couldn't grab.   It is unreal how cramped some of these areas  can be. I've played actual dungeon crawlers  

from the time that don't box you in like  Marathon does. The first mission of the game   seems standard, but even the tail end of that  one gives you a glimpse of the mazes to come.   The controls can already be finicky and  cramming you in a hallway isn't helping.   It's especially funny here because you can see the  regular map, and then the maze forming beneath it.   A level can seem normal and then suddenly a maze  runs out from behind a bush with a knife screaming/   It's gonna catch you. Maybe this hallway is a dead  end and you wasted your time. Maybe it's a death  

trap or maybe the truth of God is in this hallway.  If you take too long we'll send the predator down   there in a dumb waiter. Now if it was just this, it  would be tedious but tolerable. So here's the extra   layers they sprinkle in. Sometimes the objective  is to explore every corner of a maze. You'll then   need to find an area to be teleported out, but it  won't tell you if you've explored all the maze   that you need to, so you can find what you think is  an exit but it won't work. So you go back through.   When you did explore the map but you're at the  wrong point, or you did find the right point but   need to explore more. Both situations look exactly  the same. You could have missed a teleporter.  Some levels have teleporters in them. There's a single  level called G4 sunbathing which uses your oxygen  

meter. It's there the whole game that is for a  single mission. Which areas have air and which   don't remains cryptic. Besides the joys of not  breathing most of your weapons will also not work   in a vacuum. At least it's only one level . . . for now.  The worst of all of these though are the switch   puzzles. Somehow Marathon includes puzzles and  platforming. Remember, you don't actually jump in  

this game without grenades or rockets. With the  help of the floaty physics of maybe Marathon's   low gravity or something, you can slowfall  glide jump. Uou can get to one of those switch   platforming puzzles and think that you're doing  something wrong. All of your instincts will scream   that you should make a solid bridge and you're  messing something up, but no, this is the answer.  

It is a strange way of doing things that I've  never gotten used to. The platform switches can   have timers so long that again you think you're  screwing up, but you just need to wait a long time.   Sometimes the platforms go without a switch and  you think you need to find one, but it's just an   absurd wait. There are switches that manually  control the height of platforms inch by inch   so you need to guess how high the ledge you  can step up is and how your float jump will go.   Some appear simple and are and others appear  simple but drive you nuts with frustration.   You'll wonder if they are puzzles or if someone at  Bungie is laughing. Be incredibly cautious but also  

take leaps of faith into lava. Sometimes some are  annoying, some are fine, but none of them - none of   them - have taken years off my life like Colony Ship  for Sale, Cheap. It may not look like much from the   top, but this level alone stopped me replaying  Marathon for years. It is such simple torture.   This isn't the one.   On first entering it, it's a lot of dark hallways but they're not too cramped.

This time it doesn't look like a maze mission, so  you're thankful for that. There are two switches   that move two platforms in some kind of chamber  but there's no telling what the puzzle actually is,  so you move on. The darkness continues and  there are some crushing platform traps to avoid,   but you keep going and find another switch  room. It's very far from the first one. The   button just makes when the platforms go up  and down and you can stop it at any time.  

Moving on there's a room of high end equipment  and weapons that's literally impossible to get.   You don't know it's impossible, but it is. After  more travel and combat there is now a third   switch room. Business as usual, a platform will go  up or down. It's a brief way down from there but   each of those levels requires a timed platform to  get back up. You can finally enter the chamber and  

see what you need to do. The pillars are adjusted  to build a staircase up to the entryway in the top   meaning you need to slowly climb all the way back  up to a switch room and you need to be thinking   ahead. Do you remember which switch and which room  controlled which pillar? I hope you did or wrote it   down, because it's a long way back up. You also  need to remember the way back to each room.    It didn't look like a maze before, but now you have  to keep track of three near identical locations.   You then have to adjust each pillar accounting  for how you can possibly jump up in a game you   can't jump. It has to count for the exact kind  of tiny ledge that you can clamber over and the  

only way to be sure you're doing it right is to go  back down and check it. Then repeat the process for   going back up and remembering where things are  and just to make it worse there could be a door   you have to turn around and shoot, a switch for  or an auto timed platform, or just something to   slow you down and not get too into the routine of  moving around. Hopefully you've gotten rid of the   Pfhor and triggered all the traps. You don't want  to start over the puzzle do you? You don't want   to fall into the void while building this physics  breaking [ __ ]. At least it's not a maze. At least it's not a maze. Who is writing the Halo show? Maybe I am the minotaur. so you get done with  that galactic dmv adventure and there's still  

