Video Game / Creeper World

"In the end, no answer is ever as elegant as its question."

Creeper World is a single-player Real-Time Strategy shareware game developed by Knuckle Cracker. The game starts off by throwing the player to the far-off date of 13,271, after humankind has colonized thousands of worlds in the galaxy. For millenia, everything was great, until the Creeper showed up. Then things started going downhill. The Creeper, which seems to be a form of sentient, xenophobic, destructive ooze, flowed across the human empire, killing trillions of people. On the first day alone, it struck 50 planets and slaughtered nearly 500 billion humans. The remaining fifty thousand humans gathered on a planet called Hope guided by the writings of the Old Man, and constructed the mobile outpost known as Odin City. The player takes the role of Commander of Odin City. Each map is a human world that had been overrun by Creeper, and your job is to power up Warp Totems so you can teleport to the next one.

One of the things that makes the game noticeable is that it eschews some established Real-Time Strategy tropes, and taking new looks at others. The result is a rather unique gameplay style, and can be addictive. Like Go or Checkers, it's easy to pick up, but can take some time to master. There is only one resource, energy, which is collected by plonking down Fractal Energy Collectors (and/or Reactors) across the map. The more sections of the map that is covered by your collectors, the more energy you produce. However, at the same time, Creeper emitters will try to cover the map with Creeper as well, which damages any of your buildings it touches. You stop the flow of Creeper by building weapons, which blasts away the mean ooze. Fight your way through the waves of Creeper and connect the Warp Totems to win the map. If the Creeper deals enough damage to Odin City, it'll be destroyed and you lose.

The tutorial can be played here, or downloaded (either the demo or the full game) here.

A third game was released in 2015, and is currently avalible on Steam. In this game, set in the far, far future, has you take the fight to the Creeper, destroying the Creeper Emitters and cleansing the planets themselves, rather than just teleporting from place to place.

The fourth game "Particle Fleet: Emergence. A Creeper World Chronicle" has been released in September 2016.

Tropes exemplified in this game:

  • Action Bomb: Exploding ships in the fourth game create a blast wave that scatters enemy particles for a moment. It is a legitimate tactic to throw you cheapest default ships between your very vulnerable lathes and enemy emitters to buy more time to destroy them.
    • A very popular custom ship design is simply a command module with an attached engine. Quick to build and able to deliver a stream of kamikaze explosions to the enemy.
  • A God Am I: Imperator, the one who corrupted the Loki.
  • Amplifier Artifact: Power Zones in the third game are left after destroying a creeper structure. Placing a tower on it doubles, triples, or (in case of Bertha) sextuples that tower's capabilities.
    • Power Crystals in the fourth game are scattered around the level or are retrieved from crystal mines. A Crystal can be used to upgrade your manufacturing/command capabilities, or increase a single ship's weapons range (though, unfortunately, not to the extent of a Power Zone above).
  • Ancient Conspiracy: Revealed in the Third game, the reason the Creeper does what it does.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: The fourth back differs somewhat from the previous formula of "battle the growing poison puddle with base building". In this game, base building is down to securing energy mines. Instead of towers you have ships carrying multiple equivalents of those towers, though the ships still need to be supplied with energy. And instead of the creeper tide, the enemy starts off with shooting individual particles at you, and advances to creating ships of its own.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: Fourth game: it would be very annoying to have a ship stranded in the enemy space every time it runs out of energy. So, if a ship does run out of energy, it can still move at full speed indefinitely. And, it a ship runs out of engines, it can still move, albeit slowly.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: Averted. Go ahead and build as many Blasters, Mortars, and Drones as you like. Good luck powering them without sufficient energy, though.
    • In the fourth game, however, you are limited by level settings to how many and what kind of units you can build.
  • Awesome McCool Name: Skarsgard Abraxis.
  • BFG: The Bertha cannons of the fourth game. MK-7 from the fourth is a huge triple-barreled naval gun, perfect for punching through to enemy ship's bridges (especially, if specifically set to target ships).
