Fallout 2: Flushed down an outhouse

(This is part of my journey going checking out Fallout 2. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

ax1So you know what I totally forgot about this character? That I thought it would be amusing to give him the “sex appeal” trait. Totally forgot that, at least until Miria here started throwing herself at me like I was going out of style. And while my much younger self would have thought it the height of video game edginess to have sex with a virtual character (as the screen fades to black), I’m not really that interested in it these days.

Past that, Miria fills me in on some of the local gossip of the town, nothing super-juicy, but enough to bread-crumb me to my quests.

ax2Speaking of quests, the local tanner is distraught that his son is missing, and he lends me his dog Laddie to help find him. Can I keep the dog? That’s all I want to know. I’d love to have a dog in this game.

ax3More Modoc exploration. Ladies and gentlemen… we have goo. Maybe Slimer’s been around here?

Near the goo is a building that’s surrounded by a fence with wild dogs inside — and the front door is covered in rocks too large to move. Ooh. I really want to know what’s in that house. Might need some dynamite? I’m fresh out, alas.

ax4My trigger finger’s feeling itchy again, so to relieve it I take on a quest to clear out a farmer’s field of rats. Yup, good ol’ rat killing, the staple of many-a-RPG. Although these are a little more mutated than most.

Unfortunately, the little buggers poisoned me, which on top of my currently radiated status, means that I’m not doing the best internally. Love those Fallout boy illustrations, tho! Should make that my new avatar.

At least the farmer is appropriately grateful:

I also unload some of my junk on him and barter for his shotgun. Always love to have a shotgun in post-apocalyptic games. Too bad I don’t have any shells.

ax7Rose’s addled husband at the bed and breakfast mentions something in passing about a giant rat crawling out of the nearby outhouse. When I go to check it, lo and behold I am allowed to crawl down into a stinky, poopy sewer.

To recap: Fallout 2 has a poop dungeon.

Alas, I need some explosives to open this up as well. Guess I need to go back to the trader and buy back one of the timed explosives. That stuff is EXPENSIVE! Well over a thousand bucks. This better be worth it.

Explosives in hand, I head back to the poop dungeon, set the timer, and back away. Unfortunately, what I didn’t think about — but the game’s devs did — is that feces and methane is quite combustible. So when the explosives went off, it cleared the entire room, including me.

ax8Reload. This time I set the timer and climb up the ladder just to make it before everything goes kablamo. I’m pretty pleased that the devs spent this much time simulating a poopsplosion in an RPG.

Down in the poop dungeon is a sole enemy, a giant mole rat. And yes, he’s guarding the Rose’s husband’s gold watch, so chalk that up to a quest completed. While I do get some nice XP, there’s no monetary or physical reward from any of the involved parties, which I think it’s a huge disappointment considering that I had to buy those explosives.

Next up: Ghost farm!

Vote: Keep covering Fallout 2 or move on to a new game?

Usually around the ninth or tenth post in a retro game series, I become acutely aware that I’ve been covering this title for a while here on the blog and am wondering if there’s reader fatigue over the subject. My journey through Fallout 2 hasn’t even gotten to the quarter mark yet, so it could conceivably continue for quite some time, and I’m wondering if you all would like me to keep trucking or perhaps move on to a different retro game.

So let’s put it up for a vote! Choose either for me to provide another two weeks of Fallout 2 coverage (with another vote after that) or to move on to a new retro title. Voting will conclude this Friday at noon eastern.

WildStar: The latest in my long career of virtual corpse disposal

corpse1We’re all familiar with the standard categories of MMO quests: FedEx, kill ten rats, escort, click the glowies, and so on. But there are also many quest themes that pop up almost as often across the swath of online games, including ones like “take care of the fledgling animal until it’s strong enough to go out into the wild on its own” and “burn all of the corpses.”

Last night I was going into yet another Elden facility in WildStar, where scientific horrors always seem to await. This one had the expected constructs stomping around, but it also had a room full of posed corpses that I was tasked with disposing via flamethrower. As I started up the burning, I reflected on just how many times I’ve been called to burn dead bodies in MMOs — and how honestly disturbing that is when you think about it.

