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Penumbra: Black Plague

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Penumbra: Black Plague is the second installment of the Penumbra series of episodic games for the PC developed by Swedish developer Frictional Games. The story continues where the previous episode, Penumbra: Overture, left off. It was released on February 12, 2008.[1]

Gameplay

Black Plague is an exploration-based adventure game that takes place from a fully 3-dimensional, first-person perspective.[2] Although the game is presented as a first-person adventure game, it also contains elements of survival horror gameplay.

Gameplay features a mixture of exploration and solving physical puzzles (the Newton Physics engine allows for many physics puzzles). Combat has been heavily de-emphasized. Players will no longer be able to acquire melee weapons or create makeshift traps to fight enemies with. Instead, the emphasis is on the use of stealth and fleeing to avoid attacks by enemy creatures.

Plot synopsis

Course of the story

The story of Black Plague begins as an email sent by Philip to a friend, explaining what has happened to him and begging him to finish the work he could not. The rest of the game then proceeds as a flashback narrated by Philip to his friend in the email, beginning from where the previous game left off.

The game begins with Philip waking up in a locked room, after being knocked out by an unseen being at the end of the first game. Philip manages to escape via a nearby air-vent, and finds himself in the underground research facility of the Archaic Elevated Caste, a secret organization dedicated to discovering and researching ancient knowledge. The base is abandoned and in ruins, with all its personnel either dead or transformed into "the Infected", fast, zombie-like creatures that attack Philip on sight.

Philip discovers that he has also been infected; however, his reaction to the virus is extremely abnormal; instead of joining the infected hive-mind, he develops a sarcastic, malevolent split-personality that calls itself Clarence who constantly taunts Philip throughout the course of the game.

Via the base's computer network, Philip is contacted by Dr. Amabel Swanson, an Archaic research scientist who has managed to survive the outbreak by locking herself in her lab. Swanson promises to help cure Philip's infection, if he will make his way to her section of the facility and rescue her.

Through dialogue with Swanson, and various scattered documents found throughout the base, Philip learns that the Archaic came to Greenland to look for the "Tuurngait", an ancient entity described in native Inuit mythology as primordial spirits native to the area. Penetrating deep underground, the Archaic found and released the Tuurngait, which manifested as a sentient virus that infected the base's personnel. Philip discovers his father Howard managed to communicate with the Tuurngait, but what he learned drove him to commit suicide after sending Philip a letter ordering him to destroy his research documents.

Philip eventually manages to make his way to Amabel's lab, but Clarence causes him to hallucinate and murder Amabel. Using Amabel's lab notes, Philip manages to rid himself of Clarence by extracting him using a lab machine. However, the machine transfers Clarence into a nearby corpse, which he reanimates and uses to attack Phillip.

Philip is saved by the Tuurngait itself, as several Infected arrive to destroy Clarence, for Clarence now possess an individual body and mind rather than part of "the many" in Tuurngait. The Tuurngait communicates directly with Philip, sending him into his own mind and putting him through a series of spiritual tests designed to test his ability to cooperate, show mercy, and demonstrate self-sacrifice.

Final revelations

Once Philip passes the tests, the Tuurngait reveals all; it is an ancient entity that came to Earth millions of years ago; it once co-existed peacefully alongside the native Inuit, using "Infected" host bodies to pass its ancient knowledge to mankind. However, in time mankind began to grow and expand, and the Tuurngait burrowed underground to separate itself from the human world. When the Archaic came, they disturbed the Tuurngait's ancient slumber and attempted to exploit it, and it fought back against them in self-defense.

The Tuurngait explains that mankind is intelligent and compassionate as individuals, but selfish, petty, and destructive as a whole. However, it believes that Philip is different from most of mankind. The Tuurngait puts itself at Philip's mercy, asking him to send a message to someone above ground, for them to destroy all information regarding the Archaic's research facility so that the Tuurngait may rest in peace. This is the same request the Tuurngait made of Philip's father Howard, however Philip thwarted it by coming to investigate instead of following his father's instructions.

Philip seemingly agrees to the Tuurngait's request, and sends an email to a friend on the surface describing his adventure. However, at the last moment, Philip reveals his desire to exercise his free will, instead of blindly obeying a higher power. Stating that he has more in common with Clarence than with the Tuurngait, Philip gives his friend the coordinates of the mine and tells him to come and destroy the Tuurngait. His last words are: "Kill them. Kill them all."

Development

First intended as a trilogy, the series was reduced to two episodes due to unidentified problems with the previous publisher, Lexicon Entertainment, with the announcement of Penumbra: Black Plague. This episode was published by Paradox Interactive. Frictional Games later announced that Black Plague was to receive an expansion named Requiem, which was released in August 2008.[3]

Reception

Black Plague got a slightly better critical reception than its predecessor, holding a MetaCritic score of 78[4], a MobyGames rank of 79[5], and a GameRankings rank of 78.90%.[6] Like the previous Penumbra episode, it also holds a four out of five stars at The Linux Game Tome.[7]

Penumbra: Black Plague was nominated for a Writers' Guild of Great Britain Award in 2008 for Best Video Game Script.[8]

References

  1. Penumbra to spread to computers again next year. Adventuregamers.com (2007-09-13). Retrieved on 2007-09-20.
  2. Interview With Frictional Games – Penumbra/Amnesia (Tgdb.nl)
  3. http://gameplayer.se/news.php?pub_id=10663 News article from Gameplayer.se (swedish)
  4. Penumbra: Black Plague - MetaCritic
  5. Penumbra: Black Plague at MobyGames
  6. Penumbra: Black Plague - GameRankings
  7. Penumbra: Black Plague - The Linux Game Tome
  8. http://www.writersguild.org.uk/public/003_WritersGuil/261_WGGBNewsWGG.html Writers' Guild of Great Britain Awards shortlist

External links

Template:Frictional gamesfr:Penumbra: Black Plague

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