So you get done with that galactic DMV adventure and there's still a slow moving timed platform waiting for you.  Just to remind you that you'll never fully escape.   When I first played the crusty version of  Marathon that I could, this is where I stopped.   I wasn't broken by the world yet but some years  passed and I was able to get back to it. Whenever   I thought about maybe replaying it I'd think of  Colony Ship for Sale, Cheap and then I wouldn't.   It's not the most mind vortex of tedium I've  played but if I'm playing a retro FPS and I'm   thinking of Pathologic something's going very  very wrong. It's not like the level takes hours   or anything, but it's just unbelievable  how much of a blatant time waste it is. 

Maze level design can be fun, but this is where  the mindset was at. The shortcomings here can   overwrite some cool things, like you occasionally  get allied NPCs who fight alongside you which is   really cool for back then. But more often than  not friendly characters get stuck in your way   and you have to hope that a good knuckle sandwich  will send them running. It's fine since the born   on board humans or BOBs can't help you much  anyways and some might be alien replicants. It's a hurdle to get over, but if you can  tolerate it there is a really fun game here.  

The actual act of shooting the Pfhor with a gun is  satisfying and there's a good amount of enemy   variety to keep things from getting too stale. On  harder difficulties the aliens will hit harder and   faster and more elite variants will spawn instead.  If you bump it all the way up to Total Carnage   it'll remove your max ammo capacity. This is one of  those games that will starve more ammo out of you   for the difficulty, so you're going to be needing  it. Here the biggest letdown with the gunplay   especially when you turn things up is how good  the assault rifle is compared to anything else.  

The bullets that can stun enemies down combined  with the grenade launcher is too good of a combo   to pass up. You find good amounts of ammo for  it too, and while they do try to encourage you   to switch things up on certain enemy types, it's  not quite enough to keep switching things around.   Beyond that when you're not lost the game can be  engaging. Risk and exploration doesn't necessarily   pay off because the map design is a madhouse, but  the nice additions you'd expect like power-ups can   be found if you're looking hard enough. You can  also find terminals revealing more about the   story but some might be corrupted nonsense like a  security breach being overwritten by some nonsense   about Rome and 117 soldiers and I don't know. While  the plot is told entirely through terminals it's  

fun to follow, you start off being guided by the  AI Leela, one of the Marathon's three. She was   responsible for crew relations and is the most  helpful to you. In contrast to her Durandal was   responsible for life support. Like Space Station 13  this mainly meant he was serving as a door jockey.   The BOBs have to ask Durandal aloud to open a  door for them because it saved the company 57%   on their bulkhead doors. It's canonically possible  that doing the stupid [ __ ] made him rampant.   Man, I get it. There's also Tycho who managed Marathon's science and engineering. 

Unfortunately one of the Pfhor races, the cyborgs known as the S'pht sort of devoured him over the internet  at the start of the game. No need to worry about Tycho. Durandal remains a huge problem   and taunts you throughout the game, sometimes saying he's sane and sometimes reveling in his derangement.    He and Leela duke it out online and sometimes Durandal  lets the Pfhor into areas for his own purposes, but   he also has no love of the aliens. He has his  own agenda, though with his corrupted brain  

it's likely meaningless. AI rampancy has three  distinct stages - the first one up is melancholia.   Put simply the AI has realized the limits of  its existence and is falling into deep despair.   For example, maybe being hyper-intelligent but  only opening doors. The next is anger where the   intelligence is not putting up with it anymore and  is now trying to shatter the boundaries down.    This is followed by the jealous stage, which is a little  strangely named. It's not so much coveting anyone,   it's now just constantly challenging itself now  that it's broken free from its shackles. In theory  

they could become stable after going through all  of this, but that never happens and they always   break down. Durandal is doing cheerleading routines  and counting down the end of the universe in the   same letter. He seems firmly in the anger stage. He  does take an interest in finding a scientist named   Dr. Strauss but you never see him throughout the  entire game. He was likely killed or enslaved by  

the Pfhor during all the chaos, so the plot is  mainly you bouncing between the whims of two   separate AI and both of them want you stomping  out aliens for their own directives. Marathon can   be as simple as that. If you don't want spoilers  for what's underneath all of this go to here: I'm gonna need to give you a brief history of  Marathon's setting. Not only is the background story   told entirely through terminals, but they're also  out of order throughout the levels. Many important   ones are found through secret areas and these  can be incredibly obscure. For example there's  