Why is this the job and duty of an adventurer? It’s got to be a highly traumatic event, to burn or otherwise dispose of dead bodies, and well outside of a normal soldier and/or explorer’s training. Usually when I’ve encountered such a quest, it’s couched in language to give me the impression that I’m honoring the dead by cremating their remains instead of leaving them on the battlefield to rot and be desecrated by the enemy.

But still. Still.

Still I’m taking a torch, or a flamethrower, or a fireball spell and setting a dead thing on fire. Over and over and over again. You can’t tell me that my character doesn’t have those sights and sounds and especially smells haunt her dreams at night.

Seriously, I’ve seen this from City of Heroes to Lord of the Rings Online to The Secret World to SWTOR. Sooner or later, the game is going to be all like, “Okay, you just saved the ten Hoojibs from their evil master, so now it’s time to go corpse burning!” And we don’t even question it, because we’re so deep into the questing routine and just see these as a bunch of clickies anyway.

I’m not saying that doing this is immoral, even in-game, but it is disturbing and I don’t quite know why so many developers feel that they have to put us in this position. To appreciate the sacrifice of NPCs who came before us? To attempt to introduce a little bit of fridge horror? To grow us up?

Or, is it more likely that there’s some giant master list of weird quest themes that is passed around the industry, and all quest designers pull from it when they’re lacking inspiration?

Personally, I’d be fine with leaving the corpses as is. They don’t really care much one way or the other.

iPhone: Knights of Pen & Paper 2 review

pp2For a couple of years now I’ve been a huge fan of a weird little mobile game called Knights of Pen & Paper. It’s a turn-based RPG in which you form a party and go on various quests and level up, with the twist that your party are roleplayers sitting around a table while a visible GM provides flavor text and runs the campaign. KoPP didn’t have the most engaging combat system or even the best spelling/grammar, but it made up for it with the variety of classes, the quirky humor (which was forever lampooning RPG tropes and geek culture), and the adorable pixel art.

Knights of Pen & Paper spawned a new edition (the +1 edition) and a Halloween DLC pack. I have yet to beat it all, but I’m still gamely plugging away at it.

So naturally I flipped my lid when Knights of Pen & Paper II came out a week or so ago. Let me tell you, if I have had my phone out since then, it’s probably to be playing this. Super addictive.

In my opinion, KoPP2 takes the formula of the first game and then vastly improves on it, starting with higher resolution pixel graphics (which I approve of except in the case of the character art — I actually prefer the original game’s look). Then there are tons more choices, particularly with character builds. This time around you can pick a combo of the player (jock, goth, exchange student, etc.), race (dwarf, elf, human), and class (warlock, paladin, etc.), each of which has their own strengths and utility. For example, I found a three-handed sword in my travels that had great stats, but could only be wielded by someone with three hand slots (which right now is the jock). So I rolled up a jock paladin just to use this awesome sword.

The story, such as it is, has the players investigating a land in turmoil after a “Paper Knight” from the second edition is causing havoc in a first edition world. Mostly, it’s just a good excuse to engage in countless battles against the weirdos of the world, including Fowlbears and algebraic formulas.

There is a lot of criticism being leveled against KoPP2 right now on the forums for being short and somewhat buggy. That may be, but it’s also so much more engaging than the first game. I love the added options to investigate areas for bonus loot, the occasional choices, the use of a three-stat system for die rolls, and especially the synergy. There is a ton of synergy going on between classes and gear, and a careful player can set up devastating combos.

For example, my thief throws out a multi-target fan of knives as one of her skills. But that will hit for double if the target has a debuff on it, so my thief and paladin both have skills that hit multiple mobs with debuffs. Then I gave my thief trinkets with more status effects, so she’s hitting double and causing burns and wounds. It’s awesome.

