Video Game: Hostile Waters Antaeus Rising
aka: Hostile Waters
"Twenty years ago this was the scene of the last war on Earth. This Pacific island is where the future was built. Where the old guard, the fossilized establishment was brought down. Twenty years have been spent building a new Earth. A world of plenty, and peace. But the old guard never went away. The remaining monsters of the 20th century, the death-lovers, the power brokers, the old men who lived on theft and hate, have formed a Cabal, with the intent to break the world apart. With new machinery, unimagined by the outside world, they have incorporated the island into a newly grown chicane of similar islands, the Earth literally forced by machines to throw islands up into an artificial design. The Cabal control their operations from the shielded island in the center of the chicane. Operations for war against a world that's given war up. It's up to the new society of two thousand and thirty two to relearn war. To revive the last of the Adaptive Cruisers. Give it the ability to lend battle vehicles autonomous controls by bonding their systems with the chip-contained minds of dead soldiers; and to send them all into the chicane to fight their way through to Island Zero... and the nightmare, waiting there to be set loose upon the planet. These are Hostile Waters...
Okay, so that pretty much clarifies the premise of this particular Real-Time Strategy
game written by Warren Ellis
. There are, however, a few things that must be made clear:1
. This game is the apotheosis of awesome
. Seriously, try it.2
. It is a hybrid of real-time-turns strategy and vehicle simulator.3
. It is very, very
The game can be bought from Green Man Gaming
. It is also available on GOG.com
, re-released after being pulled out of its catalog for quite a while. And it's now on Steam
This Video Game
provides examples of:
- Action Bomb: The Suicide Bugs.
- Adaptive Ability: The Species. See Gone Horribly Right below.
- Airborne Mook: Enemy Recon Choppers, Apaches and alien light flyers. Note that the Species was originally meant to be purely land-based; the forms they evolved for aircraft are usually very weakly armored.
- Always Chaotic Evil: The aliens are bred to wipe out human life.
- Anti-Air: The AA towers. They come in a fairly weak four-barrel model, a stronger two-barrel hybrid, and a much stronger alien version. The normal type is quite weak, the hybrid type can shoot down most anything in a few shots, and the alien type is so powerful that its range exceeds any weapon you can mount to your aircraft.
- Anti-Frustration Features: Unless you do something really really stupid, it's pretty much impossible to get a vehicle well and truly stuck at any point on any map — they automatically right themselves if flipped over (even if they have no obvious means of doing so) and you can use the (very cheap) Pegasus to lift them to a different location.
- Arrow Cam: Warhammer rounds have built-in camera to see where they land.
- Artificial Atmospheric Actions: The various Soulcatcher pilots will talk to each other and you, such as mocking each other for perceived differences in skill. Thing is, these responses are very limited, so they repeat them quite often. The responses are just vague enough to make it sound coherent no matter what pattern they end up in, though, and usually pretty fun, since most are jerkasses.
- They'll also chew each other out for getting blown up — with increasing annoyance if one of them gets blown up multiple times.
- While the pilots' conversations are usually legible, they can sometimes come across... oddly.
(cheerfully) That was sheer quality; well done! Ransom:
(bitterly) Save it for someone who gives a fuck
(still cheerful) Don't mention it. Keep it up and you may get a special mention!
- Artificial Stupidity: Your units have no sense of self-preservation and will happily throw themselves against unending hordes of enemies if allowed to. Pathfinding can be finicky on both sides of the fence, especially for ground units on rough terrain, and it's quite possible for massed units to slaughter one another through friendly fire.
- Author Appeal: Evil corporations plotting the downfall of an ultimately idealistic world? Nanotechnology used for the good of mankind? Nightmarish organic technology? You can tell this is a Warren Ellis script before you even know he wrote it.
- Awesome but Impractical:
- The quick order system, meant to let the player give orders quicker, without leaving the cockpit. The alternative is changing back to the Battle Room... which pauses the game.
