For this week's feature series, we’re covering Lord of Rigel’s 1996 mode. The 1996 Mode is a nod to BioShock Infinite’s 1999 mode which was a difficulty setting that significantly increased the difficulty of the game. The title, 1999 Mode, was an allusion to the year that System Shock 2 was released. In a similar fashion, Lord of Rigel's 1996 mode is an allusion to the year when Master of Orion 2 was released and is an incredibly difficult mode for players.
How difficult is it? 1996 mode is an iron man mode where the player gets only a single saved game at a time. If the player loses, it means permadeath - they don’t get to continue on and retry. It’s the ultimate challenge for a strategy game, as actions will have the ultimate repercussions for the species the player chooses to lead.
Other than iron man, what does this mode do? We go back to the old tactic of strategy games using modifiers to beef up the AI - in this case, the AI outright cheats like in older strategy games. Diplomacy faces stiff penalties and AI factions gain massive economic bonuses compared to the players to evoke the incredibly unfair challenge of the impossible modes in old strategy games like Civilization and Master of Orion. To balance off permadeath mixed with an outright cheating AI, 1996 mode gives players the highest end score multiplier of any game type. Playing a custom species with heavy penalties on this mode definitely lets you earn bragging rights on your favorite social media platform!
As a game mode, 1996 mode is purely for grueling challenge and is intentionally not balanced in any way, shape, or form towards the player. This is a mode where fighting tooth and nail for every rock and using every trick in the book is going to be required for victory. It is definitely not recommended for any but the most seasoned and hardened strategy gamer and is also not the recommended mode of play for a normal Lord of Rigel experience. So why are we including it? Mostly because very few games seem to offer it and we want to have a mode that outright embraces some of the insanity behind the scenes in high difficulty modes of older strategy games.
If you want to see which of your friends can face a fleet of 200 Titans and hold out the longest, this is the mode for you. It is not for the faint of heart but those who can win 1996 mode are the real Lords of Rigel!