Game you never played: Liberal Crime Squad

Liberal Crime Squad: Death to All Fanatics!

Liberal Crime Squad Strikes Again!

Liberal Crime Squad Strikes Again!

Background
Back in the 70’s, an extreme leftist terrorist group called the SLA (Symbionese Liberation Army)  kidnapped 19 year old Patty Hearst, (heiress to the Hearst newspaper fortune). Over the course of next few weeks, her kidnappers brainwashed her with abuse, indoctrination, drugs and sex, until Patty became a willing participant, assisting in holdups and making terrorist propaganda.  Yes, this is a real thing that happened. Yes, this is a video game review. Keep reading.

Back in the 80’s, a coder developed Oubliette, an ASCII (graphics made up of text characters) based video game for public distribution on what passed for the internet at that time. Like many game of the time, it was fun, but simultaneously, it was very flawed and quite frustrating at times.

Back in the 90’s, an extremely obsessed coder developed Liberal Crime Squad, based on the Oubliette game system, set in a dystopian near future (technically past, as of 2015) in which the US has been taken over by a conglomerate of borderline fascist Republicans.  If you don’t stop them, they’ll cross that borderline, turn the United States of America into the Conservative Confederate States of America, declare Ronald Reagan the Eternal President, and exterminate anyone who doesn’t vote R or sufficiently worship Toby Keith.

It would be an error to dismiss the LCS as just a one sided political hack job that paints conservatives as straw men.
LCS is really a TWO sided political hack job that paints pretty much everyone as being utterly crazy.

You will prove that the state needs gun control to promote peace; by using said guns to blow away anyone who disagrees with you.  You’ll prove that nuclear power is inherently safe to protect the environment; by sneaking into a nuclear power plant and setting off a meltdown.  And of course, you’ll show your devotion to free speech, the right to privacy and political freedom by kidnapping news anchors, brainwashing them with torture, drugs and sex until you somehow turn Rush Limbaugh into Bill Maher or something. It would be horrible if it wasn’t played for laughs.

The ultimate goal of the game is to cause all the laws in the land to become Elite Liberal. These laws are measured by various issue meters that range from Elite Liberal to Arch Conservative on a five point scale. Some of these have game effects and some pretty horrific implications. At conservative + free speech, the fire department become “The Firemen” and will have a nice bonfire with any liberal publications that appear.  Criminal rights at conservative + levels regularly spawn Deathcops, who roam the street with the authority (and desire) to kill absolutely anyone without trial who is caught violating a law.

Once in a while, congress will propose laws, or the Supreme Court will decide on cases, or the country will have a vote which will move one of these issues a step towards conservatives or liberalism, based on the general opinions of the population. Of course, that means you need the population’s support, and you’ll have to hold it for a long time if you want to change the SCOTUS or the POTUS.

How do you do that? Any way you want to. Liberal Crime Squad provides an impressive number of ways to sway public opinion on nearly any issue.

The first and most obvious is to shoot up a place, which somehow puts the public on your side because reasons. It works, assuming your liberals don’t get killed in the process by the violent fascist forces of the police (who, to be fair, are just defending themselves). A squad of six liberals armed with the liberated conservative tools of destruction can stroll into a talk radio station, gun down everyone they see (running like hell from the cops) and this will somehow convince people that talk radio is bad. You can also do slightly less insane stuff like putting liberal slogans on the air while you hold the station.

You can also create an army of graffiti artists who spray the city with liberal slogans.  Or walk into a bank and convert the brainwashed lackeys of capitalism to the just liberal cause using a liberal’s ultimate weapon: folk music.

You can seduce loyal members of the establishment and leave them as (no pun intended) sleeper agents, giving you vital intelligence, resources, supplies or even just converting people where they work to your cause. You can kidnap them, drug them, and turn them into sleeper agents by torturing them in a clown suit.

You can start a liberal newspaper and bring the truth to the people once you get a bit of cash going: just make sure you keep some guards on the place in case some uncool yokels decide to make their displeasure known with pitchforks, torches and shotguns. And while you are doing that, why not have a couple hackers uncover dark secrets Wikileaks style and print them in the paper?

Of course that needs money for the press, and the pile of guns you’ll need to keep the conservative jerks away from your paper. Maybe you can sell some “brownies”. Or liberate heinously oppressed, unpaid, exploited sweat shop workers from their horrific servitude creating garments to sell and instead set them to glorious voluntary labor to support the cause of freedom and worker solidarity with filthy capitalist dollars.