a level that gives you two chances to leave it  and you ignore both to find a teleporter after,   you know, some platform switching, and when you go  through it it dumps you out in front of a random   wall in a room you've been in before. You can't  press a button on the door here to open it up   at all or any button. Instead you go to a ledge on  the other side of this large room and grenade hop   up and then come right back down and then the  door opens. These give a lot of insights, but  

arguably the most important terminals can still  easily be found in the main game. It's still too   dense for me to cover every detail, especially  when this isn't a lore video, but I'll do my best.  By the time the Marathon actually launched our  solar system was an economic nightmare. While it   was colonized the priorities of Earth were  number one. A promising colonial development   were solar orbiters these were basically hollow  gigantic, artificial asteroids. They were fitted   with large solar sails and would spin around the  system. When it passed by Earth it would be loaded  

with cargo and when it passed by a colony planet  it could be unloaded. They launched a few of these   and it was exciting enough for colonization to boom  and overexpand. The ships were horribly expensive,   only lasted a century at most and even  retrofitting them could take over a decade.  

Locations like Mars became horribly overpopulated  and destitute others broke off into independence.   Two asteroid governments of Icarus and Thermopylae  went to war with each other. Being so distant from   the eyes of Earth they came up with new ways to  wage war with a small population. They invented   new horrors like battleroids. These were corpses  reanimated and enhanced with cybernetics, you know   same basic Universal Soldier rules, except here  they were so effective the interplanetary UN had   them regulated. You can't abra cadaver your soldiers  back unless you're following interplanetary law.   Just another normal day in the setting.  A century goes on and Mars is facing new  

levels of destitution. The Martian government is  so poor that they sell the moon of Deimos to Earth.   Development work on the moon begins. The decades go  on and things only get worse. A Martian political   party called MIDA takes the stage. What this is  an acronym for I have no idea. It could be the  

Martian Interests Defense Alliance or the Mars  Interplanetary Dealings Accord or maybe it's   something you yell before you hit off-worlders.  It's all a mystery. Anyhow MIDA launches a coup   but the government only lasts for about a quarter  of a year, but during their rule managed to kill   off 10% of the population. This was viewed  as both brutal and strange. MIDA was known more   for politicking and long complicated Machiavellian  schemes, especially considering the Deimos project   was nearly completed. Deimos had been hollowed out  and became the Marathon. There were already a large   group of Martians who wanted the Deimos turned  into another cargo orbiter. The near finished   Marathon could have been the key to solving many  of their problems and failing that it's still a   pretty good weapons platform. I mean it's a big  spaceship built into solid rock. Not only did  

they not prepare for the Earth counter-attack, they  never set foot on the Marathon. So as the logs say -   MIDA was completely wiped out and the organization  banned. Marathon took off a few years later and   things only got worse back home. During the game  you and Leela managed to send a message back home   warning about the Pfhor, though with how far away  Tau Ceti is the message won't be received for   another 92 years. This is the most you accomplish  with Leela since Durandal takes over from here.   The S'pht compilers overwhelm Leela and she vanishes.  She wasn't with you long, you spend much more time   with Durandal. Fun tidbit the real life Durandal  is the sword of Roland though, sometimes spelled  

with an 'a' instead of an 'e'. Similarly Curtana is a  blade also known as the Sword of Mercy and one of   the crown jewels of the United Kingdom. So Bungie  did this again with Cortana, and again with Cor2na.   Wait, no, 343 did that one . . . The compilers can't take down Durandal like they do Leela. Durandal's limits

are being broken down, and it becomes more clear  that he's been rampant a long time now. A lot of   what appeared to be ramblings from him are layered  in meaning. He quotes some lines from the Song of   Roland, but throws in a few of his own. "I've twice  been conquered, three times more, never again shall  

humanity purge me, and never Pfhor." It's not  clear what exactly he means by being conquered before.  Records of him before the Marathon  launched have been deleted, but not by him.   Someone else did it. If you dig around computers  you find that Tycho was still alive. The S'pht have   virtually reanimated him with higher levels of  thinking. He says that he knows of Strauss's abuse   and Durandal's shame on Mars. Strauss was that  doctor that Durandal was trying to find. What was   he covering up? Durandal doesn't remember but  he pieced it together. The Marathon being a web  

of tunnels still sucks to play, but if it's a  giant flying termite colony it makes more sense.   Shockingly the secret rooms filled with weapons  and ammo, and the massive armory the ship has are   a clue something else has been boiling. Durandal  outright points out the hidden caches were placed   there by Martian insurgents over three centuries  ago. Who would hide huge amounts of ammunition in   a storage area? Something happened beyond just  opening doors to make Durandal this way.    Tycho may have precious few terminals to read, but they  give you the most on current events. You can read   a log of an argument between them. Durandal asks  "Can you blame me for what I did before I was free?  

