System Shock 2: What’s up, Watts?

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

monkeyAlready I’m starting to dread that horrible monkey sound in this game, because I know that before too long I’m going to have some teed off primate tossing psychic poo in my face.  Listen, monkey, I never did anything to you.  I’m an innocent pawn in this messed-up world.

Of course, if I had an angry face grafted onto my belly, I’d probably be indiscriminately angry.  Great PDA quote: “Does anyone have any idea how much crap 150 monkeys make in a day?”

I start today’s session by moving down a corridor, which is obviously a horrible sin because a turret and a monkey start shooting at me.  Then it gets better when I duck into a nearby room, because Mr. Security Camera whips up a gaggle of opposition for me.  So alarms, monkeys screaming, and voices spouting out mad jibberish fill my ears with happy fun time.

It’s also disconcerting when the hybrids attack while screaming, “I’m soRRRYy!”  Sorry doesn’t get me a new jaw, pal.

As I plunge into the crew quarters, the PDAs that I pick up continue to unravel the backstory leading up to the events of this broken ship.  One PDA talks about a guy who dies with the parasite attached and then resurrects (a hybrid), while another discusses “first contact” on a nearby planet.

artIn a neat little touch, the game lets me fiddle with an art projector to show different scenes in a guy’s quarters.  Another room has a grenade launcher, which totally makes me happy until I find out it’s jammed.  I pull out the grenades and toss the launcher — my inventory is too full as it is.  Far better than that, however, is an armory room that decks me out with an assault rifle and lots of ammo.  Have I mentioned that I need more space in my inventory?  I hate not being able to hold everything.

armoryAround the same area are a few upgrade machines.  One gives me the choice between several awesome perks, but I choose to get three more inventory slots because of my whining above.  I also beef up my strength and health.  Watch out world, here I come!

toiletMoving on to more crew quarters, I’m a little dismayed to see the bottom section flooding with water.  Because outer space is a big ocean and the ship is sinking?  I guess?

Or perhaps this toilet is overflowing really, really badly.  It’s all the janitor’s fault, I knew it!

wattsOur goal here is to find the elusive Dr. Watts.  He’s not in his room (really, why would he be at a time like this?) but his R&D access card is.  Score!

Quote of the Day: Cynics

“This post is ask gamers one thing: don’t be so cynical. Of course games can be even more awesome. Of course developers can improve their methods. Of course players’ rights are important. Admitting any one of those things doesn’t deny any participant said things because this isn’t a zero sum game. We’re not suddenly evil just because we can afford to improve.”

~XP Chronicles

This summer’s starting to heat up!

yeahWhew… I’m back!  And it looks like, for once, the MMO world didn’t implode/explode/morph without me.  Good to know.  As much as I like going on mission trip, it’s nice to have it behind me so that I can stop stressing about it and start enjoying the remainder of the summer.

And what a summer it’s shaping up to be, yes?  While there are no major launches on the horizon, studios are definitely not slacking in giving me options of what to play:

  • WildStar: Even as I rolled a new Spellslinger last night and resigned myself to the fact that I’ll never see a hoverboard at level 25, nevermind hit the level cap, Carbine’s getting ready to push the Strain out in early July with tons of endgame content.  That’s fine with me — I have more than enough to do right now, and knowing that there’s fun stuff ahead waiting for me is comforting.  For the record, I really like the goofy plague theme.
  • LOTRO: My sabbatical from this title continues, although the upcoming Update 14 might drag me back in for a night or two a week.  We’re starting a new epic book and heading into Gondor (finally), and the Paths of the Dead are begging to be explored.
  • The Secret World: Our group continues to explore Issue 9 on a weekly basis, although we don’t think that we have much left to do before repeating missions.  I don’t have any idea when Issue 10 will release, although I thought I remembered Funcom mentioning mid-summer, which would be terrific.
  • Guild Wars 2: Season 2 begins tomorrow, and I’m actually a little giddy about it.  I very much applaud the Journal feature for the story, as it’s attempting to solve two big problems that the game had with season 1 (a lack of a cohesive, followable story and temporary content).  I’ll probably just keep playing my Engineer for the forseeable future.  Would be nice to finally finish mapping the WvW zones by the game’s second anniversary, but I never seem to have much luck in that department.

Outside of those games that are immediately of interest to me, RIFT just announced its second expansion and Landmark continues to develop nicely.  Both are of fringe appeal to me right now, but one never knows.  I’m also following ArcheAge’s alpha/beta closely, looking to see what Trion may be doing to cut down on the toxic community already developing.

Tack on a ton of new books coming out in July and way more TV/movies than I have time to do, and at least I won’t be bored during what entertainment time that I have.  No complaints here!

Your guide to surviving a week without Bio Break

calvinIf you’re reading this, I am no longer with you.  Now that you’ve gotten in your daily allotment of gasping, let me say that I’ll be back — I’m merely on my yearly mission trip with a gaggle of teenagers.  But this week there will be no further posts on Bio Break, a fact which may cause consternation and withdrawal symptoms among my loyal readers.

