System Shock 2: The horrors of hydroponics

(This is part of my journey playing through System Shock 2. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

h1Welcome to deck 3, hydroponics.  Man, at this rate it’s going to take me the better part of 2014 to get through these ships (and there are TWO of them!).  The theme of hydroponics is “aliens, worms, and cybernetic horror.”  Good times.

h2Hydroponics is crawling (well, walking) with midwives, whose speech patterns are even MORE disturbing than the hybrids.  Sample: “Babies love to sleep.  Babies need to rest.”  I’m just about done with the wrench, considering that everything’s shooting at me now.  I’m investing in repair skill so that I can keep my guns up to snuff, but man they degrade really quickly.

h3The main goal of hydroponics is to find these toxin vials (four in all) and jam them into environmental regulators so that they’ll kill off the biomass in the elevator shaft.  Unfortunately for me, this means that I have to figure out the game’s research system, since you can’t use the toxin until you research it.  This involves not only spending precious cyber modules on research levels, but finding certain chemicals and waiting around a long, long time until the research process is complete.  Gameplay!

h4There’s a heavy dose of Aliens (the movie franchise) going on here, because developers are lazy and love to rehash eggs, facehuggers, the whole bit.  The eggs and the little worms that come out aren’t huge hazards, other than jacking up my toxin levels.

I did find this one section, cold storage, to be really beautiful in the design.  Even with the rougher polygons of the late 90s, the ship still looks great.  Character models, eh, but the ship is pretty neat.

h5Through all of the PDAs found on this level, the true horror emerges.  I guess the Many got to at least one doctor, who used his influence to get a bunch of ladies sent up so that he could transform them into Midwives.  Several of the voice logs feature people in mid-transformation, documenting their agony and bliss.  I think we need to plow this ship into the sun and be done with it.

h6At least my arsenal continues to grow.  I not only pick up an assault rifle in good condition and a grenade launcher, but this handy laser pistol.  I did have to dump some points into energy weapons to use it, but I consider that a good investment since the pistol can be recharged for free at any recharging station.  It’s good for a few fights at least, and those are fights I’m not using up the rest of my ammo.  Here I am taking on a mech, and that mech is TOAST.

h7Ew, cleanup on aisle everything.  I repeat, cleanup on aisle everything!

All in all, hydroponics isn’t that tough of a level.  I really have my System Shock 2 game legs now and am not tip-toeing through the levels but striding boldly with the weight of righteous vengeance on me.  With all four toxins injected into the system, the biomass clears up (or so the good doctor tells me over the com) and I’m ready to go meet her on deck 4.  Could the game almost be over?

Screenshot Thursday!

LOTRO still has it in the visuals department… one last landscape photo of Rohan before I cross over into Gondor. Dang that’s pretty.
And here’s me on the other side of the Paths of the Dead. Scary door, not-so-scary interior.
I would’ve been playing through Entanglement last night, but the WildStar/GW2 servers were being crushed under a DDOS attack. Got this groovy screenshot at least. Viney!
I have the thundercloud sky in my housing plot in WildStar, and I love these little clouds that float by. Cartoony is NOT a bad style decision, at least in my book.
Second shiphand mission upon which I met this very, very happy skeleton. With eyes. I might make this my new avatar. Reminds me a bit of the Mars Attacks guys.
Got this “sad face” portrait in one of my boomboxes — and I am really engrossed with it. My theory is that someone made this from a doodle a WildStar artist did one day.

System Shock 2: Power to the person

(This is part of my journey playing through System Shock 2. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

ss1My parents always told me that nothing worthwhile ever comes easy, so just suck it up and pay the price.  This is definitely my maxim as I go through the bowels of this starship trying to flip on the power.  You’d think, with video game logic, that there should be one big button somewhere, but no, the developers apparently designed an actual starship in all of its complexity, broke it, and left the players to piece it back together.