- The cruiser's artillery guns. Powerful enough to kill pretty much anything. Limited enough ammo that you usually can't wipe out any one thing of vital importance to your enemy (they almost always have a few backups).
- The Arclight EMP gun. Decent range and will kill any plane it hits (since they stop flying) assuming they sit still long enough to be hit by the Painfully Slow Projectile, but really slow firing and only necessary for one mission. It's easier just to kill things. It is more useful against slow moving land vehicles and turrets, but your units can usually handle those with normal weapons.
- You can technically mount a Warhammer (normally a mortar weapon) on an air vehicle, and it will attempt to use it for bombing, which looks cool and fiery and destructive... but it's wildly inaccurate and can only target things almost immediately below the vehicle, and is useless against other air units. And if you're in position to use it, you could just use a scalpel or a flamer anyway...
- Badass Boast: My name... is Ransom.
- The Warhammer artillery launcher. It fires Arrow Cam shells with a massive area of effect. Patton loves it and complains if given anything else.
- The disassembler cannon. It's the size of a large building, and if allowed to fire, it can wipe out Central in three shots.
- Body Horror: The Species' reproductive habits. To wit: caesarian by hooked tentacles.
- Book Ends: Antaeus rises from the seabed in the opening cutscene. In the ending, she sinks, and is last seen settling back onto the ocean floor.
- Bottomless Magazines: Ammo and fuel are infinite (except for the Antaeus' guns, which get a limited number of shots depending on the mission), limited only by the rechargeable energy meter. But in the case of the Scalpel minigun, not even that applies, since the recharge rate is much faster than the firing rate.
- Brain Uploading: The new peaceful future has the unfortunate side effect of nobody being qualified to crew the Antaeus. Fortunately, some of the soldiers in its last battle were trialing prototype 'Soulcatcher' chips which preserved their minds on death.
- Bug War: The last stages of the game.
- Cloning Blues: The excuse given for why you can't simply create five copies of the same guy, thus limiting your autonomous forces to whatever chips you have on hand. It's said that they attempted running multiple copies before, which just made them go berserk since the participants couldn't accept that they were no longer unique. You'd think a little psychological conditioning could take care of such a thing. Then again, given some of their psychological profiles, perhaps these are the only people they could get to willingly sign up for such a program.
- Cloud Cuckoolander: Kroker isn't the kind of person you'd call sane. He'll complain any time you take over his vehicle, talk about how he can kill you just by looking at you, and is generally a bit loopy. He's notably also the only member of your crew who acknowledges the fact that he's basically a chip in a robot (aside from Ransom) and actually seems to enjoy it.
- Combat Medic: The Behemoth heavy tank chassis is the only vehicle large enough other than the unarmed Scarab able to equip the repair unit, thus leading to this trope.
- Compliment Backfire: Some of your crew don't like to be complimented, especially Ransom. This gets... odd, when the compliment-giver continues as if the recipient had responded favourably.
- Cool Ship: The titular battleship Antaeus is the last functioning capital warship, preserved in case war ever returns to threaten humanity. Not only does the ship survive being sunk for 20 years (albeit some damage does take some time to repair), it is also capable of literally creating armies out of junk.
- Cosmopolitan Council: The Cabal Council fits this trope to perfection: there's a sinister American radicalist who thinks that "Without control, we may as well end all life on this planet and see if the cockroaches can get it right", a Russian who remembers "de old dayz", a German chick that wants to "take major urban areas back to the Stone Age", plus an assortment of evil guys who look like gangsters, drug lords, and corrupt politicians. Oh, and the obligatory cigar-smoking El Presidente lookalike. See the whole thing here.
- Critical Existence Failure
- Crosshair Aware: Inexplicably used by a boss (of sorts). For no good reason, since the attack cannot be dodged without putting the environment in between, either.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: The Cabal's leaders. Impaled by Species tentacles in a variety of torturous poses (including a crucifixion), and left on display, naked, in the middle of an artificial winter.
- Death from Above: Various Air units, especially the Bomber-type Vulture and Antaeus' long range guns. Ransom even says the exact words when killing something.
