Fallout 2: Ghost hunter

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

aa1I don’t like this place either, Vic, but I feel bad about all of those slaves. I really do. And since Lara is working against Metzger, I’m going to keep taking her missions to figure out a way to put the thumbscrews to that slaver.

aa2Lara has me snoop around the church, where I discover that Tyler and his gang of guards are going to have a party tonight. Apparently that’s the perfect time for an ambush, because we’re all going in guns blazing.

aa3What enues is the biggest fight I’ve witnessed in this game yet: my crew and Lara’s gang against Tyler’s gang. People trading gunfire, sledgehammer hits, and spear thrusts, all while spitting out excellent smack talk (“I’m going to feed you to my pet iguana!” was my favorite).

Despite having the odds on our side, it’s not an easy fight. I actually die the first time around. The second round goes better, although it’s still long; all of the characters have a good amount of hit points and the damage we’re dealing is usually in the single digits. Some of the highlights included Vic missing a swing and knocking himself down, me scoring a wild 25-point crit against a guard and slamming him to the ground, and the last guard who ran out of ammo and started sprinting for the exit, only to be ganged up on by all of the good guys.

We emerge victorious — and wealthy. I get a couple hundred dollars from Lara, a bit of XP, and all of the loot from the dead guards. Several pistols, and those are worth a good deal. I give one of the pistols to Vic and pocket as much ammo as I can grab.

aa4Next up on my Den To Dos is to shake down a druggie named Fred for $200 he owes Becky. No, I am not going to spot you a hundred bucks. I need to buy a car, and besides, I was raised by the Cobra Dojo. Mercy is for the weak YES SENSAI!

aa5For a change of pace, I decide to go ghost hunting. The proprieter to the south claims that there’s some jilted spirit wrecking the place at night, and when I set the timer to take me to midnight, lo and behold a ghost appears. She’s upset because she lost her locket, so I guess that’s what I’ll be looking for next. What’s a ghost going to do with a locket anyway? Get prettied up for a ghost ball?

aa6Getting it back takes a little detective work. Mom tells me that a local thug named Joey used to sleep in that house, so he probably took it. I intimidate him into giving me back the locket without a fight (I’m so nice) and I give it back to Anna the Ghost free and clear (so so nice). My character then proclaims, “This house is clear.” I laugh at the Poltergeist reference.

For bonus niceness, I take Anna’s bones back to the grave I dug up a while back and inter her. That’s worth a good amount of XP and a happy feeling in my tummy.

The Secret World: Up the Dark Tower

f1After a break of several days to catch my breath, my climb up the Orochi tower in The Secret World resumed last night. I teamed up with Massively OP’s MJ and one of our readers to see if we couldn’t get all the way to the end of it and see the grand finale.

Obviously, there will be big spoilers here. Not all of the spoilers, but some.

So next up on our randomized floor visits were a couple of Faust areas. After going through a batch of these, I have to admit that the concept of selecting a handful of a pool of floors for each tower crawl is kind of brilliant. Each floor is interesting in and of itself, with its own theme and environmental story, and I definitely want to go back soon and see even more of them.

This particular floor was really odd. No mobs to fight, just rooms full of office workers. And, yeah, the occasionally dead person with veins bulging out. We couldn’t find an explanation, but there were three of these corpses among the throngs of workers.

f2I *loved* this media floor. Lots of TV sets — which were great for screenshot opportunities — as well as silly traps that would trigger a laugh track when you fell for them.

The boss on this floor was “The Host” who was apparently making his own demented reality TV show starring everyone else on the floor.

f3Our journey up the tower hit a major bug when I got locked out of an elevator and the other two got locked in. Fortunately, a dev watching our livestream came in to port our team to safety. I highly recommend having a developer along for TSW missions.

f4One interesting reveal as we got nearer to the penthouse is that the Orochi have their own anima-infused troops who could respawn indefinitely if you didn’t trap them in their anima pads. I like how they got nicknames like player characters do, which is something we haven’t seen in any other mob in the game.

