Time well wasted

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I think about time a lot.

As I’m looking down the barrel of being 40, it’s something that’s harder to ignore. I think about how old my kids are, how fast they’re growing, and how old I’m going to be when my youngest graduates high school (57, for the record). I think about how long I’ve been at my current job (16 years), how long it’s been since World of Warcraft launched and I met my wife (11 years), and how far removed I am from my college days (17 years) and high school years (22 years).

I also think about what time I’ve spent on different projects and pastimes. I wish I had started a low-carb diet back in 2000 instead of four years ago. I feel a little sad that my first big writing project — a 16-year movie review site — has been all but abandoned. And the other night when I was playing FFXIV and working toward another objective, it made me think of how many games I’ve played over the years and how much time and effort I poured into those characters.

My first gaming blog was a small sporadic thing called Time Well Wasted, which was named after my current World of Warcraft guild. The name was trying to cheekily refer to how MMO gaming is both useful (stress relief, enjoyment, friendships, etc.) and an honest “waste” of time. There’s always something we could have spent doing more productive or lucrative, I’m sure. But it wasn’t just time wasted, it was WELL wasted, which kind of made a difference. It was time wasting (spending) with purpose, trying to undercut the ultimate futility of progression (since all online games will end and those accomplishments will be erased) by yanking something good and useful out of that time.

I don’t want to hobble my personal and professional life with an overabundance of gaming. I hope that I always keep up the good fight of balancing that properly and not letting a hobby become a thing that becomes a master. I also desire to play games with purpose and not out of obligation and routine.

I do think that it’s somewhat heartening to realize that I haven’t “outgrown” being a gamer. After all, the average age of a gamer keeps getting bumped up as the first couple of generations of kids who grew up on games (such as myself) head into middle-age and beyond. If I could go back and tell my teen self that, yes, I was still playing games — and pretty wonderful games at that — when I was 39, even with the trappings of adult life, that would have made me feel a lot better about growing up.

King’s Quest III part 2: Bear jamboree

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(This is part of my journey going checking out King’s Quest III. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

As the King’s Quest universe is littered with copyright-free references to fairy tales, so we finally come upon the Three Bears who, as the game notes in surprise, are “fully clothed.” Also they are walking only on hinders. And talking. Unusual bear behavior, that.

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One can’t help but think that if the bears went out for a walk and left their breakfast on the table, then it’s all going to get cold before too long.

So let’s talk about what’s going on here. Obviously there’s very little overarching narrative, other than exploring locations, but what’s happening is that I’m trying to frantically find various objects to mush together for magic spells — objects that the wizard will kill me if he bumps into me and I’m carrying them.

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The magic map is nice, but the one thing it won’t do is teleport you back up to the house. Oh no, you have to walk up this dang path every time. And if you haven’t done a Sierra adventure game ever, then let me say that the pathing is really unfair. It’s often diagonal on the screen — but you can only walk straight up and down or sideways. It’s also obscured by various objects. And if you make one step off the path, you fall to your death.

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Racing against the clock, I dash — well, plod slowly because that’s the default speed — back to the house, up the stairs, and into my bedroom. Precious seconds tick by as I type over and over and over again to hide the forbidden objects (inventory items marked by an asterisk*). Each one has to be hidden separately and it’s a massive, huge pain in the butt.

I only find out later that I could type “HIDE ALL” and that would empty my whole inventory under the bed.

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Speaking of pains in the butt, man I am just not a fan of this timing system. Having to stop my exploration and wait for the clock to hit a certain minute so that I can feed the wizard when he shows up and then wait several more minutes for him to go to sleep is bogus. Oh, and there’s only so much food in the game, so if you go past two hours and can’t get out of the wizard’s thrall, then it’s game over forever.

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More exploration of the mansion turns up a secret cave, which is the wizard’s workshop, I guess. Very classy. I loot ALL THE THINGS.