- Death World: The chances of humans surviving on unterraformed islands are non-existent. As one of the characters realizes, that's the whole point. The Species, having outgrown their weakness to hot temperatures, are now simply unterraforming in order to wipe out humanity.
- Diminishing Returns for Balance: Multiple copies of the same enhancement (reload speed, armor, shields) provide progressively less of a boost. This is a moot point early in the game, since you can only fit one or two of each, but the high-end vehicles can load a ton of enhancements.
- Downer Ending: A pretty hard-hitting one. In the final mission, after much (and I mean much) effort, your ship, converted into a makeshift nuke, destroys a structure designed to launch genetically engineered alien creatures into space. It Makes Sense in Context. Anyway, in the credits, you and your crew go down with the ship. The ship's nanotech creation engine hits the ocean floor with the alien launch platform, which promptly beings to assimilate it. As if this weren't bad enough, The Stinger shows that two of the Species' Culture Stones managed to get into space anyway. Congrats, humanity's last weapon was sacrificed for little more than spare time (which the humans won't use because they think they've won), and if those monsters decide they want to come back home, the human race is fucked.
- YMMV, though. The ending can be viewed as rather hopeful... Yeah, there's the "bright and awful spark of creation" in the ocean abyss, but the "aliens" were running scared. Yeah, 2 culture seeds got away, but why would they return? They can live practically anywhere. That last scene simply showed that genocide had been averted.
- Plus very little is mentioned on what exactly happened to Cruiser 04. For all we know, all it needed to get ready for the next war could have been just a new receiver with which it reads the re-awakening signal (although one can argue that getting the device to Cruiser 04 might be a different matter altogether).
- Eleventh Hour Superpower: The last mission gives you the Vulture, a quick, cheap, heavily armed air unit. On one hand, it breaks the final mission when used as an High-Altitude Warhammer-Dropping Bomber; on the other hand, it is utterly useless in any other role in that particular mission.
- EMP: The EMP Gun.
- The End... Or Is It?: A Sequel Hook with no sequel.
- Energy Weapon: The Rapier long-range laser, and practically everything the Species shoot at you.
- Escort Mission: One of the missions has you escorting a group of scientists escaping from the Cabal. They proceed to patiently wait in their base while you clear the entire map of everything that moves and set up turrets at their destination, make sure to stay behind your tanks once they get rolling, and even once the enemies start growing out of the ground (literally), they will target your units before they turn on the convoy. It's... refreshingly not frustrating.
- Evil Is Deathly Cold: The genocidal 'aliens' purposefully chill the atmosphere.
- Exploding Barrels: Or rather, explosive building-sized fuel tanks. Some fuel trucks can also be used as high-grade explosives for fortified targets. They're used to blow up a satellite dish in one mission, and chances are if you see any on the map... you'll need to use them later. Fortunately, there are often spares.
- Expy: Say, those Mammoth tanks sure look familiar...
- Fiction as Cover-Up: The Classic Flying Saucers, see below.
- Fission Mailed: An example that narrowly avoids being annoying. The first time you see a helicopter with the scientist you were supposed to rescue take off, it means you failed the mission. When the same happens several missions later, it's just a scripted event.
- Flying Saucer: Apparently human-made, created in order to control the populace through fear of the unknown and to divert their attention from real conspiracies.
- Foreshadowing: "Isn't that worth killing for? Isn't that worth dying for?"
- Friendly Sniper: Madsen is, to quote the game's personnel files, "a good human being and scary as hell". His radio banter is friendly and supportive, and his combat behaviour reflects his sniper nature in that he tends to stay still and fire carefully aimed shots.
- Four Is Death: Adaptive Cruiser 04 doesn't get the signal, and thus stays sunken.
- Gatling Good: The Scalpel. Strong enough to shred most units in a relatively short period of time, recharges faster than it uses ammo, and it's the first gun you get.