The guy — Samael? — taunting us over this said that this had to do with all of the dead Orochi troops everywhere, but that didn’t really explain anything, and I think it was just covering for incompetance anyway.

f5Up in the penthouse, the weirdness dial jacked all the way up to 11. The rabbit killer made a return — and ended up being three of them, not just one. Neat… but that didn’t explain anything about them. Clones? Maybe I missed something. I’m going to have to do a bit of research later on to see what the players pieced together.

f6The penthouse was the staging ground for two things: Lilith’s blathering monologues and a heck of a lot of fights. It would have been a lot more frustrating without a group.

I’m kind of torn on the use of Lilith as the big exposition machine here. For starters, her lip synching and facial gestures were really off and quite distracting. And while she sort of explained a lot of the overarching plot, it was by no means a full reveal. Guess she and the Morninglight had a falling out, but I’m not going to cry over that.

Still, some answers were better than none, and I’m really glad we’ll be moving forward. One detail I liked is that she said that Flappy was the Dreaming One’s idea of a bird, which explains why filth creations are all messed up. Those guys don’t have a set of kids picture books.

I got a whole crapton of pictures from this final confrontation, including the above shot (which I also made into a Bio Break header).

f7The ending got a lot more interesting when John showed up to distract Lilith long enough for the angelic calvary to arrive. Angels. Sure. Why not, this is TSW after all.

Lilith is quickly outmatched and is bound by the angel’s power. Having lost a couple of legs to her, I do not feel a lot of sympathy.

f8As part of the season finale, one of the hyped features of Issue 11 is that our choices that we’ve made would pay off, somehow. Now, TSW is not SWTOR — we’ve only had three points in the game where we made a decision, all of which had to do with the Dreaming Ones. With them or against them. I went with once and against twice.

Apparently what happens at the end here is that we’re given an ultimate ability — some giant AOE attack that also gives us neat glowing angel wings — but that ability is different based on your choices. All those who railed against the Dreaming Ones get golden wings, those like me who were mixed got blue, and those who went with them got black wings.

All in all, I am highly impressed with the Orochi Tower and can’t wait to return for more. It feels like a satisfying ending of sorts, but it’s also whetted my appetite for the next stage of our journey in this game.

Fallout 2: Confession of a grave robber

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

de1OK, so this is something about the post-apocalyptic genre that’s always bugged me. So you have this world that goes out of its way to hammer you with how run-down, rag-tag, worn-out, and jury-rigged it is. It’s a world that’s surviving on scraps of old technology without much hope for a bright future.

And then there’s a faction that has a bright shiny new base with advanced weapons and tech that has no right being there other than it looks cool. Seriously, who’s making places like the above building? In this nuked-out world, where are the factories still producing helicopters and energy weapons and solid construction materials? It just jars me, that’s all.

This place is the Brotherhood of Steel. I think they got a starring role in the Fallout Tactics game (that I never played, so what do I know). The guard up there somehow knows of me — my reputation is spreading — and subtly warns me to watch my back.

de2Continuing my tour of the Den, I meet Lara and her heavily armed gang. She’s got a job to do that coincides with my main quest, which is to scout out Metzger’s hideout and report back (without getting into a fight). Sure thing, Lara, and don’t mind if I help myself to the goodies in the other room.

Nearby is — I am not making this name up — Tubby’s, another shop owner. He’s good for a few more bullets. For kicks, I rob his back room and sell him back his own booze. I don’t feel THAT bad about it, considering that one of the items he’s selling is this horrible narcotic that everyone in town is mainlining.

de3I’m pretty sure that this is the car that I’ll eventually be able to fix up and drive. Gets about two miles to the gallon by the looks of it.

The junkyard owner, Smitty, says that this is a Highwayman, and he’d be willing to sell it to me for $2,000 (!) if I had the money plus a fuel cell something-or-other to fix it. Well, that ain’t going to happen right now.

