15 Apr 2018

Squeeing over Laser Lords

Well, this is long overdue. My love for Laser Lords goes back for more than three years now, and every few months or so I look back at it again and remember just how much I adore this game. From the goofy voice acting, the clay models and claymation to the outlandish NPCs, convoluted plot threads and the overall cheesy and hammy tone of the game, there's little about it that I don't love. It pushes all the right buttons for me, and every time I think back to it it's like there's another thing for me to get excited over.

HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE~
That's quite the emotional reaction to a game I've never played! I've never owned a CD-i and the only other games on the system that do interest me run pretty well when emulated. Sadly, Laser Lords just doesn't work properly when emulated, so playing it is one of those things I will get around to eventually. One of these days I will buy a CD-i and a copy of this game and pray they both work and it'll be worth whatever price I have to pay for it.

Today's not that day. Today's also not the day that I write the first blog in a series of blogs about this game, as much as I'd like to talk about the game's themes or its game design, there is just too much to unpack and my interests are just not focused enough to do it. Perhaps when I do get my hands on it.

So, today is the day I'll just scream into the void about a random assortment of things about this game that I like or just feel like screaming about. And I feel like screaming a lot. Oh boy.

Zendo is my lizard husbando


I recently tried playing Nekojishi, which is a gay furry dating sim. I didn't get very far into the game since while the artwork is good, the writing was very generic dating sim stuff and felt like it was just pointlessly meandering without really immersing me in any way.

Basically, I didn't really feel like dating any of these catman. I would however totally date this interdimensional Star Lord:

<3 Zendo <3
Look at this guy. Look at his pimping cape. Look at those head-mounted mirrors he uses so he can see in front of him. Look at his rad headset. Look at that confident smile. Look into those loving eyes.

This guy is prime boyfriend material. This is a guy who knows his way through the Interzone. This is a guy who looks at you, invites you into his flying car to take you into space to send you on a quest to prevent the whole dimension from being compacted into a crystal. This is a guy who will gladly give you the gift of the cat so he can spend nine lives with you. This is a guy who is always willing to hep out with his sagacious advice and tutorials. This is a guy who will tell you how you feel about items you have just used.

Zendo is there when aliens give you the thing you seek. But the only thing that I seek is you, Zendo.

Kuruvians are groovy


Laser Lords is full of aliens and most of them are assholes. NPCs in Laser Lords frequently lie, cheat, deceive and attack you to get what they want.

There are aliens from many planets, and most are a mixed bag. Whether an alien is from an oppressed slave planet, the hedonistic space casino or the space nazi planet, there's good and bad. There's one exception to the rule though. And that is Kuru.

Sam
Kuruvians are some sort of bizarre dragon/lizard/dragonfly aliens and they are all wonderful, precious, amazing people who I hold dear to my heart. Every Kuruvian in the game is there to help you on your quest, some giving away advice for free while others gladly repay you for helping them.

While traveling between planets you can encounter one of two Kuruvian ships, both giving you general hints on where to go, what to do and who to avoid. Meanwhile, the two Kuruvian NPCs on planets you can talk to respectively want you to give them a Moolo Nut in return for a Ticket to Kuru and a Ticket to Kuru in return for a Fogger, a very useful weapon in one of the game's more fruitful sidequests.

One unseen Kuruvian is even the one who stole the golden fleece from the emperor of the galaxy, which reduced said emperor to an ineloquent stutterer and undoubtedly hindered the Argosian empire enough to make your quest much easier. Even when they don't directly appear Kuruvians are great.

Motherfucking Menkh


One aspect of Laser Lords that I really like is how many solutions there are to many of its mandatory and optional sequences. The game can be summed up as one giant sequence of events where you need to use the right words, items, knowledge, currency and combat to slowly make progress towards your main goal. There is one NPC who is set up to react to most of these methods, and to brutally shoot down all but one of them. It's motherfucking Menkh.

Just listen to this guy
Luxor is probably the first planet you go to, and sets up a lot of ways in which the game works. If there is a lesson Menkh teaches you, then it is that this game is a fickle being and is equally willing to lend you a tender hand as it is to punch you right in the face over and over until you figure out what to do.