- Gone Horribly Right: The Species, intended as a terror weapon, designed to destroy every living thing they encounter. They break out of containment and proceed to do just that, evolving past various 'safety measures' the Cabal wrote into their genetic code (such as having an extremely short lifespan outside of very cold places) and becoming uncontrollable, all of their own accord.
- Grey Goo: The "alien" antagonists have a grey goo disassembler cannon. It's up to you to blow up the cooling radiators before it destroys Central, the world capital. Once you do that, the next shot blows it to hell and spreads disassemblers throughout their base. If you feel like being merciful, you can take it out before it destroys the first two cities on its list, though this is a mite harder to do.
- Grid Inventory: The extra space in the vehicles for placing soulcatcher chips and modifying, also counts as a minor Inventory Management Puzzle.
- Heroic Sacrifice: The final mission consists simply of escorting the Cool Ship, turned into a walking (well, floating) bomb, into the heart of the enemy installation. It seems to work, too. Though the ending and The Stinger suggest otherwise.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: The Cabal.
- Hospital Hottie: Borden initially complains if placed in the Scarab, but doesn't seem to mind using the repair unit too much.
- Hover Tank: The Salamander and Shark chassis.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: The fate of the Cabal's leaders.
- Interface Screw: An early mission has your Battle Room interface glitch out, forcing you to issue commands through the quick-order system in the upper-right corner. It's basically used as an excuse for a Forced Tutorial.
- Invisibility: The cloaking device, usually used on Pumas. It's much less effective on other units if the enemy still has radar towers, since only the Puma is invisible to radar. If their radar outposts have all been taken out, though...
- In-Universe Game Clock: A day/night cycle that doesn't affect gameplay beyond giving you an excuse to use the night vision button. If you know one exists at all.
- Ironic Echo: A non-verbal version; when you get to the fake Island Zero, you can see a statue of something large and bug-like attacking a considerably smaller human, symbolizing the Cabal using the Species they created to destroy their enemies. Fast-forward to when Antaeus gets to real Island Zero, the Cabal leaders, who a mission ago requested us to protect them from the now rogue alien forces, are impaled by the aliens on the beach, slowly dying, naked, in the middle of an unnatural winter, and near the center of the island, in the middle of the ruined headquarters, there stands an identical statue, with the upper half of the human missing, now symbolizing something completely different.
- Jerkass: Your entire crew, though it's played for laughs through their banter. Especially Ransom, whose contributions to the game's dynamic chatter are usually him snapping at the other pilots even when they're being friendly.
- Kill 'em All: The Antaeus' entire crew, Player Character included, sacrifice themselves in the ending sequence.
- Kill It with Fire: In one of the latter missions, you're given the schematics for a vehicle-mounted flamethrower. Its short range is offset by the fact that it has the highest DPS of any weapon in the game. It's also vital to destroying Hives, as the things are nearly immune to other forms of damage.
- Lady of War / Action Girl: Borden. She's happy in just about any vehicle as long as it's not a Scarab, and loves destroying buildings.
- Laser Sight: All but one of your weapons get this. The Warhammer gets a crosshair instead, which shows where the round will fall.
- Living Weapon: The Species, by design.
- Loading Screen: Pre-mission loading screens show the Antaeus' current position as it closes on another island in the chicane.
- Military Mash Up Machine: The Antaeus Cruiser; it's a dual-hull catamaran-type warship-carrier with 4 battleship-style turrets, cold-fusion engines that allow it to circumnavigate the globe in days if needed, sensors that make it almost impossible to sneak up on, and it has unparalleled manufacturing and deployment capabilities. It can field, command, and support almost a dozen units - be they aircraft (helicopters and VTOLs), hovercraft, or ground vehicles, any of which can be assembled within seconds.
- My Hero Zero: Antaeus Prototype Double-Zero.
- Nano Machines: The plotline is based on nanotechnology. In the year 2012, nanotech "Creation Engines" were developed and released to the world at large. Able to dispense anything a person could want, at any time - on demand - they cause "the world to go sane"; revolution happened, power cliques were overthrown, and the world becomes a Utopia. The game takes place in the fictional year 2032, where the old power elites have perverted nanotechnology for their own uses, creating weapons of war with which to blackmail the rest of the world into servitude again. Or so it seems, at first...