So I head to this cargo shuttle bay in my efforts to replace a missing circuit board.  You can’t see it now, as this is the peaceful aftermath, but there were exploding barrels, radiation, turrets, a shotgun hybrid, and (why not) one of those psychic monkeys.  And me and my wrench.

ss2On my way to command control, another one of those ghosts appears and relives his final moments — he blows out his brains to avoid becoming a hybrid like the others.  Hey, that’s encouraging!  Why couldn’t you be one of those ghosts that appears to give me a thumbs up and a “you can do it”?

ss3Circuit board in place!  I wouldn’t be surprised if System Shock 2 demanded that I actually learn a programming language to make it work at this point.

ss4On my way back to fluidics control, I come across this poor creature in a room below decks.  He shuffles up and says his not-so-intimidating line, then just stares up at me, almost begging me to kill him.  I am really impressed that the game has these mobs’ heads track up like that, considering the year this was made.  And yes, I grant him his wish.

ss5Fluidics controls (whatever those are) are now online!  So I’ve got the power back, yes?


no.  Of course not.  Remember what we’re playing?

ss6All fluidics controls does for me is to flush radiation out of the tubes at the beginning of the level and pave the way to the engine core.  I’ll save you the boring run-around, but this area involves going between the two nacelle sections to reactivate them, THEN turning the core back online.  All this, I might remind you, is done merely to turn on the elevator.

wormsThe engine core is also home to a nest of writhing worms, because this game loves to gross me out.

midThe power does have one added benefit, which is to activate a pair of small lifts that take me down to… I really don’t know what to call this area, but it’s a long, long corridor with windows at the very bottom of the ship.  There are some mobs, some turrets, and some goodies to grab.  It’s here that I bump into my very first midwife, which is a cybernetically transformed lady with a ghoulish face.  Oh, and she can shoot… something… at me, making me long for the days of pipe-wielding hybrids.

At least I can use the elevator now, skipping over levels full of undescribable horrors to get right to level 4 and the good doctor, yes?


no.  Of course not.

shaftThere’s a “biomass” blocking the shaft above level 3, so the elevator dumps me off at hydroponics.  I’m sure this won’t involve any sort of plant-human monstrosities.  Maybe I just shouldn’t get off the lift?

TSW: So someone at Funcom is a big origami nerd

loveThis is Gozen.  Gozen has been in love.  And Gozen thinks that her past love affair is a really good reason to send us players on a silly mission across a Filth-infested Tokyo to deliver some origami book to someone who stood up someone else in her restaurant.  Sorry Gozen, but as far as quest motivations go, I am really not buying this one.

Anyway, our weekly Secret World group was incredibly excited to do this new investigation quest, Love and Origami, because, y’know, origami!  I used to be huge into origami back in… uh… 2003 or so?  Like, I have a shelf full of origami books and those origami-of-the-day calendars.  It was fun and I regret getting out of the habit.  But any opportunity to do an MMO mission in which we had to make cute little paper critters in real life, that had to be worth something, yes?

So imagine our disappointment when the quest really boils down to a series of translation challenges.  I mean, there’s a loose theme of origami, but you never have to make one.  You just need to keep translating kanji, which we did via Google Translate’s neat tool that lets you doodle characters and create them for you.  So we hunkered down to do a mess of translating, and by “we” I mean “other people in the group because I was making origami because darn it, I’m not going to bed until I make a paper animal.”

origamiAww isn’t it beautiful?  It’s nice of TSW to give players an in-game guide to many origami folds, I just wish it had been a part of the mission instead of its motif.

The story also ended very anticlimacticaly, with us finding the final origami and getting some juicy rewards.  We did discover that the guy who stood the girl up at the bar was the crazy kid from the main storyline, the guy who is in the apartment with a tin foil hat and all that.  That’s interesting, but it really illustrates how TSW needs closing cutscenes to tie up these missions instead of just ending abruptly as they often do outside of the main storyline.  Stories need good endings, people!

The Walking Dead: In Harm’s Way thoughts

in-harms-way_01If your path is predestined by the game gods (devs), does that mean that your choices don’t matter?  Or does that mean that they matter more than ever, because how you get there is more important than where you end up?