Combat is a lot smoother here too, especially as skill icons have been moved to the main screen instead of hidden in a menu. The first game more or less encouraged you to use AoEs extensively, which made every encounter identical. Now there are more valid skill choices, especially with combos and depending on the situation, and the fights seem to go faster. I like how much the choices of gear and weapons come into play, because you can really customize a character in a way you couldn’t in the first game.

While multi-room dungeons were sort of present in the first game, they are more prominent here. You basically choose a room to move to and experience an encounter (fight, treasure, trap, or something else). The trick is that you can’t rest while you’re in the dungeon, which can make it tough to beat if you don’t have healers and energy renewers.

Another cool addition with KoPP2 are the monthly “Modern Dungeon” magazines that can be accessed from the menu. Right now May’s magazine offers a read on the undead, but more importantly, some trinkets, a class, and a player that can be unlocked for with in-game gold. I’m anxious to see how the monthly magazines help to expand the game.

KoPP2 may be silly and irreverant, but it continues to do a fun job of recreating a weird tabletop roleplaying experience on the phone. I definitely recommend it.

SWTOR: Zounds, it’s Zizzified Ziost!

You know a planet is rather skimpy on size and content when I — the most slow of slowpoky gaming ponies — is able to complete it in less than three nights.

The most recent content update to Star Wars: The Old Republic gave us both the planet of Ziost and the continuation of the Shadow of Revan storyline. Lots of players tired of Yavin dailies were eager to continue the tale and see a new locale, although after having gone through it I think we’re trading downward on the experience. Yavin IV is lush and beautiful; Ziost is brought to you by the color grey. It’s a world that was pretty dead and lifeless even before really horrible stuff (no explicit spoilers here) happens to it. I do not think I’m going to be spending a lot of time here to do the new round of dailies, is all I’m saying.

Anyway, I’m grateful that we did get more of the story — and it’s an interesting bit at that. The late, great Emperor is now alive and running rogue, having returned to Ziost to basically take over the entire planet and mind-dominate the population. As such, there’s very little feel to Ziost as a place with culture or personality, which is further backed up by the environment being somewhat industrial and sterile. It’s not lived-in, which is what I’m saying.

The story has us player characters reuniting with Lana and Theron to try to devise a way to counteract the Emperor (because he can mind-control a planet and I have a big knife I occasionally stick into things, so that’s a totally fair match-up). There’s also a new character, a spy who plays right into the whole Imperial Agent theme, although what little is interesting there quickly peters out.

z2Lana and I are totally on the outs, by the way. After romancing her in Shadow of Revan only to have her abruptly break it off with me AND take my deserved job as head of Imperial Intelligence, I have turned quite frosty to her. I’m so glad that the the devs gave me ways to be short and critical to her, even getting some measure of revenge. Hell hath no fury like a Syp scorned.

There wasn’t a lot of new in terms of mission variety, but occasionally I’d hit a moment that created interesting memories, such as hopping across a statue, using grappling hooks, and doing wild jumps on a speeder. At least I got a bit of a gear upgrade through all of the quest rewards.

z3Definitely the highlight of the patch’s storyline was the use of its cutscenes. There’s a major event that happens that gave me chills and had me feeling — just for a moment — like I was a very small character in a great big struggle, instead of the central hero.

Returning to a greyscale world of ash and death was quite interesting, although perhaps less impactful considering how dull Ziost’s population and cities were beforehand. I love the neat art touches, like the ash blowing off the trees (above).

So with Ziost done — sans dailies and whatever new operations or group stuff — I’m contemplating what to do next. I haven’t maxed out my rep on Yavin yet and I was enjoying the cash income from doing that, so I might well return there. I probably should start running flashpoints here and there to gear up better, but that’s a time thing.

And then there’s the whole temptation of subscribing and doing the 12X leveling track with some characters. I guess that would be cool? But I have a gut feeling that I’d ultimately feel that such advancement would be hollow, especially with the lack of companion affection choices. Plus, there really isn’t any class that appeals to me as strongly as the IA. I have a lowbie Sith Warrior with some unlocks on standby for a possible run, but lightsabers are actually duller than my trusty carbine. I have also pondered rolling a second IA and playing him or her as a sniper for a different combat experience.

