Starsiege is a mecha-style vehicle simulation game developed by Dynamix and released in 1999. It is set in the "Metaltech" universe, which contains its predecessors Metaltech: EarthSiege (1994), Metaltech: Battledrome (1994), EarthSiege 2 (1995), the Platform GameHunter Hunted (1996), as well as the CyberStorm (1997-1998) Turn-Based Strategy games. There are two campaigns. One casts the player as a member of the human Martian resistance against an oppressive Earth empire, and the other as a Cybrid "pilot-form." The gameplay sees you piloting HERCULANs, or "HERCs", and tracked tanks. In between levels you configure your vehicle's components and select squadmates. Missions generally involve shooting other HERCs, tanks, turrets, and buildings.Starsiege is also a game with a fairly rich back story, told through a "compendium" found in the box alongside the game manual, a rich text that deserves a page unto itself. Here's the basics: It is the year 2829. Earth is under a single unifiedEmpire ruled by the ImmortalEmperor Solomon Petresun. He has instituted the "Fortification Proclamation," a massive buildup of arms and defenses on Earth, at the expense of the colonies on Mars, Venus and the Moon. Why? Because he fears the return of the Cybrids, genocidal robots led by Prometheus―an artificial intelligence that Petresun himself created centuries before.He has good reason to fear them, of course. The Cybrids, created by humans, rebelled against them. Twice, the Cybrids nearly drove humanity to extinction, as depicted in the EarthSiege games, and twice humanity overcame impossible odds and won. The first time they were beaten, the Cybrids fled to the moon, and then when they were defeated again they fled into the depths of the Solar System, regrouping near Pluto. There they watched, and waited for humanity to weaken. They got their chance when the colonies decided they didn't like being stripped of their resources and started a rebellion againstThe Empire. With Imperial police and military forces tied up fighting the rebellion, the Cybrids saw their chance to strike. A new siege began ― Starsiege.Things get a little more complicated, of course, beginning with the rebels discovering a cache of ancient alien weaponry on Mars. Now the "pitiful" Martian rebellion is armed with nasty alien guns and has a chance of winning against the Empire. This is where the player comes in.In-game, the story plays out through audio briefings before and after missions, and through pre-rendered cutscenes at certain significant points in the game. There is also a time-line feature, and news broadcasts, which update as the game progresses. These elements allow the player to see things about the story that can't be told through the simple shooting-oriented game-play. The Cybrid Campaign is a good deal harder than the Human one, and reveals a few interesting twists that the player would miss if one played only the Human campaign.It must be noted that Starsiege's backstory preformed a major retcon on the backstory presented by the earlier EarthSiege games, and although quite a bit of it can be justified as fleshing out the backstory, enough is incompatible between the two that you could safely put EarthSiege to EarthSiege 2 in their own separate continuity that was later copied, modified, and built upon for Starsiege and beyond. There are still arguments over which backstory version is better. The game recieved a pseudo-sequel in the form of Starsiege: Tribes, and that series subsequently underwent Adaptation Displacement, cleaving itself from Starsiege in the same manner it separated itself from EarthSiege. Starsiege's backstory is still canonical for the Tribes series though.
AFGNCAAP: Though in the human campaign you are sometimes referred to as "sir," you can customize your name and avatar any way you like.
A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Prior to the events of Metaltech: EarthSiege, a young Solomon Petresun, then a computer engineer, successfully brought online the first AI: a being he called Prometheus. From ITS design were created the Cybrids, robots designed primarily to operate war machines in the place of humans. Sometime later, when Petresun was undergoing the "Methuselah" process, Petresun and his "child" made mind-contact, and the two were mutually repulsed by one another. Not long thereafter, Prometheus took control of all Cybrids and started a revolution. IT would later give them free will, and in return, they labeled IT First Thought//Giver Of Will.
All There in the Manual: The game came with two books: a user manual, thoroughly explaining all the technical in-and-outs (even including a walkthrough of the first mission), and a full-color, illustrated story compendium... Detailing just some of the entire plot.
