The game which started it allUnreal
is a First-Person Shooter
game made by Epic Games
and Digital Extremes which was released in 1998. It's the first game in the Unreal
In the game, you are a prisoner being escorted to a planetary prison on a prison vessel, the Vortex Rikers. Then said ship crashes on an unknown planet. You wake up sometime later and escape from the wrecked vessel. However, the planet proves to be anything but safe as you find that the peaceful natives, the four-armed Nali, are subjugated by an extremely violent and technologically advanced insectoid-reptile race: the Skaarj. The Nali texts bring up various references to a messiah
finally ridding the planet of the Skaarj.Unreal
stuck out from a lot of other FPS games at the time by being more like an adventure game, with less of a focus on combat and action set-pieces (although there are still plenty) and generally very non-linear levels with the onus on you to find out the backstory of the planet and various races on it, as well as having groundbreaking graphics
and an excellent soundtrack.
It saw a lot of critical acclaim, however, it was somewhat overshadowed by the release of Half-Life
a few months later and the release of Unreal Tournament
a year later.Unreal
also had a subsequent Expansion Pack
called Unreal: Return to Na Pali
, which starts after the events of the original game. You are recruited by the UMS, who gives you more equipment in order to go back to Na Pali and find a crashed ship.
As Epic Games
decided to focus on the Tournament
side of the franchise, the rights for a sequel
were given to another company, Legend Entertainment
. As one might expect, the game saw a large change from the original, which in the end, didn't pay off so well
Recurring tropes for the series include:
Tropes exclusive to U1 and RTNP include:
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- Artificial Gill: The SCUBA Gear, available whenever the player must proceed underwater. They have a limited air supply that runs out pretty quickly. The expansion pack features a new one that not only lasts longer, but also recharges whenever surfaced.
- Bang Bang BANG: massively subverted by the original version, for good or bad. Most of the weapons had very original sounds, which came from them being rather unusual to start with, and even the few that didn't - such as the automag - definitely didn't sound like field cannons. A few, however, could really have done with a more convincing sound - like the minigun, which sounded for all the world like a blender.
- One of the patches eventually changed all the weapon sounds, making them louder and somewhat more standardized, bringing the game closer to the trope (though by no means playing it straight).
- Deflector Shields: The player can use "shield belts" which absorb damage until depleted.
- Evolving Weapon: The Dispersion Pistol, with many upgrades across the maps. At first, it's just an Emergency Weapon, but damage increases massively with each upgrade, but so does ammo consumption, and the ammo regenerates very slowly. Better make your shots count on the higher levels.
- Flechette Storm: The Stinger, which fires shards of Tarydium crystal as stake-like projectiles. The flak cannon is a shotgun version, blowing out loads of razor-sharp scrap in one go.
- Nerf: In the earlier versions, when you paired the Dispersion Pistol (no matter its upgrade level) with an Energy Amplifier, the resulting bolt was a one-shot kill against anything - including the stone titan, whose inability to move fast made for ridiculously easy fights. And the end-game boss. The developers eventually figured out this was undesirable, and a patch vastly reduced the amplified Pistol's power.
- Sorting Algorithm of Weapon Effectiveness: Weapons fall into two categories - those that trigger the AI's auto dodge, and those that don't. The ones that don't are far more effective (depending on the enemy).
- Use Item: The game features a cyclable inventory.
- Air-Vent Passageway: How you get off the Vortex Rikers prison deck in the first level of the first game. If you look closely, you can just about make out a Skaarj watching you through the fog from the other end of the tunnel, but he vanishes as an explosion rocks the corridor. The Air-Vent Passageway also turns up a couple more times in various levels throughout the series, such as ISV Kran, and in the Expansion Pack, the UMS Prometheus, and the Foundry Tarydium plant - in the latter, the vent nearly collapses into lava with you still inside!
- All Up To You: Inverted; your only goal is to survive.
"Your first priority is to keep your already-battered body in one piece. Failure to achieve this will render any secondary objectives somewhat irrelevant."
- Artificial Atmospheric Actions: Krall are often found about to toss Nali off a floating island, sleeping, talking amongst themselves, or, most often, playing dice. Skaarj can also be found sleeping in Nali beds.