- No Fair Cheating: Using the console command to enable total visibility of the map and reveal all units and structures works both ways; the AI will be able to spot and attack your units even if they're cloaked and invisible to radar.
- Non-Entity General: The game refers to you only as Captain, the only living person aboard the Antaeus. Of course, "living" is something of a misnomer, since you're a chip just like your crew, the only difference being you got a body out of the deal.
- Not Playing Fair With Resources: Though it is fair in the sense that your methods and their methods are completely distinct, the enemy has literally infinite resources so long as at least one oil rig is intact (their production rate, on the other hand, isn't infinite). Bust that and they run out of resources within a minute. This is what makes the Puma such a Game Breaker; properly-equipped, it can sneak behind enemy lines and destroy the rigs, making the mission a cakewalk. Of course, later on, the game does tend to screw you by spawning more rigs mid-mission.
- No Recycling: Partially averted, as the debris of fallen enemies is your main source of energy, but your own vehicles don't leave much of anything behind when blown up. As long as a unit survives, though, you can disassemble it back at the carrier to recover some of the energy spent on it.
- Number Two: Sinclair, who unsurprisingly happens to be the most polite member of the crew. Doesn't matter much in gameplay, though.
- Officer and a Gentleman: Sinclair, who was the first officer of the Antaeus back when he was alive, and is by far the single most polite person on your crew.
- Organic Technology: In stages. An organic defense tower sprouts up in an early mission as a sign of things to come. The Cabal then starts using organically-augmented vehicles (think Apaches and Abrams tanks with meat on them). The Species themselves are all this.
- Patchwork Map: The game takes place entirely on an island chicane (artificial archipelago) located somewhere around New Zealand. The environment varies from hot to frozen over. Justified by the chicane undergoing rapid, hostile (un)terraforming. Especially visible in the last mission.
- Perfect Pacifist People: The world government has used Nano Machines to remove poverty and need, effectively removing all reasons to go to war. This brought along with it a paradigm shift in the way people viewed the world, creating a world at peace.
- Pretentious Latin Motto: If the name of the Cool Ship wasn't pretentious enough, the motto is Pugio in Averso Belli (a dagger used against war).
- Real Time with Pause: In the Battle Room, time does not flow.
- Ridiculously Fast Construction: Explained with nanotechnology. The 'base' in the game, the adaptive cruiser Antaeus, is equipped with 'Creation Engines' which contain trillions of nano scale assembler robots capable of creating new vehicles from blueprints stored in the carrier in just seconds. The only resource required is 'metal' obtained by scavenger units using disassembler beams to reclaim various wreckage from the battlefield. The dissasembling process does take time, presumably due to the lesser numbers of nanobots involved.
- Scenery Gorn: Present despite the dated graphics. As you penetrate deeper into the island chicane and hybrid/species influence grows, greenery is replaced with barren, diseased ground. The neat, utilitarian structures of your enemy start sprouting fleshy growths and tentacles, and then everything starts to freeze over.
- Sealed Army in a Can / Sealed Cast in a Multipack / Sealed Good in a Can: Antaeus and her crew.
- Sequel Hook: Two of them. Not only does the ending cinematic reveal that your Heroic Sacrifice might have spawned something even worse, The Stinger suggests it was in vain, since a couple of Culture Stones made it into space.
- Unfortunately, the sequel is likely never coming...
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: One of the cutscenes has Church and Walker discussing their past military experience. Walker seems to have coped pretty well, while Church, in recalling her own experience, segues off into a minor rant before remembering herself.