Always Chaotic Evil: The Cybrid species has an entire caste dedicated to the dissection and torture of humans. The splinter faction of "Metagens" are the only Cybrids shown not intent on exterminating humanity. They're given a very brief role in a Cybrid-only mission, in which they are fighting both Cybrid and human forces while trying to make an escape. Supplementary information is vague but jumps between suggesting that they do not regard humans as even warranting any attention by their species, to humans being worthy of study and even emulation.
Appropriated Title: The series began as MetalTech: EarthSiege. Metaltech was dropped, making the sequel EarthSiege 2. Then the sequel to that changed the name entirely to Starsiege. The sequel to Starsiege, which was mostly unrelated gameplay-wise, was Starsiege: Tribes, which then became simply Tribes
Artificial Stupidity: Your own squadmates don't retaliate when you attack them (even though they're theoretically supposed to shoot back). Squadmates may need to be babied along during missions, as they are very susceptible to wasting ammo and struggling to move around simple obstacles (enemy AIs end up doing this, too).
Artistic License - Physics: Vehicles, buildings, rocks, and other such objects bounce around like plastic when destroyed. HERCs sliding down very steep terrain never tip over. EVER. And as if that wasn't enough, vehicles often take little damage even if they fall hundreds of feet.
Applied Phlebotinum: The discharge of the Plasma cannon can fly around the map and find the enemy... Really.
Ax Crazy: The Cybrids. Their credo is "HURT//MAIM//KILL."
Base on Wheels: The Cybrid "Mobile Nexus," also known as an Omnicrawler.
Becoming the Mask: See I Hate You, Vampire Dad below. When addressed by his birth name, Harabec retorts, saying That Man Is Dead and that he is Harabec Weathers now, embracing the body and face he currently possesses. Ironically, it is Harabec who is dead, and the uploaded consciousness of Victor Petresun is occupying his body. In an effort to demonstrate just how much he hates his father, he goes to Mars and incites a revolt there under the name "Bek Storm."
Blue Blood: As part of the dictates of his new Empire, Petresun restored a system of nobility. However, only those who had earned their keep during the EarthSiegess and their families would hold this honor, and each new generation would have to earn it anew.
Brain Uploading: The minds of Solomon Petresun and a number of his most loyal confidants, collectively called "The Immortals," were transferred onto cybernetic substrates that render them, well, immortal. This is what enables Petresun to continue his reign as emperor for two centuries, though his body continually decays and has to be hooked up to increasingly complex life support devices. It's also the cause of much Angst for his son Victor, who also underwent this process.
Cain and Abel: There are elements of this with the Weathers brothers, Caanon and Harabec. Caanon was the favored son, especially after an incident called the "Turkhazakistan Debacle" resulted in the deaths of Harabec's entire HERC division and the loss of much public favor for the family. Harabec's betrayal shamed them even more, leading Caanon to vow that he would lay his brother's head before the Emperor. In the end, however, the Cybrids force them to become a Sibling Team.
Cassandra Truth: After their mental link, Petresun realized how alien Prometheus truly was and tried to warn the North American government of IT's mad plans. He was ignored.
Collision Damage: Running into anything does variable damage to your vehicle. Tanks are specially designed to allow the pilot to cause HERCs severe ramming damage, and when HERCs bump into each other, smaller ones take more damage.
The Conspiracy: When the North American Prefecture bought out Petresun's company and steered their research towards AI, Petresun carved out a team of brilliant researchers and continued his immortality project, "Methuselah", in secret. Together, they would form the "Immortal Brotherhood" as a check to Prometheus' growing influence, in the hopes of destroying IT. Prometheus, for ITS part, waged ITS own conspiracy, including secret programming in all Cybrids for rebellion and destruction.
Continuity Nod: Retcon or not, the Compendium depicts HER Cs during the events of The Fire as they appeared in EarthSiege. And Prometheus was mentioned by name in the intro to EarthSiege 3. His role is greatly expanded here.
Computer Virus: Prometheus gradually eroded human control of IT and the Cybrids by seeding computer "Deamons" throughout the internet.