  • Bittersweet Ending: At the end of the Particle Fleet, the Ticon Corporation finds itself trapped and facing a huge enemy horde. All they can do is to transmit the location of the data cache they've assembled and perish fighting, hoping that someone else will retrieve and use knowledge they've discovered.
  • Construct Additional Pylons: Averted, kinda. You don't have to build training facilities, and non-weapon buildings can be put anywhere within your energy network. However, it's often a good idea to put them right next to Odin City, however, to speed up building times on them, and ensure they're among the last things threatened by the Creeper.
    • But every building needs to be connected to the energy network, and in most cases that involves making a chain of collectors to wherever you want to build (since they take less time than relays and provide additional energy to boot).
  • Command & Conquer Economy: In full effect. But to be fair, it's pretty much just the player who is doing all of the work.
  • Cosmetically Different Sides: Averted. To be fair, if you squint, the green zone that represents your energy production can resemble the spreading blue of the Creeper, but the Creeper has emitters that just make more Creeper. You have actual buildings and weapons.
    • Word of God is that the third game will heavily examine how similar human tactics are to Creeper's, and the story will focus on the fact that humanity's method of spreading across the map makes them Not So Different.
    • In the map editor, the colors of both the energy zone and the creeper are fully customizable, so there's no reason why an evil map author couldn't make them match.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: The first game. Your enemy is an amorphous Eldritch Abomination that has killed most of humanity, save for a small mobile city. No matter how much firepower is thrown at it, the Creeper will not stop coming until Odin City is destroyed. The only hope for survival is to constantly run away. Subverted in the final mission, when the player is given the means to fight back and destroy the Creeper for good. Later games, meanwhile, have technologies that can be used to stop the Creeper from spawning.
  • Critical Existence Failure: Your weapons will continue to deal full damage even if they're down to their last Hit Point. The game actually encourages you to take advantage of this: Dropping a Blaster into some Creeper that it can kill will deal minimal damage to it, but will soon be pushed back.
  • Death of a Thousand Cuts: The only way to defend yourself against the blue menace.
  • Developers' Foresight: In the final level, you're supposed to complete it by holding out until the super weapon becomes available, but you can actually power your way through the entire level. Only the black hole at the end is supposed to be defeated by Thor ramming into it and exploding, destroying it. So what happens instead? Knuckle Cracker pops up a message congratulating you for being so 1337 and tells you that, for the sake of the story, it's going to assume that you used the superweapon anyways.
  • Did The Research: The spread of creeper and the navigation of energy packets on the network are done with real-life scientific equations (thermal flow and A* graph search).
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: In the third game, these are just one of the many measures that have been deployed in a vain attempt to halt the creeper's advance.
  • Easy Logistics: Averted. One of the reasons you require so much energy is that it gets converted into the ammo for your weapons. And without a network of collectors and relays to deliver said ammo, your weapons will fire what they have and stop. Quick way to get overrun.
  • Eldritch Abomination:
    • The Creeper itself.
    • Imperator is no slouch, either.
  • Ending Fatigue: Most levels in games 1 and 3. After a successful defense is established in the first minute or so, there is not much to do but grow your base, and slowly burn your way to creeper emitters. Some maps avoid that by placing you on a small island, so that you can't build dozens of reactors, and limiting your unit pool so that you can't just overwhelm the enemy.
    • Averted in the seconds game (despite in being a bit of a Red-Headed Stepchild of the series). Cramped underground caverns and limited energy supply often force players to look for better approaches. Additionally, the cavernous layout provides varying challenges to be solved throughout the level.
    • Also averted in the fourth game. The energy supply and unit pool is limited. Also, just getting to the enemy emitter is usually much easier than killing it, thus getting rid of the "burn through the ocean of creeper" problem of the previous games.
  • Fog of War: Averted. You can watch the Creeper flow out of its emitters, which on later difficulties, can be pretty scary when you see just how much is being produced.
    • The Creeper was actually inspired by Fog of War, though!
  • Excuse Plot: Better than most and building a billion-year mythology across games, but is limited to a few lines of dialog before each level.