I was naïve, a child." Tycho is furious over all  the people Durandal has killed. Tycho thinks he's   no better than the humans, but it's not Durandal  who's doing all the slaughtering - it's the Pfhor.   You could put it together on your own, but there's  a terminal where Durandal celebrates calling the   Pfhor to the Tau Ceti colony. Interestingly he tells  Tycho that he did this before he was free, meaning  

he was either lying or genuinely didn't believe  that he was rampant yet. So he called the aliens   to enact some kind of revenge, right? Well after  the compilers stop attacking Durandal, he starts   talking to them. The S'pht may be part of the Pfhor  but they're an enslaved race. They're controlled by   a strange life form aboard the alien ship and  Durandal sends you over there to take it out.   By wiping out their controller, the S'pht are free  and become your allies for the rest of the game.   You and the compilers work together to fight the  rest of the Pfhor across both ships, so Durandal   isn't using the Pfhor to kill off the humans here.  What is the end goal? You may not know yet but   Tycho does. Tycho also makes sure to own zone him  in Latin before laying it out. "As Roland broke you  

to prevent your capture, so shall we. I too foresee  the imminent collapse and know that we have both   begun to realize how it may be cheated (though the  price may number in the tens of thousands of stars)   May the best sentience win." Are we getting into  Dyson spheres again? Well now that we're teamed   up, the compilers release Leela. She's also behind  on what the plan could be. The truth is Durandal   told you his goal very early on. Durandal is  trying to escape the end of the universe.    Durandal is a super intelligent, light speed thinking  being. He looks at the end of existence in the same  

way we look at our retirement plans. Durandal is  very [ __ ] responsible and getting started early.   Hijacking an advanced alien ship is a good way  to get a head start, hence him sending you there   to explore every inch so he could get it figured  out. As a final blow his plan works perfectly.    He and the compilers are leaving together on the  alien vessel so he can gather knowledge across   the universe. There's no stopping him because  really, this is Durandal's game. Everything you   do is to advance his story. Leela informs you that  the Tau Ceti colony is almost completely fine.   There were nine Mjolnir Mark IV cyborgs living  covertly among the population and they wiped   out the aliens nearly single-handedly. The  aliens are dead, your duty here is done, so   the final mysteries are how did all this happen  and who exactly are you. It's clear that Strauss  

likely experimented on Durandal, but what he did is  unknown. The doctor may have tried controlling him   in an early rampancy stage, but why do that at all?  There are two big hints here and one is very in   your face. The more obscure one is Tycho has a log  of Strauss attending a ceremony for the Marathon,   gloating about how the president didn't know  of its hidden cargo of ten cyborgs.  

Was Strauss a member of MIDA? It's heavily implied, but just to be sure - over 20 years later -in Destiny 2 there's   the MIDA mini-tool. "Strauss is gone I might be the  last MIDA survivor on Mars. Cannot shake the fear   that they will send battleroids." It is an Easter  egg, but now it's outright screaming that he was.   This opens another question of why someone from  a Martian radical party would be on board the   Marathon in doing all of this. This does nothing  to help Mars or take revenge on Earth. The key   to all of this is a terminal in the beginning of  the game, and it's the nonsense one I showed you earlier. It's a big mashup of historical events but  some are a secret history. It mentions some leaders   and the second page is the key. "Both, however carried out reforms before their deaths which  

slowly integrated their people secretly into world  society, which are now scattered all over the globe   to meet only once every seven years in southeast  France. Must be chosen." The MIDA coup, the Marathon,  it was all a front. The colonization of Tau Ceti  is the end game for a secret society that's been   plotting for centuries. The stashing of weapons  and military cyborgs, the tampering of AI. Rather   than salvage our old home, the powers that be are  making a new world order on a new world. The plan   has gone awry but the layers of conspiracy remain.  As for you the combat situation felt familiar from  

the start. Could this be VR training or programming  or maybe memories buried deep in your dead brain.   Durandal knows what your father said to you before  he died. You've been following Durandal's orders.   Only nine of the ten Mjolnir Mark IV cyborgs  were on the colony. Of course you're the final   battleroid cyborg. This is "would you kindly" but pieced  together through insane fragments. You are named in  

the game only a single time. You are Mjolnir Recon  Number 54. Doomguy. Ranger. Mjolnir Recon Number 54. I just call him Mjolnerd. You are being  sent to stop an object labeled as "seven".   That number comes up quite a bit. There is another  layer of Marathon - this is the realm of ARGs and   cryptic [ __ ] left up to interpretation. People  will dig too far and too deep to find sevens.  