Menkh is a priest guarding access to the temple of Koptos, the god of gold and grain. You really need to get into that temple, so you have to get past Menkh somehow, it is absolutely vital to finishing the big quest on Luxor. Menkh will not make this easy though. Here are the ways in which Menkh will screw you over:

  1. Bribe Menkh with fifty taras: You can attempt to bribe Menkh with fifty taras as his dialogue suggests. Menkh will gladly accept you bribe and... That's it. He takes your money. He doesn't let you into the temple or anything. He just accepts your bribe.
  2. Bribe Menkh with a Koptoin: Priests of Koptos love gold, so it stands to reason that they're obsessed with the solid gold Koptoins. If you give one to Menkh, he'll gladly take it and use it to fund the upcoming Koptoan Ball. That's it. 
  3. Try to talk to Menkh: In any dialogue in Laser Lords, you can select highlighted keywords to talk with aliens about it or ask them about it. There's several keyword chains you can go through with Menkh, and none of them end with him letting you into the temple. In fact, if you ask him about the sanctification keyword he'll attack you!
  4. Defeat Menkh in combat: You can fight Menkh and make him kneel before your might. It's not easy, Menkh is more armed than most enemies in Luxor so it's likely you'll have to retreat if you fight him early in the game. When you do defeat Menkh he... Does nothing. He kneels before you but that's it. You still can't access the temple.
  5. Buy a temple pass: There is an NPC in Luxor who will gladly sell you a temple pass so you can access the temple. Buying this pass and showing it to Menkh causes him to tell that the temple pass is not valid since it lacks the Mark of Manu. 
  6. Buy the Mark of Manu: If you confront the NPC who sold you the pass about its invalid nature, he'll tell you he cannot sell you the Mark of Manu and you should have known better than to assume a temple pass would be enough to get into the temple.
  7. Ask Menkh to give you the Mark of Manu: You can ask Menkh to give you the Mark of Manu. He'll tell you that to get it, you need to be sanctified. If you ask him about being sanctified, he'll attack you.
  8. Buy the secret password: A merchant in town offers to buy you a secret password that is guaranteed to get you into the temple: "Daphne Dances". If you tell Menkh the password he attacks you. Turns out that this password is a hoax, it Menkh's wife Daphne is a stripper on another planet and the merchant sells this password to aliens to mess with Menkh.
Well damn. All that effort and none of it achieved anything substantial.

So, what do you do to get into the temple? If you give the local drunk some paddy wine he'll tell you that Menkh loves paddy wine and can't keep the stuff down. So, you bribe Menkh with some paddy wine and it makes him go take a peeing break, giving you access into the temple. That's right, the way into the temple is making the guard have to pee.

A drug PSA


Laser Lords does not shy away from adult content, the game looks like it could easily be for children at a first glance, but beneath that is a lot of stuff that would crank a game's ratings way past an E for Everyone. Whether it's an old woman asking you to cut off her head, claymation gore, prostitute NPCs or drug references, Laser Lords has it all.

Let's talk about the drugs. One series of sidequests resolves around the option to buy Stroke from the black market, a pretty obvious reference to cocaine. This costs quite a lot of money, and the NPC tells you flat out that it's a risky and unrewarding business to be flashing around your Stroke.

So, let's flash around our Stroke! There's so many uses!
  1. Use the Stroke: You can use your Stroke. This will cause severe damage to your character and Zeno will admonish you, telling you that Stroke can be lethal and will likely kill you. Whoops.
  2. Sell your Stroke to a mutant warlord: You can try and sell your Stroke to a mutant warlord, which he will supply to his slaves to work harder. In return, he'll tell you that he has no reason to give you anything in return and attack you. This deals a lot of damage and will likely kill you. Whoops.
  3. Sell your Stroke to a casino hostess: You can sell your Stroke to a casino hostess, who will take it in hushed tones and offer you some money for it and leave. Sounds good, right? Thing is, you get less money than it cost to buy it. Whoops.
Well, none of that worked out well. Luckily, there is an NPC who has a very lucrative offer. She tells you she is a severe Stroke addict and her supplier wants 'special services' in return for Stroke, which she refuses to do. She's desperate to get her fill and will gladly give you 10000 taras for some Stroke, more than five times the purchasing price!

Seems legit
So let's give her some Stroke and make some mad cash!

Oh.
You just sold stroke to an undercover agent. She whips out her laser pistol and starts blasting you apart. This deals a lot of damage and will likely kill you. Whoops.

Don't deal drugs, kids!!

THE EMPEROR OF THE GALAXY


Argos is the hub planet of the Argosian empire, an empire whose infertility allowed an eloquent young boy to convince the people they need to expand and enslave other planets, which they justify with their genetic superiority and the degeneracy of those they target. They're space nazis backed by a powerful military-industrial alliance.

