Video Game / Unreal I

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The game that started it all.

Unreal is a First-Person Shooter made by Epic Games and Digital Extremes and released in 1998. It's the first game in the Unreal series.

You are Prisoner 849, being transferred to a prison moon on a starship called the Vortex Rikers. The ship goes off-route and crashes on the uncharted planet of Na Pali. As you escape the wrecked vessel and start taking in your surroundings it soon appears that the planet is inhabited by the Nali, a peaceful race of four-armed humanoids with a distinctly agricultural way of life. Not all is well on Na Pali, though, as the cruel and technologically advanced Skaarj race is invading the planet, pillaging its resources and busily slaughtering Nali left and right.

Your actions from this moment are governed by the simple desire to survive, which isn't going to be easy when the Skaarj have declared war against everything that isn't another Skaarj. During your attempts to avoid dying horribly you'll come across helpful Nali who think of you as their messiah, alien biology both neutral and hostile, mysterious Lost Technology - and quite a lot of instruments of death to fight your personal one-man war against the entire Skaarj race. One way or another, the path to freedom will be flowing with alien blood.

Unreal stuck out from a lot of other FPS games at the time by being less of a total shootfest (think Quake) and more like an adventure game. It achieved this by focusing the gameplay on fighting for survival rather than for the kill score and by making fights more like duels than fragfests, as you fight a smaller number of tough enemies that each provide a challenge rather than crowds of weak monsters that only have numbers on their side. The levels give the player significant freedom (for the standards of the time - open-world games not being quite as widespread as they are today) and reward exploration with tidbits of backstory about the planet and the various races on it.

Of course, the main reason why everybody who saw the game was left with wide-eyed, open-mouthed astonishment were the graphics, which heavily exploited 3D acceleration and offered levels of detail and Scenery Porn previously only dreamt of. The excellent soundtrack (made in ScreamTracker by the same people who made the music for Jazz Jackrabbit 2 and later on Deus Ex) greatly helped the general atmosphere, too, and it all made for a sense of immersion no game had achieved before.

It saw a lot of critical acclaim and absolutely raving reviews, but it somewhat suffered from the release of Half-Life a few months later. Then a year later Unreal Tournament came out and did multiplayer so much better as to effectively make Unreal singleplayer-only, which hurt the latter's long-term appeal in the market.

An Expansion Pack called Unreal: Return to Na Pali was made, 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. Three weapons are added (two of which mostly redundant) as well as several monsters. All-new levels (and a couple that got scrapped from the original release) make for a fairly long campaign, and the main character is slightly more fleshed-out by having them speak in inter-mission cutscenes.

As Epic Games decided to focus on the Tournament side of the franchise, the rights for the inevitable sequel were given to another company, Legend Entertainment. While not a bad game in and of itself, Unreal II was hurt by being the sequel to the most revolutionary game ever in a market that had since become much harder to revolutionize. That, plus various gameplay changes from the original, caused it to pass mostly unnoticed by those who didn't know the series and disappoint those who did, with many reviewers giving it average to low scores.

Ultimately, Unreal's greatest merit is perhaps more in what it spawned than in what it was; the engine was so advanced and efficient that many developers ended up licensing it for their own productions, and Epic decided to continue development of the engine separately from the Unreal series itself. Since then it has evolved through four generations, powered hundreds of games from independent titles to huge triple-A ones, been adapted to genres wildly different than the one it was born to run (including RPGs, racers and simulators) and ported to every modern gaming platform under the sun (including HTML5 browsers). It eventually achieved such resounding success that Epic decided to release it for free to everyone and only profit from a small royalty, which simplified development enormously for independent studios. It's no exaggeration to say that it revolutionized gaming development on the whole.