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It’s down here that you can use — but not take — the wizard’s magic book to perform all sorts of helpful spells. This sounds a lot more fun than it is, because if anything, King’s Quest III has a monopoly on “tedious instructions” and “painstaking typing.” What’s even worse is while you’re typing in all of the directions and word-perfect spells, there’s this insanely shrill song that’s playing, probably to throw you off your game.

Anyway, I whip up a magic cookie that should turn the eater into a cat. Hm. Kind of want to nibble on this myself.

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Slightly amusing little easter egg behind one of the tapestries.

With poisoned porridge in hand, I… wait for 20 real-time minutes. Boy, this game sure knows how to pack in the excitement and suspense, doesn’t it?

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At least my ruse works: The wizard downs the whole bowl without suspecting anything and morphs into a cat — for good, I think. A victory fanfare plays and I’ve won the game! No, wait, that’s not right; we’re only in our second session. But we have freed ourselves from the wizard AND the clock, meaning that the game should get a lot easier from here on out.

King’s Quest III part 1: Returning to Daventry

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(This is part of my journey going checking out King’s Quest III. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

It’s been a long while since I last did a retro series and even longer — 2013, in fact — since I touched on the King’s Quest series. It’s always been in my mind that I wanted to complete all of the entries in the classic series, as I haven’t played any of them starting with III and going forward. So indulge with me a trip back to Deventry for King’s Quest III: To Heir is Human.

I’ve been a little reluctant to do this particular game because I heard that it’s rather unforgiving and features a time-based system that takes away from the freedom of exploring. But we’ll need to bust through it to get to 4, 5, 6, and 7, so here we go!

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If you patiently wait out the opening credits — and I did — you’re introduced to the backstory here. Instead of reprising the role of King Graham, the player is inhabiting Gwydion, a teen boy who lives with a nasty wizard named Manannan (triple word score). Gwydion doesn’t know how he came to live with the wizard, and for his part, the wizard just wants to order Gwydion to do chores and be his slave. Well, this won’t stand.

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I’ll stuff your chickens down your throat, old man, if you don’t take a kinder tone with me.

So let’s talk about the time system here. Sierra, not content with fail states and instant death moves, put an always-running clock at the top of the screen. Depending on the time frame (and I had to look this up because I am not going to trial-and-error this kind of thing), the wizard might be home and checking up on Gwydion or out on journeys, allowing the player to leave for a while. If the wizard suspects anything, or Gwydion isn’t there, or Gwydion is doing or holding anything suspicious, then Manannan will kill him. As a bonus, while the wizard is home, he’ll randomly appear in the rooms to see if you’re up to something shady.

Basically, for the first 5 minutes of every half-hour, you have to be in the house being attentive to the wizard, and then you’ll have 25 minutes of play time. Thank you for that, Sierra. So our initial goal is to figure out how to get rid of the wizard so that we can escape the always-running clock. Well, it’s not running if you pull up inventory or there’s a description on the screen, I found. That’s something.

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Instantly, the game and I bond over our mutual dislike of cats and the meanie wizards who own them. I grab the cat and yank out some hair and YES this might be helpful because it’s an adventure game and you should grab everything you can. Also, serves that cat right.

As you can tell, King’s Quest III uses the same graphics engine and text parser of King’s Quest 1 and 2, so it’s not like we’re making a huge leap forward, visually. It still has a bit of retro pixel art charm, however.

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Apparently Manannan is a little girl at heart, if his taste in bedroom decor is any indication. Suddenly, I fear him a bit less.

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But… you’ll keep the wings? How is that any less gross?

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One of the items that I pilfered from the wizard’s bedroom was a magic map, which turns out to be an incredibly useful tool. As the screenshot above says, I can use it to teleport to regions I’ve already visited, saving me an awful lot of walking time. In a game that’s timed, this will be quite helpful.

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I stumble upon just the cutest little tree house ever, which this game tries to convince me is a secret lair of thieves and not something that the neighboring kids’ dad put up for them one memorable weekend. Anyway, in the hut is a sleeping bandit and a purse of gold coins. YOINK!