At the head of this is Lexandaller, the highest being on Argos, the head of the empire, a man whose cruelty is only equaled by his eloquence. He is among mightiest people in the game. Almost every NPC you talk to on Argos hypes him up as the shining example everyone should aspire to be yet cannot ever hope to match in brilliance.

https://youtu.be/k8XoTNDCYNE?t=9m15s

And so passes the emperor of the galaxy. Not with a bang, but with a high-pitched scream. It turns out the emperor of the galaxy is a scrawny teenager with voice that keeps cracking and a constant stutter. Aliens on many planets berate him as a little twerp and make other colourful comments, such as this particularly lovely one:

Can I just say that is a lovely face.
So yeah, Lexandaller doesn't live up to the hype. With his fleece stolen, he lost all of his eloquence, and when he drank a potion of eternal youth, he turned himself into a teenager. He forced himself into seclusion, and his death comes at the hand of a mirror given to you by the Gongor, a monster of his own creation. He who is built up as the highest being in the void turns out to be one of the more pathetic NPCs in the game.

Daphne Dances


You might remember that earlier I mentioned that one of the fruitless attempts to get pass Menkh is a fake password, "Daphne Dances", which turns out to be a reference to his wife on Fornax. At first this seems like just another way for the game to screw you over and like a waste of money, there might be more going on than first meets the eye...

How do you forget your own name anyway?
Egads, a dancing alien who has forgotten her real name. Hm, what do you suppose it could be? If you tell her "Daphne Dances", you can restore her memory and talk with her a bit to get some more flavour text on the game's setting and she is one of several NPCs who can give you a certain sidequest. This is wholly optional, as this sidequest isn't required to beat the game and there's other NPCs who'll also tell you about the sidequest, but it's still a nice way to reward players for keeping close attentionand connecting the dots. Laser Lords is full of alternate solutions and little rewards like that!

No Gold Star for you


One of the first main quests you're likely to encounter is the collection of four stars of virtue. You're never told outright that you need to do this, it's only vaguely referred to by some NPCs. Throughout the game there's four NPCs who will reward you with a Star of Virtue if you prove you have that star's virtue. Picking these up lets you listen to what the star has to say, which turns out to be advice on what to say when you find yourself "All by yourself in the dark". Odd.

You're never told outright why you need those four, and the only hint that there even are four comes from one line of dialogue which says that Humility, Compassion, Wisdom and Prowess are the four Virtues. So, how do you get them?

Oh.
You can find the Bronze Star of humility by searching for items in the depths of the sewers of Luxor. Quite fitting that the Star of Humility would be Bronze!

She's probably going to kill you if you give it to her.
The Silver star of Compassion is harder to find. It's not very compassionate to help someone just because they'll give you something you need, right? As it turns out, one of the very first NPCs you'll likely meet sends you on one of the longest quests in the game, the quest to get Lixir. This forces you to get the equipment to make it to another planet and engage in a long search for all the required ingredients. Only when you go through all this trouble to help a small girl's ailing mother without any promise of reward can you get the Silver Star inside the pendant the little girl gives you as thanks. 

¿Donde esta la Bibliotech?
The Jade Star of Wisdom/Knowledge (the game uses both, Laser Lords is sadly not perfect) requires two steps. To even initiate the exam of knowledge you first have to show proof that you have mastered the basics of rhetoric or gained a vision quest. This means either showing the Silver Spoon of Rhetoric or a Robe of Vision, the rewards for completing these exams. Or you can just buy a Silver Spoon cheaply from another NPC entirely, Laser Lords does love to give you alternate solutions! The exam of knowledge itself can be tricky, you need to figure out the answer to a few riddles and find an NPC who has the answer highlighted as a keyword, but the reward is vital to your quest.

His accent even slipped into his dialogue. Good grief.
You get the Diamond Star of Prowess by beating this guy up. That's it.

So, there's the four Stars of Virtue. Bronze, Silver, Jade and Diamond. That's rather odd, isn't it? Something seems to be missing.

He seems like a nice guy.
The game never makes a deal out of this outright, the concept of a Gold Star is only referred to once by a single NPC early in the game who boasts that he got his Honour Badge by burning down an old woman's house and will get a Gold Star for what he does to you. 