This game contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Abnormal Ammo:
    • The Stinger uses shards of Tarydium crystals meant for mining rock.
    • The Razorjack uses rotating spiked blades.
    • The Biorifle uses the most abnormal ammo of all: toxic, unstable tarydium sludge that gets shot in big explosive blobs that act as mines.
    • The Flak cannon launches shells like a standard grenade launcher in its secondary mode, but in its primary mode it explodes the shell within the weapon and launches its fragments out the barrel.
    • The Eightball Gun, in a similar vein, can launch missiles as grenades by firing them without engaging the rocket motors.
  • 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 inside the ISV-Kran. In the Expansion Pack there are some in the UMS Prometheus and the Foundry Tarydium plant.
  • Alien Blood: The Mercenaries have green blood. Notably, this isn't a form of violence censorship - your blood, as well as that of other enemies, is quite red.
  • Alien Sky: Some of the most breathtaking skies ever seen in a videogame, especially for the time.
  • 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."
  • Apocalyptic Log: Many translator messages are these, especially the ones you find aboard the Vortex Rikers and the ISV-Kran.
  • 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.
  • Artificial Brilliance: The Skaarj will change their tactics depending on how much health they have left, how many allies they have backing them up, and what weapons are being used against them. For example, if you are using projectiles they will try dodging your shots.
  • 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.
  • Artificial Limbs: The Mercenaries' arm cannons, effectively miniguns and rocket launchers built into one.
    • Kurgan has a bionic leg.
    • Dimitra seems to have most of her face covered in a bionic mask.
  • 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.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The dispersion pistol. In the beginning it really isn't awesome at all, as it has piddling damage and its only advantage is being self-recharging. It gets awesome later on, as it gets upgraded to the point of being able to One-Hit Kill most enemies - but it's still impractical because it fires Painfully Slow Projectiles that are easily dodged by most enemies, and its ammo regeneration is achingly slow.
    • The Minigun. The game behaves as if it's a BFG, but it's fairly inaccurate and eats ammo like crazy - ammo it shares with the very precise, single-shot Automag, compared to which it does less damage per shot. In everything other than short range a well-aimed Automag will actually deal more damage over time - and at short range you have the Flak Cannon anyway, which does a better job.
  • Badass Army: The Skaarj. The concept of "civilian" doesn't seem to exist in their culture; even the few seen doing scientific tasks will immediately drop everything and start shooting you to pieces the moment they catch sight of you.
  • 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).
  • Beast of Battle: The Titans are giant, dumb berserkers who even the Skaarj themselves have problems controlling.
  • The Berserker: Skaarj Berserkers, as the name suggests.
  • Bigger on the Inside: 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.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • In the main game, your character has managed to defeat the baddies and escape, but is now drifting aimlessly in space in an out-of-fuel pod.
    • The expansion pack continues the plot and gives your character a proper "positive" ending, but when you think about it, the overall situation remains bleak: the Skaarj are still alive and kicking, and though they have failed to defeat you there's a whole planet full of peaceful Nali still waiting to be exploited. Later Unreal games also reveal that the Skaarj went on to a vicious war with humanity that ended up with them on Earth's doorstep.
  • Blackout Basement:
    • The Darkening, a level where you revisit the Skaarj Mothership after you destroy the generator, is entirely pitch dark. Good thing you got that Searchlight that was almost thrown at your face beforehand, eh?
    • The Sunspire also has shades of this. The Bathing and Sleeping Chambers only have scarce and very dim dark blue Tarydium wall lamps for lighting, while some other areas like the Kitchens are completely in the dark.note 
  • Blatant Item Placement: In general the game tries to keep this believable, with equipment found on dead bodies, in armouries, put in boxes by confused Nali, etc. It gets noticeable in the rushed final levels however, where you get the (almost) infinite flashlight right before you cut the ship's power knocking out all the lights, and a pair of infinite jump boots just as you encounter the Final Boss. In Return To Na Pali the UMS weapons are inside of crates, some of which have been terrifying the local Nali village, as they've been known to slam into houses or unfortunate Nali.
  • BFG: Notably averted. All the weapons you can find are reasonably powerful, but none has a clear damage-over-time-per-ammo advantage over the other. Even the six-barrelled rocket launcher isn't that absurdly powerful, in part due to its slow firing rate.
  • Blade on a Stick: Krall staves when used in melee.
  • Body Armor as Hit Points: Most armor absorbs a constant, high percentage of damage, which is subtracted from the armour's strength instead. Dying with armour is possible only if you were already near death when picking it up; in all other cases it effectively acts as extra health. The shield belt is this trope completely played straight, as it always takes damage instead of your health.
