When East Met West: The Pact of Steel

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Released
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Size
90.4 KB
Rating
5.00 / 5.00
(2 Reviews)
Board Count
66 / 68
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Date
6 months, 3 weeks ago (Nov 04, 2023)
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When East Met West is an ambitious game, but also quite buggy. Here are merely the bugs to watch out for during gameplay to avoid "softlocks" which render the game impossible to win and force you to restart, reload a save or cheat.

(WARNING: Accessing the board list through the links may spoil major plot points via board names.)

  • In the Berlin apartment, the tea kettle on the stove implodes to reveal a required item using two animated objects. However, neither of these objects disable their touch code when animating, so touching them will stop the animation and prevent the required item from ever appearing.
  • The RPG battle will freeze entirely if you close the window without picking a choice, because the dialog box is never looped.
  • In the ruins, after talking to Louise, she will give you a Yes/No prompt during the following scene which differs depending on whether or not you have a tape measure, but which is not looped in either case. If you don't have a tape measure, closing the dialog box without selecting a choice will softlock the game because the flag required for it to be invoked again will never be set. If you have one, selecting "no" or closing the dialog box without picking a choice will softlock the game because the object will never unlock itself, and selecting "no" will also jump to part of her cutscene animation and get her stuck because it uses the same label as what it's supposed to jump to.
  • The man at the boat is supposed to get shot and then give you a map before he dies, but his object is locked before his assassins appear, so not only is he never shot, the game never lets you retrieve the map from him. Thankfully, the game never sets a flag for the item and merely assumes that you have it, so you can just go in the boat afterward.
  • The boat encounter with the Russian naval captain will softlock the game if you do not select a choice because his dialog boxes are never looped.
  • The blue "Chief Scientist" in the Robotics Centre can be shot before he is supposed to be, softlocking the game because you can only access the robot by talking to him. The "down" button for the robot also waits for six cycles to unlock itself after being pressed unlike the others, which is long enough to ignore the command sent to make it disappear when you free the green key, so you must wait a brief moment before moving the robot east to solve the puzzle.
  • The encounter with the head scientist at the Research Centre will softlock the game if you do not select an option because his dialog boxes never loop. In addition, although he runs toward the player to begin his scene, his subsequent movement code to initiate the warhead sequence relies on him standing directly east of the central machine when it starts. If he started his scene on any row north or south of the machine, he will run all the way to the west, and then run south and get himself stuck, so the warhead sequence will never begin.
  • Accessing the Cryogenics Lab through the Research Centre jail rather than the Centre itself is supposed to make it impossible to solve the control panel puzzle as intended because the hero does not know what the password is; entering the wrong password will lock you out from any further attempts. However, this fails to account for the player already knowing what the correct password is and entering it to gain access, so the cutscene code for solving the puzzle assumes the head scientist led you here and is in the room. The result is that if you go on to solve the puzzle, his object will be in the wrong position to start the cutscene and get stuck, softlocking the game.
  • If you run to the desks to either side of the bunker in Finland before the man inside gives his speech, you will be locked in with them by the objects meant to prevent this from happening.
Submitted By
Date
2 years, 4 months ago (Jan 26, 2022)
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When East Met West: The Pact of Steel is a historical spy thriller set near the end of World War II, after the fall of Nazi Germany, that starts with the leading research scientist on the United States' atomic bomb project attempting to defect to the Soviet Union with his research plans. He is assassinated before he can, but the plans go missing, so now the player character, a British agent, must race against time to recover them before the Soviets do. This is innovative all by itself, as this marks the first serious attempt to create historical fiction within the ZZT engine, and in particular a work of historical fiction set in an era still in living memory at the time of its release.

However, it also instills a sense of excitement like a real thriller should, with multiple action set pieces, dramatic moments and plot twists that drive the player forward on the quest for answers, take them all over Europe between the United Kingdom and the U.S.S.R., and ultimately leave them with a different understanding of what's going on than they had when the game started. As can be expected from a community that consisted mainly of young creators at the time, of course, the story becomes increasingly over-the-top and ahistorical as it progresses. In particular, the eponymous "Pact of Steel" revealed near the end is wildly unlikely given the parties to the pact were enemies in real life, unlike those of the historical Pact of Steel. Still, the overall result reads like a well-written piece of pulp fiction that never stops delivering thrilling action and political intrigue, and leaves the player wanting to know what happens next.

The game also uses a strong STK graphical style that is only matched or beaten by the Interactive Fantasies games released at the time such as King's Quest ZZT. In particular, the game uses blends implying colors not normally possible in MS-DOS' text mode to suggest more realistic places than usual, alongside beautiful art boards serving occasionally as establishing shots, and powerful ending scenes that include a unique use of red slime to indicate growing Soviet dominance over the globe (should you fail in your mission). This realism does break down at times, however: at one point, you visit Lenin's Mausoleum, where you discover that he was apparently a giant. Later on, there's a pair of staircases drawn similarly out of scale compared to your character, at a perspective resulting in you having to climb the banisters of the stairs instead of the stairs themselves. Despite this, the effort at graphical realism is noticeable in an era where most creators did not attempt realistic settings to begin with.

Nothing is perfect, though, and this game is no exception. First, the dialog includes numerous typos that are not all attributable to the creator being British and writing in British English (unlike what Upload.txt says), and a "Haggling Shop Owner" in Madrid who speaks in a ridiculous dialect that more closely resembles gibberish. Second and most important, however, the game is incredibly buggy. Every single board allows for shooting, including scenes of drama where no shooting is expected, and the frequent use of breakables as structure means the player can frequently take unintended shortcuts. None of the choice prompts are looped, which means pressing Enter without picking a choice can sometimes softlock the game. Other ZZT-OOP errors allow you to softlock it in ways such as interrupting animations while they're playing, not waiting a few seconds after piloting a robot southward to use it to push boulders (or not killing guards before piloting it), or letting someone run up to you in the wrong spot on the board. All of these issues can be circumvented, but some thorough playtesting would have helped to make this game more polished.

Taken as a complete package, When East Met West: The Pact of Steel is an enjoyable and exciting affair that will last you for the half-hour it may take to finish it. Try it as soon as you can! Just be very careful when the game is doing anything more complex than dialog scenes, and don't touch a tea kettle when it's warming up.

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Submitted By
Commodore
Date
21 years, 2 months ago (Mar 24, 2003)
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Simply one of the most original and fun games ZZT has to offer. Fun and varied spy type gameplay combined with strong polt-oriented action makes for a very enjoyable game that makes you want to play through to the end. The graphics range from glorious (Atomic blast, various cities) to aburdly not grounded in reality (Lenin's body is huge! and you climb the banister of the profile of stairs.) All of the buildings you walk around at drawn completely from the top down, giving no element of 3-d. This really only looks odd because of the wide varity of colours used and it seems like it would be more condusive to graphics with depth. Still, a wonderful game that grabs you and pulls you into it's atmosphere. Top notch!

Rating
5.00 / 5.00

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