- Apocalyptic Log: Many of the translator messages are these, especially the ones you find aboard the Vortex Rikers and the ISV Kran.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: The Skaarj, Krall, and Mercenary Elites. There's also the Skaarj Warlord and Skaarj Queen, who are in charge of all operations.
- Badass Army: The Skaarj.
- Beast of Battle: The Titans, giant, dumb berserkers who the skaarj have problems controlling.
- Bee People: The Skaarj fit the description of the trope, sans the "Bee" aspect. Only the Pupae and the Queen have any insectoid traits, and every other Skaarj is reptilian.
- The Berserker: Skaarj Berserkers, as the name suggests.
- Bigger on the Inside: For levels set inside the Vortex Rikers, ISV Kran, and Terraniux - done subtly though, as you rarely see the whole ship up close in any one level to gauge their true size, and they look suitably huge from outside. More blatant in the case of the Skaarj mothership, where the final core area consists of wide-open spaces.
- Blade on a Stick: Wielded by the Krall. Their staffs can also shoot energy bolts, just for good measure.
- Boss in Mook Clothing: Brute Behemoths, Skaarj Berserkers, and Skaarj Lords.
- Degraded Boss: After your first encounters, you'll start to see these more often.
- Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Nali names for many things - for example starships are "thunderbirds" or "metal chariots", Skaarj are "the demons from the stars" (or just "sky demons"), while humans are "two-armed soft skins". Inverted with the Nali Cow and, appropriately enough, the Nali Rabbit (which looks more like a kiwi). In the level "Temple of Chizra", they put an eightball gun on an altar and call it the "stick of six fires".
- Cargo Cult: the Nali are a simple, agricultural race that can't quite figure out how the Skaarj could be doing what they do without magical assistance, and therefore immediately label them as demons from the skies. The Nali do have some advanced technology, but it's implied they are relics from a long-past era, whose scientific workings are impenetrable to the race's naive minds. They see such objects as holy relics, and put them on sacred pedestals, and use in part of holy rituals. Accessing them usually requires some holy ritual as well.
- The Chosen One: One of the Nali diaries specifically mentions a saviour princess, which does raise questions if you're playing as a male character, although it should be noted that the original plan for the game contained only a female PC, with male options being added later. And not only does the Nali depiction of the lightning goddess Vandora look human (apart from the 4 arms), she has the exact same hair and face as Sonya, minus the respirator mask. Said princess usually refers to a deceased sailor from a crashed Russian ship that managed to break out of a heavily guarded Skaarj area and murder her way to a monastery, after the local Nali are convinced she's the one - but if you're a female PC, some of the logs might ambiguously refer to you.
- Collapsing Lair: As the Player Character's pod flies out of the Skaarj mothership. Possibly justified by the damage that the escaped prisoners will be wreaking after you turned off all the force-fields.
- Conveyor Belt-O-Doom: Foundry Tarydium Plant, in Return To Na Pali.
"It has been 0 days since our last accident"
- Cool Starship: The Vortex Rikers prison vessel, the ISV-Kran, and, of course, the Skaarj Mothership. From RTNP there's also the UMS Bodega Bay and the UMS Prometheus.
- Deadly Rotary Fan: Found in the Deathmatch level DmDeathFan. There's one in the singleplayer, in the Skaarj-controlled mines.
- Death of a Thousand Cuts: Due to the ability of the AI to dodge nearly everything you throw at it (Skaarj especially), in many cases Cherry Tapping something to death with the Automag, a hitscan weapon, is the most effective solution.
- Defensive Feint Trap: Injured Skaarj and Krall will sometimes retreat to lure you into an ambush, and some will feign death to get you closer into a trap.
- Deflector Shields: The Mercenaries have one which grants temporary invulnerability, and the Skaarj trooper class have an arm-mounted version.
- Doomed Hometown: Many Nali villages on the first Unreal game as well. In fact, the entire planet Na Pali can count as a whole Doomed Planet, since even after the events of RTNP there are still Skaarj on the planet.
- The Dragon: The Skaarj Warlord, a hulking demon thing that is apparently in charge of Skaarj operations. You fight him twice - once, in a torture dungeon taken over by the skaarj that he uses for his personal amusement, and another after you try to sabotage the Skaarj mothership.