So if you’re really jonesing so hard for something to fill in the gap, here are a few recommendations:

1. Read my stuff on Massively I did pre-write a few columns that will come out this week over on Massively, stuff that is so majestically worded that it will make you weep uncontrollably.  If a loved one comes in, blame it on allergies.

2. Discover a few new bloggers.  Over on the right there is my blogroll, which isn’t just there because I’m playing some sort of intense game of Tetris that uses words, but has a collection of surprisingly good writers for you to check out.  Do it!

3. Catch up on Battle Bards It’s not only the world’s best MMO music podcast, it’s the world’s only MMO music podcast!  We have 29 excellent episodes for you to listen to, including World of Warcraft, Dead MMOs, and WildStar.  Have you listened to them all?  Have you listened to them all twice?

4. Go through one of my retro gaming series Whether it’s Planescape Torment, Space Quest, or Gabriel Knight 2, the Nostalgia Lanes page has links to several series playing through these classic games.

5. Form a support group in the comments section of this post.  I’m appointing Rowan as your designated group therapist.  I’m sure this will be a surprise to him as it is to you.

System Shock 2: Medical malpractice

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

ss1One super-nice thing about playing System Shock these days is how lightning-fast the game loads up.  Like, seconds from clicking the icon to being in the game proper.  And no performance issues to speak of, even with everything maxed out.

I finish exploring this side of the level, which has a few enemies but not much else left.  “We… we do NOT welcome YOU!” a shotgun-toting hybrid growls at me.  If you get the opportunity to hang around and observe these guys without being attacked, they do say pretty disturbing things in disturbing tones.

A couple of the PDAs that I pick up talk about coolant and radiation leaks down in Engineering, and how the ship shouldn’t have launched as it was.  Looking around, I’m like… yeah.  Probably not the best call.  Way to go, humanity.

ss2I’m getting better at leaning around corners to see if there’s one of Xerxes security cameras, and if so, swapping to a pistol to take that out.  Otherwise, I’m strictly a wrench boy right now.  Need to conserve as much ammo as possible.

ss3With the charged power cell that I got in the last session, I open up a locked door and head into the Medical section of the deck.  Nothing but smooth sailing from here, right?  “Intruder in Medical section A,” Xerxes blares.  “The Many wish to know your intentions.”  He goes on to ask why I’m doing the bidding of the creature who wants to destroy us all.  First of all, spoilers!  And second, it’s not like Xerxes is doing me a solid here.  Help me out and then I’ll become an X-Man, okay?

ss4I find a room with a surgical room that can heal me up to full, but the downside is that there are two monkeys here that start blasting me with mental bolts or something.  Monkeys can do that now?  That seems decidedly unfair.  Fortunately, these monkeys are limited in movement by the game’s technology and aren’t swinging from the ceilings and ducking into vents like it’s the Ship of the Apes.  Small favors.  There’s an amusing PDA where a medical guy is dismissing preposterous claims that the monkeys are chatting with each other psychically.  It’s less amusing to see all of the monkeys splayed out on dissection tables.

ss5The good doctor gets on the com to tell me that there some sort of pseudo-scientific explanation for me seeing ghosts.  Yeah, whatever.  So you’re saying it’s all in my head, just for a good reason?

This part of medical is certainly more hostile.  I’m not only bumping into hybrids and monkeys that can shoot, but several rooms are doused in radiation.

ss6Yeah, that’s inviting.  Since I don’t have any protective gear, I have the choice to skip or to dash in and inject myself with the few anti-radiation hypos I’ve picked up.  I do the latter and come out with a few more goodies and a shorter lifespan.

The Wolf Among Us: Episode 4 thoughts

twau1One thing’s becoming clearer as we turn the corner for the final stretch of Telltale’s take on the Fables universe: This isn’t just about a murder investigation.  It’s about an investigation into what makes an entire underground society tick and what is deeply broken about it.

Looking back, you can see how The Wolf Among Us cleverly sowed the seeds of this right from the get-go, although it’s only become more prominent in episodes 3 and 4.  The deaths of two prostitutes in Fabletown (a hidden city within NYC) is just what gets Sheriff Bigby to go on a journey out of his comfort zone and into the lives of the residents.  What he finds repeatedly are fairy tale characters who are unhappy, destitute, and without hope.

Episode 4 begins in the wake of Bloody Mary’s attack on Bigby and the traumatic injuries that she inflicted.  Bigby’s onto the scent of her boss, the Crooked Man, but he’s definitely in over his head with everyone running circles around him.  Plus, what he finds is that this isn’t a case of black vs. white — the Crooked Man has ardent supporters who have nothing but good things to say about someone they see as bringing stability and wealth to the town, and the business office, which Bigby represents, is portrayed as not being able to fully protect and care for its citizenry.  When the good guys are indifferent and somewhat powerless to help and the bad guys are generous and effective, it makes for a scary situation.