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Flush with cash, I jog over to the town (which is, as far as I can tell, made up entirely of a tavern and a store and three background houses) to buy some… lard. And other stuff. Also to pet a dog and get more animal hair for my macabre collection. I place it right next to the fly wings.

Fences by Stardock gets a Syp thumb’s up!

You know why I love Twitter? Because it’s my own personal answering machine. If I have a random question, I can toss it out to the ether and usually one of my smart, good-looking, and suave followers wing a helpful response back.

Yesterday I was pondering the issue of a crowded desktop on my two computers. Clutter in real life annoys me — and likewise on a screen I see every day. I asked Twitter if there was anything like being able to group up icons like how the iPhone allows, and a couple of people suggested that I check out Stardock’s Fences.

(As an aside, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Stardock, since they’re literally ten minutes down the road from me here in Michigan. Not a lot of Michigan gaming/software studios.)

It was $10 for the program, but after looking it over, I decided that this was exactly what I needed. And after installing it on both machines, I have to say that it’s a brilliant little piece of software.

Fences lets you easily make transparent windows for your desktop in which you can place thematically similar icons. These fences can be moved around, resized, and easily scrolled through if there are more icons in them than are currently showing. In a few minutes I was able to reclaim a large swath of my desktop real estate while organizing my programs into various groups. Plus, I anticipate it’s going to be of great help when I get my new hard drive online (I got the hard drive but forgot to order more cables, d’oh) and start downloading a bunch of MMOs.

Anyway, just thought I’d pass along this recommendation!

The Secret World’s morgue and other lighthearted fare

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When a mission starts out with a cheerful, newly sentient robot finding her way in the world, moves on to missing organs, travels to a hospital full of people dying in their sleep, and then wraps up with a trip through your own subconscious, then you can only be in The Secret World.

While I’ve been playing TSW fairly regularly, I haven’t touched Tokyo at all for months and months now. The last issue was perhaps the first mission pack I purchased that I didn’t immediately devour, mostly because I was so focused on my lowbie character. That said, in two play sessions, MJ and I ripped through three of the four new main quests (mostly because they all flowed from one into another). And one was investigation, which is sort of the main course of this game for many players.

I think I’m about done with Tokyo, to be frank. Oh, it’s a fantastic location in many respects with some of the best NPCs yet in this game, and I’m glad we finally got to see Ground Zero for the Filth bomb. But it’s a big, big world, and we’ve been in Tokyo for so very long now. It’s time to move on (and perhaps leave the AEGIS system behind, yes?).

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Anyway, the bulk of our playtime was spent on the mission “Wetware,” which had us going inside the Kaidan hospital to do a little Scooby Dooing. The hospital had Orochi stamped all over it, the horror and blood barely camouflaged by the high tech ‘bots and sterile walls. Actually, it wasn’t that gory until the very end, as the bulk of the mission lets the fear settle in by having you discover — via notes and charts — the fact that some sort of force has been killing people in their sleep all over the place here. The In-Between Man, they call him, and only a certain song seems to keep him at bay.

I wasn’t looking forward to checking out the morgue, no sirree, and was only slightly heartened to be doing so in the company of two other people. I did get a serious jump scare when I saw a lore object in the next room and ran in there, only to be ambushed by a cyborg waiting right behind the door. Think people next door heard me yelp.

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This whole “shadowy figure who kills people in their sleep” — and tell me I’m not the only one thinking Freddy Krueger here — led to an incredibly interesting mission follow-up with Jung, the large-headed boy at the kindergarten playground. Jung used his Professor X powers to send me into my own subconcious for a bit of scouting around. Difficulty-wise, it was a really easy mission, with only one fight in the bunch. But the hook here is that you actually get to make a bunch of choices (which TSW rarely allows), and apparently some of these decisions will have an impact on the future game.

