The Crusader series was an early entry into the Isometric Shooter genre. Developed by Loose Cannon Productions and published by Origin Systems as Crusader: No Remorse (1995) and Crusader: No Regret (1996), they told the story of a Silencer, one of the World Economic Consortium's (WEC)'s most elite soldiers.
Made of roughly equal parts Syndicate, Nineteen Eighty-Four, RoboCop, and Star Wars, the story is as follows: In the year 2196, the WEC is a global economic hegemony, ruling the Earth and other colonies in the solar system with an iron fist. At the beginning of No Remorse the Silencer's team is betrayed by the WEC after refusing an order to kill unarmed civilians, identified by their commander as rebels. The rest of his team is killed, so the Silencer betrays them in turn, joining up with the Global Resistance, who are trying to remove the WEC from their position of system-wide dominance. The WEC is getting close to tightening their grip further by completing the orbital bombardment platform Vigilance, which would allow them to bombard any point on Earth into rubble on a moment's notice through centralized control of nuclear-armed satellites and would itself remain safe by being a very small target well out of reach of conventional attack.
Naturally, as the first member of the Silencer Corps to ever defect, the Captain is greeted with suspicion, mistrust, and even outright hatred from the Resistance. This cannot be helped by the fact that the Silencer never speaks in game. Nonetheless, he uncomplainingly takes on missions it would normally take a team of Rebel operatives to finish, with only the equipment he can scrounge off bad guys, buy off an arms dealer, or steal from around the Rebel base and the trademark red armor of the Silencers to do it. (Presumably, the Rebels' quartermaster doesn't trust the Silencer enough to let him requisition stuff.) Complicating matters is a subplot concerning a possible traitor in the Silencer's Resistance cell—which the Silencer himself is vocally accused of being on more than one occasion. No Remorse ends with the destruction of the Vigilance platform and the Silencer floating away in an escape pod.
No Regret opens 48 hours later when a supply freighter heading for the moon is diverted to search for survivors of the Vigilance platform's destruction. They of course find the Silencer, adrift in his lifepod and presumably getting the shakes having not killed someone in two whole days, who proceeds to come capture the freighter, blow it up from the inside out, escape to WEC's lunar base, and break out of his dejected funk. There the player learns how critical the moon is, as Di-Correllium (or Di-Cor), a radioactive mineral with half of all known deposits found on the Moon, is responsible for most of the Earth's power supply.
With the Silencer's help the Resistance takes over the Di-Cor mines, kills a major WEC executive and puts a stranglehold on the WEC's supply of Di-Cor within a week, threatening their control of Earth. Follow-up games were never produced, though depending on which source you talk to anywhere from one to four more were planned.
Both Crusader games used a modified version of the engine developed for Origin's own Ultima VIII, providing an isometric 3rd-person view on the Player Character not unlike that of Diablo. The game featured pre-rendered sprites instead of 3D accelerated polygons generated on the fly. These graphics still hold up when their age is taken into account.
The Silencer has a vast array of weapons he picks up (or, in the first game, buys from Weasel, an arms dealer sympathetic to the Resistance), from assault rifles, shotguns and grenade launchers to lasers and UV projectors to, in the sequel, inventively vicious weapons like the liquefier and the crystallizer. While the graphics aren't high resolution enough for it to be truly horrifying, the Silencer's more exotic weapons were delightfully gruesome when used against humans. No Regret in particular was somewhat notorious for the number of ways humans could die—which included being shot, set on fire, frozen (and then, if you wanted, shattered), blown apart, melted, reduced to a puddle of non-differentiated grey-green goo, and having the flesh burned off one's skeleton. Ruptured high-pressure chemical lines could also freeze people or light them on fire if they wandered into the leak. Crusader is also notable for being a rare game at the time in which the player was free to slaughter unarmed civilians without any in-game consequences. In, from a pure standpoint of gameplay mechanics, it was actually beneficial to do so, since you could get extra cash from their corpses.