One can only assume what the Gold Star stands for, it's not mentioned elsewhere so my personal theory is that it's the Gold Star of Cruely. Not really a virtue, now is it? So of course you have no use for it on your quest. You can never earn the Gold Star, and you should be thankful for that. This is just a teeny, tiny little thing that feels like the developers put in there to flesh out the whole concept of the Stars a bit more, but so out of the way that it won't warrant a moment's pause for anyone but the most obsessed folk. Folk like me!

Phony accents


Laser Lords has over a 100 NPCs and few of them share the same voice. This being a 90s game, that means you can expect a lot of ridiculous voice acting. Everyone sounds like they are from the hammiest and cheesiest sort of cartoon. My love for it is equally boundless and infinite. The voice director and voice actors must have been having fun because man are the outcomes absurd, regardless of how important or insignificant an NPC is, you're never quite sure what they will sound like.

This would be absolutely great by itself, and it is, but Laser Lords goes just one step beyond. Laser Lords absolutely knows that its accents are ridiculous and it's never clearer than when an NPC reveals their accent is fake inside of the game.

https://youtu.be/o5YiDghTmZA?t=13m26s

https://youtu.be/6EdKE9xzG7A?t=6m17s

Codes of Wisdom


Laser Lords is all about making incremental progress to long-term goals. One series of such goals is learning all four pieces of the eight collections of wisdom the game has. There is one for each of the seven planets which details the overall philosophy of those in power of the planet as well as the Voidal Murmurs, which are linked to the four aforementioned Stars of Virtue.

Each piece of wisdom increases your maximum HP, so collecting wisdom is crucial to the game's combat since there will be times when you're forced to fight and every bit of extra HP helps since the game's combat system is not exactly refined. Once you collect all four pieces of one philosophy you can recite it to an NPC who wants to hear it and gain a reward for it. Oddly enough most of these rewards are not necessary, usually there's another way to get the reward or the reward itself is something such as giving you back all nine lives, but the surplus rewards can often still be sold for extra money so your efforts are not wasted.

This wisdom tends to be scattered all over a planet and requires asking NPCs about them, giving them the right items or using the right item in the right places. This process is usually quite arduous, collecting all of a planet's philosophy tends to only happen later on in the game since some of these pieces of philosophy are gated off quite well. The process of gaining a planet's philosophy requires thorough exploration of that planet, by the time you can recite the philosophy you've already experienced it first-hand.

And then this happens.

Oh.
Well, that was easy, wasn't it?

Lunchboxed


Laser Lords is absolutely stuffed with content, much of it optional. This means that for much of the game you're not quite sure what is and is not a sidequest, nor whether the path you are on will give you an item vital to your quest, a monetary reward, a useful item which is nonetheless not mandatory or nothing at all.

There is one sidequest that absolutely takes the cake though. There is a sidequest that can be initiated by talking to a member of an underground resistance movement that intends to take down the Argosian Empire from the inside. To do this quest you need to go say the right words to the right people and be careful you don't reveal your intentions to the wrong people or they will attack you.





Well, that's a handful. What could the reward be?


So, you give the guy your lunchbox aaaaand it turns out to be a bomb. You die.

Congratulations, your reward for this sidequest is that you become a suicide bomber and lose a life!

Doppelgänger 


For as much voice acting as there is in Laser Lords, the protagonist is surprisingly silent. Even though you can recite philosophy and ask aliens about certain keywords, there is no dialogue for any of it, and all of the narration in the game is done by Zendo.

There are clues in the game that hint at what the protagonist sounds like. Delicious clues that lead to an amazing revelation that forever changes the way you imagine conversations happening.

Two NPCs in the game use the same sprites as the player does, and are clearly meant to mirror the player character somehow. The first of these appears in the game's casino is a back-alley copy of Russian Roulette. Prodding him about his backstory reveals that just like the protagonist he was picked up by Zendo to go on the quest, but he clearly didn't care much for it and became disillusioned about it. This is already a kinda funny idea in itself, but it gets even better when you hear his voice and see his face.

https://youtu.be/o5YiDghTmZA?t=3m26s

Throughout the whole game your character has been this pixelated, mute figure, but suddenly that all changes when you see what is obviously meant to be your parallel. Suddenly that little figure has a face and a voice, and it is the most surfer dude face and voice imaginable. That's amazing. And what's even better is what you get to do to him.

You can play a game of Fast Blast with him, where you repeatedly pass each other a blaster and it sets of a random chamber each time. One of six holds a death charge, so you can imagine what happens when the selector chooses that chamber.