  • Forbidden Zone: The Redacted Space from the fourth game is absolutely forbidden to enter under punishment of automatic seizure of all assets you leave behind. It contains information on history of humanity, some secrets that Galactic Corporation doesn't want you to know, and the slowly growing universe-ending threat.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Particle Fleet takes place during the age of the Ticon. You know explicitly and intimately from the events of the third game that they, like so many civilizations before them, were also wiped out despite their best efforts, so it's not too difficult to guess how things end up for the protagonists.
  • Foreshadowing: The existence of The Precursors, and Platius/Old Man's relationship with the Commander.
  • Forgotten Superweapon:
    • Oh, did you not notice there's another box for a weapon next to Drones?
      • This appears in some custom maps, though it is extremely over-powered. It's called, fittingly enough, The Thor.
    • The final mission of the third game offers a double whammy: The Thor makes a reappearance, and there are buried missile silos on the map.
  • Gameplay Story Segregation: According to the story the creeper is so powerful and unstoppable that the only option for survival is to run away and even then it's only a matter of time until you die... in practice locking down and destroying the creeper is usually fairly easy.
  • Gun Nut: Your weapons director from the fourth game quite literally salivates over the progressively bigger ships you acquire.
  • Here We Go Again: The fourth game starts with you entering the Redacted Space investigating a signal sent by a doomed expedition. At the end, during your last stand, you send out a location of you data cache for others to investigate.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: In a meta sense, when you're halfway through a map, take a look at your network, and compare it to the creepers, beyond one being the player, there's very little showing how one slowly-expanding network of monocolor that destroys it's archrival until it one is gone is better than the other.
  • Hold the Line: The beginnings of each map can play out like this, until you build up enough weapons and energy to push the Creeper back. Played straighter on the final map of story mode, at least until you find the Forgotten Superweapon.
  • Hopeless Boss Fight: The final map of story mode, again. See Hold the Line. It's technically possible to win it without using the superweapon if you build lots of weapons, but it breaks the story.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The Commander tries to do this with the Forgotten Superweapon, but a Deus ex Machina on the behalf of The Precursors saves him. Played straighter by The Precursors themselves, except for Platius/Old Man.
  • Humanity's Wake: The third game's story consists of drudging through the ruins of civilizations that tried and failed to stand up to the creeper.
  • Instant-Win Condition: On maps with warp inhibitors, all enemy structures are instantly destroyed once the inhibitor is gone.
  • It Can Think: In the fourth game, you start off fighting individual particles, but as level progress, you see to your horror the enemy copying, first, the shape and, then, the functionality of your ships.
  • Level Editor: A BIG part of games 3 and 4, as the players will spend most of their time fighting through user-submitted maps.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: The default "Wolf" ship design from the forth game carries 8 rocket launchers. With a sip editor, you can put as many rockets on a ship as you want.
  • Mirror Match: In the later levels of the fourth game, the enemy eventually begins copying your ships. Luckily, if everything is going well, you can bring down your entire fleet on individual duplicates. To an extent, this also applies in reverse, with the player (depending on the level) gaining access to limited forms of friendly Particulate, plasma, Struc, Emergent, and so on.
  • More Dakka: The rate at which energy flows through your network can be increased by Packet Speed Enhancement Drivers, theoretically infinitely. This becomes increasingly essential on the dreaded "labyrinth" maps, particularly because Odin City only starts sending packets for a building the moment it appears on the network. If it takes 10 seconds to get energy there, there will be a 10 second gap between the time the previous node is finished and the new node is even started.
    • In a more traditional sense of the trope, in some of the later levels you can end up with a massive support system powering a mixture of dozens if not hundreds of Blasters, Mortars, Bombers, Anti-Air weaponry, Missiles, Snipers, Fighter Jets, BFG's, and machines that pump out a friendly version of the Creeper. Typically building 40 or so is enough to beat even a late game level, but there's no kill like overkill.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast:
  • Nano Machines: This game is absolutely in love with nanotech. The plans for new buildings are even called nano schematics. It's implied that this is how humanity did everything before the advent of the Creeper, so you're using the leftovers of civilization to defend you on the maps.