Combat was done with weapons only, though a skilled player could make use of demolitions equipment in a pinch. If in the harder settings you ran out of ammo, energy, or ordnance, you couldn't kill anyone until you found some more. This could be very difficult, as most of the Silencer's supplies were either stripped from dead opponents or taken from storage areas that were heavily guarded. It was also somewhat strange, as literature from the second game indicated Silencers were highly skilled martial artists, and the character could certainly pick up the equipment to survive to close combat range.
The controls, while they took a little getting used to, were well-laid out, allowing for an impressive array of diving, rolling, strafing, and just plain walking and running (though jumping was hit-or-miss), and it was easy to see where you were aiming, thanks to a targeting reticle drawn on the screen. Hitting things that were off screen was a problem, and you often found yourself wishing for a way to move the camera independently of the Silencer. On the other hand, enemies that shouldn't have been able to see you generally didn't react until you scrolled into their screen, but could still be killed by you if you knew they were there.
Cutscenes used a mix of live actors and computer animation, though never at the same time. The budget for the live action was apparently somewhat small, as among other things the costumes for the WEC soldiers are laughably bad when seen on real actors. As with most FMV, the acting wasn't particularly good—in fact, in No Remorse, it was pretty horrible, though No Regret was at least not embarrassing for those involved.
The game was knocked for omitting multiplayer which, while not yet easy to use, was becoming commonplace by 1996 (when the second game was released). The next game in the series was supposed to have addressed this, and in fact the only known promotional screenshot features multiple Silencers, each in a different color of the familiar armor in the way of deathmatch shooters at the time, running around and killing each other (one of which was using a new weapon, apparently a flamethrower).
The games' music was rather advanced for its time, consisting of high-quality .MOD files, a step or two below CDs or .mp3s in quality. The game also had an all-but-undocumented "jukebox" feature, allowing you to switch through the games' tracks in the midst of gameplay. The tunes themselves were mostly catchy rock/techno.
At least one sequel was planned. Depending on source, as many as five more were hoped for, but around the time Crusader II went into development, Electronic Arts started to rework how Origin was organized. Eventually, Tony Zurovec and others left the project, the games failed to materialize, Origin itself shut down, and the license, while still held by EA, hasn't been used since (though a proposal was made for a budget remake, Crusader 2006).
The games have become available from gog.com for gog's usual low pricing.
This video game provides examples of:
- Absent Aliens: Humanity seemingly hasn't left the solar system, though.
- Aesoptinum: Doesn't exist for a single reason, but there is the fact that at the end of the second game "terrorists" control half the world's energy supply in the form of a mineral found mostly on the moon...
- Artificial Limbs: One of Torch's arms is replaced with a drill because it decayed due to di-cor poisoning.
- Artistic License – Chemistry: Silencer armor in one instance is referred to as being made from polonium. Yes, that polonium.
- As Long as There Is One Man: Propaganda distributed to members of the Resistance makes note of this when considering the idea that the Resistance as it exists now might well fail—specifically, if the Resistance is wiped out, that tyranny will still be its own worst enemy and eventually collapse, one way or another.
- Awesome, but Impractical: Practically anything exotic and usually anything explosive. The exotic weapons eat through your energy which you may need in a pinch to power the shields. They also leave no body that you can loot. Explosives will cause enemies to burn, so you also can't loot their bodies. However, explosives are the only thing that beat shields.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: Usually subverted, but there's the boss of the second game...and then why is everyone so terrified of the President?
- Big Bad: Chairman Draygen serves in this role for both games, although there is an implied Bigger Bad in the President of the WEC.
- Boring, but Practical: The three round burst machine gun is not very flashy but its fairly powerful and nearly every enemy carries a clip of ammo for it. This one should probably stay in your inventory throughout the game once you get it.
- Bottomless Pits: Rare, but made more teeth-grinding because they seem to appear at random and jumping is so damn...jumpy.