Don't mind if I do! ;0
This process goes on until either six rounds pass, or someone gets blasted. This can be save-scummed pretty easily, and the reward for it is a whopping 120,000 taras, more than enough to get you through the rest of the game easily without any monetary worries!

So as it turns out, one of the most effective ways to play the game is to buy your way into most secrets and items, and all you need to do is brutally murder your doppelgänger!

When you're all by yourself in the dark


As I mentioned, there are two NPCs who mirror the player character. You can find the first pretty early on on your playthrough, but the second turns out to be the last NPC you meet before confroning the game's main villain!

I like how they set it up like that, by the time you get there you'll have probably forgotten about Fast Blast, so for a moment you might think he's back for revenge!

You can try fighting him, but if you beat him he just flees and you can't progress.
Unlike the Fast Blast guy though, this guy is an actual copy of yourself, though unlike most games you actually get to talk to him. The set-up of this conversation is that moments before it the main villain, Sarpedon, briefly appears and shoots a laser at you. Your mirror image will then tell you the laser actually killed you , you just haven't realized it yet, and that your quest was futile from the start.

Zendo would never betray me!
Zendo no! ;-;
Thought this was some sort of escapist power fantasy? Think again!
It's almost like it's a game to them. A video game. 
This throws quite the curveball at you. Thus far the game never implied anything like this, so it really comes out of left field. It's so sudden that for just a moment you might consider there's some truth to it. What if the game is pulling an eleventh hour twist?

No amount of talking will get you out of this, and neither will combat or offering money or items. There's only you, yourself and the unusual darkness behind the character's portrait.

You are all by yourself in the dark.

Turns out collecting those stars of virtue wasn't for nothing! This is where the tangled mess of quests to get them all comes back to haunt you if you didn't get them all. To get past here you need to recite the philosophy of the four stars to prove you are virtuous enough to face Sarpedon to yourself.

He's so casual about it.
All-in-all this encounter could have easily been with any sort of gatekeeper, but I find the choice to make it a mirror image of the player character a fun one to take. After all your questing through the void, after exploring all those planets and all those alien cultures it still comes back to this one dude with his stupid face and his stupid accent. 

Because of course, he has the very same accent as the Fast Blast guy. Which to me solidifies that, yes, that is definitely what your character sounds like. Every conversation you imagines you had with aliens was filtered through that voice coming from that face with that expression. I love that.


Might makes Right


One facet of Laser Lords I like is that it plays around with language a whole lot, and what NPC to better represent that than a rhetorician?

Laser Lords logic is the best brand of logic.
This whole conversation is worth a listen, really, so I'm linking it here, there's some alliterative bits, such as the following, but the real meat here is the ridiculous trail of logic that is meant to lead to you concluding what the first Codicil of the Commercial Code is, which is Argos' guiding philosophy.

Astonishingly alliterative articulation. Applause!
Might makes Right! It all makes sense now!
It's interesting to see the game try and stumble its way through more linear dialogue trees such as the rhetoric examination, which turns out to be a series of true/false questions leading up to twisting words so that "Might makes Right" actually refers to military might being used to give citizens the right to have leisure through some amazing leaps of logic . Laser Lords does this a lot where it just takes a bunch of concepts and throws it at you, and honestly I'm all for it. It's about as deep as a puddle but I will gladly flop around it like a hyperactive toddler. 


Also, this bit of dialogue where you can only select one keyword amuses me. Like, this part of the game is set up as a test but you only have one option here and it's the correct one. It's literally impossible to fail this part of the quest. 

It's also obviously referring to the Great Man Theory, which is a load of nonsense, but it perfectly fits into the hodgepodge of awful rhetoric that Argos represents. It's almost like Laser Lords has something to tell us. Something to comment on. Something regarding society.


Social commentary for dummies


I've heard someone say Laser Lords is the best Star Trek game there is, because most of it is about exploring alien cultures that mirror aspects of humanity. I don't know how accurate that is to Star Trek, but it definitely sums up Laser Lords quite nicely. Every planet in the game is about some aspect of humanity and some of the NPCs talk about these aspects in ways that clearly guide the player to either condemning or agreeing with them. Though usually condemnation, because misery is just much more fun, isn't it?