Future effect or no, I thought it was really interesting to go through a mission that had you defining who your character was and where he or she came from. What trait best defines you? Were you alone as a kid? Did you have a love or a child? My character chose bravery as a main trait (mostly because that was the first chalkboard I saw and clicked before realizing that there were others), and was alone for most all of her life. She had no parents, no friends, no love… but I did give her a kid. Don’t know why. Now I have to wonder where that kid is. Hopefully not on Solomon Island.

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After so much running around and puzzle-solving, it was a relief to battle my shadow-self and get a little shotgun action in.

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Beware kids! If you don’t eat your veggies, Mega-Syp will come get you!

Rethinking magic systems in MMOs

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Like some of you, I imagine, I’m rather a sucker for a good fantasy novel. There are terrific books out there full of wild imagination that have gone beyond the Tolkein tropes and done their own thing while still giving us alternate worlds, epic journeys, and terrifying creatures. What I’m always on the lookout for in these books are creative magic systems. It seems like modern authors actually pride themselves on bucking generic systems and embracing inventive notions. Brandon Sanderson is pretty good at this, but he’s not the only writer who’s been doing this.

In these hands, magic can actually be as fascinating as the tales in which they take a part. Learning the ins and outs of these systems, the rules, the boundaries, the application is part of the fun of reading books. When I was a kid I loved the Xanth novels, and in particular how each character in the entire country would get a magic talent — although some of these were low-grade duds and some were powerful tools indeed. I couldn’t wait to see what talents the author thought of next.

One of my long-standing gripes with MMOs is how lazy most of them are in regards to magic. If the fantasy novel genre is on the cutting edge of thinking up new systems, MMOs are stuck in the ancient past, all playing off the same rulebook. I think it’s high past time that devs stopped dipping into the shallow trope well for magic and instead realized what a boon it could be for their games.

Fire. Water. Earth. Air. Heart. C’mon people, how many times have we seen the same-old elemental mages? I’m sure there are those out there who can’t get enough of flinging fireballs and snowballs at foes, but why a “mage” always has to hew to this limited elemental framework is beyond me. I mean, if you HAVE to do elements, surely there are more than just these to work with. But why do elements at all?

And you know what else bugs me? How there’s no journey to becoming magicians and wizards in these games. The second you create a character, poof, you’ve inherited some sort of infallible magical ability to consistently sling spells with no prior training that we’ve seen, no quest to attain magic, no study of what these systems entail. It’s just a DPS number wrapped up in a different type of particle effect, not true magic.

Magic systems could be so, so much more. It could be rare, requiring an epic amount of effort and deduction to attain. It could be — and follow me closely here — not always combat-related. Why couldn’t magic be used more for crafting, or exploring, or movement, or even RP-type social stuff?

Magic systems could involve alignments, taking players down paths that could be both beneficial and harmful. Do enough blood magic, and you might start earning a terrible reputation and be shunned in some communities. Touch on planes of existence that you were never meant to broach, and your character might start to go a little insane and babble from time to time. Use your magic to help others enough and you might gain the ability to perform cantrips without any preparation or cost.

What about spells that you can make yourself by mix-and-matching ingredients or features together? What about allowing players to mold their own type of magic classes instead of shoehorning them into a narrow path? What about resources that go beyond mana, perhaps making every spell used done so at a significant cost? What if magic was used to enhance other classes but not be the core of them? What if you could learn enough magic to become a mentor to other players, able to teach adventurers simple spells as you go about your way?

Harry Potter isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but look how much magic was used in those books outside of pure combat purposes? Wouldn’t it be awesome to play a game where magic was used just as much as a storytelling and puzzle-solving tool as it was to fight others?

I don’t have any definite answers, and maybe it’s all for naught considering how combat-centric fantasy MMOs tend to be, but I’m just throwing my cry out there that magic can be… well, magical if studios would only take a minute to stop doing the same thing as everyone else and try a different approach.