- Broken Pedestal: The whole WEC, to the Silencer.
- But Thou Must!: Don't feeling like murdering the unarmed doctor Hoffman in cold blood? Tough luck, you have to do it, and endless enemies will spawn from the telaporter in his room until you do. The only technical way to avoid this is to position yourself so that the enemies shoot Hoffman when they try to shoot you.
- Chicken Walker: Most Anti-personnel platform Mechs, except the Cametron.
- Containment Field: Inverted, with No OSHA Compliance.
- Cool, But Inefficient: Neat as the death effects are, is there any point to creating things as inaccurate and with as little in-game ammo as the Liquifier when one already has a perfectly serviceable rocket launcher with a lot more ammo and destructive power, and a rapid-fire shotgun that doesn't destroy enemy equipment?
- Justified in-game though, as one of the most potent weapons a Silencer has is terror - and many of the exotic weapons seen in game are pure terror weapons. There's a reason civilians run screaming from the sight of you.
- Corporate Warfare: Technically, the WEC isn't a government, but a corporate hegemony, even though it fulfills all functions of government (including having a standing army). It's just in charge for the duration of the emergency (that being the lack of no government).
- Critical Existence Failure: Justified, as the manual mentions that Silencers are trained to ignore injury and stay functioning at 100% up until the point of death.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: The more exotic terror weapons the Silencer can get his hands on will deal these out very easily. You can also use the hazardous environments the WEC allows to flourish against their personnel with gruesome effects.
- Do Not Run with a Gun: Applies to the Silencer as well.
- Easter Egg: In No Regret—the most prominent occurs when entering the "enable cheats" code for the old game results in the message, "Of course we changed the cheats. Duh." and the Silencer is teleported to a room with zero cover surrounded by a dozen of the ending boss; this level can also be reached if the game is run on Christmas day, with background music consisting of techno remixes of Christmas carols.
- Elaborate Underground Base: The Resistance base in the first game is not particularly large, but certainly elaborate from a production standpoint as most of its floor and wall tiles were custom-textured. The mining areas on the moon fit the largeness criteria more.
- Elite Mooks: Stormtroopers and Elite Stormtropers
- Emergency Weapon: Only present in the lower difficulties, as your initial weapon will run out of ammo on the higher ones.
- Energy Weapon: Several exist - the relatively simple laser rifle, the plasma rifle that disintegrates enemies, a UV ray projection weapon, and a microwave projection weapon. The latter three kill enemy personnel so thoroughly their equipment (and thus their ammo drops) are destroyed in the process.
- Everything Trying to Kill You: Getting progressively worse as the game gets harder... but from the very beginning there are vending machines that randomly dispense grenades.
- Faceless Goons: Of course from a very high viewpoint it'd be hard to make out faces of the regular non-helmeted goons, and definitely not those with any kind of head adornment. Depending on your preference any enemies in the game could be considered this although the oft repeated and poor bastards that you kill a dozen of every level are the best match.
- Fake Difficulty: The highest difficulty level, No Remorse/Regret, gives the weakest enemies heavy weapons...but their corpses still give ammo for lower-tier weapons.
- Feelies: Fake WEC newspaper and other goodies; they were mid-90s Origin games, so it was to be expected. The newspaper was supposed to be something The Silencer found in the rebel base — it's focused on the evil rebels and as such has been doodled on by one of its members which makes for some fun stuff.
- Five-Man Band: Though you only ever see the Big Guy really in action.
- Frickin' Laser Beams: A somewhat vanilla interpretation, just actual laser guns that shoot actual lasers. The other nasty energy weapons have unique murder-beams.
- Gameplay and Story Segregation: The Disrupter is supposed to be a one-shot munition, telefragging anyone incoming on the trapped Telepad before destroying the pad itself. In actual gameplay the Disrupter won't do a thing to the Telepad and it will continue to frag anyone incoming on it as long as it's armed nearby.
