A remake of the 1994 game System Shock by Night Dive Studios is due out sometime in the next few years, but fans who don’t want to wait can revisit the space horror game now in System Shock: ReWired, the first ever total campaign mod for the classic game.
Fan made over the course of the last few months, the mod effectively acts like a mini-story expansion for the original game by an interested fan who just can’t bear to see old classics, even MS-DOS-based ones, left to wither and die for all time. While System Shock 2, the better known 1999 sequel by Irrational Games, has its fair share of mods, ReWired is unique for being the only ambitious narrative driven mod to come out for the first game in all these years.
ReWired features three new levels, four cyberspace areas where players hack their way through various obstacles, and an entirely original ship called the UNN Bismarck. While it’s much smaller than the main game’s Citadel station, it includes microcosms of most of the stuff that made the original game great, like audio logs (well, they’re currently text only), futuristic puzzles, and dark, brooding cyberpunk corridors you can travel down to unknown, branching destinations. You can play it by purchasing System Shock: Enhanced Edition and then obtaining the mod files, which were released over at ModDB over the weekend.
The mod is the work of Joey Lansing, who spent a total of four months to bring ReWired over the finish line. But why now, 24 years after the game originally came out? It’s because Night Dive Studios, which is currently working to finish a remaster of the game that it successfully Kickstarted in 2016, released the source code for System Shock in April of this year, finally giving Lansing and others the tools they needed to start creating more content for the retro PC classic. This allowed programmer Christian Haas to create a level editor for the game, which Lansing than used to craft ReWired.
“My favourite aspect of the mod is definitely the cyberspace sections,” Lansing told Kotaku in an email. While System Shock’s original “cyberspace” sections, in which players navigate abstract 3D spaces trying to take out malicious programs and unlock systems, were “an iconic imagination of how cyberspace could be,” he said, “they were pretty simple and sometimes too easy.”
While Lansing said that at first he wasn’t very interested in the role these parts would play in ReWired, the more he played around with designing them, the more possibilities he realised there were to go beyond the main game’s vision for them. “ReWired has very big, sprawling cyberspace sections and you have to find ways — hack security systems, lift cyber-blockades or survive deadly minefields — to move forward in the mod,” he said.
Lansing’s hope is that these sections show how much more can be done with the building blocks of System Shock and encourage more people to go back to it. “The source code release by Night Dive was only the tip of the iceberg that truly kickstarted the creation of mods for Shock,” Lansing said. “And I do hope that more people will find a liking to level editing for Shock and that many, many more fan-missions and mods will come out of it.”
Cover image: Nightdive Studios (System Shock: Enhanced Edition)