It is not an easy task to walk the path of the liberal. The game’s utterly random combat system allows aging hippies and yoga instructors to become horribly efficient killers with enough practice, but, generally, even the most liberal of combatant will fall against an unlucky hit from a bullet.
GTA, eat your heart out.

GTA, eat your heart out.

There’s just so much to do and so many ways of doing it in Liberal Crime Squad. You can be an utter pacifist or a violent psychotic thug (sorry, I mean, zealous, differently-abled, warrior of change). You can build a web of connections including hundreds, or become a literal army of one, trying to change the nation by your lonesome.

You can make anything from the reincarnation of Bruce Lee, achieving justice once heart shattering punch at a time (“Now who’s the bleeding heart?”) to an androgynous mind warping polyamorous master of seduction and torture with an army of clown suited axe wielding fire men.  Just keep in mind that it is very easy in this game for something to go horribly wrong and your founder to catch a bullet. The RNG is god.

So what’s the appeal?
Not many games allow propaganda, seduction, theft and infiltration to be as impactful as gunning down a bunch of people, which is nice. But the real draw is the comedy.

The writing is pretty funny at times, but for me, the real comedy appeal is the silliness of the situations. Attempt to mentally picture some of the crazy stuff that goes on in LCS and you can’t help but laugh: guard dogs deciding to throw off their leashes and reject the role of the capitalist running dog;  an actual band of misfit rebel mutants convince a Hanging Judge to change their ways with a heartfelt folk music; a single drop out male former fry cook who’s having a secret affair with two judges, a CEO, a bishop, a cop and a conservative radio talk show host.

On second thought, lets not free the genetic experiments.

On second thought, lets not free the genetic experiments.

Should you play this?
Why not? It’s free. It’s also interesting to designers, who may want to mine this game for ideas, or just observe this “style” of 80’s classic Roguelike. While I play it a bit every few years, I’ll happily admit that the game isn’t for everyone.

First, LCS is ASCII based – it has no real graphics at all. Some people can’t handle that sort of game. Second, the game deals with some genuinely awful topics (domestic terrorism, torture). While I found these aspects played too ridiculous to take seriously, your mileage may vary. Also, the seduction lines are absolutely horrible, though at least everyone in LCS is bisexual… even straight edged conservatives (whether that is lazy coding, or satire is up for debate).

The game also takes a long time (years in game, hours and hours in real life) to finish. LCS also takes some getting used to play. It is miles more approachable than Dwarf Fortress, but that’s not saying very much. If you aren’t willing to give this one a bit of time to figure out its mechanics and the way it works, you probably won’t enjoy it.

Still, it fulfills a particular bizarre niche, and shows what some of the weirder and more ambitious Rogulike RPG’s were like back in the day. Its worth at least checking out, in my opinion.

And it is a vengeful god.

This will not end well.

Resources
The most recent semi-official version is here
The fan base has been working with the code for years and have been making tweaks and adding features. You can find the latest version here.
There is a wiki here, I’d suggest reading it before you get started. It’s very informative, though a few things in the documentation are out of date.

Tips
You can “save scum” by copying the save file in a directory somewhere else. You may want to make a sub directory for this. Alternatively, you can quit the program before it alters the save file in many situations by closing the window.

When making a character, consider taking options that improve seduction. Seduction rises on its own naturally when you have a lover, but it’s VERY hard to get a seduction skill if you don’t have any to start with.

Having a Cop as a sleeper agent means you’ll always get a tip off on a raid before it happens. Its absolutely worth picking up! Sleeper Judges also are pretty useful to have if someone goes to trial.

Liberal Judges and Lawyers tend to have good int and charisma and heart They are a pretty good pick.

If pollution goes to max, mutants start showing up. Mutants are fairly easy to recruit. Most have criminally low stats bordering on uselessness, but there’s a small chance they’ll have freakishly, inhumanly high stats

If you want to play it safe, make a charming hacker with high Int and charisma is a smart move. You can hack computers to get your juice up to 200, recruit a bunch of people as subbosses and have them do the same thing. Then have the sub bosses recruit everyone you need.

It’s really hard to sway the opinion of everyone while the Conservative Crime Squad is in operation. It IS possible to get rid of them through a number of ways.

If you build a newspaper, keep I mind that publishing Secret Government Files/Agency Files will get you branded a “traitor to the state” no matter what the Free Speech level is. Either have a separate building for “illegal” publications, or avoid publishing that stuff if you want to avoid a massive fight.

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