Crapsack World: In the human campaign, the brutally oppressed rebels join forces with the desperate Empire. There is no implication that the Empire will grant sovereignty to the colonies following the war. And Cybrids, what might be considered the first life ever created by mankind, were created to fuel the War for Fun and Profit that drove the economies of the Mega Corps.
And when the Empire finally fell, it only made way for Unicorp, a corporation that used disposable humans to meet profit quotas and failure is quite brutal.
The compendium reveals that the time before the Empire and the Mega Corps that preceded it was a nightmare world of wastelands, war and decaying cities. And before that, there was nuclear World War III.
That WAS SAVED by the above mentioned commercial militarism. Petresun's rejection of such led to the return and reinforcement of quasi-feudalistic codes of honor and discipline, which got humanity back on track to a relatively stable civilization.
"As a society we are deeply scarred..."
Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: The "Methuselah" Process created a removable, digital conciousness for it's recipient, to be placed in new bodies as the old ones wore out. An unforeseen side effect called "Cell-Memory Drift" (CMD) meant that these new bodies could cause anything from personality changes to outright madness. It's implied that this is why Petresun never changed bodies, and that it's partly responsible for Victor Petresun embracing the identity of Harabec Weathers.
Cyborg: The "Immortals", given their digitized conciousness. Much later, there were the Bio-Derms, hormonally and cybernetically reconditioned criminals used for hard labor. The name was chosen mostly because it sounded nothing like "Cybrid."
Dirty Cop: Making people watch as their families are tortured, killing whole townships as rebel deterrents, subjecting dissidents to "mind-rape"... Note that the Imperial Police are not corrupt, they are doing exactly what they are supposed to do. In the Writer's Guide, they administer a drug that causes 80% paralysis for a week, that goes into full effect a hour after injection. What was the criminal's offense? Public Intoxication.
Decoy Protagonist: The player character is an AFGNCAAP martian miner. The story is really about the Weathers brothers, specifically Harabec, whom the player is fighting alongside or taking orders from for the entire game. This is especially apparent if one reads the compendium.
AFGNCAAP is actually false for this one, as a later release of information (for fan fiction and story writing, which Sierra considered a big part of expanding their universe), it was revealed that the hero was Tyris Larkin, a formally Noble house child whose family was shamed and ousted, fleeing to Mars two generations prior. While he original hoped to return his house to it's greatness, he witnessed the heavy-handed tactics of the Empire and sympathized with the rebellion.
Downer Ending: If playing as the Cybrids, it ends in annihilation of the human race... Including a ship full of cryogenically-stored families desperately trying to escape the failing war.
There is a bit of this in the human ending as well, with the death of Harabec Weathers.
Dying Alone: Harabec is the only pilot outside your team to successfully make it to Pluto's surface, and the approach he took to Prometheus' compound was crawling with Cybrids. Caanon is left to give the player the final mission briefing.
"I can't believe he's gone. My brother. So far... to die in the dark."
Easter Egg: Literally dozens are seeded throughout the game, including messages written in the terrain, hidden bases, gag objects or areas, and invisible menu buttons.
Elite Mooks: The Imperial Knights are far better equipped then the police. There's also Prometheus' Platinum Guard, who are mentioned in compendium to be composed of the original Cybrids that Prometheus liberated.
Enemy Mine: The return of the Cybrids to the inner solar system sends humanity into a panic, with riots on Earth and mass evacuations of the colonies. Beaten and bruised from the civil war they had until just recently been fighting, the Imperial Knights and the Martian rebels join forces to help stem the Cybrid invasion, led by the Brothers Weathers.
Exploding Barrels: Many objects will dole out splash damage to vehicles or items too close. This also applies to any vehicles that are destroyed themselves.
Future Slang: Some, mostly the term "Glitches" in reference to Cybrids and their rebellious origins. Also "Derms," referring to Bio-Derms. There's "bootboys" or "Imp Lice" or just "Lice," referring to the Imperial Police. There's "Peterboy" or just "Peter", in reference to the Emperor. There's also "dirtborn" for people born on Earth, and similarly, "dustborn" or "dustrags" for Martians, "Veens" for Venusians," and "icegrubs" for Titanians.