The Ancient Egypt-like Luxor is largely about power struggles between different classes of peoples and prophecy. Argos is thoroughly in control of the planet, but their puppet regime of Koptoans have plans of betrayal by awakening a god to take down Argos, while the repressed Gameans also wish the awaken Seb, but to liberate Luxor from both Argosian and Koptoan rule. Though it turns out things might not be that simple.

We'll get back to Seb.
Fornax's orbital space casino, the Seminum Omegan, is all about pleasure, addiction and the divide between haves and have-nots. On the one hand there's a lavish casino where the richest people in the void gather while in the halls of the casino the destitute roam, hunted by a stand in for the police and bounty hunters eager to make some quick cash, and on both sides there's people hopelessly addicted to stroke or the gambling life.

Ravanna Rollout? More like Ravanna Wipeout.
Tekton is a futuristic planet mostly devoid of humanity populated by droids with the bare minimum amount of cranial matter they need to operate, and as such lacks inspiration and creativity and has a single-minded goal of reaching peak efficiency by establishing a rigid order that everyone has to fit into. But as it turns out, this order is entirely made up by one fully sentient cyborg who makes all this stuff up as he goes along and along the way created a brittle system that constantly gives him headaches and is liable to short-circuit every droid there is if a single contradiction is made. Tekton is a planet which is forever looking to progress and expand.

The leader of the robot uprising, everybody.
Woo is the exact opposite, it is a natural paradise where every animal is free to do as they will and the chaos of nature has created a stable equilibrium. Everyone does what they wish to do, and as such they all fall into predictable roles. It's a planet in which a predator will gladly ask a prey if they want to be eaten and the prey won't hold it against them. It's a planet where plants are held in the highest regard and violating a flower will instantly kill you. Woo is set up as a sort of paradise, but what it amounts to is a planet that is stuck in a pre-societal state that is firmly rooted in its status quo and will never evolve beyond it. There is plenty for all, but if you are a prey then you shall never be anything but food for the predator.

#WooSucks
Hive is a hive of space wasps and Ravanna is the hub world of Sarpedon and his evil cronies. Neither planet is very interesting or worth talking about, they're both combat gauntlets for the most part and don't have many NPCs to converse with. I am unsure if this was wholly intentional or perhaps just a result of budget constraints, but I suppose that neither the collectivist hivemind nor the irredeemable evil of Ravanna have as much potential as the other planets.

Bonus points for including a goblin though!
And then there's Argos. Argos is like everything wrong with humans melded together into dystopian empire. It's a delightful combination of scarcity, fascism, capitalism and imperialism. It is the most richly populated planet in the game and next to Luxor it has the most cohesive culture. Despite its outwards hostility, it's a planet in which you can freely engage with most of the NPCs, meaning you get given plenty of insight of how Argos works both from its fervent supporters and its detractors inside the very empire itself. It's easily the best planet in the game and I will not be convinced otherwise.

Argos is roughly divided into five districts: The Arcopolis, which holds both the Academy where minds are refined into loyal servants of the empire and the Gymnasium where warriors hone their body and virtue, Lyspaceum which is the center of the empire's military might, the offices of Corinth which is the economical and propaganda district and the Agora, where the undesirables and the shady gather.

How convenient that every sector lies in an easily defined direction!
Throughout the game you'll have to explore and district, and they're all packed full of NPCs. And oh boy, do they have things to tell you. Argos is where the game cranks things up a notch further, and all pretenses are dropped. There's no beating around the bush anymore on Argos, and it is amazing.

I liked you better when you were giving me directions.
Some juicy alternative facts.
This all sounds very complex. Like a military-industrial complex.
Capitalism!!!!!
However, the shining crown of Social Commentary and the only reason I included this lengthy section in the first place is one of my favourite conversations in the game. It's simultaneously a completely ridiculous conversation when you stop to think about it, yet also eerily prophetic. It's a point where the game totally breaks the keyword principle to deliver a chain of dialogue with the sole intent of making a point. And the voice acting here is actually completely on point, it's the most elaborate and focused one conversation in Laser Lords ever gets.

It's time for some Data Production.



And all that from a game that came out in 1994, with no age restrictions! What I really like about this is how the tone of the dialogue here is perfect, the voice actress totally captures the sheer level of banality of this propagandizing mission. Here she is just telling a random alien from who knows where about how they are going to massively screw with statistics to create the appearance of an uprising on Luxor so that public support can be generated for laser-strafes on villages in order to make more profit from selling their grain.

Attacking a remote location under the guise of a fight against terrorism for the goal of harvesting its natural resources to fuel your economy.

