System Shock 2 - Available from GOG and an Interview
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February 15th, 2013, 22:18
The primary reason System Shock is superior is the non-linear level design. Most of Citadel station is open for exploration from the early stages - and you can complete the various subgoals in the order of your choosing, for the most part.
I consider System Shock one of the best "dungeon" designs of all time - with a very elaborate and logical layout. I love how you can "discover" the story in your own way, and that every bit of exposition isn't forced down your throat as you progress in a linear fashion. That's EXACTLY how it would be - if you were to find yourself in a similar situation in reality.
Beyond that, System Shock doesn't suffer from having the awful "The Many" level of SS2 - and I'd say the plot is very tight - where as SS2 is a bit of a stretch.
Considering time of release and design innovation - SS2 simply isn't in the same league as the prequel.
That said, I do prefer the RPG system of SS2 - and I consider that a significant improvement.