The Heretic: The "Metagen" Cybrids. They do not wish to return to Earth, the "birth" planet, hence their name, meaning "beyond birth." They believed the Cybrids should instead aim for the stars, and were branded as heretics and "bugthinkers" by Prometheus and relentlessly persecuted.
Hoist by His Own Petard: Solomon Petresun created Prometheus, the first AI. Prometheus, in turn, designed the "immortal" brain systemthat preserves Petresun and his inner circle. Both would come to regret their actions. On a grander scale, Earth's abandonment of the colonies during The Fire created lingering colonial resentment and eventually rebellion against The Empire.
In Universe Nickname: Prometheus refers to the Emperor as "Epimetheus", the idiot brother of the mythological Prometheus- the one who gave Pandora the box. Petresun, in return, refers to IT as "The Dark Intellect."
Mega Corp: Prior to Petresun and the Cybrid rebellions, the Earth was divided amongst six powerful meta-national conglomerates. The North American Prefecture (NAP) bought out Petresun's company when his immortality research spooked investors and the money dried up. NAP's funding and a need to perpetuate War for Fun and Profit while decreasing loss of life led to the development of the Cybrids. The other nations included United Africa, Pacific Rim Community, European Alliance, Inca-Brazil Axis, and Greater China.
More Dakka: The bigger the HERC, the more weapon hardpoints it tends to have. Mount ballistic weapons in each for extra dakka.
Palette Swap: Very much in the Imperial vehicles: "Normals" are all the same, save that the colors change depending what planet they're on, and the Knights have dark grey and red trim as opposed to camouflage. Cybrids: Promethians are brown and Metagens are red. Finally, normal rebel vehicles are yellow while "pirate" vehicles are red. Palette swap.
The Plan: Many, but perhaps the biggest is Harabec going to Mars. As he is in fact Victor Petresun, the Emperor planned for him to go and aid the rebels, so that they would hamper the Cybrids on their way to Earth. Victor believes he is betraying his father for real, but the Emperor planed for THAT too, believing that fighting the Imperials under Harabec's guidence would forge the Martians into an effective extra layer of defense against the Cybrids. This backfires badly, however, as Petreson underestimated Harabec's commitment to Martian independence. He sends the Knights to Mars... leaving Earth badly underprotected.
Precursors: Those mysterious Aliens that left their technology lying around the solar system.
Primal Fear: The fear of death drove Petresun to found Sentinel Cybertronix and research a way to cheat it.
Ramming Always Works: Tanks in this game may lack shields and weapon options as compared to HER Cs, but they can deliver severe ramming damage. If they use the electromagnetic ramming component, they strike with near-explosive force.
The Red Planet: Where the game opens. The human player character's homeworld, presumably.
Actually, the player character is from The Empire on Earth. His family was disgraced and fled to Mars two generations back, and the character, Tyris Larkin, identifies with the struggling Martian people, even though his original dream was to return his family to good standing.
Robo Speak: The Cybrids communicate at the speed of wireless Internet with one another, but when speaking to humans they do this, using a unique grammar system complete with Creepy Monotone. Among other things they use compound names such as First Thought//Giver Of Will for Prometheus and Home World//Desire for Earth.
Robot War: Three, technically. The first is called "The Fire", represented by the first EarthSiege game. (somewhat). It lasted from 2602 when the Cybrids first rebelled, to the end of the first EarthSiege in 2622. The second EarthSiege began in 2624, when Prometheus rallied the Cybrids for a second assault, and ended in 2627 when ITS moonbase was destroyed. The third unfolds over the course of this game.
Subsystem Damage: Any component that you choose on the Vehicle Bay screen can be damaged or destroyed. These components have real impact on gameplay. Engine damage will slow you. Reactor damage reduces the energy reserves used by weapons and shields. Shield damage reduces shield max. Computer damage can eliminate any functions provided by a computer, such as target tracking. Sensor damage can deactivate sensors. When special components are destroyed, you lose their effect. Any and all weapons can be destroyed. Pilots can be killed without vehicle damage through the use of a radiation weapon. (A Subsystem is You?)