- Global Currency: Justified by the one world government which also happens to be a corporation.
- Gorn: While the game was not a complete bloodbath, bloodstains could be generated easily, and there were many, many different and elaborate death animations for the various exotic weapons and hazards, from being gibbed by explosives to being frozen and then shattered.
- Gravity Sucks: Again, all the worse for the piss-poor jumping.
- Guide Dang It!: At the end of No Remorse, the way to the escape pod is blocked by Vargas- who's trying to beat you to the last ride off of the doomed Vigilance Platform. The problem is that she's also armed with a UV-9 (presumably a Senate pistol) and is protected by a Graviton Shield with seemingly limitless energy. The most commonly suggested way to deal with the situation is to dodge her shots and run straight for the escape pod switch. However if you're looking to get Revenge for the destruction of Echo Base there's another way: The room is lined with pylons that in fact connect Vargas's Battery and Shield to the Vigilance Platform's power grid. Destroying them will in fact strip her seeming invulnerability. The AR-7 is the recommended weapon to use since the spread of micromissiles will not only damage the pylons but will also stagger Vargas in place while the Graviton Shield absorbs the hits... until the connection to the power grid is destroyed and she goes down a screaming inferno.
- Handy Remote Control: Computers allowed the Silencer to take control of mechs, turrets, and security cameras, all from the safety of rooms or even floors away.
- Hero Insurance: You can murder unarmed civilians without consequences. In fact, it is beneficial to do so, since you can take cash from their bodies.
- Heroic Mime: The Silencer doesn't talk. Shocking, no?
- It's uncertain if you can actually talk to the outside world from the armor though. It's a sealed unit, so it'd at best be muffled and hard to hear. It's possible that you genuinely can't talk to anyone outside of your squad from the armor.
- The Captain is just quiet. The opening cinematics in No Remorse makes it clear the Silencer armor has a helmet speaker system when the squad is concerned about their last mission.
- Hide Your Children: The Silencer's coming and he's not taking prisoners.
- Highly Visible Password: The WEC facilities have doors locked with access codes, which change regularly, but in the vicinity of every one of them is an unsecured computer with an email to the effect of "In accordance to our security policies, the code to the computer lab has been changed. The new code is 382." on the monitor. This practice makes getting into said 'secured' areas a trivial exercise.
- The real problem with frequently rotating passwords, especially when there are multiple of them in the same building, is that it's really really hard for the staff to remember the codes.
- Hyperspace Arsenal: The Silencer ends up carrying a ridiculous number of weapons in the second game; at least in the first game, he was limited to five weapons, though there were few other practical limits on equipment.
- I Have Many Names: Weasel, he is known by many names before and nobody is certain about his real name.
- I'm Melting!: The LNR-81 "Liquefier" Catalytic Cartridge rifle was designed to do this to people spectacularly.
- Incurable Cough of Death: Denning, though the game lit makes it clear from the start he has leukemia.
- Infinite Supplies: Except ammo.
- Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence: Safety railings and piles of packing crates can easily impede the Silencer's progress, as can office cubicles and furniture.
- Invulnerable Civilians: Subverted. You can massacre them with glee. (And if you don't, they run and call in a Red Alert about half the time, so maybe you should.) Some of them are also armed, usually with sidearms, though in the second game some have pistol versions of the cryo or liquifier rifles. In that case you have to kill them in self-defense. The fact that they will, if nothing else, carry money doesn't help them, and the fact that these people are pretty much explicitly high-ranking executives, the tiny fraction of the population who can live comfortably and do what they want because of money, makes it oh-so-satisfying.
- It's a Wonderful Failure: In No Regret, there is a level where a ship full of enemy reinforcements is coming to land on the moon base and your objective is to fight your way to a cannon battery to shoot it down. If you fail to reach the cannon battery controls in time, you get a live-action cutscene showing your commanding officer making a last stand against the enemy army with his men before they are overwhelmed and killed.