FFXIV: A dragon’s snow day

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I feel like I’m making good progress in FFXIV. It’s, what, the middle of February, and in the span of a month-and-a-half I’ve gotten up to level 43 in both my main job and the main story quest. In fact, last night was the first time that the MSQ caught up to me and I had to pause my progress in the storyline while I leveled up to meet the requirement.

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I really like how the writers take the time to build up the storyline. It’s not moving at a whiplash or fragmented pace, although there are a lot of Russian nesting doll quest objectives. Every plot point is clearly laid out and in many cases repeated just in case I missed it the first time (which happens).

I think the story started getting interesting for me about the time that the Empire came in and smashed up the Seven Scions base. With the core team captured, killed, or fled, it’s up to me, one weird white-haired guy with a midriff, and an amnesiac engineer (Cid!) to form a new company. That took us up to the snowy region of Coerthas for the first time as we went on an overall quest to find Cid’s airship (the Enterprise, and couldn’t Square-Enix have thought of a better name considering the much more famous Enterprises out there?).

This simple search got bogged down into local politics, as the snobby residents there (Elves, of course) kept throwing up roadblocks left and right. Plus there was some sort of inquisition going on, the mystery of which took us to some slightly disturbing places.

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That zone culminated in a trip through the Stone Vigil dungeon, a ruined castle infested with dragons. Elves, dragons, oh FFXIV you are hitting all my buttons, aren’t you?

Stone Vigil definitely represented a step up in difficulty, at least from a healer’s perspective. I had to keep up a steady stream of heals just to keep up with the damage pouring on the tank. The second time running this we had a pretty experienced tank, and even then I couldn’t take my eyes off of the screen. Happily, I clocked two successful runs (and only one personal death). Even better, the dungeon spat out a few really nice gear upgrades, so hopefully that’ll help with future healing runs.

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Good advice. Too bad I don’t have a rez spell on me… oh wait. Why am I not helping to keep the entire population of this world alive?

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So yes, I’m back to being a girl again. After all of that fuss, I found that I just didn’t really like growly faced guy; plus, it felt like I was betraying the character I had led through this experience so far. Expensive lesson, that.

Speaking of shelling out money for the game, I finally picked up Heavensward. Yes, I still have a way to go before getting into the expansion, but it was on sale and as I’m starting to round the corner to level 50, I didn’t want to waste XP after that.

What am I looking forward to? The glamour system and finding an outfit that doesn’t make me look like a frumpy marshmallow. I have to believe there’s one out there.

The process of picking out a different MMO to play

I trust that I’m not the only one who, on occasion, looks at my desktop and thinks, “I don’t want to play any of this tonight. I want a little something different.”

I mean, for a good month or so now, my entire online gaming life has been limited to two games: FFXIV and The Secret World. And that’s not been bad at all; I’ve been getting tons done in both, enjoying the stories, and feeling more grounded. But it’s created nights like the one that I’ve described above where — at that moment — I don’t have the heart to log in to either of those. I’m in the mood for a change-up, but for what?

While I’m a strong advocate for fostering a diverse MMO portfolio so that focusing on one title exclusively doesn’t result in burnout, it’s not always as easy as, say, having a collection of old-school video game cartridges that you can sort through depending on that night’s whims. MMOs have three (perhaps four) significant barriers to casually playing them:

  1. The size (most MMOs aren’t small games and depending on your HD real estate, it’s not always feasible to have 30 of them loaded at any given time)
  2. Getting situated (Figuring out new control schemes and systems or trying to remember old ones and where you last left off)
  3. If the game is enjoyable and acceptable if you only play it once in a great while (is this a game that requires a lot of time to really get into?)
  4. Cost (not every MMO is F2P; some require up-front purchases or even a subscription to access)

And if I’m going to spend an hour or two with an MMO outside of my regular, I’m going to want to make sure it’s something that will be enjoyable for that duration. Selecting a title to fit my mood and my current appetite for a type of game can be surprisingly fiddly.

Sometimes I’ll gravitate toward a game that’s getting a lot of chatter, either in the news or twitter or on blogs. Sometimes I’ll pick up a game that’s been on my “should try sometime” pile. And often I’ll boot back up an old favorite for the comfort factor.