  • Boom Stick: Krall staves when used at range.
  • 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 a rocket launcher on an altar and call it the "stick of six fires".
  • Captain Obvious: The game holds the Guinness World Record for "First Game to be Created Using the Unreal Engine."
  • Cargo Cult: the Nali are a simple, agricultural race who 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, put them on sacred pedestals and use them in holy rituals.
  • 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.
  • Convection Schmonvection: Several times, you're forced to move through lava-filled areas, such as the mines and the Warlord's lair. Only stepping on the lava itself will cook you.
  • Conveyor Belt-O-Doom: Foundry Tarydium Plant, in Return To Na Pali (see No OSHA Compliance below).
  • Crapsack World: Na Pali after being overrun by the Skaarj, as they effectively enact a brutal dictatorship over the peaceful Nali. Even after Prisoner 849 destroys the Skaarj Queen the race itself remains quite active and dangerous.
  • Creator Cameo/Self-Insert Fic:
    • The second single-player level, "Nyleve's Falls", is filled with references to the mapper behind itnote , from the name itself (his wife's name backwards) to the Vortex Rikers's registration number (NC114-85EKLS) to the names of various characters mentioned in logs 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 "Edge Of Na Pali", the first mission of the expansion pack, you can find a drowned man at the lake who goes by the name W. Marshall. Warren Marshall is one of Epic Games's employees. Also, near the end 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.
  • Deadly Rotary Fan: Found in the Deathmatch level DmDeathFan. There's one in singleplayer as well, 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 is the most effective solution - it being the hitscan (and thus non-dodgeable) weapon with the most ammo around.
  • Defensive Feint Trap: Injured Skaarj and Krall will sometimes retreat to lure you into an ambush, and some will feign death only to assault you when you've gotten close.
  • Deflector Shields: The player can use shield belts which develop the wearer in a golden field and absorb damage until depleted. The Skaarj have their own versions: Mercenaries have one which grants temporary invulnerability and Skaarj troopers have an arm-mounted one.
  • Difficult but Awesome: The Razorjack; it is frequently dismissed as it seems slow (not to mention that the player can accidentally behead himself with it, due to the blades' bouncing), and yet once landing headshots with it is mastered it can kill most non-boss enemies with little ammo expenditure. Plus, each pack of ammo is worth a lot (and they're quite frequent), making it a borderline Game Breaker.
  • Doomed Hometown: Many Nali villages were thoroughly wrecked by the invading Skaarj, to the desperation of any surviving inhabitants. 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, and they're pissed.
  • Downer Ending: The level "Bluff Eversmoking". You spend almost the entirety of it reading diary entries of Kira, another ISV-Kran survivor, as well as those of several other humans who've attempted a rescue and some Skaarj who are attempting to recapture her after she broke out of imprisonment. It's subtly implied you might finally find an ally in her. Unfortunately, by the time you manage to find her hiding spot, she's quite dead.
  • 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 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: If the randomly exploding equipment, corpses strewn everywhere and general broken-ness of the vessel weren't already good indicators of how screwed the Vortex Rikers is, the onboard computer's voice acting up in all sorts of odd ways contributes to drive the point home.
  • 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. It's possible that their current spiritual and pacifistic nature are a direct consequence of that, though it's never stated explicitly.
  • 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 aren't of the same race and 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. It's mentioned in passing in a few logs, as well.
    • 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.
  • Energy Ball: The Dispersion Pistol and the Shock Rifle's secondary fire.
  • Equipment Upgrade: The Dispersion Pistol. Powerups can be collected that'll upgrade it several times, its projectiles changing colour and becoming more damaging at the cost of a slower rate of fire and higher ammo consumption.
  • 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. And, of course, the questionably-useful spinning barrels on the minigun.
  • 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.
  • Evolving Weapon: The Dispersion Pistol, again. See Equipment Upgrade above.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Floating Continent: Multiple floating islands, one of which ("Na Pali Haven") you actually get to visit.
  • Force-Field Door: Quite common. They stop working on the prison ship Vortex Rikers - enabling your escape - 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 a massively tall structure 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.
  • Game Mod: The Quake games had already given the world its first taste of extensive modding, but making mods for them required some knowledge of how to manipulate and recompile the source code. Unreal was the first game that allowed one to open up the editor, tweak a few values, and save the result as a file that could alter - sometimes dramatically - gameplay aspects. For instance, all it takes to make the Stinger shoot rockets or flak shells is to change the projectile type, and now you have a rather more dangerous weapon at your disposal than anything available in the stock game. More radical modding was only a few steps away, especially once people started importing their own 3D models and the level editor became well understood. It only took a few months for entire CD-ROM compilations worth of mods to spring up.