I’m kind of feeling that Telltale Games’ philosophy is all about the latter, especially having played through the third episode of The Walking Dead Season 2.  Like pretty much every episode in the series so far, it’s unrelentingly grim, this time throwing Clementine’s group into a horrible situation in the midst of another horrible situation.

The sociopath leader Carver has finally caught up and captured the group, partially because he couldn’t abide their escape from his fortress and mostly because Rebecca is pregnant with (probably) his child.  Carver is undoubtably one of the most chilling villains that this series has produced to date, as he’s got that mix of genial charm that lulls you into false security before he shows how much of a remorseless killer, torturer, and all-around jerk.

Carver takes the group back to his HQ at Howe’s Hardware, a place that would actually be a great hideout from the zombie epidemic if it wasn’t for the horrible concentration camp atmosphere.  There’s little doubt or debate among the group that they must escape once more, the only question is how to do it and how to survive until that moment arrives.

Clementine continues to be a very different type of protagonist.  Her youth makes it hard for the grown-ups to always take her at face value, but she’s got sneaking around skills that are invaluable as well as some decent combat moves.  I just feel bad that she can’t ever seem to get a break, being thrust among people that aren’t too stable or trustworthy (Kenny, you got anger issues, dude) and coming up against even worse folks.  One would think that a worldwide disaster like this would get people to band together for survival and be more in a helpful than destructive mood, but oh well.

It wasn’t hard to slip into Clem’s head for this episode.  I played her as quietly simmering with anger.  She’s had it with the way everyone’s treating each other and her.  In most dialogue exchanges, particularly with Carver, Reggie, and Bonnie, she didn’t say anything at all, just looked evil dead in the eye and waited for her chance.

The big choices here aren’t terribly big nor were they agonizing to choose between.  There was one tacked on at the end that indicated that Clem could be going down the same path that Carver did, but even though the game wants me to think so, I’m not buying it.  Clem wants justice.  She wants safety and freedom and family.  And she’s bone-weary about all of these things being taken away from her time and again.

One of the best new characters in this episode was Jane, a woman of few words and great abilities.  You could tell from the get-go that she had an unbowed spirit and street smarts, and her shining moment at the end showed me that she’s got great potential as an ally.  Reminds me a lot of Molly, to be honest.

I’m more than a little concerned where the game is going from here.  I wish everyone could just settle down and live, but that wouldn’t be much of a game, would it?  So they’re on the move once again, with one major threat vanquished but who knows how many to come.

WildStar tip: Constant casting

Just a quick tip that I found out today (but probably everyone else knows).  There’s this handy option in the combat menu:

holdSo when that’s checked, you can hold down one of your skill buttons and it’ll keep firing off again and again.  I’m finding that this is AWESOME for basic attacks/builders, as I was getting sick of jamming on a single key repeatedly.

Anyway, wanted to share.

Battle Bards Episode 31: Listener Request 2

In this episode of Battle Bards, the hosts face their greatest threat yet: fire!  Yes, this show was disrupted by a genuine fire emergency, but happily everyone came out of it unscathed.  In other news, the bards tackle the second part of a series focusing on listener suggestions.  Good music and great discussion abounds in this show, so don’t miss out!

Episode 31 show notes

  • Intro (featuring “The Hero’s Call” from Ultima Forever)
  • “A Euology for Hope” from Warhammer Online (suggested by Thomas)
  • “Answers” from Final Fantasy XIV (suggested by CariMac)
  • “Harababuresti Dances” from The Secret World (suggested by Richard Bartle)
  • “Glorious Future” from EVE Online (suggested by Mika)
  • “Theme for Rohan feat. Taylor Davis” from Lord of the Rings Online (suggested by Redbeard)
  • “Vigilant Church Theme” from WildStar (suggested by Nightmare System)
  • What did we like the best?
  • Mail from Redbeard
  • Outro (featuring “Disband Deed” from Wurm Online)

Listen to episode 31 now!