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.


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!


WildStar: Medic vs. Engineer

My propensity for rerolling and my chronic indecision as to whether I’m going to fully devote myself to the Medic, the Engineer, or split my time between both has slowed my leveling in WildStar down to a crawl.  I’m 15 on the Medic and 18 on the Engineer, whereas several folks in my guild have already dinged 50.  I’ll be away all of next week, so I’ll get even further behind the main pack then, but oh well.  Take life at my own pace.

(Plus, I spend a LOT of time in my housing, which doesn’t really help me to level.  If I find a single decor item as a drop, I have to stop everything to teleport back to my house and see where I might put it.  It’s a convenient excuse.)

While I’m certainly not playing the fleshed-out, fully AMPed versions of either of these classes, I have come to conclusions as to what I like about each

The Medic

First of all, the Medic plain looks wicked awesome.  Dual resonators (or whatever you call them) firing “rave beams” and holograms is definitely different than the norm.  I feel bad for Spellslingers and their little pew-pew toy pistols in comparison.

I find that the Medic does really well against groups of enemies, as practically every attack is either a cone or an AOE.  I like to lay down a few disrupter fields and then lay in with quick, instant attacks that chew through mobs like a toddler through a bag of Easter candy.  It’s very visceral and satisfying, and puts the Medic on top in regards to combat satisfaction.  I simply like fighting with a Medic more.

The downside to her is that I rerolled her as Dominion to be with some friends, but that’s not making me like the faction any more than I anticipated.  Plus, she has a horrible house compared to her Exile counterpart.  Belghast did give me this shockingly naughty Granok bed (some of you players know of which I speak) but her plot isn’t as functional.

I’ve been playing her as a Scientist too, and this path is growing on me.  I hung around Ellevar long after I finished my main quests to wrap up Scientist tasks.  There were a couple of tricky ones, culminating in a logic puzzle at the end that granted me some nice goodies.

The Engineer

While the Medic might be my favorite in terms of combat, the Engie isn’t far behind.  Big gun, bot pets, lots of things that go boom.  There are a few skills that I’m looking forward to in the next 10 levels, including one that will function as a shotgun-style builder.  I like the solid durability of the heavy armor and just discovered that one skill I had — a CC breaker — also added an absorb shield I previously overlooked.  I like sending in my bots for the one-two punch of interrupt/taunt and quick AOE damage.

She’s a Settler, a path that I like although it doesn’t feel as though there’s much room for creative building as there is for utilitarian tasks.  Making buffing stations around the world makes me happy to help others, and I really can’t express how useful the ability to summon a mailbox or vending machine is.

I like my Engie as a character more.  She looks cooler (with her Jayne hat!) and I’m really into the Exile spirit.  I like their races more and the frontier/rebel thing hasn’t gotten old yet.

Plus, and this cannot be stated enough, my Engie has an absolute rockin’ pad.  Her house is coming along nicely, as I just finished putting in the second story floor yesterday.  And she had the epic garden, the epic relic hunter dig, the graveyard challenge, and a few other fun plugs to round it out.  I’m building a forest path as well as a pillow fort.  I’d hate to see all of that be put to waste because I was busy playing my Medic all of the time.

I do wish I could choose just one, but right now I can’t.  Curse my indecisive nature!

The Secret World: Little girl, don’t cry

yak1With the others AFK, sick, or otherwise unable to come, it was up to Ten Tentacles and I to carry on our Monday night Secret World adventures in Tokyo.  We began by picking up a trio of side missions to assassinate various bad folk around the area.

Two of these fights weren’t that bad, but the above guy was absolutely horrendous.  Remember how I said that I really hate the new AEGIS shield system?  You can add about twelve “reallys” into that sentence after last night.  So here’s how the above fight went:

  1. Start attacking and avoiding his constant barrage of AOEs.
  2. Whittle down his psychic shield to reveal his cybernetic shield.
  3. Whittle down the cybernetic shield, but after about 15 seconds the psychic shield would be fully restored.
  4. Whittle down the psychic shield only to see that the cybernetic shield was regenerating.
  5. Keep flipping between these two damage types in a futile hope to one day see the blessed green health bar underneath.