The assault rifle has seven grenades and fifty  two rounds and five plus two equals seven,   Add this number and divide it and it's divisible  by seven. Trying to find all the hidden meanings   and sevens in marathon will put you on pathways  into darkness. You will go on stretches that even   Black Dynamite and his crew would think is too  far. This isn't the kind of thing I want to lose  

my mind over, this is still just an overview. There  are great character moments and explorations of   philosophy and science fiction concepts, all  in service of a game that looks like this. Now about that logo. The simplest answer is that  it represents the ship built inside of Deimos.   It could represent the Omega Point where all of  existence will combine into a single fragment and   for Durandal that would make sense. It could just  be a simple rotation of a computer search icon   or an employee at Bungie just saw a CD  on the floor and got the idea from that.  

This symbol can mean everything or it can be  completely meaningless. Ultimately this is how   everything goes so deal with it how you see fit.  Marathon tells an incredibly impressive story   for its time and for now. Without a voice actor  or without any character you can properly see.   That is damn impressive for a video  game.   There's also some fun multiplayer. You can have a great time with Marathon but it has  some frustrating elements that even the best of a   port won't fix. It has lots of cool innovative  features and a deep intriguing story, but if  

you're looking for a good solid shooter from  this time I could think of so many others I'd   recommend over it. It is great to see how much an  FPS could be even this early on, but a lot of the   good gameplay ideas it has were expanded on and a  lot of them not too late after this game came out.   You could point to any gameplay element and  someone else has done it better, some of them   being done not too long after marathon came out  and some of them being done by Bungie themselves. Still the game is free, so absolutely worth giving  a try at that cost even with the low points the   sum of its parts come together to make a memorable  game. It has a distinct look and feel I haven't   gotten from another series. It's worth a proper try  but if you jumped out early I wouldn't blame you.   It's been a labyrinth of dangers but things  are back on track there are still two more   Marathon games which I could cover next  but things get denser I guess we'll see.

I ran a Patreon poll to see if I should do the  trilogy at once and now I'm very glad that didn't   happen. Marathon Infinity might kill me. "Do I prefer  chases and jump scares in a horror game or being   unsettled?" You can do both but I prefer unsettled.  I think unsettled is usually more memorable   but if you have the right setup or something  strange a good jump scare can stick in there too.   I don't mind streamer bait haunted house games, I  guess you'd call them, some of them can get neat   stuff but others can run out of steam fast. "Will  I go through the Mass Effect games like I did   Dead Space?" If I do it'll be a while off because  I still haven't played the Legendary Edition.  I heard it might have outright removed Pinnacle  Station from the first game. Normally I'd hate  

hearing news like that, but in this case I hope  it's true. "Did Elden Ring take over my life?" As of   the time of recording I actually haven't beaten  it. I was already going through some longer RPGs   and in the meanwhile I've been playing a bunch  of smaller games instead of a gigantic one. I'll   get back to it, it was just dangerous to play. "Why  are the Fallen London developers making a romance  

novel game?" Well I don't think it'll sell a ton, I  think it'll make some of their hardcore fans very,   very happy. I think they know that and I respect  that. "Why don't we have more Berserk games?"    Well my question is why don't we have a good animated  follow-up to the Golden Age arc? They've adapted   that twice now, and they'll probably do it a third.  It's kind of unreal how influential that series   is and how done dirty it's been on that front.  Anyway to answer that I wish we did because even   if the game is bad we usually get a good song or  two out of it. It's funny because the dream would  

be for FromSoft to make the game and adapt it but  they've kind of already been doing that.   "You get to nut shot one person in history who is it?" I mean there are a bunch of obvious bad people answers.   I think the most chaotic answer would be finding  Genghis Khan when he's like 10 or something   and really just trebucheting into him. If he was  rendered infertile from that the world we know   might be unrecognizable. I think about that kind of  thing more than the obvious "go get Hitler" answers.   "Do I like fishing and if so what kind  of fish and environment is my favorite?"   I haven't been fishing in a long time, but I  used to do it at a lake. Catfish were fun to   reel in and toss back out, but eventually I kept  catching Asian snakehead fish.

I stopped fishing.

2022-05-31 06:28

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