Keith's Crappy Videogame Blog


Kreed – Battle for Savitar (PC, 2004, Russia): Second Take, Much Improved
January 9, 2012, 12:22 am
Filed under: Kreed – Battle for Savitar (PC, 2004, Russia), Russia)

2004’s “Kreed: Battle for Savitar” (the game directory abbreviates it as BFS) is the decidedly more successful followup to Burut Creative Team’s “Kreed” (2003). [Read my halting discussion of “Kreed” on this blog.] At the release of “Savitar,” the monster-sized eastern Euro publisher, Russobit-M, called the game “the Russian Unreal. It is our response to Doom 3 and Half-Life 2.” While some will undoubtedly dispute those claims (okay, just about everyone would dispute those claims), it’s nevertheless amazing what can happen over the span of a single year. Although the first game (which was localized and marketed in the west, amazingly) was a kind of loveable mess (emphasis on ‘mess’), the sequel/prequel “Savitar” actually requires next to no forgiveness and is improved over its predecessor in just about every way. The graphics are better, the physics are better, the AI is slightly better, the selection of weapons has increased, and most important, the story is greatly simplified and can be easily followed. Given this—and the fact that we’re taking about the quirky, nonsensical world of videogames—it makes perfect sense, then, that “Savitar” was never marketed in the west nor was it localized to English. Yup, that’s how things work in this crazy world.

The real icing on this upside-down cake, however, is that fact that I didn’t have to translate any of it! This onerous task was already quite professionally accomplished by hydra9. (The link to the English patch can be found at the bottom of this post.) This translation patch has been around for several years now, and it has successfully kept a pretty damn fun (or, at least competent) game out of complete obscurity for those westerners willing to give it a try. In fact, not only did hydra9 translate all in-game text (menus, journals found throughout the game, system messages), this superfan also conscripted some amateur voice actors to replace all the spoken dialogue in the game (for which there are no subtitle options). There aren’t many in-game voiceovers, and they are not professionally recorded, but you can safely say this game has been thoroughly Anglicized. And as a novice game translator myself, I am more grateful than any garbled phrase from Google Translator can express.

So, now I’ll attempt the impossible by trying to tie the narratives of these two games together chronologically, starting with the second game and working our way forward (or backwards, whatever). Here’s how things go: In the second half of the 23rd century, long after we’ve colonized a good deal of the galaxy, we stumble across the Tiglaary (also spelled Tiglaari in some instances), a technologically advanced insectoid race of hooligans that see humans as a virus to be eliminated as a species. (On bad days, I agree with them entirely.) In “Savitar,” as John Armstrong, you are a foot soldier in the Legion, a military-slash-religious organization whose main goal is stellar exploration. Your current duty involves patrolling the backwater research station on Jupiter, which is quiet—until the Tiglaary (either spelling) show up and start shooting the place up. You manage to escape the station (after several chapters of old-school, corridor-crawling shootouts) to return to earth headquarters, but your escape ship is intercepted by some human creeps who admire the Tiglaari (either spelling) and want to evolve to become more like them. The ultimate goal of these “frontier colonists gone rouge” is the expressed purpose of being able to withstand the environmental hazards of space without having to use spacesuits (like the hard-carpaced Tiglaary do). They consider the rest of us living on earth to be so last-gen.

You are imprisoned on a planet and are slated for some experimentation, but you quickly manage to escape, and more fighting ensues. You kill lots of these evolutionary colonist-terrorists (or, at least, three dozen), help a few other prisoners escape along the way, see some of the nasty experiments that have been conducted on some of the less-fortunate prisoners, and eventually gain your freedom by locating your ship and flying away. Headed home once again, right? Wrong. Mid-journey, you are ordered by your Legion commander to run over to Savitar Station and protect some researchers who are under Tiglaary (either spelling) attack. These researchers are on the verge of finishing some portal technology which will bring fleets of help to the frontlines within seconds—if they can get it up and running before they are all killed. The last chapter is an extended kind of position-defense game which is timed. Can the researchers finish in time? Oooooooh….