It was bad, and I think part of that was due to not interrupting his recharge, if that’s a thing.  Eventually we put out a SOS to general chat and had a group show up to help us beat this guy down.  “I hate that %@#$ so much,” one of them said.  I concurred.

yak2Following that was a return to the main storyline, which had Tentacles and I holding hands as we descended into another parking garage from hell.  For those not familiar with The Secret World, there’s an earlier mission that has you going through a parking garage that manages to scare 10 kinds of living crap out of you.  It was probably the first truly terrifying mission of the game.  Well, despite reusing those garage assets, this mission was even scarier.

For one thing, your head lamps and flashlights are rendered unusuable in this space, so you’re at the mercy of a foggy filter, flickering lights, and pools of shadows.  Then, as you descend, you keep seeing small shadows that disappear as soon as you notice them.  Plus, TT got stuck in this particular chamber and had half of his health sucked away by… something… as horrible red lights came on.

After finding out what we needed from the very bottom, the quest became about one thing: survival.  And there were these lovely creatures standing between us and sunlight:

yak3Yup, it’s the Japanese ghost girl(tm).  Man, for all of the overused horror trope that it is, Funcom really nailed it with making these girls creepy (yes, there are more than one).  They hide their face from you Weeping Angel-style while you look at them, but turn your back for a second and they’ll port to you, show their glowing green eyes, scream from a way-too-large mouth, and insta-kill you.  Making it past them took a very long time with many, many deaths.  It didn’t help that you kept hearing their awful noises and mutterings, nor when you got to certain levels and there were multiple girls lurking about.

yak4Anyway, we got through it like the two little scared kids we are, and were reunited with our questgiver: A giant demon with a translator mask who likes R&B and grinding up on mannequins (the demon, not the mask).  TSW is a genuinely weird game.

WildStar’s death guy gives me the grins

While I stand by my desire to see the growly, SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY narrator in WildStar sacked or at least muted, I’m not singing the same song for another narrator — the unseen voice of the grim reaper.  In-game it’s probably one of the Caretakers or some Eldan program that’s in charge of reforming your mangled corpse, but whatever it is, there’s this snarky, dry-witted voice that harranges you every time you die… and I love it.

I mean, you’re already kicking yourself for kicking the bucket, and now the game is too.  Even though it’s an MMO and we have infinite lives mode unlocked, it’s a sign of failure when we bite it.  I like that the devs decided to prod that sore spot by having this voice deliver a droll rebuke when we die.  There are a lot of these quips and I’m still hearing new ones even a couple of weeks into the game.

And is it just me, or does that voice totally sound like the Ghost Host from Disney’s Haunted Mansion?  Maybe that’s why I like him so much.

WildStar: Are Aurin the elves of the game?

aurinI’ve been pondering one slightly disturbing question since WildStar’s launch.  Are Aurin filling the role of the elves in this game?  And if so, do they deserve my undying hatred due to that association?

With Guild Wars 2, for instance, I have always thought of the Sylvari as the elven analogues, even though there are a few key differences.  The Sylvari are really young, whereas elves are traditionally old, immortal, etc.  But it’s that nature connection that seals the deal for them, tree huggers to the point where they’re literally trees.

Aurin are similar — young tree huggers — but the feel is significantly different.  They look more like attendees at a furry convention, with tails and wiggly ears and whatnot.  And while they really are in tune with nature and have giant tree forts, their attitude is about as radical a departure from the typical elf haughtiness as one can get.  They’re like kids in a Saturday morning cartoon, dispensing both hugs and relentless cheery advice whether you want them or not.

It may come down to a gut check, but the Aurin don’t trigger enough of my elf red flags as to deserve my undying hatred.  I’m not a huge fan of them as a whole, but they’re amusing enough in their adolescent sincerity to keep me from growling at them like Gargamel.