  • Gangsta Style: The alt fire mode for the Automag, with a near 100% corresponding drop in accuracy. Most shots beyond melee range will miss.
  • Gatling Good: The Minigun, obviously, though its Gatling-ness is rather unusual compared to standard rotary cannons - it has two rotating barrel assemblies that intermesh, but no separate firing mechanism behind each barrel, leading one to wonder if all the spinning isn't there more for aesthetic than for practical reasons.
  • Genius Bruiser: The Skaarj. On the outside they may look like superhuman-reptilian creatures who merely fight because they get kicks out of it, but they have amassed a great amount of scientific knowledge - enough to conquer other planets, no less.
  • 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 have several areas full of green toxic-looking water.
  • Hand Cannon: The Brutes dual-wield rocket launchers as pistols.
  • Hailfire Peaks: The Sunspire combines It's All Upstairs from Here with a side order of Blackout Basement.
  • Heroic Mime: In the first game the protagonist might as well be a mute. In the second she speaks during intermission cutscenes, and it actually feels jarring because that's the only time she does it - and by then you've gone through the entire first game without so much as a word being spoken, ever.
  • Hit Scan: The Automag, the Sniper rifle and the Minigun, as well as the Assault Rifle in RTNP. The Shock rifle is weird, in that it's hitscan gameplay-wise but its visual effect is not - so if you fire it at a faraway surface you'll see the impact shockwave instantly, followed by the projectile reaching it a short time later.
  • 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, did not start life as firearms but as tools. Not that they're any less effective because of that...
  • In Case of X, Break Glass: At the end of the Vortex Rikers level, there's a glass box with two medpacks inside of it, with the "Break Glass" text above it.
  • 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'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 Dog: Every sentient enemy in the game seems to utterly hate the ultra-pacifistic, wouldn't-hurt-a-fly Nali, and will beat them up, torture or just plain murder them for the hell of it. The player can do it too, and there's a situation in Chizra's temple where you have the option of murdering a Nali priest to get the Super Health Pack he's levitating over. note 
  • 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 a constant 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.
  • Lemony Narrator: The manual, as several of the quotes on this page demonstrate.
  • Lethal Lava Land: The level where you fight against a Warlord for the first time.
  • Lightning Bruiser: All types of Skaarj except for Brutes.
  • Locked Out of the Fight: In the first level you come across a locked door behind which some people are getting massacred by a lone Skaarj. You only get to access the room after the carnage is over - which is probably for the better, as you have no weapons yet.
  • 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 and armed with rocket launchers, 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, but still plays it straight once near the start by opening up a room containing a previously-unseen enemy of a superior level to anything you've fought up to that moment. This happens as you're walking back in a corridor you already passed through once without being bothered - after the lights switch off one by one. The combo of the new, fast monster and the progressive darkening scared the living daylights out a lot of players in the years.
  • More Dakka: The Minigun spits out quite a high volume of lead.
  • 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.
  • 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 everything - 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.
  • 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, as do a few mods.
  • Noodle Incident: To this day, the reasons of the main character's imprisonment remain unknown.
  • No OSHA Compliance: some of the levels, like the Tarydium foundry plant, look decidedly unsafe.
    "It has been 0 days since our last accident."
  • 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.
  • Novelization: Unreal: Prophet's Power and Unreal: Hard Crash, covering the events of the game.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Some of the enemy spawners indeed only spawn enemies when you're not looking at the particular spawner. Bodies of slain enemies only disappear when your back is turned.
  • Oh Crap!: Your first encounter with a Skaarj - see Nothing Is Scarier above. 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 by wasting ammo.
    "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."
  • Painfully Slow Projectile:
    • The Dispersion pistol. After a few upgrades you can charge a full-power bolt that would one-shot any non-boss enemy - if they didn't have the disagreeable tendency to, you know, move.
    • The Bio rifle has this by design, as it's more of a toxic-substance vacuum switched to reverse than an actual weapon. It's actually more of a mine-layer than a rifle, though the arc is workable in close quarters. Just don't get too close, as the splash damage will affect you.
    • The Ripper fires saw discs, but its slow rate of fire ensures that nearly all enemies will autododge it from far away. The secondary fire allows the disc to be guided, but makes the disc even slower.