- Elaborate Underground Base: Outpost 3J, a Skaarj resupply and research base operating underneath a Nali sanctuary. Judging by the interior bearing no resemblance to the ship's external shape, and the length of the tunnel that Prisoner 849's escape pod flies through to get out in the closing cutscene, there's also one of these under the Skaarj Mothership (the various teleporters presumably take you in and out of it). Well, either that or the Skaarj have TARDIS technology.
- Electronic Speech Impediment: A good indication of just how screwed the Vortex Rikers is, the computer voice starts playing up.
- Elite Mooks: The aptly-named Krall Elite and Mercenary Elite.
- Empire with a Dark Secret: Locations such as Dark Arena, Velora Temple (which implies the altars there were sacrificial) and Nali Castle (which has a torture chamber in it), as well as some Lost Technology including very deadly weapons, suggest a darker, more violent side to the Nali's past, the effects of which possibly led them to become the spiritual, pacifist race they are.
- Enemy Civil War: Can happen if a monster accidentally shoots another in the back.
- Skaarj Berserkers will fight with just about anybody.
- The Skaarj and the Mercenaries don't get along, judging by the Skaarj scout standing over a dead Mercenary and trying to find a way into the Terraniux when you reach the ship.
- The Mercenary prisoners in the Skaarj mothership. One assumes that the Skaarj were looking to eliminate the Mercs along with everyone else who crashed on Na Pali to protect the secret of their presence on the planet.
- There's also "Cellars at Dasa", where a bunch of Krall (who normally have teamwork as their hat) jump out and start fighting a Titan.
- A Skaarj scientist finds out the downside of supercharging test subjects with tarydium in the Mothership Lab. Said test subjects are completely psychotic and will attack everyone on sight.
- Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: The Mercenaries.
- Everything's Better with Spinning: One of the Skaarj melee moves is a Spin Attack. The Krall will sometimes twirl their staffs before firing, or when idle.
- Everything Trying to Kill You: Some of the wildlife wandering around Na Pali is harmless, but if you look at their scripting in the Level Editor, even they are set to "Attitude to Player: Hate." This is lampshaded by the Prisoner 849 in the intermission at the end of "Velora Pass" in RTNP:
"I'm glad I made it out of there. I'm used to being bitten, hacked, shot, stabbed or blown up, but in there I could have been crushed, sliced, diced, or... skewered! Whoever built that place must have been a real sadist."
- Evil All Along: The UMS crew in Return To Na Pali. They hire you for an important mission, and just when done, they send troops to kill you.
- Extreme Melee Revenge: Brutes, who if they take enough damage will forget all about shooting and charge you. Inverted by some Skaarj, who will respond to injury by backing off to make themselves harder to hit and sniping at you from a distance.
- Faceless Goons: UMS space marines in RTNP, and the player, if they chose Dmitra or Sonya.
- Floating Continent: Multiple floating islands, one of which ("Na Pali Haven") you actually get to visit.
- Force-Field Door: Quite common, the Prison ship the Vortex Rikers has them break down when the ship crashes.
- Foreshadowing: The translator messages often make reference to future levels, even ones some distance down the line.
- The Sunspire you visit about halfway through the game is also clearly visible in many other levels' skyboxes.
- Frictionless Ice:
- The multiplayer map DM-Tundra has an area, where you find the Shock Rifle in a frozen lake.
- The level "Gala's Peak", from RTNP, features this in a bridge, though you can keep from accidentally falling off a ledge by crouching.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar:
- In "Bluff Eversmoking", there's a log with one:
"Jailer Hrang of the Red Hand Tribe: We have captured a Terran girl. Some of my soldiers want to try and take liberties with her. I guess that's OK as long as they watch those boots! She kicked my in the hrangos last time." In this case, "take liberties" mean "beat the shit out of". Krall are monsters, but they're not rapists. They're just sadists.
- Later, by the same author:
"I am in DEEP SHIT. If captain Duk'choroth comes and finds out I let her escape, I'll be de-hrango'd for sure!"
- And then subverted: later on a Nali diary describing the same incident reveals that "hrangos" are teeth, not testicles.note .