- Shipshape Shipwreck: Makes an effort to play this as straight as possible while also subverting it. Antaeus Cruiser 00 is in remarkably good condition after spending 20 years on the ocean bed. It manages to surface and set sail just fine despite the long rest. Thankfully, nothing essential got damaged too badly, so after a visit in a wet-dock the ship is at (or at least, near) full operational capacity, though there are signs she never gets as good as new. 00's sister ship, 04, isn't as lucky. She doesn't wake from her nap on the ocean bed. They justify this through the use of advanced nanotechnology. Both 00 and 04 have creation engines on board with trillions of the little things, which would have repaired 04, too, if it had received the signal.
- Sir Swears-a-Lot: Ransom drops an f-bomb pretty much every other voice-clip. Sometimes he uses 'damn' instead.
- Sniping Mission: In one of the missions, you have to kill a helicopter pilot without getting too near. The only weapon with the necessary range and accuracy is the Rapier. An anti-tank laser cannon.
- Spiritual Successor: To Carrier Command. Hostile Waters is also in essence an RTS-fied version of Rage Software's earlier game Incoming.
- State Sec: Walker, from MiniIntel, is basically in charge of Central's security service. He describes at one point how the government has very close surveillance of every radical group in existence:
Walker: Nobody slips through the system. We've got more agents out there than there are faction members. If there was a split, we'd know about it. For Christ sake, we control most of them. They can't take a shit without us knowing about it.
- Tank Goodness: Patton agrees, and is most at home in a Rhino or Behemoth.
- Terraform / Hostile Terraforming: The Species embark on a great "un-terraforming" project of Earth itself, starting with Greenland. Given that they are, in part, living universal constructors, it becomes of vital importance to stop them.
- Title Drop: Several times during cutscenes. "These are hostile waters" is the final line of the game, cementing the Downer Ending.
- Turned Against Their Masters: The Species, naturally.
- Twenty Minutes into the Future: The game takes place in 2032, 31 years from the date of launch. The world, however, is massively different. Countries have dissolved and reassembled into new ones, violence and war are at an all-time low, and weapons are practically non-existent. As explained in the quote below, there's no disease and some measure of immortality (possibly The Ageless), and while there's no direct confirmation of space colonies, mankind at the very least is capable of getting up there with little trouble.
- Utopia: A literal example:
Walker: Streets lined with plants that capture pollution and sequester it as the pigment in flowers, decontaminating it as they bloom. Public Creation Engines on every corner that make free food and clothes and goods and anything, out of dirt and waste. Tiny organic medicines, riding the air, that heal us as we breathe. Disease-free immortality. Our grasp exceeds the moon, and we stand on the verge of greatness.
- Voice with an Internet Connection: Your handlers at Central, Walker and Church, who are two of the only people left qualified for military operations. Their superior, Halsey, also shows up in the first mission.
- Worker Unit: The Scarab vehicle, which can alternatively be used as a medic.
- You Require More Vespene Gas: The only resource used to create vehicles is "energy", measured by the exajoule and harvested using recycle-unit equipped Scarabs (or Behemoths in specific situations) to disassemble various structures, junk and enemy remains on field, with the energy instantly going to Antaeus. Another, less efficient way is to gather energy is to use the Pegasus helicopter to lift something and deliver it to Antaeus' own disassembler.
- WHAM! Mission:
- In mission 5, you're tasked to take over a Cabal research outpost, steal their hovercraft design, and destroy a plane carrying unknown technology before it takes off. However, blowing up the plane reveals the "alien" creatures for the first time, literally growing out of the wreckage and spawning laser armaments to rip your troops to shreds. The whole scene comes out of nowhere, and your handlers are rightly horrified. And to think that thing was headed to a populated city.
- Island Zero. Both of them. The first is a trap and introduces several new hybrid units for you to contend with, even spawning alien factories within spitting distance of the carrier. The second has you arrive at the actual Island Zero to find the Cabal's leaders brutally killed, leaving Antaeus and her crew as the only ones capable of fighting back against the Species.
- What the Hell, Player?: All the Soulcatcher pilots can pilot any vehicle, but they have specific areas of expertise and will chew you out for ignoring that fact. Several will complain if you take control of their vehicle away from them. Most also hate being stuck on scavenging/repair duty.