- Kaizo Trap: In No Regrets, there is often a Bottomless Pit trap hidden under the WEC floor logo just before the level exit.
- Kill Sat: The No Remorse final mission consists in destroying one.
- Kleptomaniac Hero: Justified: the Resistance is fairly unwilling to just give the Silencer equipment so he has to make do with what he can get. In addition, you only ever steal from the guys whose facility you just trashed.
- Limited Advancement Opportunities: The protagonist is still a captain. A Captain in the Silencer Corp itself, because defecting to the Resistance isn't good for promotions.
- Literally Shattered Lives: You can smash any poor enemy who got frozen by a supercooled weapon or leaking coolant vent.
- Made of Explodium: Any piece of scenery that can be destroyed (and there is a lot of it) give out at the very least a small burst of flames as it breaks. This includes things which have absolutely no reason to do so, such as railings. Oh, it gets sillier, don't worry. Cafeteria trays are also made of explodium, as are the bloody ketchup bottles. It's a weird world, but not a quiet one.
- Made of Explodium: You'd be hard-pressed to find more examples in any video game ever made. Pretty much everything in this game can explode if you shoot it enough times, including tables, chairs, and railings.
- Man on Fire: Can be inflicted by various gas vents and explosive weapons.
- Mecha-Mooks: The mechs and androids.
- Mega Corp.: They run the world. And it's mentioned In The Manual (or maybe the official strategy guide) that income tax has reached an "all-time high" of 92%.
- Mooks: Guards, Soldiers, LMC Guards.
- Mook Maker: In No Regret this is pretty much the main function of the teleporters which you can't use.
- Multiple-Choice Past: The Silencer seems to think he was a normal person before he joined the Corps—and, indeed, ads in the Feelies indicate anyone can apply. However, he later finds out that he may have been genetically engineered, and still another source claims that Silencer candidates are identified through mandatory testing for adolescents and taken away as children.
- Nanomachines: Limited use, second game only.
- News Travels Fast: To be fair, most of the Silencer's actions result in explosions. (Specifically, big explosions—damn near everything will explode when shot at enough times.)
- No Name Given: The Silencer is never named; he's just "The Silencer" or Captain to everyone (and Tin Man or Red to those few he gets along with). Even he may not know his own name, but he doesn't seem to care.
- Nonstandard Game Over: At least one mission in each game was timed, and if time ran out, you not only got a general game over but an expository last FMV. Also, getting killed doesn't result in a game over screen or sending the player back to the main menu automatically. A mechanical voice (presumably the loudspeaker in the base you are in) will say "Silencer Terminated" and that is it. The game will still go on with you dead on the ground and the enemies randomly wandering around on the screen until you manually quit or load a saved game.
- No OSHA Compliance: Justified in that because a Mega Corp. rules the world, there is no OSHA.
- One-Man Army: The Silencer, of course. Being the last of his squad doesn't stop him from leaving a trail of bodies deep in hostile WEC territory.
- "Open!" Says Me: Some doors require keycards or keypad passcodes. However some of them can be simply blown up, Terminator 2: Judgment Day style. Of course, doing so immediately triggers the alarm.
- Percussive Maintenance: Used only once, but it makes sense, given the scrounging the Resistance has to do.
- Praetorian Guard: Enforcers and Headquarters Elite Guards are nearly as well-armed and -armored as you.
- Protagonist Without a Past:
- This is a subplot point in the first game.
- In the opening cutscene, the Vetron is unable to identify the Player Character as it did with his two Silencer teammates.
- Red Alert: Not just for ships anymore!
- Rewarding Vandalism: Subverted. Considering the destructibility of the game's environment was a selling point: if you aren't careful you can lose powerups and/or healing stations via wanton destruction
- Robo Speak: Only for androids.
- Sci-Fi Name Buzzwords: Di-correllium, etc...