"Bridge Foreman Khan Vhranna: I've about had it with Grok Vhul'rath. He's such a pompous son-of-a-Bulrach . If he makes us fix the drawbridge one more time in the rain, I'm going to bust his face in."
- Grimy Water: The Terraniux levels had several areas full of greeny water.
- Hand Cannon: The Brutes dual-wield rocket launchers as pistols.
- Hive Queen: The Skaarj Queen.
- Hyperactive Metabolism: while generally averted, with the player gaining health from logical things like bandages or medkits, the player can also occasionally find seeds that get stored in the inventory. When planted they grow into mini-trees with delicious fruits, eating which restores up to about a third of the health bar. Stopped from being a game breaker by the fact that the growing process is not at all instantaneous, making the seeds useless in the heat of battle.
- Improvised Weapon: Many of the weapons in the game, like the Stinger, were not weapons to begin with and adapted into such.
- It's All Upstairs from Here: The Sunspire.
- It's Pronounced Tro-PAY: The "j" in Skaarj is silent, although we only find this out in the expansion pack as no-one in the original game says the word aloud.
- Kick The Nali: Every sentient enemy in the game, and even the player if you so choose.
- There's a situation in Chizra's temple where you have the option of murdering a Nali priest to get the superhealth he's levitating over. Although there is another solution - you can lure the Slith closer to scare him off the platform.
- King Mook: The large, psychotic Skaarjs with glowing "pseudoinvisibility" effects fought near the end, and a fourth (orange) one that escapes from the Mothership Lab, though you don't actually have to fight that one. They were all part of an experiment to mutate Skaarj with tarydium so they would have natural energy shields. Unfortunately it had the side effect of sending them into Unstoppable Rage, so they were locked up. Of course, once the Player Character destroys the generator powering the forcefields...
- Return To Na Pali has an unusually large, 15 foot tall Skaarj Lord with double the normal amount of health as a surprise boss at the end of the "Bounds of Foundry" level.
- Last Breath Bullet: The warlords attempt to do this to the player as part of their death animation. Similarly, if a Skaarj warrior is decapitated he will swipe blindly at the air with his claws before falling down.
- Late to the Tragedy: Happens repeatedly. Though you sometimes hear other survivors being killed, the closest thing you see to another living human is a body being thrown across a corridor by a Brute. Or possibly the captain of the Vortex Rikers, who spasms and dies as you approach.
- Lethal Lava Land: The level where you fight against a Warlord for the first time.
- Lightning Bruiser: All types of Skaarj.
- Locked Out of the Fight: In the first level, you come across a sealed airlock where some guards/prisoners get massacred by a lone Skaarj - which is probably for the better, as you have no weapon at the time.
- Mega Corp.: Inuit, the company that owned the ISV Kran.
- Mercy Kill: Putting crucified Nali out of their misery is occasionally rewarded.
- Mighty Glacier: the Brutes. Big, heavy, armed with rocket launchers and soak up quite a bit of damage before going down. They'd be a huge problem if they weren't so very slow.
- Misguided Missile: The player pulls this on the UMS Bodega Bay in the closing cutscene of RTNP.
- Monster Closet: The game generally averted this trope, placing enemies in sensible positions, still plays it straight once near the start. Up to that moment you've only encountered Brutes (slow and easy to kill, if quick to shoot), tentacles (plants that shoot nearly harmless spikes) and birds (quick but easy to dodge and kill), wiping out the whole of them. The task at hand is to deactivate a generator powering a forcefield. Upon coming back from this task, the long, narrow corridor you've already walked through before starts getting dark, as lights switch off. Right about the time you start to wonder what the hell's going on, a Skaarj Warrior jumps out from the darkness from a previously closed closet-sized empty room and proceeds to scare the living daylights out of you.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Nice job killing the Skaarj Queen and starting the Human-Skaarj wars.
- Non-Action Guy: The Nali as an entire race are this. Although you find several dead Nali with weapons next to them, and some Skaarj logs make reference to "rebellious activity", which suggest that at least some of them are actively fighting back. The novel Prophet's Power based on the game develops this idea further.
- Noodle Incident: To this day, the reasons of his/her imprisonment are still unknown.
