17
Jun
13

Blake Stone for DOS

Blake Stone

Blake Stone

Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold was released by Apogee late 1993 just before the release of Doom. It was created by a small studio that was basically three guys. They modified the wolfenstein 3d engine to make an entirely new game. It had an unfortunate release time as Doom quickly eclipsed it, and it suffered from less success because of this. Of course this isn’t a surprise as Doom is a huge leap ahead in many ways over the Wolf3d engine games.

The credits

The credits

I remember Blake Stone primarily because the shareware version was installed on my highschools computers back when I was in my early teens. When we finished our computer studies work, we were often allowed to play games as a reward for finishing early. I was naturally quite good at computer studies classes mainly because I had been programming since I was young, so I got quite some extra time playing and I helped a few other students as well.

Hey this alien isn't gold!

Hey this alien isn’t gold!

The graphics for Blake Stone are VGA only as was the norm for most games of the time. The quality of the 3d graphics is pretty much the same as Wolfenstien 3d. They were improved in subtle ways, such as floor and ceiling textures, but you don’t notice that so much. The main difference however is in the art style. The game is significantly more colourful than its predecessor, and I believe many sprites have more frames of animation. It feels less spartan, and more like an active world that you’re exploring, well compared to Wolf3d anyway.

....NOW!

….NOW!

The sound engine is again pretty much untouched from Wolfenstien 3d. Many sound effects come from the FM synthesis on your Sound Blaster or Adlib card. They sound quite good for what they are, but only one can play at a time. This can make hearing audio clues difficult in heavy action. Digitised sound is also available, but pretty much is only for the voices of the enemies, and perhaps some of the guns. Music in game is your standard Adlib type, and is quite good. I believe it was written by Bobby Prince who was well known for writing good Adlib music.

mmm Food units.

mmm Food units.

Gameplay is where the biggest differences in the game lie. The game is certainly much more difficult on the normal setting when compared to other games of the same vintage. There are more cases where an enemy kills you from a hiding point just after you enter a room. They are capable of following you around even through doors, but don’t always seem to do so. Interestingly some people in the world wearing lab coats will also help you, so sometimes it pays to ask questions before shooting. They give you food tokens, ammo, and sometimes some information, but beware not all the technicians are friendly. They just might try to shoot you in the face!

Map and rating

Map and rating

The game is basically divided into buildings which are basically episodes in the fight against Dr Goldfire. The goal of each level is to locate the security pass to be able to go to the next level in the building. The elevator in the level serves as both the entrance and exit to the levels, it seems you can also revisit a level, although I don’t know if your progress in that level is saved.

Informants

Informants

Your default weapon is an autocharge pistol that requires no ammo, is silent, but also recharges quite slowly. I’ve found it is good for dispatching the weaker enemies without alerting everyone in the near area. The other guns are pretty much sci-fi versions of the original Wolf3d guns. Some enemies require you to have the sub-machine gun style weapon or better in order to destroy them, the most common one being the ceiling mounted gun turrets. You’ll want to use the sub-machinegun as it is economical on ammo and is good against all but the toughest enemies. Of course there is so much ammo around you could probably get away with using the bigger faster firing weapons.

Sub-machine gun

Sub-machine gun

Whilst I found the game was more difficult, I still found it wasn’t frustrating. Usually I am killed by carelessly walking into a room and getting shot by someone who was hiding just out of sight. The main and pretty much only gripe I have is with the limited number of lives. This is pretty much an artefact of older games, and wasn’t really done away with completely until much later. Otherwise this game is a hidden gem of the DOS PC game era, if it had come out six months before Doom it probably would have enjoyed some of the success it deserved.

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