I’ve been considering buying a cheap 1TB hard drive and loading it up with scads of MMOs, just so that they’re there if I have whims in the future and don’t want to wait through a 30GB download. Might want to create a spreadsheet to help remind myself what’s going on in certain games too, in case months go by between plays. I also think about you all reading this blog — I’ve seen an interest over the years for a variety in what I cover, and I don’t want to bore you too much by only talking about a couple of titles. Yet I certainly don’t want to overextend; what I’m talking about here is that “every so often” impulse to play a different game, not trying to shoehorn more regular titles into my current rotation.

The Secret Adventures: Time tombs (Scorched Desert #3)

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(Join Syp as he attempts to document a complete playthrough of The Secret World from start to finish. What will The Secret Adventures discover next? Find out in this exciting installment! WARNING: Spoilers and stories ahead!)

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Mean Streets (sabotage mission)

  • Only the fact that we get another classic Nassir intro — with jokes, sobering reflections on war, and an upbeat attitude that cannot be repressed — makes me feel better about taking on another sabotage mission.
  • Small quibble with TSW’s otherwise generally excellent intro cutscenes: Often they have so little to do with the mission to follow and explain nothing about that mission that you wonder how your character knows what must be done. Is there a second, more on-the-point briefing that happens right afterward that we do not see? A note passed in secret?
  • From the mission itself, what I gather is that this is a directive to start seriously investigating what the cult of Aten is up to. Nassir gives me a few blocks of C4 — because what are bombs between friends? — and I head out to the dry riverbeds to assassinate a few Master’s Voices.
  • Because this is sabotage, you don’t want to make the mistake I did of mindlessly attacking the mobs. I should’ve known better, too. Anyway, frontal assault didn’t go so well (death #1) so I started using the C4 to booby-trap the patrol paths.
  • Four Voices down and I get enough of a note that points me in the direction of the cultists rounding up Marya from the town and sending them over to the processing plant.
  • As a side note, it’s actually kind of fun to lay these traps and watch the mobs get one-shotted for a change.
  • The processing plant has more super-tough packs of mobs and cameras to boot. Between the sneaking around, the trucks, and the C4, I’m starting to have flashbacks to Metal Gear.
  • The mission ends as I gain access to the plant itself and flows right into…

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The Prisoner (sabotage mission)

  • Two sabotage missions in a row! What elder god did I tick off for this, I wonder!
  • The factory starts as you’d expect: guards, security cameras, a cautious route around the edges. But then in the basement I encounter some Filth tendrils in a room with a pile of food.
  • Even when I turn the generator off, evading the Corpse Pushers (as these cultists are called) isn’t that easy. After one death, I make a break for the tunnel and simply outrun the bad guys… right into a waiting cell. Trapped.
  • Mr. Beardy shows up to gloat about trapping me and how he’s going to be Aten’s #1 prophet (they make t-shirts for that). Then he gasses me unconscious. That’s it, his name is going on my enemies list.
  • Once I wake up, the game actually takes my weapons away (although they’re still in my inventory) and forces me to engage in fisticuffs with the bad guys. Kind of wish I could continue punching out dudes all the way through Tokyo.
  • It’s actually smooth sailing from here on out. The fights are simple and even the boss battle — with a nasty brute who’s been torture-punching a Marya — is over in less than ten seconds.
  • This mission is the one where everyone loves to screenshot a certain kick that happens in a cutscene. I’d hate to break tradition, so there it is above.
  • The Marya tells me that I have to stop Mr. Beardy and his crew from shipping out whatever they’re doing, and for that I need to go talk to Said. No arguments here! Love that guy.
  • As part of a mission chain, the second The Prisoner is done, it automatically starts the next one.