    • Gasbag fireballs and Titan rocks. The latter are especially jarring, but necessary to make the Titan beatable at all, as they're otherwise One-Hit Kill against the player.
    • Other weapons vary, but most can be dodged if your reflexes are fast enough. The Skaarj are also aware of this trope and will dodge your projectile weapons.
  • Pendulum of Death: In the torture chambers of the Nali Castle, you find one of these, though with no victims strapped to the slab.
  • 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.
  • Prison Ship: You start out on a crashed prison transport named "Vortex Rikers".
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Skaarj:
    "Vigilance is the guardian of honour."
  • Punch-Packing Pistol: Two examples:
  • Quad Damage: The Energy Amplifier, which only affects energy weapons but makes them tremendously powerful, to the point the Dispersion Pistol can beat the Stone Titan in a few shots (used to be a single shot, but it got understandably nerfed).
  • Right Man in the Wrong Place: Prisoner 849. Unlikely survivor of a crashed prison ship? Yep. Inexplicably proficient with every weapon you come across? That's probably what got you locked up in the first place. No real motivation for fighting the bad guys other than "they're shooting at you?" Check. Singlehandedly free several areas of the planet from an army of reptilian nasties and cyborg slavers? Bingo bango.
  • Rocket Jump: Somewhat doable with the explosive weapons, though the effect is less pronounced than in other games and rarely very useful.
  • Run, Don't Walk: Walking stops you from falling off ledges, and in fact is the way to get a Shield Belt in a Nali temple (by walking, you can "feel" around and find out that there's an invisible rail leading to the prize). On ice makes you ice-skate far faster than running.
  • Scenery Porn: The game that started it all. The first level fools you into thinking it's just another shooter in enclosed spaces with prettier graphics (for the time). The second level... doesn't. If you played the game without first reading reviews of it, the surprise was mindblowing. Lush vegetation, colourful moving skies, animals hopping and flying about, and the sheer size of all the scenery was something completely unseen for the day, along with some perfectly fitting music to set the mood. It remained exclusive to Unreal for a while, too, as everybody else's engines weren't geared for open spaces and would choke on the sheer number of polygons.
  • Secondary Fire: Every weapon, except the "Sniper" Rifle, which originally had one (mentioned in the manual, no less) but got changed to a poor man's zoom very late in the game's development process. In some cases, this mode is the more effective one.
  • 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 later - 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.
    • Vortex Rikers is a play on Riker's Island prison.
  • 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.
  • 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 against agile enemies like Skaarj, Gasbags and Krall, while the ones that do trigger it are more on the heavy-hitter side and work better against enemies not prone to acrobatics.
  • Space Elevator: An anti-gravitational, cable-less elevator carries people to the floating islands from the Sunspire. It's presumably high stratosphere rather than space, but then again it's not perfectly clear how orbits work in Na Pali.
    • 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 station 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.
  • Suspicious Video Game Generosity: You find an almost-Infinite Flashlight right before you blow the Skaarj Mothership's generator to pieces, plunging the whole place in pitch darkness. Also, a pair of jump boots with unlimited charges? Surely that'd alter gameplay too mu— ah, there's the door for the final boss arena.
  • 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.
  • Ten-Second Flashlight: Apparently in the future we've achieved interstellar travel but we've completely lost the ability to make decent batteries: the flashlights scattered around all of Na Pali last for exactly one minute, dim constantly for the last five seconds, and can't be recharged at all. 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, but it's unavailable for most of the game.
  • 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 to you.
  • The Undead: Absent during the game itself in a traditional sense, but gib models (models of generic, heavily mauled corpses with exposed bones and missing organs), of which there are five, are playable as characters for whatever reason.
  • Updated Re-release: Unreal Gold, which is basically the same game in the Unreal Tournament revision of Unreal Engine 1 and bundled with Return to Na Pali.
  • 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.
  • Use Item: The game features a cyclable inventory.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: There are many poor abused Nali throughout the game, and keeping them alive usually results in them leading you to a valuable item or a shortcut.
  • We Will Meet Again: Your first encounter with the Skaarj Warlord. After being defeated he just taunts you and teleports away, only to reappear - and be Killed Off for Real - aboard the Skaarj mothership. The expansion pack has you fight another Warlord, but doesn't specify if it's the one you already fought the first time around - making this a double example - or if it's a whole other one.
  • Wolverine Claws (with occasional Energy Balls): The weapon of choice for the Skaarj warrior class.

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