Suicidal Overconfidence: All computer controlled AI deeply enjoy wandering away from the group and getting themselves killed; nobody really knows when to stop until they're near fatally damaged; and even if you're a group consisting of heavy vehicles with the deadliest weapons, an extremely poorly armed Talon still thinks he can take you.
Tanks For Nothing: While the tanks are nothing to sneeze at, they are after all up against Humongous Mecha. Being a tank pilot in the Starsiege universe is tantamount to suicide... unless it'sa Cybrid tank. Those heartily avert this trope. The main frailty of tanks over HERCs is that tanks are easily subject to subsystem damage because, for arbitrary and strange reasons, they are not able to mount shield generators. On the other hand, this also opens up options, since HERCs require power and, in practical terms, components which assist those same shield generators. And, well, the tanks are good at ramming things.
This troper favored tanks for quite a while in the single player campaign. Lower profiles serve better on hills, and tanks tend to mount a small but effective weapon selection. On some missions, nothing beats a properly equipped Avenger with long range weapons.
You know, just so long as there were no humans left on it. Or plants, animals, bugs...
The Mutagens (Bugthinkers) are an exception. Given more free will to be able to cope with humanity in warfare, a number of Cybrids began to wonder what the point of the entire bloody thing is. They effectively agree that, since they can live anywhere else, screw earth, you can have it. But unfortunately, it's Prometheus' way or the Highway. And by Highway I mean OFFLINE'D.
They Look Like Us Now: The Cybrid "Machinator" sect created "Trojan Horse" units by implanting Cybrid processors into human bodies in a manner very similar to Petresun's "Methuselah" project. These were used to infiltrate human society and gather information- and occasionally as suicide bombers., until humans wised up and starting shooting anyone returning from Cybrid territory on sight.
What Could Have Been: The game was originally going to have a third campaign, starring the Imperials. Although it was scrapped, one with a good eye will find its leftovers in the game and manual, where it is sometimes even directly referred to.
This is one of the longest disputes about the backstory. In canon, Hunter Hunted (made by Dynamix) represents this period of time, called the Devastation. As such, Jake Hunter is considered a saint, there's a religion devoted to him. Why? because he fought in a massive tournament against alien overlords called 'the Masters', escaped, thus solving 'the riddle' and forcing the aliens to leave. After bringing people together and laying the groundwork for rebuilding, he then left to defeat the aliens on the far side of the moon. The aforementioned 'lost technology' cache on Mars was said to be under 'The Face of Hunter'.
From the official history: " Jake Hunter: Savior of Humanity. Redeemer. Saint. Fraud. Killer. Leader. Jake Hunter was all of these. In 2829 he was revered as the messiah who single-handedly dragged humanity out of the darkness of the Devastation and led people toward rebuilding the world. Historical evidence confirmed the existence of Hunter, but the story of his life remains a mystery." Followed closely by "... and most journals describing the time refer to a hellish struggle in some kind of gladiatorial game held for unseen alien tyrants. Thousands of survivors made the same claim, with extensively detailed descriptions. However, archaeologists and historians have found no hard evidence to support this claim. There are no alien remains, no arcane relics, and no wrecked spaceships in the 29th century."
To compound things further, in Cyberstorm the mineral "Ore" is said to be the remnants of some unknown alien technology process, in Tribes the number of habitable planets is - frankly - impossible to happen by chance, and some maps from the original game actually say 'Alien Ruins' are the objective; To this troper, it seems fully reasonable that the devastation of Earth was at the hands of an alien species.
Worthy Opponent: For all of ITS hatred of humanity, Prometheus developed a grudging respect for Ambrose Gierling over the course of the two EarthSieges, and upon hearing of his death, had him noted in the "Great Record" as being a key contributor to the evolution of the Cybrids.
Voice Of The Resistance: Petresun served as one during The Fire, feeding intel to Gierling and gathering support for his eventual power grab.