- Not Quite Dead: Possibly, the Warlord, assuming the one in RTNP is the same one you "killed" aboard the Skaarj Mothership.
- Nothing Is Scarier: In the Rrajigar Mines. When you press the two buttons to bring down the force field, suddenly the music stops, and some bars pop out, blocking the exit. And then the lights turn off one by one, and the player is left in the darkness. The lights suddenly flick back to life, blood red, and a Skaarj Scout rushes at you.
- Offscreen Teleportation: Some of the enemy spawners indeed only spawn enemies when you're not looking into the particular spawner. Bodies of slain enemies only disappear when your back is turned.
- Oh, Crap: Your first encounter with a Skaarj. You're happily walking along to get back to your objective, in a passage you've already crossed with no enemy activity whatsoever, and suddenly the lights start going out, one by one. You can't run, because the corridor is now blocked. You start to hear growling noises. This is where you say the trope, right before a whirling mass of blades and hurt dives straight for your face.
- Reaching the bridge in Return to Na Pali. You know the Marines are plotting to execute you, but as you reach the bridge, the ship begins to rock, and beams of light come down from the sky... and heavily armored space marines with the incredibly damaging combat assault rifle you were given land to give you hell.
- One Bullet Clips: Subverted by the Automag (oddly, the only gun in the game that needs to periodically stop firing to reload). You don't have a reload key, so the automag simply gets reloaded when it's out of bullets. If you hear the telltale "click" that signals the clip is down to five rounds, and you know there's a big fight coming, this forces you to change weapons to force a reload.
"Try to keep track of how many bullets are left in a clip. Attempting to change clips with a pissed off Skaarj in your face is not advised."
- Prison Ship: You start out on a crashed prison transport named "Vortex Rikers".
- Playing Possum: Skaarj do this on occasion. However the fact that they lie in a different position when faking makes it quite easy to tell if they are "really" dead or not.
- Powered Armor: The Mercenaries and Skaarj Troopers, and the UMS space marines in RTNP.
- Shaggy Dog Story: Despite the Prisoner 849 rampaging across the planet twice, and killing a Skaarj Queen and two Warlord leaders, along with various references to being the Nali's Savior, the Tournament games, which, according to the Manual, are set several years after, still reference the Skaarj hunting Nali. Not to mention that the resultant declaration of war against humanity devastated their colonies, and Earth itself.
- Shout-Out: Na Pali is named after a state park on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.
- Shows Damage: Played with - players who are badly hurt hunch over, but only when standing still, and it doesn't affect their abilities in any way. Of course, this is only apparent if you stop in front of a mirrored surface, or switch to the 3rd person view. Played with even more with the enemies within the game, as some are more likely to enter flinch animations (which don't affect their speed or damage once completed, but make them slightly easier to take out in the interim) when heavily wounded.
- Space Elevator: Well... not really space, more like high stratosphere. Then again, it's not perfectly clear how orbits work in Na Pali. An anti-gravitational one (no cables) carries people to the floating islands.
- In RTNP you can find it again, this time on the bottom of a lake with a log beside it suggesting two humans tried to use it during a storm.
- Star Scraper: the Sunspire is an incredibly tall building, so tall it's visible in the sky in other levels. Its purpose is to serve as a starting point for the Space Elevator that brings people up to the floating islands.
- Stock Scream: In the first level, many screams sound like you've heard them numerous times. The air vent filled with green fog is especially flooded with them.
- Storming the Castle: The last levels of the original game requires you to do a raid on the Skaarj Mothership and terminate the Big Bad.
- Super Window Jump: A Skaarj gets the drop on you this way in the Sunspire.
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: The Kralls aren't happy of working alongside of the Skaarj, as a log shows up in the Bluff Eversmoking level:
"Shipping Log: Grorq of the Red Hand Tribe. I am really getting sick with the way the Skaarj are treating us. Constantly bossing us around and making us watch over their pathetic Nali Slaves. My troops are getting sick of this situation."
- Tele-Frag: The expansion features a level with no exit - until an enemy is teleported into a wall.
- There Was a Door: The Brutes are fond of this. In their first appearance in Nyleve's Falls, a Brute smashes its way through a door behind you (which is sneaky as you'll more likely be focused on the Brute in front of you that has just thrown a human survivor against the wall and annihilated him with a volley of rockets). In Foundry Tarydium Plant, a Brute bursts through a ROCK WALL to get at you.