Jeez Laser Lords, you are more relevant today then you where when you first came out. 

Mummy Jesus


So, Luxor has been mentioned a few times so far. The main theme of the planet is its prophecy, that the god Seb, the son of the gods Koptos and Gamea, will be awakened and liberate Luxor from the iron fist of Argosian rule. Luxor's philosophy, the Sooth Song, sums up how this all ties together pretty well:

"Oh Mother Sysis is our source,
She blesses, heals and feeds,
When prophecy fulfills its course,
We'll plant once more her seeds."

"Koptos is our Father,
King of the sun and rain,
Unless we gather gold for him,
He'll burn away our grain."

"Sysis and Koptos mated,
In fields beneath the skies,
Flowers and grain pollinated,
Seb was born from their sighs."

"Seb the son of Sysis and Koptos,
Will scourge the evil Empire.
Gas shall rid the void of Argos.
Seb the son shall be its sire."


Amazing singing voices. Absolutely amazing.

There's a variety of NPCs on Luxor, and most can be divided into three camps: Followers of Sysis, followers of Koptos and those sympathetic to the Argosian Empire. These groups all have their own interpretation of this Sooth Song and the prophecy, as nothing in Laser Lords is ever simple or easy.

She sings this line too. Blessed be her voice.
The Gameans, followers of Sysis, believe that when Seb is awakened, he shall free Luxor from the Argosian Empire and restore Luxor to as it once was. This means the Koptoans will lose their power and Luxor shall revert to its original name, Gamea, and become a peaceful planet of flowers and fountains once more, rather than a planet that worships gold and grain.

Gas the space nazis. How ironic.
The Koptoans take a decisively more warlike look on it. When Seb awakens, they shall work together to overthrow the Argosian Empire and found their own empire to rule over, supplanting the current role of Argos as the leader of the void. Rather then be a tribute planet, they shall receive tribute from all other planets. Luxor will maintain its name and stay a planet of gold and grain.

Yeah, who has ever heard of a fictional prophecy coming true?
The Argosians and Luxorians who have allied themselves with them show little concern over the prophecy, however. They are wholly content to continue exploiting Luxor's fertile grainfields and large supply of gold for their own ends, even if it means thinning the population.

And then, it turns out perhaps none of them really got it right.

Ah.
It's not a war if you gas your enemies, honest!
Seb has clearly allied himself to one side, and that is his own side. Seb has no interest in restoring Luxor to its original form, nor does he plan to aid the current ruling class. There won't be a Gamea or a Luxor, but only Gamelux, a vast empire in which there will only be Sebines and plenty for all. For this sake, Argos will be gassed and the Empire shall crumble, then Seb and his offspring shall 'spread his seed on every planet'. 

So, both the Gameans and Koptoans did get parts right. Seb certainly intends to engage in chemical warfare with Argos and free the people, and spread prosperity and fertility through the void. What they did not account for, is that Seb has no interest in picking either side, he is the son of both Sysis and Koptos, so by divine right all Gameans and Koptoans should now bow to him and spread the fruits of Luxor to other planets.

So basically Seb isn't out to restore Gamea to a peaceful, fertile planet nor instill a warlike, theocratic empire, but rather he intends to instill a peaceful and fertile theocratic empire. You know, right after he gasses the current empire.

What's in a name?


One of my favourite aspects of Laser Lords is how it names things. People, places, items, concepts, Laser Lords has names for all of them and most of them follow a theme. So, let's unwind from all that heavy stuff with social commentary as lethal gasses and just look at some wonderful naming schemes.

Being the typical Egyptian-themed planet, the names of people in Luxor sound appropriately Egyptian. There'snot much to it, you have names like Nebka, Rahman, Seb, Koptos, Hotep, Menkh, Teb, the list goes on.

Argos is where it gets more interesting, visually it takes a lot after ancient Rome and Greece, and we have already seem how this affects the way they name places, but the way they handle names is a little more complex. Most characters have their names derived from famous and fictional figures, often scrambled around into anagrams or otherwise altered, though some are just puns. Let's look over these, shall we?