Since I’ve already discussed the predecessor game “Kreed,” whose narrative roughly continues the storyline (again, see that post here, somewhere), I’ll keep it brief. But basically, after fending off the attack in the last game (yes, yes, spoiler alert, sorry), at the outset of “Kreed,” a slowly expanding space anomaly has appeared on the edge of the universe. Thinking it might be connected to the Tiglaary invasion, one of the religious leaders of The Legion pilots a ship into the anomaly and disappears. Along with him, he took all his scientists, armies, and whatnot, leaving a good deal of human society (on earth and outer colonies) defenseless. Rumors begin to circulate that this influential leader may have located (beyond the anomaly) a place called The Kreed, an ancient and fabled land worshipped by certain religious sects deemed to be dangerous. Fear spreads that he has turned sides against humanity.

No longer wearing the shoes of John Armstrong, in “Kreed” you play Legion Special Agent Daniel Grok, who shuttles a craft to the edge of the anomaly in order to find out what the hell is going on. In “Kreed,” most of the game takes place inside the anomaly and on the other side of it in a bizarre, alien universe. The serpentine narrative is damn near incomprehensible, with multiple, conflicting earth organizations involved, a variety of differing foes that you fight in alien environments (as opposed to many of the more earthlike environs in “Savitar), and a conclusion that is utterly baffling. To me, “Kreed” is the poster child for the argument that shooters cannot have compelling, sensible narratives. Thank the gods we can call this a bygone era.

But back to the brighter topic of “Savitar.” If you plan on soldiering through either of these games, I suggest you play them backwards (“Savitar” first, and then “Kreed), making sure to seriously lower your expectations when you get to the first game in the series, which is rife with the kinds of bugs, inconsistencies, and confusion that you won’t find in “Savitar.”

Whichever one you play, and in whatever order, these are straight-on, sci-fi, shoot-em-ups from (almost) a decade ago (at the time of this writing), so you know what you are getting: Lots of hallway-based conflicts (chuck those grenades!), some big (and generally empty) indoor and outdoor environments (that look fine but aren’t particularly well-detailed), a wide variety of projectile and energy-based weapons (I think by the end of the game there are almost 10 different conventional and lazery-type guns in your arsenal, all of which you can access at any time with complete disregard for how unlikely that would be), about 4 different human and monster enemy types (with never more than about 5 on screen at a time) whose moves might include ducking behind a crate here or there (but probably not), and the requisite button-pushing and diary-picking-up tasks to flesh out the backstory. Oh, and no regenerating health here, folks; better get to scrounging up those (aerosol?) health injections if you plan on staying alive. (Every time you use a medkit, it sounds like you are shaking and squirting an aerosol can of Bactine, or a Bronchaid inhaler, or spray paint can [with the ball bearing rolling around on the inside bottom to mix it up], or something like that. Both games have this. I find it funny as hell.)

I don’t have any gripes about the game itself, save one. Unless part of my game was missing or something, at the start of the second to last chapter, there are suddenly two strange, alien, massive guns in your inventory that are never explained. (In the game, when you pick up a new weapon the first time, an information window opens explaining its function, which is nice). But somehow, these guns appeared out of nowhere, without explanation, and I only noticed them when scrolling through the weapons in the middle of a battle. Kind of strange. They were cool guns though. Oh, and while the large selection of weapons are thoughtful (I’d never complain about too many guns), the vast majority of them you will never fiddle with as they seem relatively ineffective—the zap gun is one in particular. Also, some of the guns (and the EMP grenades) are seriously overpowered—I think I played through half of this game only using the rocket launcher, which seems to kill even the biggest enemies with only two shots. But again, not complaining.