Or I could just putter around until the next patch/expansion while giving my other games more time. Choices, choices.

Battle Bards Episode 51: Vindictus

Feel the power! Feel the burn! Feel the… Vindictus!

When a game is made up of insane frantic combat, what will its score sound like? The Battle Bards are keen to find out with their journey through this particular game’s soundtrack. It’s wild, it’s bombastic, and it’s (as always) divisive!

Episode 51 show notes

  • Intro (featuring “Ancient Dragon” and “Malina”)
  • “Crom Crauch”
  • “Keaghan”
  • “Main Theme”
  • “White Whale Inn”
  • “Craftsman Colru”
  • “PvP Theme”
  • “Succubus Queen/The Siren of Slaughter”
  • Which one did we like best?
  • Outro (featuring “Grim Reaper”)

Listen to episode 51 now!

World of Warcraft: Remembering Syp

In my past World of Warcraft career, I had several characters who transcended the extras tier to become near and dear mains. There was my first character on launch day, a Dwarf named Chark. A Druid named Echoes. A Hunter named Ghostfire.

But in all truth, it was a little gnome Warlock that defined my experience in WoW. I even saw her briefly a few months ago when I loaded up the game for a trial. We exchanged pleasantries and I told her that I was happy she still lived in Northrend even long after the world had moved on. She likes it there.

Flash back to October 2006. World of Warcraft had been out for a couple of years and I had clocked many hours in it before taking an extended break to play some other titles (most likely City of Heroes). Once the burnout faded, I decided to return and start fresh with a new character. Following my personal maxim that MMO character names shouldn’t be more than three or four letters (since that’s all people will type in chat anyway), I slammed some random letters together and created the very first Syp.

Syp the Gnome Warlock spent several months working her way up through the vanilla content (this was pre-expansions) while connecting with a terrific guild called Time Well Wasted. She was also an engineer, and I painstakingly leveled that profession up to get some of the cool toys and gadgets that came with it.

I fell in love with the Warlock playstyle more than any other in that game. The combination of powerful DoTs and an array of pets was a heady mix, and there was nothing I loved more than to see my pint-sized gal flinging spells on bad guys and have their damage numbers continually tick down afterward. I was never big on the voidwalker, but I did rotate through the other three — the imp, the succubus, and the felhunter — and enjoyed what each of them brought to the table.

Sometime in December, my guild agreed to help me run a dungeon to get the warlock epic mount. It was one of my best memories in World of Warcraft, that night. The run was tough and the fight took some time, but at the end of it I emerged with my brand-new epic mount in an era where epic mounts were something of a precious rarity (and only Warlocks and Paladins had quests to get theirs).

Then came the Burning Crusade in January 2007. We were psyched as all get out, and I got the special tabard for doing the opening of the portal event. Syp jumped into Outland and really came into her own. Probably the best change was her brand-new pet, a hulking felguard that did terrific damage. I loved sending that fella to smack down anyone who looked at me cross-eyed. It almost felt like cheating.

Syp had a good run throughout 2007. She geared up well, ran dungeons regularly, and even experimented with raiding with the 10-man Kara. I crafted her flying helicopter-thing, which remains one of my favorite mounts of all time (it had a hula dancer on the dash!). And she did a great job in groups pumping out DPS and bringing some utility when needed.

Unfortunately, Syp never really made the transition into Wrath of the Lich King. I started giving more attention to my Hunter, who was the one who got through most of that expansion, while Syp got parked at the docks where she remains to this day. Soon, I burned out of WoW completely and a subsequent reunion grew less and less likely as I and the game moved on in separate directions.

Still, I’ll always have a fond spot in my heart for that three pony-tail’d Warlock. She and I had a great time together, fighting the good fight, and not taking any crap from players who hated on Gnomes.