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Game Series System Shock series
First Appearance System Shock 2
Species: Artificial intelligence
Voice Actor(s): Stephen Russell

XERXES (voiced by Stephen Russell) is the primary computer system of the starship Von Braun in the computer game System Shock 2.

Overview[edit | edit source]

A third generation Artificial Intelligence, XERXES was one of the first Master System AIs created since the AI SHODAN went insane and took over the Citadel space station 42 years earlier. As a result of public fear and distrust of true AIs, his intellectual capacity - though almost as high as his predecessor, SHODAN's - was limited to mere calculation and system-running to prevent true awareness.

However, during the first voyage of the Von Braun, a signal was received from the planet Tau Ceti V. In a rush to make First contact (and to acquire all commercially exploitable rights thereof), CEO Anatoly Korenchkin led an expedition down to the planet surface and discovered a crater, containing a number of large eggs. Though unknown at the time, these were created by the collective entity known as The Many. Once under the Many's control, Korenchkin used his and the crew's collective knowledge to effectively reprogram XERXES to suit the Many's purposes.

Fortunately, XERXES' remaining safety protocols and decreased intelligence made him a poor match against his predecessor, SHODAN. However, he had the Many on his side and almost complete control of the ship. SHODAN was forced to remain hidden (communicating under the guise of Doctor Janice Polito) until she was assisted into the ship's computers by an unnamed soldier from the UNN Rickenbacker, the military ship piggy-backed to the Von Braun.

Unlike SHODAN, XERXES was not truly self-aware. He can be heard carrying out automatic functions and tasks, such as announcements and alerts, in spite of the ship and crew's situation. For example, he announced (to the mangled corpses in the ship's mall) "Tri-Optimum reminds you that there are only one-hundred-sixty-three shopping days until Christmas. Just 1 extra work cycle twice a week will give you the spending money you need to make this holiday a very special one". His face and voice give him the appearance of an elderly man and remained calm throughout the course of the catastrophe, with the only apparent changes in tone or emotion appearing when he was attacked by SHODAN.

XERXES-controlled enemies[edit | edit source]

While the most often encountered enemies in the game are those who make up The Many, XERXES also has some forces under his control, although they are still working - through XERXES - for The Many.

Security[edit | edit source]

The security system consists of cameras and turrets. Cameras can detect the player and sound the alarm, if he/she stays in their view for too long. This causes numerous enemies to spawn and hunt down the player. The alert can be stopped early by either using a special alarm-stopping psi ability, or by hacking a functional security terminal, if one is nearby. Failing that, the player will either have to run, or survive until the alert times out.

Three classes of defensive turret exist on the Von Braun; Slug Thrower (grey), Laser (blue) and Rocket (dark yellow). Each one has stronger armor than the previous model. A turret will typically lie dormant, until the player comes within range or within line-of-sight, when it will open up and start attacking. The UNN Rickenbacker has a number of long, arm-like laser turrets positioned in various areas. These simply point at the target and fire, taking less time to become active from a dormant state.

Security can be hacked to disable the cameras and turrets, however, a critical failure in hacking security will activate the alarms, as well as breaking the terminal so that the alert cannot be easily switched off. When security is disabled, turrets can be safely hacked, and will automatically activate and attack enemies of the player. Some players have been able to hack active turrets by constantly moving to stay out of the way of the turrets gun. A critical failure while hacking a turret will activate the turret and the alarms, but will not damage the turret.

Robots[edit | edit source]

The robots in System Shock 2 are generally larger and less maneuverable than the robots faced in the first game, and none have the ability to hover or fly. Their danger is enhanced somewhat, however, by the relative rarity of armor piercing ammunition, and EMP weaponry.

Utility robots[edit | edit source]

The three main types of robots are the Maintenance, Security and Military Police robots. Each has a similar chassis: About six-seven feet tall, highly bulky, bipedal, and slow moving. Each class has stronger armor and a deeper "robotic" voice than the previous models. Each class has speech relevant to their duties.

The yellow "Beaver" model Maintenance robots attack with a welding device that can shoot sparks. The grey Security robots attack with lasers, which fly very quickly and do more damage, making them more accurate and deadly. The green Military Police robots fire powerful Fusion Cannon shots. These shots are relatively slow, and more easily dodged than the shots of the other robots. The rather significant blast radius of the shots, however, helps make up for this fact.

Protocol Droids[edit | edit source]

The Protocol droids were originally designed to be chatty, friendly, and helpful, and have a relatively humanoid shape. They have been reprogrammed however, to act as robotic suicide bombers, walking up to a target - while spouting friendly speech - and detonating their power cores - which are unstable, due to a design fault.

Cyborg Assassins[edit | edit source]

Cyborg Assassins originated in System Shock, and have the appearance of stereotypical ninja. In System Shock 2, they are largely unchanged but move more quickly, emit "cybernetic" chattering noises, and lack the sniper rifle attack of their SS1 counterparts. They still retain their shuriken attack. A log left by Anatoly Korenchkin makes reference to their use, as though it is not unusual for a high powered executive to use assassins. Whether they were used as such during the time of the first game is never explained.