It pays to talk up everyone in this game. Here’s Stacy, a glum bar patron of Mom’s who has this sob story about her kitty Cuddles. Apparently there aren’t a lot of cats left in the world these days, as most of them have been hunted for food (lots of meat on cats?). She’s pretty sure that’s what happened to her darling… you know what? Let’s just skip ahead to the part where I get 200 XP for having listened to this story. Thanks.

Mom, the owner of Mom’s, asks me to deliver a lunch to Smitty. No problem, except that Fallout 2 decides that now’s a good time to crash each and every time that I try to load back into the earlier area. Hm, this could be a problem.

Fortunately, a couple of saves and I make it through. It’s a good thing I did, too, because this simple lunch delivery nets me a stimpack and a free meal from Mom.

cc1Next up is to check out that weird church for Lara. I’m able to talk my way inside, saying that Metzger wants me to check on his stuff. What stuff? I don’t have a clue. But it gets me in!

Want to know what’s inside? A whole bunch of guards and boxes full of chemicals (non-stealable, sadly). Just finding out about it gets me another 500 XP, which gets me a new level. I’m king of the world, baby!

cc2What? What? Yeah, so, I rob graves now. I ain’t proud of it, but I’m amused that the game gives me a special karma notice that this is the kind of guy I am. If I was playing this game in the past, I don’t think I’d ever do anything out of line such as this. Now? I am flying across the bounds of morality and ethics into pure chaos.

cc3Yup, I dug up an entire graveyard, and I’m not sorry I did it. TONS of goodies in these here graves — money, junk, bullets, chems. Even if the townsfolk end up hating me, I’m definitely coming out ahead.

cc4So here’s how dark Fallout 2 can get. Are you ready for it? You can sell your companions into slavery. For money. And no, I didn’t sell Sulik. I may be a grave robber, but I have my limits.

Actually, I’m here for Vic, and I’m not leaving without him. There’s two things I need to get Vic free: the radio from his shack (which I kept all this way) and (gulp) $1,000. I have only $1,050, and I was mighty reluctant to give that to the slaver, let me tell you. But I can’t fight the entire house — I tried — and I need the info. At least Vic ends up joining my team, so I did get a new companion out of it.

Rediscovering a lost love

thrashI am not what you would call a sports or exercise enthusiast. I’m not lazy, exactly, but there’s very little in that realm that interests me. I do like swimming, but making that happen takes money and too much time. Walking is nice, but hardly thrilling. And kayaking, while awesome, is a once-a-year thing at most for me.

However, I have found an excellent source of both exercise and transportation: my trusty Schwinn bike. I bought it several years ago (in the pre-child era, so we’re talking six or seven years at least) with the good intention of riding that everywhere. I think that lasted a couple of hot summer days, after which I’d only pull it out once in a while.

A few weeks ago a strange compulsion came over me and I got the bike out of the shed, brought it to a bike shop for a tune-up, and started taking it out for a spin every day. You know how awesome it is to rediscover something you used to love doing, stopped doing, and long forgot about it? That’s me and biking.

There’s something exhilerating about biking that makes me not mind the actual exercise portion. I think it’s the sense of speed and freedom. I’m able to head out of my house and go on much longer and farther excursions that I could walking, and recently I’ve taken up biking to work on the days I don’t have to shuttle the kids around. It’s just 15 minutes or so each way, but to me it feels like an adventure. Plus, it’s turning into a great time to just listen to all of this music I’ve collected and hardly ever have time to enjoy.

Cycling is also a good way to really notice the world — or at least see it in a different way. I don’t really notice much while driving other than the road and other cars, and while my perception is up while walking, I don’t cover as much territory. Plus, with sidewalks, parking lots, paths, and roads all legitimate avenues, I get to explore different routes. The other day I found a nature preserve two streets away that I never knew existed and rode alongside a hopping bunny for a while.