The Escape (side mission)

  • This one starts mid-point through The Prisoner as an added way to get rewards. It’s a basic “rescue prisoners and kill guards” quest that goes hand-in-hand with the main mission.
  • I found it funny that with normal weapons on the way in, these guards are all but impossible to defeat. But with just punching on the way out? You can scarcely lose a fight; it’s ridiculously easy.

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A Time to Every Purpose (sabotage mission)

  • So let’s talk about Said for a minute. While Egypt is rarely mentioned as players’ favorite area, Nassir and Said tend to be found at the top of many fans’ most beloved NPCs lists. While Nassir is this bizarre soldier pop culture child, Said is a sharp, savvy… mummy. A business mummy who’s been alive for at least a thousand years, if not more. He’s aligned with the Kingdom, which is the local cartel, but generally he’s a good guy. And how many games have a smart-talking mummy as a character?
  • Anyway, Said says he can help me with intelligence gathering, but I need to help him retrieve something first. A little item that can only be procured back in the Roman Empire era. So, y’know, time travel. Sure. Why not.
  • There’s even a manual. That detail cracks me up more than anything else. You in your MMO? You’re killing ten rats. I’m reading a manual on time travel so that I can go swipe a gadget from the ancient Romans for a living mummy in the present. That’s why TSW kicks butt.
  • The manual has some pointers, such as how time tombs (yup, that’s how we’re going to get to the past) work better with bee people, and that objects can be brought back but not forward. There’s also a sketch of the flux capacitor in here because of course there is.
  • Alas, the actual time travel moment is nothing but clicking on the time tomb and waiting through a loading screen to appear in 329 AD. I emerge to see an Egyptian (I think) kneeling in worship. My character walks a little unsteady for a bit while the graphics wave around. Guess I’m getting my temporal bearing.
  • You’re limited to exploring this small valley in the past, but it does contain a Roman city with a lot of sightseeing potential. Of course, this being a sabotage mission, it’s not like you can stroll around with impudence. Sneak or be thrown out. I get thrown out a lot.
  • Pro-tip: Don’t be a dolt like me who keeps charging in there and wondering why everyone freaks out at my futuristic get-up. There’s a citizen’s robe in a nearby cave that offers limited camouflage.
  • At least this mission does stealth fair. Once you learn the pattern of how to run the streets, you can zip in and out of the Roman city pretty easily. The mission did bug out on me during the crafting stage and I left it for a day, only to come back and find out that I had to repeat a lot of it.
  • Once I made a copy of the device and swiped the real thing, I stashed it under a statue and came back to the future. Marty McFly would be so proud of me.
  • It’s kind of surreal to look at the Roman ruins of that same city in the present.
  • The mission ends with a crazy fight against three waves of attackers sent by Mr. Beardy. I didn’t have a good time of this, as my build was mostly focused on single targets, so I rejiggered things a bit and became an AOE warrior. That helped.
  • Said took my device and said that — after all that — apparently I just swiped a forgery. But even worse, the bad guys have stolen a “class-1 device” (think a Filth atomic bomb) and are trying to smuggle it out of the region without a protective ark around it.

O Tempora! O Mores! (side mission)

  • This one takes place in the past as an optional mission to rescue some human sacrifices and “change the blood tide of history.” Sure, I’m down for that.
  • This mission is for those lucid-minded souls who crave even more stealth in their stealth missions. I mean, if you aren’t getting enough creeping around a town trying to find things in the shadows while avoiding guards who will invariably knock you out and keep dragging you to the start, be my guest.
  • My favorite part here is that you get to not only liberate some would-be human sacrifices, but you arm them and send them on their merry way. Should’ve given them a few rifles, that would have made history more interesting.

Vote! Which retro game series should I continue?

I’ve had a growing hankering to get back into retro game playthroughs, especially to finish up a series that I started long ago. Two franchises come to mind in particular: King’s Quest and Quest for Glory. I only did the first two games of the former and the first one of the latter, but have never gone further in either series and would kind of like to see them through.

So which one would be more interesting for you to read? Should I forge ahead with King’s Quest III or Quest for Glory 2?