There was one major technical issue I want to mention in case anyone finds this post and is suffering with the same problem. I played “Savitar” on my so-so laptop (because it looked best there on a slightly smaller screen; the game’s top resolution is 1280×1024, and playing it on my preferred big screen TV was not particularly flattering). But when booting it up on my lappy, I found it was running at the wrong speed—specifically, it was running at almost 300 frames-per-second…way too fast to actually play. Everything in the game was on fast-forward—I couldn’t even walk in any direction, for I would speed across the room so fast, I lost all orientation. Aiming to shoot would have been impossible. I spent the better part of two days trying different fixes (running older games on newer systems can apparently cause this problem—”Deus Ex” is famous for running too fast to actually play on newer systems). I never found a reasonable explanation of what was happening, but the problem might be related to older games reading the CPU speed of your system to determine at what speed it should run, and the way speeds are reported on laptops differ from desktops, and they can provide the game with misinformation, basically telling them to run like the wind. Unfortunately, I had no joy with the fixes I tried, which included freeware programs (like CPUKiller) to put a stress-load on the CPU to tire it out so the game would run more slowly (sounded like a good idea, but it made no difference) and also a “Frame Limiter” program that will force any exe to run at a predetermined rate. Actually this last fix would work for about 30 seconds, but eventually the game would rev-up to crazy high speeds anyway.

So my accidental fix? “Savitar” is one of those games that will allow multiple instances of the same process running at the same time. In other words, you can start the game, leave it running, and then start the game again—and you’ll have two windows open with separate instances of the game running in both of them. Out of sheer luck (and I can’t explain why), I found that although the first window I would open ran at excessive speeds of 300 frames-per-second, the second window I opened would always run at the proper speed of 40 to 60 frames per second. Yay! So, I would just leave the fast-running window opened on the start menu (but minimized) and play the game at regular speed in the second window. However, this fix may only work if you force the game to run in a window. This can be accomplished easily. In the game directory there is a “config.ini” file. Open it (as a text file, use the Windows built-in program “Notepad”) and find the line that says “fullscreen.” By default, this will be set to “1” which means that fullscreen function is currently turned on. To force the game to run in a window, change the number to “0” (zero), and then save the text document. This will turn the fullscreen function off, and it will make the game boot in a window. Then you can try the fix I mentioned by opening two instances of the game. If you have the “running too fast” problem, you can see it in the start menu itself (without having to enter actual gameplay), because the start menu has the animated title “Kreed: Battle for Savitar” flashing on it—if that title is flashing at epileptic speeds, your game is running too fast. In the second instance of the game, that animated title should lazily weave backwards and forwards, and you’ll know you’ve got the right speed. (By the way, I also installed and booted this game on my regular desktop and never had the “running too fast” problem, so I believe it is something endemic to trying to play the game on a laptop? ) If anyone with more technical know-how than I can shed light on this, please feel free. (NOTE: Probably as a result of my endless grousing about the problem here, someone much smarter than I posted a fix to this on the 3D Shooter Legends website. Google it and on the 3DSL site, type in Savitar on the search bar. The link for the “multicore CPU fix” should still be there. YAY!)

Heck, since you’re at it, there are a few other convenience tweaks you can easily make to the “config.ini” file to enhance your gameplay: Find the line “logos” and change it from “1” to “0” (this turns off the intro logo movies and takes you right to the start menu instead when you boot the game); find the line “permanent selector,” and make sure it is set to “0” (if this is set to “1” you will have a large, unwieldy weapon inventory menu permanently plastered down the left-hand side of your screen (see the first screenshot of this post as an example)—if you like being able to see all your weapons all the time, then OK, but I found this menu obscured too much of my view in game…changing this to “0” turns it off, as is the case with all the other screenshots here).

Ultimately, “Savitar” does make it into the “gem” category, in my book—a game that slipped under my radar, and I’m glad I finally stopped to take notice. Though the character models are ugh, in many other ways it has aged (thus far) fairly well. I really enjoyed the simplicity of the game and its straightforwardness; some of that perspective might be coming from a gameplayer who is now regularly embroiled in the intricacies of leveling-up and multiple-mission-managing strategies of complex titles like “Fallout 3” or “Skyrim” (which, honestly, at times, simply feel like work). But I’ll never grouse about the simplicity of a corridor-crawler, and the generally unknown “Kreed: Battle for Savitar” scratches that itch superbly.

The English patch for this game is located at http://www.devisraad.com/savitar/