The Orion Conspiracy (1995)

The Orion Conspiracy (1995), developed by Divide by Zero LTD, published by Domark Software Inc.

The Orion Conspiracy begins with a death. Space station Cerberus is stationed next to a huge black hole, which claims a victim when a scientist gets sucked in during a routine probe inspection. Then sometime later, the father of the victim, Devlin McCormack (voiced by Patrick Mower of Emmerdale fame), arrives the station to attend the memorial service held in his son's honour.

Devlin doesn't feel terribly welcome, as the head of security of the base is an asshole, who flat out calls him psycho on the grounds of things that happened during corporation wars a couple of years in the past. And the remaining crew of 19 people on the station are more or less on the edge, mostly just wanting to do their job til, they get out. The situation is a bit tense, as there are two formerly rivalling corporations working at the station, so there's some leering going on.

After the service is over, McCormack is sulking in his cabin when a note is passed under his door. It simply states, that his son's death was no accident and that he should look into it. As he is a man, who has lost everything, first his job, then his wife and now his sons, he wows to look at the bottom of the case. Armed with the notion of revenge, he ventures worth to seek the killer of his son.

The Cerberus station

While the Orion Conspiracy is a point 'n' click game, and a pretty traditional one at that as well, it does try to be more of a story driven game than what adventures normally were in the 1990's. At first, a lot of the progression is done simply by walking all around the huge station and talking to people, trying to figure out what might have happened. the puzzles are fairly simple, but a couple of more let's say cerebral adventure game type puzzles, do stand out in a bad way and feel like they were put in after the developers noticed, that they didn't really have that many traditional adventure puzzles.

The UI is smart cursor driven. If an object on screen has only one function, that is most of the time an examine command, which allows McCormack to tell what he sees. On multiple function objects, you get a separate popup menu, that allows you to look, operate, search or use an object in the selected hotspot. On some occasions, one basic item is already selected for the interaction, for example, a key for a lock if you happen to have the key in your possession. The system doesn't however, give away a full solution to puzzles, as at times you might need to use multiple items, so you still need to use some thinking on what to use at times.

The story is okay, not groundbreakingly great, but decent for what it is. It does suffer from the fact, that despite the game does try to be a more narrative-driven adventure, it manages to muddle itself at times, making it feel like there's thing missing from the overall structure, like if you've missed something or that if something was just cut out from the game because of budget constraints.
The pacing is somewhat problematic.

The dialogue is at times trying to be almost hilariously edgy. There's quite a bit of swearing in the game and one character even throws around racial slurs and one confrontation is about homosexuality in a fashion only 1990's could muster up.  All in all, the writing is a tad uneven on this area, which is a shame considering how important talking is for the gameplay itself.

As far voice acting goes, it is surprisingly good, especially for a mid-1990's title. The actors aren't people with huge name recognition, though I must admit I did recognise Mower's voice while I couldn't place it before I checked his IMDB page and found out he's in Emmerdale. As a note though, the game isn't in IMDB at all, so it's not visible on any of the actor's resumes.

Gameplay wise, there's one big problem which prevented me from enjoying the game. The problem is, that you need to walk a lot around the base, talking to people and picking up junk. this is a tedious task, as you need to travel between floors with an elevator and the floors themselves are fairly large not to mention a bit monotonous experience with similar looking corridors. If there'd be a better navigation system, I would have enjoyed the game more, despite the issues it had with the script and pacing. Perhaps the pacing would have improved as well with a better navigation system, who knows.

The Orion Conspiracy is one of those game, which will most likely fall into oblivion. It's not really a great game, despite it does have some charm about it. It simply is a mediocre, on the edges rough game, belonging in the category of things that could have been good, but didn't quite manage to get there.

As far I know, the Orion Conspiracy is not sold anywhere at the moment. Who knows, it might be one of those titles companies like Night Dive might bring back at some point. They have already re-published games like Noctropolis and I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, so why not this as well.

But until that happens, you just need to scrounge other sources.