Emdea - Medea
Thesia - Hestia
Aleus - Sounds like Alias
Tantalia - Atlanta
Acteon - Actaeon
Dyseosus - Odysseus
Cynicus - Sounds like cynic
Scardansa - Cassandra
Scrono - Cronos
Astal - Atlas
Remesh - Hermes
Hemeprotus - Prometheus
Sodipud - Odipus
Lexandaller - Alexander
Milos - Milos
Dorpana - Pandora
Memnon - Agamemnon
Plenyope - Penelope
Neclo - Cleon
Dimas - Midas
Axja - Ajax
Gongor - Gorgon
Leneh - Helen

Some of these took me longer to figure out that others. My personal favorites are Scardansa, Hemeprotus, Lexandaller and Dyseosus, those just sound like kinda cool names. They shall be the names of my three sons and daughter.

Some Argosians also like to use the word "zook" as a stand in for a certain word.

I love fictional curse words
The Creegs who orbit Fornax in their space casino/seed bank called the Seminum Omegan have some especially colourful names. This is where things take a turn for the silly. You have wonderful names such as these:

Erectum
Flacidek
Eunuchus
Flateus Dan
Proctus

Figure out what they and the name Seminum Omegan mean for yourself. The place also has two distinct terms, fornaxed and fornaxication, the former of which refers to being broke and the latter, well...

Yeah.
The droids of Tekton follow a simple naming scheme based around their functions, hopefully these will be easy to figure out.

In-Put, Assimilator Droid
Dok-Tor, Bionicologist Droid
Graft-On, Bionicologist Droid
Swit-Chon, Prower Doid
Tran-Smit, Production Droid
Reef-Raze, Poet Droid
Gro-Ing, Cloning Droid
Out-Flo, Shipping Droid
Fen-Der, Shield Assembly Droid
Pro-Fit, Sales & Marketing Droid
Too-Bee, Philosopher Droid
De-Bug, Repair Droid
Dee-Fusion AKA the Variable, last organic on Tekton
Co-Fusion AKA Prime Ass, the autocrat of Tekton

I am not making that one up.
Much like the droids of Tekton, the animals of Woo have punny names based on their species, or in some cases names they rhyme.

Yo Kai-ti, the coyote
Yee Nah-hai, the hyena
Ah Ga-zel, the gazelle
Ti Lo-pan, the antelope
Rom Bok, the roe-buck
Ow-Li, the owl
Lu Po, the bear
Chim Pan, the chimpanzee
Pa Chi-zi, the chimpanzee
Sap Ah-jo, the sapajou
Mon-Kee, the monkey
Ka Pu-chin, the capuchin
Han U-man, the hanuman
Tran Tu-la, the tarantula
Ma Dil-oh, the armadillo
To Fu, the frog (???)
Yet Ti, the yeti
Masters Lao, Wao and Tao, the bears of healing, song and flight.

Yeah, most aren't that hard to figure out so long as you know the names of the species they refer to.

Yes, they all have clay models. Yes, they are a taxidermist's worst nightmare.
Now, let's take a look at the names of some products you can buy in Laser Lords, such as drinks, food and medicine. There aren't too special, but I like how they gave them all unique names and some flavour text anyway. Plus I get to show off more amazing clay faces.

Luxorians grow the best grain, and the best beards
Rad goatee, dude.
Lovely Dreamworks eyebrows.
If only real medicine was this descriptive.
Now we can really get down to fornaxicating!
And finally, the game of course has to have some acronyms somewhere, right? There's three recurring acronyms and they're all great.

Turning the universe into a crystal is one way to achieve unity, sure.
USURP
STATQUO

Rad tunes


Laser Lords doesn't have a lot of music, and most of it goes unused, but what little music does get used is worth listening to!


Seriously the clay models are amazing, please make more games with these


Seriously, look at them. Look at them!












You will always live on in my heart, Sam
EVERY GAME SHOULD HAVE THIS.

Closing Thoughts


So, that took a while. I've written several blogs before, but none of this scope. This blog also took much longer to write than the rest, I started this a week ago as I am typing this now! 

I do get these cravings for Laser Lords from time to time, so writing about it like this is a good release of that, since it's so hard to find anything about this game elsewhere. I can rest easily now, knowing that I have written more about Laser Lords than anyone in the whole world.

That ought to be good for a Gold Star, yes?

2 comments:

  1. It is indeed an excellent game. I played it through on a CDI before my laser broke and the system stopped worked. I am surprised you don't actually own the game. A pity it was never ported to DOS or Windows, and a pity that the last time I tried playing it on MAME / MESS, the action panel at the bottom didn't work.

    Keep up the good work telling people about this game.

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  2. Cdiemu is getting closer to emulate it. It still says there are some bugs, but hopefully it will get better.

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