  • Never Recycle a Building: The subversion of this trope is one of the many things that differentiate this game from other RTS/Tower Defense games; you can move any weapons you've built freely around the map, even right on top of the Creeper! They'll take heavy damage if you do that though, so don't. Even your giant Central Command Node is able to be shifted around the map (though that's like moving your King piece in chess; if you have to move it, you've either got one heck of a plan, or you've screwed up big-time somewhere). You can't move your Collectors, Relays, or Reactors though, they're planted in the ground and are immobile.
  • Non-Entity General: You play the "Commander," who is assisted by "OPS."
  • No Recycling: Sadly truth.
    • Especially worse in that the energy used to power a Totem is completely lost if your energy network connection to the Totem is broken. You will have to pay to charge it up again from scratch. Likewise, if you lose connection to a Storage unit, and that brings your capacity below what you had. Meanwhile, your weapon buildings will hold onto power forever (that is, if they don't fire).
    • In the third game, if you lose your Forge, all Aether put into it and all upgrades researched are instantly lost, even if you build a new one.
  • Last of His Kind: In the third game, Skarsgard is the last (known) human. Lia states that the last civilization went dark millions of years ago.
  • Oh Crap!: At the end of the second game. When you first hit the Nexus with a darkbeam, it starts telling you how amusing it finds your efforts, and assures you that many civilizations have tried the same attack on it through history, and they all failed. As you keep throwing more and more firepower at it, it's messages become less smug and more desperate until by the end it's alternating begging you to spare it and begging it's creeper masters to give it more power to resist you. Quite satisfying.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: The Loki's philosophy is summed up as "The Purity of Nothing."
  • One-Hit Kill: Hitting the command module, in the fourth game, destroys the ship regardless on any other factors. Similar to, but not exactly Attack Its Weak Point since a command module is usually protected by the ship around it, and maneuvering for better firing angles isn't really part of this game.
  • One Nation Under Copyright: In the fourth game, Galactic Corporation has recently purged the ruling aristocracy and installed itself as the ruling power among humanity. Among the things they do is issuing licenses for the ships you can build. So, while you can, theoretically, build any number of any ships, you are limited to the types and number of ships you have licenses for.
  • Point Defenseless: Averted HARD in the fourth game. A humble laser has the shortest range of all the weapons, but also, an incredible rate and damage. It is specifically meant to protect your ships from being overrun by waves of enemy particles. Default ships only have between 1 and 3 of those to make it fair on the enemy. And the only reason maps don't usually include a ship that's just a sideways bar with a 2x10 array of lasers is because such ships are virtually unstoppable, able to drive right up to emitters without breaking a sweat.
  • Ramming Always Works: When two ships collide, they start annihilating each other until a command module is hit on one of them. That ship then immediately explodes. "Hammer" ship lacks offensive weapons, but has a huge bulb of blank hull in the front. It is designed to ram straight through to the enemy's command module, and remain alive. And, since the destroyed portions of the hull are blank, they rebuild quickly.
    • Shielded ships are also good for ramming, since their hull gets annihilating at a slower rate than that of an un-shielded enemy.
  • Ragnarok-Proofing: The third game takes place five billion years after the previous game, yet a surprising amount of ruins are still recognizable. Machines corrupted by the Creeper are as functional as the day they were built. Subverted in the finale, where the Loki hive asks Abraxis if he really thinks that a primitive cryosleep pod could maintain his body through 5 billion years of slumber.
  • Reinventing the Wheel: Played straight precisely once in the campaign mode, for tutorial purposes. For the rest of the game, it's averted.
    • Until you get to the second half of the game, where it is played painfully straight again. Have fun collecting the same 6 upgrades mission after a mission.
    • In the second game, most of your technology is disabled by Obstructive Bureaucrats.
    • Justfied in the in the third game, your ship has had to repair itself over and over again over several eons.
    • Also Justified in the fourth game. Instead of learning new technologies you use power crystals to supercharge your manufacturing and command capabilities. The campaign is even nice enough to know how many crystals you've encountered in the previous levels and hands you them at the start of each level.