- Shout-Out: There are several, many well-hidden. Probably the first is that Tony Zurovec and Mark Vittek, both project leads, are the names of the Silencer's murdered companions. In an aversion, the Silencer armor, despite looking like a cross between a Royal Guardsman and Boba Fett, was apparently designed by someone who wasn't familiar with Star Wars at all.
- Sociopathic Hero: The Silencer is a ruthless killer that can murder anyone affiliated with his enemies (even unarmed workers), and he's mostly in it for vengeance.
- Sorting Algorithm of Weapon Effectiveness: In both games one can acquire weapons that are perfectly useful to the very end of the game... But most of the time later weapons are somewhat more effective.
- State Sec: SecCart (Security Cartel) handles defense and security for all WEC facilities and personnel. Given the corporate-fascist nature of the game's setting, this means they also handle police, intelligence, and so on.
- Stealth Sequel: Prequel, actually. An article◊ bundled with No Remorse details the unveiling of "Project: SHODAN", an artificial intelligence that can "manage and maintain all the operations and functions of a self-contained orbital research facility", implying that the Crusader games are set in the same continuity as System Shock note
- Streaming Stars: Look carefully out the viewports during the first mission of the second game...
- Subspace Ansible
- Super-Powered Robot Meter Maids: The Roaming Susans, Androids, and Roaches are technically service robots instead of Anti Personnel Platforms, and the are too well armed for the job, especially the Androids which can be easily mistaken for a combat robot and they are some of the Goddamn Bats in the game. In No Regret you can even find Roaming Susans armed with Laser.
- Super Soldier: The Silencers, though no one you meet seems to know exactly what they are or how they're made
- Take Your Time: One supposedly Timed Mission doesn't actually have a time limit...
- Always Close: Until you get to the final screen, just for dramatic effect.
- Tele-Frag: In No Remorse, Professor Wilmar is killed when the telepad he's using is reset in the middle of activation (presumably by The Mole Vargas). Earlier in the game, the same effect occurs if you use a telepad which various sources in the game tell you, in no uncertain terms, not to. In No Regret, one of the munitions you can obtain is the Disrupter, a device that attaches to a telepad and deliberately scrambles an incoming signal, instantly killing anyone who comes in on that telepad—including you. Flavor documentation states that the Disrupter also destroys the telepad on activation but this isn't actually depicted in-game and thus you're usually encouraged to leave it on the pad to mulch enemy reinforcements...unless of course you know you'll be using that telepad later on.
- Teleporters and Transporters: Key to both gameplay and story.
- Teleporting Keycard Squad: Used sparingly but consistently.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Sure, you could use a machine gun or pistol to gun down the low-level Mooks, but it's nowhere as *fun* as using a grenade round.
- This Is a Drill: One of Torch's arms is replaced with a drill.
- Unbreakable Weapons: Oddly, some are explicitly described as such, while others aren't.
- Unobtainium: Di-correllium, which is apparently such a good fuel source that—well, imagine if the petroleum market were applied to everything outside of personal transportation on Earth.
- Unusable Enemy Equipment: You can loot ammo, medikits, and power cells from dead enemies, but not weapons. Not to mention the ammo you get is not necessarily the ammo of the weapon the mook was carrying.
- Video Game Cruelty Potential: See all these guns you have that invoke all manner of horrible deaths? See all those helpless scientists and engineers? Get experimenting. As mentioned before, murdering civilians has no repercussions.
- Weak Turret Gun: Both used and subverted. Starting from those laughable turrets that do almost no damage to you, to those annoying thresher cannons with invincible shields which can kill you in a couple of hits even in lower difficulty settings.
- We Can Rule Together: Not so much "we can rule together" but "Want to run part of the government? If you'll just let me go..."
- Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: The WEC portrays the rebels as bloodthirsty terrorists in their propaganda broadcasts. And they actually have a pretty good case, considering how indiscriminately you can slaughter civilians.