- The Unreveal: What exactly is the "Talon Project", the top-secret data you are sent to retrieve from the UMS Prometheus in RTNP? Who knows, because the Player Character flies off into the sunset with it, and s/he isn't telling.
- Useless Useful Stealth: The invisibility power-up is great for sneaking past many Titans but never seems to work on more intelligent enemies like Skaarj.
- Video Game Caring Potential: The Nali. The fact that keeping them alive usually results in them leading you a valuable item (or sometimes a shortcut) doesn't hurt either.
- We Will Meet Again: Your first encounter with the Skaarj Warlord, where, after being defeated, he just taunts you and teleports away. However, he appears to be Killed Off for Real aboard the Skaarj mothership. It's possible that he survived that too, though, as you fight another one on the final level in Return To Na Pali, just before the end.
- Wolverine Claws (with occasional Energy Balls): The weapon of choice for the Skaarj warrior class.
- Artificial Limbs:
- Kurgan has a bionic leg.
- Dimitra seems to have most of her face covered in a bionic mask, and Dimitra has half a mask.
- Cool Mask: Sonya wears a respirator.
- The Hero
- Captain Obvious: The first game holds the Guinness World Record for "First Game to be Created Using the Unreal Engine."
- Creator Cameo/Self-Insert Fic:
- The second single-player level, "Nyleve's Falls", is filled with references to the mapper behind it, from the name itself (his wife's name backwards) to the Vortex Rikers's registration number (NC114-85EKLS) to the translator log names belonging to many of his friends.
- The ninth level, also made by the same guy, is called Harobed Village.
- In the level "Bluff Eversmoking", there's a cemetery with many tombstones. One of them, tagged "Myscha", is the name of its levelmaker.
- At the beginning of the first mission of Return To Na Pali, "Edge Of Na Pali", when you exit from the building you start, you'll find a guy drown at the lake. His name is W. Marshall. Warren Marshall is one of Epic Games's employees. Also, near the end, after you killed the Pack Hunters and opened a locked the door, when you go outside, near the crashed ship, you can find a dead soldier under the name M. Worch. Matthias Worch is one of the Legend Entertainment developers.
- The map "Neve's Crossing" from Return to Na Pali might be a reference to level designer Erik De Neve.
- Infinite Flashlight: Downplayed. The Searchlight, a later-game item, is an extremely powerful and wide-beamed flashlight with a family-sized battery. Exactly how long it can run for is unknown, but it's a long time: when it's gotten almost at the end of Unreal, when it's all the light you'll have to navigate the mothership's corridors, barely 10% of it will be consumed until you reach an area with normal lighting. In Return to Na Pali one can be found at the UMS Prometheus, a bit short of halfway through the game, and even then a reasonable player will get to the end with a comfortable half-full battery. To note, it can get exhausted, whereas it's discarded just like the crappier flashlights from beforehand, but any way to play that leads to that happening is such a Violation of Common Sense that the devs didn't even bother with making a dedicated message for when it dies out - it uses the same as the flashlight'snote .
- Lemony Narrator: The manual, as several of the quotes on this page demonstrate.
- Meaningful Name: The multiplayer deathmatch map DmDeck16 hasn't the "16" in the name for nothing. At its time, it was the only map which could held 16-player deathmatches without any problem.
- Muzzle Flashlight: The Dispersion Pistol does this very well. Not only does it regenerate ammo, but each shot creates enough light that it can easily render flares obsolete in confined corridors. The Eightball Gun and GES Bio Rifle also work to a lesser extent - rockets create a lot of light when they explode, and the Tarydium sludge generate a fair bit of it, added to the fact that the globs stay in place for a good three seconds so they can work as very short-term flares.
- Novelization: Unreal: Prophet's Power and Unreal: Hard Crash, covering the events of the game.
- Ten-Second Flashlight: The flashlights scattered around all of Na Pali last for exactly one minute, and they dim constantly for the last five seconds. Once spent, they're dead and discarded, so you're back to using flares or your Muzzle Flashlight until you find another one. The Searchlight is another story entirely.