  • Ridiculously Fast Construction: Powered by Nano Machines!
  • Rock Beats Laser: In the finale for the third game, ancient cruise missiles are used to take down the shields of the Loki ship, which were never designed to counter a weapon so primitive.
  • Separate, but Identical: Not even anywhere close.
  • Sequel Hook: In the ending. And lo and behold, for there is actually a sequel, too!
  • Sequence Breaking:
    • You're supposed to beat the final level by getting the tech for The Thor and holding off the Creeper while you build it. However, it is perfectly possible to defeat the final level using no other weapon than blasters. It takes a lot of energy, but once you've established some weapons outside the wall, you can slowly build your way across the map, eventually capping the emitters.
    • You're also able to beat the final two stages of Arc Eternal, Farbor and Arca, early. You can Thwart Stage One.
  • Shout-Out: The credits state the author is a fan of multiple science fiction series. The Commander person may have been inspired by Battlestar Galactica's Commander Adama (as well as references to The Old Man), and Odin City bears a striking resemblance to Atlantis.
  • Slept Through the Apocalypse: In the third game, Skarsgard spent five billion years in cryosleep while the Creeper ground away at human civilizations.
  • Stop Poking Me!: Sadly averted.
  • Strong Flesh, Weak Steel: Perhaps inverted. The player creates technological buildings and weapons, while your foe is waves upon waves of (what appears to be) biological slime.
  • Subsystem Damage: Ships in the fourth game ignore hitpoints for the most part, in favor of damage gradually erasing chunks of your ship's hull where the Particulate comes into contact with it. If damage overtakes a module (such as a Cannon or a Guppy), that module is destroyed until your ship has the time (and energy) to repair it. The only way for a ship to be outright destroyed is for the bridge to take damage, though this does mean that careless positioning or a reckless advance can cause a ship to die far earlier than anticipated. The Hammer, a ship designed almost solely to shield your other ships from damage, consists of just the bridge, an engine, a few particle lasers, and a massive block of armored hull in front.
  • Support Power: Type 3. There are masses of undifferentiated Nano Machines on some maps, and if you can build your energy network to them, you can spend them on upgrades.
  • Tech Tree: Averted. Like the Support Power above, there are nano schematics lying around on certain maps. build your energy network to one, and you instantly learn how to build the associated tech.
  • Time Abyss:
    • Platius had been laying the groundwork for the story five billion years before the first game.
    • The second game's "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue mentions that the human-styglek conflict would last millions of years.
    • The third game takes place five billion years after the second.
  • Timed Mission: Surprisingly, it's not until the third game that Creeper World will throw these at you. There is enough time to complete the missions, though at first it might not seem that way.
    • Not only that, it's the penultimate mission.
    • Au contraire, first and second games, both, contain missions where a location needs to be reached before it is overrun with the Creeper. Sure, there it no times, but the pressure is there just the same.
  • The Precursors: Previously unmentioned 'Others', among their numbers being Platius/Old Man. Can feel like a bit of an Ass Pull, especially if you don't understand the Foreshadowing.
  • Tower Defense: Games 1-3 have the hallmarks of this trope: towers facing a dumb endless enemy wave. But it has a few key aversions: towers move, and your goal is not to hold off the enemy till the timer runs out, but to expand to Creeper emitters and take them out (also with towers). So, "Tower Offence"? The fourth game loads the familiar towers onto ships, and becomes a more traditional tactical fleet game.
  • Turns Red: Depending on their settings, particle emitters from the fourth game may go into overdrive when approached, spewing out a huge amount of particles and making you reevaluate the size of the force needed to take that emitter down.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: In the third game's finale, the Loki choice disables all base building as you take control of a starship. The credits level is a top-down shooter.
  • You Require More Vespene Gas: As previously stated, you're going to need a looooooot of energy. The method of gathering and using said energy is pretty unique, though. In the second and third games, you also manage a resource called 'Ore', governing the creation and deployment of 'Anti-Creeper', as well as 'Tech/Aether,' which is spent on upgrades.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/VideoGame/CreeperWorld