My wife, who is currently pregnant with our fourth child, has been absolutely awesome in giving me the go-ahead to leave the house to get a half-hour or so of biking in each night. It’s part of the marital give-and-take, and I think she knows that I’ve been needing a bit of solitude in the midst of the chaos of work and home.

A part of me has wide-eyed dreams that this will re-kickstart my weight loss too, which would be fantastic after a couple of years staying at my current plateau. Even if not, it’s great to have a hobby that gets me out of the house and doing something physical. Here’s hoping it lasts. And don’t even remind me that… winter is coming. Eventually. Exercise bikes aren’t quite the same.

WildStar: Profits down, hopes up, eyes ahead

w1Business model shift? BRING IT ON.

It’s a weird time to be a WildStar fan and player, let me tell you. I maintain that it’s a good game — a great one, even, particularly after the additions of this last patch — for some there’s no seeing past Carbine’s bungling and posturing, not to mention the undoubtedly grim financials. Yes, it’s time for free-to-play to happen. The stubborn minds in the WildStar community need to see that it’s this or NCsoft pulling the plug and embrace the option that will give the game the best chance it can to find legs and become more financially viable.

Me, I’m pretty psyched about F2P. I’d rather be playing sans subscription, and I’d much rather see WildStar’s ranks swell. I just hope it’s not too late. I hope that 2015’s rather dead release schedule will give extra attention to this business model shift when it happens.

Eh, this is stressful to think about, so I’m going to talk about what I’ve been playing in the game instead, okay?

w2Strain time

Between adventuring in Wilderrun and progressing through the world story, I’ve finally started to encounter the virulent Strain — and I love it. The Strain is this purple-themed virus that spreads like wildfire, changes the landscape and organisms, and turns everyone into old timey sci-fi horrors. Oh, and it’s apparently got some sort of intelligent hive mind that’s not my biggest fan. Tough.

A week or so ago, I used a tried-and-true player build for DPS Engineers, found it to my liking, and then tweaked it more so that it worked with my playstyle. The result is combat encounters that go incredibly quickly and are a lot of fun to engage in. I have several synergies working together to provide various effects, and I feel like I’ve gotten back to the better part of the earlier game’s combat, where it was quick and grinding out mobs was pretty enjoyable.

With the changes to challenges on the UI, I find that I’m doing those a lot more often now too, especially now that I can see which ones are in the area and are easy to do. They’re a pretty good source of cash, on top of dyes and housing items.

An explorer at heart

Currently I’ve been progressing through Wilderrun. I’m not generally a fan of jungle zones — they’re usually visually too busy and a little frustrating to navigate — but I actually like the beauty of this one. And I find that I’m not rushing through the quests, but have taken a lot of time just to explore and see where I can get on my hoverboard. Finding clickies and challenges and science mission stuff are bonuses to fooling about.

Plus, big points to having a whole Lopp quest line. Love the Lopp. I was doing these and my kids were giggling so hard at every Lopp quote. Really wish someone would take all of those quotes out of the game and make them into sound files.

w4Home sweet home

My housing plot is coming along, even though I haven’t been pouring a lot of energy into making anything specific. I did get a couple of neat fabkit drops — a Granok trailer and a zen pond. I put these next together and I like the look. Kind of Flinstoney.

I’m tempted to replace my spaceship with one of the underground bunkers, more for ease of decorating than anything else. Then again, my spaceship home actually looks pretty cool and that would be a sizable chunk of plat that I don’t have right now.

With the recent patch changes, I’ve become insanely happy any time a new piece of armor or weapon drops, just to see if I can add that skin to my wardrobe. I have four costumes that I like, although my standard one (at the top of this post) is my favorite. Nothing fancy, but I like the look and especially her gun.

At level 41, I’m starting to think I might actually see 50 in my lifetime! Maybe not by the anniversary, but still sometime soon.