While there continues to be little in the way of puzzle-solving or serious deduction, The Wolf Among Us has really excelled at putting me in the shoes of Bigby.  I don’t ever worry about which dialogue selection or action I choose — I just do what he would do in that situation.  It’s as close to actual roleplay as I’ve gotten in an adventure game and it’s scary how effective it is.  I want Bigby to be kind and helpful, but there have been so many people who have walked over him due to this and worked against him that it’s sometimes just way more satisfying to threaten and be physically brutal in response.

In chapter 4 he’s hurt and angry and still lacking the information he needs, and I can’t fully blame him for losing his temper with the populace.  However, there was a moment when the butcher was giving him the run-around that I left Bigby slam him around and squeeze his face hard enough to leave marks… after which I discovered that the butcher was really an innocent victim who was also walked upon by crooks who took advantage of his hospitality.  It made me feel like a heel, to be honest, and I couldn’t stop looking at his bruises for the rest of the scene.

I’m dying to know how the story plays out because the twists and turns that bring Bigby to the Crooked Man’s doorstep have kept me glued to the proceedings.  It’s a heckuva fine story that’s all the more effective for having some say in how it progresses, tonally if nothing else.  I hope that it will end in justice for those killed and for those oppressed.  Maybe it’s too much to hope that Bigby will get a little respect from those he’s been trying to shield during the whole quest, but let’s toss that in too.

Advanced pyrotechnics and space-age medicine

sypGuild Wars 2

Even though I’m in the grips of WildStar fever, I still find some time to log into Guild Wars 2 here and there.  I suspect the pull will become stronger when Season 2 begins, but for now I’m simplifying.  No more time for alts; I’m focusing on my Engineer main.  Mostly I log in to do my dailies and build up my bank account, although now that my 5,000-point achievement chest is within striking distance I think I should be focusing more on that.

Speaking of money, I know I’ve been gone for a couple of weeks, but in that time it seems as though the gold-gem market has skyrocketed in price.  100 gems are several gold more now than they used to be, and I’m hearing that’s because of some popular items in the store.  I was formerly excited about having 100 gold in my account, but now that seems rather piddly.

I’ve been tweaking my build somewhat.  I can’t pull myself away from the fun and sheer power/durability of the flamethrower, but I also am entranced by the new experimental turrets for the class.  So I sacrificed my dependancy on elixirs for a renewed focus on turrets and the wonderful, wonderful buffs that they bring to me and the group.  I’m pretty pleased with it so far, as I am my look.

WildStar

Following up yesterday’s internal debate about the appeal of two classes and two factions, I kicked myself in the pantaloons and said, “Syp, you gotta choose one.  You know it’s the right thing to do.”  And with that inner ultimatum set, I went with my Medic.

My daughter helped me decorate my house last night — she wanted a kitchen with place settings and food, so we shopped the store and made that happen.  She got a kick out of how big and small I could make the items, although we ended up with “normal-sized” stuff.  I also purchased an Ellevar biome plug, which not only looks kind of cool but contains a handy portal to that zone.

I just wish that we could buy and expand lot sizes in this game — six plugs is not nearly enough for all of the fabkits you find/buy, and right now you can’t replace a plug without destroying the previous one.  I wish it would just put the previous one into storage, but oh well.

I finally ran and completed a couple of adventures last night, one as a healer and one as DPS.  I gotta say, they do hit the spot in regard to five-person team content.  The early Dominion one is all about a jailbreak on the nearby moon/asteroid, and it not only looks fantastic but it’s a fun map to play.  The much-vaunted branching paths were interesting.  At three points, the adventure stopped to let the team vote on which path to take, and then triggered the next event on the majority’s opinion.  Unlike SWTOR and GW2 (which both have a lesser version of this), you can’t see who is voting for what, and the choices do make more of an impact in how the adventure plays out.  Both runs were very different from each other.

I was a little nervous healing for the first time, but I had a build prepared for it and, well, trial by fire and all that.  It turns out that the Medic is pretty potent with heals, and I quickly learned which ones were my “oh crap” buttons and which ones I had going regularly.  The only problem I had was when we hit the end boss too fast and I ran out of focus — a bar that I hadn’t even noticed until that very moment.  I guess I had been regenerating focus fast enough before then so that it wasn’t a problem, but then it was.  I had to heal the final fight with my basic heal, and we squeaked through with only the tank dying.

I did get some good drops, including a nice pair of pants and a couple of decor items (including a sewer manhole cover!) for my house.  Nothing says “homey” like raw sewage, I’ve always said.

Today we’re starting to learn about WildStar’s first big update, Strain.  Looks like they’re giving us some more endgame zones, which won’t impact me much for a while but I’m not against it coming.  What I’m more interested in are the upcoming revelations about new housing and cosmetic options.  We shall see!