Envying the monogomous MMOer

ottersSea otters hold hands while napping so that they don’t drift away. Yes, that’s the cutest thing I’ve ever heard, and I live with three small people who make it their hobby to try to top each other in cuteness. There’s something about sticking together that tugs on our hearstrings — and speaks to our deep fear of being alone.

Anyway, this is a roundabout way of getting into my topic for today, which is how I sometimes envy folks who have that “one” game that they’re sticking with for a good long time. Back in my pre-children era, when most MMOs were subscription, it was a lot easier to be this monogomous-type gamer. I had City of Heroes, or World of Warcraft, or Warhammer Online, or Lord of the Rings Online — and that was pretty much it. There was no deciding every night what I was going to play, just whether I was going to play or not.

My envy comes mostly from knowing that those gamers can really deeply invest themselves into a game. They can get through all of the content. They can be a big part of their guilds. They can do dungeons and other challenging bits. They always know what’s going on with their specific game community and have a greater wealth of knowledge on this one MMO. Sometimes I feel that they are the ones that “belong” and I am merely a transient, visiting but not living there. An outsider.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to go back to that style of play. It might make more sense for a time-strapped gamer dad to do so, sure, but I enjoy bouncing around too much to settle down. I like having variety on any given night. I am glad that sampling multiple games gives me a wider perspective on MMOs. With most MMOs offering a bulk of the content to the solo gamer, I don’t feel that left out. And I know that sticking with one game only — for me — is a recipe for eventual burnout and crashing. A more diverse portfolio means that any time I near the burnout zone, I can easily switch my attention elsewhere and not have to encounter that danger.

Still… once in a while I look across the aisle and I have that wistful twinge. I wouldn’t mind belonging like they do, but I’m not going to trade what I have to get it.

Fallout 2: Toxic assets

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

ca1All right, let’s head over to the invitingly named Toxic Caves and rescue one very lost adventurer. This better be worth the bullets I’m going to waste!

ca2I don’t know what I was expecting, but this place practically shouts, “YOU ARE GOING TO GET YOUR SPERM FRIED.” The things I do for experience points, let me tell you.

Pro tip: Wearing rubber boots allows you to walk across this sludge — at least for a little while. It does not, however, do much against all of the golden geckos leaping out at me from the shadows. But hey, I got a new level! Small guns, lockpick, speech — everything a growing boy needs to survive.

ca3Sulik is such a great first companion. Not only does he come out with these weird quotes from his “grampy bone,” but his sledgehammer attacks keep slamming bad guys down and amusing me wildly. Plus, his attacks cost a whopping zero ammo, so more for me!

There’s no good reason other than to enjoy being a crack shot to use my pistol here, so I reluctantly return to my spear. Sigh.

ca4Lo and behold, there’s Smiley, biding his time in a generator room. I did try to fix the generator for the elevator, but my repair skill is way, way too low. Maybe some other day.

We head back to Klamath for my whopping $100 reward. Well, I do get some nice XP for saving Smiley, but in exchange I’ve been radiated and gone through over half of my remaining bullets. With no one left to buy from and no quests remaining, I say goodbye and head out toward the Den.

ca5Vic the trader supposedly went back to the Den, so that’s where we need to go. It’s a larger town than Klamath with several businesses, some of which I desperately hope have ammo and quests.

ca6Becky’s is a fine little casino, because when you think of “post-apocalypse” you think “roulette!” Actually, there is some sort of connection between the two. I guess it’s the generally seedy atmosphere that works. And no, I don’t bet. Not going to waste my money.

ca7The good news is that I’ve found out where Vic is. The bad news is that he’s being held by the local slaver. Well, crud. This is going to get bloody.

ca8The Den is crawling with drug-addicted people called reliants. In one home populated by wacked-out hippies, I find this guy — Flick. Little foul-mouthed, but he’s free with the info and, better yet, he makes a good trading buddy. Thanks for the ammo, Flick!

After checking out another weirdo — a guy who claims to have a mummy (which is just a dessicated corpse) — I call it a day. I’ll be back to ravage this town soon enough!